Friday, May 5, 2006

Log 46 - (Mar11-Apr22) Fast Tracking Back Through Greece

"Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport" - Unknown

Our 2006 travels through Greece
We are all really keen to get underway early for our last year of cruising.   We know we are traveling early in the season and will have to watch the weather carefully and be prepared for anything the Med can throw at us.  Of course she doesn't let us off easy and we have either too much wind or not enough wind...sigh.   Oh well, it feels good to be heading west for the first time in a long time....Alberta Bound, Alberta Bound.....

Wednesday, March 15th - Rhodes Harbour Quay, Greek Island of Rhodes

Rhodes harbour quay

So we finally depart Marmaris, Turkey (our winter home for 3 months) and head for nearby Rhodes on a Friday for a quick reprovision at Lidl (German food chain with many tasty treats we are really missing like pork and Gouda cheese!).  Days later, we still find ourselves here, sitting out one heck of a blow!   We have not experienced wind like this since our first off-shore leg to San Francisco back in 2002!  While tied up here in the harbour, wind speeds of up to 52 knots were recorded.  The surge coming into the harbor is dangerous and we end up adding tires to the 8 lines tied to shore in order to absorb the shock of Tioga lurching around.   We seem to be receiving the same welcome to Rhodes as we got last fall (log 42).....hmmm perhaps someone is trying to tell us something??
Colossus of Rhodes

And, by the way, at the end of this quay to the left it is said once stood the Colossus of Rhodes, a 30-m (100-ft) bronze statue of the Greek sun god Helios, erected about 280 bc to guard the entrance to the harbor at Rhodes; it was destroyed about 55 years later.  It was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Friday, March 17th - Island of Simi

TIOGA is the lone boat on the quay in Pethi Bay, Simi

After finally managing to leave Rhodes, we are so happy to be back on one of our favorite Greek islands, Simi.  

Church on island of Simi

Today we lazily hike up the steep hill from Pethi Bay and wind our way into the town of Simi.   We notice a distinct difference in the color of the island compared to last fall when we visited after a summer of intense heat.  Now the spring flowers are everywhere and the grass is so lush and green.   A welcome sight!

Simi Town Harbour

Simi harbour

Today, we have not only come to enjoy the little town again, but to visit a local grocer we bought food from last fall.  He was so kind to the boys, giving them free ice creams and candy.  Even us adults got a free bottle of wine!  Well, he remembers us and carries on his tradition with more treats for all!   

Friday, March 24th - Transmission problems - Diverting to the Island of Kos

Reinstalling the transmission

Earlier this week while on our way to the volcanic island of Nísiros, we ran into transmission troubles.   After sailing all day, we started our engine about 8 miles from the harbour when the wind swung around onto our nose.  There was a clunking noise and then nothing when the engine was engaged.  We decided to skip Nisiros and divert north to the larger island of Kos for repairs.  After calling ahead on the VHF radio, we managed to sail into Kos Marina and safely land on the long, open dock.   Next morning, we proceeded to remove the transmission to discover a broken drive plate, the connection between the transmission and the engine.    Thankfully it wasn't serious.  We sourced the part from Athens, painted the transmission while we waited for delivery, then lowered it back into place and reinstalled it .....Wow! Was that sucker heavy - 65kg!!

Tuesday, March 28th - Town of Naxos

Tioga in Naxos harbour

It feels good to be moving again and we decide to do an overnight passage to make up some lost time.  After a solid butt kicking with huge wind and waves where Chris fed the fish more times than fingers he can count on, we are relieved to land on the island of Naxos, famous for its marble.  

Marble breakwater

The term 'marble' is extended to include any rock (but usually a variety of limestone) composed of calcium carbonate that takes a polish. The purest form of marble is statuary marble, which is white with visible crystalline structure. The distinctive luster of statuary marble is caused by light penetrating a short distance into the stone and then being reflected from the surfaces of inner crystals. The most famous variety of statuary marble is the 'Pentelic' marble of Greece, found in the quarries of Mount Pentelikon outside of Athens. Pentelic marble was used by the great sculptors of ancient Greece, including Phidias and Praxiteles, and it was used in the Parthenon (coming up).   'Parian' marble, also used by ancient Greek sculptors and architects, was quarried chiefly on the Grecian island of Paros and next door, here on Naxos.  We are standing on a breakwater of (we guess) unsuitable marble blocks.

