Part 1: Rhodes to Samos

Soon after returning home from a wonderful 6-week adventure in the North and South Ionian last year Yvonne and I started planning a trip to the Dodecanese and southeast Cyclades. The 2009 bare boat charter was a test of our planning and coping with a cruise much longer than our previous 2-week flotilla cruises. We knew the Dodecanese and southeastern Cyclades would present greater challenges as the daily sailing distances would be longer and we could expect more wind. Vangelis at the charter company almost said as much when all he could offer was a Beneteau Oceanis 34 as this was the smallest yacht he had available in the area.

At first we thought that a cruise through the Dodecanese to Samos might take 4-weeks. When it became clear that we could do all this in much less time than we had set aside the temptation to sail west to the southeast Cyclades was irresistible. So our final plan for 2010 was to leave Rhodes in late May sailing northwards to Samos then begin our journey towards the Cyclades heading south to Patmos and Levitha then west to Amorgos. From Amorgos we planned to visit Naxos and Paros then start our return to Rhodes sailing eastwards through the southern Cyclades. Our planned route did depend on the weather. We knew our route northwards through the Dodecanese would most likely be against the wind but hoped the route out to the Cyclades and back would be mainly off the wind.

In Rhodes we checked into a hotel and spent a day recovering after traveling 2 days from New Zealand. The center of Rhodes was a bustling place, cars and motor scooters winding their way through narrow one-way streets, the castle and its lively pedestrian malls of restaurants, cafes and boutiques a buzz with people. At Mandraki Harbour we located Fotis, the charter company contact and arranged to meet at the yacht the next morning. We then had to chase up one lost bag that had become mislaid during our flight transfer in Beijing.

Mamma Mia reveling in a moderate breeze on the way to Leros

On the 22nd April we boarded Mamma Mia, a Beneteau Oceanis 34 and our home for the next 4 weeks. Fotis and his band of associates took us through the check-in and yacht briefing procedures, sorted out our needs and introduced us to Vassilli, owner of one of the mini-markets on the quay who couldn’t have been more helpful. In his small van, Vassilli delivered supplies from his mini-market to yachts and in our case also insisted on picking up our luggage from the hotel and bringing it to the yacht. Sunday the 23rd our missing bag caught up with us and was delivered to the quay, we provisioned Mamma Mia but had to wait till after mid-day before our papers were cleared and we could depart. Marianna the charming owner of Mamma Mia had spent the morning with the Port Police facilitating the clearance and brought the papers to the yacht. After arranging to meet Marianna again at the end of our cruise, we dropped the lazy line and motored out of the harbour into a fresh breeze and 2 metre seas.

That first sail in Mamma Mia was a good trial and a learning curve. We set a reefed mainsail and 3 rolls in the headsail. This was a bit conservative so after a while we pulled out the full headsail; Mamma Mia stood up in the breeze and romped along hard on the wind. We approached the Turkish coast in a single tack, tacked away several times but eventually doused sail off Cape Karaburum and motored the last 8 miles into a picturesque Symi, mooring stern to at about 6:30pm.

Mamma Mia (right center) in Symi

Clustered against a stark rocky background, the symmetry of the pastel-coloured houses of Symi appeared like a painted stage backdrop. The wind subsided, newly arrived yachts milled around in the harbour and eventually found moorings, the warmth of the evening, cooking smells wafting from tavernas, a buzz of people on the quay, Symi was welcoming and delightful. We slipped easily into our previously developed routine of a welcome coffee and biscuit after mooring, a quick reconnoiter of the immediate town, a shower followed by a brandy and nibbles in the cockpit then to find a taverna for dinner. We were back in the Greece we had known from previous years, the Greece that had drawn us back again.


From Symi we motored through the narrow Nisos passage watching the depth slowly rise up to 4.6 meters. Once clear of the small islands west of O. Nimos we spent several hours sailing in variable head winds. With boat speeds of 3.5 to 6 knots and 7 tacks later we pulled in the sails and motored against a gusting head wind for the last hour into Tilos, mooring on a lazy line in the small boat harbour. The local mini market owner very generously allowed us to charge the camera battery. The camera had been in the missing luggage and our first attempts to re-charge the battery on the yacht failed. We left the camera at the mini market and on returning 3 hours later found it still hadn’t charged. After plugging it in properly the owner quite happily allowed us to leave it all night, it was fully charged by the morning.

