Posts Tagged With: Sailing

San Juan 4th of July Getaway

We set sail from Anacortes and left Fidalgo Island in our wake as we sliced through calm cold waters of the San Juan Islands upon the good ship Pangaea.  We adjusted our sailes and pointed our compass towards Deer Harbor on Orcas Island. It was July 3rd, 2017 and we had heard fireworks would come early to Deer Harbor. Since it was our anniversary we thought it a fun way to celebrate the occasion.

By midafternoon we had dropped anchor in Deer Harbor on a beautifully sunny and unexpectedly warm Pacific Northwest day and with ample time to row ashore and explore the small marina, parks, and businesses nearby.

The evening sun ushered in dinner aboard, with ample wine, and evening games played as we awaited darkness enough to enjoy the fireworks. Sure enough, that evening produced a good old-fashioned small town fireworks display from a barge in the harbor that didn’t disappoint.

Having celebrated ‘Merican Independence a day early, we considered perhaps the best way to celebrate our independence on the 4th would be to head to the decidedly independent (and quiet) Stuart Island. Stuart Island sits at the footsteps of Canada, just across Boundary Pass and the Haro Strait and has a long tradition of independently minded characters who have populated it.

We sailed into Prevost Harbor and were lucky enough to find a space at the Stuart Island Marine State Park dock. This gave us the convenience of being able to easily disembark to explore Prevost Harbor by kayak before exploring Stuart Island by foot. In doing so, we quickly discovered the treasure chests of Stuart Island where for a small contribution we secured ourselves some pirate’s booty.

Near the first chest and atop the hill at the end of Reid Harbor Road is the original one-room schoolhouse (now the Teacherage Museum) and the current schoolhouse which still functions as the only school for the few young residents of Stuart Island.

Follow the signs as you continue upon Reid Harbor Road another half mile or so and you’ll come to Turn Point Road where yet another half mile will bring you to Turn Point Lighthouse.

We brought a picnic lunch with us and ate at a small table outside the historic 1893 home of lighthouse keeper Edward Durgan before touring the building. After the tour, we visited the small museum in the lighthouse itself whereupon we learned the history of nearby Suicide Bluff before spotting a majestic pod of Orcas rippling by.

We hiked back to our boat and upon the way had a random chance encounter with a colleague from California who just happened to be kayaking the San Juans for holiday. Drinks and dinner ensued. It was a perfect moment of synchronicity to punctuate an otherwise already perfect day.

The next day we sailed to Lopez Island and Spencer’s Spit State Park where we knew some friends would be camping for the holiday weekend. We hoped to catch up with them. We were lucky to see several seals and seals as well as favorable winds enough to set a spinnaker on our way.

We dropped anchor just north of the spit between Frost Island and Lopez. As we rowed ashore we saw our friends camped along the beach. They sent hoards of teens out to greet us and we sent libations and snacks ashore with them. The result was a fun-filled evening of a campfire, camaraderie, Jiffy Pop and so much S’more.

 

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Return to Skiathos Town

On Friday we spent our last day on the boat swimming and sunning ourselves on the beach of Troulos Bay before heading back to Skiathos Town to return our boat. It was a short trip but gave us time to think about all the great experiences we’ve had over the past two weeks sailing in the Sporades.

We had one last nice meal at a great little seafood restaurant in Skiathos Town and walked the streets on the solstice until late into the night.

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To the people of the Sporades thank you for taking care of us on our trip. And to all the stray cats – even the surly ones – we hope you all find loving homes, and if not, may you find a little piece of fish or squid passed to you under the table by sympathetic tourists.

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Koukounaries Beach and Trolous Bay

We anchored at famous Koukounaries Bay. Its said to be the nicest beach in Greece, but also voted one of the top 7 beaches in the world. The sand is like gold flecked talcum powder – very fine sand but with flecks that sparkle gold in the sun. Its a shallow gradual beach so the water is warm. It fronts a lagoon with a wildlife sanctuary behind it.
We went ashore and although we were early in the season the beach was still pretty busy. Tawny, Clara and I bought an umbrella and 3 chairs to rent in front of Kahlua Taverna and sat in the sun, swam, read, drank beers, ate lunch, relaxed, and enjoyed the people watching. Unlike the rest of the Sporades reachable by boat filled with French and Germans, this beach reached by plane and ferry seemed to have been populated by Russian tour packages.

