Log #27d To Ios and Sifnos

October 9, 2002 in Log Series 20 - 29, Logs by Series, Series 27 Summer in Greece, The Logs

Panormos, Astipalia, Greece
Oct. 9, 2002

Hi  Folks,

I’m getting this log #27d ready now, but may not be able to send it for a few days. We are in this idyllic bay called Ormos Panormos on Astipalia. I would rate it as the best so far! It is on the northwest peninsula of Astipalia, a large bay with several coves, uninhabited, no houses, a few fences and ruins I intend to explore tomorrow and a small chapel in the middle of a field in front of where we are anchored. I have lovely classical music from my CD’s playing out in the cockpit. No one else is around, there are no lights visible, except the stars and a sliver of new moon. The wind is light, the boat securely anchored, Judy is in bed, and I have this glorious night to myself. It is one of those high feelings of satisfaction, contentment, and appreciation of the life we have chosen.

We’ll probably stay here for another night while I explore the chapel and a few of the mountain ravines surrounding the anchorage. Even the afternoon sail over was great as we had the main and spinnaker up, going at hull speed for several hours, with a moderate force 4 wind just abaft the beam, on a clear sunny fall day.

Enjoy the log.

All the best,
Log #27d To Ios and Sifnos

Anchored in a small nameless bay on the east side of Skhinousa
Oct. 8, 2002

After less than an hour going through Akrotiri, we left the site and  bought some nice looking fruit and vegetables from a produce stand in the bus parking lot before returning downhill to Sprite. As it was still early, we got under way by 1115 (Sept. 6) and motored through light breezes 28 miles up to an anchorage at Ormos Kalitzani on Ios. On approaching the southwest coast, the pilot indicated four anchorages east of the port. The most easterly was off a sandy tourist beach complete with beach umbrellas, water sports and bikini clad bodies, some topless. However we didn’t care for the noise and activity so we settled for the deeper cove, Ormos Kalitzani, about 2.5 kilometres from the port. It turned out to be a nudist beach as well, where the bathers had to hike over some hills and down a steep slope to get to the beach. Several of them were camping there with tents or home made “lean-tos”. We enjoyed the scenery, and snorkeling along the rocky edges of the cove, but did not bother going into the beach. The port, Port Ios, was a bit of a tourist village with bus and ferry service, internet access, chandleries, boutiques, and grocery stores. We particularly enjoyed one of the chandlery/hardware stores, a small crowded affair, but the co-operative clerks were able to get some handy incidental things we needed. Ios is know as a party island for young people camping, backpacking and the package tour industry. It also claims to be Homer’s Burial place.

On many of these islands, the port is not the main town. In the hundreds of years of piracy, the towns were settled farther inland, usually on hilltops, making pirate raids more difficult and permitting better defensive positions. The main town often uses the name of the island, and on the island is just referred to as Chora, or Hora. One day we went through the Chora by bus, on our way to a local festival at a monastery on the northeast of the island. We didn’t know what to expect, and had no information other than it was a festival. The information booths in the port and at the tourist beach were not informative, even as to the name of the festival or what it was in honour of. We think the name of the monastery was Moni Kalamou, but do not know what it was for. Our guess is that it was some sort of post-harvest Thanksgiving.

We took the first bus up, arriving at 1930 after an interesting drive across narrow winding mountain roads, to stop on a mountainside overlooking a broad bay on what we think was the northeast coast. We trekked up the hillside on a rocky path to a whitewashed chapel, with a large plaza overlooking the valley. The church was open, and people were milling around a big boiling pot in an open “kitchen” behind the church. None of the locals approached us or seemed to speak any English, and so we spent the night as uninformed observers. Then we found out from one of the other tourists that the church service starting at 2000 was to be at least two hours long, and nothing would start until after that. It lasted at least that long, with off tune chanting most of the time by a couple of men standing near the front, and occasionally some words from the bearded black-frocked priest. We (I) wandered about the hillside for a bit, and sat on concrete benches talking with an English mother and daughter while we waited. The plaza started to fill up while the service was going on. We saw people wandering in and out of the church, buying shish kabob and refreshments from a small kiosk behind the church, and several people involved in the kitchen area with these gigantic boiling cauldrons.

By 2230 the service had ended, and most of the concrete benches and table were filled up with local families. Then a few men came around with sacks of bread (there had been large loaves of bread piled in front of the altar in the church), giving chunks to everybody, followed by others who distributed napkins and spoons, and finally the cauldrons were taken from the fires onto the plaza and hot bean/goat/lamb stew/soup was ladled out into red terracotta bowls and distributed very efficiently to everyone. No ceremony or announcements accompanied this meal. It was getting on to 2330, the time our bus was to return. As we made our way down, a trio of musicians (a balalaika, violin, and another stringed instrument) started playing Greek music, but nobody got up to dance, at least before we left. Perhaps the party was just starting. The procedure I guess would be to show up late and stay even later.

The bus was badly delayed, as on the narrow road below the monastery many cars were parked and others were arriving. One car was parked too far into the roadway and the bus had to wait while someone went up to the church plaza to get the owner to move it. Several tourists had come on motor scooters and were retuning about the same time to the chora or the port. However, we noticed several of the scooters were not powerful enough to take both a driver and a passenger up the steep inclines, and often we saw scooters with the passenger running along behind and in some cases pushing the scooter to help it make the grade.

