I ended the last blog post as we reached the bottom of Evia from where there are two obvious options for heading south once again towards the tip of the Peloponnese peninsula and then west to our marina berth in Kalamata. Regular readers of the blog might remember that last year, having spent time in the Argolic and Saronic Gulfs, we took the mainland route down the east coast. This year, therefore, our preferred route was to take in a couple more of the Cycladian islands before sailing down to Milos, thus completing our circle before heading back to the mainland.The forecast for Monday 30th Sept was fairly light southerlies with some slightly stronger winds showing later in the week so it didn’t seem to matter which way we went. We decided we would head for Andros and “Coriander” planned to do the same. However, because the winds were light they decided to stay in the Evia area for one more night and visit another island in the small archipelago.
Mike and I motor-sailed the 27 mile route on 30th, arriving in Batsi harbour at 3.30pm and went alongside the inside of the new extension to the mole – as recommended by some other cruisers.
We had been debating which of the two Andros harbours, Gavrion or Batsí, would be best. A couple of other boats heading for Andros from the south seemed to be favouring Gavrion but, having studied the Cruising Guide, we decided that, on balance, Batsí sounded the better option. Given the conditions which followed over the next few days we believe we made the right decision.
Batsí is a pleasant little town with a decent supermarket about 15 minutes’ walk from the harbour and the usual small local shops, bars and restaurants around the waterfront.
We settled in, along with about five other yachts and waited for “Coriander” to arrive the following day. However, on 1st October, having sailed about half way to Andros they downloaded the latest weather forecast and called us to say that the weather was deteriorating and that much stronger winds were now forecast and therefore they were turning for Kea and then the mainland. The forecast was now giving strong to gale force winds varying from SE to NE lasting for 7-10 days from the 3rd October.
Decision time for us. We had time to head west before the winds hit, or stay put. On studying the forecast ourselves, we did the latter as we felt that we were certainly well protected from the NE and that the main harbour wall gave good protection from the SE and reasonable protection even if it went SW [which one of the models was suggesting]. In the event, we were right, though we had to move from berthing alongside the mole to berthing stern to the back wall because waves came over the western end of the back wall behind our berth and also swirled into the harbour round the end of the mole making the alongside berth uncomfortable.
After moving on the afternoon of 3rd we suffered nothing more that spray over the stern arch and the sound of creaking warps!
In the end we stayed a total of 6 nights in Batsí. On two of the days we stayed on, or close enough to, “Owl and Pussycat” should the wind create any problems but on a couple of the other days we were happy to get out and about and see some of the island.
We took a bus ride to the capital – you guessed it “Hora” – which sits on a rocky promontory between two bays on the east coast.
The main street…….
…… runs along the top of the outcrop with side streets running quite steeply down to the coastline.
From the bottom of one of these streets leading down to the northern Niborio Bay we were surprised and enchanted by what we saw.
We had hoped to visit the Museum of Contemporary Art but unfortunately it was closed even though we went during “winter opening hours”. We still enjoyed seeing the town which owes its architecture to both Venetian settlement and to the ship owners who inhabited it later. As the second largest island in the Cyclades and being in relative close proximity to Athens it has a long seafaring tradition which is commemorated by a bronze statue donated by the Soviet Union.
This stands in “Plateia Riva”, overlooking the Venetian Fortress perched atop the tiny island at the tip of the headland and once more securely joined to the main island by the now semi ruined arched bridge which, apparently, locals still scramble over. Rather them than me!
Talking of scrambling, our other day out was along part of walking route 16….
……one of 20 main routes, supplemented by side routes, which criss-cross the island. A 100km route, split into 10 separate day hikes, crosses from north to south and a further 70km pathways have also been restored. Andros is certainly a hiker’s paradise, and somewhere for any dedicated walkers among you to consider, though you would need to hire a car to get to a number of them.
Having followed route 16 for some of its length, during which time we marvelled at the way these walls had been constructed….
….and at the one time houses that are now goat shelters….
… Mike decided to try to get to the tower you can see in the photograph below…
So, off piste we went following what looked like a footpath but wasn’t! It petered out in brushy undergrowth before we got to the tower. Undaunted Mike decided we would continue to follow our noses down towards the road we could see below us. This was where the scrambling came in as we zigged and zagged down gravelly slopes making up the best way down as we went along. A well-earned beer was consumed when we finally reached the main road which restored us sufficiently to decide to continue on to Gavrion.
The water in Gavrion harbour looks quite benign in this photograph….
….. but as you can see, although there is a breakwater, it isn’t actually as well protected from the south as Batsí. We saw a yacht alongside the harbour wall which looked like it had recently been damaged quite badly and wondered whether it had suffered in the waves of the previous two days. We were certainly glad that we had chosen not to berth in Gavrion – though it would be a nice place in calm weather.
During the walk we came across the first specimen contributing to this blog’s “flora and fauna” section….
We aren’t sure what it is, or to what family it belongs. Maybe my sis can help as she is very keen on flowers. We have been able to identify the others….Anyway, nature study over, I will return to writing about our travels.
Although the longer range forecast was again showing strong NE winds, the prediction for 6th October was a favourable 10-12N-NW which made for a pleasant passage south and west to Loutra, Kythnos. On arrival we found that we weren’t the only ones who thought Loutra would be a good place to ride out the next few days and, as relative latecomers [4.30pm] we had the choice of berthing stern to outside the basin, anchoring in the adjacent bay – Ag Irini – or going somewhere completely different. Given the time, the last option wasn’t favourite and, although not strong, the wind was blowing almost straight into the anchorage so we proceeded to berth stern to.
The harbourmaster waved us to the eastern end of the mole – a berth we were happy to take as it looked more sheltered than the only other option at the other end.
