We are back in Australia for 6 months to enjoy the summer down under. So where did we leave ITIKI? Well we have left our beloved in the very capable hands of the Karpathakis family at Artemis Leros Boatyard on the northern end of the island of Leros. This small island is part of the Dodecanese group in the eastern Aegean. There is no marina here so all of the boat storage is on the hardstand which is what we wanted this year. It is easier on the boat especially as we are not on board to keep an eye on mooring lines etc. We are also in need of an anti-fouling after a season of heavy growth and hard bottom scrubbing.
The boatyard is a family run business which has become very popular with Aussies and Kiwis and came highly recommended - ITIKI is one of 22 cats lined up in the yard now! Everyone here has been super helpful in organising our stay, receiving the many parcels that we have arranged and scheduling the maintenance work needed over the winter break. As you can see in the video below a great deal of preparation and care goes into ensuring everything is set just right for the lift out process, nothing is left to "luck"! A truly professional team.
Our winterising process this year was pretty similar to last year although this time we divided our list of tasks between those we would do "on the water" and those we would to "on the hard" [Here is this year's winterising checklist] . We decided to wash, dry and stow our sails (with the newly acquired pressure washer) and our desal whilst still on the water. Also did the rig check on-water as this is not permitted on the hardstand, unless you hire a cherry picker!
You are permitted to stay on the boat on the hardstand, but as you can imagine that requires a some forward planning. It was a very strange feeling being on board, walking around on a boat which up so high but also completely still. For the first 24 hrs on land my brain was still convinced we were moving! As ITIKI is up on blocks we access the boat by a step ladder at the transom. This access point needs to be made cat-proof at night, as we learned after finding some footprints of our furry friends on board one morning. Showers and toilets are available nearby as it is not feasible to use the ones on board. At night time a bucket comes in handy if you dont want to negotiate the ladder in the dark. Water and electricity is available to connect to, just as in a marina, however grey water needs to be managed as it cant just go overboard onto the ground. Hoses connected to the outlets make this easier, as you inevitably forget where you are and turn on the tap. If you are preparing food on board you can rely on the roving pack of hungry goats to come by each day to take care of your food scraps for you. There is also a communal BBQ area which is great for farewell parties!
Once we were out of the water, servicing the engines was quite a different process as you don't have access to saltwater cooling when running the engines. We left this to the professionals, as we also need a prop replacement, but the processes involves using hoses for freshwater cooling followed by a rinse in anti-freeze (for winterising) - they won't be put to use until we go back in the water. Some boats leave their anchor and chain on the ground to take the weight out of the bow. This probably makes more sense for a mono where the anchor-well area is normally supported by the water, less so on a cat. Even though the security at Artemis is top notch we decided to return our lovely, shiny Ultra to the anchor-well after washing and drying everything. As per previous year we filled our water tanks (with desal) and diesel tanks to minimise the airspace, limiting potential for bacterial growth. We emptied and cleaned the black-water tanks before lifting out, leaving them dry. We have also filled or covered every hole or gap that might look like a potential home to insects or birds, as well as removing or covering deck fittings and turning blocks to keep the dust out. Of course there was alot of cleaning. I lost track of how many times we washed the boat down, and we cleaned every little nook and cranny! We even removed the transom bumpers to clean out 12 months of accumulated, multi-national slime!
We spent our final 5 nights in a beach-front AirBnB a short drive from the boatyard, and it was good to finish up at the end of the day and walk away, not having to pack up unfinished jobs and climb over stuff to cook a meal. It also meant we had a set time to stop rather than continuing on into the night and wearing ourselves out even more. It was handy to have a rental car during this time too and we did give ourselves a break for a day to explore Leros island a little more. When we were done we could drive ourselves to the ferry port to take the overnight ferry to Piraeus (Athens). Of course we will be doing the whole process in reverse when we head back in the new year to start all over again.
Check out the video below to follow our lift out, which occurred in the middle of the last Wallabies World Cup game (probably a good thing)...
Due west of the small island of Symi lies the even smaller island of Nisyros. This gem of an island is not to be missed and as it is on the way to Leros, why not. We have some more northerlies on the way but there is a small weather window and that is enough for a flying visit to this amazing island. Despite its size, it is jam packed with stuff to see! After an early start motoring from Symi we arrive in the middle of the day and have our pick of spots in the near empty Pali harbour. After a spot of lunch we pick up a hire car from Eagles nest, and we are given a laminated card with step by step instructions on what to see and how to get there. We follow this religiously...
