We have decided to sell our beloved George Buehler Trawler, LeeZe. The blog posts on this site are some of our adventures during our time cruising and meant to shed some light on the cruising life. Enjoy our posts and please contact us for more information on the places we have been or information on our George Buehler Trawler in Mytillini. The complete collection of our travel blogs can be found here: http://whereisleeze.blogspot.com
2015-09-02 thru 07. We arrived in Mytillini and are safely med moored. We have been here before (2014) but the charm and grace of this city has been tarnished by the refugee crisis.
This is a shot of the castle that ones sees when arriving from the North.
I feel sorry for the locals. They are doing the best they can in “hosting” these new arrivals and there appears to be an agreement as to where and when these “guests” can be, and where/when they are not welcomed.
The area around the port is swarming with the refugees
(the news reports there are 15000+ on the island) waiting their turn to depart for the mainland. They use the public beach by the port for swimming and showers (men do, not the women, except for a very select few) and clothes washing, and those that are on the other side of the port use public fountains and water supplies to do much of the same. There is an oldish cruise ship that the Greeks have chartered that can take 2000 off the island at a time. The fee is 50 € p.p. and they get to sleep only in the common areas. Per the news reports, the staterooms are not available to them. It seems this ship shows up about every other day. It appears that the regularly scheduled ferry ships to the port of Athens are not taking any refugees.
Most of the parks and open areas have been taken over by them, erecting the tents they have just bought wherever there is room to put one up. Nearly all have been quite polite and well behaved, and even their protest this morning (2015-09-07) asking for more departures to the mainland was noisy, but orderly, and contained. The police were watching, but they let them say their piece, and move on. It lasted all of 24 minutes.
They have been thru a lot. By most accounts, they left their homes in a hurry, had to travel thru a war torn land, get across a border that was guarded by military people, then make their way west for over 1000 kms, then brave a small boat ride to Greece. They are so focused in getting to an EU country that they are willing to risk death to get here. And far too many do pay that price.
Once here, they know that others will eventually take care of them. They still have an arduous journey ahead of them (most want to go to Germany) but their need for smugglers and the like is over.
They are frustrated in the pace of getting off this island, but with a Greek government so broke it can barely take care of its own citizens, the strain must be huge.
At the beach yesterday, talking with some Greek locals, they have accepted that this is happening, they are not angry at the refugees (they are angry at other nations though) and they know that in time, this too will be resolved. In the meantime, the beach we are at is for the Greeks, and the public beach on either side of this beach is for them.
We have seen no people begging, no fights breaking out, no altercations, etc etc. The refugees are not happy with how long it is taking to get off of this island, but they know that the worst of their journey is behind them.
The two boats that were here when we arrived have now departed, so just like last year, we are all alone at the city wall. There was a 100+ footer med moored when I got up in the middle of the night to do my checks, but it too was gone by the time I woke up. The hotels along the waterfront that were full last year are not now, and the number of tourists coming is not as many as it was in years past.
2015-09-08: Some info that is absolutely nearly impossible to get from the authorities
The services along the city wall are managed from an office in the port area, past the Arrival Hall, around the corner and go to the very end. I regret I am unable to provide a English name for this office but you are looking for Charis (+30 22510 25349) The person who cares for the shore power pods is Protogriros Efstratios, (+30 69782 81184). The pods are in a decrepit state of repair but if you plan to spend some time here, he and his electrician friend will open up a 32 amp shore power connection and a water connection.
If water is NOT available, give Mr. Harris a call at +30 22510 28620, wait for some Greek announcement to finish, press “0” (zero) and he can arrange for a water truck. He told me he could bring two tons (minimum) for 15 euros. I did not use him.
In all cases, if the Tourist Office is open at the port, the two ladies inside will help you wade thru all of this (The office is open M-F between 0900 and 1430 or so.)
Last year when we came, I thought I might use an agent to help us out. But I found them to be $$$ (actually €€€!) This year is no different. One can check in completely by themselves but be aware that the Coast Guard will ask you to tie up at the Customs Dock which is a PITA because it was built to handle ships, therefore the wall is high, and black nasty tires are used as fenders. Somehow, agents get around this and by using one, you are allowed to go directly to the city wall.
Dining: The food at the end of the port toward the south is really good, and in some cases, inexpensive. There are two grocery stores within 1-2 blocks of those restaurants, and at the southern end of the commercial pier, there is a large grocery store. There is also a Greek fast food type restaurant near to the NE corner of the port, but with the refugees set up in the small park next to this place, it is not as inviting as it was last year. The old port (a walk along some narrow streets to the north) has some great fish restaurants that we will again go to after our guest arrives.
An OUTSTANDING butcher is located on the first street (Archipelagous) that runs parallel to the city wall, behind the row of cafes that are located at the #27 spot painted on the city wall. A well equipped hardware store is nearby to the butcher. Note the hours are M-Sat 0800-~1400, then Tues, Thurs, and Fri 1830-~2100. Nearly nothing is open on Sundays except cafes, restaurants and ice cream stores.
