Friday, 26 September 2014

Adriatic Cruise - Chris's Journey Aboard Common Sense


Terry and Carol have kindly welcomed me into their life on the boat 'Common Sense' and it’s been a truly wonderful experience. I will cherish the fond memories of exploring the streets of Otranto, Brindisi and Monopoli, sharing meals on the boat, shopping for local food, finding hidden treasures just around the corner and so much more. Thank you for allowing me to photograph every food experience before we bought it, prepared it, and ate it, so that I could continue my Italy food blog. Mostly I just enjoyed their lovely relaxed company. Thank you both so much.
This is my experience of life on their boat sailing in the Adriatic Sea.

Sunday 21st September - Sailing from Otranto to Brindisi
 Up at 730, brekkie, pack up, check out with Guardia Costiera who really were not interested.

Set off at 9:00.  It’s a very calm flat day and we had to motor all the way as there was not enough wind for sailing. Common Sense needs about 15 knots to sail by itself. Today we have got minimal sail up just to assist in stabilising the boat. It’s interesting to watch all the different size vessels pass by. Terry and Carol have this amazing chart plotter system that also provides info on position of ships, name, size, what type of vessel, cargo, coordinates, where they are heading to and all contact details, a radar detects all small craft and the automatic pilot steered us all the way to Brindisi complete with ETA.

We had tea and chocolate topped digestive biscuits (Carol's favourite) on the way. After a couple of hours of motoring, still no wind we have a simple lunch of salad, bread and chicken on the deck and afterwards we all snoozed, read and updated our emails etc.  It was calm, warm and an easy, pleasant trip. We arrived at Brindisi marina at about 400pm about 7 hours of motoring.

Settled in at the Brindisi marina, had a real shower and then Terry's famous 'chicken stew' served with croutons spread with truffle paste. On the morning before setting off on a long sail Terry prepares some chicken pieces, lots of carrot, celery and onion, it all goes into the pressure cooker for about 10 minutes and then rests in the sink covered by a towel. It's ready to eat after a long day at sea mmmmm food for the soul.

Monday 22nd - Brindisi Marina
I'm in heaven waking up to the sound of water gently lapping on the side of the boat. It's quiet here apart from the occasional plane flying over, a speed boat passing by. It's a hot steamy morning looking out over the glassy water and there’s not a breath of wind.  The silence is broken with the sounds of Jimmy Buffet playing in the background while we chat and have brekkie on the deck.


Trip to the shops in Brindisi
Terry is busy hooking up the dinghy to winch it from the deck and down into the water. The heavy outboard motor is carefully manoeuvred down and Carol secures it to the dingy ready for our trip into Brindisi. It's the equivalent to getting into the car to go the shops, same but very different. Everything is harder and takes much longer on a boat. We putter out of the marina past the castle on the point, two large Grimaldi liners are docked amongst the cargo ships and we go past a UN distribution depot. The wake of passing boats gently rocks us. We pull up on a small jetty near three large tugs which become a familiar sight constantly going in and out of port several times a day.  We set off looking for a sign to the Centro. An old lady waves us in the direction 'dritto, dritto' straight ahead.

 The smell of bread baking draws us into a little bakery where we purchase some pane, panini and some little baked olive snacks. Across the road Carol is getting some peaches, an avocado, tomatoes, and she is carrying a large bunch of pale asparagus mmmmm I am thinking ahead maybe some pine nuts to go with that. The streets are narrow, dirty and run down we avoid walking under some of the shutters and balconies, they look like they could fall down at any minute. We look up at some beautiful old stone carvings set high up on a corner of an old building. The ornate rusted balconies look stunning against the old stone, there are the occasional bits of greenery, these are much sparser than the abundance of greenery in the north of Italy in Spoleto.

We go into a little 'enoteca' and Terry buys some salami and prosciutto while Carol and I practise our Italian and ask for some fresh pasta.  Packets of orecchiette and other pasta are brought out to us, pale, mixed sizes and shapes, wholemeal, organic, flecked. Terry in the background 'not that wholemeal s.....' . Some fresh ricotta and other cheeses of different consistencies, goat or cow’s milk, we decide to try the goat ricotta . The lovely friendly shopkeepers help us and another customer joins in with the Italian/English interaction and after a few photos we leave. The Italians are encouraging and helpful in our attempts to converse with them in their own language; equally some like to practise their English. There are still many that don't speak English and my limited Italian has been useful. I will continue my classes back home.

We stop in at the Farmacia to buy some fish oil and we get some directions to the Vodafone  shop. Finally we find it at 1.10pm and it has just closed for siesta time, in Italy everything bar a few cafés close between 1:00pm and 4:30pm for siesta. It can be quite frustrating when you are trying to sort something out.

We are getting hungry and decide to head back to the boat to have some of the yummy food we have bought for lunch. Not before one more stop at the Conad supermercato to pick up some radicchio, Parmigiana and I found some All Bran!