Mamma Mia in the town harbour at Kos

Tilos to Kos was windless we turned on the autopilot and let Mamma Mia take us to Kos. The western headland of the Datca Penninsular of Turkey was a busy waterway; we were one of 4 yachts, 2 small freighters and a luxury liner rounding about the same time. Our intention was to berth at the marina, but seeing it was only mid afternoon we motored into the town harbour where we were lucky to find the last yacht berth. It was quite beautiful tucked in beneath the castle, the town was close by and people streamed along the quay to and from the ferry and passenger liner berths. Later in the afternoon the harbour became quite congested when all the tripper boats started to return. There was good water on the quay but we needed to borrow the tap fitting from the neighboring yacht so that we could top up our tanks and give Mamma Mia a wash down. We got a really good feel for the town of Kos the following morning when we traipsed all over looking for a shop where we eventually spent 1 euro to buy a hose tap fitting.

Chapel above the town of Kalimnos

With only a short distance to sail to Kalimnos we didn’t leave Kos harbour until after lunch. Motoring into a light breeze we cleared the shallows off Ammoglossa then raised sail and managed a fine lead into the lee of Persimos. After a half an hour of motoring we picked up a nice force 4 breeze and beat to Kalimnos town in 2 tacks. We managed to snag our anchor chain on the first attempt to moor but we were more successful on our second. Kalimnos was not as large as Kos but still a quite a busy town. The monastery above the town was a good walk to stretch the legs and the views were great.

For the next 2 days we had great copybook on the wind sailing in steady force 4/5 northwest breezes, blue sky and half to 1-metre seas. First, motoring west out of Kalimnos we raised sail clear of N Nera and beat out to sea for an hour, tacked onto port and laid Lakki (Leros) in 2 hours. The marina was really just the town quay with lazy lines but the showers were a bonus and our hospitable Polish neighbors insisted that we join them; we did when it was clear they were not going to stop singing till late.


After finding a mechanic who helped us tighten a loose fan belt we left Lakki late in the morning, raised sail clear of the heads and beat out to sea for an hour then tacked onto port and in a long 2 and half hour beat laid the entrance to Lipsos harbour. A sheltered harbour surrounded by a delightful little town, sparsely populated with houses creeping up the low hill. A pleasant enough walk up through the town to the crest of the hill, then back to the quay strewn with yellow fishing nets calling in to the supermarket on the way.

Fishing nets drying on the quay in Lipsos

Lipsos to Agathonisi was a short run but in only force 2/3 it took a while. When we first arrived there were 2 fishing boats tied alongside the small quay so we tied up in the area reserved for the coastguard. Luckily we moved down the quay later on when the fishing boats had left because at 7:30 the next morning we were rudely awakened by the surge from the Coastguard vessel mooring beside us.

It was a gusting force 5 northerly when we left Agathonisi, motoring to the east of the island before setting sail. We sailed hard on the wind and made good speed in a long tack to the northwest. As we neared Samos we were headed by the wind so tacked only to find we were headed again. But we held on this beat, eventually tacking and sailing a fine lead into Pythagorion. It’s one of the quirks of sailing directly upwind to an island; winds are drawn around the island, or it’s headlands, and come at you from opposing directions.


The town quay at Pythagorion was crowded with tavernas and cafes all bustling with patrons. We were amused watching the patrons sipping their cocktails and coffee and they watching us sipping ours. This was a very clean, neat town and popular with tourists. The harbour was busy with yachts, tripper boats and ferries.

On from Pythagorion we sailed west in light winds from mixed directions eventually motoring on a glassy sea to Marathakambos, a small quite delightful off the beaten track village. A very friendly local boat owner, seeing me bucket washing Mamma Mia, offered the use of his water hose, which he dragged over to our yacht from a tap about 100 metres away.

Part 2: Samos to Paros

We had now gained our most northerly point and, on leaving the island of Samos began our journey south and west towards the Cyclades.


There was a very light, shifting breeze and large southwest swell when we left Marathakambos. We motored for a couple of hours to the west and clear of the island of Samos where we picked up a 12 knot breeze gusting to 22 knots from the south west so put up a reefed main and full headsail for a good reach to the northeast of Fournoi. The breeze came ahead of us as we rounded the northern cape giving us a long hard beat in 15-17 knots, gusting 22 knots, of wind into the northeast bay on Fimaina where we doused sail in the lee of the cliffs and motored across to Fournoi harbour.

