Tales from DeDannan from Turkey through to the Cyclades
It’s the 12th of August and having been home for a month I was on my way back to Marmaris in Turkey in the company of an old friend Mick Martin with whom I used to race yachts in the Laser Frostbites and Brass Monkeys series at HYC. Mick is a good sailor currently without a yacht for a few years now and he was more than happy to join me for the long trip from Marmaris to Athens, with the grandkids in town for their summer holiday from Thailand, Linda was hanging on for a few more weeks before re-joining me in Athens.
On our arrival at Marmaris my first duty was to go pick up my faithful friend, companion and auld sea dog Alfie who was boarding at a kennels near to Marmaris, he looked forlorn on my arrival, there was no excitement when he saw me, just that look as if to say, “Where the f!!! Where You”. He clearly wasn't happy in the kennells. It was a big mistake and we wont do that again.
Mick had not been to Turkey or Greece before, so we spent a few days hanging about Marmaris with a visit to the hamam and the bazaar before clearing out to begin our journey across the Aegean through the Dodecanese and Cyclades islands all the way to Athens.
Clearing out of Turkey was easy, I engaged the services of an agent and for a fee of €80 we only had to present ourselves at the customs quay in the main port, the agent took our lines and requested us to accompany her to the customs officer for the official stamping of our passports and return of our viginnete. I had noticed a duty free shop and with the last of our Turkish lire we purchased a nice bottle of an aged Jameson Whiskey before putting to sea to our next port the very beautiful Greek island of Symi some twenty five miles to the west.
It was midday when we left the customs quay, the wind was fresh from the north as we left Marmaris behind, it was our intention to go all the way to Symi but there are some very nice anchorages along the Turkish coast around here that got me thinking that one last night wouldn't do any harm, I made sure not to turn on the AIS for this trip, and we slipped into a very nice bay and anchored off a good Turkish restaurant for the night.
Our arrival in Symi early the next morning was perfect, this is a very busy port in the summer and space on the town quay is in serious demand from the many cruisers that frequent here, we took a space from a departing boat just as we arrived, there is no room to anchor in the port due to the big ferries that come and go.
Symi is one of those picture postcard types of port, surrounded by very colourful period buildings, the town rises steeply up a hill from the quay, there is an abundance of the Greek tavernas, no Turkish, Italian, Indian or Chinese, just Greek as will be the case on all Greek islands.
The next morning I set about clearing into Greece, my first port of call was to the port police, then to any Greek bank to pay in €50 and take the receipt to the customs office for stamping and inspection of the boat papers, then off to the local police for inspection of our passports, then back to the port police for the filling out of the DEKPA (viginnete) numerous stamping of this document by a very pleasant female officer and we were done for five years. Gone, thank god, is having to report to port police both in and out on every island, one only needs to have this document stamped once each year and it is good for twelve more months.
We spent a few days here, the highlight of the day being the un-tangling of anchors every morning, there is not much space between the quays and with boats berthed both sides the anchors meet in the middle, as one boat leaves it very often pulls up the anchor of boats on the opposite quay, some skippers get very upset about this, the body language is great and the shouting of some very unsavoury comments is of little help to those struggling to free themselves. Needless to say, I never venture far from DeDanann in the mornings.
Our next port some thirty miles to the west was port pali on Nissoros, this is a small island with little tourism but the port is a good stop over for boats crossing the Dodecanese, Port Pali has recently been dredged to three meters and had its breakwater extended, it has new electrics and water pods installed under an EU grant, however, their was none working near us when we berthed, once the money is paid over thats the end of any maintenance or repair in Greece, mind there was no charge to stay here.
The weather being tame for the cyclades we set course for Astipalia some fifty miles distant to the west, we had a good sail in a fresh north wind and a moderate sea that saw us make an average of seven knots, the sun was setting as we arrived in the port, a catamaran had just beat us to the entrance and as luck would have it, there was only two spaces left side by side which the catamaran took leaving us to go to anchor outside the port off the ferry quay, port police warned us that we had to be gone before 9.00 the following morning as the ferry was due to dock. Mick being an excellent cook, it was a delicous dinner on board then out with the guitar, banjo and mandolin for a great auld session, Mick is a fine guitarist and ballad singer, we hadn't played together for near to twenty years and it was a good time with no audiance about to rattle off an hour or so of tunes. That bottle of Jameson from the duty free got a good tasting and a good night was had on board DeDanann in Astipalia. We were up and out by 7.00 the following morning, I'm an early riser, up piddling half the night.
Mick was suffering his over indulgance in the water of life, but the forecast was for good north wind and this being a westerly passage of over sixty miles we set course for the Island of Ios, we had a nice fifteen knots from the north up until 10.00 then the meltimi kicked in and the wind increased to twenty five knots and a two meter sea to match, I knew this would be the worst part of our trip across the cyclades, the sea gets rough around here as it bounces off some of the other islands up north and that creates a confused wave in strong winds, we took turns at going below and grabbing some sleep, I returned to the helm feeling the dreaded sea sickness, the first this year mind, but I recovered once back on watch, Mick then took a nap, that fella can sleep and cook in any weather.
