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Thursday, July 3, 2008

Greece to Turkey

Our second sailing season began in May 2008 with hot and sunny Greek weather and those amazing clear blue skies.  We enjoyed Preveza – the town where we had left Bandit – but were keen to explore new ground.  Our plan was to head south around the Peloponnese peninsula.DSC_0288
First up though – visitors.  Adie and Pete McLean and Chick Anderson joined us in Preveza and we sailed to Ithaca, Skorpios and Menganisi before dropping them in Kefallonia where we picked up Barry and Fiona Shearer. From Kefallonia we sailed south to Zakynthos and then across to the mainland where they set off for some inland travel.  We took a train and explored the amazing ruins at Olympia.
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The three pronged Peloponnese peninsula is actually an island – separated from the mainland by the Corinth Canal but often referred to as a peninsula which it was of course before the canal went in.
We loved the Peloponnese.  There were few cruising boats there, hardly any tourists, some staggeringly beautiful anchorages and quaint towns.  Provisioning here was wonderful.  From Bandit we’d hear a horn or a loudspeaker and quickly learnt that it would be a local selling something – from fresh sardines to ripe tomatoes or eggplants.  We’d quickly rush ashore and fill a supermarket bag with whatever was on offer.  It was always fresh, cheap and delicious.
Our best buy was when a friendly chap came to the back of Bandit (we were stern to the dock) and ask if we’d like some of his home produce.  We handed over $20 and the next morning he arrived with a huge bag of lemons, a massive jar of black olives preserved in oil, two litres of delicious grassy olive oil and, to our horror, two litres of home made wine in a plastic water bottle!
We gingerly put the wine in the fridge thinking our days of drinking wine out of plastic were well and truly over.  About a week later we decided to try it – it was crisp and dry and so good we were tempted to go back and buy more! From then on we bought homemade wine whenever we could.  These Greeks know how to make wine.
We met Richard and Wendy Batchelor in Astros, near Naphlion, and with them on board sailed the Saronic Gulf to Hydra then up to Poros before heading across to the Cyclades.  It was Richard’s 70th birthday and we celebrated it in style on Mykonos.  It was high season on the party island and the restaurants, cafes and bars were absolutely buzzing.  Everyone was here it seemed.
We realised that when it came time to catch a taxi back to Bandit where she was safely tied up in the marina a few miles away.  The queue was a mile long so we opted to walk… was a very long way home! 
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After a few fun days in Mykonos we sailed south to Naxos where we dropped Wendy and Richard.  We hadn’t been to Naxos before and it was a revelation – a lovely island with a gorgeous old town.  We hired a car and explored it and it quickly became a firm favourite.
From there we made a slight detour to Paros to meet up with German friends Katrin and Frank on Atares.  We met them in our first season in Sardinia and again in Sicily and it was fantastic to meet up again in Greece. 
We had a wonderful night in Paros before sailing down to the Small Cyclades together, well reefed down as the meltemi was doing its thing and blowing about 30 knots.  Still….it was downhill.
The Small Cyclades were amazing – totally off the beaten track and therefore completely non touristy with few cruising yachts.  And best of all, the Meltemi wind seems to completely avoid these islands.  We spent a wonderful week here.
One day when I went ashore to buy groceries a friendly local directed me to a house where the owner had tomatoes, eggplants, zucchini and peppers fresh from her garden.  As we went our separate ways he made me promise not to tell many people about these hidden gems in the Cyclades.  So I won’t be too specific!  From the Small Cyclades we sailed to Ios and had another magic few days before saying goodbye to Atares who were heading to Crete.
The Cyclades were absolutely beautiful and we could have lingered longer but had booked Bandit into Marmaris Marina in Turkey for the winter and needed to head east.  And we knew we would be sailing back through the stunning Greek Islands next season anyway.
And we had to get to Kos to meet family friend Rosie Todhunter and her mates Kate, Millie and Julia for five fun filled days.  The group was driving around Europe as part of the “van tour” and had first contacted us when they were in Portugal and we were in Greece.  They drove many hundreds of miles and left their van in Brindisi, Italy and then caught ferries, buses and trains and eventually arrived on Kos at 5am in the morning.  
We sailed to Simi and stayed a few days and then went across to Turkey for a day and night before heading back across to Rhodes where we dropped them off so they could catch a ferry back to Athens.
Our time in the beautiful Greek Islands had converted us – we LOVED it and couldn’t wait for the next season so we could explore more islands.  We loved the friendliness of the people, the crystal clear water, the amazing whitewashed buildings, beautiful bougainvillea but best of all…..octopus and ouzo.  We were hooked! We’ll be back.