Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sicily to Cyprus 2017

Sicily to Cyprus
Oct 2017
A few pictures of our last few  stops in Crete before departing for Cyprus.  
an octopus caught near our slip
It was still alive so we decided to leave before ...

Ruins from the Palace of Knossos

An artists reconstruction of the palace of Knossos

Raki... fire water

notice the plastic lids?... they are to deduce rats
from climbing on the boats via the mooring lines

they drive the tanker onto the quay and fuel boats at their slip

With hopes of a short passage and what appeared to be a good weather window Inishnee and crew, Jim and Kathy,  left for Cyprus.  The sea changed from flat to bumpy pretty quickly but we were sailing.  Another check below decks to secure things and we settled in for 3+/- days.  We followed the course closely.  Nine miles ahead there is a shallow spot.  6 feet (2 meters) deep!  It is marked on the charts but there is no buoy on the sea to indicate it.  The closer we got the more the sea roiled, tossing us and our belongings about.  After passing the skinny spot the seas flatten to a tolerable jostling.  The winds continued till after dark when the engine was forced into duty.  Shifts rotated throughout the night with 4 hour shifts.  Lightening illuminating the moonless sky in the distance.  
We're bound to get wet
trying to stay dry

Thursday began pleasant enough.  Motor-sailing. By late afternoon the skies filled with clouds and rumbles, ever so faint, threatened to bring a change in circumstances.  As a precaution we we doused all the sails and put essential electronics in the oven, which insulates the components if we take a hit by lightning. We continue through the night, motoring-sailing.  The winds had picked up to 20 -25 knots.  We put a 3rd reef in the main and gib rolled half way. The night would bring many more sail changes, the motor on and off. 

Friday.  The wind continued to change through out the day.  Rain always on the horizon with lightening.  With so much storm activity it was inevitable that we would get wet.  When the skied open up it poured, lightening all around, 1000 one, 1000 two , 1000 three…. crrRRACCKk.  Way too close.  All hatches closed, Jim in the companionway trying to stay our of the wind and rain.  By afternoon the skies brightened  and a small wren type bird came to call… Very alert, it rested for a couple hours then flew off not to return… good luck!  
We took advantage of the calm seas and refueled.  A long slow process only attempted under extreme calm conditions.  The engine off.  The jerry jugs untied and lugged to the deck fitting where they are carefully and slowly drained of their life giving fuel.  45 minutes.  Jugs secured back to the outer deck we fired up the engine and got underway again.  Dinner alfresco with the setting sun.

calm seas to refuel

Night watch was interesting.  Jim relieved Kathy at midnight.  She pointed out a a number of other lights from vessels nearby which were not showing up on AIS then headed to the warmth of the aft cabin.  Sometime around 1am, Inishnee received a call via VHF…
   Inishnee, what are your intentions?
   We are under sail and heading toward Cyprus…
   Are you aware of what we are doing out here?
   No sir.  We are not.
   We are towing a 6 mile long sonar cable…. Please change your course.
   We noticed you stopped for quite a while several hours ago…
   Yes sir.  We were refueling… (note : they saw us on AIS and monitored our position.)

whew… so.  This company was NOT broadcasting with AIS so we had no way to know what they were doing.   They were able to monitor our position and track us however (AIS?).  They did inform us they had broadcast their situation on VHF (which we heard in Greek but had know way of interpreting).  That could have ended … poorly.  

Cyprus has a LOT of graffiti, everywhere
Most of it really bad
This was at least interesting 
Saturday.  Cyprus on the horizon.  3 days nearly to the minute.  We were greeted by the Chris from the marina as we approached the harbor entrance.  He led us to the receiving wall where we tied off and were then welcomed by other staff members… The facility is run by ‘Camper & Nickolsons’ Marinas and caters to the rich and richer… What the H are we doing here you might ask… well.  The cruisers marinas were already full so it was here or…. another country.  
The facility is very posh.  The mega yachts know how to live.  Although for the most part it’s there crews that are here and the owners come and go in their Bently’s or helicopters…. (yes, there is a hilo pad here.  
The marina complex is built on ‘new’ land.   There are islands with Venice type bridges connecting them to the mainland.  Golf carts transport people and goods to and from.  One of the yachts required 3 tankers of fuel while they berth here before moving on to the next fuel stop… We might be slow but our fuel bill will never come close to theirs… 
A weekend arrival can mean extra fees but we were allowed to wait till Monday for the customs official.   We were escorted to our winter berth.  Tied off and spent the weekend cleaning, resting and unwinding.   

