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Croatia At Last!

Things have changed a bit since our last post. We ended up in Greece for two weeks longer than expected awaiting a package from the States and then looking for a suitable weather window to head north. We decided to make up lost time by bypassing both Albania and Montenegro (for now) and went straight to Croatia.

We checked into Croatia in Dubrovnik and immediately fell in love with the town. The old town is out of a fairy tale with towering walls and steep cliffs protecting the city and its harbor. The city was rebuilt to a grand design following a disastrous earthquake in 1667 and the streets are nicely laid out and the buildings are built of stone. The architecture was standardized to prevent the rich from building lavish homes which would make them appear to be profiting from the earthquake.

Our plan was to move rather quickly to Istria in northern Croatia and then take our time heading back south, stopping in Split next month to take on our friends Mike and Jan. We did day-hops of about 20nm, mostly motoring into light winds. This is peak season and the anchorages were crowded and sometimes noisy. We watched several anchorages transform into “party city” when flotillas of over 50 boats arrived. In one bay we could hear the sub-wolfer from a party in the next bay.

The islands between Dubrovnik and Split were wooded with vegetation and most anchorages were supported by at least one restaurant. We especially enjoyed Komiza on the west end of Vis and Hvar Town on Hvar. Further north the Kornati Archipelago was barren and the anchorages were rocky with poor holding. Most boats opted for moorings that were strategically placed and expensive. It’s amazing how the charter boats flock to $40 moorings rather than test their anchoring skills.

The islands in the northern Adriatic are much like the islands south of Split but with fewer people and we enjoyed quiet evenings with soft breezes and colorful sunsets. We arrived in Pula on the south end of Istria and checked into the ACI Marina. There we left the boat to spend several days in Venice, Italy.

Venice was just like the movies! Our hotel was 100 feet from the Piazza di San Marco which is ground zero for Venice attractions. We visited the Basilica San Marco which is extravagant beyond words, the Bell Tower, the Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), the Museum Correr, and the Rialto Bridge. We cruised down the Grand Canal and rode a gondola through the narrow waterways. In the evenings we would prowl the narrow streets debating which restaurant to enjoy. It was a wonderful mini-vacation even though we shared it with a million other tourists.

We will spend the next couple of days provisioning the boat and doing some chores before we head south. We plan to be in Split by September 12-13.

Dubrovnik

 

Sailing North to Istria

 

Venice

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Preparing to leave Greece

We left Rethymno, Crete, in the evening and headed north toward the mainland, passing through the Santorini caldera at sunrise. There is no good anchorage at Santorini and we pressed on to Naxos and then Paros. Heavy weather was coming and we choose a protected bay on the north end of Paros to wait it out. The winds blew 30 kts for one-and-a-half weeks but we could not have picked a nicer place to stay. There was the picturesque village of Naousa nearby, several great tavernas within walking distance of the beach, and beautiful hiking trails through the headlands. We made several new friends on boats in a similar situation.

It’s either feast or famine with the winds in the Cyclades Islands and we left Paros in a dead calm and motored north to Kithnos and then to the mainland, making landfall at Ormos Sounio and anchoring beneath the ruins of Poesiden’s Temple; nice view especially at night with the temple lit up. The next day we arrived in Piraeus and checked into the Zea Marina near Athens. We “squeezed” Persephone into a Med-tie space not much wider than the boat. We were astonished the next day when we returned and found another boat had been squeezed into the narrow space that was left and all the boats’ fenders were ready to explode. The owner of the new boat said that we were lucky not to witnessed the scene as dock hands pushed and pulled boats to make room for him. Luckily all boats escaped unharmed.

We thoroughly took advantage of our time in the marina with a trip to the Acropolis and the Acropolis Museum in Athens and nightly dinning along the waterfront while ogling beautiful mega-yachts. When it was time to leave Persephone squirted out from the other boats and we were off to the Corinth Canal.

