From Syros to France August 2010
The trip of Alma Libre back to Hyeres ( Southern France)
It is a long time that I stopped updating my site. The reason was that I was not in a mood to share my sailing adventures as many things have changed in my life. I sold all my shares in the various companies I participated, I got separated from my wife and all these changes have affected me. I decided to sell also Alma Libre after 8 years of use and buy the new Amel 54 to be delivered in La Rochelle end of May 2011. I decided to change the boat not because I was not happy with that but to mark also a new start in my life. I think that the name of new boat will be “Alma Libre Too”. In order to buy the new boat I had to bring back in Hyeres Alma Libre so I thought that that was a great opportunity to sail again to Southern France after all the time I spend in the Aegean sea. I started to organize the trip since May 2010 and first I wanted to find a suitable deckhand to help us during the trip. The crew was myself and my friend Anny with her son Giannis and we tried together to find company for our trip. After a lot of interviews and telephone calls to friends we were not able to find somebody available for the season. We decided to make the trip in August 2010 in order to have also good weather during the trip.
Alma Libre as usual was in the Cyclades and after 6 weeks of sailing adventure in the various Cyclades Islands we started our trip from Syros Foinikas where my summer home is also located. I started the trip with various sad feelings as my life had changed so much since the last time I was sailing from there. But we had to sail away from all this and make a new beginning. I was happy that Anny was with me who is always encouraging me and helped me with all the difficulties of the new beginning. Finally, we found somebody to accompany us through a suggestion from another skipper but we didn’t had the time to meet him before the start of our trip. This was a tremendous mistake as I know that it is difficult to make a trip with somebody that you do not know well enough before but as he was referred to us as an experienced skipper I thought wrongly that the sea should have made us compatible as we habmhm
First Day Syros to Kimolos
Saturday 7th August 2010
So we planned to meet Paris & Iphigenia in Sifnos pick them up from the port and start our trip. We put some last provision on board and we motored to Sifnos as the wind was very low coming from the south. In Sifnos we put them onboard and we started sailing to our first destination which was Kimolos an island not very far away from Sifnos. On the way I informed Paris about the boat and the sail handling and the chart plotter in order to make him competent on the boat.
In Kimolos we stayed in one of the most picturesque and protected bays I have been in Greece in Prassonisi very well protected green waters very clean around us.
In that bay was also my friend Dimitris Rizos who had invited us to go to a panigyri in Chora of Kimolos where my beloved violinist player Nikos Oikonomidis was going to perform with Katerina Spanou music from his latest album Passage to Kimolos
We had a great time as the music was very nice a lot of people were dancing and all this created a vivid atmosphere as in any panygiri. Paris and Iphigenia were back on the boat far away from the Chora and I really felt much more safe than to leave the boat alone in a bay far away. With the bus we arrived back to the boat early in the morning. It was a sunny warm day.
You may click here or on the picture above to listen to my favourite songs by Nikos and Katerina. You may also ckick here to see a video of the event.
Second Day from Kimolos to Elafonissos approx 100 nm
Sunday 8th August 2010
We started early in the morning as we had to cover the 100 miles from Kimolos to Elafonissos in southern Peloponnese.
On the way we stopped for a swim at Sarakiniko in the southern part of Milos which was a place that I wanted to visit. A place with impressive rock formations.
I planned the trip like that as the month we planned to start our trip we had most probably strong north wind meltemi and this route was suitable for a fast sailing. It proved also a wrong guess as this summer the meltemi was very weak and practically we had any wind during the trip. In southern tip of Peloponnese is the cap Maleas and from there the wind was strong coming from the west so we had to motor in the night windward to Elafonissos one very nice bay that proved to be unprotected to the west wind and after dinner we moved the boat to the east side of the island to a very quite anchorage.
The sea water was again beautiful although a lot of new building have destroyed the tranquility of the bay.
Day 3 from Elafonissos to Port Kagyo approx 25 nm
Monday 9th August 2010
After the 100 nm we have covered I wanted the crew to relax a bit and decided to stop at Porto Kagyo a pirate cove in the southern Peloponnese. I had visited the place many years before and I was happy to visit it again.
