Sunday, May 29, 2011

Miles and a lemon

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Arki, Amorgos, and south....

It's been a busy week sailing towards Santorini, or sometimes called Thira. We stopped at a couple islands on the way, 50 miles from Patmos we went to Amorgos, a very quaint, clean island. We loved it!

Before that, we stopped in a little island of Arki, just a fishing village with 2 restaurants on the water. We were there with only 2 other boats, one group from Germany, and a couple from Scotland. It was a quick stop but we managed to foul our anchor. Pretty funny, we've been in some super crowded anchorages without a problem and with 3 boats in this bay, the couple from Scotland accidentally laid their anchor over ours. So when we pulled up our anchor we pulled their anchor as well. The irony.....(well, steel......sorry)

Anyway, we're in Santorini now, it's unbelievable. It it supposed to be where many scholars think the legend of Atlantis came from. Around 2000 BC, an enormous volcano erupted, tuning a huge island into a ring with sea in the middle.  It even desecrated all the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete, 70 miles away.  The strange thing is, they have discovered elaborate dwellings and evidence of an advanced civilization, but no skeletons or human remains.  So, the thinking is the people here knew the volcano was about to erupt?! Puzzling. 

Now it's some of the most spectacular cliffs and cities literally clinging to the hill tops. Some astounding views and vistas and your mind can not conceive of an explosion taking away the center of the island as you look out across the bay. Breathtaking.  The pictures we took don't do it justice, but with some imagination you can feel the sea breezes from up there and try and envision it.  

We'll try and get some more up this week. 

From the ring of fire,
~ Hems

Saturday, May 21, 2011

"Lipsi" cliff jumping

Once we were back on the boat, we quickly pulled up anchor and headed out. It was around 1:00pm and we wanted to try and make it to the next island, Lipsi.  We were told of a ‘secret’ place on a small uninhabited island near the island of Lipsi. It has an entrance 1 meter under the water near a cave, and opens inside to a huge pool where there is cliff jumping.  It sounded to us like Count of Monte Cristo, so of course, we had to try and find it, even though it was a ‘needle in a haystack’ mission.
We made our way toward the chain of islands, hoping to find the spot.  The breeze had picked up and it was really choppy near the bay we were told to look, and trying to hold our position managed to twist the dinghy line around our propeller. This stalled the engine and our inflatable dinghy was held under the stern of the boat, looking like it was going to burst.  So, Levi quickly jumped in the water with a knife and swam under and cut the line free, all the while we were rolling around in the waves.  Never a dull moment! 
So, we found a calm spot and anchored Mehari and then Levi, Emma and I took the dinghy and scouted around.  We did find a few very cool caves, and found a low spot we could hike up and maybe see it from higher ground.       We’d found it!     We didn't end up having to dive to get to it, and it was more accessible from the other side of the island and so we went back to Mehari and motored around and re-anchored. It was an absolute gorgeous setting and there was cliff jumping.  The pool had a nice sandy bottom right below the highest spot, 30+ feet high.  Levi and I hiked up there and looked at the jump for a bit before we decided we had to do it!  We’d talked each other into it, it was phenomenal! If you’ve never jumped from cliffs before, you have what feels like an hour to think as you fall!  The water was cold but with the adrenaline I didn’t even feel anything!  After a while, Rachel hiked up to look down at what we jumped off and after looking at it long enough, she decided she had to try it.  She spent a bit working up the courage all the while telling me, ‘I don’t think I can do it!’ I said, ‘you don’t have to!’ ……….Then just before she left, she jumped!  She screamed all the way down, and was really glad she did it!  Good Job Rach!!  WE also found the spot where you can swim out of the pool, through an underwater cave and into the main ocean.  It was absolutely amazing and Levi and I took turns and did it a few times. It was a bit strange swimming under the rocks into a cave and hoping it comes out on the other side!
We all had a blast swimming around in the big private swimming pool, all to ourselves. It was a very special day!
On the waves,

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Revelation in Patmos

After we had sailed from Leros after the whole steering ordeal, and made it safely to the island of Patmos.  Patmos is a really spread out island, very craggy, and quaint.  It’s biggest claim to fame is it is the traditional location of where the apostle John wrote the book of Revelation.

