It is the holiday season once again and this time our destination is the Dodecanese of Greece.
Divided by the beautiful Aegean Sea, the people of Turkey and Greece share a great heritage which is evident in our respective cuisine, taste and sentiments, regardless of the politics of the day. So it’s no surprise that the Dodecanese, being closer to Turkish mainland than Greece became a favored destination among Turkish sailors especially during the recent years.
Originally named twelve islands, the Dodecanese are actually a group of 150+ islands of various sizes. In this trip we plan to visit the northern part of the island system.
We are a group of 16 split in three boats, ages between 3.5 and 50+. There are four kids in the group who generally behave more mature than most of us. Two friends will join us on the way and we plan to meet with some more en route. Everybody knows each other from various other trips and most are very old and dear friends.
On sea it doesn’t hurt to show some respect to ancient gods, so before we set sail I said a little prayer to Poseidon. Ok, I actually googled Homer’s rhymes, but nowadays it accounts to the same thing. Here it goes:
Poseidon, mighty Lord of the Seas .
O blessed one, be kindly in heart and help those who voyage in ships, especially in All That Jazz, Crossroads, Sailmates & Derin !
With boats ready and Gods pleased here we go :
Day 1 :
We took our time in the morning and while waiting for the customs clearing had a hearty breakfast at Cingiloglu just across the street from D-Marin Turgutreis.
We set sail from Bodrum on All That Jazz, a six year old 45 ft Jeanneau , around noon and after two hours and a mere 14nm later we found ourselves at the harbour entrance of Kalymnos, our first stop in Dodecanese. During the passage the conditions were perfect with winds around 5-6 Beaufort and Jazz enjoyed herself under a close reach. Poseidon was smiling.
We are a crew of five on board the Jazz, four of us are quite experienced and have sailed together before. Our fifth is travelling on a sailboat for the first time and she’s holding herself quite nicely, although she turned into a light shade of green while waiting to dock at the harbour entrance.
Talking about the gods old and new, we use Poseidon (http://poseidon.hcmr.gr/) to check the weather in these waters; it is generally very reliable in Agean and Eastern Mediterranean.
Kalymnos is a necessary stop to make the customs entry to Greece. The other alternative on our route is Patmos, about 46 nm from Bodrum and we didn’t want to try it on the first day, especially with a late start. Kalymnos harbour is not pretty or modern at first glance, although there are decent cafes and restaurants on the port (left) side of the harbour. There’re limited water and electricity facilities on the starboard side.
Once docked, we were welcomed by Vassilis, our agent in Kalymnos. Physically resembling Asterix, he turned out to be quite friendly and efficient. His services cost 175 EUR and he also helped us finding cabs and organizing our day.
If you are used to dealing with bureaucracy or have more time than we did, you don’t necessarily need an agent. But we were a large group with kids and didn’t want to loose time. Another option to avoid the customs hassle altogether is to stick to little islands, not to enter harbour towns with customs and pray the Greek Coast Guards will not be inquisitive. In our eight day trip we didn’t see even one.
Kalymnos is historically famous for its natural sponges and the islanders made good money from it since middle ages. Now it’s a touristic souvenir and you can find it displayed everywhere, even in restaurants. One fun fact I found out about the sponges of Kalymnos were its uses in the middle ages. Since people didn’t really care about personal hygiene in those days, sponge had its uses in medicine to cure some skin diseases, but most importantly considered most effective for birth control, especially when used with a bit of olive oil and some imagination.
Apart from the sun worshippers Kalymnos also attracts rock climbers, but how they do it in the August sun is beyond me.
Kalymnos harbour felt like 50 C° under the shadow, so we decided to try the Masouri beach at the other side of the island. It took about 20 minutes and 15 EUR to reach there. When on the beach, turn left and walk a bit to get rid of the crowd. There is a shower and a changing cabin with an actual door closer to the end. When you find a spot you like just pick an empty bench and get comfortable. Sooner or later some half naked Greek guy will come and charge you 7 EUR for two benches and an umbrella.
The favorite pastime on the beach is definitely the ping pong played with large paddles and a tennis ball. Other favorites include playing tavla at the cafes and drinking frappes. I said earlier that we share the same habits, no?
Around sunset we went to Veliero Bar right on the beach. The music was excellent and so were the mojitos. Good bar for a bit of a chill-out.
For dinner we chose Aegean Tavern just over the beach, which had a magnificent view overlooking the bay with its breathtaking sunsets. We happily indulged ourselves in ouzo and various appetizers (mezes). The eggplant dip, marinated octopus and stuffed squid were yummy. The grilled calamari and octopus were a bit dry for my taste, but this is how they prepare it on the islands. They prepare the octopus by hanging them to ropes in the sun for hours and then they grill it. The result is tasty but somewhat chewy. But the local desert lokumades were exceptional. We paid 30 EUR pp for an excellent, and huge, dinner.