We wind our way back to the waterfront through the narrow little streets. Then into the trusty dinghy and we chug past the ships, some large tugs follow us on their way out to pick up a ship. Lunch on the deck with Dreher lemon beer, my new favourite drink. It's the perfect refreshing low alcohol drink, it would go down well in Australia.

Lunch:

Radicchio salad with avocado, capsicum and ripe Roma tomatoes.
Goats cheese ricotta.
Prosciutto and salami
Crusty bread drizzled with local peppery EVOO.



Sounds of Afternoon siesta.

It's quiet here. The water gently laps on the side of the boat. I love the clinking sounds of boats, masts swaying and creaking, mooring ropes squeaking and straining against the jetty, I lie here listening to the sounds of a marina full of boats and settle into the soothing and gentle rocking of the boat. Turkish towels pegged above us to stop the afternoon sun sneaking into the siesta space on the deck.  Occasionally I hear a voice reminding me that I'm in Italy, a young girl calling out 'bella', a man in the distance calling out sailing instructions in Italian, his pupils in their small yachts trail behind him linked to each other in a line. It's bliss!

Carol’s washing is turning into an all day affair with both the washing machine and dryer taking hours! I see Carol's ever calm demeanour where nothing is a problem.

After drinks in the marina bar we head back to the boat. A few drops of rain and more expected tonight. I cooked for the first time on the boat in the very compact but well equipped kitchen. Everything has its place there are little cupboards in every possible space, a fridge space, several pantry nooks brimming with supplies, a pot cupboard, cutlery, crockery even a garage with every possible tool, nuts and bolts you name it they are prepared for anything. The emergency life raft and supplies sits under the table. There are gas detectors....everything clips shut so there are no loose bits and pieces floating. Another new cooking experience that requires some efficient use of space and utensils

Dinner
 Fresh pasta with truffle paste (from truffle hunt near Citta di Castella) and parmigiana  

Asparagus  drizzled with truffle infused balsamic  sprinkled with toasted pine nuts and shaved parmigiana.  




Tuesday 23rd


5:00 am. Woke early this morning to the sounds of a wind change, wind had picked up through the night and there was some banging and unfamiliar noises. Terry and Carol were up in a flash and realised that their boat had been pushed back from the front mooring line (lazy line) and was now drifting back into the jetty. They worked hard to secure the boat, a marina person helped and another experienced yachtie came on board to help. After lots of winching and tying down of ropes in 40 knot ++ winds with gusts of 46-50 knots they finally managed to secure the boat. Lots of other boats around us were also having problems. These winds were not forecast and caught people unawares. This weather will pass around 11:00am to 1:00pm today, the rest of the week is forecast for light winds.
This really is something else sitting in and feeling the brunt of every wind gust, it certainly heightens your awareness! Banging, clanging, straining ropes and the wind whistles as it pushes boats and masts around. This is new experience that I haven't been aware of when comfortably surrounded by four walls in a secure home.
We spend the day reading and sleeping until the wind passes.

This evening we bus it into the town centre with a couple of recommendations of where to eat. In typical Italian fashion the city and shops come to life at 4:30. Passagiatta is in full swing, Brindisi is a lovely city, lots of interesting old buildings, a palm lined town harbour where yachts can moor placing them right in the centre of the city. Lots of interesting little alleys and enotecas and great shops too.

We find the lovely little Italian fish trattoria Siamo Fritto in the piazza Mercato, looks great, we decide to eat there. And what a treat it is, so much to choose from. We order some beer, half a litre of rose and with it comes the complimentary bread and olive taralli biscuits.
We have some delicious marinated anchovies drizzled with lovely green EVOO and a touch of pesto, the dressing begs to be mopped up with some crusty bread. Then some crispy fried calamari followed by a seafood risotto which has my undivided attention as I wade through the tasty sticky rice clinging to the mussels and prawns. Terry has pasta with tuna and tomato. We all finish with a cleansing limone sorbet and I can't resist a glass of limoncello. All up this cost us approximately 21 euros each (about $30).

Our bus driver is obviously in a big hurry to get home, he races through the streets and doesn't have time to take our fares, just waves us off the bus.

Wednesday 24th - Brindisi

We dinghy into Brindisi, this time we moored right on the central town dock placing us close to everything.
Shopping - we sample and buy some local fresh cheese, baked bread and a few supplies. Terry's shopping list is 'lollies, chips and hot salami', I suggest 'fruit and veges'. This stirring of the dietitian continues. I suggest a chickpea and tuna salad for dinner, Terry says sausages or pork chops. 


Sitting in Piazza Cairoli waiting to meet Terry and Carol I have an unbelievably creamy and delicious amarello gelato, another heavenly food experience. 

We visited a few historical sites including the Palazzo Granafei where we stumbled across an amazing photographic exhibition by Salvatore Valente. His stunning photographs were of scenery, portraits and of people from all over the world.  Keryn's motto of 'take 3 more steps' paid off once again with this unexpected discovery.