The place is very wild and impressed all the people that enter the bay. The sea is relative deep and we decided to put our anchor and a rope to the rocks which proved to be a good decision as we had a calm easy night. We tried to fix some malfnction that occured to the dessalinator system unsucessfully, and ordered a new high pressure pipe that would be delivered in Zakynthos. As my background is engineer, I enjoy to fix minor repairs myself , mostly because the puzzle and the problem solving part of them exites me.
We bought some basic provisions from local producers. The people were very friendly and helpful. We had dinner in a not very good restaurant in the village but the place was very friendly so we did not complain.
Day 4 from Porto Kagyo to Pylos Aprox 55 nm
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
The forth day we started our trip again early in the morning sailing to Pylos. The wind was again coming from the west and as we could not open the sails we motored to Pylos.
And on the way we stopped for a quick swim near Methoni which has also a medieval castle by the sea build by the
In the evening we entered the Pylos Bay and stopped at the Pylos marina which is well build but unmanaged so it is ruined.
We were the only boat that was anchored in the marina, as everywhere in the bottom are building blocks and chains and all the other boats were alongside. But I took the chance to try. Pylos is nice and friendly we took provisions for the boat fresh fruits and salads and in the evening we had dinner in the city.
Day 5 & 6 Zakynthos aprox 67 nm
Wednesday and Thursday 11 and 12 August 2010
In the morning we were lucky enough to lift the anchor without problems and we started our sailing to Zakynthos.
First we stopped in the Laganas bay where the turtles Kareta Kareta are breeding. The beach is sandy and blue but the water not so clear as I anticipated. In the night we decided to stay at the laganas harbor which was dirty and noisy. The people were friendly though.
We had dinner at a decent restaurant, built on a sandy beach of Laganas and had local specialties. Later on we visited also the nightclub that was close, an interesting place on a small island, named Agios Sostis, that was connected by a wooden bridge to the harbor. The bar was on the beach, where huge pieces of white cloth were hanging, blown by the wind.
We were lucky not to visit the centre of Laganas which is awfull with a lot of Neon signs and hulligans, as the rest of our party did.
The next day we sailed to the main port of Zakynthos to prepare the boat for the crossing to Sicily.
The port is well organized with water and electricity and it was the perfect place to start our trip. We picked up the high pressure pipe for the watermaker that was sent for our repair.
As I hate the Greek bureaucracy I let Paris to go to the port authorities to get the stamp that we were allowed to sail away.
We provisioned the boat with fresh vegetables etc and we were ready for the crossing.
We provisioned the boat with fresh vegetables etc and we were ready for the crossing.
In the evening we had dinner at a local traditional restaurant called Arekies and heard the special music that local people compose and play in a team, mostly while walking in the streets and this used to consist of a way to communicate with their peers, joke or flirt.
Day 7 , 8 & 9 Zakynthos- Syrakouses approx 280 nm
Friday 13,Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 August 2010
When you start a long crossing you have many things in your mind anxiety that something can go wrong that you can have a mechanical failure etc. We started our journey Friday the 13th of August 2010. I was skeptical as it is not good to start any sailing on Fridays and especially the 13th. We started very early in the morning it was dark when we left the harbor and after the north cap of Zakynthos we had favorable north wind for a few hours so we were able to sail fast to our direction after a few hours the wind died and we continued by motor. We arrived in Syracuse’s after 36 hours in the evening. Close to Syracuse’s the wind was blowing from the southwest we had marvelous sailing for the last 3 hours.
Syracuse’s is build on a very large bay and the old city is on an Island Ortygia . The wind was blowing very hard and the position that the marina proposed us to stay was untenable. They suggested us to wait for the wind to die in the evening. 8 o’clock we were in the outside mole of the marina and we rested after the long journey. I always
wanted to visit Syracuse’s because of all the history lessons and the various battles around the city. I was always
wanted to visit Syracuse’s because of all the history lessons and the various battles around the city. I was always
a fan of Archimedes and his theories. The old city is very nicely build around the bay and a balcony with various restaurants and cafes overlooking the port and the bay. The the fountain of Arethousa, a very green place with water and a lot of birds singing, an oasis in the heat of the summer, was east, at a walking distance, from the port.