We are awaiting a guest to arrive either tonight or tomorrow.
And in a moment of either sheer levity or absolute absurdness, a Syrian refugee came up to me this morning offering to me his Yamaha water skiing lift vest that he used, saying quite proudly and in excellent English, “I think you will have more use for this then I will, given to where I am going to go. I used it only once!” I took it, offered his some money, but all he asked for was two bottles of water.
Last night, about 16 coach type buses arrived, and refugees got off. Each was full. These refugees are the ones that safely made it across the water to land, then find their way to a place where these charter buses pick them up and ferry them into the city. As it was after 2100 when these buses started to arrive, the registration center in the port was closed and so was the police station, where I am told they go to get a cash stipend. Many are quite confuse, disorientated, and bewildered by what is happening to them, but then some people talk with them, explain what will happen, and slowly but surely many are taken under the wing of a “veteran” and go find a place to bed down for the night. The refugees are taking care of the newcomers. Most do take a moment to put on a smile and take a selfie.
2015-09-09: Our guest, Vern, arrived but due to emergent issues, he cannot stay as long as we all would like him too. But it is great to see him. He took a morning ferry and I met him at the Customs House. We walked to LeeZe, had breakfast, and then I took him to “my” butcher to get whatever he wanted for dinner.
What looked the best was some beef rib steaks so I had the butcher cut three of them, wrap it all up and pay. (For reference, we paid 32 € for 3.2 kgs of steak.)
We caught up, exchanged stores and recent events, and eventually the day ended with a steak BBQ drinks, and great fun.
Meanwhile, we are seeing less and less refugees. It appears that the commercial ferries are now willing to take them (for a fee of course!) to the Port of Athens. So between the ferries and the charter ships, it seems like more and more are leaving the island than arriving on to it. Where once we had people pitching tents on the sidewalk in front of LeeZe, last night, we had none. (The Greeks, who in the past would walk the city wall after sunset, have not been doing that these past few days. But tonight, more of them were out, slowly retaking their city.) Where before people were constantly searching for water, few if any were today. Tonight, there was no mass arrival of charter buses loaded with refugees that we saw, but at 2300, a long line of them walking slowly toward the port indicated that a island bus full of them had probably just arrived at the bus station some minutes before.
2015-09-10: This morning, an unbelievable event happened. The police came around to all of the parks and open areas that had tents on them, said something, and then we saw the refugees taking them down, bundling them up, and walking toward the port. Cleaning people came buy to pick up the trash the refugees left behind, and slowly, the locals are taking back their parks, fountains, and open areas.
A friend dropped by morning. Sami is a Greek who lives in South Africa when not boating in the Med. We met him when we wintered over in Cesme, then again in Kusadasi and now here, today. He tells us that he understands that hundreds of thousands more refugees are coming (not all to this island he hoped) and starting next month, when the nights get cool to cold, and the winter rains start, he has no idea how the island is going to cope. (Neither do we.) It was nice to see him and catch up.
Our guest took some time this AM to go update his open ferry ticket, and came back bluer than blue. Turns out there are no ferries departing tomorrow BEFORE 1800 so therefore, to meet his previous commitments, he will have to leave tonight at 2000. I feel so sorry that he cannot stay longer. We try like heck to get him to modify his commitments, but what we most like about him is that he is true to his word, and remains so. So, with some sadness, we will see him depart early.
And, it looks like we are leaving Mytillini early also. Sunday the weather is not as nice as Saturday so if that holds, we are departing here Saturday AM for parts south and east.
2015-09-11: In the last 48 hours, there has been a major change to the crisis.
Nearly ALL of the refugees that were here are now gone.
The tent cities in the parks and open areas are gone. People searching for water and a place to charge their cell phones are gone. The police came yesterday and forced those still residing in the parks and open areas to take their tents down and move to the port.
The number of people waiting at the port is low, really low as of last night, when I dropped our guest off.
The locals have reclaimed their city, were walking about last night, and were smiling.
From talking with them, and a policeman, it seems the government has changed their process.
Refugees are still coming. But when they get here, they are recorded and for 50 €, they are provided a trip to the Port of Athens, where they are registered. Neither knew what was done with the refugees that did not have the money to by a ticket.
This morning, when I got up, the city was clean, and tent free. The mounds of trash are gone. Last night, the refugees that came in from the north had their “care” package in hand, their stipend, and instructions to report to the port for processing and passage to Athens (per the policeman) today.
So, unless their is a huge influx of refugees, the problem on this island is now very much under control.
But, checkin here is still a major PITA. Last night, the Customs dock was full with two cruise ships (taking away that last of the refugees), 3 ferries from Turkey, and a Greek island hopping ferry (which is now selling tickets to refugees to take them to Athens). Therefore, two incoming boats were tied along the wall waiting to be called back to Customs to check in. One was called at 2115, the other 2245. The Customs people refuse to allow those that do their own checkin to come to the city wall and walk over to them.
