Strange knocking and one laid back official

It was so wonderful to be on the move after two and a half months lockdown in Alimos Marina, Athens, but we didn’t have time to linger and really get to know each of the islands we anchored at as our 90 days Schengen visa period was well and truly over and we had to leave Greece or find an official who could agree to an extension.

Leaving lovely Serifos

On the upside though, our quick trip through the islands has been free of tourists and we have had the luxury of every anchorage virtually to ourselves.

The anchorage might be empty but ferries are functioning again.

After Serifos, with its stunning chora stretching way up the hill above the anchorage, we headed for another low key but lovely island, Sifnos.

The inter island ferry overtaking us

Very little wind was predicted but after an hour of motoring we put the sails up and enjoyed an unexpected and beautiful sail, skimming along at 6.3 knots in around 12 knots winds.

A short video showing how we had the sea to ourselves

It was glorious, the seas were calm and there was not one other vessel in sight for as far as the eye could see. Just us and the islands!

We had chosen the anchorage at Kamares which had an interesting entrance that reminded us of the “Hole in the Wall” in Langkawi, Malaysia.

The gap in the cliff can just be seen

On approach all we could see were cliffs and no way through them but once we drew nearer, we could just define a small “fold” in the rocky terrain and locate the narrow entrance.

Kamares town Sifnos

Once we had anchored up we realised there was a slight but uncomfortable swell and added to that, inexplicably, we just didn’t like “the vibe”. So we motored round to another spot – Ormos Vathi which we were really delighted about as it was definitely our sort of place. .

Approaching Ormos Vathi

There were only two other boats in the bay – both Greek flagged – and one was moored stern-to right outside a picturesque sparkling white chapel with the signature domed roof.

Sunday and the other vessel at anchor
The tiny chapel on the quayside.

Once on land we had a look round the exterior of the chapel (unfortunately it was locked) and walked through an archway to the cutest little beach imaginable with a lovely shady taverna that looked very appealing.

A typical cottage with whitewashed walls
Had to find out what was through the archway!
A pretty feet-in-the-sand beach taverna

Rather than sit down and order a long cold drink we decided we should go for a walk first, so we followed the coast round to the other side of the bay. On the way there were a handful of other tavernas, a useful looking shop and a number of small holiday homes.

Another view of the quayside chapel

In places the beach completely disappeared and we had to wade through the water as we passed the houses until we reached the broad stretch of sand in front of a very nice looking hotel. Sadly it was all shut down – there were no guests due to Covid-19.

Looked like a lovely hotel but it was all closed up

After the hotel there was a series of tiny coves, each with just one or two people in. At one point we climbed up some steps and followed a low cliff path around to yet another small cove.

There were beautiful flowers over the cliffs
Flowers everywhere actually

On the way back we stopped to buy some vegetables and fresh bread before heading to the taverna we spied first for an icy cold beer.

Love this view

We would have loved to have stayed longer but apart from the visa-free time limit issue, a curious knocking noise had developed which became ultra annoying in the slight swell we were experiencing.

Farewell Sifnos

It took us a while to track down the strange knocking sound that reverberated through the starboard hull. Eventually after checking the bilges, lockers and my bathroom cupboard Jonathan realised that the noise was coming from the fuel tank which was right under our bed!

Another lonely chapel on the way out of Ormos Vathi

It appeared that the gauge float that measured the amount of fuel left in the tank had come away and was moving with the boat and banging on first on one wall of the tank and then the other.

So we decided to call into Paros, one of the main tourist islands of the Cyclades group where, we hoped, we would find someone who would be able to sort out our problem.

Rock formations on our way into Paros

The following day we motor sailed to Paros (the wind was light and intermittent) which took us about four and a half hours. When we arrived we made our first attempt at Mediterranean stern-to mooring. For those who don’t know, there are a few variations of this and the one we were trying to accomplish entails dropping the anchor and then reversing into your “parking space “ and securing lines ashore from the stern (back of the boat).

