OK so the frustrations of five weeks ashore living in seeming chaos, washed quickly away and we had, as ever, a fabulous summer.


The seeming artificial construct that was, on the whole, our experience of Turkey contrasts with the impulsiveness and randomness that is Greece.  Both wonderful, interesting places but with vastly different presentations.  I am aware that we only touched the fringes of Turkey.  The organization and infrastructure is all set in place for the visitor and tailor made for the Western tourist, in a rather controlling and too restricting a way.  We met a young couple in Ancient Knidos who had been tagged!  Both had blue bands clamped around their wrists to identify them as legitimately belonging to a certain hotel and woe betide them if they strayed from the programme of expected activities which, we were glad to see that they had, by hiring a car and travelling the narrow road along the Datca peninsula to this 4th century BC trading place, with amphitheatre and buildings still evident.  When our friend Carole came to join us she told how, on visiting her parents in their hotel, she struggled to gain entry and was put through the third degree before being identified by her father and allowed access!!!  We noticed lots of ‘security’ around the hotels and the smart marinas; in the bays, restaurants are permitted and controlled by the state.

Enterprising and delightful aspects of the anchorages are fruit, vegetable, bread and cake sellers that make a daily round of the boats.  Even in an apparently remote and steep sided bay, the silence occasionally broken by the braying of feral donkeys that grazed the scrubby slopes and with bee hives ashore being tended by the beekeeper and his wife who had arrived by boat there were still tradesmen rowing small boats selling ceramics, carpets, bracelets, honey, almonds etc. on the off chance that you would buy.  They were pretty persistent salesmen and it was difficult to refuse.

Bodrum became the Oban of our first years’ sailing.  We bounced back and forth to it with regularity.  We explored up the Gulf of Gokova to the lush, forested areas of English Harbour and Yedi Adalari (Seven Islands), the sight of green pines running down to the clear turquoise waters edge is hard to beat.  Sadly on the coastlines nearest to Greece the Turks have built and built – unattractively in concrete.  After our 90 days, allowed by the visa we returned to Greece.  Where the Turks fly their red flag on every high hill, back in Greece these were replaced by little white chapels. Going back into Greece felt like coming home.  Our first stop was to Symi and the familiar monastery bay of Panormitis ****the bay where all flotsam and jetsam gathers – see ***see ‘Island Bagging’ 2012.

We had intercepted and safely picked up an illegal en route............an inflatable horse! I’m sure he’ll find a role in the future with some of our visitors or even grandchildren. Actually ‘Illegals’ (mostly young men from troubled areas of the world Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan) are a reality here as the coastlines of Greece and Turkey are so close.  The seas are patrolled pretty well at night but there are some evil people out there who take refugees’ hard found cash with a promise to deliver them to Europe and then, in tricky conditions abandon them and in extreme cases push them into the sea, just short of land.  Some friends of ours were involved in a rescue of just such a group off this island a few weeks after we had been there.  http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-29391116

In a bay near to the capital, Symi Town, we noticed an unlikely looking cruising boat, a sailing boat, with many people on deck; it just didn’t look right; the visible people were all young and dressed in such a way that made you look twice.  It was called “Panther”. The next day some night owls told us that they had observed this same boat coming alongside in the dark and disgorging an amazing number of people.  Even later on another island some 60nm away we were to see Panther again, damaged, a bit battered and forlorn but this time alongside and in custody!

After a nice few days on Simi we looked at the winds and weather and this dictated our next destination so off we went to Chalki, an island SW of Rhodes.  We anchored overnight then moved on for a lovely morning of exploration and swim to Alimia - its beauty belying its dark history, all the way from the Crusaders to WW2.  Then swiftly to Tilos, Pserimos, Plati, Kalymnos and Leros where we joined up with Duncan and Caroline,  Andy’s cousin and wife who have made their way here from Australia, first sailing up to Indonesia and then putting the boat on a container ship to Turkey and so avoid the inconvenience and discomfort of a possible hostage situation!  We  had a weeks of sailing together with good winds making  for great sailing, some companionable cousinly rivalry and some scrambling adventures.  

