Sailing from Leros to Sicily: Chapter 1

 The couple-breaking cocktail!

We left Leros at the beginning of August and started our journey towards Sicily. The first few days were great: just the right amount of wind to sail pleasantly.

We spent the first night in Amorgos, in the beautiful bay of Ormos Kalotiri, SE of Nisis Nikouria. The passage has very shallow waters and it is advisable to keep close to the northern side of Nikouria island. We crossed in the middle where the water is just above 1 metre deep. Our draught is 1.20 mt, I still don’t know how we managed not to touch the sea bed!

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We had previously visited Amorgos- the monastery carved in a cave on a steep promontory dominating Agia Anna, the cute little kora with its narrow streets and picturesque houses, the turquoise water and wild nature, the Diomarini’s taverna and its seafood!- so although the temptation to stop again for a few days was very strong, we continued towards Ios.

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We were all energised at the idea of getting to Sicily and we thought it’d be quite easy – couple of weeks and we’d be there! I had family and friends waiting for me there, longing for a comfortable sail aboard our Gladan.

The second night at Ios we were at anchor again. We got there late in the afternoon, just in time for a swim before a nice dinner at one of the tavernas on the long, sandy beach of Manganarimanganari

Folegandros was our next stop and we decided to spend the night in the port as the wind was going to pick up at night.

The small port can’t fit more than 10 boats, but the port captain tried to squeeze in as many yachts as possible so we were all on top of each other.

He wasn’t very helpful during the mooring manoeuvres: he would move around lazily and clumsily, shouting at us to get closer to the other boat instead of helping with the ropes.

Gc got upset and his Italian half took over the English aplomb: he started shouting something not very complimentary back at him. Luckily enough he did so in Italian and the guy didn’t understand or pretended not to.

Our neighbours happened to be Italians and they did understand! They started giggling while helping us with the ropes. Eventually we moored and settled in the port.

Mooring is always a tricky time. Even the more experienced sailors and solid couples put their relationship at risk every time they enter a crowded port. Even more so if the wind is blowing.

Here is the perfect couple-breaking cocktail: a crowded port, badly designed pontoons and wind blowing at 25+ knots. In these circumstances, it is 100% sure that the couple won’t talk to each other for at least a night. There is a 50% chance that she might end up sleeping in another cabin, and a 25% chance she will pack her staff and leave without even turning to say bye.

We have seen couples shouting at each other all sort of swearing words and coming up with new ones we never heard of. Sailors do have loads of time in their hands to be creative that way!

We have seen couples pushing each other out of the way – normally men do that to the ‘silly women who can’t understand anything and can’t even follow simple instructions’…just quoting some sailors here!

Normally it’s all over once the ropes are safely secured to the pontoon and the engine is switched off.

That’s when the man tidies up bits and pieces, turns the navigation instruments off and starts flavouring the well deserved cold beer after a long day at sea. The woman on the other hand, withdraws to her cabin cursing the man, the bloody boat, the day she decided to move on the bloody boat. beer

Why couldn’t I just stay in London with my friends and my reassuring routine…Ops, I gave myself away, didn’t I?

Couple of beers later, the man is quite relaxed and has forgotten what happened before. He is breathing in the sea air while polishing the boat, stopping from time to time to contemplate her: she’s definitely the most beautiful on earth, her shapes, those morbid curves, the big hulls, how could he do without her? What would his life mean without her, the boat!gladroman

He suddenly realises that it is unusually quiet around him. Wasn’t there someone else on the boat?  And isn’t it dinner time yet?

The woman is still in the cabin pretending to watch a movie while thinking she’ll be leaving the following morning. He peeks in and asks her what is she up to.

Time has come for THE confrontational talk: the post-mooring debrief.

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She dries her tears away and sits at the table listening to his lectures on ‘how to moore best’.

Reluctantly she somehow ends up agreeing with him and can hear herself saying ‘ ok, we’ll try to communicate better next time’. Next time? Next time? You silly woman! You have been tricked into it again….

Alicudi – Eolian Islands

Our friends came to visit us and we spent some nice days sailing around the Eolian islands. The sun was still hot and it felt like summer during the day. At night though, temperatures dropped and it was not always comfortable to eat outside on the deck.

Alicudi was our first stop: the island with no roads and no vehicles. Houses didn’t even have electricity until the ‘90ies.

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We decided this would be our first stop as the weather conditions were ideal: there was barely any wind. Since Alicudi doesn’t have any bay where to get shelter from the prevailing winds, this was the right day to be there.

We spent the night at one of the mooring buoys on the left hand side of the port, paying 30 Euros, despite the initial request for 50.

While sailing towards Alicudi, we had been reading about the many legends from the island. Apparently, locals used to bake an hallucinogenic bread and feed on it daily. That would cause for them to report seeing witches and dressed up pigs flying around the island.

Once ashore, we chose one of the walking trails suggested on a map at the bottom of the stone steps. We picked the “very difficult” one: 3 and 1/2 hours, bottom-top and back.

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We started to climb the steps and bumped almost immediately into a suntanned, short and tired-looking man pulling a mule up the steps of the island, in slow motion. The mule, we were told, was carrying a wooden box full of earth, weighing 100 kgs.

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The island has no roads and the only way to move across the villages is climbing up and down the steep, stone-cladded steps that like a maze go around the cone shaped island, connecting the few houses and shops scattered around.

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Half way through the climb up, already sweaty and warned down by the fatigue, we stopped in front of a sign “We sell capers”. Pippo, a 45 years old well built man greeted us assuring that his capers were ‘capers only’, unlike the others which are fully covered in salt.

