This might break my blog record for the shortest post! Between 30th June and 5th July we sailed the middle islands of the southern Kyklades, these being Folegandros, Síkinos and Ios. It was quite the …
This might break my blog record for the shortest post!
Between 30th June and 5th July we sailed the middle islands of the southern Kyklades, these being Folegandros, Síkinos and Ios. It was quite the whistle-stop tour but, because I want to dedicate a separate post to “Tis Mikrés Kyklades” [The Small Cyclades], I need to fill you in on the bit in between.
On 30th June, we sailed 20 nm SW from Mílos to arrive in the small port town of Karavostásis on the island of Folegandros.
We have visited this port once before when, on a charter holiday with friends Pete and Lesley, we entered in a rather less dignified manner as Pete had managed to wrap a fishing line around the prop which made docking a bit trickier than usual!
Anyway, this time we didn’t even try to dock on the wall as most of it was “reserved” for, as we found out later, medium sized motor yachts. Instead we finally found sand sufficiently far from the harbour wall and settled in for 3 nights. For any yachties reading this who are considering going to Karavostásis [and haven’t been before] then hopefully the map below, courtesy of Google, will help you.
The orange blob is the approximate site of a buoy with a no anchoring sign on it. The expectation, therefore, is that you anchor to the left of the yellow line – which you have to try to imagine when you are there. Basically it runs from the inside end of the quay to the buoy. Woe betide if you anchor outside it – the port police lady there really likes her whistle!
However, the space is then limited further by the numerous rocks on the bottom. All of the grey/green colour nearer to the shore and most of the dark blue/black areas are not good holding. There are also a few more boats on permanent moorings than the four white dots on the photo.
All that said, there is – with care and consideration for others – room for about six or seven boats at anchor so don’t be put off totally as the village and the Xora above are well worth the visit.
The Xora is purported by some [e.g. Lonely Planet] to be the best in the Kyklades. Whilst we didn’t totally agree with this as we do like more rusticity and authenticity, there is no doubt that it is a very pretty Xora….
It is much bigger than you might expect and full to the brim with restaurants and, if you are craving some Craft Ale there is also a small beer shop, with tables, selling 330ml bottles for the princely sum of €6!
“Coriander” had joined us for nights two and three but the following day we parted company again as they wanted to go to south ?os in preparation for a sail to Santorini. Having been to Santorini we had no wish to return so headed 11nm east to Skála Síkinos.
What a lovely little place…..
….. but, unfortunately there was a lot of swell and the boat just rolled and rolled so, after a trip ashore for a photoshoot…
….. and a few provisions at the surprisingly well stocked mini market we were off again for 8 further miles to Ormos Milopótamou on Ios.
The bay is large with good sand holding throughout. It is lined with tourist shops, bar/restaurants and accommodation and it isn’t somewhere we would normally stop. However, whilst there were speedboats with various water-sport attachments to thrill the beachgoers they were actually not that intrusive and our expectation of a broken night’s sleep due to revellers and clubbers was not founded.
The following day, in need of provisions, we headed ashore but were told that meat could only be found in the Xora. I had not particularly wanted to go there as it is “party city” and I was a little concerned about the proximity of lots of young unvaccinated people but up we went and, because it was daytime and all the tourists were on the beach, the Xora wasn’t actually that crowded and we managed to purchase everything on our list and, at least, look at the oldest part of the Xora
So, that more or less concluded our stay on Ios, other than another pleasant night at anchor…..
I am fairly sure that even the most avid readers of this blog won’t remember the photograph above. It featured in a post I wrote in August 2019 about our Easter festivities, and other adventures, in the Kyklades during the early summer of that year. It was taken from the “Kastro” on the island of Mílos and its title reflected our hopes not only to visit “this one” i.e. Mílos, but also “that one” – Kimolos, and “the one over there” – Políagos. Unfortunately, due to a longer than anticipated delivery time on a replacement part and our desire to be in Naoussa, Paros, for Easter we did not make it to “that one” or “the one over there”.
At that time we did not expect to be back in the Kyklades but as Covid has delayed our leaving Greece , here we are again, and this time not only have we so far visited all three of those islands we have also included a bonus, that being the island of Kythira.
