Greece  5

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Frank van Mierlo, his wife Ruth and their two sons Martin and Vincent spent a marvellous 9 weeks in the Greek waters, below their sailing adventures.

Part 5  Hydra - Athens

This is part five of the logbook that describes their yacht charter holiday. Please, click on the thumbnails to see a larger 800x600 photo in a new window.

Part one: Athens - Ithaca
Part two: Ithaca - Corinth
Part three: Corinth - Santorini
Part four: Santorini - Hydra
Part five: Hydra - Athens

Hydra to Ermioni

The wind picked up to 15 - 20 knots today and we enjoyed and beautiful sail to Ermioni. The harbour had changed since the pilot was written. An extra fifty some meters of quay was added to the north side of the pier creating a new place for the ferry and leaving the west side free for a dozen yachts. With our two boats we moored at this new space. The strong crosswinds caused all the boats to tie their bows together, the boat on the north side fastened her bow to the newly extended quay.

There was a lovely wooded area a short walk away where we went for a swim before we had dinner in one of the local taverns.

Ermioni to Porto Heli

We started the morning with devouring a large serving (11 eggs) of French toasts. The German boat next to us was convinced that we had crossed his anchor line and asked us to leave as soon as possible at 11:00 am. Mirjam generously agreed to do our remaining shopping and we left at 11:30 am with everything in shipshape. We raised our sails as soon as we were out of the harbour, with 20 knots winds we took reefs in both the jib and the main. While we were waiting for the second boat, Ruth and Martin executed a man-overboard manoeuvre. Martin completed his manoeuvre with gusts of 27 knots!

Mirjam arrived, we rolled up the main and both vessels continued on a beam reach with the jib.

We found a lovely small bay on the north side just west of the large bay of Porto Heli (Porto Cheli) with the moorings. It took us two hours before we had set two anchors and had both boats tied off to the shore and properly tied to each other. The ferries going in and out of the bays would periodically make large waves which made the rafting more difficult and we had to make sure our shrouds would not touch in these conditions. It was worth the extra effort and after two hours we were secure and in a wonderful spot.

At 3:00 am the anchor drag alarm on the GPS went off. I had set it for 15 meters and as the wind shifted from East to West the boats moved 18 meters, even though we were held in place by two anchors and three shore lines. I reset the alarm to 30 meters and went back to sleep. This modern vessel has an amazing number of alarms. There are depth alarms both for shallow and deep water, alarms on the GPS, low voltage alarms on the batteries, even the bow thruster beeps at you if it feels it has been on for too long.

Porto Heli to Ak Korakas

We were on the way to Nafplion when we noticed a beautiful bay near Cape Korakas. It was enticing enough to make us drop anchor and we found ourselves in one of the loveliest surroundings that we had seen since Mirjam arrived.

It was busy and a motor yacht pulled up our anchor when they left. I ended up doing a lot of swimming to check the anchor line twice and between Mirjam's boat and ours after we had rescued the lost anchor ball.

The hills were covered with trees and meadows and the island displayed rugged rocks on its shoreline. At sunset a black and a brown goat climbed the hill and looked at us from the distance.

The forecast was for quite a bit of wind so Mirjam and Peter anchored off separately. After consuming a bottle of wine and a fine beef stew we settle in for the night.

Ak Korakas to Nafplion

There was no wind so we motored to Nafplion. At around 11:00 am a pod of dolphins crossed our bow. Once we arrived, it did start blowing as was forecast. For the first time during this trip our anchor did not hold despite the sixty some meter of chain that we had out in seven meters of water. We re- anchored with eighty meters of chain and this time our Mediterranean style mooring techniques were adequate. In a 20 plus gust the boat of Mirjam started to slip as well and we re-moored it parallel to the quay. After taking on board water and provisions we went out for the night. Nafplion has a smelly industrial port combined with a beautiful town.

The next morning we got up at 7:00 am and we took a taxi to Mycenae. After the volcanic eruption at Santorini wiped out the Minoan civilization, the Mycenaeans took control of Greece from 1300 - 1100 BCE. It was these people who mounted the legendary campaign against Troy. Mycenae is the ancient city that was once their capital. Even after more than 3000 years the remnants still speak of a strong and rough power. The city walls are built of large stones, so large that it was rumored to be build by giant Cyclops.

Nafplion to Astros (Aug 20)

We sailed from Nafplion with a nice breeze towards Astros. As the wind got up to more than 20 knots we reefed the main sail. The roller reef was stuck and while I was at the mast, we did have a hairy moment. We were heading into the wind when the boat started to turn boat rapidly as the jib filled from the wrong side. Martin and Ruth rapidly untied the sheets and an accidental jibe was successfully avoided. It is important to keep the life insurance below one's earning potential.

