'Sundancer' - Log 2008

In case you think this year's log is going to be about sailing, let me disabuse you. It is mostly about pottering in a marina thinking about sailing. This is, in fact, what many of the crews actually do with their boats in the marinas every year. It seems to take us longer to get started each year, and this time there was no real excuse such as Mike's teeth or broken roller reefing systems. We just decided to take the task of getting 'Sundancer' ready to sail very gently and of course, when we decided it was time to go, the weather decided it wasn't.

Friday 28th March to Monday 7th April

Our Aegean Flight from Birminham was cancelled at the last minute and we were offered an alternative flight from Manchester. We drove up on the morning of Friday 28th March, early enough to miss the traffic on the M6. The flight was fine, apart from the landing, when the plane shook and rattled so much we thought it was falling apart. We had booked an apartment in Marmaris for 10 nights as it is no fun living on the boat, on the hard standing, with no loo. Mike had been watching the weather forecasts for some time and had noted that there had been a lot of rain, and this continued intermittently when we arrived. Everywhere looked very green. We managed to get all the necessary work done between showers, though when it really rained, the concrete hard standing was often three inches deep in water, and 'Sundancer', just off the concrete, was surrounded by muddy pools. This is not what we came for!

Our apartment was in the centre of town, handy for restaurants and shopping, but involving a 20 minute dolmus ride, night and morning, rattling over the bumps, swaying round the windy cliff road, and sliding through deep pools of water when it rained. The dolmus nominally take about eighteen people but are often crammed like the London Underground in the rush hour. Unless you start at the beginning or end of the run you seldom get a seat. However, the hotel was a lot cheaper than staying in the Yat Marine apartments which we had done previously, and boasted a two ring electric hob for cooking. We imported our little Remoska oven from the boat and managed some good meals - the lamb in Turkey is really delicious. The apart-hotel charged an extra 9 euros a night for heating which we thought excessive so we sneaked in our electric fan heater as it was still often quite cold. We had maid service and clean towels daily and the maid took her job very seriously, remaking our bed even if I had already made it, tidying and cleaning everything, arranging the towels in a fan shape on the bed, and frequently decorating the towels and the bed with an arrangement of flower heads. When we left our anniversary cards on display on April the 1st, we came home to find a towel arranged in the shape of a heart on the bed. We will have to leave a good tip.

We went out to 'Nils' restaurant for our anniversary dinner and ordered fish baked in salt. The fish comes to the table encased in a mound of browned salt, the waiter then pours alcohol over it and ceremonially sets it alight. He then hammers the salt crust to break into it and expose the fish which is delicious.

It poured with rain again on Sunday 6th April, but we were put back in the water next day in lovely warm sunshine. We were second to go in which was great as sometimes you can be hanging around all day. The crew who do the launching are very professional. They have two hoists, a huge one for putting in the many super gin palaces, and a smaller one for yachts. They can launch and take out 20 to 30 boats a day at this time of year and work very hard, and we haven't yet heard of anything going wrong. Before lifting a boat they always put a diver down to check that the strops are not going to foul anything underwater. Boats are tightly packed on the hard and on launch day, a trailer is manoeuvred into place under the boat's keel, the wooden props which have held her up all winter are removed. A jeep then drags her out to where the hoist is waiting and she is transferred to the slings. Mike then runs about underneath trying to anti-foul the bits where the props were, and then she is lowered into the water. We hold our breath until the engine fires, check to see no water is coming in below, and then we are away to a berth.

Not much has changed in Yat Marine except that prices in the restaurant have suddenly gone up about 50 percent. This has caused a lot of aggro among the live aboards who are reported to be voting with their feet and moving down to Netsel marine in Marmaris town for next winter. Netsel is very noisy in the summer being well within hearing range of the town discos, but in the winter is quiet and there is a big choice of restaurants and potential activities on the doorstep. It is a bit more expensive than Yat Marine but if you factor in the cost of the dolmus to get you into town, - and now the expensive restaurant - there isn't much difference.

We have caught up with several friends, many of whom are off on the East Med Yacht Rally (EMYR) shortly, visiting Northern Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Egypt. We considered it for a while, but it involves about 12 overnight passages in the course of 6 weeks, lots of civic receptions and parties, and organised visits to lots of interesting places but probably in temperatures of 30 degrees or above, so we decided to give it a miss, but we do feel a little left out.

Tuesday 8th April to Monday 28th April

Our 'plan' for this year is to do an anti-clockwise trip around the North Aegean. This will involve sailing north against the prevailing wind, taking in the Sporades group of Greek islands before coming south again through the Evia channel. Theoretically, at this time of year the strong northerly Meltemi should not have started to blow and we might get a few southerlies to help us going north - we shall see!

Our marina contract ran out on the 7th April but we had a lot of jobs to do and didn't feel inclined to rush them, especially as the weather had not quite settled down, so we booked in for an extra two weeks. Mike fitted electric foot operated switches on the fore deck to lift and lower the main anchor, finished installing the new hatch in the forward heads, painted the seats in the cockpit and renewed some of the mastic round the rubbing strake and cockpit floor. We had discovered one major leak when we got back. Rain water had penetrated through a bolt hole which holds on the rubbing strake, and the jumpers in their plastic bags were floating in about 4 inches of water in a locker in the back cabin. I did various sewing jobs and helped with the polishing of the hull. 'Sundancer' gets far more attention than out home ever does.

We took a couple of days out to visit Ephesus, which is about 70 miles north of Marmaris. We caught a coach and then a dolmus for the three and a half hour trip and stayed in nearby Selcuk overnight. We visited the Ephesus Museum in Selcuk and next day were given a lift by the pension owners to Ephesus, 3 kilometres away (somewhat unwillingly and via a carpet shop first for a glass of tea - they do keep trying). The ruins are very splendid and the present buildings date from about 300 BC onward. The Romans took the city as their capital when they invaded the area and successive emperors built temples and monuments. Apparently 250,000 people lived here in its hayday. The odd earthquake and invader have taken their toll, and the sea eventually receded some 10 miles from the city, diminishing its importance. A lot of renovation work has been done, including rebuilding the pillared facade of a two story library, and there are some good vistas down long streets through the city. As usual there is an enormous theatre and the remains of many temples. We spent the extra 10 YTL each to go into the renovated 'terraced houses which we felt was well worth the money. These were the houses where the really rich lived. A roof has been built to protect them and they rise up the hillside for about 5 stories and many have wonderful mosaic floors still intact. Some rooms had marble lined walls, others had frescos painted on the walls, and the houses were centrally heated and had bathrooms fed by water in clay pipes. Saint Paul lived in Ephesus for about three years and preached Christianity in the theatre. Eventually he got drummed out of town by the local merchants who made a good living selling souvenirs to the pilgrims who came to worship the goddess Artemis, and who didn't fancy the loss of trade. Eventually Christianity won out and the Third Ecumenical Council was held here in 431 AD. Apparently most of Turkey was Christian for several hundred years, with Constantinople being the Asian centre of the faith. Although it is undoubtedly the largest archaeological site we have seen in Turkey, we didn't feel Ephesus had the charm of Aphrodisias or the magnificence of Delphi in Greece.

