39 09N 23 50E
6 Aug 2002

Blackberry season has arrived in Greece. It may not quite be worth sailing half way round the world & waiting 9 months, but they're good.

Harmonica has been back to a compliment of 2 for 2 pleasant weeks of cruising from the Greek Cyclades Islands up the outside coast of Evia to the Northern Sporades. The coast of Evia is lined with big wind farms for electricity generation. This route is noted for being rough, exposed each summer to a long fetch of the NE Meltemi winds. However, the 2002 Meltemi have still not set up. We have had a mixture of light Northerly winds and calms, and the seas have been very flat.

We have been on islands more used by Greek Athenian holiday makers than tourists from Northern Europe. We wish that we spoke more than 10 words of Greek, but otherwise this has been a nice experience. Also, this is not a recommended sailing area because of the strong winds & sparse anchorages. We often see 1 or 2 other sailing boats, but not more. We avoid the harbour quays where the restaurateurs sell over-priced suppers and the harbour-masters charge marina fees for docking stern-to. Even in the harbours, the fees for anchoring are minimal, and there is no concern about damaging the boat, whereas at the quay we would always be concerned about the anchor dragging in cross winds, swell, or the wash from a big ferry.

>From Kea to Andros, Evia, and Skyros. We have spent 2 to 4 nights in each anchorage which gives us time for long walks ashore. We used the busses twice, but mostly keep to the unpaved roads (either dirt paths or ancient stone-cobbled tracks).

We knew Kea from 25 years ago, but instead of stopping in the main bay of Agios Nikolaou, we anchored in the tiny bay of Khalidoniki on the East Coast. A single Taverna behind the beach gave us a lovely supper for our anniversary. We walked into the Xora (the main town of the island) one day. A few more cars with weekend holiday makers rumble along the dusty internal roads. The ancient lion of Kea still guards the entrance near the donkey path from Otsias. The houses still pour over the hillside down to the same square, and almost all look smart, freshly painted & cared-for. The square where we sat on the wall many years ago is now filled with tables from the taverna, but the waiter did not mind us using one for an afternoon game of chess.

Next, in Andros, we anchored in the ferry-terminal port of Gavrion (well clear of the swing of the enormous ferries). The wind blew strongly but (somewhat unusually) the mud on the bottom gave excellent holding and we had no trouble setting our bugel anchor. Again, the villages looked more affluent than years ago, and more rushed & busy, but still very pleasant.

We made 2 stops on the east coast of Evia at the only 2 anchorages marked along the 100 miles of coast. There must be a base somewhere close since fighter jets go over us several times per day.

We anchored in a small bay on Skyros called Ag Fokas. 1 house, 1 taverna, and 2 beaches justify the gravel roads into the bay. Yesterday, we walked about 15 km across Skyros to the other coast. We walked through farming country surrounded in thick woods of pine trees. Our destination was the town of Skyros set on a steep hillside topped with a 13th century fort and old monastery. As a result of a recent earthquake, notices said it was unsafe to enter these buildings. It was a typical Greek village with narrow, steep, cobbled paths and alley ways. Many white washed buildings with blue shutters some draped with brightly coloured bougainvillaea. This village had more fancy wooden doors and balconies than we usually see. Very scenic and plenty of tourists.

Now on the island of Alonnisos, anchored in stern-tied in an open bay with open sea in front and a mixture of olive groves & maquis behind us. Here we feel no embarrassment about playing our recorder duets to the accompaniment of the echo off the cliff behind, and the incessant buzzing of cicadas.

We have seen more dolphins this week than we have for a while: big animals some over 2 metres. Some seem to have a lot of light grey on them, but we have made no identification. The last group joined us in mid-morning.

Greece is now a full member of the EEC using the Euro for currency. A few Germans and British are buying land and putting up large houses on these islands, as are visitors from Athens. The prices are much higher than 1 or 2 decades ago and Greece is no longer a "cheap country" to visit, but you don't need much in this weather and life is still very friendly.

Next week we shall meet Janet's brother & family on holiday, and our son Mark will fly in to join us after finishing his summer term at the University of Victoria.

David Janet & Harmonica