Burntisland, July 2012
Oh dear! Greece seems a long way away from a rain sodden day in Fife. After the last update from the Northern Sporades we continued south in a gentle arc visiting seven more islands and left the last, Aegina on the 12th July. Admittedly one was barely more than a large rock, silvery jagged stones jutting out above the wooded frill, occupied, incongruously by a family of deer, some peacocks and oh yes, a pair of homo sapiens lovers left behind by the tripper boat – stranded as the sun fell – the body language was a treat.
From Skiros we touched Evia for an overnight anchor before crossing the Kafireas Strait and the busy shipping route that takes traffic from the Black Sea to West Mediterranean and beyond. We enjoyed a fast, invigorating sail to Andros, renowned for being a really windy island. We came into the port of Gavrion, it seemed deserted, a long strip of empty quay and a fierce wind. Wonder of wonders a police car came and the policeman helped us tie up and asked us to come up to the Port Police with our papers when we had time – a refreshing attitude and not the normal abrupt ‘can I see your papers’ before the first rope is around a bollard. Our initial impression of an empty sleepy place was shattered and rocked twice daily as the ferries from Rafina, Mikonos and Tinos rolled in and out. There were six different lines!!! The biggest was Fast Ferries’ Theologos P whose wake surged our boat and made the fender boards bend and crack against the quay.
There are a furious few moments of noise and activity associated with the ferries. The men, who catch the monkeys’ fists and secure the ropes, have been sitting peaceably passing the time of day in the cafes, now throw on their hard hats (insecurely perched) and with surprising agility, not evident by their physique, leap into action! Then the ramp which has been open and down for sometime makes contact with the dock - a heartbeat, and then they come - the foot soldiers, pedestrians, some with pushchairs, holding carrier bags, hefting rucksacks, holdalls, suitcases, with children skipping and round fat orthodox priests trudging, tourists clutching their hats in the wind, old and young, big and small. Next come the armoured corps, then the artillery and finally the big boys. A seemingly endless stream of, supermarket lorries, motor bikes, big cars, small cars, cars packed to the brim with ‘things’, building materials, ladders poking out of windows, replacement sets of windows and doors and livestock, goats and chickens. Parcels are unloaded and left to magically have disappeared seconds later. Sometimes two ferries cross each other and you wonder they don’t touch. On their departure the dust settles and sleepiness descends once again and it is quiet enough to hear the clock tick.
After a day spent mesmerized by ferry activity we hired a car. Our big question was where had the people come from and where were they going? On our drive around the island we saw hardly another soul on the roads and nowhere was crowded. Andros is mountainous and bare and yet again reminded me of Scotland bar the rush of heat and the fragrant smell whenever the car door opened.
Our next island was Siros and after a night in the harbour to get some supplies and think about the problem of the holding tank that was doing its job far too well – ‘nuff said’, we ended up on our own in a large sheltered anchorage tucked into the NW corner of Gramma. For millennia ships have waited out the meltemi that breezes through here in high summer. There, on the rocks, are ancient graffiti, carved initials of centuries past. We didn’t add to them but enjoyed a beautiful dark night, no lights, no moon just the planets, the stars and the rash of the Milky Way. It was here that the eagle eyed reconnaissance pilot spotted far on the other curve of the bay what he thought was a sister Oyster 406. With a little bit of sleuthing we tracked her down as a fellow member of the Cruising Association and sent a photo and comment via email. Imagine the surprise to get a reply acknowledging sistership and asking if, since W-B is an unusual surname, Andy has a relative who was “the commander” at Dartmouth in 1948. Yes he has - an uncle; amazing coincidence in an ever shrinking world.
From Siros to Kythnos another fast sail and overnight anchorage, pretty but it’s getting busier.
Kythnos to Poros, setting off early and finding two other boats on the same route, there is a male on board so of course next thing I know we are racing! Why is he going faster? Can we tweak our sails to gain that extra .1 of a knot; we passed him, he overtook us, we took photographs as he passed us, we’re confused, we should be faster. In the end our paths diverge and later that night we are tied up safely alongside the pontoon in position to welcome Christina and John, Andy’s aunt and uncle from Australia. The next morning in the little corner of the harbour at Poros that we know is a nightmare for catching lurking chains and other peoples’ anchors, we watched as a green trimmed boat had difficulty freeing his anchor – a fit looking white haired guy was free diving the 5 metres or so to sort it. After a struggle the boat was free and being aided alongside by the multinational force that had assembled to watch the morning’s shenanigans – they faded away and left Andy to offer a beer as reward for entertainment. This was the boat we had been racing the day before – I recognised it! So after many more beers moving on to G & T’s came the revelation that they had been motoring yesterday. We were soon friends with Ruth and Hedley and their friend Mike. They have a flat in Poros and were great company and I hope we’ll keep in touch.
Our octogenarian guests were amazing, hopping on and off boat and pontoon, walking the plank to shore and getting in and out of the dinghy. All this in John’s case with an undiagnosed fractured elbow that we women (Christina is a nurse) had unsympathetically dismissed as “muscular”.
We had some good sailing balanced with a spot of culture and lots of eating out. Whilst with them we stopped for a lunch stop and swim. Dropping our anchor at the stern of another yacht I was delighted to see the port of registration was Flekkefjord. Our port of registration is Burntisland and Burntisland is twinned with - guess which Norwegian town? Yes! Flekkefjord! – another amazing coincidence. The two boats tied up together for a beer and a photo shoot.
My good friend Mary joined us for the last week, it was very hot so we concentrated on swimming and swimming and a bit of sunning. However the most amazing experience was to see a fantastic modern production of Oedipus Rex in Greek at the old theatre of Epidhavros 400BC and seating 15,000 - part of the Athens/Epidhavros festival. The seats were HOT! and remained warm all evening as they filled up with a colourful butterfly array of ladies walking up the catwalks of the aisles. The night grew slowly dark as the ancient tragedy unfolded. I couldn’t believe I was sitting here and looked up to see the stars and a satellite whizzing through the firmament, such a different experience from the BC world.
Anchor snarl ups are entertainment as long as the subject isn’t you.
We watched for a while as a chartered boat struggled to get its anchor free of an old fisherman’s anchor and chain abandoned on the sea floor at Paleo Epidhavros. Andy could bear it no longer and launched himself off to help. It was a painstaking process and only someone as patient as he could have done it. Freed and on his way back to me the yacht manoeuvred to re-anchor only to come up with another two entwined anchors. Back Andy went and it must have been two hours before the yacht was again totally free.
So, the UK for a few weeks catch up and to escape busy-ness, searing heat and tepid sea water; we are returning in the latter part of August and will be going into the Cyclades and on to the Dodecanese. Two lots of visitors booked in and as the rain continues my thoughts are returning to the sun whose shade we seek in Greece and whose brightness we crave here! Contrary.
Jinti and Andy
.. prepare fender boards ..
.. Coming to a berth near you !!
Andros - sort of Scottish
.. we passed him ..
Kwai Muli - a sister ship - slightly different saloon.
John and Chirstina - proved that age is no bar to a nautical visit on Selkie Dancer
Almost joined at the hip! Yachts of twinned towns.
My good friend Mary ….
.. with another two anchors entwined