Thursday morning we woke to mixed weather. A few showers sprinkled with sun breaks. We left Steni Vala and headed up the east side of Alonissos past many caves. One called the Blue Cave (which is said to be deep enough to easily paddle into and explore) and 3 other nearby caves which legend says that a sea monster lives in the third cave and nobody who has ventured into is has ever returned.
As we headed out across Steno Palagonisou (Palagonisou Strait) we could see a storm brewing on the horizon and coming straight for us. The only thing North of us now as we crossed to Nisos Kira Panayia is a great expanse of frothy Aegean. We battened down the hatches, had Clara get her life vest on, put things away down below and braced ourselves for getting windy and wet.
We were very lucky. This storm missed us by meters. We had an 3-4x increase in wind and some raindrops. But nothing like this storm was packing. We skirted it. Afterwards the weather looked much better so we raised sales and headed for the cool blue waters of Kira Panayia Bay. We slipped in behind Pelerissa Rock and dropped sail to find an anchorage in this tranquil bay that featured an old rock wall, an abandoned monastery ruin, a few goats (apparently a breed unique in this world to this island) and an old olive grove. We went ashore and tried to find a trail to the ruins but with no luck. We returned for a day of swimming and I cooked a dinner of penne and chicken with a metaxa (Greek liqueur) cream and made plans for exploring these uninhabited islands of the lesser Sporades.
Wednesday night was wild with wind, thunder and lightning assaulting us us most the night. The Gods clearly still displeased with our further encroachment upon their sacred isles.
At 2am we had to adjust our mooring to ensure we didn’t hit a fishing boat near us. It proved a very restless night but a lazy morning as it was cold and poured rain most of the morning. We waited for a break in the weather before making our own break for Steni Vala further up the eastern side of Alonissos. As we made our break we saw about 8 or 9 other boats coming out of Patiriri that had been holed up there due to weather as well. We assumed they were all heading to the same place, and were correct, because there are few other anchorages in this area. We had an advantage in the race to Steni Vala because Votsi was slightly further North than the main port of Patiriri. As Steni Vala is a tiny port it was important that our 3 boats got their first.
We were far enough ahead to make a quick detour into Kokkinokastro, a beautiful bay were evidence of humans with Stone Age tools dating from 10-30K years B.C. There are some archeological digs you can explore there, but we didn’t have time so we headed out of the bay for Steni Vala.
Steni Vala is a cute little family owned bay with a few small stores and tavernas. We found a good spot right in front of the Ikarus Cafe where we were told to find Kostas, “Who will have answers everything you need to know about the Sporades”. He was easy to find.
After our onboard happy hour we asked Kostas which is the best restaurant to eat at. “This is difficult for me to answer. You see, this is my cousin” (pointing to his left) “And this is my cousin” Pointing to his right. “Any the next one my cousin”. So we rephrased the question. “Where would you eat?”. And he said, “At home with my wife”. So we choose a taverna based on their hand painted menus.
On the way to dinner Judy stopped off at her boat, “Delos” which due to so many problems they’d renamed “Doris”. Stern ties are common in the Aegean but in this particular moorage it was very shallow by the quay so they had to pull anchor out further which wouldn’t allow their gang plank to reach. So Barry had Barry-rigged a bunch of lines to use their dingy as a step to/from the boat. However, one of the ropes to the quay was tied to short so when Judy pushed herself off the quay to glide to over to Doris the dingy stopped suddenly short causing Judy to fall into the harbor.
Just outside the restaurant we saw a local with a jig fishing off the pier. He took one quick throw and pull and had his dinner for the night.
Literally within seconds of dropping anchor in the crowed fishing boat bay of Votsi and rafting our boat “Sonia” along side our friend’s boat “Deep Blue” there was a crack of thunder, bolts of lightning followed by a deluge like non I’d ever seen. We scrambled to batten the hatches and pull in the towels, laundry, Kindles, and iPads.
Tawny and I donned our suits and headed out into the rain with some soap. It had been several days since we had a shower and the rain was so torrential it took the soap off you before you could lather it. The unexpected hail was exfoliating. The thunder and lightning all around us was a bit disconcerting since we were the highest mast in the bay. But the refreshment of a cool shower was worth it. We caught several buckets of the soft rain water from the boat’s dodger to keep for future bathing. On shore we saw flash flooding with torrents of rain coming down the street by the tavernas and waterfalls forming on the cliffs around us.
