36.5856* N, 27.8429* E
28th June 2016
After another late night with Jenia, Sveta and Vladic-(their skipper)- in Ciftlik, we were ready to leave At eleven o’clock and started making our way towards the Greek island of Simi, just past the Bozburun peninsula. Once out of Ciftlik, the Rhodes channel was calm but the wind blew ferociously and was gusting over force 4……..this was the moment that Geoffs inner-Sailor boy came out.
As I took the helm, he shouted over the noisy gusts ” steer into the wind”, so I did. All of a sudden the noise of flapping sails echoed through my ears. Then, before I knew it we were under full mainsail and headsail in 20 knots of wind! I was getting quite frightened because the boat heeled violently, so, because of my nervousness, Geoff and mother quickly put the the sails down……. And that was the end of that…….or so I thought because all of a sudden, we once again had the sail out, but this time with 2 reefs in. We sailed for an hour and a half at a comfortable speed of 7 knots, cruising along very nicely while I helmed and kept the boat tight into the groove.
After putting the sails down, we started motoring to the island of Simi. This small island is probably the most picturesque island in the Dodecanese,with mountains which descend steeply in to the turquoise waters. The island is also full of history dating back from the prehistoric times.
Many people have conquered this romantic island, from The Romans, to the Byzantines, to the Italians and Ottomans, and then it was bombed by the Germans in 1945, But it was finally handed back to the Greeks in 1948. More about this later.
When we entered The town harbour, what immediately struck me was the lack of Yachts, motor boats and gulets parked in this lovely port. As we came closer, we realised a man on the harbour was whistling us to come over. At first, I wondered why they were doing it, but then I remembered, we were flying the “Q” flag. After parking side to successfully next to the old clock tower and port police , Geoff went into the police station and showed them the visas, insurance and boat insurances. We were now entering Greece.
29/30 June 2016
Symi, -(also can be spelt” Simi)- is a beautiful and peaceful Greek island just off the coast of Turkey. It’s so beautiful In Fact, if one of the best artists in the world came and painted it, that artist could hardly make it more picturesque than it all ready is. Every street you turn, every house you see, every café you look at…..is beautiful. There is a photo opportunity around every street corner.
Symi is 23 nautical miles north west of Rhodes and is one of the prettiest of the Dodecanese chain of Islands. If sailing from Turkey, it’s a short skip and a jump into the next country, and “check in and check out” procedures should be followed, more about this later.
When approaching the main Symi town harbour from the channel you cannot fail to be impressed by the layers of ice cream coloured houses that climb into the steep hillsides.
At ground level the hustle and bustle around the quays quaint little town makes up in personality what the islands port police lack!
Things have changed in Symi in recent times though, up until last year a sailing boat or other vessel could cruise straight into the main harbour entrance, wait for the whistle of “the mooring man” – which would indicate on which side of the harbour he would like you to park- north or south, and then, drop anchor, tie up and commence with all the usual port formalities which invariably in Symi meant trekking right round to the South quay to check in something, then back round to the North quay to confirm another log or similar, then back to the South for a stamp or two and then to the customs office which is in the middle of the North and South quay, on the bridge to clarify that you had everything that needed to be stamped or officialised stamped and officialised.
Things have changed…….. As from only a week ago we were told from the date of this publication.
Now, before entering the main harbour itself you are whistled, beckoned over to the north side of the quay entrance and instructed to tie up port or starboard side to. ( some good old fashioned English parking comes into play! It’s been a while since we have had to moor like this!) Where the old large port police office used to be, is now a new portacabin and secure zone where most of the port formalities are completed, stamped and passports checked. Hopefully this will be helpful information, if like us, you are just used to turning up and swanning straight in, lines on the bow and the stern first please!
Once into the harbour proper the full extent of the Symi riviera can be viewed with super yachts a plenty and……….what was that……..tumbleweed?
Yes, we arrived at roughly three in the afternoon and were amongst only five or six visiting yachts anchored in the bay. Sure enough, boats did begin to come in shortly after us, but in years gone by you would be jostling for space by four o clock. It’s apparent that the port officials are feeling this evident lack of custom, as there are a lot of them strolling about the quay looking rather officious but with very little to actually do. The fact that we have seen much fewer boats out sailing than usual could be the culprit, but also we are told that these new check in formalities are putting some sailors off too.
THE FAMOUS SYMI ANCHORING EXPERIENCE
Symi is renown amongst sailors as an anchoring gem! Not that it’s a pretty and wonderful place to anchor, no, in that it’s a great way to while away the afternoon watching other boats come in and try and anchor and park correctly without making massive gaffs and some classic marine mistakes. Comedy gold!
For example, how about the RAF Officer and his wife who lined up their yacht perfectly, backed, somewhat clumsily, being blown about from here to there first, into the allocated berth only to notice as he eventually looked up from his concentrated manoeuvring, that his wife hadn’t even begun to let down the anchor and was looking in a somewhat bewildered fashion at the anchor remote she was holding in her hand! Back out you go…. Round two.
