Another year Begins

27 Apr

IMG_2480We arrived back to Polo who had been waiting patiently at her mooring in Kusadasi. We had removed all her sails and most of the running rigging at the end of last year and everything now had to be replaced with ropes we had brought from home. I had foolishly removed the reefing lines without working out how to fit the new ones but with two sail battens taped together and a little hook made of bent wire we managed get a cord through and fit the new ropes. Afraid of another, more drastic, mistake I got some help to replace the main halyard.IMG_2482

The antifoul was looking good at the end of last year so I had made no plans to redo it. We got back to the bottom of Polo looking like the Great Barrier Reef so I set to with a scraper to see what I could do. After two sessions leaning out from the dingy I had got the worst off from the waterline. My arms were like jelly and my fingers bleeding from the many scrapes with sharp shells but I had made some progress.

Before we left Kim decided I needed one last Turkish haircut so we found a barbers and while Kim was waiting she got talked into a foot massage and then some leech therapy to the area around her eyes. The blog is not long enough to do justice to the story and you will have to ask Kim for the details but she left the barber wearing a red bandana to hide the fact that she looked as if she had been shot in the head 5 times or possibly had the top of her head rather crudely sown on.WP_20160420_13_42_37_Pro__highres My haircut was not great but I got off lightly by comparison.

We decided to leave Kusadasi a day early to get the best weather and to use it as our “shake down” to check everything was working, so paperwork sorted we had a trouble free sail to Pythagorio on Samos.IMG_2485 WP_20160424_13_34_58_Pro

The next day we anchored as close to the beach as we could so I could stand in the water and, togged up in wetsuit and snorkel, I spent an exhausting hour cleaning the rest of Polo’s bottom, propellers etc pleased to have saved some money.WP_20160423_17_58_30_Pro__highres

After two nights in Pythagorio and Sunday lunchWP_20160424_14_22_08_Pro__highres we had a wild and furious sail round to a bay in the north, hitting 10knots. The next two days were pretty windy so after a rather chaotic time tying up in Kokkari we stayed there until the wind dropped, visiting our favourite Bar Goal! and relaxing.IMG_2498 Today we headed south again to Samos Marina where we are leaving Polo to fly to Masie’s wedding in Rome.

Exploring the Cyclades

23 Oct
Sunrise leaving Monemvasia

Sunrise leaving Monemvasia

Our final weeks on Polo for the year have been spent exploring the Cyclades islands that we missed last year with Hannah.

Our last blog left us heading for Milos to avoid bad weather heading in towards Kythira. The wind was not helping us so we headed north up to Monemvasia where there was a suitable harbour. Having set off at 4.30am expecting the long crossing to Milos we arrived at 11.30 and settled in for the bad weather. We were not able to get off the boat for 24 hrs while the wind howled around, the swell built up and we checked the mooring lines as they strained, but all was well and we were rewarded by another look around the famous medieval town although there was still no access to the top of the impressive hill.

Monemvasia...

Monemvasia…

...and the bit we couldn't get to.

…and the bit we couldn’t get to.

The next day we again sailed for Milos and arrived with the sunset after 75 miles of glorious downwind sailing.

Boat houses on Milos

Boat houses on Milos

The next day we rather lazily took a taxi up to the Chora to look around and find the Vodafone shop (internet access becomes an obsession on board) explored the winding streets and walked back down to Polo.

Typical Cyclades view

Typical Cyclades view

The blue bay we anchored in

The blue bay we anchored in

Kim points to Kimolos

Kim points to Kimolos

We anchored for the night in a beautiful blue bay we had seen from the top and the next morning sailed the few miles to Kimolos which we had been told last year had the best food in the Aegean. There seemed to be only one restaurant open and we were the only customers. The food was good and unusual but “the best” I am not sure.

Boat maintenance

Boat maintenance

That night we spent in another deserted bay on Poliaigos although it is encouraging to still see a few boats sailing. Next morning we sailed for Folegandros where we had a long walk up to the Chora rewarded by some very pretty streets and squares and a wonderful little tranquil tavern where we did finally have the best food, though simple, with grilled octopus and zucchini balls.

Kim about to enjoy her best meal....

Kim about to enjoy her best meal….

.... and here it is (I think you had to be there!!!)

…. and here it is (I think you had to be there!!!)

The next few days are a bit of a blur of islands. Each one has its own character and features but they are mostly barren and rocky with one or two small fishing harbours and a few bays.