We returned to 'Sundancer' and continued with various jobs at a fairly dilatory rate. Just as we decided we were sufficiently prepared to leave, the winds swung to the north and west and threatened to be strong at the weekend - exactly what we don't want as our direction will be mostly northwest - so we resigned ourselves to a few more days here. Mike even got round to sticking the trim back on the dinghy and repairing the leaks in a port light and the galley sink drain. We have spent a couple of afternoons lazing round the swimming pool, and one day we walked up the hill behind the marina and came back with a large bunch of wild flowers. I took them round to a friend who had invited us for a meal on their boat. Unfortunately meals on friends' boats have become a bit competitive with nibbles, starters, mains, sweet and coffee and chocolates. Preparing all this in an area about a metre square is not all that easy! You also have to wash up as you go, having only limited cutlery and crockery!

Sunday 27th April - It had been raining heavily all afternoon with thunder so we indulged ourselves and went for a final meal with friends in our now expensive marina restaurant having prepared to tear ourselves away from the attractions of marina life and start our spring cruise on Monday. However, at 7.15 am, the rain started again and Mike looked on the internet for weather and found it forecast to continue, on and off, all day so we are still here. Maybe Manana!!

Tuesday 29th - Wednesday 30th April

We left Yat Marine at 08.15 under blue skies and motor sailed over a slight sea to pick up a buoy at Serce - one of our favourite bays. We bought a pot of rather burnt tasting honey from one of the boatmen and had a last meal at Hassan's restaurant, which was looking very spruce after his winter efforts. We set off again next day at 08.30 heading for Datca. It had rained overnight but we thought it had cleared - wrong! We sailed for two hours through heavy showers. The visibility was so poor at times that we put the radar on to check there was no-one in our way. It is so long since we sailed in rain that it almost felt like an adventure. Eventually it cleared and we arrived in Datca at 1pm in sunshine and anchored in the South Bay. As we sat in the cockpit having lunch there was a sudden rush of water down below, as one of the pipes flew off the hot water system again. Luckily access to it was easy and Mike managed to replace it in five minutes.

We visited the harbour master, then police/immigration and then customs to check out of Turkey. There was a lot of rubber stamping but no problems. Lots of people do not bother with checking in and out of Greece and Turkey, and sail freely between the two which is very convenient when sailing north as we plan to do. The Turkish coast is less interesting but more sheltered than the Greek islands, so you can run for cover to Turkey when you need to, and you can effectively tack against the predominantly northerly winds. We are scaredy cats, being convinced than we would be caught, so we do it legitimately at some expense and considerable inconvenience.

We did some shopping, trying to use up our remaining Turkish Lira and then had a very quiet night, apart from the 'pop' concert on the quay. Hardly our sort of pop as it was a Turk, singing mournful Turkish songs similar to Portuguese fado - but the locals obviously enjoyed it and it finished at 10.30.

Thursday 1st May - leaving Turkey for Greece

We left Turkey with some regrets. This is a lovely area for sailing and Turkish people seem honest and hard-working, are very friendly and have a terrific sense of humour. On the buses young people and even older men will leap up to give a woman or an older man a seat. We were not aware of any drug problem or drunkenness (apart from the visiting Brits) nor have we seen anybody begging as we have in most other countries we have been through. The Turks do try to drag you into their shops but it is all very light hearted. It is still much cheaper to sail and live in Turkey than in the European Union, though prices are rising gradually.

We set off for the 40 miles to Kos at sunrise, over a calm sea, and motored west down to Knidos at the end of the point, and then round the corner to head north. Eventually we picked up a little wind and had a gentle sail for a couple of hours at about 3 knots. Everything on 'Sundancer' seemed to be working well. At 2pm we were guided to a place in Kos Marina by a man in a rib, and moored next to 'Ocean Gem', also from Yat Marine, belonging to the woman with whom we shared a taxi to Dalaman airport last year. Later in the day we walked the half mile into Kos town and managed to see Passport Control and Customs to check in to Greece. They gave us a form to take to Port Police, who weren't interested as it was May Day holiday and only one man was on duty. He told us to come back sometime in the next couple of days.

'Ocean Gem' had come to Kos via the Greek island of Nisiros which they described as an interesting volcanic area. Nisiros is about 25 miles south of Kos and we discovered there was a local ferry next day so we were up early again to catch it. The journey took about an hour and a half and we had a pod of dolphins leaping in the wash behind us for a while. Opposite Nisiros is the small white island of Gyali. This is being eaten away gradually by the mining of pumice and gypsum. We went into Mandraki harbour and transferred to a bus to take us up around the 13 kilometres of horseshoe bends to the crater of the volcano. The wild flowers were looking wonderful. An amazing amount or work has been done in the past, terracing the hillsides inside and outside of the cone, and planting olive, citrus and almond trees. How they harvested them on the precipitous slopes is hard to imagine. The bus dropped us just above the dramatic crater, the sides of which are about 100 feet deep. We climbed down to the flat floor, in the centre of which hot water still bubbles to the surface. Around this was an area of mud which stuck to our shoes. Away from the centre it had dried, and round the edge of the crater there were occasional holes, edged with bright yellow sulphur crystals, breathing evil smelling vapour. Back in the little village we had a surprisingly tasty and inexpensive lunch and then walked through the village towards the cliffs which are topped with a monastery and the remains of a castle. A great deal of trouble had been taken to build a paved walkway round the edge of the cliff to the black pebble beach, but at some point there had been a big rock fall, over which we had to scramble. The beach was backed by an area covered in wild flowers. We walked up the narrow paths between the whitewashed cottages, bright with blue and green shutters and pots of geraniums, built one leaning on the other, up the hillside. Many people had ornamented their doorsteps with patterns of flowers and dolphins made out of local black and white stones, set in white painted concrete. Every so often we would be startled by the bang of fire crackers reverberating off the walls and came across someone who was firing his shot gun into the air. We met a group of locals enjoying a barbecue and throwing 'bangers' around and managed to find someone with enough English to explain that they were celebrating the end of their Greek Orthodox Easter. We finished off having a drink in a café called Mikes, and returned to the ferry. A really super day out.

We were back in Kos for 5 o'clock and got the port police to stamp their bits of paper and sell us another cruising log for 30 euros. They also charged us an extra 15 euros as we were coming from Turkey! Still no love lost there. We then went to the Vodaphone shop and Mike sorted out an arrangement for connecting to the internet from his data card. We now have unlimited data use until the end of September for £25 a month so can get as many weather forecasts as we like, I can keep up with The Archers and we can listen to the Radio 4 News. This may prove useful entertainment as strong northerly winds seem to be setting in early this year. In spring there is supposed to be a reasonable proportion of southerlies which we need to blow us north, but so far this year, they are few and far between.