However, whilst the depth at the wall is 3m, it shelves quite quickly towards the shore. We wanted to put out as much chain as possible but at 50m from the wall the depth was considerably less than 2m. With a 2.1m draft it was quite scary for me on the bow looking down into shallow water hoping that the keel wouldn’t hit bottom. It was also very rocky and trying to communicate to Mike that we needed to move further left to find sand meant I was basically pointing him to the short breakwater sticking out on the other side which, understandably, to him didn’t look good. Anyway, we managed to berth successfully and settled in for the night.
All was calm until about 6am when the wind started to rise. Very soon all the boats moored outside the basin began to roll in the swell. It then began to rain…..
One boat left from inside but whilst I was running along the dock to see if the space they had left was wide enough for us another crew loosened their lines and moved in. We didn’t let that happen again… the next space was ours!
Now berthed half way along the seawall inside the basin we felt secure and ready to deal with the stronger winds to come.
The harbour remained completely chocked every night throughout our stay with catamarans rafted three deep on the inside wall and every space created when a boat left being almost fought over. The boats leaving were, in the main, charter boats with crew either wanting to actually go somewhere during their weeks holiday or needing to get the boat back to base for handover.
As on Andros, we took the opportunity of an extended stay to venture out with, on one day, a fairly short but pleasant walk to Ag Irini to look at the anchorage.
The white buildings at the end form a small hamlet which includes a very nice taverna where we sat with a drink watching as more boats arrived. Some were longlining to the north shore, others just dropped anchor. The head of the bay is very shallow which limits the available space and we reckoned there was probably enough room for about 20 boats – though half of them would be quite exposed, not being able to tuck in beyond the entrance.
Another day saw us walking to Kithnos Xora, nestled between the hills and agricultural fields 3km to the south.
The long main street leads to the older part of the town where traditional lanes, lined with cafes and colourful houses twist between small squares.
On returning to Loutra we passed the now closed Hydrotherapy centre. Whilst it looks as though the spa itself no longer operates, the hot water spring still bubbles….
…. and the steaming, scalding water follows a channel through the streets….
…..and down to a rockpool on the beach where it mingles with sea water reducing it to a temperature suitable for sitting in.
On the following day the winds subsided to 12-18kn by mid-afternoon, which was too late to leave, but 10th October dawned with another window of opportunity for travelling south again. On the first day we sailed 25miles down to Koutala Bay on the south side of Sérifos where once again we met up with “Coriander”, who had been sheltering in one of their favourite haunts – Porto Cheli which, you may remember, is the excellent mainland anchorage where both boats sat out last years “Medicane”.
On both sides of Koutala Bay are reminders that the island once had a thriving iron ore industry.
The second day brought very light winds which meant that we motored the 27miles to Milos and dropped anchor once more at Adhamas. The circle was complete.
We went ashore to do some shopping and had just got into the dinghy to return to “Owl and Pussycat” when a powered hang glider with a buggy type base flew quite low overhead, showing off a bit. He circled round the harbour and then we heard a loud bang which was the sound of his propeller shattering. He managed to avoid hitting any boats but landed in the water upside down. We went across to help as we weren’t sure whether he would be conscious or hurt but he emerged safe, but obviously shaken and was helped by a friend to swim ashore. We were concerned that if the machine sank in the harbour it would be a hazard so tied a rope around part of the structure and towed it to the harbour wall. All’s well that ends well.
After 3 nights on Milos during which time, once again, a strong NE wind had been blowing, the right conditions arose for us to make the 76 mile crossing back to mainland Peloponnese. We left at 4.50am as we wanted to reach our destination in daylight and there are no hazards when leaving the Adhamas anchorage in the dark. On exiting the shelter of the 10mile deep bay we wondered whether we had made the right decision as the waves were quite big and sloppy and the conditions more gusty than expected. We decided to see if things settled down and, fortunately, they did, giving us a good passage across to and around Cape Maléas and then to Ormos Frangos on the island of Eláphonisos where we arrived at 17.35.
Last year the wind direction in this south facing bay was conducive to just one overnight before we felt we ought to leave. This year we were hoping to be able to stay for two nights so that we could enjoy the beautiful clear waters and the peaceful surroundings – and the wind obliged.
Mike and I went ashore and climbed the sand dunes and hill adjacent to the anchorage for a fantastic view of this wonderful place…..
Knowing that we would soon be back in Kalamata it also seemed like an excellent opportunity for the final BBQ of the season…..
…. and we had a fabulous time having a late afternoon swim followed by good food and wine, in great company, before watching the sun set over Ormos Sarakiniko.
We then spent 6 days basically retracing our previous year’s journey back to Kalamata – though this year we only stopped at Gíthion, Porto Káyio and Koroni.It was nice to revisit these places especially as, due to much calmer conditions, we were able to go ashore at Porto Káyio.
So, we arrived back in Kalamata on 21st October….
….having spent a fabulous season in the Aegean islands. Looking back at what we had done I thought that it might be good to include a few statistics.
Nautical miles travelled: 1,917 [almost the same as crossing the Atlantic from Cape Verde to Barbados]
Islands visited: 43
Total number of nights: 191
Anchorages: 56 [including 2 where we long lined]
Nights at anchor: 124 [including 4 long lining]
Mooring balls: 4
Nights on mooring balls: 5
Harbours [i.e. berthed alongside or stern to]: 19
Nights in harbours: 62
Marina: 1 [Skyros]
Nights in marina: 5
The marina was €150 [€30 per night], 1 mooring ball cost €7 and the harbour fees were €281 in total averaging out at €4.53 per night berthed.
Cruising tax for the seven months was €709.44
A total cost of €1147.44 divided by 191 nights means that an average night in the Aegean cost us approx. €6….
…… and we had an ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS TIME