The Corinth Canal is 3.5 miles long, 25 meters wide, and the sides rise 79 meters above sea level. It provides a shortcut from the Aegean Sea to the Ionian Sea by bypassing the Peloponnisos Peninsula (now an island). It was exciting to take our own boat through the narrow passage and into the Gulf of Corinth, and even more exciting to learn that the weather reports were wrong and we were met with 25 kt headwinds and short steep seas breaking over the bow. It took us all day to go the 30 miles to a safe anchorage.

Two days later we passed under the Rion Bridge, the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world, and into the Ionian Sea. We had bare-boated in the Ionian Sea with our family 12 years ago and it was fun to re-visit some of our favorite spots such as Vathi on Ithaca, Fiskardho on Cephalonia, and One-House-Bay on Atokos. We ate at the same restaurant in Fiskardho and were pleased to be served by Greg who had been our waiter on the previous trip. The Ionian is calmer than the Aegean Sea and we enjoyed many pleasant evenings dinning at the tavernas or enjoying meals in Persephone’s cockpit.

After two enjoyable weeks we passed through the Levkas canal (not nearly as impressive as the Corinth) and moved into the Northern Ionian Sea. We passed within hailing distance of our friends on Daramy who were headed in the opposite direction. We hadn’t seen Brian and Sue since we had worked with them doing cyclone relief in Vanuatu several years ago.

We stopped a couple of nights at Paxos before heading up to Corfu where we have been cruising for the last week. We will be checking out of Greece in the next few days and sailing north, bypassing Albania and going directly to Montenegro and then Croatia.

Cyclades Islands

 

Athens

 

Ionian Sea

Exploring Crete

Our insurance issues were resolved by our wonderful insurance agent Rachel at IMIS who worked through the weekend to expand our policy and send a copy in Greek to the Port Police. It was hardly a burden to be waylaid in beautiful Kos.

Our Greek cruising began by island-hopping to Rhodes City on the island of Rhodes. This was one of our most disappointing stops with huge Cruise ships dropping thousands of visitors into the port each day. There was a lot of surge in the new marina and we worried about leaving the boat. We did, however, drive to Lindos and climbed up to the Acropolis and the Temple of Athena. The views were spectacular.

Next, we island-hopped our way to Crete and the cradle of civilization. Our first stop was the small town of Sitia where we planned to spend only one night. But we realized that we left our boat papers and passports in our rental car in Rhodes and had to wait two days for them to be couriered to us. This was really a blessing because we were able to explore the town and its restaurants along the waterfront.

We then moved to Ay Nikolaos and anchored in the bay that once was protected by the leper colony and then fort on Spinalonga Island. The wind blew hard and we ended up spending four days on the boat doing projects, a lot of reading, and completing a very difficult jigsaw puzzle.

We took advantage of a break in the weather to go 64 nm along the north shore of Crete to the town of Rethimno and a marina where we could leave the boat. We rented a car for two days and backtracked to Iraklion and the ruins of the Minoan Palace of Knossos which dates back more than 4,000 years. We spent an afternoon at the Irakleio Archaeological Museum before heading across to the south side of Crete. There we visited the ruins of another Minoan palace at Phaestos before returning through the Amari Valley.

We left the boat in Rethimno and took the fast ferry 100 miles north to the island of Santorini with its white buildings perched on the rim of a volcano that last erupted in 1600 BC. Everywhere we looked was a postcard view and our hotel clung to the side of a cliff looking down into the caldera. Our dinner was magical as we watched the sun set over the caldera and the village lights come on.

An interesting fact: The buildings appear white because when the plague swept through the islands of the Aegean Sea it was decreed that all buildings be plastered with lime which is a natural anti-bacterial and happens to be stark white.

We are back in Rethimno preparing to head north, this time aboard Persephone. We will eventually work our way to Athens and pass through the Corinth Canal to the Ionian Sea, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Rhodes

 

Crete, Sitia & Rethimno

 

Minoan Ruins

 

Santorini

Cruising Turkey

The Annegret arrived in Fethiye on April 7 and Persephone was the first boat to be unloaded. We spent several days at the Ece Marina cleaning the boat and provisioning. The cargo ship had evidently experienced the African dust storm that turned the snow in Russia yellow. Everything needed to be cleaned, even the rigging. It was fun meeting up with friends that had also shipped their boats from Phuket.