Monday morning.  Jim headed off for his 9am appointment with the officials.  
Could you give us a few more minutes?  
Sure, I’ll wait outside… 
Yum.... the hanging sausage looking stuff is traditional greek candy
Made from grape must, nuts and flour
Thanks, maybe 15 minutes… 
Better yet, you come back in an hour…
one hour later: 
Please, I need your paper work…
    After looking it over…
Oh.  I see we have been in the EU for over 30 days.  Where is your VAT certificate?  (proof of tax $$$ paid to the government on boats, etc) 
We don't have to pay this unless we have been in the country for over 180 days…
Sir, you are an EU resident No ma’am.  I am a US citizen / resident.  (Jim has dual citizenship with Ireland which they noted)
   Well,  this questioning continued for quite some time trying Jim’s patients *and he shows tremendous restraint when dealing with the many officials of different countries.  The final out come…  Kathy had to sign papers as the “owner” of the vessel and agree to their many restrictions… Time allowed in the  country being foremost, meaning she, Kathy would have to leave Cyprus within the next few months to comply with tourist permits, etc.  ughhhh

it is not advised to eat them straight from the tree
Crew Inishnee started looking for places to travel out of the EU and cyprus over the next few days.  With the holidays fast approaching and grandkids and the family members unseen for well over a year… tickets were purchased for a holiday to the states!  
Forecast?… snow for the crew of Inishnee   

Preparations are underway for life aboard while here, now and later.  
Where is the grocery store?  walk 3 blocks, catch the bus, walk another 3 blocks
The bus stops / terminal?  Just outside of the marina complex, which is huge and filled with chain restaurants and high end shopping.  
The laundry?  There is NO self serve laundry.  But, the marina with arrange for pick up and delivery of your clothes, etc… Kathy was handed a price sheet and instructions (thank goodness she did NOT have her reading glasses with or she would have embarrassed her self right there at the concierges desk… 1 tee shirt = 3 euros; a pair of undies = 2.50 euros, pants = 4 euros… you get the idea?!!!  We decided it would be cheaper to toss our clothes rather than to send them off of cleaning!  We did finally locate a reasonable drop off place… take the number 30 bus to The Oval, walk 3 blocks… wait 4 hours and your laundry is clean and dry… very doable.
Mail… Unbelievable.  We ordered mail and a package from the states 2 days after arriving in Gibraltar… months ago!  When we left 5 weeks later is still had not arrived.  Another cruiser agreed to forward it to us when (if) it arrived.  Its been over 3 months and we just received 1 of the two packages… the other ? .  Had we been able to for see the future… we could have saved hundreds!!! of dollars in international shipping and picked it up while holidaying in the states. 
Cooking gas… In Europe they use butane with european fittings… of course.  Knowing we might have a problem, we have onboard an adaptor for converting the fittings… But finding someone to do this… !!!! Our propane tank went AWOL while in Sicily for neatly 2 weeks while locals tried to fill the tank… we managed to get it back after MUCH insisting just before departing… 
As Kathy types this we are in Cyprus and Jim is once again checking with the chandlery that said they could have it filled and returned in a day or so.  Island time seems the same all over… But after only 10 days, we did finally get the tank back and FILLED!  WoooHooo!!! In the mean time the hose when bad and it too had US fittings.  Several miles of goose chasing (on foot) did end with a new hose, correct fittings and a proper flow of gas to the  stove.

We are soon to leave for the U.S. and will return to Inishnee after the holidays.  

 More images from Crete... museum pieces and street scenes

Humans were sometimes buried in funerary clay jars
then placed in a tomb

    An ancient myth ...Your ticket to the underworld.
To ensure your passage to the afterlife, you must pay your way to the gods.  People were buried with coins to pay their fare.
Many sailors place a (silver) coin under the mast of their boats, part for luck, part for the passage if the unthinkable should happen.
Inishnee has 3 such coins.  One from the original owner; a Loonie (Canadian $1 coin with the image of a loon), a U.S. silver dollar, and a euro...
You can't be too careful

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Sicily to Crete 2017

Sicily to Crete…


New crew: Maria and Jon!  Maria, our former German exchange student, is Jon’s sister.  We again rented a car and made a small tour after retrieving them from the airport.  Destination: the Valley of the Temples, the ancient city of Agkragas.  Ancient ruins dating circa 430bc.  Much was destroyed by an earth quake in the middle ages but portions of the 3 temples have been restored.  An 800 year old olive tree!  