The views from this restaurant are truly spectacular, therefore the front terrace is popular. It’s a good idea to reserve in advance.
As a rule the food is good and the portions are generous all through the islands, so either go for various meze choices or main dish but never both. It’s simply too much.
Another thing is the fact that we are a large group who like trying new tastes and generally order more than we can eat. So the prices that I quote are on the high side.
Kalymnos & Leros Agent : Kalymna Yachting www.kalymna-yachting.gr
Vassilis Kapadakis: 0030 697 0080895 / 0030 694 4867676 Office: 00302243029384
Kalymnos Taxi : +30 22430 50300 / 50303 / 50335
Aegean Tavern : +30 6945 069549 / +30 22430 47146
Day 2 :
Today we sail to Patmos, about 36 nm to the north. We left Kalymnos at 7 am to a light northwestern wind and after a pleasant and easy sail reached the Skala harbour around 13:30. The harbour at Skala is very similar to the one at Kalymnos. There are various small tanker trucks providing water to the boats. There’s no electricity.
According to a totally bizarre and unnecessary Greek rule we had to make another entrance to Greece, since Patmos also has customs. This time our local agent John didn’t bother to show up and his associate Anastasia, a friendly but slightly ineffective young girl collected our already approved documents for re-approval for a mere 135 EUR.
Next time we’ll most definitely skip the marina and anchor at one of the beautiful bays of the island.
Here we met with our friends coming from Cesme on the motorboat Derin and gave them a Turkish welcome. We also gave some totally unnecessary advice on docking to her mate. Who knew the docking lines have to be tied to the pier AND the boat ? !
Afterwards we went to Kampos Beach for a nice swim, lots of laughter and some very tasty frappes. The kids enjoyed themselves at the water sports center to the left of the beach.
A tip : Patmos is a beautiful island which can be explored with ATVs , but if you plan to do it reserve in advance.
The highlight of the day was the dinner at the Apocalypsis at the chic spa hotel Patmos Aktis. The restaurant offers Mediterranean cuisine with a Greek touch and the quality of the food and the service were first-rate. To give an example, I had the classic French dish Oeufs en Meurette , but instead of croùtes , they put the eggs on a bed of fava and garnish it with truffles instead of lardon. Genius. My fresh lobster risotto was delicious as well. Looking around the table, I only saw happy faces. We washed it all down with a local white, very crisp and fruity and paid 60 EUR per person. It was expensive for the island standards but excellent. Kudos for our captain for arranging it.
Sleep was not easy for the second night in a row for it was hot and very noisy in the harbour.
Patmos Agent : Astoria Travel www.astoriatravel.com
John Kamaratos: 0030 22470 31205 Anastasia: 6932331205 / 6989104304
Apocalypsis : +30 22470 32800
Day 3 :
The bakery across the harbour was selling giant croissants and pain au chocolate that we had for breakfast while waiting for Anastasia to bring back our papers. She took her time and we could only leave Skala around noon.
All four boats left Skala and anchored at Grikos Bay some 3 nm away. Grikos is a large bay and a good anchorage. There’s a big rock, the Kalikatsou, at the southeast corner of the bay which was a preferred hermitage over the centuries. The bottom is sand & weeds but holds the anchor well. There are some moorings but most of them are private so if you’re not lucky the owners could come and demand their place at the most inappropriate time.
In general most of the islands are adorned with monasteries, churches and huge crosses planted on hilltops but Patmos in particular has an important place in the Greek Orthodox Church. John, a disciple of Christ, was exiled there and centuries later his followers constructed the Holy Monastery of St. John the Theologian. Patmos is also mentioned in the Bible Book of Revelation. As such, it’s a destination for Christian pilgrimage with the cave where John is said to have received his Revelation (the Cave of the Apocalypse) as well as the monastery in Chora.
We spent the day swimming between the boats, organizing a tavla tournament and enjoying a light lunch of watermelons and feta cheese on board Derin. Later in the afternoon we went to Chora and lost ourselves in its cool narrow streets.
For dinner we went to one of the taverns (Vagelis) at the picturesque town square and worked meticulously on improving our taste buds on different ouzo brands. It was serious business. After such a through research I decided that I prefer Plomariou with its slight mastic scent. We paid around 30 EUR pp for some food and lots of liquids.
Afterwards we stopped at a bar opposite the square for a late night mojito which turned out to be a brilliant idea for the music was great. Soon afterwards we were dancing to the eternal shame of the youngsters in the group to Lykke Li’s ‘I Follow Rivers’.
I follow you
Deep Sea Baby
I follow you
Afterwards on the boat the night was magical and the stars were almost at touching distance. Three of us went for a night swim which was calming. Shame we couldn’t convince the others to jump.
That night I slept like a baby.