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In the afternoon tour boats from Skiathos Town started coming in and the beach filled in by the hundreds. Although we were enjoying the people watching others wanted to head to a little bay around the corner for the night. So we went back to the boat and navigated the dangerous shoal Vrak Marines to Troulos Beach and found ourselves the only boats (except for 1 Greek fishing boat) in the bay. We could still see the mega-yacht Al Mirqab. It was our warmest swimming area yet. Clara went ashore and tried a paddle board (but it was really an unstable surf board so the very nice beach rental people refused to take payment for it.)

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We went ashore that night for dinner at Troulos Taverna. Food was good and we had breem (a delicate white fish) for the first time. The taverna had a cute little kitten that Clara was very smitten with. As the evening wore on and the wine and ouzo was poured it deteriorated into dancing with the wait staff. A fine evening.

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Mega-Yacht Al Mirqab

Thursday, about 5 am, the wind starting blowing hard and shifted direction blowing us into the rocks. The anchors were holding but our stern ties became useless. We worried that our anchors may get tangled since we were rafted together and had 3 anchors out. By 6am we were looking for an exit strategy. We got the boats and shore lines untangled and by 7am or so we were headed to Skiathos and famous Koukounaries Bay. Its been said this is the nicest beach in Greece, but also voted one of the top 7 beaches in the world. The sand is said to be like gold flecked talcum powder.
As we approached I thought I saw a ship in the area we were heading. I bet it was a luxury private yacht and was right. It was the ship Al Mirqab the 10th largest private ship in the world owned by the Prime Minister of Qatar. It has its own Wikipedia entry. Its a beautiful looking yacht if you can get past the enormous wealth it represents. It cost some 700 Million British Pounds (that’s just over $1 Billion!)
Unbelievable amount of toys they put out for their guests (ski boat, parasail, water polo floating court, 6 skidoos (in the water and more inside the yacht, kyaks, etc.) The back of the yacht included 2 escalators to bring you back up to the lido deck from the waterline. It dominated the space but provided an interesting discussion for us.

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Categories: Greece | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Return to Panormous

Wednesday we had a lazy morning of reading, swimming and generally lounging around in Stafolos. We were in no hurry to leave or arrive at a new destination. Relaxation is the order of things for the next few days. We eventually left for Panormous where we had previously anchored on Skopelos. We rafted all 3 boats together in an area of the bay where we could optimize 270 degrees that evening. Tawny, Clara and I went ashore to BLO taverna and had lunch of souvlaki, spaghetti carbonara, cool sherbet and spent our day swimming on beach, reading books, and relaxing. Its an interesting gravel beach with a very gradual but deep slope into the bay making for an excellent swimming area. We had happy hour on boats and then Judy, Tawny, and I went back to BLO to get their excellent bacon wrapped souvlaki and bring it back to the boat for dinner aboard. The sunset was spectacular.

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Stafylos Bay

It took us a little over 7 hours to reach very pretty Stafylos Bay from Skyros. Stafylos Bay features crystal clear waters of a protected bay surrounded by rugged and red cliffs with a sandy swimming beach and beach taverna in the center. Its fronted by a large headland (Stafylos Cape I believe) upon which a King (Minoan I believe) had established his castle and a city here at one time. There’s a huge cave under the headland in the entrance to the bay. There was also a later tomb found on the headland complete with treasures such as a gold hilted sword from the 15th century which now sits in the national antiquities museum in Athens. Here we had our best snorkeling and a nice meal at the cliff taverna with perhaps the sweetest feral cat we’d ever met.