Running before 20-23 knots of wind from Fournoi

Fournoi was a quaint little town, not immediately hospitable but this did improve after our long walk up the hill and down through the lanes and alleys of the town. The harbour was crowded with fishing boats so we had moored alongside the ferry quay, luckily on the leeside because we were shaken awake in the early hours of the morning with very strong gusts of wind. We spent a busy time putting on extra mooring lines and adjusting fenders, the 3 yacht owners on the windward side were busy fending their vessels off the quay.

The wind had subsided to a force 5/6 by 9:00am so from Fournoi to Patmos we had our first real down wind run. In 20-23 knots of wind it was a thrilling ride often surfing on the 2-3 metre waves. Patmos was a busy tourist destination. It was a long ribbon of a town from the ferry quay around the waterfront passed tavernas and guesthouses to the marina. High above the town was a large fortified monastery and the chora, a pleasant if not energetic walk on a hot afternoon. A bonus was finding the best supermarket of the whole trip down an alley off the road to the chora.

Patmos from the monastery

Leaving Patmos we faced one of only two southerly winds on the whole cruise. We made three long tacks southwest to the island of Levitha. Here a strong north flowing current and light winds held us up so we finally motored into the wonderfully secluded and protected anchorage. The local fisherman cum shepherd whistled us over to one of his laid buoys and, for 7 euros tied us up for the night. There were 10 yachts moored that evening and it was quite a surprise to have a visit from John, a fellow New Zealander who saw our flag as we motored in and had to come and check us out. It was very peaceful anchorage, save for the tinkling of bells on the flocks of sheep and goats grazing the sparse vegetation on the low hills surrounding the bay.


From Levitha we motored west to the south of Nisi Kinaros where we managed to beam reach on a light southwest breeze across to Cape Vilakadha at the north of the island of Amorgos. We picked up a few good gusts off the island, which kept us sailing for a while but eventually the wind came in from ahead so we resorted to motoring the rest of the way to Katapola.

Monastery at Amorgos

We were now 2 days ahead of schedule because we missed out Ikaria, battling the strong wind from Fournoi didn’t make sense and we had also by-passed Arkoi. In our original plan we hadn’t set aside any spare days but it was clear that we should have some days in reserve in case the weather held us up and stopped us returning to Rhodes by the 18th June. But, we were now in day 14 of our cruise and we also felt it was time to have a day off. The Monastery on Amorgos was, by all accounts, well worth visiting. The bus stopped a short way from the path that climbed up to the monastery. It was an amazing sight clinging to the side of the cliff. We made the climb but weren’t properly attired however, just inside the door Yvonne found a sarong to wear as a skirt and I found a very large pair of trousers, that we put on and clutching our waists stayed decent for the visit inside the monastery. Really well worth the visit. To fill in the rest of the afternoon we walked back through the chora then down the hill to the port.

Chora on Amorgos

With the weather forecast predicting force 5/6 northerly winds we motored from Amorgos across to the lee of Nisi Karos. There the wind came ahead so we continued motoring to the south of the Island of Skhinoussa before punching into a steep chop and a strong breeze only making 3-4 knots towards the anchorage in Mirsini Bay. This was our ‘stepping-stone’ to reach the islands of Naxos and Paros, our main goals in the central Cyclades. Force 5/6 head winds were again forecast for our trip to Naxos the following day. Leaving Mirsini Bay we pushed into a steep chop and 15-18 knots of wind. Soon the wind was up to 23-27 knots and the seas got bigger, this was getting a bit uncomfortable so we decided to run broadside to the wind and sea and instead head to Ios. Off the northwest of Iraklia the wind was gusting 32-35 knots, the waves were 4 metres and breaking so we abandoned the idea of going anywhere and returned to the anchorage in Mirsini bay, using up our other spare day.

The following day under a clear blue sky in a steady force 4 northerly breeze the sail to Naxos was brilliant. Mamma Mia reveled in the light wind and flat sea and in eight long easy tacks we arrived to within 2-miles of the port of Naxos before running out of wind. Naxos was a modern town in a very old setting, shops and boutiques had the latest fashions, cafes and bars, Internet sites, museums and antique shops in the old Venetian castle; the town bustled with tourists.

