20th October - 26th November Heading north to surprise
our Greek friends
The wind calmed down and we left Lavrion on the 20th
of October to head up the Evia channel and hopefully
north towards Komotini where our Greek friends from
University days live.
The weather is so changeable that we weren''t sure it would
let us make our way North. The prevailing wind in this area
is from the North East so getting to Komotini is a challenge.
Porto Rafti was our next port of call around 15 miles further
North and took us further into the Evia Channel. Evia is a
Greek island that you hear little about, but which is the
second largest island in Greece. Porto Rafti was lovely but
we were on a tight schedule so we had to leave, bound for
Eritrea after a good nights sleep..
However we soon were wishing for Porto Rafti, because all
we found in Eritrea was a never ending stream of ferries with
no way to shelter from their wash. We did see a multi million
pound yacht (not so unusual in Greece) with a private helicopter
coming into land on it. All we could do was to speculate who
was on board, as we couldn't see the name of the yacht we
couldn't even Google it!
After the unpleasant wash and poor conditions we decided
to move to anchor. So we soon decided to make our way further
into the Evia channel and towards Khalkida (or Khalkis) where
we would need to go under the Khalkis bridge. After two nights
waiting for the bridge to open, due to it needing repairs,
we finally got through and tied Madison alongside in the town
to the north of the bridge.
Going through the bridge was exciting, as it drops slightly
and then slides into cavities below the road at either side
of the channel. We were not able to get a good picture as
this only happens late at night when the traffic levels are
low. We then decided to take a couple of days exploring the
town and re-charging our battieries before fighting further
An experienced Greek sailor, Yannis, stopped to talk to us
one day and came aboard for a lemonade (a non-drinker sailor)
and a chat and told us all about his boat that he had taken
ten years to build and was about to launch. He showed us a
photo of her and she was beautiful. Khalkis was a great spot
and we had better weather which even allowed us to explore
the fortification overlooking the town.
Despite the improvements in the weather, the further North we
went, the colder it got, so we took the opportunity to buy some
warm clothes (we rather optimistically didn't bring enough from
Edinburgh). We finally tore ourselves away from the charms of
Khalkis and headed North to Loutra Edipsos. Despite being a
little run down and far from being in its heyday, Edipsos was
a facinating place with hot springs coming up through the ground.
We got stuck in Edipsos for 3 nights as gales came. However
we were there for a national holiday, 'No Day' (Oxi Mera) and
all the school children march through the town and the band
plays before everyone congregates at the local Cenotaph to remember
fallen soldiers. It was great to watch from the sidelines. The
schoolchildren were a mixed bag ranging from being really serious
about marching in time and being turned out extremely smart
in their uniforms to older students that obviously didn't want
to be there.
As we were making passage we left Edipsos once the bad weather
passed and headed to Orei in the north of Evia for a nights
rest before making the leap to the Sporades Islands and in
particular, Skiathos were we found a tiny little harbour in
Koukounaries, for our nights rest. This turned out to be a
nature reserve too, so it was a lovely place to go for a little
wander before nightfall. We wouldn't be staying up late as
the next day was a long hop of 65 miles to the south of the
middle pennisula of Halkidiki, 'Sinthonia', called 'Porto
We were up early at 5am to head for Halkidiki. Porto Koufo
is a wonderful natural harbour that you can't see until you
enter it as it is virtually landlocked. We rafted up here
confident that we would have a good nights sleep as it was
so sheltered. Again we were up at 5am to head for Thassos
Island. The hop to Thassos Island was another big one of 65
miles. We would pass the southern tip of the eastern most
peninsula of Halkidiki, called Akti. However we couldn't stop
on this peninsula as it is prohibited. It is full of monasteries
and colonies of monks and hermits. At the tip is Mount Athos
rising out of the sea at 2,200 mtrs and it was fabulous to
sail past. There are buildings at the side of the mountain
that are 100's of years old and you just can't imagine how
they built them as you pass.
We had both been commenting on the lack of sealife for the
last few weeks, but during this trip to Thassos we saw Dolphins
and even Gilbert the Green Bird (Mark III) made an appearance.
This one was even more bold than his predecessors and actually
landed on Karl.
We made it to Thassos Island, before nightfall to a tiny
little harbour called Skala Marion. We were the only boat
in and think the locals thought we were a bit mad sailing
in November. We did enjoy a fabulous meal here. The next day
was a gentle hop of only 15 miles to Thassos Town which is
the capital of the island so we didn't have to worry about
being in bed early or being up early either. Thassos Town
is beautiful and we got there early enough to have a wander
around. There are lots of archaelogical sites there, which
we didn't manage to get around but we hope to go back to next
year when we return.
We were getting excited now as we know the next stop in the
next 24 hours would be our last stop of the trip and would
mean that we would get to see all our Greek friends from university
and their families. So finally on Thursday 4th November we
sailed into Porto Lagos, Northern Greece and called our friend,
Dimitris to tell him we had arrived. We were expecting him
to arrange to meet with us the next day but he simply said
"I'll be there in 20 minutes" and put the phone
Dimitris parked next to the boat which we had tied against
the commercial quay and couldn't control his trademark smile.