7th May - 14th May. Motoring North

On Wednesday, after 6 nights in Kos, the forecast was for northerlies of 2 - 4 instead of 6, so we decided to go for it. The skies were grey but in the event we managed to average 4 knots over a bouncy sea. As we neared the south end of Leros, we had to turn west and thought we might achieve a brief sail but the wind, as usual, turned with and a gentle drizzle of rain started so we put the engine on again.

The harbour of Leros was a haven of peace and quiet compared to windy Kos, although the little marina is close by a road and the boy racers shattered the quiet every so often on their noisy scooters and motor bikes. They seem to have adjusted their exhausts to make maximum noise. We spent two nights here and decided we weren't going to get a favourable wind, so left for Patmos on a sunny morning with force 3/4 on the nose, over an even more bouncy sea. We had to 'tack' under engine to make reasonable progress. Our GPS, which tells us where we are and talks to the self steering, is playing up. Every so often it peeps hysterically and looses the fix, so Mike has to re-set it. Five hours later we arrived at the quay in the town of Skala. We had to use the stern anchor, which we have been trying to avoid, in order to save Mike's back when he has to haul it up by hand on departure. A friend has made us a hook which Mike installed on the back rail, the idea being that he can hook the anchor chain on to this and take an occasional rest when hauling in. We shall see whether it helps when we move on.

Skala is in a deep bay, built on a narrow isthmus in the centre of the island. Ferries come and go regularly, small ones picking up passengers from cruise ships which moor outside the bay. It is a lively town with lots of tourist shops with up-market prices, presumably because of the cruise ships. In 95AD St John of Ephesus is reputed to have been exiled to the island where he wrote the Book of Revelation in a cave.

Next day we took the local bus up to the Monastery of Ionnes Theologos which looms starkly over the town, its castle type walls dark grey against the white houses surrounding it. We had coffee on a terrace overlooking spectacular views of surrounding islands. The monastery was built like a fortress so the villagers could hide inside it from marauders when necessary. Originally the site was a temple to Artemis, but in the 11th Century a hermit called Christodulos predicted the ascent to the Byzantine throne of Emperor Alexis. When the prophecy came true, the Emperor rewarded him by paying for the building of the monastery in 1088. The whole island was given to the monastery and it gradually became very rich. Originally the building was in the shape of a ship, but over the years it 'just growed' and is now a complicated pattern of arches, bell towers, alleyways, and stairways leading to rooms attached to other rooms. There is a bakery with a three metre long 'kneading trough' and an enormous beehive oven. The monks must have eaten a lot of bread. It houses an excellent treasury containing icons from the 15thCentury onwards, incense burners, candelabra, and vestments, beautifully embroidered in gold thread and pearls. There are several lovely old illuminated books, including a very old copy of St Mark's Gospel, and some books with beaten silver covers. Hanging on the wall is a two metre scroll from the Emperor donating the island to the Monastery. The tourist counter had some very expensive souvenirs - including large, jewelled pectoral crosses priced at 1300 euros! We walked back to town down the steep old cobbled path which had to be used by the locals before roads were built, visiting St John's Cave on the way, and had lunch in dappled shade under the bamboo roof of Loukas' flower filled restaurant.

On Sunday 11th we moved on to Samos, which is in NE direction, back towards the Turkish coast. At its nearest point it is only 3 kilometres from Turkey. Mike's hook for holding the chain while pulling up the anchor did help him to have the occasional rest but his back really isn't up to the strain these days, so we shall continue to try and avoid deploying the stern anchor whenever possible. It was a mostly cloudy day, and the wind was from the NE of course - dead on the nose again. We arrived 7 hours later, having motored all the way, keeping slightly off the wind. It is possible to tie up on the waterfront in the attractive little town of Pythagorian, but it could be a little noisy as the quay is surrounded with cafes and restaurants. There is also an excellent anchorage, but we went for the newly completed marina with electricity, water, showers and a washing machine. It is only 10 minutes walk round the cliff (past the sewage processing plant) to the town which is named after Pythagoros who was born on the island. Aristarchus, a later Samian mathematician, is reputed to have been the first person to put the sun at the centre of our universe. In the 6th century Samos was ruled by the tyrant Polycrates who built the huge temple of Hera - one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

On Monday we hired a car to explore the island. First we looked at Vathi, which is built on a steep hillside. The twisty, one car width streets have two-way traffic, so we parked and had a quick look around and then drove over to Samos Town looking for a coffee. Samos town proved to be a nightmare of double parked cars, so we did a u-turn and headed out west along the coast road. We finally found our coffee in a village called Kokari, sitting by a pretty little harbour with a white pebble beach. We then drove further west and turned up a very steep valley to the village of Manolates. This is set high up on the mountain, the sides of which are terraced with vines used to make Samos wine. Lots of people were panting up the long, twisty road on foot. Most of them looked too old or too large to be risking it. If you like vertical hiking, this would be a great place to stay. The little village is full of artists' studios and little cafes. Most of the houses are well cared for, painted a brilliant white and decorated with pots of geraniums and bougainvillea, but there were also one or two possible restoration 'projects' Mike fancied. I pointed out that the nearest DIY shop was 10 miles away, down twisty mountain roads, and there was no way I would be popping out for a packet of screws when he needed them. How people furnish these houses is a mystery to me. You couldn't get a furniture van within 300 yards of some of them even if the van made it up the steep bends. After lunch we headed back down to the coast road and continued west, with steep green slopes on the left, cut by deep, lush valleys and an ultramarine sea, edged with turquoise on the right. Eventually we arrived at Karlovasi, a port on the northwest end of Samos. We spent some time deciding that we didn't fancy this as a potential stop off point on our journey north, because there seemed to be very few free places. Then we carried on a couple of miles to Potami and walked up a track past a very old church. This had once had three floors inside, but now you could see right up to the dome at the top. We carried on, up a shady path, over the knurled roots of huge plane trees, beside a little river, towards a waterfall.

We made our way back to Pythagorian along a winding road through the hills. We had a quick look at the remains of the Temple of Hera - through the fence as it was closed on Mondays - it was certainly an enormous place, though being built on a flat plain close to the sea, I would have thought it was very vulnerable to pillaging. Only the foundations and one reconstructed pillar remain. Then we did a Lidls run to try and find some reasonably priced wine for Mike. Everything in Greece seems twice the price of Turkey, and the wine in the local shops is often as expensive as in England. We found some Nemea for under 3 euros, which turned out to be OK. This was fortunate as we bought 12 bottles.

Next day we returned the car and then walked up the hill, past the old Roman theatre - now reconstructed with wooden seats and stage, and clearly used for modern productions. We passed a shepherd on the way, complete with sheep, shepherd's crook and mobile phone. Then we arrived at the holy cave where the prophetess Sybillia Feto spoke of the 'one true God'. It has a very small chapel built in it, tended by two tiny, rather miserable ladies, dressed in black. Mike reckoned they had been chosen for their size as they didn't have to bend over in the cave. Their labour did not appear to be bringing them much joy and the chapel reminded me vaguely of a public loo. A monastery has now been built over the cave.