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We had only been exchanging a few words, when he invited us on his terrace saying: “come see my oven”! Pippo was in distress as the night before the oven had exploded due to a gas leak. His wife was cooking one of his favourite meals “turciniuna”, a Sicilian dish made with animal guts, when at some point there had been an explosion and the entire kitchen had been filled by potatoes, peas and guts!

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Luckily enough none of them was around when that happened so no one got harmed.

Most of the Alicudi inhabitants, who happen to be his 11 siblings and some relatives, had precipitated to see him and make sure nobody was hurt. Pippo’s dog escaped and it was nowhere to be found.

One hour later, knowing everything about Pippo and his past- he was a fisherman and navigated the Med for many years; he was shot at in Spain when fishing illegally in a bay; he was meant to go to Australia but was caught by the police just outside the travel agency and forced to join the navy (military service was still compulsory back then)- we decided to continue our adventure and go all the way to the top.

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We stopped once more before climbing up the crater: this time we met Piero, one of Pippo’s brothers, who was so kind as to give us some cold water (which is as precious as gold considering that a mule has to carry it all the way up the island on its back!) while answering some of our many questions. How long would it take for him to walk up and down? How could people build houses and transport all the material up there? And most importantly…did he know about Pippo’s oven?!

We managed to get to the top and finally saw the crater: well… it was a wild crater, only bushes and goats paths! No view to enjoy!

Exhausted and hungry, we started our descend and followed the path back to the port where, in no time, we took our clothes off and went for a long, refreshing swim in the crystalline sea. We then rested our tired bodies on the beautifully dark, sandy beach.

While relaxing on the hot stones a train of images swirled in my head. The wilderness of the island, the hostile look of the cactuses contrasting the delicacy of the coloured flowers: cyclamen, narcissus, bouganville. The olive trees, the oranges, the capers…the mules. What an incredible island!me

Winter in Leros

You might wonder what you can do an a remote island with less than 8000 inhabitants during the short and windy days of winter time?

Well, we have found a small community of live-aboard people staying in our marina. They’ve all sailed around the world and have so much experience and so many fascinating stories that we are always all ears when in their company, trying to absorb all the little tips that you only get from the people who have done it! When you listen to them recounting their stories it all just seems very simple, easy, natural, and that’s because it’s like second nature to them. For us instead, being novices, even small problems can sometimes cause a crisis!

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Despite living on a secluded island we manage to have fun and keep active. Last Sunday for example we organised an excursion with our friends and managed to get lost on a promontory off the lovely village of Alinda. The sun was shining, the strong meltemi had taken a day off and we set off for our trekking adventure high spirited and full of enthusiasm. We had a little mascotte, Pasca, who spent most of the time barking and chasing the poor goats away. It was funny to see animals 5, 10 times bigger than her hop around the hill in distress, scared off by this little monster, and climb up the mountain until they conquered an inexpugnable position!

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PASCA – our little mascot!

We had been walking for more than 2 hours when we decided to split in two groups, some of us dared to follow the path of a water stream that had cut into the valley creating very deep gauges. We can only imagine how strongly the water must come down when it rains heavily. And believe me it can rain heavily here in Leros!

Eventually we got to our final destination: the fish restaurant! Famished but satisfied by the mission accomplished we enjoyed our fried calamari, shrimps cooked in ouzo, cheese saganaki, and much more.

What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday with beautiful surroundings, great company and excellent food and drinks. Γεια μας!

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Sailing with friends

Our friends came to visit and this time we decided to head South of Kos and went to explore Nysiros, Yali’, Tilos, Halki and Symi. All different from each other but beautiful and unique. Nysiros so far has been our favourite though! A bit off the beaten track with its wild and unspoiled nature and its moon-like volcanic landscape.

Of course a visit to Stenafos crater is a must when you go there, although only few know that there is another, smaller crater of a still active volcano not too far from the one everyone visits.dsc_1266dsc_1280

If you get to Pali (much better than the main port, Mandraki) and moore in the little, cute harbour you can rent scooters from Captain’s House (or the one on the opposite side of the harbour) and go explore the beauty of this island. Nikeia and Emborios, the two villages on top of the mountains are definitely worth seeing. The view from up there is just breathtaking!

Walking  around Nikeia you won’t see many people except for the few locals and tourists sitting in the main square where the little white and blue church is. Emborios looks like a ghost town with many abandoned, semi-destroyed houses. It looks as if an earthquake has knocked down half of the village and they are now trying to bring it back to life. There is a hotel though with little wooden balconies painted in light green that has got the most charming spot of all. There is a terrace where you can sip your coffee in the morning or drink your G&T at sunset, while overlooking the entire valley and the enormous caldera of the now dormant volcano.

When it comes to eating out there are quite a few tavernas in Pali and Afrodite seems to be one of the best. If you go to Mandrake (the main town) you should try the Italian taverna/pizzeria Bacareto – be careful though as the chef can bite! Make sure you go before or after peak hours (20.30/21.30) as he gets very stressed out when the place is overcrowded and starts swearing in Italian! Food is really good and if you don’t understand Italian you’ll be ok!

People on the island are really friendly and they all speak perfect English as most of them lived in Australia or the US before moving back.

Sailing with family

We spent the mid weeks of August sailing from Kos to Patmos together with G’s family. After a few stops in Kalymnos, Leros and Archangelos we got to the beautiful island of Patmos where a visit to the monastery and the famous Cave of the Apocalypse were a must. Strolling along the cute allies of the town centre in Skala was very enjoyable too. There are quite a few shops with pretty clothes and handmade crafts.

 

Gladan behaved very well and even let others sail her!