Leaving Kalamata on 17th June the weather was in our favour for a short shake down sail to Koroni and an overnight at anchor just off the south beach. At 0600 the following morning we headed out for the tip of the Peloponnese hoping that we would be able to carry on to Kythira. The island lies approximately 12 miles SW of the mainland but our destination, Kapsáli is at the very south of the island and was therefore 30 miles from the tip and 67 miles from Koroni…. hence the early start!
During the Venetian era, Kapsáli was the island’s main port which we fully appreciated when looking down at the two harbours which lie within a larger bay.
However, whilst protected from everywhere except the south there are impressive gusts over the mountains to the west. Just before rounding the southern point we had approximately 4kn wind. Once inside the bay the gusts were 20+ and, even in the harbour averaged 12-14kn during our stay. We were glad we were there during a mild weather period!
What the “Lonely Planet” hadn’t told us when we read it was that Kythira was also very important to the British. Whilst lying between the Aegean and the Ionian it is actually considered an Ionian island and was the southern outpost of the island chain, Kerkira [Corfu] being the northern one. Having more or less escaped direct Ottoman rule between C15-19, the islands still have a turbulent history due to the fact that Europe’s powerful nations all wanted control of them.
For many centuries they were under the rule of Venice. However, following the dissolution of the Republic of Venice in 1798 the French took over. Two years later a united Russian/Ottoman alliance forced the French out. Between 1807 and 1815 the French, followed by the British, aimed to gain control and finally, in 1814-15, the Congress of Vienna granted full sovereignty of all the Ionian Islands to the British. Understandably the islanders wanted to be ruled by their motherland and on 28 May 1864 they were formally re-united with Greece but, between 1815 and 1864, there existed “The United States of The Ionian”.
We found the photograph of the flag and learned about some of this history in the “Markato” in Kythira’s Xora.
Built in 1834, by the British, it was used mainly as a meat, fish and vegetable market right up until 1990 when, in a fairly run-down state, it was given to “The Agricultural Bank of Greece”, the chairman of which had proposed renovating it and turning it into a cultural and exhibition centre. Quite when it became a bar we don’t know but we were very glad to find it for an early evening ouzo having passed another interesting looking, but closed, bar whilst walking up…
….then wandering the Xora….
…and visiting the Kastro from where, as well as excellent views over the harbour, we were able to see the outer bay and “Egg Island”.
We wondered why on earth it was called “Avgo” [Egg] because it certainly doesn’t resemble one. We later found out that its name comes from its legendary role as the birthplace of Aphrodite. It seems sometimes to be also known as “Itra” [Cooking pot] because of its said resemblance to a steaming cauldron when topped by clouds.
Whilst wandering round the Xora we came across this derelict building which, it seemed from the attached notice, is for sale.
Later, on sitting at a small café for coffee we looked across the road and there was the door of the same estate agent on which two Xora properties are advertised.
Not sure if you can make it out but the property we had seen seemed to occupy an area of approx. the same size as that advertised for €45,000. It would certainly need some work!!!
As well as the Markato in the Xora, we saw, in Kápsali, a number of other legacies of British rule. A Bridge and what was called an Aquaduct were two, but we weren’t sure how a square stone building could be an aquaduct so, maybe something has been lost in translation or maybe the building was part of a larger construction, no longer there?
Much more obvious was the lighthouse…
….and, the “Quarantine”…
… which, built in 1815, housed the “Heath and Inspection Service of Passengers and Crew” .
This building was at the far end of the smaller of the two harbours….
…..now only deep enough for small craft and occupied on part of its shore by the small hamlet of “Piso Gailos” – perhaps once the main village but now subsumed into the larger, popular tourist resort of Kapsáli itself.
Built into the cliffs above Kapsáli you can see, in the middle of the photograph, a series of small white buildings and walls. These are the “Church of St John”.
The church itself is in a cave in the cliffs, the visible buildings being the main part of the monastery where he spent time living after being banished from Rome and before moving to Patmos. It is in the cave that he spent most of his time and began recording his apocalyptic prophecy – the Book of Revelation.