Mamma Mia (on right) in Naxos

The fan belt was slipping again so we had arranged to meet a mechanic at 11:00am before dashing into town to the supermarket. The mechanic apparently arrived while we were away but a very friendly yacht neighbour, a Frenchman, offered to help and together we managed to tighten up the belt again before leaving Naxos for a short 10-mile reach across the channel to Livadhi on Paros. Livadhi was an out-of-the-way village with a few shops and tavernas clustering around the small harbour, in which there were only 2 other visiting yachts. A sprinkling of guesthouses dotted the waterfront and homes were scattered in the countryside behind the harbour. We had walked well into the countryside when we came across a large well-stocked supermarket, it seemed quite out of place but it was one of the better ones we came across on the whole cruise.

Livadhi on Paros

Part 3 Folegandros to Rhodes

We were now set for our run to the southern Cyclades then east to the Dodecanese. We were on schedule and probably had 1 or at most 2 days in our plan that we could sacrifice if the weather were to hold us up. From Livadhi to Folegandros we had a wonderful broad reach at first relatively gentle but crossing the Folegandrou-Skinou strait the breeze accelerated and Mamma Mia was flying along at 7+ knots. At the last moment we managed to spot the rather obscure entrance to Karaovastasi and rounded up in 22 knots of wind to pull in the sails. There was quite a swell in the small harbour so at first we anchored but later moored to the quay when the anchor started dragging. Being well pulled off so that the swell couldn’t push us back onto the quay our boarding plank was too short so we never did step ashore. The wind gusts and swell made for a relatively uncomfortable night.

We were up early for the run from Folegandros across to Thira (Santorini) with winds forecast as force 6 northerly dropping to force 4 later in the day. Just out of Folegandros we set the headsail in 15 knots of wind and motor sailed at 6-knots for an hour while charging the batteries. South of Sikinos the wind dropped and we set the mainsail and continued on a wonderful broad reach, reducing sail as we closed in on Thira but still romping along at 6-7 knots and at times surfing down the face of 3 metre waves. For our interest we motored through the Caldera and were amazed at the sight of the chora and the myriad of houses lining the brim of this old volcanic crater. Eventually we joined a queue of yachts heading into Vlikadha marina only to be told that it was full. We retired to an anchorage about 2 miles to the west of the marina for an OK night in spite of a few gusts.

Leaving Thira on a flat sea and in a light northerly breeze in no time at all Mamma Mia was reaching at 6 knots towards Anafi. Anafi was the quintessential Greek Island, tall rugged barren and sparsely populated, a small collection of buildings near the ferry quay, and the chora high on the hill overlooking the bay. We took 50 minutes to walk up the road to the chora the views on the way were magnificent. After strolling through the lanes and alleys we waited for the mini-market to re-open listening to chanting coming from the nearby church. Returning to the bay down the walking path proved to be a much quicker route. Dinner at Poppy’s Taverna was novel, Poppy had no menu but we could have what every we wanted as long as she had it and that it was grilled. For wine, she showed us the refrigerator and told us to pick our colour!

Anafi, the quintessential Greek Island

The next 2 days were to be relatively long, each at 40+ miles and these 2 days were critical to our returning to the Dodecanese on schedule. Motoring east from Anafi we kept the sails furled as very strong wind gusts blasted down from the precipitous peak at the eastern end. Once clear of Ak Kalamos the winds became quite fickle and we spent most of the day motoring to Astypalaia, mooring on the quay at Maltezana. A small quiet village set in the countryside and a very peaceful berth, we both slept in. After a quick breakfast, and a wasted call to the baker who didn’t open until ten o’clock, we were soon reaching for Nisiros on a flat sea in a nice force 4/5 breeze from the northwest. Once clear of Cape Exopetra at the east of the island the seas started to build, the breeze settled at 20+ knots so we put a reef in the mainsail and watched the miles tick over as Mamma Mia romped along for the next 5 hours. The 44 miles from Maltezana to Mandraki harbour on Nisiros took just 6 and a half hours. We were now well on schedule.