Thursday, March 30th - First Swim of the Season, Cape Sounion approaching Athens

Gerrit's first swim of the season

I  was the first swimmer of the year. The water was cold, so cold it was like swimming in ice. I wore a lot clothing but I still froze......brrrrrrr. I still enjoyed the cold water, washing off all the sweaty days of Marmaris that the shower had not washed off.  It was nice.

My first web entry - Gerrit

Sunday, April 2nd  - The City of Athens from the top of Mount Párnis

City of Athens

After arriving in Athens a couple of days ago, today we meet up with George Papadopolaos, an Athenian we originally met last summer on the island of Tinos.   At that time he gave us his phone number to call him when we came to Athens, and here we are! 

This opening photo of sprawling Athens is taken from the top of Mount Parnis.  After a great day with George, he takes us to the top of the mountain via the gondola.

The National Archaeological Museum

Zeus or Poseidon?? That is the question

Our day with George actually starts here in this archaeological museum, which has a rich collection representing all of the cultures that flourished in Greece.  This bronze statue of either Zeus or Poseidon (the actual identification as to which one is controversial to this day) was found underwater and shows the god in great stride extending his left arm before his body while holding a thunderbolt or trident in his right hand.  Famous for its exquisite rendering of motion and anatomy by a classic sculpturer in 460BC, it provided inspiration for the likes of Italian artists Michelangelo and Bernini over 2000 years later.  Of Bernini, his ability to suggest textures of skin or cloth as well as to capture emotion and movement in sculpture was uncanny.  Bernini often said that he had no contemporary - his masters were that of Ancient Greece.

First hockey players

We present this photo of a sculpture for hockey fans worldwide - it shows part of the decoration from the grave of an athlete from around 500BC.   We've zoomed in on two of six players playing a game similar to modern hockey maneuvering a ball with sticks.   Have we as a civilization really changed that much?

After a couple hours, George whispers something about lunch to Joel and Gerrit... .....hmm.....more museum or food......

Greek taverna with George

We hop in George's car and he drives us out of the city centre to the outskirts on a country road lined with Greek taverna after Greek taverna.  An artist friend of George's joins us for lunch and we are treated to a fabulous meal of all sorts of traditional Greek dishes.  As the roast lamb is being served, George jokes..."What is the best tasting fish?.....Lamb....ha, ha, ha,...."  It truly was a great meal with good company. 

In the late afternoon, George drives us to Mount Parnis (photo shown above) for the great views of the city and ice cream treats for the boys.  Thanks George for making our memories of Athens very special. 

Tuesday, April 4th - The Parthenon

The Parthenon
The Parthenon, a temple dedicated to Athena Parthenos (the Virgin Athena), stands on the Acropolis high above Athens, Greece. The Parthenon was built in the 5th century bc, and despite the enormous damage it has sustained over the centuries, it still communicates the ideals of order and harmony for which Greek architecture is known.  It is built of the finest Pentelic marbles.  

Wednesday, April 5th - Old War Ships

WWII Warships

Well, we know 6 days in a city like Athens is no where near enough time, but we feel the need to keep moving west, especially since the weather appears quite stable for the short term.  On our way out of the harbour the boys spy what appear to be old WWII war ships.

Saddledome look alike..

Plus a stadium that reminds us a lot of the Saddledome back home in Calgary, Alberta...too funny. 

Corinth Canal....again

Corinth Canal

We head from Athens straight for the Corinth Canal in hopes to transit it this afternoon.  We decided before leaving Marmaris, Turkey that we would back track through the canal (see log 39 for initial transit) rather than attempt to go around the south coast of Greece, the Pelopónnisos, which is notorious for bad weather, especially this early in the season.  

Steep walls of the canal.

Today's transit goes extremely well as there is no waiting once our fees are paid, and we have the canal largely to ourselves to relax and take our time without other boats hot on our trail.  

This really is an amazing feat that saves us a lot of time.  

Friday, April 7th - Town of Galaxidi in the Gulf of Corinth

Town of Galaxidi

This extremely colorful and beautiful town turns out to be the best place to leave Tioga while we take a bus to visit the nearby ancient site of Delphi.  We snag this photo while on a great little hike across the small bay.  We briefly stopped here last summer, but it was sooooo hot we couldn't stand to walk anywhere.  Once again the freshness of spring is very evident and we swear if we ever visit Greece again, it will be this time of year. 

Saturday, April 8th - Bus trip to Delphi

Delphi valley

Delphi, a town of ancient Greece, was once a site of a celebrated oracle of the god Apollo.  To visit, our bus takes us up a beautiful valley, high onto the slopes of Mount Parnassus about 9.5 km (about 6 mi) inland from the Gulf of Corinth. Considered by the ancient Greeks to be the center of the universe, Delphic priests developed an elaborate ritual, centered on a chief priestess called Pythia, the oracle. Her utterances were regarded as the words of Apollo, and the oracle was consulted by private citizens and public officials alike. The Sacred Way to the temple was lined with structures housing rich offerings given by Greek cities.

