June 4 – June 18, 2008
Kea to Porto Rafti, Greece
Island Hopping across the Aegean from Turkey to Greece, Part II
by Lois Joy
June 14th: A Week-end in Kea, Greece:
We arrive in Kea on a Saturday, so the roadside quay alongside restaurant row is full of deluxe power yachts, moored stern-to so that everyone walking along can take a peek at the Athenians in their bikinis—the young and the restless eager to be seen and admired. It is only 15 miles to the Greek mainland. We would not want to join the fray at the quay—even if there is room. There are another two dozen or so yachts anchored in the small harbor; this would be a royal mess during a meltemi. We anchor in mud-grass with 90 feet of chain out. Gunter snorkels out to check the anchor but it is too murky down there.
Soon Helga and I are jumping off the swim ladder, swimming and washing our hair. No one is on the yachts next to us. As we dry off, the Captain of a small power boat moored next to us calls out to Gunter, inquiring about the length of chain we have out. He is afraid we will swing into him. Gunter tells him the forecast is for the wind turning to 6 knots north by Sunday. We would swing the other way. The Captain is not convinced and asks Gunter why he doesn’t pick up the red mooring next to us.
“I tried that; it has no rope attached,” answers Gunter. “In fact, we dropped a boat hook trying to pull it up, which another yacht returned. We’ve seen a few other yachts try; they failed as well.”
“My dinghy is down, you can hand me a line to pull through and I’ll hand it back to you,” the young man offered.
Although it is extra effort, we are happy to be on a mooring ball, rigged with two dock lines cleated to our hulls (extra insurance) as more and more yachts continue to enter the already-crowded harbor.
The three of us walk the town—full of cafes, restaurants, souvenir shops and art galleries curving pleasantly around the bay. We select some produce for our Sunday breakfast underway to the mainland: smooth, pure-white Greek yogurt, peaches, and a crusty loaf of light wheat bread. We dinghy our supplies back to Pacific Bliss and then dinghy back to an off-the-beaten-path restaurant dock across the bay from all the bedlam.
“This looks like a cruiser’s hang-out,” announces Gunter, pleased with his selection. The small restaurant is a simple: square wooden tables covered with paper tablecloths. It takes forever, though, to be waited on, and when the waiter suggests that we come to the kitchen to select a fish for three, Gunter and I eagerly voice our approval to a freshly caught sea bass, without asking the price. While waiting, we have water, wine and appetizers. These are reasonably priced. But the fish-only main course turns out to be the most expensive meal we’ve had in Greece! 80 euros for the fish alone, without side dishes. Beware.
Out on the deck of Pacific Bliss, Helga sips her kahlua nightcap as the stars begin to twinkle. “This is magic!”
“What?” asks Gunter. Truly, we have become jaded after these eight years of cruising.
“The almost-full moon. The stars. All the lights of the little town. The lights swaying on the top of the masts out here. The little church across the bay lit with floodlights. I am so happy out here with all these other boats.”
Without Helga here, we might have forgotten to take a look around before sacking in.
“Aren’t you stressed out by all the problems we’ve had during your leg in the Med so far?” asks Gunter. “The anchor dances, the fickle Med weather…”
“But this is adventure. I like it.”
We take Helga up to do some networking, lying on the net looking at the Big Dipper and other constellations. This indeed, is a moment of bliss. Adventure? We don’t need to search for that. It tends to come to us.
Insert or wrap the following three photos with above section:
01 Church in Kea, 02 Anchorage in Kea, 03 Fisherman in Kea
June 15th: We reach the mainland of Greece.
By 1000, we are well underway to the Olympic Marina, on the southeastern tip of the Greek mainland. After rounding the southern tip of Makronisos Island, we soon approach the breakwater. At 680 berths plus visitors’ berths, per our Guide, this marina should have all the facilities we want, including chandleries. We plan to buy us a new FAT BOY fender as well as new fenders to protect our stern. I call the marina on VHF channel 9 as requested. “No room,” is the curt, no-nonsense reply.
