[Kensblog #3] Welcome to Greece!

 

Greetings all!

Our trip this year consists of two phases. Phase 1 is the thousand-mile run across Greece, Albania and Montenegro to get to our marina in Croatia. For Phase 1 our goal is simply to have as much fun as we can, but really just focus on “getting there.” The water in June is too cold for swimming, and the season hasn’t really begun. The beaches are empty and nothing is happening. As we get deeper into the season this will change, but for now, it is a lonely feeling out here.

Phase 2 of our trip starts once we get to Croatia. Our plan is to island-hop our way through another thousand miles, visiting as many of Croatia’s anchorages as we can cram into July and August.

We are traveling approximately 1,000 miles, from Turkey to Croatia. Once we get to Croatia we’ll slow down and start really enjoying life.
As you can see, we are about half-way across the Greek Islands. Our plan is to transit the Corinth Canal, which will be an adventure in itself.


We are sad to be leaving Turkey

Of all the places we’ve cruised, Turkey is by far my favorite. It reminds me most of our home-cruising ground; the Pacific NW, but with hot weather, warm swimmable water, good internet everywhere, and a restaurant around every turn. Were we not so dedicated to circumnavigating, I could easily see cruising there for many years to come.

That said, recent events in Turkey have had me asking myself if the Turkey we cruised will still exist a few years from now. If you’ve been following the news reports you know that Turkey is a country making headlines, with conflicts both on its border with Syria, and unrest within the country itself. What was, and perhaps still is, a secular Muslim country, may be losing its secular nature.

Protests at Taksim Square in Istanbul Turkey. The mechanics who worked on my boat happened to be in Istanbul when the protests were occurring.

Last year, I conducted an interview with a Turkish friend that was very powerful in assisting me to understand the Turkish culture. For a look back at that interview, CLICK HERE . With Turkey so much in the headlines, I wrote to him again to get his thoughts on whether or not the recent events were just a media exaggeration, or a sign of great-wave change in Turkey.

 His response:

From: […]

Sent: Wednesday, June 05, 2013 10:21 AM

To: ‘Ken Williams’

Subject: Turkey

The recent events are very important but not scary. Basically the events took place in Taksim, the center of Istanbul and half a mile to Taksim life was business as usual, in terms of security etc. But, those events were very significant socially. As you know the current government is a conservative democrat with some inclination to religion. Until ten years ago at least half of the country who was leading a more conservative and “religious” life was under significant pressure from the army and could not lead a free life for themselves. After this current leadership came to power they actually did a very good job and Turkey prospered economically, health serviced improved a lot and a lot of investments had been done to the infrastructure. Therefore the country voted for this government for a third period (4 years each). In the meantime, as the government felt more confident of public support, they got rid of the pressure from the army and rightfully placed them where they should be (protecting the country against terrorism and enemy forces and not against religious people or un-secularity). They took actions and passed laws to enable those more conservative people who were under pressure, to live their life more freely.

But, in the last one or two years, especially after the government was elected for the third time, the prime minister started to interfere with the life of “non-conservative” or so called “secular people” and therefore, putting pressure on the lives of non-conservative people. Examples are, calling a casual drinker alcoholic (conservatives are totally against taking any alcohol), asking and incentivizing families to have minimum three children, trying to ban abortion (he could not do this) and many other small or big attempts or talks pointing to interfere with freedom of our lives. I guess this is why a maximum of two election period is a good idea like the US. Those very successful democratic leaders start to turn into a democratic dictator after they realize that they are unbeatable and very powerful.

Anyway, the recent events actually started with a very trivial happening. The government is converting Taksim to a car free zone (a great project). There is a very tiny park and green area in Taksim and for some reason they started to remove a few trees and a few hundred people wanted to protest this. For an unknown reason the police attacked those people with water cannons and tear gas. But, those people were not violent at all. Once the police did this, more people went there to protest and the police responded more aggressively and things went out of control and people started pouring there. The media is also under significant pressure from the government and therefore they could not broadcast what was happening there. And everybody started to broadcast from Facebook and twitter and people got organised from social media. It was amazing to see how people got organized from Facebook and twitter. And those who protested were people like me. In fact many of my friends went there and stayed there for three days and nights.