Cyclades view

Cyclades view

Funny bunny rock in the sunset

Funny bunny rock in the sunset

Pot

Pot

IMG_2281 Sikinos, Ios, Iraklia, Skhoinousa and finally Naxos our 50th Greek island. We celebrated by hiring a car for the day and driving around the island. Our island drives are usually fairly intense, leaving quite early and stopping only for the most interesting views, ruins or tavernas and getting back at last light exhausted but with a really good idea of the island. That night we went a guitar concert in a very small ancient (800 years) room, part of the Venetian castle, and enjoyed two hours of fabulous music and free wine tasting.

Walking back to Polo

Walking back to Polo

From Naxos we had just one last stop in Ikaria

Ikaria harbour

Ikaria harbour

before arriving back in our beloved Samos where we will spend the next few days doing yet more exploring and meeting friends, old and new, before the last 20 miles of sailing to Kusadasi where we will be leaving Polo for the winter.

It has been another glorious year of sailing with friends and family, adventure, exploration, moments of danger and excitement and wonder. We never forget just how lucky we are to be able to do this and hope we will be able to share some of it with you

The final sunrise for this year

The final sunrise for this year

in the years to come.

Crete to Kythira

15 Oct
Sun, even if it is beind the clouds. There wasn't much this week!

Sun, even if it is beind the clouds. There wasn’t much this week!

Having said goodbye to Nick and Tim we had two days alone and to get to Heraklion to collect Granny (my mother) and James (my brother). We slowly sailed along the coast and arrived in Heraklion  where we tied up against a high and difficult wall and were soon joined by ‘Higgens’, who we had buddy sailed with a few days before.

Granny and James arrived late at night and the next morning we set off for Knossos, the famous Minoan ruins, which unfortunately were not very interesting, and the archaeological museum which was wonderful.

Knossos rebuilt

Knossos rebuilt

That night we anchored in a remote bay and after supper Kim and James decided they would go for a night sail. I sort of left them to it to see what would happen, and under Kim’s guidance they sailed on until about 03.00 to another bay called Bali with no nasty incidences.

Granny takes a swim

Granny takes a swim

Granny sunbathing in her cardigan

Granny sunbathing in her cardigan

From here we sailed to Rethimnon where we arrived after dark and anchored off the beach. After a fairly uncomfortable night we woke to find Polo was in the breaking waves not far from the beach and lurching about alarmingly so we went into the harbour and tied up.

Brothers in Polo orange

Brothers in Polo orange

Another Polo birthday breakfast.

Another Polo birthday breakfast.

Fortunately Rethimnon was a beautiful town as we were stuck here for a couple of days as the wind was too strong to leave and the weather was overcast and with some rain. We managed to explore the castle, have some wonderful meals and walk the Myloi Gorge ending at the hippy café and cave house.

Gorge (ous) Crete

Gorge (ous) Crete

Walking the gorge

Walking the gorge

Hippy cave house

Hippy cave house

Deciding to brave the weather we sailed again for Chania which was about 35 miles but with good winds it was straight forward and we arrived in time to tie up in the last place in town and go exploring

Is that the Queen on Polo?

Is that the Queen on Polo?

The noisiest bar in Chania as seen from Polo

The noisiest bar in Chania as seen from Polo

. Chania is absolutely delightful and by far the loveliest town we saw in Crete, so when Granny and James left the next day we decided to stay and hire a car for the day.

We drove for 10 hours and explored all we could of the West of the island seeing some amazing beaches, ruins, olive orchards and fabulous gorges. Crete is now a contender with Samos as our favourite Greek island.

Beautiful Crete

Beautiful Crete

More beautiful Crete

More beautiful Crete

The next day we left early for Kythira which was 70 miles away. We expected to overnight on Antikythira but the winds didn’t take us there so we sailed into the night seeing the most wonderful star filled sky with the Milky Way stretching across the whole sky. After 23 hours of sailing we arrived in Kapsali on the southern tip of Kythira and after a days rest and walk up to the Chora

Kapsali, Kythira from the Chora

Kapsali, Kythira from the Chora

we were joined by our friends from the island, Clive and Petros, who we had met last year, and they sailed with us back to their local bay Agia Pelagia.

A seafood feast harvested by Pedros

A seafood feast harvested by Pedros

Clive, Pedros and the Polo crew....

Clive, Pedros and the Polo crew….

.... Oh yes and Stumpy too!

…. Oh yes and Stumpy too!

We spent the next two days on the island making new friends and exploring and took a day sail over to Elefonisos Island to the most beautiful beach which we had missed when we were in the area last year.

Boys, boys, boys

Boys, boys, boys

With high winds forecast for two days time and with nowhere to hide Polo on Kythira we are leaving in the morning for Milos on our way back through the Cyclades to our planned winter berth in Kusadasi.