Back at the port by 0030 we had to take Sprite the 2.5 kilometres through the dark to our bay. There were no lights outside of the flashing light at the entrance to the port’s headland. There was also a fair swell that I had to cope with, and I had to make sure I stayed sufficiently off the headlands as there were shoals awash several hundred metres out. There was no moon, and we could barely make out the silhouette of the crests of the hills. Even the large flashlight we had along was of limited help under these conditions. It is a bit disconcerting being out in open water in a nine foot inflatable at night in unknown waters. However we made it into the right bay, without coming too close to the shoal strewn shores and safely back to Veleda quietly resting on her anchor.

When we left Ios next day, we had an offshore breeze, and so we weighed anchor and departed under sail only. It was nice to carry out this little nautical manœuvre for a change. However the winds were light and we alternated between sailing and motor sailing the 30 miles northwest to Sifnos to anchor in the southwest bay of Ormos Faros. Overlooking the bay, in its traditional white concrete with blue trim, is a dramatic chapel compound on the headland Ak Petalos, featured on many of the postcards of the island.

When I went ashore next morning, I was more interested in climbing up some old ruins of a lower tower linked by a three metre wide wall straight up the incline to another set of ruins at the crest of the hill. Behind it was the traditional small chapel out in the middle of nowhere. I notice that these chapels have not only the sanctuary, but beside it is often another room for a kitchen/meeting room, and a patio, often including concrete benches, overlooking the valley above which it is situated. The Greeks love to build chapels on headlands and hilltops, isolated, but with beautiful views of the water, valleys and mountains. Most are left open, and often have candles floating in oil, with extra wicks and matches to light more. Their chapels do not have seats or pews for the parishioners as other Catholic or Christian churches do. They are ornately decorated with icons, paintings, brass hanging candle holders, and small plain mono-coloured glass windows. I never did learn the purpose of that long wall going up the hill. It was built of solid rocks, and perhaps used as a runway to hoist cargo up or down to the waterside. I am always amazed at the amount of human labour it must have taken to build those stone structures and the miles and miles of rock walls out in the middle of nowhere, and going nowhere. I haven’t seen so many stone walls since the Hebrides in Scotland. They are all over these Aegean islands, including those that are uninhabited. The might keep sheep in, but wouldn’t restrict goats. I guess they were to demarcate ownership??? There is also considerable terracing in evidence, but it seldom supports olive trees, and I haven’t seen any of them with vineyards. They are deserted silent sentinels of bygone eras, from 200 to 2000 years ago, of peoples who lived, worked, and died tending these parched barren rock-strewn fields and mountainsides.

Next day we motored 6 miles around to anchor in Ormos Vathi on the southwest coast, a wide but well sheltered bay with a long stretch of fine sand beach, with several tavernas right on the shores. We like bays with sandy beaches, not so much for the luxury of walking on and swimming on them, or ogling the bikini-clad, or unclad, bodies, but for the fact that sand beaches mean gradually inclined sand bottoms, which provide good holding for the anchor to dig in securely and in shallow water. Anchoring in 10 or 15 feet of water is far easier than in 30 or 40 feet as we have only a manual windlass that is so slow and inefficient that we raise and lower the anchor hand over hand, and use the windlass only as a glorified chain stopper. Our next major purchase, hopefully this winter, will be an electric windlass.

We bought a few supplies from a local store which also permitted us to fill up our 5 gallon water bags to add to our tank water. The tap at the local chapel was inoperative. We have a water maker that makes a gallon an hour, enough to stave off thirst, and extend the use of our 45 gallons Imperial (58 gallons US; 232 litres) of water tankage, but not enough for washing, cleaning, dishes, and cooking for extended periods of time. So we appreciate being able to top up our water tanks when we have the opportunity. We also still drink the water, unfiltered, straight out of our tanks, and have had no problems. The made water is pure, in fact so pure it has no taste, almost like distilled water. At a couple of islands the water was so heavily chlorinated or poor tasting that we drank bottled water until we had used it up out of our tanks. We can use overboard salt water for rinsing dirty dishes and other miscellaneous uses, supplied by a foot pump at the galley sink. I found it amusing that back in Toronto last winter, when I was rinsing dishes prior to washing them, several times my foot started pumping a nonexistent foot pump in the kitchen. We have two wide opening view ports in the top of each tank which allow us to see the level remaining, and to open the tanks so we can manually reach in to clean them periodically. When filling from our water bags, we pour the water in through these openings. These were an upgrade we completed before setting sail from Toronto over four years ago.

From Vathi next day we took a local bus for €1.80 per person each way to Apollonia, the main town on the island. It was very quiet out of season. Even the museum was closed except by prior arrangement for groups. Our one accomplishment there was to buy some rat poison from a pharmacy. Now we would get him! After wandering around for an hour, and missing one return bus, we got back to Veleda too late to leave that afternoon, and so stayed another night. We traded some books with Scott and Maryann on board Open Return before leaving next day for Serifos.