For some reason the prime minister, instead of cooling the events, kept on reprimanding those people calling them looters and blaming them that they are creating so much fuss about a few trees. But, in fact the whole protest turned out from a few hundred people protecting a few trees, to hundreds of thousands of people, all over the Turkey, protesting the prime minister and the government in interfering with their freedom and life. At the end, yesterday, the president (not the prime minister) and the prime minister’s deputies called back the police and apologized from the public stating that they got the message and learnt their lesson.

I believe this event was very positive in terms of balancing the social situation in Turkey. It was the first time that a protest was organized by not terrorists, not by other parties, but by people in the street through social media. It was innocent, pure and totally social oriented, not political. By the way, if the police did not use aggression it was not violent at all.

To put things short, Turkey is still very safe for tourists, and for us who are living very close to the action. I do not see a great-wave change in Turkey, if anything, I believe this event will lead Turkey to a more balanced democracy and social life.

 
Anyway .. enough politics… back to boating

At the end of my last blog entry, I mentioned that we were caught in a windstorm, with gusts as high as 65 knots and had to invent our own anchorage. We anchored against a cliff where we were shielded from the wind, but we were buffeted by the swell.

After a miserable night, I was on the radio to Seabird, right at daybreak saying we had to move. Steven’s response echoed my own thinking, “I’ve shifted from hoping my anchor sets to hoping I can get it back.” One of the problems with anchoring in unknown places is that you have no idea what is on the bottom. We had selected where to drop our hooks based on protection from the wind. It was the right decision at the time, but we really didn’t know what we had dropped our anchors onto. What if it was a giant pile of boulders? Would the anchors be retrievable? I pulled my anchor first. No problem. Steven then pulled his with the same result. Yay!

We departed immediately for the island of Tilos, only 30 nautical miles (nm) away where we had picked out an anchorage (Eristos) said to be beautiful and protected from wind. However, when we arrived, we discovered that the anchorage did seem sheltered from the wind, but there was a tremendous swell coming into the bay. None of us had slept well the night before and the last thing we wanted was another run, but we had no choice. We had to move again. Thus, we circled the island, traveling another 12nm to an anchorage on the north side of the island, called Livadia.

Livadia, Tilos, turned out to be a wonderful anchorage, exceeding all expectations!

Seabird at anchor. Livadia Bay, Tilos, Greece
Seabird and Sans Souci happily at anchor
Anchoring is fairly obvious, but the whole concept of scope might be new to some of the readers of my blog. Scope is the nautical term representing the ratio between depth and the amount of rode (anchor chain/line) that is put out. For instance, if the boat is in 20 foot depth and puts out 140 feet of rode, then the scope is 7:1. And, in fact, although 7:1 is the most often stated standard for scope, it is often impossible, or inadvisable to go with that much scope. Every situation is different.

After the weeks getting ready for departure and the stressful first few days of our journey, we were ready for a beautiful calm anchorage, and we finally had it! Within minutes all of the struggles were forgotten and it suddenly felt like the trip had finally begun.

For three days we did essentially nothing, and loved it.

As perfect as Tilos was, the wind can still throw you a curve ball from time to time, especially in Greece. I had anchored in 50 feet of water and put out 250 feet of chain. While I was fiddling with my computer, the wind started coming up, with gusts to 45 knots. I wasn’t paying attention until suddenly I heard Steven’s voice on the radio, “Sans Souci this is Seabird.” I moseyed over to the radio, giving Steven time to say again, much more urgently: “Sans Souci this is Seabird.” I responded and Steven said, “Ken. You are dragging!”

I looked at the chart and indeed I had! We were sitting still, but in a new location. This was by far the most I have ever dragged with any anchor. Roberta and I immediately leapt into action, putting out an additional 100 foot of chain (350 total) and giving the anchor a good tug to verify it had set this time. This time we dug in hard, and had no further problems.

A few sailboats anchored around us, and were having similar problems to my own. I saw one who managed to run into another sailboat, with a small amount of damage, while they were working hard to get the anchor back after dragging.