It is siesta time and the city closes down. We find a little bar to have a snack.
Mini tomato and mozzarella pizza and a lemon beer.
Two old Italian men sit at the table next to us, chatting, smoking, sipping an espresso and they eat some kind of cream filled pastry. I watch them thinking I must try one of these.
After asking 'che cosa il dolce gli uomini mangiare'  (what are these men eating) I am served a  brioche like cornetto filled with creamy custard dotted with dark liqueur soaked raisins that oozed out with every heavenly bite I took. OMG how am I going to survive when I have to curb my eating heaven.

It's now 4:30 and the city is coming to life again. We stop in at a little jewellery shop that keeps drawing us in. They have these lovely necklaces with little Puglia dolls typical of the area. Carol and I can't resist making a purchase. We then head back to the boat on our dinghy.

Back on the boat Carol and I snack on the local cheese and taralli biscuits that we bought along with a glass of Greek rose left over from Terry and Carol's time in Greece.  It has that typical retsina flavour which is a bit of a shock after the Italian rose however a few sips later I am not even noticing it. I prepare one of my versions of chick pea salad for dinner.

Tuna in oil, chick peas, olives, cherry tomatoes, blanched green beans, rucola, quartered eggs and dressed with EVOO and lemon juice.

Thursday 25th - leaving Brindisi for Monopoly

Up at seven for an early start. Over brekkie and checking the weather report we see storm warnings forecast for later today and strong winds settling in for the next couple of days.
The plan was to get to Bari in two legs with a stop in Monopoli. Each leg is about a 6-7 hour day sail.
I need to be in Bari in 3 days to catch my train to Milan and Terry and Carol are picking up another friend in Bari the day after I leave.
Terry is reluctant to sail today with the storm warning so it looks like we're stuck in Brindisi for a few days with the back up plan for me to train it to Bari if needed.
Terry checks in with the marina staff and another local experienced sailor who suggests that today is our window of opportunity to make a move before the strong winds set in.
A decision is made - we pack up and set off for Monopoli and hopefully we beat the storm.

It's calm, cool but not cold, and overcast as we sail out of the marina and through the ever busy port of Brindisi. A large Grimaldi ship is coming in followed by a rescue ship, military aircraft fly overhead, tiny fishing boats dot the harbour and we plot our way to Monopoli. Onto auto pilot, after a while there is enough wind to partly put up the genoa and main to help us along, though not enough wind to sail independently. The boat needs about 14 knots of wind to get it moving and are currently getting about 5-6 knots. We are travelling at about 6.7 knots with a combination of wind and motor. It's calm and flat and no sign of any storm.

All along the coast there are settlements, pockets of Greek style white buildings, probably beachside holiday towns.  Plumes of smoke dot the landscape all the way from Brindisi. It is the season for burning off and cleaning up of the olive groves. I also saw this from the train as I was travelling down to Brindisi from Lecce.

Sailing/motoring like this is very relaxing, I write my blog, do Facebook, Carol reads and draws, we have morning tea and then lunch (left over tuna and chickpea salad) and there's time to chat and snooze. We arrive in Monopoli at 3:00pm. 
The end of my holiday is getting closer and I will be sad to leave this idyllic lifestyle, however I have two precious friends and some wonderful memories to look back on. 

Thank you

Otranto - Back in Italia


Otranto was our first landfall in Italy, after a moderately challenging passage from Ithaca.  Just a couple of hours later, those ‘moderate’ conditions turned decidedly nasty as a thunderstorm hovered over the brooding Aragonese castle in true Gothic style, and several boats arriving later had a major challenge finding space and docking in the heavy rain and swell. But it passed, as all things do, and a string of fine warm days ensued.

Speaking of Gothic, has anyone read The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole? I usually try to read books about the places we visit, or books by local authors, so it made sense to download a copy of what is generally believed to be the first example of gothic horror fiction in English. It has all the elements – a haunted castle beset by a curse, a villainous/ attractive antihero, TWO fainting virgins, a hero who turns out to be the illegitimate – no wait, it’s OK, they WERE married – son of a monk, dungeons, torture, secret passages, madness, comical faithful retainers and decaying aristocrats. If you’re thinking, hey that sounds interesting, don’t bother! It is truly awful, one of the worst-written novels I’ve ever read, with great long passages of explanation for the absurd plot twists and pious moral reflections that are clearly there to try to balance the lurid fantasies of the author. No wonder Jane Austen parodied the fad for this sort of stuff in Northanger Abbey. Horace Walpole did the Grand Tour, so I thought that the descriptions of the castle might at least be interesting, but the setting could have been anywhere (with a dungeon and a secret passage to the monastery).


The real castle is remarkable. It has existed in some form since the ancient Greek empire, and has been modified or rebuilt by the Romans, Byzantines, Normans and the Aragonese.  It has suffered earthquake damage, sacking by the Ottomans and Napoleon and use as a prison. Since 1986, a restoration and excavation programme has revealed its outer walls, system of moats and bridges. There is a whole town within the walls, and pleasingly, people live here above the shops and restaurants that line its winding cobbled streets. We really enjoyed seeing local people hanging out washing or watering gardens on their balconies, or the occasional glimpse inside a tiny room furnished in dark wood and hand-made lace.