We went on to the tunnel, ordered by Poycrates and built by the engineer Eupalinos in the 6th Century BC. It was a marvellous feat of engineering, designed to take water from the spring above Pythagorian, to Samos town on the other side of the mountain. It would have been possible to take the water round the mountain, following the contours, but this would have been more vulnerable to attack, so the decision was made to tunnel right through the mountain, saving time by starting at both sides and meeting in the middle - all this with the most basic of tools. The engineer cleverly increased his chances of meeting up by turning the last few yards of the north tunnel to the right and of the south tunnel to the left. Amazingly there was very little difference in the height of the two when they met. The tunnel is about 1000 metres long, took eight years to build and it is estimated that progress was at about 10 - 15 centimetres a day. It was mentioned as a wonder by Herodotus in 463 AD, and functioned as a water supply until the 7th century AD when the money to keep it in repair was no longer available. Its position was lost for centuries until it was rediscovered by a monk at the end of the 19th century and excavated by German archaeologists in the nineteen seventies. We were able to walk along a couple of hundred yards of it. It is very narrow in places and has occasional small 'rooms' off the main tunnel. There is a second tunnel some 20 feet below and walking on the gratings looking down into this is a bit nerve wracking.

Back at 'Sundancer', we checked the weather forecast yet again. The duration of the promised southerlies has decreased to only a few hours and then it is back to northerlies again. Our next leg is some 60 to 70 miles north, which will take a minimum of 12 hours, maybe even longer, unless we get some push from the wind. Then there are a 100 more miles north before we turn west. We had planned to be at the northernmost point of the Aegean by mid May to give us time to spend time in the Sporades before heading south again. It is now already mid May and we are nowhere near our target so we have had a major rethink and have decided to give up battling against the wind, abandon the northern Aegean, and turn left across the Cyclades Islands, this time across a more northerly group than those we stopped at on the way to Turkey two years ago. We will then spend some time in the Saronic Islands of Poros, Idhra Dhokos and Spetsai before coming home for the summer.

Thursday 15th May - Sunday 25th May. Sailing west (mostly)

We left Pythagorian at 08.30 and headed west to the island of Fournoi. We put up the sails almost immediately and managed an hour of sailing before the wind died. By 10.15 it was back and at last we were sailing at 6 knots with a reef in the main and several rolls in the genoa. It was a fairly bumpy ride because of the swell, but at least the engine was off. Fournoi and its close companion, look like a Rorsarch blot, and there are several small anchorages available. We chose Quarry Bay, close to the southern end and arrived at 2 pm. Here there is an old marble quarry, but little else, apart from a road, down which a young man on a motor bike practiced a few noisy wheelies in the evening. There was a small amount of swell coming in so we rolled a little, but we had a peaceful night.

On Friday we were heading mostly north again the 12 miles to Ikaria, into a NW wind so we were back to motoring but now over a very smooth sea. We found the little harbour of Ikaria town, which is very shallow and whilst manoeuvring to a berth inside we sat gently on some rocks for a few minutes, which gave me a few nervous moments, but Mike managed to get us off again by some energetic reversing. Ikaria is a huge lump of barren rock, rising to over 1000 metres. On the lower slopes there are some scrubby trees, and there are a few centres of population with the usual white, cube shaped houses. Tourism has barely touched it as yet, and the little port is nearly full of small fishing boats. There is just one short pontoon reserved for visiting yachts.

After one night in Ikaria we moved on the 45 miles to the island of Mykonos and had a perfect sail in a beam wind of Force 3 for five of the nine hours it took us to get there. We touched 6.8 knots at one point but were down to 4.5 by the time we decided to put the engine on again. There was an anxious moment when Mike switched on and could not get any revs. with the engine in gear. When he put it in reverse it stopped dead. We had something caught around the prop. He kept moving the lever into hard astern and eventually must have managed to get rid of whatever it was (so no need to go over the side to investigate!) We anchored in a bay called Ormos Ay Annas on the south of the island. There were three tavernas ashore with sun beds laid out and scattered clumps of holiday villas around the low, scrubby hillsides.

On Saturday morning the sea was like a millpond and the water so incredibly clear we could see our anchor dug in securely on the sandy bottom. It was such a perfect start to a day that we breakfasted in the cockpit for the first time this year. Strong winds were forecast for Monday and Tuesday so we motored round to find safety in Mykonos Marina on the west side of the island, taking a coffee break in a wide bay near the south west corner. Mykonos is a stopping off point for cruise ships, so the passengers can visit Delos, and an enormous liner preceded us into the harbour. Ferries are coming and going all the time and five small motor boats were speeding around. The marina is still a dusty building yard, with very slow progress being made towards completion, and it is about 1 mile out of town, down a very busy road with no pavements. There is no electricity or water, but at least at present it is free. The huge main breakwater is finished and ferries and cruise ships tie up to the outside. Yachts go stern or bows to inside of the breakwater. To avoid having to deploy our stern anchor, we went alongside, feeling a bit selfish as this takes more space, but there seemed to be plenty of room for other yachts.

Next day we caught the bus into town in the evening, by which time the major crowds of Americans and Japanese had returned to their cruise ships, but it was still crowded with young holiday makers, downing cocktails in the bars. All the cottages lean on each other, painted a brilliant white with bright shutters and balconies, and the paved alleyways are often only three feet wide. They are lined with dozens of shops selling everything from expensive jewellery to fridge magnets. There are several picturesque windmills near the harbour. On Monday we caught the bus into town again to get our tickets for Delos for Tuesday (Delos is 'closed' Mondays) and dropped into a harbour café for a coffee. The bill was 10 euros (which did include two free, though miniscule, croissants)! Mykonos really is the most expensive place we have been to for some years.

Back at the marina, the wind had started to blow strongly from the south east - a beam wind for the boats moored stern-to - which puts tremendous strain on anchors and we were really glad we had moored alongside. At lunchtime there was an hour's excitement when a German charter boat came in and moored stern-to. His anchor failed to hold and he was blown sideways by the strong wind, into the next boat (whose crew had gone into town). In trying to pull up his anchor to re-set it, he tangled it with the chain of the adjacent yacht. He was in danger of dislodging the next two yachts and the anchor chain of the empty boat was scraping down his hull. About six people, including Mike and I, leaped to the rescue, and with much fending, off, tying on of long ropes and winching sideways, we eventually succeeded in turning him safely alongside. Later some acquaintances of ours arrived in their classic wooden yawl 'Deliverance', in which they have been all round the world. Space had run out by now and the wind was still howling into the marina, so we managed to attract their attention and invited them to raft up alongside us.