Sans Souci tender tied to a dock while Roberta and I had lunch in town. Even the tenders get Med-moored. I use a long bungy cord on an anchor to keep the stern of the tender away from the dock.
Roberta and Keeley at lunch in Tilos at a beachside restaurant. As it turned out, this was a pivotal event!
We rented a car to explore Tilos. The “agent” said that I should put 10 liters (2.5 gallons) of fuel into the tank and that it would be more than enough to see the sites of the island. The Argosys and the puppies came along, so we were a bit cramped in our little car. I’d guess we only used about 3 of the liters by the end of our tour.
Sightseeing on Tilos. Not a huge amount to see.
There are low stone walls virtually everywhere on the Greek islands creating a distinctive series of lines (terraces) on the hillsides. I did some googling to learn what these are and found this comment: “…As a soil and water conserving technique for cultivating steep slopes, terrace farming is one of the oldest and most successful systems of traditional agriculture still practiced in mountainous parts of our region – the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East – particularly in Yemen, Oman, Palestine/Israel, Lebanon, Morocco and the Mediterranean coastlands and islands….” This didn’t give me much information, though. I’m curious how ancient these are. If any of my readers happen to know, shoot me an email: ken@kensblog.com
I received a little surprise when I pulled the anchor. Seaweed!!!! Lots of it, caked with mud. In this photo you see me trying to pick off the mass with a boat hook. The anchor was too heavy to be lifted to where the water spraying from the front of the boat would hose it down. Ultimately I got rid of it by lowering the anchor just beneath the surface of the water and asked Roberta to back up the boat, dragging it through the water, thereby washing off all of the muck

 

 

We’ve had great luck with people speaking English here in Greece. At lunch, our waiter spoke perfect English, and he asked where we were going. We discussed that our next major destination was Santorini. He looked surprised, and pointed out at the bay. “You see this bay, and how flat it is?” “Yes,” we answered. “What you see here (the Dodecanese) does not exist in the Cyclades.” Of course, that was the day before the ‘big wind’ and our anchor dragged!

The Greek islands are “grouped” into sections. On Tilos we were in the Dodecanese, but in Santorini we would be in the Cyclades. What our waiter was telling us was that we should expect huge winds at Santorini. He seemed to be pleading with us to avoid Santorini. His list of negatives included: Too touristy, no place to anchor, no good harbors, and dangerous winds. I couldn’t imagine cruising the Greek islands and not visiting Santorini, but our waiter’s comments rang true. Back on the boat Roberta and I started researching, and the waiter was right. Santorini is a great island to FLY — or take a commercial ferry or cruise ship — to, but taking our own boats would be a potential disaster.

We didn’t need to decide on Santorini right away, as there was another island along the way, Astypalea, and it seemed great. There was a bay called Livadia (the same as the previous bay in Tilos) where we could drop our hooks. The anchorage looked well protected, and we set a plan to go there the next morning at 6am. The distance was only 55nm, requiring 7 hours, but we like to arrive early. Anchorages don’t always work out, so it is good to leave early and arrive early, leaving yourself time to pursue a “plan b” if needed.

Entering Livadia bay on the Greek Island of Astypalea
Astypalea – Houses ringing the bay
Astypalea – Sans Souci and Seabird at anchor

 

I haven’t noticed boat charter bases in this part of the Greek islands (Dodecanese and Cyclades), and I can understand why. It’s a tricky area to cruise, particularly for new visitors. There are few anchorages, it’s tough to predict the wind patterns just by studying charts, and there is very little to be found on the internet. Astypalea was no exception. Our anchorage which looked great on the charts turned out to be tight, with a steady swell. Also, whereas we had expected to find a beautiful beach with a wealth of restaurants to pick from, the beach looked desolate with nothing on it. Luckily, we had a backup anchorage already identified that wasn’t too far away.

We anchored in a shallow, tiny, well protected bay, called Analpisi, a few miles away. To our surprise there were several other sailboats already in the bay and we had some trouble finding a spot. A few more came in later. I can’t imagine what the bay must be like in high season! After two incidents in the last year of having my anchor tangled with another boat’s anchor I’ve become paranoid on the topic. Add to this my recent anchor dragging event and, as you can imagine, I am not a fan of tight places to anchor.

Prior to the season’s adventures Ken tries his new Torqueedo-brand electric motor

Roberta and I decided to drop the tender and go explore. As a test I decided we should experiment with the new electric motor on our small tender. Sans Souci carries two tenders: a 15’ AB Inflatables, and a 11.5’ no-name small inflatable. The small tender was originally intended to be our primary tender, with the big guy just used when we had guests on board. However, what we have found is that it takes almost as much work to drop the small one, as it is the large, and the large tender is a lot more fun. Hence, the small tender only gets used once a year when I decide to drop it just to see if it still runs, which it never does. Boats like to be run. Leaving a tender to sit, then expecting it to run once a year, does not work. For a while I dropped to one tender, but then when our large tender failed once, and we were stuck onboard with no way to get to shore, I realized that not having a backup was a bad idea. Thus, the small tender.