Within the walls is another treasure of Otranto, its Byzantine cathedral. The floor here is a single massive mosaic created by the presbyter of the church at the time, a man called Pantaleone. It depicts a huge ‘tree of life’ bearing the whole known history of humanity and the creation. The tree rests on the backs of two elephants (obviously not based on live observation) and included are Biblical stories, astrological signs, mythological creatures, King Arthur, Alexander the Great, Dante’s Inferno and all manner of angels and demons. Originally frescoes covered all the walls, but they were destroyed by the invading Ottoman Turks who left only the images of the Madonna intact.




Behind the altar is a grim reminder of the real tragedy of Otranto: three glass cases hold the skulls and bones of 800 men and boys, the Martyrs of Otranto. In 1480, the people of the town held off the invading Turks for almost two weeks. When they were finally defeated, the survivors were rounded up and ordered to convert to Islam or die. 800 men suffered martyrdom by beheading on Minerva Hill, outside the castle.  A church commemorates the site, which retains an atmosphere of melancholy even now, under its brooding trees and overgrown walls. The town never recovered, but last year the Pope canonised all the Martyrs of Otranto.  As you walk the streets, you can imagine the few women, children and elderly people left behind after the massacre, grieving in the silence. It’s a relief when the evening passagiata brings tourists and locals out to enjoy a stroll, a drink and a conversation, like an affirmation of life.
On a lighter note, it’s great to be back amongst Italian food too, and good wine. And new – or old favourite – beers. Some good finds have included Dreher lemon beer, a 2% brew that is a really refreshing hot-weather drink, like a less sweet lemonade with a very slight bitter edge. Arancini for quick take-aways, lovely pastas and the local snack specialty, biscuits called taralli that are good in both their sweet and savoury forms.

We’ve been busy clearing out the second cabin aka the storeroom, ready to welcome Chris aboard. She is finishing up a month-long ‘eating tour’ of Italy and we’re looking forward to welcoming her and hearing about her adventures.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Ithaca


Did Odysseus, or someone like him, really set sail from this island back in the earliest memories of western civilization? Looking down on the dazzling deep blue of Vathy Harbour from the mountains that encircle it, it is perfectly possible to imagine a fleet of “black-prowed ships” heading off on a sea journey of over five hundred nautical miles to Troy. Achilles was Homer’s great hero of the Greek forces at Troy, but Odysseus was always my favourite, famed for his cunning and his skill with words, the hero who brought the war to an end by strategy as well as strength. The Odyssey relates his ten year struggle to return home after the war; it is our great archetype of the epic journey in western literature.
 
The Odyssey World Tour T shirt

No-one really knows the route Homer had in mind. Some places were clearly real, some probably seafarers’ tall tales, most have had many changes of name in the last two and a half thousand years, and of course modern tourism demands that any vague link be exploited to the full. Some scholars claim that Odysseus’ home was actually Lefkas or Cephalonia, but Homer’s words could certainly describe the island of Ithaca:

A rugged land, too cramped for driving horses,

But though it’s far from broad, it’s hardly poor.

There’s plenty of grain for bread, grapes for wine,

Little rain but healthy dewfall.

Good country for goats, for cattle too.

There’s stand on stand of timber

And streams that run throughout the year …

Ancient olive tree
 
Vathy harbour was a beautiful sight on a fine morning: well sheltered, the bay surrounded by pretty Venetian-style villas in pastel colours, mountains covered in pine and olives beyond that, and a constant stream of yachts coming and going, enjoying the closing weeks of the sailing season.
The harbour of Vathy
We hired a scooter (€15 a day) to check out the rest of the island – awesome views of the whole of Ithaca and its neighbours from the roads skirting the mountainsides; olive groves and fine villas; an ancient church in the Paleohora with its Byzantine frescoes still intact; and of course the vivid blue Ionian – Homer’s “wine-dark sea” - on every side.
The ancient church
 

 

And finally it was time to leave Greece, the land of legends, where Western culture was born. By my calculations we have visited 25 islands plus several places on the mainland and the Peloponnese – which leaves about 1375 islands still to see! We met an erudite gentleman from Orlando, Florida (though he’s British) in Nisyros last year, Mr Miles, who had a goal of visiting 100 inhabited Greek Islands.  He was up to 95.
  

The people you meet (Terry)
We were dining in the Trehantiri, a much-lauded “Lonely Planet” restaurant in Vathy, Ithaca, discovering for a second night why people rabbited on about it.  It was A-1 Excellent.  First night I had the lamb, which had been stewed and roasted in some order, for what seemed like two days because I could eat it with a fork.  I added mixed vegetables to this, zucchini and eggplant and potato, and it was superb.  Unfortunately, the remainder of the dish had been booked by others in the know (a table of about 12) so only one portion was available and Cal had to have the chicken, which was no bad second prize.  As a consolation, she got to have the roasted Artichokes, which were unbelievable.