Next day we set off early by ferry to Delos. Delos is a very small island, reputed to be the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. It is only 5 Km long, but in about 100 BC it was the commercial and religious centre of the known world, and merchants, bankers and artists settled there, building large and luxurious villas. Soon after this it was sacked by an enemy king and by pirates and went into decline. About 30,000 people lived there at its height. Today there are the remains of numerous temples and very many houses and a small theatre. There are some mosaics still in existence, and a splendid row of Delos lions roaring away. The island has had a chequered history, with many invasions and several occasions when the inhabitants were sold into slavery. At one point people were banned from dying or being born on the island, to maintain its purity. On the way back to 'Sundancer', we saw a young black man being forced to hand over his stock of carved giraffes, elephants and bongo drums to a policeman. We presumed he was an unlicensed trader, but it did seem a shame.

On the Wednesday 21st of May we left Mykonos for Siros - going due west, in company with Phil and Jill (shades of The Archers) in 'Deliverance'. The sea was calm and it looked for a short while as though we might have a decent sail, but the wind died rapidly and we motored all the way to Finikas, a little village in a pretty bay. We tied up alongside the outside of the long pontoon, but were warned that a lot of charter boats would be coming in, so decided to move over to the anchorage. This was a big mistake. I swam for the first time to check the anchor was well in, which was a reassurance overnight when it blew up to Force 5 and we rocked and rolled all night, getting very little sleep. Next day we set off again in a NW direction, intending to stop at a little anchorage on the east side of Kea, or possible go round to Korissia on the NW corner, though we were a little worried about how sheltered the anchorages would be. We had a good sail for a couple of hours over a rather lumpy sea, then the wind headed us for a while so we were back to motoring. Eventually, in the interests of a guaranteed good nights sleep we decided to carry on to Olympic Marina, on the mainland of Greece. This turned out to be a good idea as we then had a further couple of hours of excellent sailing at around 6 knots all across the Kea Strait.

Olympic Marina is a boat park, full of large gin palaces and medium to small motor boats. Many of the bigger boats have British flags and on Thursday and Friday, workmen were busy washing and polishing, ready for the owners to arrive (some by helicopter) for the weekend. The marina is out on a limb and pretty soulless and also expensive, but we needed fuel, water, provisions and access to a washing machine. With the cost of the berth for three nights we could have almost bought the washing machine. Sitting in the cockpit relaxing on Friday afternoon we were startled by a crashing noise from the front of the boat. A young couple in a small motorboat had misjudged the corner and hit our anchor, the point of which took a chunk out of the fibreglass on the bow. Later we realised that one of our large round fenders had gone missing, (did I fail to tie it on securely?) so one way and another it has been an expensive few days. On Friday night we decided to go out for a meal, only to discover that the marina restaurant was being refurbished, the restaurant up the hill, mentioned in our pilot book, was no more, and the bus to the town of Lavrion didn't run in the evening, so we walked the two kilometres along the busy road - for a most unexciting meal! We decided to stay an extra night since we thought all the anchorages around would be full of weekenders from Athens, and then head across to the Saronic Islands. The weather is now lovely, and seems to have settled at last so we will hopefully have some pleasant days pottering and some peaceful nights at anchor.

Sunday 25th May - 4th June - Pottering around the Saronic Islands

On Sunday 25th May we motor sailed across from the mainland to Poros, a small island just off the Peloponnese peninsular. We found that our chosen anchorage - Russian Bay - was full of gin palaces taking advantage of the sunny weekend. Being just 25 miles from Piraeus (the port for Athens) and 30 from Olympic Marine, it is an easy distance for weekenders. We settled behind a pretty little island, complete with spiky aloe vera, umbrella pines and a little chapel, and by evening it was very calm, apart from the occasional wash from passing ferries to Poros Town. In the morning we motored up to Poros to have a look at the quay as we planned to stop there to pick up water and provisions on our way back. We found a long pontoon with everybody moored alongside and plenty of space - ideal for us for next week. The attractive town climbs up a pointed hill behind the long quay, and its cream and beige and pink colours are a change from the usual gleaming white of the Cyclades Islands. Passing south of Poros, you go through a very narrow strait - only about 300 yards wide in places. The right hand side of the channel is very shallow so care is needed not to go aground, especially as fast ferries pass this way as well. We put our sails up on the other side and sailed over a slight sea at about 5 knots - this is the kind of sailing I really like! Apart from rounding the corner when we were caught between a ferry and some rocks and briefly put the engine on, we sailed all the way over to Mandraki, on Idhra. Mandraki was a disappointment as, despite what our pilot book said, it was too deep to anchor because most of the shallower water was roped off for swimming. We went on along the north coast of Idhra, and round the western corner to an idyllic anchorage below Ak. Ay. Nikolaos. It is enclosed with high, rocky hills and the water is crystal clear. We swam and stayed for the night, sharing it part of the time with three little fishing boats.

At 9.30 next morning, we set off for a large bay called Ormos Skindos on the north side of Dhokos, over a calm sea. In the NW corner of the bay there is a little cove called Derrick Cove where we found a colony of young cormorants. Further into the bay, we anchored on the east side. It was deep until quite close in. We had lunch, but when the wind swung round pushing us towards some rocks on the shoreline, we decided to move on to Ormos Kapari on the mainland, taking care to avoid a very nasty reef, with rocks barely awash, on the way in. This bay is very wide, with plenty of space to anchor in about 5 metres. The weather continued warm and sunny, with gentle breezes in the day, sufficient to blow you along at 4 - 5 knots, and calm nights. It is ideal pottering weather.

On Wednesday we left at about 10.30 am and sailed at a nice 5 knots, most of the way to Ormos Zorioryia on the NW corner of Spetsai. This is a fairly large bay with plenty of shallow water for anchoring, and the sea is very clear and warm. We swam and snorkelled for a while. Next morning we took the dinghy ashore and wandered in the dappled sunlight under the pine trees. There are no roads here, just rough tracks. Only one house on shore appeared to be occupied but there are a number of derelict buildings - the remains of what must have once been a small community - and an old church, in poor condition, though peering through the windows we could see that someone still lights candles in it. One building now houses some chickens and there is a flock of sheep around. In the distance we could hear peacocks, and the crickets were rasping noisily in the trees. We walked out to the point where there was one smart house which looks like a holiday home for someone who really likes to get away from it all, and 50 yards away, a very spruce new church. A brown snake, about four feet long, sped away into some rocks as I approached. Every so often a few tourists on scooters bounced along the rough tracks and there were even a few cyclists puffing up the hills in the heat.

We spent the next two nights anchored in Ormos Porto Kheli, a wide, circular bay with a long quay full of fishing boats and yachts, and with lots more yachts on moorings or at anchor. We watched holidaymakers windsurfing and dodging between the moored boats in Hobby Cats. On the second day we decided to take a ferry over to Spetsai Town, since taking 'Sundancer' into the harbour there would be difficult because of lack of space. We were advised to take a local bus five miles along the coast to Kosta, and catch the ferry there as it was much cheaper than taking the hovercraft from Porto Kheli itself.