There are other anchorages on Kythira but they are more exposed and so all of our time was spent in Kapsáli. Anyone wanting to holiday far from the madding crowd might want to consider Kythira as it is an interesting island with clearly more to offer than we saw. But we are really pleased to have finally got there having sailed passed its north end on three different occasions but not been able to visit. It was certainly worth the detour…. Our bonus.
Overnight on 24/25 June we motor-sailed to Mílos, and as in 2019, we made for the main port of Adhamas. We could have stopped at one of the anchorages on the south coast, as the wind was favourable, but we wanted to go to the Mílos KE? [KEP – the Citizens Service Centre] to get a print out of Mike’s vaccination certificates. You may remember I got mine in Kalamata as I received my second dose of the vaccination a week before Mike, as with the first dose. It takes about two days from second vaccination for the system to be ready to print the certificate and we hadn’t wanted to wait in Kalamata.
We then had fun trying to find the KE? on the island. As it turned out, Google was actually fairly accurate in pinpointing it but, as we have been fooled by Google maps on more than one occasion, we thought we would check it out before taking the bus to the Xora. The lady in tourist information was, for some reason French and thought we wanted a test. Having told her we had already had the vaccinations she then told us it was the travel agents who dealt with this. We just said “Merci” and left. We needed something from the pharmacy and realised we should have thought of this first as being the place to ask. Having made our purchase we asked for KE?. She looked very puzzled and was saying things like “What kind of cap”! Having given me a piece of paper to write on she immediately understood what we wanted. Understandably she hadn’t been expecting two British folk to be asking for the Greek Citizens Help Service but with laughter on both sides we established that it was indeed where Google said.
So, a bus trip to the Xora ensued. Last time on Mílos we had taken the same bus but not got off at the Xora and although we had walked much of the area we hadn’t found its oldest part. We didn’t know that until we revisited this time. So as well as the typical whitewashed, flower bedecked buildings and streets…..
….. we also came across this house…..
….with a plaque next to its front door.
It is a bit confusing, as is the whole story, because two years ago the information at the site where the Venus de Milo was reportedly found gave the name Yeorgos, not Theodoros. Admittedly there was, on that first board, a question mark after the name George – so maybe he was Theodoros really. History also tells that he hid the statue in a barn to try, unfortunately without success, to keep it out of French hands. That barn has certainly now made a nice house!
I don’t need to bore you with anything else about Adamas as that was covered previously but, before leaving “this one” we also went to the picturesque small “fishing village” of “Pollonia” on its NE corner.
These days, for “fishing village” read chic resort with prices to match!
Still, it was nice to stop at anchor for the night before venturing, next, to “the one over there”.
Nísos Políagos is a barren, uninhabited island to the east of Mílos. There are some fair weather anchorages on it southern side and, in calm weather or up to moderate winds from any direction except west, there is the lovely secluded anchorage of Manolonisi.
When I say secluded, the term is only a loose interpretation. As you can see from above, we weren’t exactly alone and a large motor yacht had already left by this time. But, by dusk all the other boats had left this side of Mananolisi and we spent a lovely evening in seeming isolation.
We also managed to “bag” both islands in our continuing quest to step on as many islands as we can, a list which was then extended again when we went to “that one” – Nísos Kimolos.
The only port on Kimolos is Psathi but we didn’t even try to get into there as it is known as a haunt of superyachts. We opted instead for what is, to date this year, our favourite anchorage.
It doesn’t seem to have a name but is just round the corner from Psathi. Depending on where you anchor, the big boys are visible as they moor to the quayside. We were tucked in and wallowed in the atmosphere of the fishing hamlet.
What amazed us is that what some of what we thought of as boat sheds appear to be people’s homes
It may just be somewhere they come occasionally but one elderly couple definitely occupied one of them and we saw two other families sitting outside two others as we went ashore.
Our trip ashore consisted of walking up to the Xora for a good look round.
We hadn’t, though, timed it very well. Where shops and restaurants in other places we have been to seem to open at about six pm nothing here was open before seven so we spent the hour walking down to the port to see what all the fuss was about. To be honest we weren’t impressed and, after an overpriced Ouzo where the advertised Meze was a small bowl of Olives[!] we headed back to the Xora where we found the perfect place to while away the evening.