Astros was a lovely place and just the right stop after the large and busy Nafplion. There were only a half a dozen yachts in its harbor and the water was so clean that people actually swam from the stern of their moored boat. The harbour was flanked by two beaches and guarded by a medieval fort on the hill above. It was a wonderful place and we decided to stay an extra day as there was too little wind for any real sailing anyway.

Astros to Spetses (Aug 22)

The sailing was excellent with a leisurely 15 knot wind. Spetses been recommended to us as a nice town. There was no obvious place for our yacht however and we ended up moored at the mouth of the harbor. There was a stainless steel statue of a mermaid on shore and it was very tempting to use it as a mooring pole. A good upbringing and the fact that my wife was on board prevented us from doing so. Ruth and Mirjam took a long dinghy ride to the center of town and went shopping while we swam and enjoyed the view.

Today was Rutger's birthday and we started with a high calorie breakfast of chocolate cake with an inch thick chocolate filling and more chocolate topping. With a full tummy we sailed and tacked our way to Poros. Upon entry we accidentally threw a fender overboard the wind blew in between the moored boats so we could not retrieve it. Poros had plenty of space and good facilities. We moored at the east side of the town in fairly deep water; our anchor was at 16 meter depth. We walked back to the entrance of town where a Greek boat owner gave us our fender back. The boys and I bought a selection of colourful small ropes so we could continue to make Turksheads, Monkey fists and other general braiding. It was a convenient stop.

Poros to Bay of Klima at Southern Aegina (Aug 24)

It was settled weather and we opted to sail to one of the bays at the south of Aegina. All of us enjoy the swimming and the additional privacy that comes with anchoring in the wild. Both vessels anchored and we attached long shorelines to large boulders on the shore. My anchor started to slip and we untied our lines and hoisted up our chain. While we were on the motor in the middle of the bay Peter's boat drifted back to the rocks. He started his engine and tried to take up the slack on his anchor line. As with us, sea weed had prevented his anchor from digging in and instead of grappling the bottom his anchor came all the way up. At that moment he was relying on his engine to keep him away from the shore. Right at that moment the spring line that used to be attached between the two vessels fouled his prop and his boat drifted to the shore.

The keel wedge itself between some large boulders. Peter dived into the water to asses the situation. He quickly saw that there was a clear way out if we could tow the boat to the stern. Using the longest shoreline he fastened both end to his two stern cleats and tied a coloured piece of string around the middle. Peter briefed me on the two way radio and I tied a line to each of my stern cleats as well. I joined both lines by tying a large eight knot. Vincent, our lineman, delivered the middle of Peter's line with the dinghy and I completed the four point tow with a sheet bend. I carefully motored in the direction that Peter had suggested. Mirjam reported that their vessel simply slid out into deeper water. We had successfully executed a stern-to-stern tow without any damage to either vessel! With both vessels together, I re-anchored at the head of the bay and we dove into the water. The line around Peter's propeller was quickly dispensed once it met with Martin's sailing knife. The entire manoeuver succeeded because we all worked well together. That evening we celebrated by smoking a few expensive small cigars while we enjoyed a nice dinner.

It was our last night in a bay so Ruth and I decided to sleep on deck. You have to love the climate in Greece, it is the perfect temperature to enjoy a starry sky.

Back to Kalamaki (August 26)

Via Aegina we returned to Kalamaki where we arrived on August 26 at a quarter past nine in the morning. We had left Aegina town just before dawn. It was our third and last sunrise while on the way. During the transit we cleaned the decks. Although our charter allowed us to return the vessel without cleaning, it was a matter of pride to arrive with a sparkling white boat.

The check out was extremely efficient. In the span of an hour a diver checked the hull, someone checked all the sailing equipment, they did the complete inventory, a Raytheon engineer showed up to fix the Navtex (a broken connector) and someone showed up to start changing oil and filters on the generator and engine. It all worked like clock work. Both Peter and I got our deposit back. The yacht charter company decided to pay me an additional 300 EURO to cover a part of the expenses and purchases that I had made for the vessel during the eight weeks. I did feel I had been treated very fairly.

It had been a fantastic trip. We learned a lot of Greek history. We swam in beautiful bays and walked in picturesque villages. More importantly, we learned to sail a brand new 50 foot boat as a family. You should have seen us arrive in Kalimaki with Vincent handling the stern lines and Martin securing the mooring line to the bow as we docked the boat without touching the quay or other vessels. At twelve and thirteen, our sons had better boat handling skills than most adults.

The four of us had mastered sailing and it was time to move on to another challenge. At home there was a 2000 square foot driveway that needed paving.

 Story and photos by Frank van Mierlo

Part one: Athens - Ithaca
Part two: Ithaca - Corinth
Part three: Corinth - Santorini
Part four: Santorini - Hydra
Part five: Hydra - Athens

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