A few days ago Mike decided he wanted a haircut and I experimented with a home hairdressing set I had bought. After cutting the back reasonably well, I started on the top and lost my nerve when he began to resemble a hedgehog, so I left him with long bits on top, draping (Bobby Charlton style) over the crew cut. The first thing we saw when we got to Spetsai was a real old fashioned barber's shop with an elderly hairdresser in charge. We told him, in mime, what I had done and he laughed and, with infinite care, succeeded in rescuing the situation.

No cars are allowed on Spetsai, though delivery vans and small lorries rush around the harbour road. Everybody else goes by scooter or motorbike. I saw one very fat grandma riding side saddle behind her grandson, beaming with pleasure, and mums and dads have toddlers in front of them and older children behind - with never a crash helmet in sight. Back in Porto Kheli we had lunch, shopped and collected two 15 litre cans of diesel. For once I was glad of our big dinghy, bumping back across the bay to 'Sundancer'.

From Porto Kheli we went back to Ormos Kapari and then spent a night in a lovely little anchorage behind the small islet south-west of Spathi on the north east tip of the Peloponnese. One very small motor boat joined us with six adults and six children on board but by evening we were on our own. It was Sunday again and we watched a procession of at least twenty motor cruisers pass by, heading back to Athens. It must be a great way to spend a weekend after a week's work in the hot, dusty city.

On Monday morning we returned to Poros and moored alongside our pontoon. We were just enjoying a shandy when a man came along and told us lots of charter boats were expected that evening and we must moor either stern to or bows to the quay. 'Bows to' means damage to Mike's back when he pulls the stern anchor up by hand. 'Stern to' means the difficulty of trying to make 'Sundancer' go backwards in a straight line. There was hardly any wind and lots of space on the quay so we decided now was the time to try stern to, and with the help of another sailor on the quay to take the ropes and a good long run to get 'Sundancer' going backwards, we managed it very well. On Tuesday Mike serviced the engine, only to find the filter he had been supplied by Perkins was a different number and a different size to the one he took off. Mike rang Jackie back in England to phone the supplier to check up if it was OK. One supplier told her no and another told her yes so we carried on and will keep our fingers crossed. (In fact the other supplier e-mailed two days later to say it was OK). We stocked up on food and water, took two bags of washing to the laundry and had a very nice meal out in a fish restaurant. Prices have gone down a bit in this area.

On Wednesday 4th June we moved on to Korfos, via a lunch stop on the islands of Dhorousa. There are a couple of anchorages on this almost deserted island, but quite a large taverna, which we presume must make its money from the Athens weekend trade. We continued on to Korfos Town, a small town set in an almost landlocked bay which should have meant no problems, but the bottom did not hold well. In the morning we felt we were a bit close to some rocks when it started to blow, so we were forced to up anchor and try somewhere else in the bay. On the third go the anchor set, and we waited out some strong winds in the late morning, leaving after lunch, heading for Ormos Kalamki, the anchorage on the right of the entrance to the Corinth Canal, having had a lovely week in the Saronic Islands.

5th June - 14th June, - Fighting the west winds up the Gulfs of Corinth and Patras

Our journey to the eastern mouth of the Corinth Canal proved pretty unpleasant, with a nasty sea and wind on the nose for the last two and a half hours. Spray was coming over the hood and we had to keep a watch for commercial traffic approaching and leaving the canal. Finally we had to tack through the deep water anchorage where several tankers were at anchor.The tension was made worse by the fact that we didn't know how good our anchorage would be, as the pilot book is unenthusiastic about its holding capability. When we got there there was good shelter from the wind from the north west and the anchor set first go, so we enjoyed a gin and tonic in the cockpit, a good night's rest and were ready to go into the canal early next morning. We were one of only four yachts going through, and there were no big ships this time. The transit cost us 120 euros. It is quite an experience motoring along the narrow canal, in 8 metres of blue/green water and gazing up at the sheer walls. We spotted a rather mangy fox, high up on the cliff.

Exiting the canal, we motored for about an hour over a calm sea and then hit north westerly winds and a big swell from the west. We turned to the north and had an exciting sail over to Vathi, an anchorage tucked up on the north coast of the Gulf of Corinth. It looked fine on the chart but when we got there we found the larger area of shallow water was in the SE corner and the north westerly wind, streaming down the bare hillsides, was creating waves into here. We saw another yacht anchored in the more sheltered SW corner, but it was already occupying most of the shallow water and was anchored fore and aft so we could not swing to anchor in what was left. We decided to use our bow anchor and then tie to the shore (first time this season). We had put the dinghy back on board to go through the canal, so I tried swimming to shore with the rope. The only suitable place to tie onto was a large and abrasive rock and we were being pushed towards the rocks by the strong wind, so Mike wasn't happy with this. We then launched the dinghy and pulled up the anchor and tried again, ending up with one rope tied to a rock on the beach which rolled gently into the sea, but held there, and another to a very scratchy tree. This took us about an hour and three quarters and we finally had some 'lunch' at 4 pm. A motor home begins to have more and more appeal. (Mike wants a canal boat on the French canals.)

We didn't fancy another night here so got up at 6 am and headed off to another anchorage further up the Gulf of Corinth before the winds kicked in. The sea was pretty choppy and we were headed by a force 5 gusting 6 for the last three miles. Turning north up into the Gulf of Antikiron we made it safely into Ormos Vereses by 11.30. The anchor set beautifully first time on the sandy bottom and the strong wind, which was blowing us safely off shore, had gone away by bedtime. We had another early start the next day as more west winds were forecast. This hop took us only another 10 miles along the Gulf of Corinth, doing 20 miles in all, going south from our anchorage, west along the gulf and then north to the unfinished marina of Itea at the top of yet another gulf. The morning was cloudy and cool but the sea was not too lumpy. We made a couple of attempts at sailing, but abandoned them in the end as the wind was too light. There was plenty of space in the marina at Itea and we moored alongside a very rough pontoon, tearing our remaining fender socks to shreds. We really must invest in a plank to put between the fenders and the quay. Once safely tied up, we realised that we had moored next to one of the three sluices which allow water through the concrete pontoon into the harbour to keep it fresh. Once any sea gets up they act as blowholes, spraying water noisily through the gap. It was too windy to move, and by the time it had settled someone else was moored behind us. By bedtime the sea had calmed down but it picked up again in the night and 'Sundancer' started rolling from side to side so Mike got me up at two o'clock to move the boat about six feet along the quay which was enough to stop the rolling. Itea is a pleasant town with cafes all along the water front and hotels catering for the coachloads of tourists who want to visit Delphi. Next day we enjoyed the sunshine, did some shopping, ate ashore and then moved on to the lovely island of Trizonia.