Delphi Ampitheatre 

After the Roman conquest of Greece, and especially after the spread of Christianity, Delphi declined. Much of its art and treasure was confiscated by the Romans, notably by the Emperor Nero.

We are lucky to visit Delphi before high season when tourists are crawling over everything.  The ruins as great in themselves, but it is the dramatic mountainous setting that will forever be etched in our minds. 

Delphi stadium

The town of Delphi was at first a dependency of the Phocian city of Crisa. Phocis later joined the Amphictyonic League, which was formed to protect the temple to Apollo and which sponsored the Pythian Games near Delphi.

The ancient stadium is incredibly well preserved and must have provided quite the setting for athletic games.   We have fun racing each other up and down the ancient grounds. 

Inside the Delphi museum

The site of the town was eventually occupied by the village of Kastrí. In 1891 Kastrí was relocated and renamed Dhírfis (Delphi), and in 1892 excavation of the site began. Discoveries include temples, the Great Altar, the stadium and theater, the ancient town wall, and the treasury building, the walls of which are inscribed with famous musically notated hymns to Apollo. The site contains more than 4000 inscriptions, valued for modern knowledge of ancient Greece.   If you look carefully at the background for this scene in the museum, you will see the first archeologists at work, and the incredible things they were finding.

Sunday, April 9th - Reunion of 2004 Atlantic crossers, Trizoni Island

Atlantic crossers reunion

S/V Tioga, S/V Peregrine (Joe and Michele) and S/V Nai'a (John, Kim and Hannah) all first met back in the Azores, and then again in Lisbon after our Atlantic crossings.  We've all been in touch over the past months trying to zero in on a place where our paths would cross as they head east and we head west.  We could not have been luckier than to have it occur here on the great little island of Trizoni.  We enjoy some pot lucks together and as usual the highlight is each others company and catching up on one another's' lives. 

Thursday, April 13th - Happy Birthday Chris!!

Happy Birthday Chris!

While here on Trizoni, the weather turns and a system passes through.  We could not have had a better place to be held up as now we have many people to share Chris' 43rd birthday with!   Eleven people in our cockpit is a bit squishy but cruisers never mind - we all just wish the cake could have been bigger. 

Wednesday, April 19th - Good-bye Greece!  -  Zakinthos Island

Zakinthos town
Once the weather settles out, we push through the Gulf of Patras and head for the island of Zakinthos to wait for suitable weather for our 290nm offshore passage to Siracusa, Sicily.  Unknown to us prior to arriving is that Zakinthos is the hotspot in the Greek islands for earthquakes.....yes earthquakes!!  Over the course of our 3 days here we feel at least 4 tremors.  The final straw came late yesterday when the earth shook, setting off alarms all about the town and dust billowed up and about in the hills just behind the town.  Tioga shuddered underneath us and we all agreed enough is enough of this.  We immediately set to work preparing for an early morning departure no matter what! 

Thursday, April 20th - Mid-Ionian Sea Stowaways

Exhausted finches

Feeling good to have left the tremors behind and knowing that the only rock-n-rolling of Tioga is coming from the waves, we settle in for our first of two nights at sea.  Just before sunset, these exhausted little finches (3 in total) wearily land on our back deck.  They eventually get the courage to come closer and tuck in for the night.  One ends up under our dodger, one up on the bow under the dinghy and the last one tucks into the cockpit cushions and even into Chris' pocket for a spell.  Every so often through the night we'd shine a flash light to make sure everyone was safe.  At first light in the morning they were gone. 

Friday, April 21st - Finally a Bluefin Tuna, well actually two  

Blue fin tuna!

Back on Trizoni island for Chris' birthday, John on sv Nai'a gave him a fishing hook that was sure to catch a Bluefin Tuna.  Well, thank you John.   We have towed a fishing lure for many miles without much success....until now!   We're ecstatic when about an hour later we even land a second one.  Our deep freeze is full now!

The trip has been a mix of sailing and motoring, but no matter.  With only one more night at sea, we are all looking forward to our arrival tomorrow in Syracuse on the island of Sicily.  See you there!  Oh, yes the three little finch stowaways came back for the second night at sea.   

Join us in log 47 as we explore Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica on the way to the south of France and the canals.