Thursday, 3 September 2015

Pelagia’s Greek Oddysey, part two Athens to the Northern Sporades

We returned to Pelagia mid August together with Pat’s sister Margaret. It was very hot when we arrived and good weather continued throughout Margaret’s three weeks with us. Before sailing away we had a day visiting Athens , the Acropolis and the Parthenon and then it was set sail northwards. The problem with going north at this time of year in Greece is that the prevailing winds are northerly and as it turned out we logged 300 miles to Skiathos in the Sporades islands with the relentless upwind tacking when it should have been only 200 miles. The first night stop was at Porto Rafti on the mainland, a large attractive bay with green mountains around, but spoilt by tourist developments. The anchor holding was not good but we eventually got dug in for a secure night. Next day we sailed across towards Evia Island, the largest of the Greek Islands and anchored amongst a stunningly beautiful group of small islands near one called Nisos Xero. 

The next morning we saw a classic old motor yacht flying a huge white ensign so I think we had royal company. Tacking again the next day , 25 miles against a force 4 wind brought us to Almiropotamou bay on Evia Island. At the protected head of the bay we were alone at anchor with only campers ashore for company. Swimming was wonderful as the sea temperature was 28 degrees. Still tacking North we arrived at the port of Karavos and tied stern too the quay with only two other yachts. We had a long hot walk to get shopping but the town was delightful and full of very nice Greek tourists. Not a British holidaymaker in sight! We selected a taverna to have a meal, it had no menu in English but the nice lady who owned it assisted us with our order and even discouraged us from eating too much. The wonderful meal came to the princely sum of only 29 Euros for three of us, including wine!

A long leg the next day of 35 miles upwind again brought us to Khalkis, the capital town of Evia Island. Here we had to arrange a transit through the road bridge which only opens once a night between 10 pm and 4 am. Having registered and paid your fee you have to wait listening to the VHF radio from 10 pm until called. Luckily our call was not too late at 12.30 and the yachts and two small ships were efficiently called through the bridge in order. We tied the other side of town beneath the waterside bars and luckily they closed at about 2 am so we could sleep.

From Khalkis we tacked again up to a bay on the mainland called Skorponerou. It was a magnificent anchorage set all around amongst high green clad mountains and only a small beach bar with apartments on the shore. After a lovely quiet night the weather looked a little threatening and we waited a couple of hours before setting off to sail to Ormos Amirou. This bay set amongst small islands off the mainland shore looked as peaceful as it could get with only a redundant fish farm in view, but party music wafted across the bay during the night we know not from where. We needed supplies and water, so the next leg was to the town of Loutra Ahdipsou, where we tied to the town quay, well provided with electric and water points. There was only one other yacht as the good thing about this area inside Evia is the lack of yachts. The town was heaving with Greek holidaymakers but it was all good-humoured and not too loud The next day we motored along the north western end of Evia and rounded the tip into the Orei channel. Here the North East wind kicked in at force 5 and we were tacking again. Our intended bay looked too 

uncomfortable to anchor in the brisk wind so we tacked on another 14 miles to a small very sheltered bay further on. The bay looked wonderful with only one other yacht anchored. Nothing could disturb the peace of this idyllic setting and we went to sleep after a good meal expecting a long quiet night. Unfortunately six loud Greeks decided to have a fire on the beach and argued loudly all night!
The Skipper was getting a bad reputation for choosing noisy places so we decided to go and get supplies at the little harbour of Orei a few miles up the coast. Anchored stern too in the harbour it was fine and the town was very charming. We were just going for a swim in the nearby bay when a yacht fouled our anchor and dragged it up. We had to quickly untie, go out and re-moor after untangling an anchor or two. Early evening saw all the youth of Greece assemble on the quay and make noise until the early hours, followed by Bazookie music throughout the remaining hours. So much for a quiet town! Tacking in the force 5 wind the next day eventually brought us to our bay off Kiriaki only to find it the perfect setting, but full with two yachts in the tiny bay. Plan B and we went into another bay 5 miles away. This time a wonderful spot with only a small select bar on the beach which actually closed at 8 pm. The bay of Loutra was set at the head of an inlet tucked behind a hill upon which sat an old tower said to be built by Achilles and it was from here that he is said to have sailed to Troy.

From here it was a hard beat up to Platania, 30 miles in a force 5 . It did not look as if we would get any shelter in the bay as we arrived with the quite choppy conditions, but anchored just inside the single harbour wall was enough to stop the seas. Platania was a lovely small holiday town, clean and well maintained with excellent shops for supplies. A short sail the next day brought us to Skiathos Island, the first of the Northern Sporades chain. Koukounaries bay, renowned as having the best beach in the Aegean, proved to be a busy anchorage. Ski boats and every form of water sport tried to rock us violently until dusk and a peaceful night followed.
From Koukounaries we motored around the coast of Skiathos Island to a bay called Siferi. With only one other yacht for company we spent a couple of quiet nights here once the waterskiing had finished for the day. Ashore the little town was clean and well kept and had an excellent supermarket. Margaret still had a few days left so we sailed across to Skopelos Island in a force 6 gusting 7 wind doing 8 knots and set about anchoring in Panormous bay where you have to tie to the shore in the limited space.
We got settled in nicely and were able to watch the antics of four charter yachts that took two hours to get their lines ashore.Our concerns started when two large charter yachts tied themselves together both with anchors down on top of ours. It turned out they were swapping anchors for some mysterious reason and eventually left the bay but not without our levels of angst being very high.a great sail the next day back to Siferi bay was to be Margaret's last night on anchor before going into Skiathos town from where she would fly home.
This part of the trip totalled 314 nautical miles. After Margaret leaves, Pat and I will cruise the rest of the Sporades islands before returning here to pick up friends to sail back to Athens

Chris Richardson

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