This time we motored about 8 miles down the Gulf of Itea and then some seventeen along the Gulf of Corinth so we made some progress west, under blue sky over a glassy sea. The (again unfinished) marina on Trizonia was more crowded than on our last visit but we found space inside the outer breakwater. It is surrounded by green hills and almost all the housing is concentrated round a small shallow bay with turquoise water. A small gin palace tied up near to us with some very glamorous girls on board who proceeded to model some very attractive swimwear and dresses for a photo-shoot on the quay beside us. 'Deliverance' was anchored off and Phil and Jill rowed over to see us. We stayed an extra night and walked round the island in the morning before it became too hot. A track takes you up through an olive grove with some pretty ancient trees. The noise of the cicadas was deafening and they were leaping underfoot. We saw some pretty butterflies and dragonflies, and lots of giant spider webs strung from tree to tree. As we approached the village again we passed the skeleton of a house under construction with a magnificent view to the mainland and the start of a shady garden and completed paved pathway to the front door, with a vine covered archway over it. The four builders appeared very comfortable, sitting in the shade drinking and eating, so completion may be a few years away yet. On a yacht next to us was a family - father, mother and five children - ranging in age from 12 to 4 months. He told us that they had chartered the yacht for eight weeks, taking 'a sabbatical' as part of the wife's maternity leave. I am not sure that I would count it as much of a holiday trying to keep five children happy on board, and catering and doing laundry for seven. I think I would rather be back at work.

We made a 6.15 am start from Trizonia, making an eight hour journey west along the Gulf, under the handsome Rion Bridge. The seas became calmer the further west we went, and we sailed for a short part of the way. We motored up through the narrow buoyed passageway through the sandbanks, into Mesolongion Marina where we were helped onto a pontoon by Doug on 'Magic' who proved to have spent the winter in Calgari, Sardinia, getting to know Linda and Tony off 'Knight-in-Gale' and Gary off 'Wild Oats', who we had met in Portimao in 2003. The marina is fairly large, consisting of several long concrete pontoons but is only about one quarter full of boats. It is in a very flat area, surrounded by marshy land with a sandy beach to the east which attracts Greek holidaymakers. The marina is a sad place, probably built with your and our tax money, but like so many other Greek marinas, never finished. It is isolated from the town, the fabric is deteriorating, and water and electricity have never been installed. Three dual carriageways lead down to the site, lined with trees and flowering shrubs, but the marina area is dusty, and piles of rubbish - left by yachties - lie uncollected and attract large rats. The local teenagers race up and down the dual carriageways on noisy motorbikes, and the wall of one of the two large stadiums, is decorated with graffiti, including the word 'hooligan' written in Greek letters. There is a collection of old fighter planes, tanks and missile carriers rotting among the weeds behind a metal fence. The town itself, about fifteen minutes walk away, is quite large and the centre is lively with paved streets and lots of shops and cafes. We tried to find the museum dedicated to Byron, who died here, but did not succeed.

On the 14th June we set off at 9 am over a flat sea, and motored all the way to the very sheltered anchorage behind Nisis Petalas, just out of the Gulf of Patras and in the Ionian Sea. The wind got up shortly after we arrived, but this is a lovely big anchorage with lots of space with 5 metre depth and thick mud on the bottom. We felt very secure, and glad to be out of the Gulfs.

15th June to 27th June - Winding down to the end of our cruise

Next day was very calm again. We started just before eight, heading for a little harbour on the island of Kalimnos. We wanted to arrive early as there are a great many charter boats around now and we knew space would be limited. There were only half a dozen yachts in here when we arrived and not much wind and Mike managed once again to reverse up to the quay. Later in the day it got very windy with strong gusts into the harbour, and a fleet of Sailing Holidays yachts came in, causing some chaos dropping their anchors in the wrong places. Their lead boat had to work very hard sorting them all out, and we were in fear for a while that they would lift our anchor, but all was well.

On Monday we moved on to the roomy anchorage of Vlihko on Levkas. One of Mike's favourites this is a big enclosed bay with a bottom of thick mud so you are held very securely. Here we dinghied ashore and walked through the valley to the beach at Dessimi and spent a couple of days sunning ourselves and swimming. The heat is now notching up a little every day and we will soon be looking forward to cool English showers!! We had a couple of days in Levkas Marina, did some shopping for presents, and then moved on through the Levkas Canal to the unfinished Cleopatra Marina opposite Preveza at the entrance to the inland sea of Amvrakikos. This is a private marina and, not having been built with EEC money, looks as though it may be completed in the near future. At present there are good showers and electricity and water (expensive) if you want them, the buildings are nearly finished but need fitting out and paths and flower beds need completion. There are some 20 yachts in the marina, mostly empty so it looks as though their crews have gone home to avoid the heat. Behind the marina is a large boat park where we plan to leave 'Sundancer' on land. The airport of Aktion is only a mile away but unfortunately no flights were available in the next week. We had the boat hauled out on Tuesday and then took the bus to Igoumenisa, then the ferry to Corfu and caught a flight to Birmingham on Friday 27th June.

Saturday 6th September

We were thoroughly fed up with the English summer by the end of August and were glad to return to 'Sundancer' by the same rather tortuous route as our journey back to England in June. We had again failed to book a direct flight to Preveza so had to fly via Corfu. The journey was composed of taxi, train, another train, plane, taxi, hotel for the night, taxi, ferry, taxi, bus, taxi. We did not know where the bus station was in Igoumenitza so got a taxi from the ferry which went round two corners back to almost where we started and cost five euros! It all sounds an arduous journey but, apart from a one hour delay on the plane, it was all very smooth, unhurried and not unpleasant.

The weather was hot and sticky when we arrived. 'Sundancer' was covered in bird guano, but otherwise was fine and Mike soon hosed off the mess. We later discovered a bird's nest inside the boom. The yard couldn't launch us until Tuesday afternoon so we slowly did the few necessary tasks, took the yard bus to Preveza via the underwater tunnel to shop, and ate out in the little restaurant up the road. We also befriended Richard, a rather lonely man on a nearby boat. His wife hates sailing, his Moody 44 is too big to manage on his own, and the friend who was supposed to join him for the first 10 days had to stay in Northern Ireland, working on a water project which had been delayed by floods.

Preveza sits at the head of an inland sea, the Amvrakikos Kolpos, and once on the water we decided to explore this a little heading for Menidhion. It was sunny and very calm and we managed to sail on genoa alone for part of the way. On the way there and back we saw lots of dolphins, three of which played in our bow wave for a short while. The anchorage at Menhidion was sheltered and calm though not particularly pretty but we did see a large white heron and a couple of turtles swimming round.

We returned to the anchorage off Preveza and met up with Phil and Jill again on 'Deliverance'. They had spent a hot and fairly windless summer out here as their family wanted to visit in the school holidays.