On Kalymnos we met up with friends Peter and Holly Jeffers (Holly has just published, along with others, Living in the Slipstream – Life as an RAF wife – all proceeds to the RAF benevolent fund http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss/279-9325250-3303563?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Living+in+the+Slipstream

and her own novel The Canicule Year  http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=a9_sc_1?rh=i%3Astripbooks%2Ck%3Athe+canicule+year&keywords=the+canicule+year&ie=UTF8&qid=1417015841

At Lipsi, while we waited for String and Ben to come off the ferry, I was thinking about a lovely fresh tomato salad for lunch and tried to beg a sprig of basil growing abundantly in pots outside the bakery.  Usually it is given freely but this time the old lady was reluctant to give me any as she was saving it for the church!  There is a significant meaning to the herb as it is said to have been growing on the original cross of Christ.  It is known as the king of herbs and of course the Greek word for king is Basilius  - βασιλιάς - the priest uses the bunches of basil as a sprinkler of holy water, he dips basil into water and then uses this for the blessing. Lovely lunch then north to  Arki a beautiful series of little islets dropped into the sea, little sparkling jewels.  We sailed south to Patmos, scene of the ‘scary moment’ - see below.

Early September saw us on our own again and with two clear weeks before bedding Selkie Dancer down for the winter in the marina at Leros we decided to head west to Amorgos, our last little adventure of the year.   Lawrence Durrell wrote of Amorgos in his book ‘Greek Islands’ “a sinister island with little to recommend it, though villages are pretty and the inhabitants kindly: the anchorages are poor and if you managed to get stuck there, you would wilt with boredom like an unwatered geranium” I love reading his descriptions but I equally love to find out that he’s TOTALLY WRONG!!!

We stopped off for the night in Levitihia where all the mooring buoys had been taken and we had to anchor deep in windy  weather, it  wasn’t great but I decided to make gnocchi – duh! Stupid!  I won’t bother again.    We walked at sunrise to the Bronze age site of an old settlement on the hill behind the bay, magical.  We visited the monastery that hangs on the cliff, described elsewhere I think and we drove the length of the island finding obscure little chapels.   If you could bottle the smell of Greek countryside you could make a fortune.  It is hard to describe – sweet and sharp, incense with edges of mint and lemon, and dust – oh it’s probably wine I’m thinking of!

We chose our moment as the seas here are big and we had a sporting sail back east.  We changed our mind about our destination about half way across, that’s the lovely thing that you can do and wherever you end up is where you are meant to be.  We ended up in Patmos again in a lovely bay that we had looked down into with Terry a year ago when we had been diverted by a F7 and ended up on the other side. We had thought it unappealing then but now we know its charms.  I was able to take a bus into town to resupply, I found Iggle Piggle’s boat and we made a new friend. Mattheus asked us to join him for a drink and then we stayed on to dinner with his other guests, a Japanese lady who lived on her boat there, a German man who similarly lived on his boat but used it to make money, taking people out for trips and Mattheus’ son, his Irish partner and their baby son – it was a lovely evening and in the morning we were still a United Kingdom so that was a relief.  There is an amazing rock that juts up into the sky called ‘Cormorant Rock’ we climbed up and explored and there is evidence that people have been here for 3 millenia, anchorites and hermits.  We stepped in their steps hewn out of the rock and found little niches where water gathered and a mysterious fresh water well.


And so to Leros and tidying up and washing and consuming masses of the best Mojitos, having described the ones in Turkey as being good these were exceptional.  My favourite being a Ginger Mojito and the next a Basil and Masticha Mojito, everything went swimmingly after that and we returned home feeling as ever, sad to leave our summer home behind, safe, quiet and still.


Turkey

Scary - not working out what was happening with our holding tank, explanation on enquiry!

Windy -sailing into Gocek in big seas, a thunderstorm and a passenger in shock.

Sailing - oh yes, that’s what we’re here for isn’t it?!  It was almost reliably wonderful in the passage between the Datca peninsula and Bodrum and very good in the Gulf of Gokova. Although in the latter it was brilliant on the way ‘up’ , east but not so hot trying to get back ‘down’ to the west.

