Kurukulla at Englishman's Bay, Tobago

Monday, 5 May 2014

Underway for 2014

Back in the water
The 2014 season started with a Monarch Airlines flight from Gatwick to Dalaman on the 15th of April, with the intention of getting Kurukulla in the water and underway by the 25th. Launch on the 21st went to plan but a series of defects, a double leak on a fresh water tank and a refrigerator problem, resulted in departure being delayed by a day. Nothing that could not be caught up! To help me get Kurukulla ready Dennis Giles, an Australian friend who lives and works in Holland, had volunteered to join on the day she was launched, and very grateful for his help I was too; especially when getting the port fresh water tank out to repair!
So it was that we cleared out of Turkey, at the Marmaris ferry terminal (where they have now built a small boat berthing facility for which they charge €20 for a 30 minute visit!) on the morning of 26 April.
Our intention was to spend one night anchored not very far from Marmaris, in Gerbekse about 10 miles along the coast, using this passage as a shake down sail, and then head for Rhodes and entry into Greece the next day. The weather was ideal and Gerbekse delightful, shared with only a local fisherman and one other yacht; very different to the crowds of boats in high season.
Panorama of Limni Panormittis
Next morning we set sail for Rhodes town; the passage started as a beam reach in ideal conditions; it was not to last! By the end of the first hour we were close hauled on port tack, and an hour later beating to windward in a brisk southerly wind. My patience ran out and I decided to enter Greece via Symi instead thus gaining the lost day on the programme and avoiding a cold and tedious beat to windward. A visit to Rhodes will have to wait! Two hours later we were anchored in Limni Panormittis, a beautiful anchorage at the southern end of Symi. Our plan was to spend the night there and then going on to Symi town, and the battle with bureaucracy, the following day. We motored in and anchored in a completely empty bay, overlooked by the monastery! On the last visit, in July 2013, it had been difficult to find a spot clear enough to anchor! By 1800 it was time for a G&T, “sundowners”, followed by supper thereafter.
Arriving Symi
Empty quays at Symi
The next morning we sailed off the anchor and set off for a brisk sail up the west coast of Symi, through the Nimos passage and across the bay to Symi town; always an enchanting place to visit. On arrival, with our “Q” quarantine flag flying, we were greeted by a charming female member of the Port Police who invited us to complete the formalities. Amazingly the process has been much simplified! The necessary forms are now passed to you, on arrival, whilst onboard; once completed it is a visit to Immigration Police, to present passports; followed by Customs (seems optional if you don't want Duty free, I didn't bother) and finally Port Police offices to pay for entry and have the boat's cruising permit stamped. Armed with €400 in cash to pay the newly introduced Greek Tax on boats cruising in their waters I set off to do battle (My neighbour in Marmaris had a letter from the Greek Embassy in Holland telling him he was exempt as an EU Flagged vessel but this seemed to contradict the draft law that I had seen). At the Port Police Offices I was greeted by another excellent ambassador for the Port Police Service and she explained that they had not yet had instructions on how or when to collect the new tax, despite the fact that it was approved in the Greek parliament and apparently became law on the 14th of April; the consequence, no tax was payable! Joy on joy! Not only this but they had removed the requirement for EU registered vessels to report to the Port Police once per month whilst in Greek waters and all that is now necessary is to report, and have the Boat Cruising Log stamped, on entry and departure or once per year if not departing Greece within 12 months. Putting my €400 back in my pocket, or €380 anyway, (I had to pay €20 for entry to Greece!) I set off back to the boat and late lunch in a taverna on the water front. Later that evening we were chatting to the Lithuanian owner of another waterfront taverna, where we had decided to take supper, and she was lamenting the lack of boats in the harbour. Normally bustling at this time of year it was all but empty. I explained to her the threat of the €400 tax and the deterrent effect this would have for boats visiting Greece for short periods, (For boats under 12m in length it is a graduated annual charge up to a maximum of €400, over 12m in length it is €10 per metre per month if paid monthly) and that this was probably the reason the port was empty. They had no idea the government had taxed their livelihood away!
Entering Marathouda
The next morning was spent organising internet access for the boat, care of Vodafone Greece, and “no” I could not have a contract with Vodafone, as I had had 3 years before, as I now needed a Greek tax number to be able to enter into a contract in Greece! I would have to have PAYG and pay double the rate! Not everything changes for the better! This done we set off for Marathouda, an anchorage on the SE side of Symi, from which we planned to depart for Alimia (an island on the NW side of Rhodes, 25 miles SW) the next day.
Marathouda is a small hamlet, maximum 6 dwellings, at the head of a small creek. On arrival we sailed in and were looking for a suitable place to drop the anchor whilst avoiding getting tangled up with the four fisherman's moorings and the one fishing boat already present. Unexpectedly we were hailed from the fishing boat and invited to use one of the moorings, very friendly! It was a quiet and pleasant night, including a quick (by necessity) swim and shower off the back end of the boat; the water was no warmer than Gerbekse!