Cruising in Turkey has been delightful. The people are friendly and the water is clear blue. We are still working on our mooring skills that include Med-tying stern-to a dock and anchoring with a long line ashore. We were proud of our first effort to tie a stern line to a tree, but then some locals told us it was illegal and we should use rocks or bollards that have been installed along the shore.

We had purchased a passerelle (gang plank) while in Phuket and were anxious to try it out. It attaches to our stern and allows us to walk onto the dock when Med-tied. When cruising it is hoisted to a vertical position. It works great and we look like a Mediterranean cruising boat.

We are way ahead of the cruising season which won’t really start until sometime in May. The upside is that we have found anchorages where we are the only boat. The downside is that it can get cold and many of the anchorages have restaurants that are still closed for the winter.

Turkey has ruins everywhere and a history that dates back thousands of years. In Ruin Bay we anchored 150 feet from ancient ruins along the shore. In Bozuk Buku we anchored at the base of a hill with an ancient citadel on top. There wasn’t another boat around and we climbed to the citadel and explored it without seeing another sole. In Knidos we explored the ruins of an ancient city while Persephone was tied to a rickety pier.

We have been doing more motoring than sailing since the winds have been light. A notable exception was two days of high winds along the Dorian Promontory. Fortunately, one of those days was downwind for a great sail.

We checked into the Milta Marina in Bodrum where we had to negotiate a narrow fairway before being tucked into a tight Med-tie. The marina tops our list of most expensive marinas at nearly $160 per day. Bodrum is a bustling city with great waterfront restaurants and reasonable yacht services.

While in Bodrum we rented a car for a couple of days and traveled to Denizli to see the beautiful Pamukkale travertine terraces of stark white calcium carbonate and two museums. Then we moved to Selcuk to see the Basilica of St. John, the citadel, the Ephesus museum, and the spectacular ruins of the city of Ephesus where major restoration projects are underway. On the drive back to Bodrum we stopped at the ruins of Priene which was once a sea port until the harbor silted in and became farmland.

We checked out of Turkey in Bodrum, traveled 10 miles and checked into Greece at the city of Kos on the island of Kos. Check-in went well until the harbor police informed us that our boat insurance didn’t quite meet the legal standards of Greece and we couldn’t leave Kos until the issue is resolved. So here we sit enjoying this quaint little town while we sort out our insurance.

Fethiye and the Arrival of Persephone

 

Cruising

 

Road Trip

Turkey at Last!

After several days of delays Persephone was loaded aboard the cargo ship Annegret and is currently on its way to Fethiye, Turkey. We took a couple of days to relax in Phuket while we made our travel plans to fly to Istanbul.

Our connecting flight took us through the new Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, which was spookily devoid of people. We went on-line to learn that Qatar was being boycotted by its Arab neighbors because of its ties to terror organizations and had banned all flights through Qatar. Maybe that’s why the flights were so cheap!

We spent several days in Istanbul in the Golden Horn and within walking distance to the Blue Mosque, the Topkapi Palace, Haghia Sophia, and the Basilica Cisterns. We took a freezing boat trip up the Bosphorus Straits but were unable to reach the Black Sea because of heavy fog. We were immediately thrilled with the Turkish food but suffered thermal shock from the freezing weather.

Next, we flew to Gocek to check out some marinas. It’s a beautiful town with great marinas but lacked big stores to re-provision Persephone so we moved on to Fethiye where we found good marinas and stores.

With that settled we hired a car and headed east using backroads wherever possible. The weather was much more temperate than Istanbul and valleys were filled with blossoms and wildflowers while snow still lingered in the mountains. We fell in love with the little coastal town of Kas where our hotel room overlooked the town and the Mediterranean Sea. We kicked back for two days and enjoyed the town square where the locals meet at night and the kids play.

