Koufos to Thessaloniki

Well it was just as usual – the wind turned around 02h00 and the anchor dragged – oh what a surprise!  I’m getting used to the sleepless nights but to be honest getting pretty sick of them, and can’t wait to get our new Mantus anchor when we get to Thessaloniki.  This time, we have planted the anchor on a sand patch among the weed, so of course when it rotated it has ended up in the weed.  We didn’t have to re-anchor, as it did catch – at least enough, since we have only about 10 knots of wind.  I spent the rest of the night fitfully sleeping, up and down checking what was happening.

Actually, Wednesday turned out to be a pretty bad day 🙁

We were ready reasonably early at around 09h00 as we had a long way to go and I hadn’t slept anyway – and pulled the anchor up ready to leave.  We then had a bit of a serious incident – which I don’t want to talk about in public …. but suffice to say we had to drop the anchor again and sort things out, finally leaving at around 11h00.  Things got worse as I had also failed to realise how far it was to Thessaloniki Marina – getting a bit complacent and hadn’t made a route!  I hadn’t realised how far it was to get from the 2nd finger across to the 1st finger and how much that was going to add on to our journey – so by the time we left, it was clear it would be impossible to make it to Thessaloniki in one day.

The situation was made worse by the fact that there really is nowhere at all to stay on the whole of the 1st finger – either on the mainland coast or the coast of the finger itself.  It is just one very long gulf with nothing but straight coastline with rocks and sand – I searched in vain along the charts, and in the pilot books and on Noonsite, the online worldwide cruising guide.  Nothing … nada!  There are a couple of very small fishing and commercial harbours but the charted depths are less than 2m and all the research gave the impression that it was unlikely there would be space for a yacht.  There were two pointed bits of land where we thought it might be possible to hide behind at anchor, but both of them were open to the sea and the weather forecast was quoting 1m waves and 25 knot gusts during the night, as well as a wind shift from south to north.  I couldn’t take the idea of bouncing around in waves and the anchor coming loose again on the wind shift!  There was only one option remaining which was the 5* marina at Kassandria, which is part of the Sani Marina Resort – at a cost of 160 euros for the night ….. I thought Ed was going to have a heart attack, and I didn’t want to spend that ridiculous amount of money either, but couldn’t see any other option.  Ed got grumpy … and had to go through the whole exercise again of looking for an alternative himself … we even checked out one of the land outcrop areas but eventually even he had to admit that it really wasn’t an option.

So … we booked into Sani Marina and arrived there at around 19h00 in the evening.  The entrance to the marina is quite shallow – although dredged to 2.5m – 3m it was still very close for us with our draft.  The marinero came out in this dinghy and guided us through – with the depth alarm beeping all the way down the channel.  Inside, it was perfect – the berths all have finger pontoons,  so it was very easy just to drive in and tie up alongside without having to drop the dinghy or worry about lazy lines.  We could get off the side gate – well at least ED could get off the side gate, as it was pretty high off the pontoon and I had to sit on the deck on my bum and slide off.  There was some compensation that all the water and electricity was included in the berthing fee – so we took the opportunity to completely flush our water tanks (as we were still getting some minor issues with the water smelling slightly) and also to run the air conditioning all night.

Sani Marina is a real little oasis!  It’s really not the sort of place we normally choose at all, but our fears that it would be full of mega yachts and beautiful people were unfounded as there were lots of quite modest boats in there and the people were “normal” – the marina staff were exceptionally helpful and pleasant and the service was very good.  The resort provides a day charter service and has a whole fleet of very flashy speedboats – including a Riva (million dollar speed boat!) and a very unusual looking one which we couldn’t identify, in addition to pretty standard motor cruisers and day trip boats.  The marina is small and is surrounded by lots of restaurants of all types – from an ouzo bar, to a normal taverna, Italian restaurant, Tapas bar, suchi bar, grill – you name it, you can eat it here.  There are also several exclusive looking boutiques, which we didn’t venture into, and a fuel pontoon to service the high fuel consumption of all the motor boats!  We didn’t take the opportunity to eat on shore either – as Ed was having trouble with his feet, and was in too much pain to climb off the boat and walk – so after a quick walk around to the marina office to check in and pay, we just sat on board and made our own burgers 🙂

Unfortunately, although the marina charge covered us until 22h00 the following evening, we didn’t have enough time to make more use of the facilities as we needed to get going early – it was still more than 40 miles to Thessaloniki.  In the end, early turned out to be 12h30 – despite it being the first night for weeks where the boat was laying completely still, I hadn’t slept well and woke with a stomach upset …. must have been the wine I drank with my burger, but not good.  After a dodgy morning, I was feeling well enough to get going so we untied the lines and backed out of the slip to start the long trek.  We had heard stories that Thessaloniki Marina is only open until 17h00 to admit boats so were afraid we wouldn’t even be able to get there today!