A tip : A better restaurant alternative could be Jimmy’s Balcony for its breathtaking views. We couldn’t find a table for 18 people on short notice, but it could worth to reserve in advance. Sailmates crew went there on the second night and gave good feedback.
Vagelis : +30 22470 31967
Day 4 :
Lazy day spent swimming and reading. There’s no wind, so we didn’t even bother trying to sail. After Derin ‘s departure we prepared a lunch a la Turque on meatballs and bulgur. Later Crossroads invited us for mojitos at sunset. La vie est belle !
We dined at one of the taverns , the Pleusis, on the beach. Nice food, great conversation, lots of laughter. Service was a bit slow but nothing serious to affect our moods. 25 EUR pp.
Although Patmos offers many activities and never a dull moment, it still has an air of tranquility that I truly enjoyed.
Day 5 :
After a brief stop at Skala to fill Jazz’s water tanks, we sailed to the tiny island of Marathi, 10 nm away. After days of calm, the wind was great so we took our time sailing. It was again around 5-6 Beaufort on a beam reach approach and Jazz reacted gamely to a combination of full main sails and shortened genoa.
We sailed together with Crossroads , a brand new 53 ft Jeanneau and she was quite a view sailing under full sails on such a beautiful day.
We arrived at Marathi bay around 13:00 that day and found all the moorings occupied, so we looked for a spot to lay down the anchor and tie the boat to the shore from stern.
If we were impressed with our own skills as sailors, it all came to a shatter during docking. It was a windy day and quite shallow at the shore with scattered rocks so we had to lay anchor at quite a distance and approach the shore from aft. Then one of our crew took the stern docking line and swam ashore but dropped it to the sea just before tying the knot. So another jumped to carry the rope to him. As she managed to give him the rope, the end attached to the boat untied itself and dropped to the sea. So I had to jump in, take the near end of the rope and bring it to the boat which went quite well until I realized my bikini top was almost at my waist and there was an enthusiastic crowd watching the entertainment at a nearby gullet.
When we finally secured the boat, Crossroads dropped anchor and bridged next to us. Shortly afterwards Sailmates showed up and after some hassle and with help from Crossroads, managed to secure herself at a spot nearby.
In every sailing trip something goes slightly wrong. Either the anchor controls don’t work properly when you most need them or one of the sails might tear. More often than not, it’s the dinghy that causes problems. This trip was no exception with one major difference. Everything I mentioned above and more happened to Sailmates. Two close friends, both with small kids, bought Sailmates , a 45 ft Jeanneau recently . Although they sailed on her before, this is the longest trip they took on this boat. So, at every stop we found ourselves waiting to hear the next episode from the Sailmates crew and they never disappoint. Luckily all were small mishaps that brought no real harm and most of them were recovered with some help from the other boats. They pulled through from each incident in good cheer, especially the 3.5 years old Lal, our youngest and cutest crew member.
Marathi is a dot of an island close to another small island called Arki. There’s one bay with a small number of moorings. Luckily the bottom is mud and holds the anchor well. There are no settlements on the island apart from three restaurants and a bar. Naturally there’s no water or electricity. The sea is something else though. The bay is closed to the northerly winds – the meltemi- that is typical to the islands. As a result, the sea is generally flat and you can swim in the cool turquoise waters of the Agean for hours.
We caught up with some friends that came with other boats and had a very wet reunion. One of them brought a Stand-Up Paddle which proved extremely popular with everybody. I’m sure I’ll see SUPs on board Jazz and Crossroads next season.
Later at the sunset we enjoyed our mojitos at Luv All – the only bar in the island and went to an excellent dinner at Pantelis. It’s a family establishment – in fact the owner / barman of Luv All is the son – which has become quite popular with the Turkish crowd due to its good food and relaxed atmosphere. They also have rooms to rent. They offer typical Greek tavern food with fresh ingredients and creative touches and the results are yummy. The service on the other hand tends to be slow and a bit careless.
Generally everything in this restaurant was good, but my favorites were the fried eggplant and zucchini (they serve it with parmesan shavings), calamari, saganaki, tzaziki and the Greek salad with a local soft cheese. Their lobster spaghetti and fish soup are also reputed to be good but have to be ordered a few hours in advance, so we couldn’t taste them that night. For desert the Greek yogurt with sour cherry sauce and the Mastik liquor were heavenly.
We paid 40 EUR pp, cash only.
Panthelis : +30 22470 32609
Day 6 :
Another lazy day at Marathi. We swam for hours around the island which was badly needed after all the food and the drinks. While we were at it, some of the crew went to the Pirate restaurant on the island for a light lunch and came back with mixed feedback.
At sunset we prepared our gin tonics and joined the others at the fore of Crossroads.