In this instance they were too late for a second attempt, as a couple of Russians had slipped into the harbour and were deftly stealing the Officers spot before he had had time to utter,
” what, what old man! ” The Rushkies looked poised and ready for the execution of a perfect park. Papa Rushkie reversed into the space at a great rate of Notts, causing only slight panic to the boat owners on either side of him, all armed with fenders and fake smiles of welcome… Mama Rushkie was doing as she had been told and was letting out the anchor whilst carefully pointing at the lay of the chain for Papa Rushkie to see( not that papa Rushkie was interested ( because he was too busy concentrating on how fast he could go in reverse! ) There was a combined release of breath in relief when the couple smiled and nodded at one another between themselves and amongst the fender wielding fraternity, apparently the Russians were pleased with their success and aknowledged this with big smiles to all. Papa Rushkie went forward to take up any slack on the anchor.
He was busy smiling and chatting to his wife, he at the bow of the boat tightening the anchor chain, she now grinning and talking back to him from the cockpit, and evidently the anchor chain was still slack because it was still whirring it’s way up and then, ” kerrrghuhuguCHUNK”
That was the sound of their nice shiny anchor snapping back into its holding position on the bow of their yacht…. Not where it should be, which was in the ground twenty metres away.
The crew of the boats on either side of Papa and Mama Rushkie once more wielded their fenders for the attack, and Papa Rushkie, somewhat red faced returned to man the helm!
Good, but not the best anchoring mishap! This next one is marine Gold, and who else could deserve this enviable merit but that good old sea faring nation itself…. The Brits!
In they come , gushing confidence and feigning experience. Skipper lines himself up from the middle of the harbour sizes up his mean gap, and here’s another one who fancies himself as a reversing Usain Bolt, full power in reverse and go………… All going well, he gets it in the gap, he slams the gears into drive before he hits the harbour wall…a little brash, but it’s worked!
His good lady seems happy on the bow and is taking up the slack on the chain…. There’s a lot of slack on the chain, whoops-” kerrrghuhuguCHUNK”…… You know that noise!
Now THIS is where it starts to get good! Rather than go back out and re-park like our good friends The Russians did, the Brits come up with a cunning plan. If Mohammed won’t go to the mountain, they’re going to take the mountain to Mohammed. The dinghy is launched, then squeezed into a tiny gap so the outboard can be lifted onto the tender from the stern of the main yacht, the idea is to load the anchor (?!) and its chain (?!) and a couple of ” the Guys” into the rubber, blow up boat (?!), motor the tender into the middle of the harbour and throw in the anchor.
” H” climbs aboard, with his sister, the anchor is gingerly dragged into the dinghy followed by a lot of chain… The boat sinks remarkably deep into the water at this point, perhaps an inch or two of dinghy is above the water line. ” H’s” sister is holding on with all her might to the chain as “H” begins to motor away, if the chain starts slipping now, ” H’s ” sister could lose fingers… The chain starts slipping from her grasp, it’s momentum increases but H reaches across and both of them brace against the chains descent. From the main yacht Mum and Dad are hollering ” there, there, drop it there”
H and his sister happily let the chain go, clearly it was getting heavy, it thunders over the side of the INFLATABLE dinghy and the anchor smartly tries to follow…. Except, the point of the anchor is stuck, from where the rest of the world is now watching it is either stuck in the side of the dinghy, which would mean a burst and a sinking,( people start weighing up how expensive the outboard on the boat is worth ) or the momentum of the weight of the chain is going to drag the anchor downwards, attached, however it is, to the craft holding H and his sister and quite an expensive looking outboard.
It’s clear now that the point is stuck in one of the dinghy so ropes and valiantly the brother and sister struggle to release it. The dinghy tips dangerously, there is a low ” ooooooh ” from the watching World, and then the anchor drops. The relief on the faces of the siblings is evident from Datca, they coolly motor back to the yacht and try to look nonchalant as H moors the rubber boat with shaking hands!
RESOURCES FOR SAILORS
Wherever you moor in Symi, on the north or the south quay you will find electric posts, you may use these and the ” electric attendant” will come around to be paid, he/ she will charge the berthing fee too. 15 euros per night for electric and berth.
There is a fuel wagon that drives around, wave him down and use him there and then or book him to come back when you want him.
The same with water, you need to find him and book him. The water man on the north quay kicks around by the ice cream parlour near the new art gallery, he fills your tanks for about 5 euros.
And the infamous ” mooring man” he wears an orange ( once bright orange, now very faded from years in the sun ) and darts from north to south quay on his little scooter. He is a very helpful asset to the town, he speaks many languages too, so don’t be a parking snob when you come into Symi, listen to what the man says and take his help…..he has probably seen everything and he has done this once or twice before you know!
HELPFUL HINTS BITS
When you eventually come in to moor, check the crosswinds and remember to drop your anchor accordingly, for example you need your own to be held against the wind , so always lay anchor slightly up wind.
Ignore the screams and shouts from paranoid yacht owners around the bay ( especially X yacht owners ), just concentrate on your manoeuvre. If you lay across someone’s anchor and they’re screaming at you, so what? Every bodies leaving at some time and releasing a hooked anchor or lifted chain isn’t really rocket science!
