Sailing eastwards for our last visits this summer to these ports was exhilarating because we were mainly reaching, sometimes with strong winds on our starboard side from the north. Sometimes with two reefs, Shearwater occasionally rounded up into the winds if over pressed. In waves that increased in height there was rarely spray over the bows. These moody boats seem to get bashed about less than those of Tupperware construction from France and Bavaria.
A whiff of boat snobbishness extends into harbour life. And of course, being in the middle of the yacht class orders, we look up to Oysters. When I see one we sometimes go aboard in order to be nosey. I look up their second hand price, which is usually more than our home would fetch. Then again, the whiff of a pecking order can occur when the yacht has “Hamble, “, or “Cowes” on her stern. The rudest sailor we saw bellowing at a badly tied up charter boat was from Hamble. Parrot christened him Shouty Macshoutface. The crème of sailors will be flying the white ensign, showing their membership of Cowes Yacht Club. As a student I crewed for a brigadier all down the med to Malta on his yacht. I had to scrub the decks every morning before breakfast because we were flying the white flag.
We liked meeting up with other yachts and have had interesting talks with Americans, Dutch, Italians and French about what they were up to in the med. Under the large sycamore tree on the waterfront of Skopelos we had long coffees, surrounded by a cloud of sparrows. Served by a Greek youngster with most upper class English accent, we asked how she learned to speak that way. “Harry Potter films” was the reply. Parrot points out that some of the main actors, for example Emma Watson, have expensive school education.
The saucy laundry lady in Skopelos gave Sarah a ride on her motorbike. She was still laughing about how much we could hear from the next door boats…” you know, being so close…couples in bed…!”
There are over a hundred churches in Skopelos. Four of them are in the picture that I have drawn. The streets and the overlapping house plans are so complicated that they have been the subject of architecture studies. In the museum house of the doctors, the rooms fly off in different directions overlapping and undercutting the neighbours.
There is no chandlers as we know it – just a fishing shop – but that has the fenders and I had to buy one after our visit by a guest who had not learned enough knots. And there is a hardware shop – more classy than B&Q. It had the shackles and pulleys for my project: the grandest home made passerelle in the med.
From Skopelos we sailed on a reach to Skiathos. Having seen how crowded the harbour became, we anchored in a bay to the south. This was walking distance over the top of the older town areas, with church squares and narrow alleys. “Don’t drink the water, trust me on this”, said Nicos in his waterfront bar overlooking the anchorage south of Skiathos. “ we had problems with the borehole. I only serve you in bottles ! “ Well matey, I googled your problems. It boils down to the idea that Greeks have not to drink water with a high lime content. They think you get gallstones. Er, do our English inhabitants suffer near matlock in the peak district.? Parrot says, I think we should be told.
It was good to walk over the hill away from the waterfront bars, where we had tough flat omelettes with nominal cheese on top, and chicken that may or not have been fully cooked. There were a lot of stray cats. Up the slope we found a mini market and prepared our own food that evening, much tastier. Our anchorage was less stressful than the battles for a quay place. There were only two places left as we left in the afternoon, whereas instead we swung free under the stars. There was only a little swell that night, and we were able to row ashore again for coffee before setting sail in the light nw wind that was predicted westwards for Andreamos Bay.
Only it wasn’t a light wind, the gusts became 25 knots or more, enough to send us rounding up with only the genoa headsail on, and we charged along at 6 to 7 knots. The sea state between the islands was rough, but shearwater takes it without waves breaking over us. In this wind Andreamos was calm and we anchored on the upwind side in 7m with 40m of chain out, tied stern to. Knowing this bay from another time, that rain squalls can set in, we laid the extra chain out.
One of our pleasures is again to walk the long dusty tracks through the olive groves where we once saw wild boar. Down on the beach, between the half dozen houses, the water and electric cables just lie on the white round pebbles. That’s Greece. Some stones are so perfect that I have hidden one in a box of tissues to bamboozle Sarah that it is a falcons egg. We heard raucous singing this time from a terrace. How do I know they were rude songs ? It’s the bawdy laughter…
Soon it was time for our last passage, and we noted that the wind would be strong in the morning. ( unusual ). So our afternoon sailing was for the third time running in fresh wind with following waves, this time on the port quarter – all the way to Orei on one tack at high speed for Shearwater, 7 knots with one reef in.
The port, being a centre for Greeks on holiday, was winding down and they were taking away the beach umbrellas. Right on time, Dimitrios was diving in the water under the yacht at his beach. He wound up the supports which carry the boat, and in a low early sun we trundled up and over the road.
There was nearly a week’s work to do for laying up. Engine oil, anodes and a lot of cleaning. Every day we treated ourselves to a coffee at the harbour, a ten minute pedalling journey ,but the bicycles kept getting punctures. Then we discovered that under the boat was a sp
read of goathead thorn. These are triangular in plan and sharp in three dimensions, a bit larger than a pair of grape pips. The shape was recreated by the romans as a weapon in wartime, being made of bronze, and thrown down on the land. It would be impossible to walk over them.
Shearwater is now laid up until the spring. We are looking forward to more of the Sporades – there are so many pretty bays for anchoring between good strong winds for sailing !