Anyway, to counter all this I bought an electric motor for the small tender, with an extra battery. My thinking was that an electric battery would be less picky about starting after a year of non-use. Plus, the whole motor is so light and small, I can throw it in a closet and ignore it until it is needed for some reason.

In the picture above you see myself, and Sanli, a Turkish tech, making the first test ride on the small tender. I wanted to see how fast it would go, and how long the battery would last. I was favorably impressed. The motor is quiet, runs the tender at an “ok” 5.5 to 6 knots, and seemed as though I could easily run a couple of hours on a battery charge. The manufacturer claims longer, and probably if I ran slower more life could be had. The batteries are light, and I carry an extra, so the short life is fine.

I explained to Roberta why I wanted to give the small tender another try, and then loaded her, and the two dogs, into the tender. We were miserable with all four of us in the little tender. I was amazed that the small difference in length between our small tender and the large one made so much difference. The little tender felt unstable and uncomfortable. The motor was fine, but the experience was not. We arrived at a concrete tender dock, which was a couple feet higher than the tender, and almost tipped it over trying to unload ourselves. The bottom line was: bigger is better. The motor was fine, and a good idea, but our little tender is unlikely to ever get dropped again unless its bigger sister fails.

Santorini

Next stop – Santorini

The winds were not cooperating for a trip to Santorini. We were looking at a 15-25 knot west wind, meaning our trip to Santorini would be seven hours of pounding into the seas, and upon arrival we’d need to find a decent place to anchor, which was seeming impossible. The cruising guides did describe a few anchorages but all were described as exposed and miserable. Clearly, Santorini is not cruiser-friendly.

I had a clever idea. There is an island, Ios, only 12 miles away, with a beautiful beach, called Manganari that is described as a well-protected anchorage. We could run the 50nm to Ios, then wait for calm seas, and venture over to Santorini in hopes of a calm anchorage. This became the winning idea, and we departed the next morning, early, for Ios.

 

Clicking these pictures “should” take you to a 3d view of Manganari beach on Ios

Manganari looked awesome! Seabird was running about a mile behind me, so I went in first, and picked the corner most likely to be protected from the wind. I did find flat water, but then to test for swell I put the boat in neutral and we sat for a minute. We were immediately tossed around by the swell coming into the bay. I really wanted the anchorage to work, so I gave it another minute. Crap. We were rolling side to side in a way that would not mean a good night of sleep. I made the call to Seabird, “Steven. This isn’t going to work. Too much swell. Let’s find another anchorage.” All of us were depressed.

There was another anchorage, just a mile to the northeast, called “Tris Klistes” that looked good, but when studying the guides we noticed the words, “The bottom is very rocky with unreliable holding.” No way. And, as we passed the anchorage we saw a sailboat which looked like it had washed up on a sandbar. We weren’t sure, but it looked like he was having no fun.

Plan C was another eleven miles up the island on the east side to a bay called “Theodotis.” We weren’t expecting much, and it hardly appears in the cruising guides, but turned out to be perfect. A wide bay, with good holding and a pretty beach. No obvious restaurants on the beach, and anchoring is tighter than it appears, due to lots of underground electrical cables running under the bay. Overall though, exactly what we were seeking: calm and a restful night’s sleep!

Both Seabird and Sans Souci use Nobeltec Odyssey to monitor our boats at anchor. In this picture you see the red tracing which represents Sans Souci’s movement in the water. The yellow circle is placed by me, to represent the radius of the chain I have out. You’ll notice that I seem to have two circles. The winds were predicted to hit 32 knots from the west the first night, so I decided to put out an additional 50 feet of chain. The blue tracings are Seabird’s. I track them in addition to myself.

TZTouch – Furunos latest navigation system

 From our anchorage at Theodotis, Ios, it is only 24 miles back to Santorini. We have thought about pulling anchor, heading to Santorini, circling the volcano, and then heading back to Manganari Bay. After some discussion though, we decided that no one wants to move backwards. There is too much wind in this part of Greece to be just “hanging out.” We’re best to keep moving forward.

Instead, we’re now focused on our next anchorage, Naoussa, on the island of Paros. It looks awesome on the charts, and is only 12 miles from the island of Mykonos. We’re focused on moving forward, not going back. So … off we go. It is now 7am and soon we’ll be pulling anchor!