Parikia looked bigger than I remembered

This process should have been reasonably easy as there weren’t too many boats in the harbour but there was a brisk wind and we ended up being snuggled right up to a speed boat called Tequila. Fortunately the skipper was on board and was prepared to fend off if need be.

Skipper Konstantinos helps tie us up

The anchoring part (my responsibility) went pretty well and despite the poor holding our trusty new Rochna anchor dug in quickly and well.

Yiannis the port policeman asked to examine our documents before we were allowed to get off the boat

We discovered that you really need four people for this manoeuvre – one to steer, one to handle the anchor and two to throw the lines. Hmm we were slightly undermanned. However, Yiannis the Port Policeman (the very nicest, kindest official we have met in Greece) came to the rescue.

Such a nice man!

He had come to check us out as seeing we were NZ flagged thought we might be trying to enter Greece from another country which wasn’t allowed at that time.

Snuggled up to Tequila

He took the lines, called out instructions and helped us get settled before taking away our documentation to check. In the meantime Konstantinos, our skipper friend on Tequila, helped us put another line out which helped keep us well away from his charge.

Sunday nicely settled

When the Yiannis returned with our checked documents he was so helpful and laid back – first he found us someone to look at our tank which was brilliant and then after telling him we had to leave because of our visa situation he said “don’t worry, stay and enjoy Paros – with Covid-19 these are exceptional circumstances.

It had been forty years since I’d seen this chapel

As Paros was the first Greek island I ever visited and where I first fell in love with Greece – forty years ago when I was in my twenties – I definitely didn’t need a second invitation to stay!

This was the Paros I remembered
This Church hadn’t changed

Parikia, the port town, was still recognisable – perhaps a little more built up than my previous visit but as it was so quiet due to Covid-19, the place had reverted to the rather sleepy, laid back, vibe of yesteryear.

So quiet without the tourists
A sign from the old town
This might have been the place I stayed in all those years ago!
So many beautiful flowering shrubs

The iconic and photogenic windmills still welcome in the ferry passengers and the old town was just as I remembered it – the narrow, cobbled laneways, bougainvillea tumbling from the whitewashed walls of the ancient houses, the chapels and the tavernas. There were rather more clothes and tourist shops but it didn’t seem that different.

The iconic windmill at the port entrance
Lots of pretty lanes in the old town
Bougainvillea tumbling from the whitewashed walls
An ancient well
More traditional buildings
So pretty but no customers
A lovely shady spot to have a drink or meal.
This water fountain was constructed in 1777 out of Parian marble and was donated by the King of Walachia (in Romania) who was born in Paros.

One major change was the number of supermarkets and the presence of a deli! There was certainly nothing like that forty years ago. We were very happy to find Branston Pickle and Marmite (the English version of Vegemite) in one of the shops – unheard of even in the largest supermarkets we visited in Athens.

The deli in Paros had lots of goodies
We found Branston Pickle
….and Marmite

The contrast between tiny, low-key Ormos Vathi, Sifnos and the normally bustling vibe of Parikia in Paros was quite obvious but we felt both were fabulous in their own way and both epitomised all the reasons why we love the Greek Islands!

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Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

2 thoughts on “Strange knocking and one laid back official”

  1. So enjoying another Sunday blog on a Sunday morning in bed!… true laid back Greek style, with Greek recipe scrambled eggs.

    As fellow Greekophyles we can imagine the excitement of revisiting the chapel, last visited in your twenties, Dot. And phew, what a relief things hadn’t changed much, apart from the very impressive deli, the like of which we have never seen on any of the other Greek islands, we have visited!

    Good luck with sorting your fuel float, I’m sure the nice policeman has got all the right contacts! …and your visa!!

    Yammas! Sally&Jorgos xox


  2. PS Was interested to see you posted a video, the first time I’ve seen you do that, but unfortunately pushing the arrow didn’t work and now the arrow’s got a line through it. Maybe it’s because my iPad is too old?!

    And also just to say we’re so enjoying your Greek blogs, they’re the next best thing to being there! X


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