“Just for one night,” I plead. “We need to buy supplies for our boat.”
“We have most of our yachts coming back on Sunday night. No room.”
“Then where can we go?”
“Try Lavrion,” she answers in a “don’t bother me manner.”
I check the Pilot for directions and plug the new course into MaxSea. “A number of charter companies use Lavrion as a base and it can get crowded on turnaround days,” continues the Pilot. I’m hoping that Sunday is not a turnaround day for them. As we enter the port, we manage to find a convenient side-tie where another yacht there motions us in. Plates are set into the mole that say RESERVED Navigare-Yachts with a phone number. A charter manager comes out of a shack.
“Yes, it’s OK. The yachts turn around on Saturday. I breathe a sigh of relief. But we’ll have to charge extra for water and electricity. What a nice man! What a break for us.
We take a look past the mole toward the town. Lavrion was once an important port shipping cadmium, manganese and small amounts of lead from the reworking of ancient mine tailings. The miners probably worked here as early as 1000 B.C. The wealth of mines, including silver, boosted Athen’s wealth during classical times. Today, one can look at Lavrion in two ways: as a grubby “has-been” port with piles of ore and slag littered about the coast, or as an old city with a certain amount of charm and faded dignity. Old world wealth is spread in the villas around the town. The waterfront has sprouted new cafes and bars. Private yachts and at least one excursion yachts med-moor to the new promenade that fronts the restaurants. We will be OK here. I don’t mind that we couldn’t get into Olympic Marina.
After an arrival beer and a siesta, we are ready to venture out on the town when we realize that the wind has shifted and again; the remaining FAT BOY is being squeezed against the dock. We end up using the mooring lines to keep Pacific Bliss away from the dock, while side-tied. An unusual system, but it works.
The marine store in Lavrion is closed until 5 PM. We encounter a friendly Austrian, also waiting there, who offers to give us a ride to the Port Police in the meantime. Checking is complicated. The official gives Gunter a hard time for not having our transit log stamped in Mykonos and Kea, even though he explains that no harbor masters were available in those ports. He provides no suggestions on what Gunter should have done, just groans and frets and eventually stamps his log. Back at the marine store, we purchase a FAT BOY that will be the “adopted” younger brother of the twin remaining. We name him FAT BOY Jr. Then we end up at one of the finest internets I’ve seen in during our world travels. It has a long bar with all kinds of coffee drinks, real cool air conditioning, and a fast connection.
From there we choose a restaurant. Since I am treating, it is my choice. I choose an interesting restaurant with a varied menu, green plaid tablecloths, half-filled with locals. It is away from the harbor row, next to a tire store. They will have to serve good food with that location! A pair of friendly brothers who spent time in Frankfurt are the servers, so they can communicate with us in German. Helga and I share a carafe of white wine, and order souflake (pork kabob) that arrives with French fries. Gunter has an Amstel, and orders mussels with rice that arrives baked in a clay dish. On the house is a dessert of vine-ripened watermelon, cold and luscious. Everyone is happy and satisfied. All this for 40 euros total. I have chosen well.
We complete a list of boat chores, then take a taxi to Olympic Marina to buy another FAT BOY. The one we find there is almost as large as ours, but less rotund, and with black hair (trim) instead of blue, a fraternal twin we’ll call Brother. The marina turns out to be not quite finished and quite sterile, full of Athenian and charter yachts. In the evening, we return to the same restaurant next to the tire shop, planning to watch Germany play in the world cup soccer game on their flat screen TV. But it doesn’t start until 9:45. Gunter and Helga go back to a closer, harborside restaurant to watch while I stay back on Bliss to receive a call regarding the results of my daughter Kim’s surgery.
June 17: Lavrion to Porto Rafti.
By 0940, we have easily slipped off the mooring and dock lines and are underway to Porto Rafti.
