Athens to Rhodes - September 2006
Day One: 8 September 2006
We (Blanche, Jude and Laurence) all arrived in Piraeus – and located Boo Too - after uneventful journeys from Heathrow. Oliver had arrived on an earlier flight and amongst other chores had scoped out the local restaurants. After a welcoming glass or two of Veuve Cliquot we headed for Oliver’s chosen restaurant in Turkulimano. It’s not the Love Café sadly, but the place next door, Delphino’s and it’s excellent, particularly, Oliver assures us, his lobster.
We cheerfully set off out of Piraeus harbour, with not a care in the world, when a frown clouded Luke’s otherwise cheerful face. The laundry is missing. So Luke raced back in the tender to fetch the laundry, and twenty minutes later we’re under sail. It’s a nice easy reach down to Kea our first destination and we even try a little (unsuccessful) fishing. Suddenly, from out there in the ether we hear the first of a voice that will accompany us for some days. “Little Sailboat calling Big Freighter” the voice trembles “this is Emocean 1 calling Big Freighter – do you see us, at the moment we’re on a collision course”. The exchange continues and eventually everything turns out fine for Emocean 1. A couple of hours later Boo Too glides into the pretty port of Vourkari on the island of Kea. The water is warm and we’re soon swimming. But while Blanche, Jude and Laurence get back to the boat, our leader has discovered a damsel in distress. Yes, Oliver has discovered Stefani on the far shore who has sat on a sea urchin. Gallantly he collects her and ship’s surgeon Luke extracts as many of the spines as he can before Oliver reunites Stefani with her dog. We have drinks on shore at a local taverna called Breeze and then dinner on board. Jude is pining to go dancing but can find no takers.
The crew impress us all by going for an early swim and after breakfast we all go up to the Chora, the main town on the hill. It’s 9 kilometres and the idea of either walking there or back, is quickly forgotten and we take Stavros’s comfortable Mercedes taxi both there and back. Then disaster: Oliver finds his credit cards have parted company with him and despite phoning the taxi company and going back to the café in Chora, they have disappeared. Eventually we get away and have a lot of fun getting out of the bay and back on to our route. The waves are big! After a lot of very bumpy water we round the headland of Kea and head for open water. With wind force 8 gusting force 9, we make great progress and touch 14.5 knots. Trying to anchor Boo Too securely for the night proves quite a challenge, but eventually after several attempts and a lot of chain we manage to get the anchor to hold and Rosie produces some very authentic tasting Greek meatballs for supper. That night Oliver decides to run an anchor watch.
The wind was still doing its thing when we left, and it contributed to a magnificent run past Serifos down to Sifnos. Oliver coached Wendy in the art of anticipation (at the helm), something we all felt would serve her well in life. Entertainment was again provided by channel 16. Today’s offering was from a sailing boat confronting a ferry. Ferry “we’ll pass port to port”. Sailing boat “your port or mine?” followed by hilarity from the Boo Too crew. And unsurprisingly, more chat with Emocean 1. On Sifnos we found a pretty, sheltered anchorage in a bay called Vathi, and after a late lunch, a shore party took a robust 90 minute walk around the bay and up the hill and scoped out tavernas for dinner. Had a great dinner in a taverna that:
a) had fresh goat and
b) didn’t mind us bringing our own wine.
Our run from Sifnos to Santorini (or Thira) was a much gentler affair (with only a force 7 blowing) than our previous day’s sailing but we still made good time. Santorini welcomes cruise ships but doesn’t really care about sailing boats. Despite harbour official Costas Grumpadopoulos making our arrival as tedious as possible, we eventually got ashore. Ashore here means arriving at the foot of a very tall cliff. Despite the tantalising offer of a donkey or a mule, Oliver, Blanche, Jude and Laurence elected to go up by cable car and to walk down. Rather more ambitiously, the crew decided to run up. From the cable car we could see some very different interpretations of “run”. We soon found a nice restaurant which was to provide our dinner and then discovered Santorini’s dark secret. This was Donkidoo alley a rank and precarious path joining the hill top with the harbour and whose by-products could have fertilised an entire Welsh farm. Everyone’s shoes had to be hosed down!
We had a fairly gentle wind taking us from Santorini to Astipalaia and luxuriated on the afterdeck. Oliver detected a slightly mutinous attitude on board and sternly interrogated the chief suspect mutineers Blanche and Jude. As a result a new route was negotiated which replaced Halki and Lindos with Tilos and Symi and Blanche & Jude are under very strict orders “to behave from now on”. Everyone liked Astipalaia but we were all astonished by how quiet it was. The butcher explained in his dulcet Sydney accent that the season finished on August 15th. After everyone had walked and swum Luke made us mojitos and we had dinner on board.
The day started very early with the anchor coming up at 7 a.m. for our 50 mile run to Tilos, We had the best of the wind early in the day and got to our nicely sheltered anchorage at about 2pm, in time for a leisurely lunch ashore. Back to Boo Too for a swim, then back ashore to rent motor scooters for a spin around the island. No licence, no crash helmet, no deposit and only €10 for 2 hours. This was first time on a motorbike for both Jude and Rosie, both of whom are now scouring the market for a decent second hand Harley-Davidson. We then met some friendly Germans moored in the harbour who came aboard and had drinks with us before dinner.
This was a short hop from Tilos to Symi and after a brisk start we were glad of the engine. To add a little spice, skipper Oliver decided we should take a short cut through a very narrow and shallow passage. To be on the safe side the skipper sent the tender through first and Blanche radioed back the depth readings. She also got a lesson in diction from her uncle! We asked around for restaurant recommendations and by discounting those owned by the brothers of the people we asked found perhaps the best of the trip, called Mylopetra. A stunningly good dinner followed!
The idea was a swim before breakfast but it all went wrong when we managed to put a big hole into the tender. Having exited the harbour with some gusto, it was a very floppy tender that crept back in thirty minutes later. No matter. After breakfast we rented scooters and headed over the mountain to Panormitis to look at the monastery. It was a ride with stunning views! Then after a pleasant lunch at a quayside taverna, Big Snag Number Two of the day arose as the defiant bikers found themselves in a “no petrol situation”. Mr Crapibikolos who rented the bikes to us said is was our problem and not his. But he had reckoned without hero of the hour Stavros who gave us enough petrol to get one bike home and also harangued Mr Crapi into sending someone with some petrol. That evening we moved Boo Too to Pedi, a small bay close to Symi town and had drinks on board with our new friends David and the delightful Ruby from neighbouring yacht Abidjan.
After emotional farewells to our new best friends David and Ruby we snuck out of Pedi heading for Rhodes. Halfway there, Oliver had the brilliant idea of stopping off for lunch in a beautiful little bay on the Turkish mainland called Serçe Liman. From there it was a short run across to Rhodes where we moored stern to between a couple of large motorboats. Oliver, Jude and Blanche again did the restaurant reconnaissance and found a taverna where there was an appropriately large goat being spit roasted. And so, after an excellent dinner with all crew and guests present, sadly, our final day came to an end and we started to pack for our return journey in the morning.