Next day we set off south, through the Levkas canal, towards Cephallonia where we were picking up our friend Jackie for a week. The wind, of course, had moved to the south - unusual for this area - so it was motoring all the way. We stopped at the diesel station in Levkas to pick a small can of petrol for our outboard. We had to wait while a man on a fifty foot yacht, flying an enormous blue ensign, filled his tanks with diesel. His bill came to 596.36 euros. He handed the assistant 6 x 100 euro notes, and then, very carefully, checked the small coins in his change. Perhaps that is how you get rich enough to afford a 50 ft yacht. We stopped for a peaceful night in Vlikho and swam in the slightly murky green water which is now lovely and warm.

The weather forecasts were now mentioning thunderstorms and strong winds in a couple of days, so we carried on to Ayios Eufimia on Cephallonia, arriving on Friday. This is a pleasant little tourist village, and we tied up opposite the cafés and bars on the town quay. On Monday we were woken in the night by tremendous crashings and flashings, and torrential rain beating on the roof. This revealed a number of leaking portlights - one, unfortunately, just where Jackie's head will be resting. Mike did a quick repair job which improved the situation. At least the rain has cleared the stickiness from the air. The forecast for the next week is not wonderful with Force 7 for next Saturday. Oh dear, I do hope England isn't enjoying an Indian summer while Jackie is away.

16th - 23 September Vathi and back with Jackie

Jackie arrived at about 8.30 pm, just at the end of another thunderstorm. The Force 7's never arrived, but the weather had definitely cooled considerably and we had mixed cloud and sunshine and occasional rain at night for the rest of the week. We now need sweaters in the evening and a blanket at night. A local told us that this weather had definitely arrived several weeks early this year. We sailed part of the way to Vathi on Ithaca and then had to motor the last 10 miles in an uncomfortable sea. We anchored for the first night by Vathi town, and then moved up to the North Quay in a sheltered corner. There was a bit of cross wind blowing, so we went in nose first, using the rear anchor. When we left two days later, Mike decided to take the rope on the rear anchor up to the bow where he could pull up the chain and anchor on the electric windlass. This worked well and saved damaging his back, though it takes a while to stow everything back in the right place afterwards. We will use this technique again, but I wonder why it has taken him 7 years to think of it. Although there were several crossed anchors when we left, ours came up with no problems. On the way back from Vathi, we had a great sail on a beam reach for the first hour and stopped in a deserted bay for lunch. Back in Ay Euphemia, on the Monday it had warmed up enough to go swimming.

24th September - 12th October - just pottering again

On Wednesday, after Jackie's departure, we took advantage of a SE wind to sail a good part of the way back up to Vlicho. Swimming is now off here as the bay has been invaded by large brown jelly fish. In any case the next night, all next day and half the next we had rain. We played a lot of cards and I even got out the water colour paints - not very successfully. A tremendous thunderstorm put about four bucketfuls of water into the dinghy. Friday was lovely so we walked over the hill to Dessimi Beach again and spent the day there sunbathing and swimming. On Saturday we had a good, though short sail, over to Spartakhori on the island of Meganissy, and tied up to a quay with - oh joy - haul off lines, so no need to use our anchor. There were also plenty of people to talk to, including one couple who are members of Bromsgrove Boaters. The temperature is now just right for doing a bit of walking, and the taverna provided a large washing machine to catch up on the laundry.

Sunday night was pretty wet again, but Mike's birthday on Monday was a beautiful day and we motored round to the little port of Vathi (another one, not the one on Ithaka) and then the three deeply indented bays on the northwest corner of Meganissi - Kapali, Abelike and Port Atheni. There are numerous green and pretty anchorages in these bays. We settled at anchor in Port Atheni. During the rest of the day two flotillas arrived, planning to moor to the small quay. By this time there was a strong beam wind blowing and even the modern charter boats, which normally have no trouble going backwards, were struggling. The boats nearly all had several goes at reversing and anchors were dropped in all directions. The flotilla leaders had to work very hard getting everyone safely on to the quay. We watched smugly from the safety of our anchorage. Later Richard, who we had met in Cleopatra Marina, arrived with two friends so we joined up for a merry evening for Mike's birthday in the local taverna.

Next day we walked up to Katomeri village and then down to Vathi for a coffee, before returning to Port Atheni. The sky was blue and the temperature perfect for walking and there were lovely views down to the bays and over the tranquil sea, to the dramatic mountains on the mainland.

We motored back to Vlicho, passing between the two islands - Skorpios and Skorpidi - owned by the Onassis family. These look very inviting but unfortunately, although boats can anchor in the bays, people are not allowed land on them.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the forecast was for rain at least part of the day, and cloud all day. Mike managed to get one of the leaking portholes fixed before it started on Wednesday and another on Thursday. Apart from that we played cards and Scrabble and read - in a somewhat gloomy frame of mind. On Thursday night we had a tremendous thunderstorm with lightning flashing continually behind the mountains all around us. Friday morning started with torrential rain, but cleared by lunch time to leave warm sunshine. The forecast was for southerlies so we set off north again for Levkas Marina imagining we would be ghosting up the ten miles under the genoa alone, but no - the wind, though very light, was on the nose as usual. As we approached Levkas Marina, two pelicans flew across the bow and landed close to a white egret.

In the marina we found we were close to Pat and Alan on 'Lucky Star' who we had first met in western Portugal and we caught up with the news on other crews. Sunday was overcast, with strong winds and pretty cool. In Levkas we had a couple of meals out and cycled up to Lidls to stock up on wine. Most supermarkets only sell Greek wine which is expensive and not particularly good, but at Lidls you can usually find some decent foreign stuff. Unfortunately this time we have bought 12 bottles of something a little rough on the palate - but Mike is persevering.

On Tuesday we motored up the Levkas canal, through the swinging bridge and into the anchorage at Prevesa where Mike nosed too far into the shallows and hit another rock - I am getting quite nonchalant about hitting rocks as so far the don't seem to have done much damage. We anchored in the bay until Friday morning, enjoying wall to wall sunshine, gentle breezes and a placid sea. Mike hopefully got the other five leaking windows fixed and worked on his suntan in the gentle sunshine. No rain is forecast before we go home so we shan't know till next season whether he has succeeded in fixing them.

We were lifted out at lunchtime on Friday, back in Cleopatra Marina where 'Sundancer' spent July and August. On that occasion we were very nicely placed 50 yards from a toilet block with electricity and water nearby. This time we were put in the 'new area' which is all nicely flattened, but five minutes from the toilet block and with a few temporary electricity and water installations. Our electricity cable travels 75 yards through three extension sockets to reach 'Sundancer'. The first electric socket dangles under a cut off water bottle to keep off the rain and the next two lie on the ground. Mike got an electric shock when he climbed on the boat. He has now earthed the boat, but I do hope it doesn't rain before we go home.

The weather in the middle of our time in the Ionian left a bit to be desired but we have really enjoyed pottering among these green and pretty islands. It is clearly a very popular area with charter flotillas and at one point I counted 150 yachts under sail between Meganissy and Levkas. Even so, there are so many ports and anchorages that we never had any difficulty finding somewhere for the night. We plan to stay in the area next year having decided that we are past having adventures and will forgo plans to head for Croatia.