I finally managed to leave Turkey. That was a relief except for getting completely bent over by the Turkish Customs officers. I had all the correct paperwork and old parts to receive my tax back on the new engine but the officers couldn’t be bothered to come out in the rain and inspect in the deepest parts of Slick. When the inspection officer had to climb into Slick’s tiny engine compartment and try to see the serial number on the new engine he had had enough. When he asked about the other things on the receipt and I explained where they were located he simply said he can’t refund my taxes. They didn’t like that I had sectioned Perky into a few pieces to be able to put her back on the boat and that the parts I was taking out were installed. Then they told me that I must have an inspection of everything before it comes out of the boat and before the new stuff goes in. This is completely wrong but after four hours of arguing and talking to the regional Inspector their was nothing I could do. It didn’t help that the agent I hired was particularly inexperienced and had never handled a tax return before. He was also a complete coward. I am fairly certain that the tax exempt receipt is pretty much a way to get your hopes up when buying large ticket items and that Turkish Customs exist solely to find every excuse not to give you a refund, thus insuring you leave with a sour taste of Turkey. That night I motored in the rain to Buzacalle and had dinner with a family that runs a restaurant in the bay. I stayed with them awhile last year and enjoyed seeing them again. I only spent one night, but they have a brand new dock and Slick liked the tie-up. At least the non-bureaucratic Turks are still nice people, so some adoration for the country was restored.

The next day I sailed for Kos, in the Dodecanese of Greece. It was a long motor sail but nice to finally put Turkey behind me and start the long journey back to America. The first sail for Slick after the refit was in 25 knots of true breeze and to windward. It was a bit of a screamer and she handled it great on just a very reefed jib. Yanni did the motoring part well too, so far I am very happy with the new Yanmar. Upon arrival in Kos, I called the marina and asked for a night and to check in, they invited me in but the fairway was dead down wind. I asked the marinero for an easy slip and some help since I was alone. I may have been going a little fast down the fairway since there was 25 knots pushing me, even with the engine in reverse. The marinero got pretty upset yelled some obscenities (in English) and told me to leave, he then put his little boat on Slick’s aft quarter and used all 60 horsepower to spin me around and ordered me to leave. I was a bit shocked as I had never been treated like that before in an marina and especially not when asking for help in adverse docking conditions. Not a nice first impression of Greece, but also not a correct one. I went to the town harbor and had no problems and everyone was very friendly. With some help from the dock manager Slick was med moored on laid moorings and I started the check-in process. It was easy and I was happy to finally be legal after a long two day transit, so I treated myself to a gyro.

The whole reason to come to Kos was for the return of Nathan. He managed to find Slick the next morning and he was quite timid to cross the new (slightly used) passarial that someone had given me last year. I can’t really blame him as it is sort of scary. When I was putting it up a zephyr came across the bay and before I could move the rig Jocylin started trying to eat the metal bar. It clipper all her blades about four inches shorter. She is much quieter now. Anyway, it was quite nice to get Nate back on board so after he got settled in, we went through all the parts he brought and had a few beers to catch up. We were so successful that we had a few more and of course, some gyros.

From Kos we sailed to the island of Kalimnos, on the east side of the entrance is a little fjord (not by the technical definition) and the village of Vathi, we pulled into and had a wide open dock for our first attempt at team-Med-mooring with the anchor. The anchor switch I installed at the helm is invaluable and we looked like we were good at it, at least that was what the dock committee had to say. Slick was crooked though, but that was because we are not that good at it. The harbor was quaint and full of very tiny fishing boats in all colors, but mostly white and blue. These things are tiny and so are the fish they catch. This is part of the magic of the Aegean I guess. We left for Antipalaia the next day and had a 25 knot-off-the-wind sail and it it was nice to move along at 7.5 knots on a reefed working jib. Slick was fast and smooth and the new bottom felt great, although it was a bit lumpy as there is such a short fetch for such winds the waves don’t really have a chance to develop as in the open seas. We anchored off a small village in flat evening calm and made a run to shore, mostly just to introduce Nathan to Mutley. The outboard terrified him almost as much as the passarail.

The next day was a long motor to Santorini. This is an enormous caldera with the crater rim lined with stereotypical Greek Island white houses with blue trim. From a distance it looks a bit like a rock that birds spend a lot of time on rising out of the sea, but up close it is beautiful. While it may look nice its full of cruise ships and we spent the better part of two hours driving to every corner of the crater trying to find a place to anchor for the night. It was all very steep-to and finally we ended up on the cone in the center. After we got the hook down between a massive volcanic plug and the center of the cone we realized it was still active. Oops, well, we are only staying the night, and it was a very peaceful night.

A mean southerly wind was scheduled so we had to run and find some shelter. Normally the wind blows from the north-west here. It does so much it has a name, the Meltemi. In winter and early spring though it isn’t so active and when a southerly comes it is usually really bad. We headed for Paros and anchored off the town. It was quite nice their and we took the opportunity to inspect the rig. Much to my dismay I found that both my lower shrouds had broken wires. When I last inspected it, at the end of last season it looked great. We rode out the blow (40 knots on the hook, new chain worked great) all night and didn’t drag an inch. The wind died and was then scheduled to pick back up again so we took the opportunity to move into the town quay to be a little more comfortable, and have better access to gyros.

