Skyros Island 25/26 May N38:46.387 E024:37.957
Nisos Skyros – Thursday 26 May 2016 N38:46.383 E024:37.957
Today, we are anchored in a glorious little bay at the southern end of Skyros Island with a clear blue sea, a clear cloudless blue sky and only goats and wild ponies for company. The temperature is about 24-25 on deck although there is a cool fresh NW wind. At night it is comfortably cool at about 18 to 20 C. We arrived here in the early hours of Wednesday having sailed directly from Aegina Island.
Aegina had been an unexpected (and expensive) interlude forced on us by defective steering - the rudder post had all but seized in it’s bearing – a problem apparently common to this design of boat and a legacy of the imprudent selection of materials for the rudder post assembly when they were built. We now have a shiny new black composite rudder post bearing and steering is a dream!
Rudder re-assembly complete!
While the boat was ashore we transferred to a tiny studio flat and hired an old banger for the week that we were there, as it was red, it became affectionally known as ’Charlie's Ferrari’ - naturally! W think it was a Daewoo!
Charlie spent every day at the yard while the Maggie and Ann roamed the pretty and lively town of Aegina. In between Charlie spending time at the boatyard we had time for sightseeing. The island is sadly very depressed economically, noticeable once you leave the main port town behind. We visited one resort on the North East coast which was all but a ghost town with rows of closed and abandoned businesses, guest houses and hotels. It seems anyone who owed money to the bank when the crisis first developed a few years ago has been forced out of business and it is all too clear that the effect on the local communities has been dire. Even on the more prosperous south coast we came across a huge hotel complex that was closed. This had once been a very popular place for holidaymakers. Maggie ascertained that only a few years ago it was one of the best hotels on the island, in truly beautiful surroundings on the waterside – now the abandoned and part vandalised remains are a blight on the area. Although we enjoyed our stay and had some particularly good meals out, we felt that after a week that we had seen enough. The little studio had been a bonus as it was located in the heart of Aegina amongst a maze of narrow one-way streets. Some evenings it took Charlie an age to find his way back! The waterfront is, not surprisingly, very popular with the tourists as well as the locals and at weekends, the Athenians visit in large numbers, some coming by ferry and the wealthier ones coming over in their not insignificant super yachts - yes, there are still plenty of wealthy Greeks in spite of everything.
The waterfront at Egina (Aegina)
We launched from Kanonsis’ boatyard exactly at noon on 24 May and after a quick check on the rudder and rudder gland we set off to seaward. Although the yard has a travel-lift crane this works from a narrow slip on the open sea shore and there is no breakwater or shelter on the adjacent coast. After reflecting and after the lifting stops were slacked and pulled clear and we had four strong men holding us in place in the fresh cross wind while Charlie started the engine and resecured the backstay. Then, with the engine in gear at full power we shot forward out of the lifting bay like a liberated wild bird, before motoring slowly to seaward while we sorted ourselves out. Twenty minutes later we had the mainsail up as we sailed eastward along the north coast. Maggie and I were both very excited to find that not only could we turn the wheel, but could do it with 1 finger!!! Oh joy.
Our plans had been to head north asap and, with reasonably favorable winds forecast for the next 2 days, we sailed NE past Athens and then North toward the island of Evia. There we had two options, to follow a rather tortuous inland route that entailed a night time bridge passage or to follow a shorter route around the outer, east side of the island. Charlie opted for the latter with the aim of reaching Skopelos by noon on Wednesday. This plan meant spending Tuesday night at sea. We were really surprised by the intensity of shipping in the narrow channel south of Evia with seldom less than 8 ships in close proximity at any one time. Our AIS system worked overtime and in the close quarter situations the ships knew where we were and where we were going and vice-versa.
Tuesday evening was a fair night with calm seas and good visibility. As we cleared the busy channel at 01:00 on Wednesday morning Charlie was just contemplating going to bed when the wind did it’s own thing and changed 180 degrees and increased to force 6. Right on the nose too! In a surprisingly short time the previously calm sea was transformed into a nasty short lumpy chop sending spray over the boat. Action was required! We could either turn back or alter course across the wind toward Skyros, some 35 miles distant to the north east, our original destination was now unachievable. Charlie chose to head for Skyros and that proved to be the right decision as the wind gradually eased and moderated but the sea stirred up earlier by the wind resulted in an extremely uncomfortable and sleepless night for all concerned.
Some quick “yotti-gation” led to the identification of several opportunities for shelter on the island. We arrived in the lee of the mountainous Island at 06:00 and entered the flat calm waters of Ormos Renes as the sun rose to warm us up. The scenery here is stunning, The terrain is rocky covered by low brush and scub with groves of pine trees in the folds of the hills. As we approached the offshore wind carried a strong scent of pines several miles out to us. There is not a building in sight, we are the only boat here and our only neighbours are some oddly coloured goats and a group of wild horses. One senior goat has a jet black front end and a pearl white rear end - Maggie has christened it cut-and-shut (or at least I think that’s what she said).
Charlie and Ann have both been for a dip – Maggie was much wiser and refrained – the water is still cool/cold.
Ann - slowly in and even faster out again - and I do mean fast!
Charlie retrieves an errant hat. One very grateful owner has vowed to buy Charlie a drink for his superhuman, extreme condition, skinny dip!
On Wednesday evening we celebrated our arrival in the Sporades with an excellent chilled white wine brought with us from Rome in 2014 and later that evening, a barbecue of a selection of meats from our Australian/Greek butcher in Messolonghi, all washed down with a glass of Merlot. The evening was completed with an episode of ‘Outlander’ for entertainment after we had eaten our dinner.
All to ourselves plus a grove of pine trees and a few goats.
At anchor in Ormos Renes.
Waifs on the fine shingle beach
The motley crew.
Caution, the BBQ cook at work!
This place is a little piece of heaven. Hardly ever has visiting yachts and has to be the most peaceful and tranquil anchorage we have yet visited. Today the sun has shone in all its glory, the sea is of an incredible turquoise blue and it is calm.
Whilst Charlie pottered and read, Maggie and Ann found time to slap on the factor and get in their first hour or two of real sunbathing, the first this year. Out beyond the entrance to OUR little cove, we have seen a Greek warship on very slow manoeuvres, we think they’re teaching someone to drive either that or they have seen the sunbathing beauties and all want a look! This left to right and right to left manoeuvre continued throughout the day. There is a military base in the next bay around.
We ventured ashore this afternoon, a) to test out the dinghy and outboard and b) just to be able to say we set foot on land. We took a cocktail with us and celebrated being ‘on holiday’ and having this most beautiful secluded spot to ourselves. We collected some lovely coloured pebbles and built a small cairn of stones to mark our landing, complete with a very sparkly stone atop and a stick, sporting a bright yellow coloured piece of string found whilst beach combing; we have called the mound Stanley and for a brief time it was also adorned with Charlie’s now forbidden to go ashore hat! Photographic evidence of said mound and hat is attached, just in case you find this hard to believe (Charlie retrieved his favourite hat afterward).
Supper this evening (Thursday) was enjoyed sitting in the cockpit on a balmy evening. We have some tasteful ‘chill’ music playing and have watched the sun go down and a few pink clouds appear. The temperature is now dropping quite quickly and so it’s time for me to go below and pour the after dinner drinks. A movie will no doubt see us through to bed time and a good night’s sleep. This has been a truly wonderful stopover, which has allowed us to recharge our batteries after a very uncomfortable and bumpy passage and we are all very thankful to the weather for sending us this way as otherwise, we would have totally missed out on this special and memorable anchorage, which we will all remember as a highlight.