We spent several days based in Antalya while we visited ancient ruins, mostly inspired by the Roman occupation 2000 years ago. Perge was impressive with its planned city layout with theater, stadium, baths, gymnasium, market, and fountains. Aspendos has one of the best-preserved theaters that seats 12,000 and is still in use today. We hiked up to the ruins of Termessos situated high in the mountains and so inaccessible that Alexander the Great decided to not try and conquer it. We spent an afternoon at the Antalya Archeological Museum with its incredible collection of artifacts from the various sites.

We are back in Fethiye awaiting the arrival of our boat which has slipped to April 7. Our first couple of weeks in Turkey have been great and we are looking forward to cruising its western coast.

Persephone being loaded aboard the Annegret

 

Istanbul

 

Travelling the backroads

 

Ancient city of Perge

 

Aspendos and Termessos

 

Antalya Archeological Museum

Getting Ready to Leave Thailand

We are currently in Ao Po Marina, Phuket, where we are awaiting the ship that will take Persephone to Turkey. The original arrival date was March 12 which forced us to leave Boat Lagoon Marina on the 6th, the only date with a suitable tide. But we made the best of it by cruising the islands for a week before arriving at Ao Po which has no tidal restrictions. Unfortunately, the arrival of the ship has been slipping and is now the 19th, so here we sit.

The boat work on Persephone while she was on the hard went very smoothly and we only had to spend 2 weeks in an apartment. She went into the water with fresh CopperCoat bottom paint, new cutless bearings, and a wax job. We gave her a thorough cleaning and headed out to the islands.

We tried a new anchorage in the beautiful crescent cove on Ko Roi. We dinghied into the beach and walked through a tunnel in the cliff that opened up into a large grotto filled with mangrove trees full of fruit bats. In the evening we watched from our boat as the bats flew out of the caldera and circled over the island.

In late January we anchored off Yacht Haven Marina and attended a cruiser’s party hosted by Seven Star, the yacht transport company that is shipping Persephone. Many of our friends attended and we had a great time swapping stories.

Our visas were running out so we made a quick visa run to Myanmar, only it was a little too quick. The driver of the van drove like a maniac through torrential downpours reaching speeds of 130 kph and scaring all the passengers. We later learned that visa runs are notoriously fatal we should be happy to be alive.

We left Yacht Haven and travelled around the south end of Phuket and up to the Similan and Surin islands that lay about 40 miles off the coast. The diving was only so-so and we didn’t bother to bring out the scuba gear. But it was the first time in a year that we have been out of sight of land and that felt good. The Similan Islands are still close enough to Phuket that a fleet of high-speed day boats brings hordes of tourist out each day and the anchorages become crazy. The Surin Islands are further out and we saw only live-aboard dive boats.

We stopped at Nai Harn Bay on the way back and enjoyed a couple of dinners ashore plus a massage. It was a pleasant transition back into civilization.

We are hopeful that Persephone will be loaded on the ship within the next few days. Then we will move ashore while we make travel plans to Istanbul, Turkey, where we will be tourist for 2-3 weeks while Persephone is in transit.

Update from Phuket

The boat is currently on the hard in Boat Lagoon, Phuket, Thailand, and we have taken up residence in an apartment at the marina. The air-conditioning is great! We are having the hull striped down to gel coat and CopperCoat bottom paint applied. The cutless bearings on the prop shaft also need replacing.

Since our last posting we made another trip by boat to Langkawi, Malaysia, where we bought our duty-free CopperCoat. From there we took the ferry to Penang for dental work and a four day stay in historic Georgetown with its great food. This place never gets old.

While sailing back to Phuket we were caught unexpectedly by a squall that ripped our spinnaker from head to tack resulting in a sail-overboard drill. The sail is at the sail hospital where it is being nursed back to life.

We flew back to California for the holidays and the birth of our granddaughter Celine Rose Hanner, a perfect little girl. But we are becoming increasingly disenchanted with the congestion and hectic life style of Silicon Valley and it’s nice to return to the boat.

We continue to explore the islands around Phuket. We are shipping the boat to Turkey in April where we will begin a westward sail of the Mediterranean Sea.