We had a late lunch at the beach, Scala dei Turchi, Agrigento. Dramatic white limestone outcrop projecting into the sea.  A late dinner followed by an early morning.  

on to a new port, new country; Crete, Greece!
Departure 10:45 local time.  
Oct. 7, 2017

 The crew was quite uncomfortable for the first 2 days.  Sloppy seas. Too much wind, or not enough. or on the nose…  Fish tailing downwind.  yuck,  blah… Sails reefed.  Then unreefed.  Wing and wing.  Varying winds.  Smoother seas by days 3 at least for half way day!  Spinnaker up.  Then down.  A large float spotted, looking like a life raft… a course change to investigate.  The raft appeared to be a large piece of styrofoam with lines wadded around it and a turtle…. We circled several times making sure the turtle was not entangled.  Assured the turtle was able to swim unhindered we continued back on course.  Evening celebration of half way day cake and an adult beverage!
Sailing, motor sailing and motoring continued the remainder of the trip.  

Oct. 10 several land masses spotted off the port side a dawn… It seemed impossible, an illusion.  The nearest land in the that direction is over 60 miles away but as morning receded into full on daytime the illusion remained.  Conditions so flat and calm we were able to see the mountains of several distance Greek islands through out the day!  Including several manmade structures… 

Our last night was very dark.  Lots of bio activity in the sea.  Thousands of distant stars illuminating the sky.  

Crete on the horizon and a stowaway at the wheel.  A small swallow found its way aboard and stayed with us for several hours.  Fluttering off and returning.  Resting on our hands, hats and under the dodger.  Finally feeling rested it took off for the mainland but soon returned where it found lodging in our sail cover.  Unfortunately, we were unable to free it from the folds of the sail before it was smothered in the slippery heavy fabric… Sadly , we set it adrift, only a few miles from shore.  

1240, arrival:  Chania, Crete.  

 What a lovely island this would turn out to be.  Very clean.  Few dogs and lots of cats… We enjoy seeing cats in the harbors and around food establishments keeping the mouse / rat population in check.  
Chania.  We med-moored with a slime line to the harbor wall.  A slime line leeds to a mooring on the sea bed which keeps the boats pointed in the right direct along with boat lines going to shore.  The marina agent met us and welcomed us.  The harbor is well protected from most sea events. The city boasts a lively waterfront (we had front row berthing) of dozens of restaurants and shops.  Tourist parading by from late morning till the very early hours … traditional music played late into the night form the restaurant nearest us, pleasant enough and just loud enough to lull us to sleep every night.  The city is large.  The alleys of the old city sporting shops with leather goods, terra cotta pottery and racks of key chains with varying  sizes of colorful dildo like wooden caving… Tons of olive oil soaps and sponges for purchasing as well.  The food… the food was fantastic!  Good prices and plentiful helpings.  Meals always ending with a local sweet and raki… Raki, an alcohol made from the leftover grape pressings, sometimes flavored with anise… always a chore to swallow!  Very harsh… Fire water come to mind.  
Following the rules… we had to get a transit log to document the ships ports while in Crete.  A quick bus ride to yet another port and the official.  A very looong wait, lots of phone calls, stamp ing and copying of paperwork.  The ‘official’ was misinformed as to the Schengen Law and provided us with false information (we have educated ourselves very well on this matter).  But as it turned out… no one here (Crete) seems to care!  No passports were stamped.  No questions about how long were have stayed etc… Like many who have come and gone before us… it’s who’s behind the desk that determines your validity… not necessarily the law… 
* I will finish this blog with a brief Schengen Law expose’… Inishnee’s interpretation  

Maria and Jon departing soon we decided on a hiking trip to Samaria Gorge in the White Mountains.  It is only open from late spring to fall, the last hike 3 days from now…. Billed as a strenuous hike for newbies, It is the longest gorge in ALL of Europe!  16 kilometers (10 miles)  down hill.  Altitude of 1,250 m (5,000 feet) at the north entrance terminating at the Libyan Sea (Mediterranean) at the village of Agia Roumeli.  The hike consisted of 13m of those.  

Once to start, you are committed!  The only way out is by foot, airlift or mule… the latter 2 for the injured … The trail proved to be a challenge.  Wide enough but very rocky, uneven terrain. Many switch backs lead to the valley floor were you continue on traversing the gorge across the dry river bed or sketchy wooden bridges.  About halfway many stop at the former village of Samaria… 

In 1962 the area was declared a National Park the the remaining inhabitants were relocated… Till then the valley had been continually inhabited since prehistoric times!  

A few kri-Kri goats (cretan ibex) wander the village; they are endemic to the area and highly endangered. 