The harbor is vast, lined by hundreds of villas and hotels, much more developed that I understood from reading the Pilot. Many Athenians have summer and week-end homes here. There are no more little white “sugar cubes.” These are hastily constructed, with minimal architectural style. We motor past the small boat harbor, but this is shallow and full of fishing boats and a few small motorboats. Tavernas line one side of the U-shaped harbor. Cute, quaint and colorful. On another mole is docked a Coast Guard vessel; it is probably a ferry and charter boat landing as well.
Insert or wrap text with photo 08 Helga, crew duties
All of the sailing yachts are moored or anchored in the vast bay. We follow suit, picking up a large, red triangular mooring and setting up a bridle arrangement with two dock lines. Gunter dives down to check the mooring. It is down 16 feet, a concrete block with a thick white rope double tied with a huge knot to a strong metal mooring connector. We should be able to weather a meltemi here. Helga and I jump into the refreshing, cool water. Our trip has only been 15 miles of motoring, but it is hot here already. We settle in with an arrival beer, lunch and a siesta. We are settled in.
It is Helga’s turn for a farewell dinner. Gunter teases her about ordering two-pound lobsters, using up her euro stash. We choose the Fish Restaurant on the corner (an original name) after landing in the small boat harbor. This is where we will leave Helga for her taxi tomorrow. Gunter orders the spaghetti seafood dish listed on the menu.
“Not now. Too hot,” the waiter responds.
“How difficult is it to just keep some pasta on hand?” Gunter mumbles. “They just don’t want to do it.”
We find the lackadaisical Greek service so different from the eagerness to please attitude of the Turks. We recall the evening in Cesme, Turkey when we had a craving for liver and onions. We found it on the menu at one restaurant on the corner of the plaza. We said we would eat there but that is what we wanted. That waiter didn’t say no; he just ordered liver from the nearby butcher (still open at 9 PM) and made us two delicious plates full. And we, of course, became repeat customers there. Often in Turkey, if there was a lull in business, a waiter would just sit down with us and chat.
Helga and I order an octopus-in-wine dish.
“Only grilled or fried,” answers our waiter.
“Grilled,” says Helga and I nod. Gunter orders calamari. Our grilled octopus is too grilled, and we only get three octopus legs for two people—a little slight. Gunter’s calamari is breaded but OK.
After dinner, we stroll along the promenade. The little harbor has livened up. A long book booth, four stalls long, has opened up with hundreds of titles lying face up—from mysteries to sci-fi, from history to politics, from thrillers to romance.
“Looks like all Greek to me,” comments Gunter. And so it is.
Colorful fishing nets are drying at the edge of the promenade, smaller than those of the serious fishing trawlers at Lavrion. I wonder just how much they can catch here, whether they can make a living from their catch. I understand that the Greeks love to eat the small fish. No wonder. Who can afford the large ones?
After dinghying back to Bliss, we have our final nightcap with Helga, gazing at the moon together, almost full now. Afterwards, Helga sits alone at the helm, watching the other yachts swinging around with a gentle swish-swish. She is deep in contemplation, like so many of our crew before her during their last night on board.
June 18: Helga is leaving…Helga is leaving
Gunter sits there in the salon glumly reading the Athens Today from at least three days ago. He has a bad case of separation anxiety. He already misses their long brother-sister talks in German about their family, childhood friends, and school day memories. Helga is busily packing down in the port hull. It has been wonderful for us to have our respective sisters on board, back to back. (See Culinary Cruising)
Helga arranges to share a taxi to the Athens airport with a guest of another cruiser here. They will be on the same flight back to Munich; then he will continue on to Düsseldorf. Baggage transferred from the dinghy to the promenade, we sit at the Hagen Daz having ice cream and coffee concoctions. Before long, it is good-by time. “I never had a sister, but since you came into my life, now I have one,” she kisses me tearfully. Then she is gone and we are alone again.