Second night, she got in first and said it was her night for lamb.  No joy.  No lamb.  Tonight was goat.  Ok, 2 x goat with mixed roasted vegetables.  With beer.  It was wonderful.  The hubby of the lady who is obviously SWMBO in the place does pretty much as he’s told.  Take this order, clear that table etc etc.  He does all this amiably, as if he’s just happy to play second fiddle to Her with the virtuoso violin.  It works well.  He came over to our table and indicated that the goat was his doing.  I looked in mock amazement and said/mimed “you cooked this? ”  No, he said.  I shot it!  Oh well, it had to come from somewhere.

Alongside us was a British couple from Kent.  It is one of this lifestyle’s damning features that no sooner do you meet people who are genuinely interesting, warm, open and full of beans than they are gone from your life forever.

We met Jan and Peter, from a village in Kent.  For the life of me, I can’t remember its name but it was near Tunbridge Wells and up a hill.  To the world, they looked like an aging Brit couple on annual holiday, enjoying a tourist spot in Greece.  In reality, they were seasoned adventurers of many years of escapades.  For something like 40 years they had Narrowboat tours of the UK, back before almost anybody did it.  They’d been bucketloads of places and lived to tell the tale.  Modest, unassuming and ever so Englishly-polite, they were delightful company.  Jan told me about a book by a chappy by the name of Terry Darlington called “Narrow Dog to Carcassone”, another Brit, his wife and their whippet who crossed the Channel in their Narrowboat and took it to the Med.  Yes, that’s how you build an empire – some of you just have to be up for anything!

Then the heavens opened and Ithaka was deluged.  A large party of 10 needed accommodating, we four had finished so tables were cleared amid much ado and new diners introduced.  Jan and Peter departed for their digs before we could share details and what I have left from the engagement is a downloaded copy of Narrow Dog to Carcassone on my Kindle DX and a pleasant memory of two delightful people from somewhere in Kent near Royal Tunbridge Wells.

We set off north and west across the Adriatic on an overnight sail for Italy.  Not the best of passages, with a sea from the port stern quarter rolling us around every 8 or 10 swells, a wind that rose and died, with sails coming out and going away again, and a constant procession of large cargo ships who all seemed to want the same line that we wanted.  We were glad to finally arrive in Otranto, Italy, to tie up on the dock and be checked in to Italy by a pleasant young Guardia Costiera officer.
 

We only just beat the weather in......

 

The Free Marina of Trizonia


Trizonia  - This is the only inhabited island in the Gulf of Corinth and sits about 1nm from the mainland.

The Marina
 
On Trizonia is a bankrupt marina project, unfinished.  However, it has piers and pontoons and a population of maybe 80 – 100 in permanent mooring there, some being worked on, some being lived on and some maybe one day will be remembered and attended to.  One is on the bottom, and a couple more look like they’re not far off the same.

 Going no further...

We arrived early in an afternoon to a side-to tie up and were helped by some very obliging Germans.  There was no wind and we simply coasted to a stop and put lines ashore but it was very pleasant to have a welcoming committee and set the tone for the next couple of days.

From the marina, you wander no more than 300m to the restaurant side of the island and a nice swimming beach, although you can swim from your boat over into the small anchorage and many do.

 
The restaurants are your standard waterside Greek restaurants with an easy disposition and lovely views back to the mainland and to the small islands on the east of the bay.  A fierce current rips through between the island and mainland and even the powered ferry boat does a quick sashay to the left before a push to the right to line up with where he wants to be.

No power but water is available for a fee.  No charge for the marina – yes, a free marina, though I suppose eventually someone will take it on and begin to complete the facility.

Quite a fierce electrical storm came through on the night we wanted to leave for an overnighter to Ithaca so we delayed departure to see it off.  Then we decided not to leave but around 10pm the world quietened and the wind dropped to zero.  Up and out of bed, into the cockpit, instruments on, lights lit, lines slipped and off we went for Ithaca by 10:20pm. 

Under a full moon, we motored easily down the Gulf to the Rion Bridge and passed three columns to the left, one column to the right, around midnight then wandered off with some wind at last to Ithaca.
 
The Rion Bridge at midnight

Sunday, 14 September 2014

The Beer Tour of the World #12

Beer, Food & Liquor Reviews

 
#12th  Instalment of the Beer Tour of the World


Yes, it's that time again beer lovers.  I've been a bit on the quiet side for a long time.  Being in Turkey, there is not a great range readily available and what is available is not cheap - Turkish social policies prevail, and that is their prerogative.  Besides, I'm happy drinking Efes as long as it's available.  I was under the misapprehension that Efes was a sort of a euphemism or shortening of Ephesus but how wrong I was.  It is actually a Turkish word for something like a local warrior chief.  I didn't know until I read "Halikarnassus Balikcisi", or "The Fisherman of Halikarnassus" (the old name of Bodrum) about a famous Turkish writer exiled from Istanbul for killing his father, Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı.