All in all, therefore, our first fortnight from leaving Kalamata was thoroughly enjoyable and fun packed. It was great to be out on the water and to be bobbing at anchor once more. Our sense of adventure and finding places new to visit has been stimulated and we are really pleased that as well as returning to “this one” we can now report that “that one” and the “one over there” has now been achieved along with, of course our fantastic bonus.
I am thinking that wherever you are in the world the past six months will have been strange and, often frustrating. That has certainly been the case for us here in Greece. The strange can definitely be laid at the door of Covid 19 [with all its variants], the frustrating comes partly from that and partly from the repercussions of Brexit thrown into the melting pot of Greek interpretation and bureaucracy.
This winter [2020/2021] we arrived back at the marina in mid- October and thought that life would take more or less its normal course as [published] figures for Covid in Greece were fairly low and static as they had been throughout the summer. So, my birthday was celebrated in the normal fashion….
…. but then, on 6th November, a strict lockdown was announced with only about 24 hours warning. It meant the immediate closure of all bars and restaurants and all shops except supermarkets, specialist food shops like butchers and bakers, food/drink take-aways and pharmacies. We reverted to the previous lockdown measure of a 9pm to 5am curfew and having to complete a form or send a text message to a given number for permission to leave “home” with a maximum of two hours allowed for whatever you wanted to do. Driving to somewhere different for exercise was not allowed and, a new measure was introduced – that of having to wear a mask everywhere except your own home. So going to the marina facilities, going for exercise around the country lanes or going shopping all involved wearing a mask for the whole time. Whilst this wasn’t too bad in the winter months it has become an increasingly hot, sticky and itchy business wearing a mask in up to 30C temperatures.
Periodically from Christmas onwards an option of click and collect was available for purchases at non-food shops – all well and good if you know what you want and can phone up and order it in Greek. Our chandler, George, speaks English so that was no problem and Mike found that if he went and hovered outside tool shops along his favourite “Athens Street” he was normally served without having ordered before turning up.
We were delighted when shopping restrictions were lifted further in early May to facilitate proper shopping with limited numbers admitted at any one time and even more pleased that at the same time restaurants were able to open their appropriately spaced outdoor tables.
Strange and frustrating though remains the order of the day when, whilst having to wear a mask you walk past tables where people are allowed to sit next to each other without one.
A couple of weeks ago mask wearing also became non mandatory whilst swimming in the sea – though I don’t think people ever wore masks whilst doing that – or whilst, as one paper reported, “sun baking on the beach”. Strangely, we have taken to swimming….
……. and walking along the beach recently. I am sure that sun baking is possible whilst on the move!
We have now reached an even stranger and more frustrating time when, it would appear, tourists who have begun to arrive in not inconsiderable numbers are not being made aware of the regulations when they enter the country and increasing numbers of Greeks [particularly younger ones] are all wandering around maskless. It is so tempting to join them but, in the main, we continue to stick to the rules. I say “in the main” because whilst we continue to cover mouths and noses where other people are around, we do take them off when we are the only couple wandering the local lanes.
Just one more comment I want to make about mask wearing and then, I promise, I will move on. My observation is that the human race seems to have evolved somewhat in the past few months as it is clearly now possible to breathe through one’s elbow!!!
Fortunately, keeping ourselves busy has not really been an issue. We have steadily worked our way through the normal over wintering maintenance on the boat…
….and also changed a few things around and fitted new bits. As always, anything which needs wiring means basically taking the boat to bits….
… and reaching into tight spaces.
An unscheduled job was to degunk the water heater. It had started making a strange buzzing noise which was caused by the build-up of calcium – like the furring up of a kettle.
My favourite upgrade to “Owl and Pussycat” this winter has been the replacement of the grotty sun damaged rubber dorade with shiny stainless ones.
Mike signed up for a one month on line music course and found it really helpful and enjoyable and therefore has now started a longer one.
Both his confidence and skill have improved – which rather makes sense as they go hand in hand – and on occasions I have joined in with his “homework” though not by playing a musical instrument I hasten to add.
I remain an avid Sudoku enthusiast and we both read a lot. Food and cooking also play their part in helping us to pass the time. We have made several themed meals for each other and, having finished watching Australian Masterchef [which I started watching last winter], I found both American and New Zealand Masterchefs. All very different in style – but the main reason for watching is to get new ideas and pick up hints and tips.