When the weather returned to normal we headed to Siros. We originally wanted to go to Mykonos to see the most touristy place in all of the Greek Aegean but the broken stays took priority. Being the capital of the Cyclades and the largest city in the sea we thought it would be our best chance to find the parts. We arrived and found an abandoned, not quite complete, marina outside of town where anyone can tie up for free. It could be world class marina if they just finished it and its a real shame that it is becoming dilapidated. In any case, we tried unsuccessfully to find the bits for the rig but had a nice walk about town. It had amazing marble streets that were very slippery. We decided to go to Lavrion on the mainland to try to find the parts next since this is the center of the charter services in the Aegean. We failed again and just relegated ourselves to more gyros.

Finally we decided to go to Piraeus, a suburb of Athens, where all the marine parts in Greece come from. In Greece you have to check in to every port that has a coast guard station if you dock your boat there. Well, everywhere I had tied up since checking in either didn’t have a station or they never opened. The Hellinistic Coast Guard in the port was not at all happy with me and were even a bit rude. I was surprised because everywhere else they are really friendly. After talking to the other cruisers, it is just this one station and they have quite a reputation for it.

We were staying in the expensive marina (they are all expensive) and were originally going to avoid it because of the bad reviews I had heard and read (not the marina or the staff, but the location and Athens in general). I found these to all be false, or at least I had a much better experience. We located a rigger named George almost right away and got the lower stays taken down. He had them made for me the next day and we reinstalled them so Slick has a sound rig again. His service was excellent and I really recommend him. After spending some time talking with the rigger and looking at the pieces I really feel that the swages where over swaged when they were made just five years ago back in Boston. This really upset me mainly because they have never been over-stressed and shouldn’t have failed so soon, especially not both of them. This, combined with the swages being bent leads me to believe they were manufactured improperly. It was especially annoying since I purposefully used the best rigger in New England and paid a dear sum to have the rig redone, specifically so I wouldn’t have these sort of problems. Lesson learned, again. To feel better about things, we had gyros, actually jumbo ones, twice the size of normal ones. I think I had to lay down after that one.

While we were in Athens we decided we had better go and visit the Acropolis and all the rest of the main sites. The piles of stacked rocks were impressive enough to justify taking the whole day and walk through the city. I was imagining Athens to be something like a safer version of Cairo after all I had heard. In reality though I found it to be a perfectly tolerable city and we enjoyed the friendly and helpful Greeks and all the availability of things in the city. The marina was quite highly priced though so after the rig was repaired and touring and shopping done we had to leave.

We then made for the Corinth Canal which separates the Peloponnese Peninsula from the mainland. This canal is the most expensive canal per mile in the world. And it was definitely spendy, 177 Euros for 3 miles. It was pretty amazing to transit through though as it is only two Slick-lengths wide and has steep cliff walls up through sediment and volcanic tuft. We had a small ship in front of us so the wash pushed us about a bit, but it was really an interesting transit.

My impressions of Greece are certainly mixed. On one hand I can only really blame myself and the route for some more or less crappy sailing. Most people start in the Ionian and head to Turkey, not the other way around. I, on the other hand, spend the entire time heading to windward. This normally isn’t a problem since the wind doesn’t blow but when it blows it really blows. The fishing is terrible too, not one hit in almost 300 miles. The scenery in the Aegean is not particularly beautiful. It is very much a desert and reminds me of where I grew up, if it was flooded with water so only the hill tops existed as islands. I find Med-mooring interesting and Nate and I are getting better at it, but the real scary part now is when someone wants to park next to us, some of the skippers are really bad, worse than us even. One nice part though is that you park usually on the town pier and there are cafe’s and bars all along and it is usually the center of the town. This can get a bit tiring with all the gawkers but then you just pull in bow-to. In general Greeks are really friendly too, although they don’t seem to work all that hard. The unemployment is rampant and obvious and we have heard some terrible stories about it. Most of the new structures you see are funded by the other members of the EU and when you meet a German or a Frenchmen they are quite condescending although it is somewhat understandable. We just wonder if being from the countries that fund this one if you get some sort of discount, but I guess not. On the other hand, Greeks have the lowest suicide rate and one of the lowest crime rates in the EU so they must be doing something right. The part I find most sad though is how many of the towns seem to have given up every bit of their own local culture and embraced what one expects to find on a Greek holiday. In this sense many of the places have become caricatures of themselves just for tourists, which seems to be about the only industry. Anyway, so far its pretty easy and kind of fun, especially with Nathan here. But it certainly wouldn’t be on my top ten list of world cruising destinations. I hear the Ionian is better though, but we will only get a few short days there then head to Montenegro to pick up another crew member. Sadly, I hear there are no gyros there.