We sat below for an hour or two waiting for the storm to pass. Eventually it did and Tom, Clara, Tawny, and I ventured out in the dingy to explore the caves nearby the bay. There are so many caves along the shores of the Sporades that after awhile it was so commonplace I stopped photographing them. Many of these caves had been above waterline at one time and have evidence of human inhabitants that dates back to pre-neolithic times.
We went ashore during a sun-break and walked around the bay scoping out tavernas that we may want visit that night. The air was fresh and clean and the bay looked beautiful.
We zeroed in on a cute little taverna built into the hillside that had a great view. It looked like another mom and pop place because we could see in the windows a baby play pen just off the kitchen. We returned to the boat and waited for them to open (many places don’t open until 6 or 7 pm and people really don’t arrive until 9 or 10pm.
The place turned out to be a mom and pop place but with a young couple, an Italian woman and her Greek boyfriend and their baby girl. Her Italian sister and her Greek boyfriend were also part of the restaurant. It was very chic variation on modern Greek and Italian food. Perhaps one of the best meals we’ll have in Greece. It was certainly the best to date. The seared tuna was a hit as was the garbanzo bean salad, the homemade tagliatelle with shrimp, but the best was the gnoci with browned butter.
Wednesday morning we took our boat with Jim, Carol, and Tom and went to the port of Patiriri for the day and met up with Barry and Judy. We hired a 3 taxis who took us to the ancient hilltop town of Patiriri. It was spectacular.
Yes, that donkey was carrying kegs of beer.
We had a late breakfast in the hill top town and again the food was excellent. Clara had a great Greek omelet and Tawny had this divine Greek yoghurt with honey and fruit and the most blissful fig I’ve ever eaten. I had a Mythos beer.
From the top of the hill we could see storms and rain coming. We called for our cabs and quickly returned to the port to get on our boat and return to our anchorage in Votsi.
Tuesday evening we tried to get into the port of Patiriri on the island of Alonnisos but the port was very full so we had to go to the fisherman’s bay northeast of the main town. Although Barry and Judy were able to find a berth in Patiriri on the quay. The fisherman’s bay turned out to be a very protected bay called Votsi that we liked so much we decided to stay in for 2 nights.
We nestled in between small fishing boats and settled in for happy hour.
During our happy hour a man appeared on the cliff above where we were anchored and hailed us. He motioned to his mouth and pointed behind him. We assumed he may have a food truck or something in the parking area above the cliff from what we could see.
We went ashore (about 10 feet in a dingy) and clambered up the path the fishermen had made along the cliff wall. When we got to the top we saw not a food truck but a brand new restaurant – empty. We were early in the season and we were the only tourists staying in Votsi, so we decided we’d eat there for the night. One of the best meals we had in Greece to date! It was fantastic! Literally a mom and pop restaurant as the only two people there. Very new (kitchen looked like it never had a meal cooked in it, bathroom was perhaps the cleanest bathroom I’ve ever seen!)
It was a great meal and we settled back onto the boats with some difficulty even with a 10 foot water crossing late at night and in the dark.
The wind kicked up and there was considerably thunder and lightning again which provided another wild night of anchor watch started about 4am as the rafted boats began to drag. We came very close to the shore and to another fishing boat but were able to tighten the stern ties to the shore and set the anchor to keep the drift to a minimum.
Since last post we sailed from Skopelos Town up the rough Northern Coast of Skopelos to see the Mamma Mia church. Will post more about that later.
We sailed to island of Alonnisos to ports of Patariri and Votsi and on to Steni Vala. We’ve had wild unsettled stormy weather. Thunder, lightning, high winds and torrential rain.
We’ve had great food but spotty cell phone and wifi.
We’ve provisioned in Steni Vala and are heading to the deserted islands of the Lesser Sporades (Peristera, Kira Panayia, and possibly Psathoura and Yioura) We’ll be off the grid for a few days now until we land in Skyros early next week.