We are now the proud owners of a small digital food thermometer…..
…… which has improved our steak cookery and Mike also used it to improvise a very successful sous-vide chicken meal.
Another attempt at improvisation didn’t go quite so well. We saw one chef remove the middles of slices of corn cob with a small pastry cutter and stuff them. We had some partly cooked cobs and thought that as we didn’t have a small cutter, maybe a small hole saw and hammer would do the trick….. well – see for yourself!
Fortunately, when it came to me making Mikes birthday meal I was a little more successful with my Salmon 5 ways!
Like most of you no doubt find, not being able to socialise properly is very frustrating. Whilst two households could meet up outside for exercise, we were not allowed to get together indoors – which we interpreted as including the cockpit. However, the rules were relaxed for Christmas and New Year’s Eves and Days……….
…….. and for the rest of the time we made the best of a difficult situation…..
…… managed to celebrate both Mike’s and Gill’s birthdays….
…… and the Greek Clean Monday rituals were observed.
Unfortunately the 200 Year Independence Celebrations planned across Greece were not permitted, so all that Kalamata had was this banner.
Greek Easter Sunday [2nd May] was the last day of the restaurant closures and a day when once more two households could meet up.
Since then we have happily started to go out again to the marina bar and to nearby restaurants so Mike and I were able to celebrate our 10th Wedding Anniversary in style.
Just to finish off the lockdown “entertainment”, I have continued to enjoy taking photographs – particularly of wildlife – though it is getting increasingly difficult to find new things to take pictures of – particularly when we weren’t able to go anywhere. Still, here are a few things I found….
….and last but not least these “damnable” beasties….
Walking up to town on Mike’s birthday we realised we had forgotten our permission papers so, whilst Mike went back to the boat for them, I initially sat on a bench under the trees. I then decided to wander and take some photos. What I hadn’t realised is there were a couple of the caterpillars on the underside of the seat and one made its way up my t-shirt. I didn’t think anything of it until the following day when I woke up with an itchy burning back. Fortunately I then saw the caterpillar still stuck to the inside of my t-shirt so knew what had caused it but it took two days of hydrocortisone cream and some anti-histamine tablets to clear it!
At the start of this post I mentioned some Brexit repercussions and Greek ways of doing things. I am sure that there are several of these which have affected other people and/or which are yet to emerge, but the main thing which has been trying our [particularly my] patience and causing concern was the Greek interpretation of the Withdrawal Agreement [WA] with regard to the VAT status of UK flagged boats. To cut a long story short, over a period of 6 months [and counting] the Cruising Association [CA] has been challenging the original Greek Customs [AADE] position which was totally contrary to the WA with them stating that all UK flagged yachts, including those in the EU27 on 31.12.20 were to be considered non-VAT paid and therefore subject to the same rules as other 3rd country flagged boats [e.g from US, Canada, New Zealand etc.].
A couple of months later they conceded that boats already in the EU should be treated differently to those in the UK on that date [as per WA] but then decided that boats who had paid VAT in the EU 27 were OK, but not those who had paid VAT in the UK [i.e.the pre Brexit EU28].
Now, “Owl and Pussycat” was VAT paid by her first owners in Italy. So once there was agreement regarding the geographical position of the boat on Brexit Day we thought we were fine. Well, we are/would be except that the Customs guy here in Kalamata deems that the only proof one can have of VAT being paid is to have a stamped certificate from the relevant countries Customs. This is what they have in Greece. It is not what they do in Italy [or France – “Coriander” is French VAT paid]. As far as I am aware it is not what happens in any other European country so regardless of any Invoice and regardless of having an Italian Ministry of Finance stamped and approved copy of the Bill of Sale stating that VAT was paid there, the Kalamata Customs man doesn’t accept it. Mike has spoken with other Italian boat owners, an Italian broker and an Italian solicitor, all of whom confirm that we have exactly what we should have to prove VAT paid status. Ah well…..
We now understand that the Greek Customs have finally accepted that all UK flagged boats which were in EU27 waters on Brexit Day and had paid VAT in the original EU28 prior to Brexit day and remain in EU waters are, in fact, to be considered VAT paid and customs formalities are not required. So, we are advised to steer clear of customs and just sail.