We started the day early, walking into town from where the boat was anchored, and found the bus taking us to the monastery on the top of the mountain.  As with a lot of places we visit, all of the kids attract a lot of attention and usually a very warm welcoming.  The bus driver was thrilled we had a big family, and with a "father-ly" wink, only charged us for Rachel and I.
The bus zig-zagged up the mountain, and dropped us off a small hike from the monastery entrance, and as we looked through the buildings, it was strange to reflect on the world-power that the Catholic Church has become.  This spot is the number 2 most holy spot for the Greek Orthodox Church and with all the strange paintings and icons everywhere, it felt anything but holy.  It just looked to us like a lot of religious legalism.  I’m sure there was some good intentions several hundred years ago, but as people were going around kissing paintings, it looked a bit lost to me.   We went from the monastery and hiked back down the mountain towards the Cave of the Apocalypse, the assumed site for John’s book.  Although it was still a lot of Catholic stuff, and people in there lighting candles, it was a bit more authentic, and pretty cool.  Lily and Zoe were funny because they were puzzled by the whole thing and just wanted to light candles and take them home.  Miles of course had no concept of being quiet, kept trying to make friends with people he saw, which was not hard for him and the Greek grandmas!  
We ended up hiking all the way back down the mountain, about 4 miles altogether, and back along the beach to Mehari.  When we looked back up at the top where we’d hiked from, Lily just couldn’t believe we’d hiked all that way.  She really had a sense of accomplishment afterwards and we were amazed at her (and Zoe), for no complaining!  
Rachel and I had our own ‘revelation’ that we are super proud of our amazing kids who have become great traveling companions and are just very thankful for this special time to be spending with them. We have been able to have some amazing conversations with our teenagers, maybe because we're all WAY out of our comfort zone, but we're certainly very grateful to share this time and experience with them.  We will NEVER forget these past 2 years, and can’t wait to see what else we come across and experience as we head West.  Sorry, enough nostalgia!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

steering issues :(

Yesterday, as we were sailing from Leros to Patmos, we had some problems with our steering on the boat.  We had the autopilot on as we were making our way out of the bay from Leros, and I heard a strange sound and looked over and one of the tillers which steer the boat was sitting sideways from it’s normal position!  I at once shoved the motor in neutral, and checked to see if we had any steering with the other rudder, we didn’t L!! The welds in the stainless steel brackets, which turn the rudders below the boat, had cracked completely and fallen apart.  
We were still in the bay and considered doubling back for repairs and after looking at it for a bit (and making sure we weren’t drifting into the rocks!) we figured out a way to modify it and make it work.  So, after some drilling some holes in the stainless steel brackets, scrounging around for some more stainless bolts and nuts, and between Levi in the dinghy and me on the boat, we got it secured and seemed as strong as it was before, if not stronger, so we thought we’d continue on our way to Patmos.  
Everything worked out fine and we made it to Patmos with no other issues.  It'll have to wait until we get to an island of some size to get it properly re-done. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Unexpected stop in Leros

This week, we were heading North to an island we’d all read about and wanted to see, Samos. Samos is a thickly wooded, much indented island for calm anchorages, and it’s actually part of another set of islands called the Northern Sporades. All of our time so far in Greece has been sailing among the island cluster called the Dodocanese, which means 12 islands. And, between our first season and in the last two weeks, I think we’ve been to almost all 12!

Anyhow, as we were sailing North, the wind kept getting stronger and stronger on our nose, meaning it’s a lot harder sail and the seas get rough, pounding the boat, and just not a fun day. So, we were passing by the island of Leros, the island where we started the whole adventure almost 2 years ago. We spent about a month there getting the boat ready to launch and working on boat projects before we headed out. We decided, let’s duck in there and wait for a better wind day. Well, after checking weather, a day turned into 4 and we ended up staying through the weekend there.