Brooklyn Brew


Had this in our son’s new Bar/Restaurant. Has been brewed for a long, long time and is a very good beer. Liked it a lot but not at $10 a stubby.  I’ve become too accustomed to beer costing 1 max in a supermarket or 9 in a restaurant (about $4.50 AU).  Tried their Brooklyn Lager when I was in NY City – cost 1/3 of what this cost in Australia.

 
Timothy Taylor Landlord –  Pale Ale


Not a fan of IPA, I am nevertheless a fan of Pale Ale (been drinking Coopers PA for something like 44 years now).
 
This is a good one.  Only 4.3% but tastes big and strong.  500ml bottles.  Again, in our son’s new place of employment so I wasn’t keen on the $12 price tag.  Have a look at the website – the brewery is worth a visit on scenery alone.
  

Tuborg Special

 
Strong – 7.5% –   the first Turkish beer with extra alcohol in it.  Not generally a fan of Tuborg but this is quite sharp and full.  Like it a lot but you would certainly need to be careful.
 

Marmara Malt

Given this by a former Isle of Man TT Racer and world-renowned author* who knows his beer, him being a northerner an’ all, at dinner on his boat.  Not too bad.  Good to share, not sharp but at the same time no as sweet as some malts.  Cold, this is very drinkable and not to be turned down.  Not commonly found in retail outlets.  Try it if you see it.
 
*Said author ordered some boat bits in Gibraltar in Sheppards.  Asked for his name, he gave it.  The sales guy said in amazement “not THE Mac McDairmid?”.  To which our Mac said “Well, I suppose I am at that”.

 
Alfa Strong.

Back in the land of Achilles (well, we are 5nm south of where Achilles departed from for Troy, and we all know how that ended).  This is 7%, hence Strong.  I picked it up by mistake, thinking it was normal Alfa but no.  Don’t like it.  The extra alcohol does nothing for the taste.  This dislike only applies to the Strong, as I like Alfa well enough.  Had a second one after a long day walking up and down Delphi and my opinion’s the same.  It’s drinkable if cold but it has little taste, overridden by the extra alcohol.  Had a normal Alfa with my lunch in Delphi and it was very pleasant indeed.
 

Henninger

I may have commented on this before.  Been around for a couple of hundred years.  Drinkable without being remarkable.  Usually quite cheap in supermarkets so it’s worth grabbing when you see it.
 

Sparta

A “name only” beer produced probably by Mythos for a supermarket chain.  Unremarkable but drinkable on a hot day.  Not to be confused with the Milton Brewery bitter of the same name which is part of that brewery’s “Ancient Cities” range.  Will have to try that later.

 
Fix Royale

A wheat beer.  Normally I am not a fan of this style.  I find it too sour and sharp but if I had to drink a wheat beer this would be it.  Very nice, restrained sourness, lots of nice bubbles.

 
Fix Special

Wasn’t.

I still prefer Fix Pils to any other Greek beer, though.


Fischer

From Strasbourg, but widely available in Greece.  Perhaps a little sweeter than a Fix but nevertheless, with a meal matched to it, a very nice beer indeed. 
 

Crest 10%
http://www.wellsandyoungs.co.uk/

 No point in finessing it, it is a 10% lager.  I didn’t like it much, and in future will probably avoid high strength beers in general as they all seem to have high alcohol override a pleasant taste.  This is double-hopped, which made it fruitier than I like and also a bit sweeter than I like.  Would avoid it in future.

That said, the brewery itself is worth a lookies-at.  They’ve been brewing for over 100 years in Bedford, UK and produce quite a range.  Unfortunately, one of them appears to be a Banana Beer, which to me is a sop to modern wusses.  Provided they produce it for good reason, i.e. to make money so that they can continue to make lagers and ales, then OK, go ahead.  Bedford is now on the list of cities I have to visit in the UK.  Looking like I’m never going to get out at this rate.
 

Dreher Lemon Beer 2.0%
http://dreher.it/dreher-lemon/

I’m confused.  Dreher is a large Hungarian brewery, now owned by SAB Miller.  The sign on the bottle here says 1773 but Dreher was founded only in the 1850’s or so, and not purchased by “the King of Brewers”, Dreher himself, until 1862 or 4. Also, this is brewed by Heineken Italy, not SAB Miller so what gives here I have no clue.

Trivia aside, this is a great drink.  Carol was looking for a non-beer, non-wine drink and they didn’t have iced lemon tea so she opted for this.  Call it Adult Lemonade if you will.  They do now make a 0.0% version but this, with a little 2.0% kick, is good.  Nominated as Drink of the Year by the Admiral and on Pusser’s list of approved ship’s stores.
 
We are now back in Italy so there will be much Nastro Azzura'ing and plenty of other fine Italian stuff.


 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Piraeus to Galaxidhi


The time was getting away from us, and we had a problem with our gas supply (no-one to fill US tanks, and difficulty finding a suitable connection between European gas bottles and out boat’s system), so we made an executive decision to head back through the Corinth Canal rather than going the long way round the Peloponnese. That way we could also call into Zea Marina in Piraeus, fill our US tanks and, as a bonus, do the laundry, buy a few small bits and pieces from John the chandler and find some real cheese!
 
