Log #29c Lesbos

May 9, 2003 in Log Series 20 - 29, Logs by Series, Series 29 Greek Aegean to Istanbul, The Logs

Ayvalik, turkey

May 9, 2003

Hi Folks, we are back in Turkey at a nice marina in Ayvalik across from Levos, about half way up the Aegean coast. Judy went up to Istanbul last night with our passports to start the processing from Atakoy Marina there for our visas for the Ukraine, Romania ad Bulgaria. The processing takes about two weeks, and so we wanted to get it started before we arrived in Istanbul so we did not have to wait around. It is like summer here now with daytime temperatures in the 30’s (85 to 90 F). I’ll write more about Ayvalik in my next log. I may be able to send this via my laptop and Superonline at the office, rather than from AOL and an internet café.

All the best,


Log #29c Lesbos

Mytilene, Lesbos

May 6, 2003

I have just dropped David off at the airport (at 0545) and returned the car, and since Judy is still sleeping in (It’s now 0900), I wanted to get a start on this last log of Greece, as we will be heading to Ayvalik in Turkey later today or tomorrow. There is a gale warning on the Navtex today, so we will probably stay alongside. However I have found an internet café and should be able to send Log #29b, but will not send this for a few days.

I left off when we were in Plomarion on the southern coast of Lesbos. It is a pleasant town, not big on tourism, and underrated by our Lonely Planet guide. We found the stores well stocked with fresh produce and meat, and the people quite helpful. The Ottoman influence is quite noticeable in the architecture. We were requested to report in to the port authority, but it was no problem, and we had our transit log stamped in and out, so we did not have to report back before leaving, and as mentioned in my last log, we paid only €2.00 for the night. Leaving next morning at the civilized hour of 1100 we motored down the coast a mere 7 miles to drop a lunch hook in Ormos Mersinia (38 58.8N, 026 30.8E) where we had a Greek salad and glass of wine before carrying on another 11 miles to Kolpos Yeras, the smaller of the two large landlocked gulfs that indent the coast of Lesbos. As we had a favourable light westerly wind, we flew our spinnaker for the first time this year for a half hour before going in. We motored up the opening channel to Skala Loutra, enough to see the expansion of this large gulf, and the more industrial town of Perama on the other side. The tannery which was a cause of pollution there has been closed for many years now, but it is still a grimy looking industrial area. We returned towards the entrance where we anchored near the opening in an attractive bay at Ormos Kavourolimani (39 00.1N, 026 32.4E) across from a fish farm.

We later found out the farm has not been used for a few years, and no nets are down, even though the surface structures are still there. In fact we were told that the lines mooring the structures are a good source of mussels. The surrounding hills were pastoral, with a field of olive trees and the most grass we have seen on any Greek Aegean island. We were entertained by the tinkle of sheep bells as a shepherd guided a flock of several dozen shaggy sheep into a barbed wire enclosure on a grassy knoll. It was a well sheltered bay and we spent a quiet night at anchor. Before retiring we enjoyed a glass of wine on the upper deck, breathed in the tranquil setting, and admired the shimmering stars. We gave David a view of the phosphorescence by waving a boat hook through the surface with a “Tinker-Bell” display of trailing white diamond dust in the ink black surface water. An enjoyable idyllic evening!

Sunday, May 4th we set off after breakfast for the 10 mile motor up to Mitilini (also spelled Mytilene and Mytilini), the capital of Lesbos (39 00.1N, 026 32.4E). Upon entering we saw a new breakwater to port at the entrance to the large south harbour. We later learned from a local boater that it is a characteristic new marina that ran out of funding, and was tangled up in local squabbles so that is not even used by local fishing boats. There are no cleats or rings embedded into the nice concrete docks, and even the adjacent lands cannot be used for storage of fishing gear, boats on the hard, dinghies or any marina related activities. It is just a barren dusty parking lot for miscellaneous trucks, buses, and cars. A pity, as there is a small yacht club in the same corner that would like to expand and develop a dinghy sailing program for children, but is prohibited by local politics and bureaucracy.

We came alongside the east side of the harbour where there were several other local sail boats, to be assisted in by a uniformed coast guardsman who indicated where we could check in across the road. The location is right down town with the ferry docks a few hundred metres around the wharf in the outer harbour, and the port authorities, customs and passport control conveniently located only two blocks away. Just a block over is an excellent modern billiard hall with a phalanx of computers for internet access, and a large video screen for audience viewing or disco illuminations. Checking in was no problem, and as we are going to be leaving for Turkey as our next destination, our transit log was only stamped into port and we are to go through customs and passport control before returning to have it stamped out of the country on departure. They seemed quite friendly and helpful.

As it was only noon hour we immediately went to the two archeological museums which had a free day that Sunday. The first older one was located in an old shipping magnate’s mansion. It was extremely good with maps of the island and explanatory notes in Greek and English, modern display cases, and artifacts from shards and jewellery, to statues and busts dating back two and three thousand years. Several displays gave diagrams and photographs of archeological digs, showing not only the early village layouts, but detailed outlines of early Roman houses, including their fresh water (up hill) and sewage waste water (down hill) piping systems. I also enjoyed the architecture of the mansion itself; the twin curved marble steps up to the ornate double doored entrance, and especially the ceiling ornamentations, with painted or sculpted centre pieces for chandeliers and ornate border designs. The gardens outside were part of the display with various pieces of ancient columns, including some Ottoman pieces with intricate slender Arabic script carved in spiraling designs. Behind was a large servants’ quarters converted into funereal displays of murals and stellae with descriptions of the beliefs and ceremonies for the transition of the dead in earlier Lesvos civilizations.