Entering the bay at Ormos Alimia
The sail to Alimia was fantastic, a close fetch on Starboard tack, with Kurukulla averaging nearly 7 knots and all in brilliant sunshine. By 1500, and after a short beat up the channel between Rhodes and Alimia, we were anchored in the almost deserted southern corner of the bay at Ormos Alimia with only two fishing boats for company. The remainder of the afternoon and evening was spent relaxing with the occasional swim.
One of the deserted churches
Interior of the church
View across the bay at Ormos Alimia towards the entrance
Our plan for the next day was to sail the 5 miles south to Khalki and hence, with such a short distance to go, we were in no hurry to get underway. We first moved anchorage to the northern end of Ormos Alimia and swam ashore to tour the now deserted and ruined village. The only two buildings in even half decent repair are the two very small churches, both of which were still just about intact inside but full of the debris and building materials used for their maintenance! Imagine our shock when on wandering around the northern church we discovered a burning oil lamp in one of the windows! Spooky! Who fills it, who trims the wick? There are no inhabitants left on the island!
After a leisurely lunch onboard we sailed off the anchor and set off to Khalki. Given the slight swell and the wind direction we were unsure whether to moor up in the main bay at Khalki (AKA Emborious) or to go to the next bay south and anchor there. In the event, after a tour of the bay at Khalki, we chose Ormos Potamos, which is only a half mile to the south. Here we anchored in 5m of water, on pure sand, and inflated the dinghy for its first excursion of the year. We rowed ashore and enjoyed a pleasant walk across the isthmus dividing the bay from the town of Khalki. After a brief visit to the “supermarket” to buy some meat (which we had omitted to buy in Symi) we stopped for a single beer in a waterfront taverna, accompanied by some delicious complimentary smoked fish and squid, before taking in more of the scenery by walking a rather longer route back to the boat. We arrived back onboard at sunset and enjoyed a chicken supper, this being the only fresh meat the “supermarket” had to offer!
Panorama of the head of the bay at Tristoma
The entrance to Tristoma bay, taken looking back, on exit!
Next morning we again sailed off the anchor, beat out of the bay, and set course for the northern end of Karpathos, an anchorage called Tristoma. This was a 34 mile passage and was again a close fetch in brisk but pleasant conditions. In total the trip took 5 hours under a combination of No1 Genoa and Mainsail, both occasionally reefed when the wind got too boisterous. By 1615 we had negotiated the narrow and rather unnerving southerly entrance (the narrowest of three but the only one passable with our draft) and were safely anchored in a small bay on the north side at the head of the inlet. Fantastic holding ground; so good that, next morning, it was quite a task to extricate the anchor after a gusty night. Again our only company was a few local fishing boats. The village at the head of the inlet seems almost abandoned with most of the dwellings dismantled, only a few still show signs of occupation.
Stern too on Finiki jetty
Our task next morning was to reach Finiki, a small fishing port on the southern end of the west coast of Karpathos. It was from here that Dennis was due to leave to fly back to Holland, via Rhodes, next day and three more friends were due to join. We arrived in Finiki at 1315 after motoring and sailing intermittently down the west coast of Karpathos. On entering we were greeted from the jetty by Dimitrios who hailed us, showed us which part of the jetty was available to us and took our lines on arrival. He seems to be a form of self appointed Harbour Master! Having moored up he broke the news to us that there was a strong SE wind forecast and that the harbour would be untenable in such conditions! Great! There are not many options hereabouts! Sure enough, despite being in an enclosed bay, with only a mile or so of open water to the south, as the wind rose the harbour became more and more uncomfortable. After two hours we decided to give up. After extricating our anchor from one of the mooring anchors on which it had fouled, (Dimitrios had said nothing of these but we later found out there are many! It was one of his we lifted!) we went out and anchored close inshore, off the local beach, where the wind was blowing offshore and the sea flat. Here we sat out the overnight gale with me having a sleepless night; not so much because of the conditions but wondering how the hell I was to get Dennis ashore the next day to catch his 1400 flight! If the winds did not abate there was no simple or safe option! Re entering the harbour in those conditions and then coming back out single handed was not without risks and putting him ashore in the dinghy in those conditions was equally risky! Fortunately, despite recording winds of 45kts (Force 9) overnight, by 0800 the winds had abated and we re-entered the harbour and moored up again. This time Dimitrios offered us his nephew's mooring/holding off lines to avoid another saga with the anchors!
Dennis on Finiki waterfront
After an early lunch, the arriving friends, Mike and Steve (who had arrived by air the previous night) gave Dennis a lift to the airport in their hire car and he was safely on his way. They then joined a day later after spending a couple of nights in a local hotel. We now have only to wait for Christoph Herren, the fourth member of the crew, to arrive in two days time and we will be off again, to the south west, towards Crete.
More when we sail.....

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