This weeks sunset

This weeks sunset

Rhodes to Crete

26 Sep
Sunrise

Sunrise

After a long and arduous journey of late flights we met up with Nick and Tim at the wrong gate in Rhodes. Apparently there are many and at least two called Arsenal Gate.

Something else to celebrate!

Something else to celebrate!

A very Polo scene

A very Polo scene

After a brief look round the old city in the morning we set off for Lindos, about half way down Rhodes island, which had been recommended by Loudon. With light winds, mostly on the nose, it was a gentle sail and we only motored the last couple of miles, to anchor in crystal clear water under the ancient Acropolis. In the morning, Kim claiming fatigue, Nick, Tim and I walked up to the ruins for our moment of culture, arriving in the nick of time as, although it was already busy at 9.00 when we were told it opened, by the time we left there was a queue disappearing towards the town. There were some fine views but much of the old stonework had been destroyed by some well-meaning Italians.

Lovely view of Lindos and Polo

Lovely view of Lindos and Polo

A couple of relics

A couple of relics

87

The next day we had another gentle sail down to the tip of the Island where we expected nothing and found an enormous sandy beach with windsurfers and canoeists, a small super market and some bars. A lovely spot. Our next stop was Karpathos, 33 miles sailed, where Kim tried to adopt a puppy

Kim dog snatching

Kim dog snatching

A naughty yogurt in Karpathos

A naughty yogurt in Karpathos

and Tim had a close encounter with a pussy.

Having looked carefully at the weather forecast, and seeing that there was to be some violent weather on the day after we decided it was important to sail all the rest of the way to Crete (76miles sailed) the next day and with a freshening breeze we past Kassos, the last island before Crete, and the wind picked up to a healthy 25knots and we flew for the first 20 miles. We could see some lightning up ahead but having studied the forecast I was confident that it would not affect us. The wind dropped and we shook out one of the reefs in the mainsail and watched the storm in the distance. “Looks like it might rain” says Tim and a few moments later all hell broke loose! The wind was suddenly blowing at 30 knots and it was pouring with rain. We turned Polo face the wind and got the jib in by which time the wind was registering force 8 and I realised we would have to get the main down or risk tearing it, so with Tim on the helm and Kim on the halyard I braved it as far as the mast to get the sail down and secure. It was about then that I saw the spinnaker was unfurling and was about to launch itself into the now force 9 winds, gusting 50 miles an hour. I ran for the halyard which was beautifully hanked but not ready to release so throwing the mess of rope to Nick I ran to the bow and flung myself onto the spinnaker and lay holding on for dear life as the waves broke over me and Nick untangled the rope and I could secure the sail as best I could with a sheet end.

As it was too stormy to think about taking photos here is one of what it felt like...

As it was too stormy to think about taking photos here is one of what it felt like…

At last with all secure but the wind still gusting 50 knots someone suggested that it might be a good idea to put on a life jacket. Better late than never! Slowly the wind died and we motored in to Sitia and tied up securely ready for the storm the next day which it seems had come a day early.

William, Ollie and Milly from Higgens

William, Ollie and Milly from Higgens

105

We had a relaxing day in Sitia and then sailed to Spinalonga,

Early morning in the lagoon

Early morning in the lagoon

Spinalonga fort

Spinalonga fort

a tranquil lagoon with a Venetian fort in the entrance which had been used as a leper colony made famous by the book “The Island”.

Sadly Nick and Tim left the next morning but we had certainly given them the excitement Tim had been looking for in the worst storm we had experienced to date!

Sunset

Sunset

Last post on Polo

Last post on Polo

Wedding Anniversary

16 Sep

In August last year we had Jilly And Peter on board for Liz’s party in Cephalonia. We mentioned that we would be in Turkey this year and they suggested that we meet them in Gumusluk for their 10th wedding anniversary on 10th September. The whole of this year has been planned around that one event which took place this week.

We arrived back at Marmaris from England to find Polo clean and ready to go so we got in a few provisions and set off to discover that the wind vane that we had spent a lot repairing was not working, so having returned to port and had it fixed we set off to meet Jilly and Peter in Symi.

Perfectly matched for a perfect sea

Perfectly matched for a perfect sea

After a leisurely breakfast we sailed off together to Knidos where we had last been with Jane and Jono, arriving at dusk. After an failed attempt to anchor we tried again and thought it was successful until about 22.00 in the dark there was a sudden bump and we realised we had slipped back onto the (Roman) rocks. With quick thinking and some luck we were able to drive straight off and reset the anchor, this time correctly.