It was great being reminded of all our favorite stops and we rented scooters one day and explored all over the island. Levi and Emma and I made a late trip one night riding the scooters up to the castle on the center if the island. It was VERY windy and we looked out over the ocean, glad we weren’t out the sailing in these waves! (We’d already done that sailing from Cyprus!) We caught a chill and the only way we could find to get rid of it was stop in a cool little jazz café and have some coffee and a dessert crepe, filled with chocolate, caramel and almonds. We were just thankful it worked ;) and Levi decided we need a scooter on Mehari for island hopping.

Leros is a very picturesque Greek island, with several ports, and fishing docks around it’s 30 sq. mile size. It also has some beautiful countryside with sheep and goats grazing, olive groves, vineyards, and citrus groves. Even though it’s late Spring, we could still smell the strong scent of citrus blossoms as we rode through narrow country roads. Rachel and I went exploring with Zoe and Lily and found a great little patisserie on the other side of the island. The owner, a young man in his late 20’s had recently graduated from Patisserie school in Athens and was running the family business, mixing his creations with the recipies from his grand-mother. He had some delicious things and he really wanted us to try everything, and kept bring us samples from all the cabinets. We didn’t argue and all left with what we thought was the best!

As it goes, it’s time to move on and Monday is a good weather day, so we will continue North, aiming for the island of Patmos, Lipsi, and Samos. Patmos is where John the disciple wrote the book of Revelation in a cave, which of course, now has a Greek Orthodox church and “site” around it, but, we still hope to see it. Then on to………we’ll have to see!

On the waves,


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Scooters and Pastries :)

We're on the island of Leros and yesterday we rented motor scooters and drove around the island! The whole island is 30 sq. miles but on a scooter, going through some of the back streets, there's plenty to see :)

We found a cute little bakery on the east side of the island with some of the best pastries I've ever tasted! I( Maggie) got a chocolate pudding and strawberry tart and Levi choose the Caramel Cheesecake......Everyone got their own treat but here's pictures of the two....

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The pastry chef came out and started talking to us and gave us some info on some other great islands to visit this summer. He loved talking to Zoe.....(everyone does :) and ended up giving her 2 free ice creams!!  

Well we have to return the scooters in an hour so I'm off to take one last ride through the island :) 

Τα λέμε αργότερα--See you later!

Friday, May 13, 2011

New Pictures!

Hi everyone! I added these and more pictures to our web albums. Make sure to check them out and see what we're seeing! :) Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tuna and Corn Flakes rations

We had a very smooth day, mostly motoring away from Symi and on to the island of Tilos, our next stop. The sea was like glass, something we doubted it could ever be after some of our passages, but welcome. Motoring only was fine. We all laid out on the decks, Levi got sunburned and everyone took cat naps, occasionally glancing around for other boats. We'd picked up a hammock in Israel and had it tied up on the deck and it was a great place to doze off.

In the afternoons, Levi and I usually make cups of coffee, and Rachel had just put something on the stove thinking ahead towards dinner, when we ran out of propane. We have 2 tanks that we alternate, so we always have a full one, but somehow, the 'backup' was empty. We looked around once we got to Tilos, but this island and the next few we're planning to visit, are pretty small, and we're lucky if they have a gas station, much less propane facilities. 

So.......we're on day 3 of tuna and Corn Flakes, something every island seems to have plenty of. We did find some fresh fruits where we are now, the island of Nisiorios, and this morning, found a bakery open early and loaded up on fresh bread. I guess there is worse ways to live, and Rachel gets a vacation.

Heading to Patmos, and then to Samos, see you soon!


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Symi to ???

We left Rhodes Thursday afternoon, and although there was more to explore, the main bay is VERY crowded and more boats were coming. There is no anchorages around the main town, so we decided to move on. 

Greece/Turkey is simply one of the most amazing cruising grounds in the world.  People who have circumnavigated and sailed all over the world, say there are 3 "best" areas for cruising: this part of the Mediterranean (+ Croatia), of course the Caribbean, and South Pacific. All have pros and cons, but the way you can hop from island to island easily in a day, and SO much amazing sites and cultures to experience, it's really overwhelming to choose. I can see why people come here and never leave!........sorry to ramble. 

