28 May 2023 – Pylos, Mainland Greece

On 1 May, as planned, we finally sailed out of Alanya and went along the Turkish coast to Kas, where we checked out on 6 May – and checked into Kastelorizo Greece. Along the way we stopped at several familiar Turkish anchorages.

This is new territory and a “new country” for us! The minor changes between these two countries were immediately noticeable in the shops and restaurants. Buildings were frequently painted in pastel colours with white/blue accents being the most common. Pork was offered on the menu, and yes – we had pork gyros with tzatsiki.

On Monday morning, 8 May, we hauled anchor at 0515 and sailed 75nm to Lindos on the island of Rhodes. As I was picking up anchor, the UP anchor windlass foot switch was “sticking” in the ON position (this switch was over 20 years old), but I was able to safely stow the anchor. Along the way, Kevin nursed a transmission oil leak that was getting worse by the hour. When we arrived, after turning the windlass switches ON, I noticed that the UP switch was still stuck in the ON position, with the capstan continuously turning, wearing the friction plate. I immediately shut the electrical off, but I continued to lay the anchor, by hand. After the anchor was set, I had a closer look and decided to just cut away the foot switch (cut one wire in the chain locker) and use the wireless remote (that I installed 4 years ago). The next day, I realized that I was carrying a spare foot switch, and subsequently replaced it. I also ordered two new foot switches and a replacement friction plate (which was still OK) to be delivered to our home address.

There were more observable differences between Greece and Türkiye. First, there were no calls to prayers with “Allah Akbar”. If there were mosques, they were very quiet. Second, it seemed strange to see that very few of the houses had roof-top solar hot water heaters – a common feature in Türkiye on the roofs of single homes and especially apartment buildings. Many were installed, but it seemed to be less, and more camouflaged.

We rented a car for three days on the island of Rhodes and discovered another cultural difference when comparing it to Türkiye. When we picked up the rental car (at Rhodes and later on Crete), we were told to return it “with the same amount of fuel”. In Türkiye, we rented cars many times from different providers. Every time, the car was picked up empty of fuel, so empty that the warning light was flashing. It was always our challenge to return the car empty. Without exaggeration, several times I saw these guys siphoning the fuel from the car after return. You have to stay there a while to realize this.

This little park in the city of Rhodes even had an aqueduct.

We went to a very well stocked chandlery just opposite Rhodes Marina. Eric had a long list of things he was looking for, and found nearly everything. In Rhodes, we visited the Medieval City of Rhodes, and specifically the Palace of the Grand Master, and the Archeological Museum (site of the 15th century hospital).

The Medieval City of Rhodes was constructed around 1309 to 1523 and the site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1988.

We marvelled at the grandeur of these fortifications and exhibits. We only spent a few hours there, but you could spend months and still not see everything.

We sailed further SW along the coast to the furthest point on the island of Rhodes – Prasonisi Beach. This was a windsurfer’s paradise. Although these days, there are also kite surfers and hydrofoils – all kinds of self sailing devices.

After a night motor sail, we made the 111nm passage to Crete, anchoring in the protected waters of Spinalonga Bay. The small city of Eloundas is a tourist town, but a very pretty one with many appealing shops and restaurants along the waterfront.

The protected bay is huge, and has very good holding to keep your boat safe in strong winds. With a car rental, we drove to the other side of the island where we saw greenhouses and many Pakistani migrant farm workers. The other side of the island looked quite a bit different from the touristy side.

We also took a tourist boat ride over to Spinalonga Island, which was formerly a military fortification (Greek / Italian / Ottoman / Greek) and even a leper colony for nearly a century.

This was the remaining text of one of the leper colony inhabitants: “My life has passed, full of sickness. I came as a guest, but no hospitality did I receive. Oh God, well you know, help comes from you. I found no better way than to worship your throne. Fatiha for the soul of the forgiven Mrs Raslye, daughter of coffee-shop owner Bilal Aga. Year 1280, 21 Ramazan (29 February 1864).”

As a group, we visited Knossos, the largest Bronze Age archaeological site on Crete – which has been called Europe’s oldest city. Settled as early as the Neolithic period (this is before the Romans, before the ancient Greeks, and even before the Egyptians), the name Knossos survives from ancient Greek references to the major city of Crete. The palace of Knossos eventually became the ceremonial and political centre of the Minoan civilization and culture. The palace was abandoned at some unknown time at the end of the Late Bronze Age (1380–1100 BC) – the reason is unknown. The population of the urban area in the First Palace Period (around 2000 BC), is expected to have reached a size of as many as 18,000 people.

Both at Rhodes and on Crete, at government operated tourist attractions I requested “senior’s admission prices”, which tended to be about 30% cheaper. However, the response was that these seniors prices were only available to EU citizens. This was very disappointing and reminiscent of the same response when in Australia and NZ. I am certain that this is not the case in Canada (where we come from) or our neighbours in the USA. Very disappointing.

On the way back to Eloundas, we stopped at a mountainside taverna for a very authentic, economical and excellent lunch.

After a few days at the Spinalonga anchorage, it was time to leave – and our 3 buddy boat convoy moved further up the coast. We went on ahead to Soudhas and waited for PIED A MER and NOCONA MOON. Unfortunately Eric and Pam on PIED A MER went back to Heraklion with a mysterious engine problem (oil leaks, inconsistent and erroneous oil pressure and tank level readings on their Axiom display) on their starboard Yanmar diesel. At the time of writing this blog, the exact reason for their oil leaks was not known, but suspected to be related to incorrect oil level (over spray) and incorrect oil filters. They remained at Heraklion. After another day, we split from the group and sailed directly to Pylos on mainland Greece. This solidifies our strategy to sail from Pylos to Sicily, and then to Malta and Tunisia. After all, we did not have an aggressive schedule to follow. Kevin and Sandy on NOCONA MOON left Crete as planned (with their guests Christopher and Christina of SCINTILLA) and took the narrow weather window direct to Malta. This is NOCONA MOON under sail.

On Pylos, we anchored for several days – just exploring and waiting for the right conditions. We wanted to fill up with diesel. I discovered a problem with our Volvo alternator, and replaced it (ordered one at the chandlery, and it arrived within 24 hours). Also, we are waiting for our friends Steve and Liz on LIBERTE to arrive. They may be sailing with us to our next port, Syracuse on the Italian island of Sicily. While shopping at a supermarket we found that ground beef is nearly half the price of that in Türkiye. Astonishing!