Checkout: The process to check in and out of Greece in Mytillini is cumbersome, not user friendly, and a royal PITA. If you are checking in, you FIRST have to moor your boat at the Customs dock, against icky, black tire fenders that are of the same height as the walls in Kavala. If the wall is full with ferries and cruise liners, then one must go to the inner harbor and wait until the officials call you to tell you to come back. Ugh! For checking out, if you want to depart before Customs opens at 0730, then the night before, you and your boat MUST move to the Customs Dock, process your passports, and transit log, and then stay on your boat behind a locked fence until you depart.
If the Customs Dock is full, Customs tells you they have no room for you and then they say that you cannot depart until after they open in the morning. If you complain, they tell you too bad. So, what I have seen people do is leave without checking out. I have no idea what, if any trouble they get into but it happens often enough that the consequences must NOT be too high. Personally, if I was to do that, When I got to a place where there was a Greek Embassy or Consulate, I would turn in my papers there, explain why I left, provide a written report of the facts, and make a note of my visit in my passport and deck logs. I am really struggling how a port official can order one not to depart, especially if there is a narrow weather window to safely conduct the next leg. (If one of the readers knows the answer to this, please advise!) (Can “force majeure” be invoked in this scenario?)
So, though I tried, checking out Friday for a Saturday departure is just not possible.
Church: There is a catholic church in town that was chained locked since we arrived. But yesterday, a note on its door that there would be mass tonight at 1800. Since it had been a long time, I went. Of course this is Greece and the the priest was late to arrive from another island, but mass kicked off at 1830. It was all in greek, but there was an Irish couple there also so there were three foreigners among 20 worshipers. It lasted 45 minutes. Later, I learned that there is mass about every 2 weeks or so, usually Fridays or Saturdays, all dependent on the ferries.
After Church, went shopping for some last minute supplies, then dinner at our most favorite restaurant, and then back to LeeZe. Tomorrow, there is a a lot of work to do.
2015-09-12: I was up at 0630 and completed filling the fresh water tank. It has been filling for two days. The flow from the facet located 80 meters away was so low that it measured out at about 1 liter every 5 minutes. But remembering the “5P” lessons learned, I started filling on Thursday and just let it do its thing.
So, stop the fill and coil up 80 meters of hose. Then, with papers in hand, go to passport control. While waiting, the refugees at the port during the night had taken up some sidewalk space so the official opening up shooed them away. I said to him some Turkish words they would understand. He tried those and they moved right quick. Hw wrote them down and thanked me.
Passport control opens, stamps our passports to depart, stamps our crew list (after looking at it and asking where were the two guests listed (they had departed in Thassos!). Eventually they stamp that too and them I am off to Port Authority, where I wait, the lady does something, then sends me to another Port Authority some 7 blocks away for more stamps (ugh). I go there but they cannot find my entry paperwork so they search, then tell me I cannot depart until they find it. Great But eventually they do, have questions about the guests that had departed in Thassos (again!) and then stamp my paperwork.
Then they tell me to move LeeZe to Customs. I say no, too dangerous and to hard for the two of us. They insist. They call Customs and he insists. I am about ready to say yes, but them go back to LeeZe to leave, when I ask them where this person is. He is back at the port (7 blocks away) so I walk to him and lo and behold, it is the same person that I taught him those Turkish words. He is grateful, says “OK for this time but…” and the process is over.
It is now nearly 0900. I returned to LeeZe, take in my two bow lines, startup, bring in shore power, cast off the stern lines and slowly take up some 80 meters of anchor chain. The anchor itself has so much mud on it that the windlass is really slow to raise it. I get most off while Zehra motors us out of the harbor. As we pass the ferry loading dock, there are two ships in, and more than 1000+ refugees waiting to board one of them. So, the government has found a solution. Bring the refugees to the port, process their names, let them pay for a ticket, and then sleep in the port until the ship(s) arrive.
The weather is good for the first half hour but turns windy and nasty. Winds are 35-30 knots behind us and the waves are off my port quarter. The ride at time is rolly but not too bad. We are talking water over the aft deck, but this time, we remember to lock the aft door so it cannot break.
We are off to Çandarli, Tu, some 22 nm away.
When we get within the ½ nm of Turkey, the land blocks most of the waves and wind and the ride improves greatly. We anchor on the city side of the city, in 10 meters of water, putting out more than 60 meters of chain, with the snubber some 5-7 meters below the waters’ surface. The wind is till low so we lower the tender from the boat deck and tie it securing to our stern’s mooring bits.
We were here last year. so on the picture above, your can see last year’s and this year’s position
That concludes this entry.
If you have any questions, please ask.
Lee and Zehra
You can find older blog posts here: http://whereisleeze.blogspot.com