And, something for the geeks

During my last update I mentioned that my backup navigation system, Navnet 3d, had been destroyed by some sort of electrical incident. I was able to find a replacement system in Istanbul and came very close to buying it.

When speaking with Furuno’s tech support team, who was helping me try to bring my Navnet 3d system back to life, I mentioned buying a new unit. Reading between the lines of the tech’s comments, he seemed to be indicating that I would be buying into an obsolete technology by spending money on a new Navnet 3d unit. He suggested I take a serious look at their new offering, TZTouch, before making a decision. I’ve never seen it, but on first look it seems awesome. Writing checks is generally a bad thing, but in this case, a check must be written, so the only decision is “Yesterday’s technology, or tomorrow’s.” An easy decision, I think. Instead of immediately rushing to replace my Navnet 3d unit, I decided to just relax and consider TZTouch at the end of the season.

 Another item on Sans Souci that was destroyed by whatever electrical event occurred was my Kaleidescape video server. I had a very fancy DVD jukebox (Kaleidescape) that was distributing video to televisions around the boat. It held hundreds of DVDs and CDs, and they were all instantly available to everyone on the boat. It’s a beautiful system, but I’ve now decided it is impractical on the boat. I’ve had to repair or replace various components to it every year, and am now faced with needing a new $20,000+ media server.

I don’t know about the legality, but I’m in a “keep it simple” frame of mind at this point, and had an alternate idea. Instead of replacing the media server, I replaced the televisions, with Samsung smart TVs, that have an app called “Plex” built in. I then loaded the same DVDs and CDs, that I had previously placed onto the Kaleidescape onto a cheap “off the shelf” network disk drive (Synology). The disk drive comes with Plex media server built in, and there are clients (players) available for virtually every device: computers, iphones, ipads, androids, tvs, etc. This worked on the first try and I have a new system which is simpler for guests on the boat, and works on their ipads in addition to their TVs. My suspicion is that will be more reliable, and to the extent it isn’t, I can get replacement hardware anywhere at a very low cost.

That’s it for today.

Thank you!

Ken Williams
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci
http://www.kensblog.com

And, now on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/kensblogdotcom

5 Comments
  • Allan Rosenberg
    Posted at 15:53h, 13 June

    Ken and Roberta,
    Sitting by the pool at Netsel Marina getting my blog updated with their wifi, we are at the tail end of our wonderful 2 week sailing adventure and decided to spend the last 2 days in Marmaris for Debbie’s shopping time. Your adventure going through Greece is very well written and give your readers enough information to let the imaginative juices flow. Debbie and I wish you safe passage. And the water is 22 deg. Don’t be a wuss

  • frank
    Posted at 21:25h, 08 June

    Glad to hear you are all have a good and exciting adventure! Hey, what model synology did you get. These synology devices are great!

    ——-Answer by Ken — June 8 2013 ———-

    Frank,

    I bought a 20tb DS1512+, for approx. $3,000. So, not cheap, but when compared to the cost of a new Kaleidescape server I saved a LOT of money.

    I also have 20tb Synology systems in Seattle and at our house in Cabo. The one in Cabo has been going for almost three years, despite months of heat and humidity in the summer.

    They are awesome!

    -Ken W

  • Hal
    Posted at 16:59h, 08 June

    Hi Ken and Roberta, were there any issues with clearing in to Greece?

    ———–Answer by Ken – June 9 2013 —-

    Hal, we had no issues. We used a great agent, Louis, phone number +30 694 4842284. He took everything and we were through customs in under 15 minutes. A good guy!

  • Harry CARACO
    Posted at 16:27h, 08 June

    Ken and Roberta…so nice to har from you and to find that you are enjoying the great life of cruising the world…I so enjoy your emails and all the detail that you provide..just wanted to say hi and to wish you calm seas…all the best..
    Cheers…..H

    ———–Answered by Ken — June 9 2013 —

    Greetings neighbor! All good here. We just dropped anchor at Mykonos and are waiting for the wind to settle so we can put the tender down.

    Who would have thought we’d ever be here!

    Hope you are at Roche enjoying your boat!

    -Ken W

  • Fred K
    Posted at 10:45h, 08 June

    The Manganari panoramas worked perfectly when I clicked on them. Nice addition to your as usual very entertaining posts.