Adventurous - Beautiful – a little market garden at the head of a bay, where a tall lady in a headscarf toiled amongst the fruit and vegetables and animals grazed  and fresh mint was gathered for the Mojitos.

Coincidence – Carole’s parents visiting so near by and at a time when we were there that she just had to come and join us!

Noisy – Diamond Club Bodrum!!! I can hear it now.  A huge disco ship and advertisement for the land based club, with huge speakers and dancing girls on platforms.

Visitors – Carole – stylish arrival by water taxi, Tom and Kate – amazed she didn’t lose that big hat, Tom and Jess – lots of laughs and swims, Mary – Calendar Girl!

Lots of talking, lots of laughing, lots of eating and a little drinking.


Greece

Scary - the scariest moment EVER!  I never want to see it again!  Engine has been turned off, the sails have been raised and it’s time for a beer.  I descend the companionway and to my horror I see water bubbling up under the floor of the galley.  It takes what seems likes minutes for the horror to register, in reality only milliseconds and then it was ACTION STATIONS – all hands to the bilge pump, sails down, engine on, masterfully steered by String the hour back to Patmos from whence we had set off with such confidence and safely tied up to be fixed with cable ties (not Kirby grips!) and fresh screws.

Windy – Sailing around Leros in September was brilliant.

Kindness - given the most delicious bread, still warm and spicy, learning a traditional dance from a YiaYia, a gift of some delicious Stafili (a sort of grape/raisin jam used to top  creamy yogurt for dessert), time and patience from the supermarket lady in Leros as she experienced and encouraged my attempts at Greek.


Adventurous – thanks to Nigel McGilchrist, author of Twenty books, describing the art, architecture, archaeology, history, natural phenomena, fauna and flora of the Aegean, we found places that we otherwise never would;  after a wonderful early morning scramble we came to the amazing castle that looks down the straights between Kalymnos and Telendos, later we found  a huge cave 3000BC, accessible only by dinghy,  a perilous climb and finally negotiation with a rambling fig tree that covered the entrance.    www.mcgilchristsgreekislands.com

Beautiful – 11th Century Monastery of Panagia Hozoviotissa (in Amorgos)  The monastery that hangs ‘twixt heaven and earth and that inspired the French architect Le Corbusier, however that might not be such a  good recommendation as I’m sure he in turn inspired some pretty dire ‘60’s architecture.  It clings to the cliff face high above the sea on the south side of Amorgos and is painted white.  The views from it are stunning; it is built onto the sheer rock face 300m above sea level and is only one room deep.  Seeing it from the sea it was hard to believe that you could support a community there but there are the remains of previously cultivated terraces which in its day supported many monks with food, animals and poultry.  Now there are only 3 monks left the youngest being in his ‘40’s and the oldest in his ‘80’s, so it should just stagger along for a few years yet. You are shown around by volunteers and have to dress appropriately – they keep a selection of natty clothing if you forget – when you leave you are given raki and loukoumi, perhaps that’s why Andy reversed into another car NOT because I was talking and distracted him!


Coincidence – The only boat in an anchorage we had only at the last minute decided to go to was “Skyran” who we had not met since Malta, it was so lovely to renew the acquaintance over a few beers and more!


Cult diving film - “Le Grand Bleu” directed by Luc Besson , took the dinghy around the wreck and took some very arty pictures.


Noisy – a peaceful bay and the heart sinks as the dooff, dooff noise gets louder and louder and around the corner comes a boat heaving with happy people, not that I want to be a damper on happy people but this was SOOO loud. Usually the swim boats come in for an hour and then depart, sadly this was someone’s “name day” and he had invited all his friends to come and join him and they were there for HOURS!  We took a walk over the hill to a little harbour and when we returned the noise was reverberating around the bowl of the valley, somehow it sounded more acceptable there, like the chanting in a monastery but back on the boat it was deafening.

 

Visitors – String and Ben – so memorable for both good and bad reasons!



Formality v Randomness

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2014

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2014

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