The next day we visited the archeological site and we saw the Greek theater which is in a good condition and is also used for performances.
After the theater we visited the cave that is supposed to be the ear of Dionisios a very strange cave that amplifies the sound they say that there you can hear the silence.
In the evening we had the first difficulty of the trip it seems trivial but it was important we were unable to unlock the safe of the boat where we had placed our credit cards and money. It created a big uncertainty but we thought that we could open it the next day with some help from Amel. We went around the town and had dinner in a more modern restaurant in the other bay of the city. I believe that only the old city and the old port and mainly Ortygia are the best place in Syracuse’s. In the evening we had the chance to see the carrying of the Holy Maria through the sea and many hundreds of boats were following the tug boat that was carrying the statue. It was an unusual event.
The next day we went to the fresh fruit market and saw fruits that we have never seen before.
Paris came with us but he refused to carry anything as he had a pain on this back due to an accident. After the shopping he went to the hospital as he was complaining that he had a problem with his ear. We tried to find a solution to open the safe but we were unable to do it and Amel suggested to try to cut it in order to open it. I didn’t like the suggestion at all and we were not able to find somebody to do it so we decided to leave for Taormina and afterwards for Reggio di Calabria or Messina.
Day 10 Syrakouses to Catania approx 35 nm
Monday, August 16, 2010
After the return of Paris from the hospital we sailed from Syracuse’s going north to Taormina which I wanted to visit. We started with no wind at all but after a few hours the wind peaked up and the sea became very ugly with big waves coming from the north. I decided to change course and sail westwards to Catania where we could also fix the safe. We had favorable wind on the side and we reached over 9 Knots. When we arrived outside the port of Catania we had a big problem. The engine didn’t start. So we decided o enter the port with the sails and see from there the best options.
We were very lucky the port is huge no much traffic of boats and a huge marina with a dock that was suitable to bring the boat alongside. There we started to have a conflict with Paris. I suggested that we reduce the sail stop the boat and drop the anchor in front of the marina and try to get some help from the marinas captain. Paris insisted that we should bring the boat alongside I thought that due to the maneuverability of the boat the sails that could be adjusted easily and the bow thruster that it was feasible. We informed the marina that we were going to go alongside and they came to the dock to help us. With a coordinated maneuver and with the help from the people we were able to stop the boat alongside without any damage and put the boat with the bow to the dock. The people from the marina were extremely helpful and tried their best to help us and make us to relax. I started to have a problem with Paris first of all he spoke bad to me because I tried to be in touch with the marina with the VHF and afterwards because I replied to the port captain by shouting to him that we have a problem and we needed some assistance to bring the boat alongside. Paris could not understand that Alma Libre is my boat and I am the captain who makes the decision and that was a big problem that had to be solved asap. After relaxing a little bit I discussed the problem with Paris I thought that he understood the mistakes he made with his behavior and I offered him the option to leave from the boat asap. He excused himself and I decided to continue the trip with him (big mistake). Catania is a very ugly place suffering from earthquakes from the proximity of the Etna volcano the streets were narrow and poor we didn’t feel comfortable walking around and after buying some provisions with the money that we had left we came back to the boat. The port captain tried his best to reassure us that all our problem were going to solved domani (tomorrow) he even offered us to borrow us some money due to the problem of the safe. He was really the most brave man I have met during the trip. I heard that he is referred as Santos ( the Saint) and he was a real saint for us and I am sure for a lot of sailors.
The next day the electrician came. I explained to him the problem and he found out after a while the reason. On the engine is a relais that cuts the negative voltage from the batteries. I had replaced this in Greece but I kept the original part that he installed and everything was back to normal. We were really lucky. Then he started to cut the safe he told me that he feels like “Arsene Lupin” . He cut out a hole in the side of the safe and we retrieved safely everything from the safe I understood that this a common problem on all boats with the same safe. So my advice is to use only a safe with key the next time. We thanked Santos and we started our trip again direction Taormina and Reggio.
Day 11 from Catania to Taormina and Reggio approx 50 nm
Tuesday 17 August, 2010
I always wanted to go to Taormina to see the city that is under Etna the famous Volkano. To be honest I was disappointed. The bay was full of boats the surroundings were not bad but the whole place was not pleasant a reason for that was also that the bay was open to the south wind and the anchorage was shaky.