Marina Zea, Piraeus.
By complete chance, Terry's photo of Zea was featured as the lead photo in this quarter's "Cruising Outpost magazine, which he opened to read while we were in Marina Zea.

It was fun to be back in Piraeus, that grimy old port of Athens where you can get anything you want and where the evening perpeta along the waterfront takes you past some of the priciest superyachts in the world (when you see YCM on the stern, you know the owners play in high circles).  We had two days where we managed to tick off every item on our list, from refilling the gas, to getting new bolts specially machined for the helmsman’s seat, getting a load of washing done, finding a nifty gadget for unsnagging the anchor, sourcing cheddar cheese and dry ginger ale, getting a haircut and much more. Then we even managed a night out at our favourite little family restaurant, Posidonia, for our 35th wedding anniversary!  A visit to Piraeus also means a chance to get your Vodafone sorted out by John Kounas.  John is a) a very nice guy who is always cheerful and helpful and b) very good at what he does, which is make Vodafone work on your tablet, PC, phone.

 John and Terry
Then onward to brave the Canal once again, preceded, of course, by a visit to the ATM ready to transit the most expensive three nautical miles of water in the world. This was balanced out by saving about 120 nautical miles plus the definite advantage of being able to cook our food. The east to west transit was complicated by strong westerly winds and a significant current, but the Captain employed the time-honoured method known as “more right hand” and we were through the cut in no time. It is quite a sensation charging at near-top speed through a deep, narrow channel of limestone. In ancient times, ships made this transit on land, on a type of early ‘rail’ system powered by slaves or animals.
Through the Canal again
 
The weather in the Gulf of Corinth was anything but the gentle five knot breezes of the weather reports – more like 25 to 35! The anchorages we’d planned were completely untenable in these conditions so we ploughed on up to a group of three tiny islands, the Alkionidhes, and managed to find reasonable shelter behind Nisos Dhaskalio.  Here an abandoned monastery overlooks a miniscule bay with a mooring and a constructed breakwater. We manoeuvred into the bay, tied up securely to the mooring and I swam a long-line to the shore. The wind howled and the sea rose but we were OK in our little nook.

Next day was another beat to windward until we reached the very welcome shelter of the Bay of Iteas and the beautiful harbour of Galaxidhi. This is a jumping off point for a visit to the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi, but it is worth a visit in its own right. The town has beautiful buildings, great views of Mt Parnassus and a relaxed, convivial waterfront, complete with a floating duck house for the resident ducks. They even have their own speedboat tied up alongside


Duck Condo

 A local character, the unofficial ‘harbourmaster’, helped us tie up and gave a lot of very good, but incomprehensible advice. We enjoyed terrific home cooking at the Porto restaurant and a show of traditional dancing by a local community cultural group, along with a spectacular display of lightning by the gods up on Parnassus.

Mt Parnassos


 

A local bus does the trip through Itea and up to Delphi on the shoulder of the mountain, once home to the nine Muses and the famous Oracle, known for its accurate, yet often cryptic and misleading predictions.
 
 
 
Great bus trip around a scenic bay full of tiny islands, then a slow climb through the world’s largest continuous olive grove (1.5 million trees) to a truly spectacular site. From the ruined temple complex, you look out over the grove which winds like a grey-green river through the valley below. Clouds hover amongst the surrounding peaks, with sudden storms reflecting the capriciousness of the old gods. The artefacts in the museum are tantalising: exquisite fragments, very few of them intact. The exception is the famous charioteer, with his penetrating dark eyes and reins still grasped in his hand.
 
 
The Temple of Apollo must have been an absolute wonder to the pilgrims who made the journey up the mountain to make sacrifices and hear the words of the priestess. We consulted the modern oracle (on the i-pad) but sadly, all we got was another wildly inaccurate weather forecast.
 
Galaxidi, looking towards Parnassus

Sunday, 31 August 2014

The Bridge of Khalkis. (Terry)


We arrived at the dockside of Khalkis and were assisted in going alongside by Geoff, a Frenchman who has spent 30 years living in Wales(those old wine smuggling routes die hard, eh?) – His wife, Simone, speaks English with a strong French accent but he speaks English with a Welsh accent.  They were a very nice couple on a very nice 31’ cruiser.

The bridge with its currents

The transit is an ancient one.  The Emperor Justinian was the first to bridge the distance (that we know).  It can be a terrifying piece of water.  The current reverses up to 7 times a day, and even at times has north current in the mainstream and south on the periphery, a sort of whirlpool.  The reason for all this has yet to be explained and Aristotle himself was so perplexed by his inability to understand it he is reported to have jumped in in frustration!  Maybe it was just an August day?

The current

You have to find the Port Police to book your transit – not easy, as they are in back alley with no signs until you see the building’s doors.  It costs E18.77 to pass, and you are instructed on the procedure.  The Port Police control the nightly passage but it is Khalkis Municipal Employees who determine slack tide/slack current and decide when the bridge will open.  You are instructed to be on standby from….x, usually 10:30pm or so.  From then, the Municipal guys monitor the flow and then hit the “go” button and you have 10 minutes to get your bum into gear. 