Yvonne motoring out from Astypalaia

While Astypalaia is part of the Dodecanese the whitewashed houses with blue facings and roofs resemble the villages of the Cyclades. Mandraki was typically Dodecanese with pastel coloured houses and quite a few trees in the village. But we were also back in the tourist zone, harbours busy with tripper boats and ferries, quite different from the more remote islands of the southern Cyclades, except for Thira. From Mandraki we part sailed but largely motored south and back to Tilos where we spent the afternoon exploring the small town that attracts quite a large tourist population.

Relaxing in Khalki

From Tilos we headed southeast to Khalki picking up a light breeze from astern we reached and gybed our way to the south of the island then motoring round to the sheltered harbour to moor alongside the pontoon. The small town looked beautiful, rows of pastel coloured houses surrounding the quay and rising in tiers up the slope, the sea lapping the foundations of the lower houses, the quay fringed with brightly coloured fishing boats. We walked through the countryside over the hill behind the village to a sandy bay, the water was warm the day was hot and it was great to swim and relax.

In a fickle wind we cast off from the Khalki pontoon and motored most of the way back to Symi, letting the autopilot do all the work as we sat in the blistering sun watching Symi getting closer. Ironically, Symi turned on a good 10-15 knot breeze as we negotiated the Nimos Passage with stronger gusts as we motored down Symi Bay to moor stern to in a cross wind. The temperature was about 39C. We replaced the bimini we had taken down when we were last in Symi and for the first time in 4 weeks sat in the shade.


For our last cruising day Symi turned on a beautiful morning there were no clouds or wind and we were in no hurry to get away. Instead we explored the steps and alleys behind the quay and found our way to the hilltop above Symi harbour. We eventually returned to Mamma Mia late morning to motor out to a light breeze that softened as we reached the channel between Symi and Turkey. For an hour we chased light fickle winds eventually motoring to Cape Karaburun. There we picked up a 10-knot northwest breeze and Mamma Mia broad reached at 5-6 knots out across the Rhodes Channel. After an hour the breeze built to 17 knots and she romped along at 6-7 knots until we rounded up a mile off Rhodes, took in the sails and motored into port. This last broad reach across to Rhodes was a special treat, bringing to a close a brilliant 4-week cruise.

Rhodes Mandraki moored bows-to in a crowded quay

Rhodes Mandraki harbour was crowded Fotis came out in a runabout and directed us to moor bows-to in a crowded quay. We re-fuelled, de-briefed, lowered our flag, and started to pack. Marianna met us later in the evening and we enjoyed a wonderful dinner with her.

Over the 4 weeks we traveled 750 nautical miles and achieved most of our rather ambitious goals. The weather was really good and only prevented us from visiting 2 places; we missed 2 other destinations because we changed our plan. The winds were typically from the north and northwest so there were no surprises with pleasant on the wind sailing while we were heading north and great reaching and down wind sailing when heading south and eastwards from the Cyclades.

In all we had 6 encounters with dolphins. The first on our way across to Tilos we were entertained by a rather large pod of show-offs, tail-dancing, somersaulting and diving beneath Mamma Mia. Then a pair of dolphins checked us out on the way to Pythagorion and another pair showed up while we were broad reaching down to Patmos. A single dolphin appeared on the trip to Amorgos then a large pod played along with us for 10 minutes or so on the way to Folegandros. Lastly, sailing down to Khalki we were captivated by a large pod of dolphins that may have been feeding. They weren’t so interested in Mamma Mia but stayed close together with the occasional animal rocketing out of the water as though they were charging through a shoal of fish.

The Beneteau Oceanis 34 handled well; she picked up speed quickly and was steady off the wind. Being a fractional rig she handled quite differently from masthead rigs. She was quite manageable with full sail to about 20 knots of wind beyond which a single reef in the mainsail was all that was needed to take the pressure off and keep her tracking at the same speed. Her cockpit was wide and spacious but not very deep. This was great while in port but in a steep chop with 20-25 knots of wind we felt a bit vulnerable, under these conditions we would climb into safety harnesses and clip on. The bimini, which could not fold away, obscured any view of the sails from the helm so I took it off. This made sail setting so much better but we paid the price when sitting out in the full sun. Down inside she was comfortable. She was a great home for four weeks.











































Amorgos (Katapola)



Amorgos (Katapola)











Paros (Livadhi)






Thira (Vlikadha)

























Total nautical miles: