In Samos we anchored off Pythagoreio. There is a ‘marina’ just nearby but it is a dusty deserted place, 20 minutes walk away from this touristy but comfortable town, named after he of ‘that’ triangle fame. In 535BC the island was ruled by one, Polycrates, who seems to have been rather a brutal fellow but with the charisma and innovation to lead the island to greatness. It doesn’t always do you good to have charisma and drive - Polycrates ended up being lured to the mainland by a Persian and crucified on the slopes of Mt Mycale, looking over at Samos.
One of his achievements, and it was incredible for the time, was the building of a tunnel through a montain to bring water to the town. The tunnel of Eupalinos (the engineer) was one of the most remarkable engineering accomplishments of Antiquity (open daily Mon-Fri etc only it wasn’t because there was a STRIKE!!) It is a 1,036m long, double tunnel cut by hand - probably by slaves. It was started from opposite ends at the same time at a depth of 170m below the surface and amazingly met in the middle (+/- 4 cms). Polycrates also built, well probably the same slaves and others, a new wall to protect the harbour from the destructive southerly winds. This went out to sea for almost half a kilometre and was at a depth of forty metres. As McGilchrist says ‘laying foundations at such a depth, and building securely on top of them underwater, was an extraordinary feat for those times’.
Enough of this ancient stuff, we went to a surrealist art exhibition. Housed in a large modern white building where in large letters we had read, from the anchorage ‘OOFS’. We thought it might be a night club but no sound came from it. Outside were some wooden structures, like four poster beds draped in eastern carpets and cushions. There was always the same young couple of teenagers kissing and canoodling on it when we went by. These structures, we later learned, were called ‘River Beds’ and they were the only legitimate place where Muslim girls and boys could meet. The exhibition was by an art collective called ‘Slavs and Tatars’ and was called “Long Legged Linguistics” It was quirky and amusing and we were the only people there so had the complete attention of Evangelia who walked around with us and talked us through the exhibits. Lots of play on words and phonetics, the real letters on the outside of the building read OOPS! At the entrance there was a heavily eye lashed eye that winked from the cover of a book at us and there were tongues and knees, blood and light - it was as she put it ‘a little bit sexy, a little bit funny’! Just another eccentric event that makes travelling interesting.
Here we also stocked up on Gin and Martini (our killer cocktail choice at the moment) as we have heard that alcohol is expensive in Turkey. The only trouble is we’ve started on our 2014 stash already
From Samos we sailed south through the really lovely islands of Agathonisi and Arki. With turquoise seas, little bays and clear water there is much to come back to. We went on to Patmos where Terry Earl was set to arrive by ferry from Kos. In the evening the tooting of many car horns alerted us to a wedding. We watched delightedly as the groom, bashful and carrying flowers, preceded by a band, walked along a leaf strewn road, escorted by his family. A rather grim and determined looking mother made me think that she would be glad to get this son married off!. With him safely in the church the band was relocated to the brides’ party and a similar procession made its way through the streets. Thereafter a long and serious silence for an hour and then the bells of the church rang out and the tooting and processions began again.
Terry arrived and as we walked along the line of boats there occurred one of those amazing coincidences that may often be present but are not always recognised. Our eye was drawn to an unusual red and black chequered flag flying from a smart catamaran and then to the RAF pennant flying beside it. Naturally as the the crew were there we stopped and declared our interest, names were exchanged and guess what? - Andy and Pete, of the catamaran, were Cranwell colleagues - albeit 45 years ago. I wonder how many of the people that we have passed, unrecognised, have had similar connections.
We took a taxi up the hill to the Chora, white houses, more Cycladian in nature than the Dodecanese and there, like a big cherry on the top of the cake, sits the monastery looking more like a fort than a holy place. This is Patmos’ jewel, a destination second only to Mount Athos in spiritual importance. Famous for being the place St John was exiled to and from where he received the vision of the Revelation, now the last book of the New Testament. Later a monk, St Christodoulos built this monastery in his memory. We had watched the previous day as bus load after bus load of cruise ship passengers ascended to the supposedly meditative and peaceful building and were actually glad that today the streets were quiet, the monastery closed to visitors and we could enjoy, unhampered the view down to the bay and admire the local architecture as we wandered through narrow streets, overhanging balconies, first floor verandas and little archways before a very kind boy, diverted from his football practice, led us to the start of the mule track back down the hill.