Your radio call comes “Common Sense, Common Sense, Prepare Your Boat!   To which you answer “Port Police, Port Police, this is Common Sense, Understood.”

To get out of our berth was the stuff of nightmares.  In front was a 70’ Plastic Fantastic which we dare not hit, and behind were 2 yachts rafted up, cutting off an easy escape.  The plan was to have the Admiral hold fast at the bow with a forward line (extra fenders added) whilst the lackey on the wheel hit reverse and full left rudder to rip the stern out to midstream, at which point the boss could let go and we would proceed in a stately fashion backwards into the channel.  Worked perfectly.  No boats were damaged in the filming of that exercise, and we then ponced about in the channel waiting for the bridge to part (it falls down a little, then retracts to each side from the middle).  At one point in the procedure, me foolishly assuming I was first, I glanced upstream and saw the massive fishing boat Konstantinos bearing down on us.  This is a bridge where might-is-right and big guys go first.  I let him pass.  Then the call came from the Port Police “Common Sense, pass the bridge.”  I swung in behind Konstantinos and then found a cheapskate plastic dude trying to cut me off – a couple of these motorboats arrived late and we knew they hadn’t had time to register and pay.  Suddenly he backed off and Carol said he had just been told by the Port Police to get back in line!  Didn’t know her Greek had improved to that level, but back off he did.

Through we went.  Now we’ve done this a few dozen times going down the ICW, but this one is apparently a drawcard.  There were hundreds (hundreds!) of sightseers on the bridge waving and cheering as we thundered through, hoping for all get out that the tide didn’t suddenly kick in.  Once through, we ambled off to starboard to a huge wide open bay that is 30’ deep almost to the edge and anchored for the night in still calm waters.  The tension was all relieved, we hadn’t hit anyone and we hadn’t hit the bridge and the Australian flag was flying high (we had a young girl come along earlier in the night asking it we knew so-and-so because they moved to Australia.  She was a bit young to understand how big it was but I’m sure if her friend’s brother plays for Carlton I’d know).  We also met a man called Peter who lives in……Karrinyup.  Milverton Avenue to be precise.  He is mostly retired, the kids run the business and he has bought an apartment down near the bridge.  He wanders to Greece each year then heads home when it starts to go coldish.  He offered to help us out by driving us to hardware stores but I’d already gone all over town not having any success so we missed a later catchup.

Out in the bay, it was a couple of dry-and-dry’s and off to the bunk.  (Cinzano Bianco, 750ml, €6.00, not even on special!)


Down the channel

Today was a big one.  51.8 nautical miles.  We passed a superb new bridge over the channel to Evioa, 128’ high from memory, with a whole mess of guys in small boats fishing in the narrows.  Each one had a beach umbrella on his boat and a small inboard motor and tiller.
 

 Bridge fishing, Chalkis style

Farther on down we passed one of the signs of “Le Crise” in Greece – an entire modern cement plant idle and shuttered.  Then, three or four small ships laid up, rusting away.
Cement plant - out of commission 
 
 
Rusting away 

We came across a man out chest deep in the water fishing for ?  Maybe occies?  He had a pole which didn’t have any net on it so it wasn’t for scooping and he was way out in the water.  Any suggestions?
?
  
We were intending to anchor in a small village only 12 miles from the last night’s anchorage but we got there so early we decided to make some more miles. 

Old lighthouse
 

Bad move.

The Meltemi kicked in and we were then hunting for a home for the night in 40+knots with one 52kn coming off a mountain.  Long story short, we motored right across the channel and are in…..
 
The Bay of Marathon

What a beautiful bay this is.  We are at least a hundred metres from shore and are still only in 14’ of water.  The charts lie.  We couldn’t get a hold in close (so we couldn’t swim in to the beach bars L ) but further out we are in tight.
 

The Bay

This is where Darius the Persian dickhead got his arse well and truly whipped by the Athenians in 490BC.  Darius didn’t like the fact that the Athenians and the Eritrian cities combined to assist in the Ionian revolt.  (We passed Eritria earlier in the day.)  He sent two guys with a bucketload of men and ships and took Eritria but then when he tried Athens, he came up a little short and all his guys got killed a lot.  We are only 17.4 nautical miles from Athens here, about 30-something kilometres.  Looking into the west here we can actually see the two passes the Athenians blocked off to bottle the Persians up.  This setback, and then Darius’s son Xerxes' unfortunate encounter with Leonidas and the Spartans, gave rise to 200+ years of Greek ascendancy and then the rise of Western Civilisation.  The wind is still howling somewhat but the Greeks camped in the trees are enjoying themselves - it is the final week of Greek holidays and some are still making the most of them here.

The Admiral and I are enjoying Gilbey’s G&Ts in the cockpit - the wind might blow, but it is a hot wind and we are still in our bathers.