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Our Wakes: 2021

The Chalkidiki region (July and August 20212)
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  After having spent several days around Alonissos, we decided to move towards Panagia island where we would meet friends who were sailing there from Turkey. Our friends had spent three years in Turkey and now wanted to return to Greece. The island of Panagia is mostly deserted, but 2 monasteries can be spotted on the hills. You  can  visit the monasteries, but you have  to climb a lot and only in the  early afternoon when the temperature is at its highest. North of Panagia there is a beautiful bay, well protected from nearly all winds. Only a few goats break the silence in the morning. It is in this beautiful bay that our friends arrived. After a few days, we decided to move both boats towards the Chalkidiki region located north of Panagia. Chalkidiki is easy to recognize on a map because it is a nearby island located in the Northern part of the Aegean sea with three long fingers pointing southwards. For sailing boats, the middle finger also called Sithonia and the Eastward finger, called Akte, is worth visiting. While we were moving towards the middle finger, we started to see the impressive mount Athos (2200m altitude) located south of Akte. In the late afternoon, we arrived at the southern tip of the middle finger in the harbor of Koufos. This little harbor is not very well maintained, but it offers good protection from the wind from all wind directions. When the weather allowed us to sail, we decided to move along the West coast of Sithonia where we could anchor for the night as there were many nice places. The water was relatively clear, but infested with jellyfish. The jellyfish were not too dangerous and could easily be seen by keeping an eye out while swimming. There are also two marinas along the West coast. The best equipped is the Marmaras marina, but this marina prefers very large yachts and so we were not interested in going there. A little further northward is the port of Nikiti that can accept a few visiting yachts on week-days. This port is nice and has a supermarket, butchers and a good bakery so it is a good place to resupply the boat. If you need to change crew, the place is convenient as a road connects it to the city of Thessalonica. Later we moved towards the east side of Sithonia. There are a few little places where you can anchor, but the place to go is the Diaporos islands that offer plenty of good anchorages. It is also a spot where a lot of people from Thessalonica come for the week-end to rent a little motor boat or jet-ski. Those boats are a real pest during the day as they are very noisy, but when the sun goes down, they suddenly all disappear. The Diasporas islands offer nice walks and when the weather is clear, you can see Mount Athos. Every day we looked at the forecast to see if it was good to visit the West side of Athos. Akté is occupied by the Monastic Republic of mount Athos and it is strictly forbidden to anchor nearby. So, to have a look at the various monasteries of Akté you need to continue to sail once you have sailed there. We decided to return to the Diasporas islands, which meant a 60-mile journey. We started our trip using the engine, but the breeze picked up at around 11am, so we could start sailing. The monastic Republic of Mount Athos is considered a special territory in Greece with its own set of rules. This place can only be visited by males as no females are allowed. These rules allow the monks to concentrate their minds only on the Virgin Mary. Female animals are not allowed in the republic, either, with the exception of chickens (the yolk of the egg is a key ingredient of the iconic painting) and the cats (to kill the rats and mice). The special status was recognized by the European community in 2002, also granting them  financial and legal autonomy. Today 2,000 monks live in the various monasteries, but even if their numbers are going down, they are still an important community. President Putin visited them in 2016 which was a Russian election year. Many believe that this was more of a photo-opportunity visit. The autonomy of mount Athos allows them to remain largely above the Greek laws. They refuse to declare their wealth and many people believe that they may have links to the Russian and Italian mafia. For us, the Mount Athos region is very beautiful and we strongly advise you to sail along the coast. August is probably not the best time as you can encounter some violent storms. A friend of ours was hit by a local storm and had his 2 solar panels ripped off.  In around mid August, we decided to leave the Chalkidiki region and move towards the island of Lemnos. Even if this place is highly exposed to the Meltemi, we decided nevertheless to go there as we knew that the harbor offers good shelter.
Mont Athos
Monastries on the West side of mount Athos