The trip up was another one of those flat sea, no wind days – although there is quite a strong current coming down the gulf so the boat wasn’t making very good speeds as we were being pushed on the nose.  After a few hours it seemed to get better though, and we ended up pulling in to Thessaloniki at 20h00 – along with several other boats.  As we entered the marina, we realised that we seem to be travelling together with the same yachts …. the Belgian “Neptus” and Austrian “Carpe Diem” are both moored here – they were both in the bay in Skiathos with us during the storm, so it seems like a small world.

The marina is manned by one single guy – so he was a bit over-worked and we ended up bobbing around for a bit waiting for him to moor a big motor cruiser.  He put us onto the “big yacht” pontoon – which was great because we have more space, and we’re a bit away from the public view – but it meant the mooring lines are MASSIVE and wouldn’t go round the cleats, and the electricity supply is tri-phase which we can’t plug in our boat.

We backed up to the pontoon without dropping the dinghy – deciding that we’d just tie up temporarily, and sort it out after ourselves.  I did manage to just about get one line around the bow cleat to hold it while we dropped the dinghy – but then the marinero, with the help of five Greek guys from neighbouring yachts, all started interfering – and it turned into a bit of a cabaret.  We had dropped the dinghy and Ed was in the process of manoeuvering it to the bow when the marinero decided we had to have a 2nd and a 3rd line – when we couldn’t even get ONE properly secured on the cleats!!  Apparently this was necessary because of the storms coming in …. but I think they have a different definition of “storm” up here, as there are only 20 knot gusts on the forecast.  Maybe we should take these guys into the Cyclades or the Sporades as to us this seems like nothing but a little breeze 🙂

All five guys started arguing about how we should moor up, how many lines we needed, and how far off the quayside we needed to be – Ed was in the dinghy and a bit helpless to do much, so they all jumped on board since apparently I am completely incapable of pulling in a line, or reversing the boat, or making any judgments 🙂  In the end, I yelled at them in Greek and they finally left us to it …. Ed was able to climb back on board and we got sorted out.  We can’t get power until tomorrow when the office is open to lend us an adapter, but we’re fine.

Thessaloniki Marina is the complete opposite of Sani Marina – it is state owned and looks like it is falling to pieces.  There is only one shower and one toilet – but this doesn’t worry us as we never use the marina facilities anyway.  The marina is located in Kalamaria – on the outskirts of Thessaloniki and only 15 minutes by taxi from the international airport – flights to Thessaloniki are cheap in comparison to Athens or the Islands, and there are quite regular flights operating as well.  We are flying back to Amsterdam this time and Transavia operate a daily flight – there are also several options to the UK.

The marina is half empty – which is good as this means there is no hassle about the space our dinghy takes up, and we have no worries about them trying to shove another boat in between.  The buildings are all falling down and there is one lady who mans the office from 08h00 to 16h00 – she is extremely pleasant and helpful and we have managed to organise the deliveries which are coming out to the boat while we’re away and shipping back our faulty battery management unit to Slovenia as well – the local courier came to collect our parcel at the boat within half an hour of Ed requesting the marina to book it for us.  You can drive a car or truck right to the pontoon – so when we get back, we will be able to do a provisioning run with no hassle and to refuel as well – and the taxi booked for tomorrow is picking us up right from the boat so that should be very convenient.

There is a Nautilus chandlery just off the marina, so Ed is confident that he’ll be able to find all the things he needs when we come back to fit our new anchor, fix the battery system and do any other jobs he needs to do.  This is his kind of place – nothing fancy but with everything you need – and overall it’s VERY CHEAP!!!!!!  It is costing us just 18.40 euros a night here – plus 99 cents per day for the electricity connection as a daily charge and 15 cents per KW used which is next to nothing.  Just above the marina is a busy street which is full of restaurants, ice cream shops and bars – there’s even a Goody’s which keeps Ed the Burger Officionado happy!  It’s a bit of a climb up the cliff on the steps … but even I managed that without collapsing too badly … 🙂

So we’re now in the process of packing and cleaning up to leave for a week …. Liberation will be bobbing around here in Thessaloniki waiting for us to come back and there will be no more sailing blogs for a bit!  I have to sit through two days of interviews and tests in Holland for my Dutch citizenship application – I have to convince them in Dutch that I am capable of getting a job and earning a living, and that I can speak the language well enough and know how the culture works.  I’m not worrying too much about it – Ed thinks I should be studying hard but if I do that earlier than the day before, then I’ll forget it all – he doesn’t know the answers to half the questions himself as it’s a lot about the history of the country and their traditions!  The whole process is designed for non-EU migrants – there are a lot of Turkish and Moroccan families in Holland – so I have to be careful of the trick questions like “do you need to apply for a new driving licence when you come to Holland?” … for me the answer is NO, but for them it is YES ….  I’ll be glad when it’s done – I have to admit – as being in possession of a Dutch passport will at least give me less to worry about with the implications of Brexit on us personally.  Not sure how we solve the Brexit issues for our business, as that is a major disaster zone, but at least we’ll have the personal side sorted out.

Early morning flight tomorrow – alarm set for 06h30 …. argghhh !!

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