After leaving Gocek bay we had one more overnight stop just outside the headland, and a little further west from Ragged bay where we stayed on the way in. This was really just to shorten the trip to Ekincek and make it a little easier on our VIP guests, my mum and brother Michael. This bay has the unlikely name of Kukukaga Koyu and is shallow enough to swing anchor which is a real bonus, as I am so over swimming lines ashore. As boats left we repositioned ourselves but sadly the music got louder and louder on one of the gulets (they were there before us). Keith went over to see if they were staying the night and as they were, and expected to be kicking on until the wee hours, we moved around the corner to Buyukaga Koyu. That meant swimming lines ashore at dusk but it is just as nice a bay and very quiet. Such a shame that one boat can completely ruin a beautiful place with noise pollution.
When we set about planning season 2019, we still had a few question marks about our route and timing. Our winterising location was also yet to be chosen, however we had decided we wanted ITIKI to spend her winter on dry land, which is much easier on the boat. With friends and family wanting to join us in September we had to take a guess where we would be wintering and on balance thought it would probably be in Turkey at Marmaris. So a trip to Turkey was pencilled in towards the end of the season. As it turned the island of Leros in Greece was finally chosen as the place to go for winter, fortunately not too far from our cruising grounds in Turkey.
Having reached Artemis Boatyard on the island of Leros, eastern Cyclades, and survived our dance with the Meltemi, we can relax a little. The wind has backed off for the moment and it seems to be less intense closer to the Turkish coast (although it hasn’t finished with us yet…) We have covered a few of the 6000+ Greek islands but we don’t feel like we have seen much ashore, as the priority has been ducking for cover and getting to Leros. We barely had time to read about what we were missing in the guide book! Now we have a good week ahead to catch our breath and slow down and run south with the prevailing wind.
Now we are in the Aegean in the middle of Meltemi season. This means our journey across the northern Aegean for a pit stop at our winter port (the island of Leros), and down south to Turkey, will be at the mercy of these winds. They will very much dictate where and when we stay and what anchorages we choose. No point planning too far ahead or having a timetable to be somewhere.
For those of you who know Keith and I through our racing experience, you may have been surprised that we bought a catamaran (well two catamarans actually, as ITIKI is our second). For me personally, having always raced monohulls, and chartered them a few times as well, I really didn’t know any different. Keith as you know has dabbled in cats from the early days of racing Hobies, to his more recent dalliance with Adrenalin Rush Sailing (a Nacra 36 based on Hamilton Island) but as far as racing big boats goes, he is still a “mono-man”. The modern cruiser racers and cruising monos are of course very well laid out, spacious and wide and we had been considering the Hanse 40 amongst other options. All of that changed though when Keith did a delivery on a FP Levezzi (precursor to the Lipari) from Adelaide to Sydney. He came back a changed man extolling the virtues of a catamaran for living aboard. We then charted a cat in the Whitsundays for a few days to get a taste of it and I was instantly on the same page. So what’s the big deal? Here are the top 5 reasons why we chose a catamaran for our cruising adventures
We are in a tiny bay in Turkey, between Bozborun and Marmaris. We have seen 2 turtles swimming around and today I managed to join them for a little while. Really magical!
ITIKI is going to take us anti-clockwise around the Peloponnese Peninsula (PP), the 3 fingers that protrude south easterly at the very bottom of the Greek mainland. We cross back to the mainland leaving the Ionian crowds behind. Hopefully we will be back this way again when things are a bit quieter. Our next destination is Katakolon which is a very touristy town, hosting reasonable sized cruise ships who like us, use this as a gateway to visit the Archaeological site of Olympia. We tie up on the town quay for a couple of nights and hire a car to visit Olympia. This is truly an amazing site where the Pan-Hellenic, pre-cursor to the Ancient Olympic games, are said to have originated. Olympia was a major religious sanctuary of ancient Greece. The site was primarily dedicated to Zeus and the ruins of a large Temple of Zeus can still be seen here, not far from the 100m running track... The Pan-Hellenic Games were held every four years throughout Classical antiquity, from the 8th century BC to the 4th century AD. The site itself is quite large and the museum holds some amazing bronze age artefacts so is also well worth a visit.
We managed to peel ourselves away from Preveza, and press on south to go around the Peloponnese peninsula and into the Aegean. Firstly we pass through the Lefkas canal which is actually a car ferry, strategically positioned between two sides of a canal so that it forms a road that cars drive over. On the hour the road closes, the car ferry moves out of the way and lets the boats through. We pass along the narrow canal with beautiful wetlands on one side and a road and marina on the other. A pretty spot and quite a different experience.
Lynda is slowly getting used to the transition from working to not working and racing to cruising.