The modern Museum up the hill was also extremely good. It had several display areas with mosaic floors from Roman excavations, with wall displays of the original digs, and explanations of the imagery used in them. Another area had marble busts and murals of funereal dinners and heroic images of the deceased. Unfortunately in neither museum were the gift shops open for explanatory books, post cards or souvenirs. This museum was also set up for handicapped with ramps and elevators. Then we went further up to the castle, an immense structure with several walls of fortifications, but in poor repair. It too was free that day, but was to close within an hour of our arrival. So we quickly scouted the remains and ramparts with views over the city and the north and south harbours. The original site, now a wide land linked isthmus, was an easily defended island with a narrow channel on the west side separating it from the town. The north harbour still has the ancient remains of the mole dating back to Hellenistic and Roman times, but is not used now except for a handful of small fishing boats. The wide central spaces of the fortress had remains of various walls and some roofed and domed structures, but no explanatory signs. There were no plans of the castle from the entrance kiosk. It was difficult to envision what the original or Ottoman era fortress would have looked like. I liked the rampant red poppies, and other audacious white, flagrant yellow, simpering purple, and petite pink flowers that have wildly taken over from the cobble stone roads, and parade squares tread by the boots, wheels and hooves of previous inhabitants. The crenellated walls were impressive, and the road winding around to the entrance was fringed by a lush pine forest covering the hillside. Over the water we could see undulating stretches of golden yellow pollen from the spring buds, as well as a patina of pollen dust covering the rocks and pathways.

Next day we traveled the northern stretches of the island in a rented car (cost only €26.00 for the day). Lesbos is a beautiful island! We went up the coast road, and through several small villages, getting lost and retracing our route several times trying to find side roads (quite unsuccessfully) going up to alleged aqua ducts, and monasteries. After going up a few very narrow cobblestone roads which were threatening to peter out into some one’s back yard we gave up, and just followed the main road. Greek road maps on Lesbos are horribly inaccurate and their road signs are minimal to confusing. However the riot of wild flowers along the roads and up the hillsides was exhilarating. We haven’t seen as much floral roadside beauty since we were in Flores in the Azores, with its hydrangea fringed fields. The vistas across the waters and coves, the flower bedecked hillsides, and the mountain valleys and peaks created  a vast panorama emphasizing the size and grandeur of Lesbos.

We wanted to stop for lunch at one of the seaside villages, but they were all closed down for the season, and probably would not open until the end of May. However as we were going through the small mountain hamlet of Stipsi in the northern part of Lesvos, we saw a small roadside taverna with local people eating, and so we stopped. It was lovely! A local taverna with only one lady taking the orders, serving, and cooking, but in pleasant surroundings overlooking a mountain valley, under a canopy of an aged plane tree and bamboo trellis. David enjoyed the sight of a white horse in an enclosure across the road above a roadside fountain. We noticed a few white horses in enclosures along that stretch of road. After an enjoyable late lunch we continued on down from the mountains, past the two large land locked gulfs and back to Mytilini. We covered only about half the island but put over 160 kilometers on the car.

We spent a lazy day in Mytilini next day rather than take off into force 6 winds. We visited the large Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Athanasios, but the Byzantine museum across the square was closed. After wandering the town we visited a Dutch cruising boat and had a good conversation with Adriaan and Marretje on Hen Panta. It is always interesting to meet with other liveaboard cruisers and see their boats.

Next day the weather was a bit better, and so we decided to leave. However, the efficiency of the leaving procedure left much to be desired. As instructed we went to customs first, only to have our papers scrutinized, and finally told we had to have a form from the port authority first. Over at the port authority, they said no customs first. Back at Customs he said he must have a form from port authority clearing us out. Back at port authority we convinced them to sign and stamp our transit log out but were told we had to return to pay the small dockage fee as the last section before departing, after Customs and Passport control. Back to Customs only to find the official was now not around! However as passport control was in the same building we went to it. No one there, but a lady came out from another room and took us in to a different office to process our passports. OK, and we got a form from her! But we still had not found the customs man (a four striped official), and by that time I was losing my patience. So I ignored the requirement, went back to the port authority with the passport control form. When asked if we had seen the Customs, I lied and said yes. Since there was no form from that official required, the port authority finally allowed us to pay the economical €10.00 for four nights alongside and leave. It took us over an hour and a half, including three trips to the Customs and Passport control and three trips to the port authority building, two blocks away and three flights up to clear out! Damn their inefficiency and bureaucracy! If they had had their act together and that Customs four striper had been with it, the process should have taken only one trip to each location and been completed in 15 minutes, as all our documents are in order. We were glad to be leaving Greece and heading for Ayvalik in Turkey.