With no further troubles we left for Gumusluk but decided to visit the Greek Island of Pserimos instead and spent a lovely night there in a harbour that has probably not changed much since 1960.

Goats guarding Pserimos

Goats guarding Pserimos

New shorts for the boys

New shorts for the boys

Jilly and Peter posing un the gennaker

Jilly and Peter posing un the gennaker

The following day we finally made it to Gumusluk and met up with Carol, actress and interior designer, who had been Jilly’s “Maid of Dishonour” at the wedding 10 years previously.

The evening was wonderful.

Gumusluk (the chapel is the domed roof)

Gumusluk (the chapel is the domed roof)

IMG_1598

All dressed for the anniversary evening

All dressed for the anniversary evening

We started with champagne on board and then went up to the chapel where the ceremony had taken place

Bride, groom and maid of dishonour

Bride, groom and maid of dishonour

Reliving the ceremony

Reliving the ceremony

to meet the owner, have a look around and drink vodka orange being serenaded by the quietest singer of miserable songs we have ever heard. Then a quiet supper at the waters edge

Gourds lighting the anniversary supper

Gourds lighting the anniversary supper

and back to the boat for a nightcap and some star gazing.

The next few days were spent sailing to what we thought was Mazi but wasn’t, on to Cokertme ,

Crazy girls practicing for the rapping

Crazy girls practicing for the rapping

All dressed up again

All dressed up again

Kim (!) and Carol snorkelling

Kim (!) and Carol snorkelling

and back for a delicious prawn pasta on the Black Isle outside Bodrum where we had a white evening of crazy rap recording for Rocca

All in white will wait around

All in white will wait around

IMG_1711

 

Skipper and first mate get cuddly

Skipper and first mate get cuddly

dancing to our percussion instruments and planning our complicated getaway from Turkey. The problem was very similar to our getting out of Montenegro in that the wrong people were in the wrong countries and none of them were on the Polo crew list.

In the event the check out went without a hitch and we even got our depth gauge fixed, before a final farewell to Gumusluk and a sail over to Kos to say goodbye to Jilly, Peter and Carol.

Jilly at the helm (as she was most of the week)

Jilly at the helm (as she was most of the week)

During the week we spent in the area we had seen very few signs of migrants. The occasional life jacket and a damaged inflatable which we just hoped were from successful attempts, and a lone young man on  a hired canoe with a snorkelling mask paddling his way towards Kos. The weather was calm and he seemed to be making good progress.

In Kos things were different and there were migrants everywhere. We had brought a couple of bags of clothes that we left at the police station before setting sail for Tilos and then Rhodes where we are now preparing for our next guests who arrive tomorrow.

Bodrum to Gocek

10 Sep

Rather belatedly comes the last part of our voyage in July before returning home for our August break.

Ruins, friends, water, Polo, sunshine - perfection!

Ruins, friends, water, Polo, sunshine – perfection!

Celebrating Old Friends

Celebrating Old Friends

After a noisy night in the bay outside Bodrum with music and lasers all night we collected Jane and Jono and headed straight out for some quiet and culture in Knidos, a fun and fast sail of about 20miles, where the old Roman city surrounds the bay.

Our next stop was Rhodes where again we took in the sights of the old town

Rhodes

Rhodes

and Jono began his film making career as well as showing his acting skills from the battlements.

Jono being Jono

Jono being Jono

Breakfast in Rhodes

Breakfast in Rhodes

The city was wonderful, not too perfect, but steeped with history. 215 216 221Daily life on Polo

The next day we had a fast and furious sail the 30 miles back to Turkey to the entrance to Fethiye Bay where we tried in vain to fix the winch, taking Polo right up to the beach on a stern anchor, and stretching out the anchor chain.

Polo on the beach

Polo on the beach

The numerous bays, inlets and islands around Gocek and Fethiye are some of the most beautiful we have seen. We rested (a little) swam (a lot) and bought fish from a passing fishing boat.

Buying fish.....

Buying fish…..

.....and eating it.

…..and eating it.

It was in Gocek that Jane and Charlie joined us.

We went for a night out in Fethiye and had a memorable meal served by the crazy son of the owner accompanied by a loud fanfare, flames and some strange costumes and where an industrious boy came round and guessed our weight.226

See what I mean about crazy!

See what I mean about crazy!

All dressed up

All dressed up

We said goodbye to Jane and Jono and headed for wall bay where we ate on a table on the beach, looking out over the bay to Polo, which is the scene immortalised in a jigsaw puzzle given to us by Jane and Charlie which will feature in a future blog when we have finished it.