As we got near to Ios late in the evening the wind moved to the north west and increased to forty two knots as we closed the south end of the island, the sea climbed to over three meters but then came back down again as we turned north to run up the west coast to the port of Ios, I was concerned about berthing in the port in these high winds and was thinking we would find a shallow enough spot to go to anchor out of the way of the big ferries that call here, we came in past the lighthouse in darkness with a huge moon lighting up the way, then the wind almost vanished to a most agreeable fifteen knots as we dropped anchor and tied up to the substantial town quay. We didn't waste any time in hitting the tavern opposite our berth and an enjoyable meal washed down with good wine was well received by two very tired sailors.
I have learned over the years that the wind gets much stronger running off the high mountains on these islands as you approach them, most ports on these islands are ancient ports, they offer wonderful shelter as you come in from the sea, but it can be testing on the nerves and the cause of great anxiety coming in from a big sea in over thirty knots to a port one has not been to before. It was a rough auld passage and we were glad to have it out of the way as we hit the sack that night, even Alfie looked relieved.
Ios is a nice port, the ferry dock was really busy with huge car ferries coming and going all day and night long, the captains and crew are to be applauded for their ability to maneuver such large vessels in such confined space, they come in, spin her around, drop anchor and reverse up to the quay as the rear door is being lowered, legions of young back packers descend onto the quay then the delivery trucks roll off and then they reload and their gone again. We timed them one morning, sixteen minutes from touching the quay to being under way again.
We spent a few days tipping about here, visiting the chora (village) high up on the hill for lunch, cycling to the beach resorts for swimming then dinner in the port side taverna’s then banging out a few tunes before going to bed, usually about 2.00 am.
Our next port of call was Poroikia on the island of Paros some thirty miles to the north. We came up through the Anti Paros channel with turquoise sea and depths of only 2.5 meters in parts, the weather was good and the wind was light as we took our time to enjoy this picturesque passage. Berthing on the town quay was easy in the pleasant weather as the local port police guy took our lines.
Paroikia is a grand port to visit and spend time, the town is ancient with really pretty little narrow streets full of taverna’s, and interesting boutiques and jewellery shops, it has a very old but beautiful christian orthodox church thats worth a visit, I like to light some candles for family and friends that have gone before me, Mick on the other hand is an Atheist and has no time for such nonsense. The pope was in Dublin at the time, I kept telling Mick all about what he was up to, it was a form of quite enjoyment for me winding him up about the wonders of the Catholic Church, knowing well he didn't give a toss about either Pope or Church.
Paroikia was where the worst shipping tragedy since WW2 took place when the car ferry Samina Express ran into well charted rocks just half a mile outside the port entrance, it was in the middle of the night, a gale was blowing from the north, with the captain in bed sleeping the officers on watch were watching a football match in the crew canteen as she drifted onto the rocks on auto pilot, she slid along the rocks tearing her open below the water line, flooding the car deck and engine room, knocking out her engines she rolled over before sinking with the loss of 81 passengers and crew.
The local harbour master called up all the local fishermen who put to sea in their small fishing boats, they took over four hundred people out of the water that night, the poor man dropped dead on the town quay from a heart attack just as all the survivors where landed that very morning.
The captain and first officer received long prison sentences and it was felt they were severely dealt with by the Greek courts, the owner of the shipping company some time later committed suicide such was his shame at the loss of all those people. We spent several enjoyable days for free here on the town quay, we only had to pay for electricity, before setting course for the Island of Kythnos and the port of Loutra on the north east of this small island some thirty miles distant.
Loutra is a pleasant port to visit, I have been here before on our way to Turkey two years ago. The winds were light and the sea kind as we motored all the way over. We spent a couple of days here exploring the island on the bikes, visiting the chora and bathing in the natural spa here in the port with piping hot water running down from the mountain above.
We were berthed between two big motor boats, one of them was refusing to move their tender to allow us to berth until Costas the harbour master ordered it to be moved, then when we all went to bed that first night they left the aircon running on both boats, it was like having five hose pipes running all night just a few inches above the water line on either side of us. When I come into a port or anchorage I avoid them if at all possible.
Our next port of call was Paros some fifty miles to the west, we had wind from the north for most of the voyage it was up and down all day, we sailed when we could or until our speed dropped off below four knots, then it was on with the engine as we wanted to get in and tied up before dinner time.
It was nearing time for Mick to be heading back home to Dublin and Poros was a good jumping off port for him, there are regular seacat fast ferries to and from Athens every day and Linda was due in from Dublin in a few days in anyway.
We spent the last few nights entertaining the cruisers on the dock with our music and it was a great ending for him after our voyage from Marmaris to Poros through the Dodecanese and Cyclades Islands, Alfie and I were sad to see him leave, we would hang about here in Poros waiting on Linda’s arrival before setting off again through the Saronic Islands, through the Korinth canal and slowly make our way up through the gulf of Patras, onto the Ionian islands and continue north to Preveza where we will winter DeDanann.