Dinner was once again at Pantelis to try our pre-ordered lobster spaghettis. Unfortunately I neither enjoyed the night or the food as I thought I would. There was a misunderstanding which caused double reservation and the owner reacted really badly, ranting for about ten solid minutes although we apologized and she immediately filled the second table. I understand that their season is limited and therefore every cover is valuable, but considering the size of the island and the proximity to other restaurants, I think she should be a bit more tactful. Maybe due to the effects of the unnecessary fuss on my appetite, the lobster spaghetti – which in fact was linguini- didn’t quite match up to expectations. We paid 55 pp, again cash only.
Later on the boat the incredible night sky made up for everything and Marathi was paradise once again.
This far away from cities and civilization the skies are luminous and the stars look like they are at touching distance. The milky way in particular is packed with millions of stars, resembling a very crowded highway at rush hour.
Day 7 :
We left Marathi around 9 am and sailed to Katsadia Bay of Leipsoi (Lipsi). It is a v-shaped bay surrounded by a small settlement and protected by a tiny island at its entrance. There are some moorings and the bay provides a good anchorage. We arrived quite early, around 10:30 and found a mooring close to the beach.
The sea was great again, very clean and cool, so we immediately jumped in and spent a large portion of the day in the sea.
There’s a delightful restaurant called Dilaila on the beach. We went there for a light lunch and enjoyed ourselves immensely in its colorful and relaxed atmosphere. The food is great, the portions are huge and the service is very friendly. Again , almost everything was good but the specialties were superb; beetroot tzaziki (yes , I said beetroot), eggplant salad, feta cheese covered in sesame and tulum cheese with honey, all washed down with table wine that they sell in kilos. Lunch was 15 pp and dinner was 35pp , cash only.
There’s also a little bijouterie in the restaurant, selling unique and amusing pieces made from unconventional metals and stones. We girls spent quite some time and money there.
Dilaila : +30 22470 32609
Day 8 :
Today we sail back to Kalymnos for customs exit for our holiday is coming to an end. We earlier checked with Vassilis whether we can do the exit paperwork from Leros, but unfortunately he said no. So, back to Kalymnos it is.
After an early morning swim we left Lipsi around 8 am. There is virtually no wind today and the Agean sea is like a giant mirror. I sail these waters for years and this is the first time I see them this calm. We are sailing, nay, motoring side by side with Crossroads . It’s a bit boring but we are enjoying ourselves with playing music, dancing and taking photos of each other. What I don’t give for a bit of wind !!.
We entered Leros for a peek, it has a little and very cute harbour at the right-hand side of a beautiful large bay. We definitely have to come back next time.
Reaching Kalymnos first we checked Vathi, a natural harbour surrounded by a small village at the end of a deep valley. It was quite full so we decided to continue to the Kalymnos harbour. Vathi must be a paradise for snorkeling and rock climbing, I loved the high walls forming the tunnel entrance to the harbour . We were sorry to leave this place but two things made our extended trip worthwhile: The first were the three dolphins that we saw just after we left Vathi. They were enjoying themselves enormously doing jumps and summersaults. They were so beautiful with their pink tummies and laughing faces, we stopped and watched them until they got bored and left us.
The second was the news coming from Sailmates who docked at Vathi. There was a classical music concert at the bay which was great to begin with, but most probably due to it, the noise didn’t stop until the small hours of the morning and they had a hot and sleepless night.
When we docked to the harbour after 32 nm around 13:30 Vassilis welcomed us and checked after the weather. When we said it was eerily calm, he was surprised for they were awaiting a storm. It came the next day.
We decided to finish the trip exactly the way we started it, so we spent the rest of the afternoon in Masouri beach and went back to the Aegean Tavern for our last meal.
Efxaristo and Aντίο Dodecanese. We’ll be back.
Day 9 :
We are expecting a storm and everybody have different flight arrangements. So two of our crew went onboard Crossroads and after they left the harbour we also set sail around 7:30. Unfortunately, our third member – the owner of Jazz – knocked her leg which ballooned immediately. So we put some ice on her leg and made her sit down and relax.
The winds were strong even this early, 6 Beaufort going 7 and the seas were low but full of white horses. The strong wind cleared our heads and made us happy once more and Jazz loved it after days of tranquility. We arrived at Gumusluk around 10:30 and found it very windy and crowded. Kudos to Erb for a very successful docking to the small pier, it was quite a challenge.
Fifteen minutes later we were on land feeling slightly depleted and Jazz was on her way to her home berth thanks to a professional captain.
I started this voyage honoring Poseidon, I might as well finish in the same fashion but this time in my own words:
O Mighty Poseidon, Lord of the Seas,
Thank you for looking after All That Jazz, Crossroads, Sailmates, Derin & all who sailed on them.
We’ll come back to you again and again to feel the winds in our hair and the sea in our keels.
May you forever smile on us.
(photos by Deniz, Erbil & Mutlu)