Relaxing.....

Relaxing…..

....and playing in Wall Bay

….and playing in Wall Bay

We then sailed back west to Ekincik Limani, the setting off point for boats into the wetlands of Dalyan. We spent a wonderful day exploring Roman ruins,

Old Ruins

Old Ruins

seeing the amazing rock tombs on the Dalyan River, eating omelettes while feeding the river fish and turtle spotting.

more old ruins

more old ruins

not old ruins

not old ruins

yet more old ruins

yet more old ruins

We sent Jane and Charlie off in a taxi and after a day of rest alone on Polo we sailed slowly west to Marmaris where we cleaned Polo and met Cinar, our local fixer and friend of Greg, who looked after Polo while we went home for August.231

Dodecanese Islands

13 Jul

The last instalment left us back on Samos where we spent more time exploring the island, including getting completely lost in a maze of tracks where Kim was sure we would die, if not from thirst then driving off one of the steep ravines. We also spent some pleasant relaxing hours back in Bar Goal! watching Wimbledon until, by chance, I looked back at Polo to see she had slipped her anchor and was heading for the rocks. Having just finished one of Eva’s special orange cakes with ice cream and Chantilly the sprint around the harbour was particularly hard but both Kim and I dropped everything and made Polo in time to save her. This was our first anchor failure since year one with Jane and Jono when Kim exposed herself to a boat full of Germans. But I digress.

New friends arrive

New friends arrive

We sailed back to Kusadasi to collect our next guests, Nick, Anne, Nicola and Gyr, where we saw our first evidence of refugees crowding the quayside under the watchful eye of the coast guard, and I got my repaired phone back from Mustafa.

Syrians waiting to get to Holland  apparantly

Syrians waiting to get to Holland apparantly

We agreed to avoid the coast of Turkey and stick to the Greek islands on our way south to Bodrum so set sail immediately for Samos, back to Pithagorio as it is in the south of the island and on the way. Thankfully the owner of the restaurant that Ann chose did not recognise me as the owner of the catamaran that the police had been called to last time as we were judged too close to the beach.

The next stop was Agothonisi where we stopped for lunch in a beautiful secluded bay with clear water

Nick clings to his favourite shoes

Nick clings to his favourite shoes

and Nick, Kim and Anne swam ashore with their shoes in a not very waterproof bag for a walk up to the ubiquitous chapel and a look at some goats. Nicola had kindly brought some watercolour paints for Kim so the three girls spent many hours over the next few days being arty interspersed with organised Yoga.

Donutting on stolen tubes

Donutting on stolen tubes

152c

The lunch stop the next day, recommended by some yachties we met in Kokkari, was on Lipsi where the water was the clearest aquamarine

The finest aquamarine....

The finest aquamarine….

...and Nicola and Gyr enjoying it.

…and Nicola and Gyr enjoying it.

we have ever seen so we spent a few hours swimming and eating (we are back on Guest menu of three meals a day) before setting of for Pandeli on Leros where we were to spend the night. We arrived in Pandeli in good time and having given full, clear instructions to my crew they set off in the dinghy to attach some shore lines. I believe there are other versions to this story but from our place on Polo we watched for 45 minutes while Gyr, Nick and finally Nicola who swam out with instructions (they clearly had not listened the first time) fiddled about with bits of rope while the large fleet of yachts safely anchored around looked on in amusement.

Fiddling about

Fiddling about

Anyway we finally enjoyed another wonderful meal ashore and had a relaxed morning the next day with a walk up to some windmills with the coolest café and a castle with the coolest Greek widow caring for it who joined us for the walk down.

Cool café with view

Cool café with view

Windmills

Windmills

163

Next stop was Vathi on Kalimnos which is a natural inlet with steep sides, almost invisible from the sea, that opens out to a narrow but beautiful harbour where we tied to a quay, bought sponges that are still dived for there, ate another wonderful meal and filled the water tanks, all for a mooring fee of 8 euros!

We set off very early the next morning to avoid rough sea which was due as the wind built later in the day, and arrived in Gumusluk, Turkey, within a couple of hours where we have remained ever since. The unshaven boys headed for the barber for a cutthroat shave209  and some ear burning then, with squid from an old couple on the quay in Vathi

Preparing squid

Preparing squid

and prawns from the fish market in Gumusluk, Kim and Gyr went to town and spent a few happy hours together preparing the most glorious lunch.

Chefs having fun

Chefs having fun

So we said another sad farewell and, after a couple of days for recovery, we will head the final few miles to Bodrum to collect our next guests.187 148

Sailing into the sunrise

Sailing into the sunrise