The next day we sailed over to the north end of Lipsi, this was to be the start of our passage south to Kos. It was not to be so simple, it often isn’t! The south wind got up and next morning as we poked our noses out of the anchorage we understood why two boats had arrived and anchored so early in the morning. There was a huge sea running, I would say verging on the rough (2.5-4 metre seas) and a near gale,force 7, was blowing. Our plans swiftly altered, and we went for our diversion option. RAF pilots always have an alternative airfield! We had an extremely challenging sail, 3 reefs and a little jenny out – back to Patmos and joined 12 other boats all gathering in the relative shelter of a small bay at the entrance to the harbour. We stayed overnight and then sailed south to Leros.
Sod’s law - the wind was right down as we sailed south towards Leros, however we did manage a mixture of sail and motor sail. We anchored out in Porto Lago Bay, but with strong north winds forecast and while Terry and Andy were visiting the WWII “Tunnel Museum” I made an executive decision and booked one of the remaining two places in the ‘marina’; really a town quay but with showers and washing machines. The showers turned out to be blissfully hot as it had turned very cold and I needed warming up before preparing hot water bottles and seeking an extra quilt for the night! This was to be our home for the next four days and sadly the end of Terry’s sailing. However we hired a car and explored some of the island. It is a very pretty, indented deeply with bays that almost cut the island in two and the bays are full of little coves, the water is clear, when it is still, and it is wooded down to the sea. We saw a few boats looking very uncomfortable in the bays as the sea scudded white horses. Down in Pandeli, a sweet little fishing village, a castle sits magnificently over a bay and windmills ride the ridge, it looked as though the windmills had been turned into holiday houses but the place had a deserted feel to it, only a handful of holiday makers and yachties waiting out the wind. We found plenty of intriguing properties beguilingly peering out behind overflowing greenery of fig and pomegranate. The Italians were given the islands of the Dodecanese after the First World War and they only reverted to Greece in 1948. While the Italians were here in Lakki, they laid out a very elegant town, handsome buildings, wide boulevards and planted trees in the many open spaces. It gives a feeling of space, reflecting the gentle curve of the bay. The buildings are rounded unlike most other Greek towns where the buildings are close together and the streets twist. Lakki was built to a ‘town plan’ and is recognised as a good example of ‘Rationalist’ planning. Sadly the town has been left to decline and walking around was depressing; closed up houses, deserted buildings with very little civic care. The big school seemed to be engulfed by anarchy whether by teachers or students I couldn’t tell but it had an edgy feel to it.
But then there are little oasis of hope and enterprise like the innovative young Australian/Greek butcher. He was providing great service to ‘yachties’ offering to vacuum pack his meat, he had his own home made cheeses and other local products, or Ostria Restaurant which was again run by enterprising young people who had moved here from Athens, serving Greek food with a slightly more inventive touch. I love sitting in Greek cafes watching the world go by as old men play backgammon, watched intently by others who critically and vociferously give their opinions and advice. I sat a lot in the cafe, charging my iPad, updating the software (I wish I hadn’t) I met an Australian Greek who overheard me/saw me having’ Facetime’ with grandchildren, from then on I was known as γιαγιά (Grandma) so in turn I called him Παππούς πορτοκαλί (Grandpa Portocali) – his surname really was Portocali, as in the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding in which Mr Portocali constantly embarrasses his daughter by endlessly telling everyone how all english words come from the Greek. Likewise with Παππούς πορτοκαλί. He was a large and entertaining character who, along with his wife were visiting from Darwin and seeing relatives. He was very fed up with hearing his relatives going on and on about taxes and how bad things were. He was of the opinion that they were envious of him but they didn’t deserve any better as they did nothing to help themselves preferring to sit around, drink coffee and ouzo, smoke and complain all day long.
One day there was a commotion as a donkey, trailing a tethering rope and followed closely by a very small baby donkey, trotted along the street in front of the cafe aptly named ‘Escape Cafe’. It took a few seconds to register that this was a donkey on a mission for freedom. At about the same time one of the locals ran over and caught the the rope. He led the donkey to safety, tied her to a lamppost, baby followed and then the crowds gathered to take the photos, the scene was enchanting enough to interrupt games of backgammon and political discussions.