Near the end of the trail the gorge narrows to a small slit, 10+/-  feet wide with 1,000 walls to either side.  The entrance and exits are monitored making sure ALL visitors who enter are accounted for at the end… With aching feet and a few newly discovered barking muscles the village at the end of the sea was a welcome site…
The only way out of town, unless you are sadist and hike UP the gorge… is by ferry.  No roads in to out.  The ferry runs twice a day, stopping briefly at another village with no roads.  Busses, taxis for private vehicles can then transport goods and people to their next destination.  Back aboard Inishnee,  many of the crew felt the hike’s after effects for several days. 

Maria and Jon depart and were are again “empty vessel’s “ (made up word for empty nesters…)   We provisioned, did laundry, ate out and relaxed a few days before moving on.

Moving on, we made brief stops in Rethymnon, Gouves and Sitia, Crete.  More good food, hospitality and raki… ugh .  No one cares about the transit log we were requited to get.  Everyone welcomes us to town and hopes we stay awhile.  Old Venetian fortifications, ancient ruins and palaces.  

We took a bus from Gouves to Heraklion / Iraklio to tour the nearby area of Knossos, where the ancient Palace of Knossos is located.  Dating to Minoan times.  A huge archaeological site, excavated by Sir Arthur Evans in 1894. … his interpretations and ‘rebuilding”  of some structures remains controversial.  He may have taken some creative  liberties in his zealous for showing the world past… Jim’s thinks he amy have been a bit archeologist with some P.T. Barnum tossed in… 
Later we spent a couple hours in the antiquities museum… lots and LOTS of old pottery… jewelry, household objects and some statures.  

Our final city this trip finds us in Sitia.  We will depart from here for Cyprus.  
Sitia has a very quaint, old and modern feel.  A small village.  Fishing and tourism evident at the harbor.  We were helpfully greeted by fellow cruises who took our lines as we pulled starboard to on the sea wall.  Jim, hailing from Belfast Ireland would be a great source on information over the next few hours. the Cretean House for dinner, a good bargain and good food.  No need for work about that transit log, we've traveled in th greek isles for several years and no one cares… Oh, you need a fender board!  (a board to keep the boat and fenders from rubbing on the VERY rough sea wall) I was just tossing away this old ladder, i’m sure you can make it work.. oh, and you HAVE to go to Turkey… It’s wonderful!…and so it went… lots of friendly advice  flowing from the lovely voice of an Irishman! Unfortunately, he was on passage to another port and had to leave the next day… we exchanged cards and really hope to meet again… 

As Kathy types away on this blog entry, the wind is screaming down on us from the east… predictions said 5-8 knots… we are seeing mid 20’s regularly.  Jim is changing the oil.  We received GREAT news from the states… Kathy’s bestie, Carrie,  is coming for a long visit after the new year!  
We are prepping for our last passage of the season… for real this time!   The last time we posted it we thought it was our last long passage for a while; at least year, we were hit with the reality of traveling in EU and specifically how it effects a NON EU citizen.  

 *The following is Inishnee’s interpretation of …
The Law: 
The Schengen Agreement  is a treaty signed by some of the European Union countries.  It allows EU citizens to travel between Schengen Agreement EU countries / borders without passports; free movement.  Not all European countries have joined the Schengen however.   
Non Eu citizens are allowed 90 days of travel in 180 days… then they must exit for at least 90 before returning.  Failure to do so could result in fines ($$) or possible permanent expulsion from the EU… 

Spain is very strict.  90days.  No extension.  
Portugal is similar… We met an American couple who had to pay a fine in Portugal for being beyond their 90 days, they were given an expansion…
Italy less strict.  They will grant a 1 year residency (only good in Italy)… but the VAT (value added tax) must be paid within 30 days of residency… But!  it depends on who is behind the desk that day…
Greece (Crete)… No one seems to care!  We have met many cruisers, non EU who come and go without issues… 

It’s a crap shoot!
We are, for the most part, rule followers… We looked at all the NON Schengen Agreement countries within the mediterranean were we could hold up for 90 days, then eventually the winter… And only found a hand full.  
Western Mediterranean: Any where along the North African coast or Gibraltar.
Middle Med…. nothing!
Eastern Med… Cyprus, Turkey, Israel, Syria, Egypt…. 
We opted for Cyprus… a moderate climate for the winter.   
The sailing season ends early November and the temperatures begin to drop significantly… SO we had to make a lot of miles in a very short time frame.  We’ll catch the countries are missed on the return trip heading west next season….