Monday, September 10, 2012

Greek Sailing - last day

The early morning sun painted the sky red through the arc next to us.

Early morning view
By 10am tourist boats started to appear, and we decided it is time to leave. We sailed across a large bay. This bay is known for several tourist towns (with lots of partying) but also as the main nesting grounds of the loggerhead turtles in the Mediterranean. In the recent years the Greek authorities are trying to find a way to protect the turtles without hurting the tourist industry. These include bans on fast moving boats in the bay. Since the day was short we decided to circumvent around the bay to the south tip of the island and then head north toward Zakintosh town, the main town of the island. 

Interesting rock structures at the tip of the island

After passing the southernmost tip of the island we went by a series of beaches that were clearly resorts and tourist attractions.

As usual in Greece, there was a white church at the main points of attractions, even if these are in the middle of beach resorts.

Approaching the main town we could sit spread below two hills. The town is built around a large bay, and much of this bay is the port.

The port serves multiple fairies that connect it to other islands and the main land.

We moored across from the fairies in a nice area for yachts. We didn't finish tying the lines, and we were approached by a port agent on an old motorcycle. There was some discussion whether we need his services or have to go to the port authorities. His poor English combined with a rather mysteriously worded signs ("you may not need to use agent...") increased the confusion. In the end, Udi managed to sort the payment for port fees, water, and electricity, and dealt with the paper works.

port agent + motorbike
Walking along the piers we encountered one the weirdest boats any of us ever saw. It looked like a spaceship. Inside was a large circular sofa around which passengers can sit and look down through a big circular window in the floor (you can see the outline of the rail around that window in the black front window in the image).

Admiring "space"-ship
Ayelet wanted to fill one of the big missing pieces in my Greek experience. I haven't had Gyros, the local casual food to go. She got from the port agent instructions where to find the best Gyros in town, and we all headed there to eat (we were starving).

This is the time to mention that everywhere we ate, the table had paper covers with a map of the local island. I was told that this is same throughout the greek islands. I found this interesting and a bit quaint. 

Udi, and a typical table cover with a map of the island

Udi demonstrating the proper way to each them
After the first Gyros, we had a second, and by then I was full. I found them very nice.

We had time for a short stroll in the town. Nothing much to report about.

We stopped for coffee, but then realized that I am late. I rushed ahead back to the boat to finish packing. We then said our goodbyes and I went on a cab to the airport.
parting view of Zakintosh

To conclude, it was a great week. It is definitely an experience I would be happy to repeat (hint!).

Finally, here is a map, that maybe should have been in the first post, showing the location in the bigger context.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Greek sailing, day 6 - exploring the Zakintosh coast

After the usual morning routine, we planned for the day's sail. There was some wind coming from the hills, and Udi decided we should try existing the bay without using the engines. We opened the sails and disconnected from the mooring lines. 

The going was a bit slow, as the wind wasn't very strong. We had to weave our way across the small bay to catch the wind. After few turns we were out, and picked stronger wind over the open sea.

After making headways southward and away from the land, we turned and had the wind on our back. This allows to open the two sails in opposite orientation - a butterfly position.

butterfly wings - looking from the rear of the boat forward

The shore continued the trends we say yesterday afternoon - high cliffs that seems to have been cut by a sharp knife falling down into the sea. These high structures formed various bays, islands, and caves.

We decided to explore one of the bigger bays we saw. It was just north of a huge rectangular cliff that was extruding into the sea. To us it reminded of Mazada in its shape and drama.

The bay was protected by an small island with its own arch.

We anchored, and Ayelet and me went snorkeling to explore the caves. Udi and Tomer decided they rather rest on the boat, and Roni was still asleep.

Learning from yesterday's experiences, we took an orange marker float with us so Udi can spot where we are. We also took a dive light. 

The light, however, had low batteries, and stopped working quite early.

We found few caves which were nice. The third one, which looked rather smallish turned out to be a tunnel across the cliff. We came out through a narrow opening on the other side.
cave entrance with a suspicious light in the end

We swam across a small bay in the cliffside toward another, much larger, arch. At some point, Ayelet lost the float, and swam back to catch it. I used the break to practice free diving close to the local fish. I had partial success in catching few of them.

When we got to the arch, we realized it was a rectangular hall, but there were many side passages. Some lead to short dark passages. One, however, lead to a pool with skylights. Sitting on the edge of the pool next to a crack, was an approximation of a Jacuzzi.

way back into the main passage
From the arch we swam to the edge of the island. Here the water was clear and full of life. 

We started swimming back toward the boat. The captain and the crew spotted us and moved the boat toward us. 

Going out of the bay, we passed the big cliff at much closer range, and realized how many caves were just around the corner when we decided we were done. The arch we decided to turn around at is the leftmost one in this pictures.

Sailing southward was easy going and relatively smooth. 

We got to the south "corner" of the island, and start turning west.

A sailboat that passed us on the turn
By now it was late afternoon and we were starting to think where we would anchor for the night. In one of the bays we saw several tourist boats. We decided to check what was the point of interest.

Getting closer we saw a big arch and several large caves.

"castle" of rock overlooking the arch

We anchored in the shallows. This time Udi and the kids went exploring first. I decided that I will join, but had to set up the camera. I did it quickly, and jumped into the water. Checking the camera I realized that I left the viewfind on, and so could not see through the LCD screen. I cursed, and went back on board. Washed the housing with fresh water, dried it, opened it, removed the viewfinder, and closed it back. Jumping back into the water I again discovered that the camera is not work. This time the LCD was on, but apparently I didn't attach the lens correctly and so the camera could not control the lens. Again, I climbed back to the boat, did the whole ritual. This time I checked I can take a picture and move the controls before plunging back to the water. The lesson is to do everything in orderly manner and not skip checks. Luckily this did not end up in a flooded camera.

It was late afternoon by now, and the sun had a very low angle into the caves. This created an impressive effect. All the tourist boats were gone, and so it was very tranquil. 

In the next cave over, I found Udi and the kids. They did a series of dives to model for me.




They turned back to the boat, and I continued to the arch.

Fish below the arch

At this point the battery died on me (it started flashing few minutes after I left the boat). So another lesson is always to load fresh battery before closing the housing :-(

I return the camera to the boat and learned that Ayelet took off snorkeling. I managed to find her and we continued all the way around to the next bay over. The water was calm, and the sun was very special. The deeper water were full of life. We saw several sea stars, some yellow-orange and some purple (there are pictures for earlier days of such stars). We then saw two stars that were yellow with few purple spots. Seems like a hybrid of the two sub-populations.

We spent the night where we anchored. 

After dinner we turned off the light and sat on the deck to watch the stars. Tomer and Roni were counting shooting stars. It always impresses me how much sky is out there, that we usually do not see at all....