The day Terry left had the strongest winds and there was a little tension as there was a slight possibility that the catamaran ferry might not run, the man in the cafe said ‘the sea is angry’. Swiftly we turned to modern technology and my Marine Traffic AIS “app”. On this we watched ‘Dodecanese Pride’ inch her way across the sea from Rhodes to arrive first in Kos and then onwards to Leros – Phew! I had imagined Terry taking matters into his own hands and hijacking a plane to fly himself out!
From Samos south we have noticed a gradual increase in yachts. North of Samos we could have been the only yacht in a harbour or at anchor. We were the travellers, the intrepid ones but gradually we have become more commonplace. Our last anchorage in Greece was Yiali, on the edge of a Pumice quarry. It is a huge bay, only three other boats. It was magical the next morning as we swam ashore in cool crystal clear water where it can be cloudy with pumice dust; with shadows on the sculptured and chiseled forms made by the quarry, sharp in the rising sun. We wrote a farewell message in the sand. Then it was off to Turkey!
Our entry into Turkey was not the drama we had been led to believe, we were lucky. We hoisted a Turkish Courtesy flag along with a yellow duster (quarantine flag) and anchored off Datca. The police station was closed so we went and braved the cash machine for Turkish Lira. By the time we returned it was open and we were soon introduced to Serdar, the agent, Mr Datca. All the formalities were completed in less than two hours! We have visas, a transit log and the all important BLUE pump out card for our black water tank (poo card - 700 litres no less!) which is a complete farce as not all places have the facilities to pump out. We bought from Turkcell a little gadget that will pick up the mobile phone signal and rebroadcast it to all our devices, effectively making our boat a wifi zone. We are astounded by the number of boats; I must have counted 50+ on our trip from Datca to Bozborun!!! There are gullets, big and very big, charter boats, even flotillas. We’re in shock, everywhere seems so crowded. Right now, in sparkling clear waters under some old Lycian rock tombs (definitely the one and sixes as opposed to the more elaborate ones that were around the corner) with olive and pine covering the steep sided wooded hills and little islands dotted about, the sun is shining and the temperature is an amazing 30 – it’s October! And to complete our happiness, in the boat next to us is my cousin Mike and his wife Bettine. We have met up at last! I think it’s been three years of ‘maybes’! Gocek bay is beautiful with a myriad of little bays to anchor in. The technique is slightly different here and we are anchoring in deeper water than we are used to and are taking long lines from the stern to the shore. In some of the bays there are restaurants and in the morning boats whizz around selling bread, cake, limited fruit and veg - and of course, if you want him, you can call out the “pump out” boat. I almost felt we could call for a pizza, actually I did try to buy some chicken at one restaurant but when I realised that it had been part cooked and then frozen I didn’t really want to risk it. There are turtles here too, very exciting to see these ancient venerable creatures but not exciting to look at in the many photographs we have of.........see that splash, that was a turtle!
Yacht Marine Marmaris is really incredible; the number of boats here is astounding. They work nonstop at this time of year hauling boats out of the water and each has their date of re-launching chalked onto the rudder. They are then grouped according to the months of lift out or the size of boat and it must be someone with a Rubik’s cube mind who masterminds this. We are like roosting birds settling for the winter. Every day we are surrounded more densely by new yachts and my walks back and forth to the shop require all my concentration. Like a well known path through a forest marked by individual trees, so my path is marked by certain yachts – aim for the red hull, go between the two large catamarans, aim for the yacht that is draped in anchor chain, now point towards the workshops and I am there. However the boats can subtly change position as new ones arrive to confuse the pattern. I have to concentrate very hard to reach Selkie Dancer surrounded as she now is on all sides. It’s like losing your car in a multi storey car park!
Αντίο Ελλάδα ; Türkiye Merhaba
We arrived in Greece in June 2010 and have covered a lot of ground - sorry sea - since, I think around 4,000 nautical miles. We love Greece; we have put a lot of effort into learning the language and absorbing the history from which we have had such a lot of pleasure. But there is plenty to see in Turkey before returning to Greece - the plan is forming.
23 Oct ‘13