After a rest and swim in the clear water we started our trip to Reggio di Calabria to stay overnight there. The weather was coming from the north and we could hardly open the main sail for stabilization. On the way the wind picked up to 30 nm/hour force 6 -7 and we had a wet sailing to the marina.
We arrived fully soaked about 11 o’clock in the night exhausted and we prepared food on board. The marina is very unpleasant inside the main port very narrow and far away from the city centre impossible to walk there.
The next day early in the morning, we walk to the town, which was very pleasant had an espresso with marvelous croissants filled with cream and we walked around to find a supermarket for provisions. We were lucky that the super market was very well organized and we arranged with a taxi to carry all provisions to the boat.
After that we started our day sailing though the Messina straight to Lipari.
Day 12 From Reggio di Calabria to Lipari approx. 50 nm
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
The wind was windy again coming from the north we entered the straight of Messina which is a nice passage.
After the straight the wind stopped and we motored to Lipari one of the Aeolian Islands. The Aeolian Islands or Lipari Islands (Italian: Isole Eolie, Sicilian: Ìsuli Eoli) are a volcanic archipelago in the Tyrrhenian Sea north of Sicily, named after the demigod of the winds Aeolus..
The Lipari Island is a very popular destination hundreds of boats were around the beaches and we hurried to find a place in a marina to stay overnight as the bay is very deep due to the volcanic character of the Islands and it is necessary to moor in a marina to stay overnight.
We had a lot of problem to find a place as it was also very windy and the space is very scarce all the places were reserved but we were lucky and found perhaps the last available space. The anchorage was extremely shaky and also dangerous. Around 7 o’clock in the evening, everything was fully packed boats were coming from all directions filling all spaces in all marinas. I had never seen such a number of boats.
In the night the wind and waves dropped completely and it was very pleasant to be there. We had an enjoyable walk amongst an entertaining crowd in the town and in the night a good dinner with swordfish.
Day 13 & 14 from Lipari-Salina to Capri approx 130 nm
Thursday and Friday 19 and 20 August, 2010
The next day we started early in the morning to replenish our food inventory and started for our next long passage to Capri. We decided to stop at the next island of Salina and start late in the afternoon for Capri in order to arrive there early in the morning.On our way to Salina we anchored in a plateau close to Lipari for a nice swim in very clear water.
You can see the plateau and the number of boats around.
Salina is also volcanic with very deep anchorages around 20-30 m deep difficult to anchor.
We stayed there for lunch and started to sail around 5 in the afternoon.
It was one of the most enjoyable passages of the trip. The wind and temperature was pleasant the spirit onboard was good. We stayed until very late on our shift and we had also full moon to accompany us and again very early in the morning as I like very much to see the sun rising up.
We arrived 7 in the morning at Piccola Marina in Capri as we had contacted the main marina and it was full. Piccola marina is in the south so we stopped there and found a mooring as the sea is very deep there over 30 m. All of the sudden a small boat approached us and they asked for our garbage. It was a floating garbage boat what a pleasant surprise.
The place is beautiful.
Capri is covered by trees and the view from the boat is very pleasant. We relaxed and swam around the boat and we prepared the dinghy. Around noon a boat came to us and asked if we had already made reservation for lunch at the restaurant as the mooring was for the restaurant guests we agreed to have lunch in the restaurant and they picked us up with the boat. What a nice choice; we had lunch in one of the best places in my life at the restaurant Canzone di Mare ( Seas song)
The view and the food were unforgettable. They returned us to the boat and Paris left to make a visit in Capri we waited for him in order us to visit Capri in the night. At about 6 o’clock they informed us that we have to leave the mooring as it was not allowed to use it overnight, I never understood why, but we decided to anchor nearby in very deep water. I was a little bit worried as Paris was not present and I was not sure that we could anchor in so deep water and perhaps we had to find another anchorage but we succeeded on our third try to anchor and Paris came onboard. After all this we left for Capri by night.