So we sailed over to Symi, leaving later than we wanted on Thursday, and just pulled into an empty bay but for a few houses at around 11:30 at night. WE awoke to goats' bells walking around the very steep hills around us.

Symi town is very quaint, tucked into another steep valley with cream and blue painted houses crawling for the ridges high above. There are several churches dotting the hills and you hear bells in the morning echoing in the valley. The harbor is right in the middle of everything and we are anchored next to a very cool couple making their way to Turkey and back to France later this year. The day we pulled in, they invited us over for a visit that night and we had Maggie whip up a chocolate cake. They had some hilarious and amazing stories and we ended up there until late and joined again for coffee the next morning at a little cafe right behind the boats. 

Mom and pops sent some money for Rachel and I to celebrate our birthdays, and we found a little Italian place a few alleys in from the boat. Once Miles fell asleep, we were off and had a delicious meal and felt like we were in "Lady and the Tramp" (we're parents!) Fantastico! Afterward they come out with a caramel flan, and a chocolate mousse, "please compliments of the kitchen" and limoncello, an after dinner liqueur made from citrus and served ice cold. Yum!

So, it's Sunday morning, and we hate to pull away, but there is so much more to see! Symi has a bay around the corner where we hope to stop for lunch which is totally empty except for an abandoned monastery, which we just have to see and then another bay at the bottom of the island where you can buy bread from a monastery, so of course we have to do that! 

Symi has been amazing, but we're off to the next adventure, and can't believe people tell us it gets better!

Love you all ~ Hems

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Sailer Up's and Down's

Hey there, we made it to Rhodes, Greece in about 54 hours, averaging 5.1 knots for the whole trip, just over 260 nm (nautical miles) which makes almost 500 for the week since we left Israel.  So….. we pulled into Rhodes at 8:00 in the morning on Wednesday and we were all pretty wiped out. Some sailors say the longer passages are easier because you settle into some sort of rhythm, but on the short ones, it’s just a killer. I don’t know yet, since we’ve never gone longer than 3 days, but I can certainly attest to the killer part, I’d say it feels like ‘super jet-lag.’  Rachel and Maggie were not feeling well most of the trip so they ended up sleeping a lot of the time. Which was really hard on Rachel because Miles would be awake and Rachel was trying to keep him happy while feeling seasick :/ We brought Miles in the cockpit and he seemed happy rolling (literally) around on the ground with clothespins, funnels, and shoes.  Lily and Zoe were tough and spent most of the time in the main cabin watching movies.
We had some great sailing, we had a while we had to motor because of no wind, and some wind right in our face, a typical sail in the Med.  We had a great sail, and achieved our all-time highest speed, 10.9 knots, which may not sound fast when you drive down the road in a car at easily 40-50 miles per hour, but for Mehari, whom we lovingly call the ‘station wagon of the seas’ it’s movin’.  Levi and I took turns splitting the night shift, which left us tired during the days, but there was really no other choice.
As for the night watches, Levi and I love ‘em.  Unless you’re sailing or motoring straight into the wind, it’s pretty fantastic out there. This time of the month, the moon has been setting shortly after the sun, so it is pitch black, and after your eyes adjust, it’s amazing how much you can see. You stare off into the blackness, straining to see lights from other boats, and just feeling very, very, very small.
So, we’re in Rhodes, anchored just below a crusader castle, right in the center of town. Everyone is eager to explore and be off the boat, so more later!!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Off again......

We've been waiting in Cyprus the last few days, cleaning up, hanging out at the beach and waiting for the weather to be right to head to Greece. The East end of the Med seems to always have wind from the West and so we found a window early tomorrow morning and we're takin' it!

The plan is to head out at 3:00 am and cover as much water as we can before Tuesday which is when the wind shifts back to Westerly. So, it's early to bed tonight and we'll be pulling up the anchor in the dark and pulling out. The moon is almost gone for the month, and not rising until early morning hours anyway, so it'll be pitch black, sounds like a definite coffee morning! 

We'll post again from Greece, we're shooting for either Rhodos or a smaller island, Symi, depending on the breeze. 

~ Hems