On that note……. The simplest way to release somebody else’s anchor chain which might get caught on your anchor is like this.
Be prepared in the first place to lift someone’s chain, so take a spare line to the bow and cleat it on one side with quite a short working line. On the end of this working line tie an average sized bowline.
If your anchor snags a chain, let the skipper know, so he can keep the boat in the same place so as it doesn’t drag the other persons anchor.
Lift your anchor up high, but not home, when you can get to their chain pass your line with the bowline beneath the chain, catching the loop of the bowline with a boat hook……. Pull up the line, shake out the bowline and cleat the rope now holding the chain to the other bow cleat.
Now drop your anchor a little….. You are now holding the rogue chain… Indicate where you need the boat manoeuvred to in order to prevent catching the chain again on your anchor, then release one side of your line off the cleat to allow the other persons chain to drop back in. Now finish retrieving your anchor………job
As I was saying earlier in the blog, this wonderful island contains lots of history. The history about the origin of the islands first inhabitants is lost through translations and myths. According to one version, the first settler was a man called Pontios. Legend has it he misinterpreted an oracle said to him by the priestess of Delphi, Pythoness who said:”Anybody can inhabit this island except you”. He thought she said ” Everybody can inhabit this island”. After three days on the island, he died when a strong earthquake shook Simi. Other legends according to Didorus Siculus, said the nymph Syme gave the island its name, while another account from a man called Eustathios says it got its name from Glaukos’-(a navigator and ship builder from Argos)-wife called Simi.
Along with how the island really got its name, another relatively unknown fact is how many nationalities have actually conquered and laid claim to this small island!
The first historical reference to the island was made by the great Greek historian Herodotus, who reports that Simi was a member of the Dorian Hexapolis, a religious and political group of the six major cities in the area, which included Rhodes, Kos and the ancient city of Kindos . During the Peloponnesian war, Simi was used as a naval and weaponry placement for the Athenians. It was also referred that after a sea battle between the Athenians and Peloponnesians, a large monument was erected on Symi, but the exact location is still unknown.
Later it had the same destiny as the other Greek islands and was taken over by the Romans, and then in 1261 the Byzantine empire took control of it, after five attempts of trying to do so. Then, it became part of the Cretan state. By doing this, it kept its independence from the Venetian Empire. In 1309, Symi was taken over by the Knights of Rhodes, because they knew how strategically important this island was. The Knights were forced to leave when the Ottoman Empire invaded in 1522. The Ottomans had control of the island until 1912,when the Italian forces moved in and took charge. Much of this need to control Symi, was the fact the main trade was Sponge fishing, and when the Italians took control of it, they imposed very strict rules about who could and couldn’t own, sell and buy the sponges. But it wasn’t just the sponges they imposed laws on, they also said that the people could not raise Greek flags, eat Greek food and they even drove out clergymen and teachers to contain the spread of Greek spirit.
With the outbreak of the Second World War, the islanders tried desperately to resist against the Italian and German forces, and many Symiots ran away to help the British and American army in North Africa. But finally, on the 8th May 1945, the Treaty Of The Dodecanese meant that Symi finally became part of the Republic of Greece.
WHAT TO DO BITS
On this island, there are many interesting and factual places to visit. One of the most intriguing attractions is the old town were many boutique shops and multi-coloured and historical buildings stand bursting with, -(what mother calls)-loveliness. When you enter these small, claustrophobic streets, what will strike you at first is how relaxed the locals are. Then, you notice how many small alleyways dart of in every direction with the loveliness shops. These small, romantic streets run all the way up the south and north sides of the bay, but the main promenade ventures all the way around and into the next bay beyond.
Although where ever you turn in Symi, you get a beautiful picture, the best view over the island is at the top of the hill looking over the town. You will find the steps behind the Trawlers Tavern. Follow the steps to the top and there you will find the Olive tree cafe, pass that-(unless you need to stop for a drink, I recommend the fresh, homemade lemonade)-and carry on for 30 metres and follow the signs for the Castle. Once at the top, go around the back where a monastery sits looking over. Here are the best views over the town .
If you don’t want to climb up over 380 plus steps, a more minimal can be found in the Blue steps. Whereas most of the steps in Simi are white, the highly-Infamous Blue steps only lead up to accommodation, but also offer a lower down viewing area over the town. It should somehow feature in your schedule whilst visiting to track down the elusive blue steps, and I’m not going to help you by telling you where they are!
Another nice walk is from the centre of Symi, aim towards the north corner where the old clock tower stands next to the Port police. WARNING: where ever you walk in Symi, don’t try and hide your camera, because every corner you turn there is a photo opportunity!
If you carry on past the clock tower and the row of boutique hotels and restaurants eventually you will see cushions and barrels for tables laid out right by the waters edge, in fact the sea comes up and laps over your feet as you chill on cotton rugs and plump cushions. This is “tea Ti” bar and specialises in cocktails and sorbets…. Well worth a visit and ultimate bohemian chic.