It was great to see him and in a heartbeat we were heading
for Komotini. We were soon introduced to Dora and Dimitris
3 month old son. That very night we went to the Square for
coffee and waffles, following which we were talking about
plans to surprise Nikos and Krina when Dimitris spotted Nikos
walking across the square. We ran up to catch him by surprise
and Laura grabbed him and his face was priceless.
The following day we had a fantastic meal with fried fish
at Nikos mums house. Dina is a fantastic cook and we had the
pleasure of being joined by both Nikos and Yannis, Nik's brother.
By the end of the meal, as well as being full of great food
we were also in possession of the keys to Dina and Dimitris
(Nik and Yanni's dads) house. After staying on Madison for
a while it is nice to get a chance to sleep in a normal sized
bed. Beds on the boat are comfortable in terms of being supportive
and soft, but the shape of them doesn't always let you spread
out and get a great nights sleep. The warm welcome we received
from Dina and Dimitris and the hospitality was so great that
we soon felt right at home.
Our Greek was improving as the days went by with Laura working
particularly hard to improve her range of words and also her
reading which is getting so much better than mine. Dina doesn't
speak many words of english, which enabled us to practice
and learn. After a few memorable nights in Dina's company
we have been making good progress.
We decided to spend some nights on Madison as the weather
had been a little changeable and there were a few jobs to
carry out. We found a great local boat engineering company
who arranged for us to be able to lift out in a couple of
weeks time and who said they were able to arrange for some
modifications that we wanted to undertake to the propeller.
We have covered around 5000 Nautical Miles now. A nautical
mile is approximately 1.2 land miles and given Madison averages
around 4 NM per hour this is something of an achievement,
as when we set out we had virtually no experience.
We now wanted to use the time before our lift out and our
return to the UK as productively as possible, so we got the
phone number for another of our Greek friends, Dimos Garoufas
and gave him a call. He couldn't believe it was us (we hadn't
seen him in 18 years) and he arranged to come to Porto Lagos
and collect us to take us in the opposite direction from Komotini
as he lived closer to Xanthi in a place called Genisea (pronounced
yenisayer). His car arrived on Sunday during market day in
Porto Lagos. So he picked us up near the church on the main
road. He then took us for lunch in a nearby town where we
had a hugh feast. Dimos is married to Georgia and has a beautiful
4 year old daughter Christina who had us laughing from the
word go. She was learning English from her parents and opened
with "hello my name is Christina"....Christina was
full of fun and liked dancing and most of all loved her favourite
television character...Dora the Explorer.
We had come armed with a present of a Barbie Doll for Christina,
so the first visit was a great success with the wee one. Laura
was soon adopted by Georgia and was taken off for girlie chats
at every opportunity. Over the next few days we met with Dimos
and Dimitris and their families often, with a most memorable
evening being spent making Tsiporro the favoured alcohol,
made from grapes and which is very potent. During the making
of the Tsiporro there was a big family feast were we met Dimitris
and Dora's families who were really warm and welcoming.
Over the next weeks we met a number of new people and I had
the pleasure of a night in at Dimitris house which involved
more alcohol and a card game called Vither which I hadn't
played since my days in Middlesborough. We also had day trips
to Kavala and Xanthi as well as further exploring Komotini.
More indulgent meals were had, often thanks to Dina with a
very memorable lamb and potato dish she prepares in the oven...Heaven
on a plate... Everything that Dina cooks is heaven on a plate
and we will need to go on a healthy eating plan when we get
We also had a visit to see Yannis and his wife Anna's house
which they have just finished building in Komotini. Here we
had a lovely meal and stayed very late, chatting and swapping
music and movies from the laptop. It is always cool to get
a movie or two to help out when you get a night on Madison.
We took some time out to plan our return to the UK, we booked
flights and then decided to hire a car from the airport in
London that would allow us to visit some of our UK based pals,
many of which we made, during our travels on Madison. So our
travels will see a Madison Crew UK Tour with a series of 5
or 6 dates at venues across England before we drive north
to return the car in Edinburgh. Obviously our tour dates are
sold out (so apologies to anyone we don't get to see)!!!!!
Anyway the day of the boat lift came round quicker than we
expected :-( and Madison was hoisted from the water by one
of the cranes that normally loads the big commercial ships
that often come into Porto Lagos and she now rests on a nice
metal cradle in a fenced boat yard with 24 hour security cameras
which we can check on the web, which will be reasuring.
The day of the lift I set to taking the rudder off so that
I could remove the propeller shaft and hand it over along
with my new propeller to the engineering company of Mr Petros
Tsokas (pronounced chukas). This is a family business in Porto
Lagos who are really good. Their help has really saved us
much time and effort.
We now have a new propellor ready for next season. It was
a present to ourselves as today (26th November) is our 18th
anniversary. It is exactly 18 years since we met in the Madison
nightclub in Middlesborough.