Unfortunately the directives from the Head Office of AADE seem to have been sent to only a few of the main Customs offices and not at all to the Port Police/Coastguard who regularly check boat papers. So, more work is being done in the background and, in the meantime we will try to keep our heads below the parapet and carry copies of the AADE directives which have been circulated by the CA to all members.
Another fallout from Brexit has been that all British people living in Greece have had to either establish temporary residence status and/or update it to the computerised system. In fact, the only issue for us really was the time it would take to do the latter because we obtained “Beige Residence cards” over 18 months ago, and just had to produce the same documents as then with added Health Insurance cover. So, without too much hassle we have been able to exchange these for the new Biometric cards which are now required. The original deadline for doing this was 30 June but it has had to be extended as appointments to do this in those places with higher numbers of British people living there e.g. Corfu/Rhodes are running into November. Here in Kalamata we received an excellent service and by the middle of April were the proud owners of our Greek card.
I mentioned Health Insurance because, as you may or may not be aware, the EHIC card, whilst it continues to be valid for short term i.e. holiday maker use and for emergencies only, it is not valid for longer term residence.
With regard to health, we wondered how we might fare with Covid 19 vaccinations. Well, I can report that after a bit of a shaky start, there is now a system in place to allow none Greek Social Security number holders to access the vaccine and the certificate of vaccination. In fact, we get two certificates, one for Greek use and one which is accepted across the EU.
So, we have been very happy to have been able to get this. It hasn’t been plain sailing and, if we hadn’t managed to get the biometric cards as soon as we did it is likely our access to the vaccine could have been delayed but, for us it has gone well and we are now fit to go.
The vaccination centre in Kalamata is at the General Hospital which is a few kilometres out of town and, we were advised, approx. €10 by taxi each way. Given that between the four of us we had three different dates for our first vaccines we looked into the cost of car hire. For eight days [to cover the three different times] the cost, with additional driver was €110 and we decided that this was a reasonable deal because it also meant we could get out and about as the restriction on travel had been eased at the same time restaurants opened. When we hired the car there was a limit of driver, plus two – hence the extra driver to enable both Mike and Steve to drive.
We took it in turns to have the car for a day and as well as the trips to the hospital at the allotted times we also went sight-seeing.
Day 1 was spent visiting the nearby town of Messinia and a couple of adjacent beaches……
….one of which had a kind of small lagoon behind it.
Day 2 was a relatively short drive down the west coast of the Mani peninsular, stopping at Mikri Mantineira for coffee….
…. before heading further south to the small fishing village of Kitries for lunch.
On our day three we ventured further afield and up into the mountain region to the north of Kalamata. Our destination was the Open Air Power Museum near the village of Dimitsana. This museum highlighted the importance of water power, in traditional society, as the main source of energy for the production of a range of goods.
Dimitsana was one of the villages in the area that knew how crude saltpetre was collected and they turned it over to the then Turkish rulers in lieu of tax. During the Greek War of Independence the Dimitsana inhabitants were active in supplying the Greek Army with gunpowder.
Two days before the end of the car hire period rules were relaxed again and, if wearing masks, four people could travel together so, we all went out for lunch twice, firstly to our favourite taverna in the hills near Ancient Messinia….
…. and secondly to the village of Agias Andreas to the south and east of Kalamata.
All in all it felt like a holiday.
For our second vaccinations we have just had the car for the two consecutive days of Steve and Gill’s and then Mike’s appointments and, other than the trips to the hospital have just done a bit of provisioning. My second appointment a week earlier fell on our wedding anniversary! It was at 16.30 so, instead of getting a taxi both ways we decided to walk the country lane way to the hospital which took just under two hours and was a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon.
So that’s it. We are ready to sail and hope to set off tomorrow – Thursday 17th June.
BUT before I leave this post I have left best until last.
Amid all the strangeness and frustration of these past eight months we have had something to really celebrate. The birth of Claude Grant Hampson.
Unfortunately we haven’t been able to visit Claude, James and Polina in Berlin as travel restrictions have prevented it. However, we hope to remedy this during the coming winter. Until then…. Watch this space for more travels on “Owl and Pussycat”