Day 15 from Capri to Ponza via Ichia approx.65 nm
Saturday August 21, 2010
We started as usual early in the morning. We planned to stop in Ischia for refueling as the Capri marina was for sure more busy and not on our way to Ponza a small island in the Tyrrhenian sea. We entered the harbor of Ischia which was busy with big boats entering and the fuel dock was also occupied by boats that were refueling so we had to wait until they finished. It was difficult to keep the boat close to the fuel dock as if we anchored somewhere else we were going to lose our priority. So a big ship anchored very close to our bow and I had to keep my nerves: it was difficult.
We refueled and left for Ventotenne a small Island lose to Ponza for a swim. Ventotenne is famous for the roman port that is engraved in the rocks.
St Stefano is dominated by an old prison built by the Bourbons, completed in 1797 and in use until 1965. People imprisoned included the anarchist Gaetano Bresci who killed King Umberto I in 1900. He was imprisoned there for a year before being found hanged in his cell. During the Fascist regime, other prisonners were the future President of Italy Sandro Pertini.
After lunch we sailed to Ponza which is famous for the colorful houses.
The place was full of boats I have never seen so many boats in such a small harbor.
As it was impossible to find a place in a marina we decided to stay in the anchor and Giannis, Paris and Ifigeneia went ashore to buy some Pizza. They returned with 15 huge pieces of Pizza nothing was left for the next day but just one piece.
The next day we went ashore to buy some provisions and left for a bay next by for a swim and lunch in a small restaurant on the beach that we have tried 8 years ago and offered excellent spaghetti.
And after 8 years I can confirm that the spaghetti is still the best.
Ponza is beautiful reminds me very much a greek Island but very crowded. I can now understand why so many Italians come to Greece with their boats.
Day 16&17 from Ponza to Porto Cervo Sardinia aprox 160 nm
Sunday 22 and Monday 23 August 2010
This was the second longest passage. We had an average speed of 8 nm and we always left in the evening of the previous day in order to arrive in the morning to our destination. This time we arrived in Porto Cervo one of the best marinas in the Mediterranean.
I was here 8 years before and the place was now much more crowded and more expensive. However it offers you entertainment like Disneyland, a lot of people are visiting the marina from all over Sardinia to watch how the rich & famous live. You cannot stay there for more than a day. We anchored in the visitors place which in the evening was crowded full of boats. We walked around the place and found one good super market with reasonable prices that delivered the goods to the boat.
After a special dinner and a refreshing sleep after the long passage we left for Corsica.
18 from Porto Cervo to Bonifacio Corsica approx 40 nm
Tuesday 24 August 2010
This was one of the most interesting sailing routes among the various islands of Sardinia. We saw a lot of boats and we had favorable sailing conditions to the island of Santa Maria where we stopped for a swim. The area is dangerous as there are a lot of swallows and rocks and you have to be very careful.
After our stop in Santa Maria we continued with fresh north wind going to Bonifacio.
The conditions were good the sea moderate. Bonifacio has strong winds and current that can create ugly seas and normally a lot of wind which is funneled through the straights.
We arrived in Bonifacio around 6 in the evening and we were able to find a place to moor the boat in the public dock after we have waited about 45 minutes for another boat to dock but had a lot of trouble with his anchor and the cross wind.
The entrance of the harbor is very difficult to be recognized among the limestone rocks. You see boats coming out of the bay and you understand where the entrance is.
The port is unique. You feel the marine heritage of the place. It offers excellent protection in a very windy place. It is narrow and in the summer very very busy (not like the picture!).
We had a relaxed casualwalk in the port and in the evening we visited the old city on top of the marina and had a typical Corsican dinner with cheese, fig marmalade and salami together with Corsican wine.
Day 19 From Bonifacio to Ajaccio approx 35 nm
Wednesday 25 August 2010
I decided to stop on route in a nice bay for our first swim in Corsica. So we stopped in the Cupabia bay. It was a good choice.
As you can see the sea was turquoise and it was a very stop over before the big town of Ajaccio. After lunch we continued to the capital of Corsica and the place that Napoleon was born.