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Skiros & Linaria & George

Sunday (Father’s Day) we headed for the Skyros about 20-30nm away. We got an early start. Again there was no wind so we had to motor to Skyros instead of sail. It was still several hours before the island began to take shape before us. We decided to use the Valaxa Strait which would remove 6nm from our trip. Valaxa Strait is a very shallow and narrow passageway between Valaxa Island and Skyros that opens into Kalamitsa Gulf and Linaria Bay (the fishing town we’d spend the next few days). Much of the depths in the Valaxa Strait are only around 3 meters (we draw a little of 2 meters with our keel). But there is a sweet spot in the middle of about 5m deep. We posted watches on the bow and the water being so clear it was easier than anticipated to maneuver the boat through.

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Linaria is a pretty little town with white washed cubist homes on the hill and a white and blue church on the point of the bay that welcomed us. The port is very small but very nice as they recently upgraded to lazy lines (pre-set anchor lines) so we had no need to drop an anchor for stern tie Mediterranean moorage style. There is also a port manager (George) who took care to help moor our boat and took care of all our needs; “You need shower? I have shower for you. Free internet, free water, free electric hookup, my boys will find bike and ride bike and swim with your daughter. You want to see Skyrian horse? I have friend. I call taxi for you. I rent you motorcycle. Eat here, best place in town. Your daughter like dog? We have English Sheep Dog. Anything you need, you find me, I’m always here”.

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George told us about a place to get a drink up on the hill that looks back on Linaria. “Favorite place in all of Aegean”. And he was right. Great place to watch the sun set and get a drink. So we did. George was great. He delivered on all his promises and our petty demands. He and his wife were very sweet and really tried hard to make Clara feel at home. Then later that night we invited George and his wife Angela to have a glass of wine with us and thanked them for their help. We loved Linaria and Skyros. We’ll certainly be back again.

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George, Angela, Linaria! Cheers! Stin Iyia Sas!

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Linaria Meal

Linaria is a pretty little town with white washed cubist homes on the hill and a white and blue church on the point of the bay welcoming you to the harbor.

We had a fabulous meal and evening from the restaurant directly across from our moored boat. We sat outside for several hours to enjoy a leisurely meal and enjoyed the simple pace of very relaxed Linaria. Posted here are images of that meal and evening.

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Hiking Skyros Town – Home of Achilles

Monday we hired a taxi and went to Skiros Town (also known as Chora or Hora). Its a beautiful cubist style town perched upon a cliff overlooking the sea on the windward side of the island. The town has an interesting history. It has a prominent castle on the top of the mountain that used to be an acropolis and was converted into a monastery of St. George. It was under construction due to damage from an earthquake when we were there so we couldn’t go inside but we did walk the winding streets up through the town, over rooftops and small alleyways built atop each other so we could see the view from the top. It was spectacular.

World’s Collide! Its a blog-cross over event. See: Cult of Achilles . Legend says that Skiros Town (Hora) is where Thetis hid her son Achilles in order to thwart the prophecy that only he could help win the Trojan war but would also die there. She dressed him as a girl and he was brought up as one of King Lykomides’ daughters. However, Ulysses was able to discover him living there and took him to Troy and victory as well as his demise. Traveling here was a pilgrimage of sorts for me to see the home of Achilles after having recovered from severing my Achilles’ tendon last year.
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Sailing with Dolphins

Tuesday we left Skiros by 8:45 in the morning for he 38 nautical mile sail to Stafylos Bay back on Skopelos. The day was hot and uneventful with wind finally building enough that we could sail for a few hours. The highlight was seeing a school of dolphin headed south cross us as we headed west. They took a slight detour and came to play for a few minutes in our bow wave.

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Soon after I spotted something that looked like a sailfish breaching the water. I saw it twice with others spotting once. It was confirmed by Jim (who was sailing far ahead of us) that they thought they spotted what they believed was a sailfish breaching the water as well. 7 or so hours later we arrived in a very pretty Stafylos Bay. Clear waters. Cliffs. Ample anchorage. A beach with umbrellas and a local taverna provided us places to snorkel, swim, eat, and sun ourselves.

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