We arrived in Ajaccio and found a place in the new marina in the port very close to the city center. The mobile internet connection had stopped working and I started to become anxious about the weather during the whole trip and after Messina we had very favorable winds and I was sure that this is not going to stay like that. We tried to get information from the capitanairie but they were not very informative. We tried to get information from the france meteo with the telephone, but Paris was not able to understand and use the facility although he claimed to be fluent in French. I asked him to ask some French sailors but he refused. We had a good dinner in Ajaccio and we had a rest for the new passage. We visited also an internet café and found out that the weather will be good until Friday afternoon. It was Thursday.
Day 19 & 20 From Ajaccio to Hyeres approx. 135 nm
Thursday 26 and Friday 27 August 2010
We woke up at 5 o’clock in the morning I woke up also Paris in order to leave as soon as possible in order to arrive not very late in the night to St Tropez which was the original plan. Paris was hesitant to start at that time as he complained that he was not in the mood and tired. I went back to sleep and we started around 8 o’clock for the passage. Paris woke up 8.30 heard the meteofrance forecast in the vhf and went back to sleep. We had a nice sailing across the bay of Ajaccio early in the morning close to the Iles de Sanguinaires ( Blood Islands) full infested by shallows and a monastery on top.
It is so different to pass the same places from a different direction and light conditions. The Islands appeared impressive in the rising sun.
After these Islands our next stop was Hyeres as we have decided to sail directly there as the weather was going to change and we wanted to moor the boat safely in Hyeres.
This day is going to stay forever in our memory as the thriller day. So many things happened in such a short time. Paris got a nervous breakdown standing half naked on the anchor seat for 5 hours warning us that he is going to jump into the sea as he could not stand anymore the trip.
Whales appeared very close to our boat and thick fog after all this made the last hours of our trip really adventurous.
Let’s start from the beginning. Paris woke up around 13:30 and had his breakfast. After that he took over the helm and we rested for 1 hour. Then Ifigeneia started to prepare lunch and around 3 o’clock Ifigeneia, Paris and Giannis had lunch and me and Anny took care of the boat. As I was tired I asked Paris to hurry up a little as I wanted to rest a bit. He was furious disappeared in the front cabin and came out half naked from the front hatch. In the beginning we didn’t understand what was going on but after asking him kindly to come to the cockpit he started to scream and threaten us that he was going to jump in the sea as he could stand anymore the trip. I was in very peculiar situation he could jump and kill himself I had the obligation to try to help him with a 50% chance to save him if he wanted to cooperate. I had no communication with any authority as we were in the middle of the passage. Ifigeneia tried without success to persuade him to stop all that but he was strongly refused to give up. As it was getting chilly and he was sitting in front of the bow half naked ifigeneia tried to hand him a jacket which he refused to wear. After 5 hours of thinking and discussing what to do I offered to prepare for him a hot chocolate which he accepted and Ifigeneia brought him the hot drink. After that he was more soft. The same moment Anny asked me what was that hole near to our boat and after a few minutes we saw 3 whales breathing not far away. After the hot chocolate and the whales Paris went back to his cabin and after one hour he came to the cockpit fully dressed this time. We went to our cabin to relax and to avoid also any contact with him which could lead to a hot discussion. We could not easily relax thinking of his totally crazy behavior and came to the cockpit and realized that we were surrounded by a very very thick fog. We could not even see the navigational lights of Alma Libre. As we came more close to French mainland, the ship traffic has increased and we had to follow the tracks on the Arpa of the radar it was very scary. Closer to the islands that are in front of Hyeres the fog started to withdraw and we could safely anchor in the Bay of Porqueroles where I planned to stay overnight 5 nm away from Hyeres at a very well protected and green place in the Alycastre bay.
We fell asleep totally exhausted from the thriller in the very calm bay of Alycastre in Porquerolles Island
In the morning we started around 9 in the morning to bring Alma Libre back in Hyeres after 8 years.
We were happy to be safe and we also more happy when Paris and Iphigenia left the boat to fly to Greece the same day.
Now Alma Libre is moored in the Hyeres port awaiting for her new owner.
Lessons from the trip?
Never take with you crew that you do not know well enough but if you have good company you always forget the bad things and remember only the nice moments.
A video illustrating the above voyage may be found here
The next trip planned is the delivery of the new Amel 54 from France, La Rochelle to Greece, which is expected to take place in May – June 2011.