Panoramic’s roving reporters, Dave and Allan, AKA Cash and Grits (don’t ask!) set off on an epic 2 day adventure from Yalikavak around some of the Dodeconese Greek Islands on jet ski. Something we don’t recommend you trying at home but it makes for an interesting read!
Let the adventure begin…
We depart Friday Sept 12th from Yalikavak and head South towards Turgetries and head out to across the South Aegean towards our first island Kos. Skis are full as bandit’s pistols and we have 10 litres each of backup in the front!
I lost my sun glasses and cap to a gust of wind within a minute of leaving Yalikavak but we press forward we’ve many miles to cover…
1. Kos Island
Kos, at 40 km wide should be easy enough to spot but landing exactly where you want is a little more difficult, Admiral Grits recognises some landmarks and we hit Kos town harbour within the hour, we tie up the skis next to the tourist excursion boats and onto Greek soil. Hercules had once been here and it took a Hercules effort from Admiral Grits to pull Captain Cash up the 6 foot harbour wall from the skis below. Famous for its silk production but we was more interested in sampling the Mythos…..thirsty work this!!
After beers (Yes we know its 10.30am and we probably shouldn’t for obvious reasons….but we did!!) we quiz the tourist info hut for rough navigation to Leros, they advise that we should get a boat trip….as if….we’ve got boats….well kind of!
2. Kalymnos Island
Back on the skies and off to our second island Kalymnos which is to the West and slightly North maybe around 12 – 15km. We come out of Kos harbour and make a left, the sea is perfect and we cruise to Kalymnos using the islands of Pserimos and Plati to our East to keep a heading, we fly past fast cruisers with ease, this is definitely the way to do it. We spot the tiny island of Sari to the East and know we’re coming into Kalymnos Harbour. We’re on half a tank of fuel and our stomachs are too so it’s time to fill up.
We search for somewhere that looks like a fuel station but it’s not easy, this is a big harbour there must be something here, we move in and out of all the boats almost getting caught in fishermans line in the process at one point. I clocked a couple of men on a small boat and ask for fuel, they dont speak English so I open the front of the ski and point at the fuel cap…”Ahh Kafsimon, Kafsimon” he shouts (fuel in Greek) then waves his arms to notion ‘Not here’. He points at the scooter on the shore and a large 25litre can. From his arm gestures he’s offering to get us fuel from the local station on land using his scooter, I’m amazed at how helpful people can be but its quite a task as it would take multiple trips. No matter though as Grits has been told there’s fuel just outside the harbour so off we blast, knowing we’re probably good for fuel nearby we decide we need to fill our own tanks.
Grits spots a quiet beach and we zoom the skis straight up onto the beach, I’ve never done it before so I watch the admiral first, he puts the power on then kills the engine so not to suck half of Kalymnos into the engine. I do the same but with perhaps too much enthusiasm and almost end up hitting a tree, its done the trick though. The Greek kids look at us as if we’ve just landed a pair of Eurofighter jets. We go to one of the restaurants on the front as it offers free Wi-Fi (well in fact they all do). Its packed to the rafters with locals enjoying lunch and no doubt the free Wi-Fi too, we can’t get a signal but not a problem as Admiral Grits has 3G Mifi we can use, or thought we could use, seems the Turkcell doesn’t work in Greece. Ahh well no bother we get a bite to eat and have more Mythos, seems like Leros is the next logical hop, we should go up the East coast of Kalymnos as Leros naturally follows with only a small distance of water separating the islands.
Time to think about the skis again, we’re on half tanks and we’d prefer to get fuel now rather than wait for Leros so we get back on the skis and hunt for this fuel station. He was right there’s a large fuel station about a mile away, big enough to fill a ship. There’s not a soul there, Grits reaches over and tries the pump on the off chance it works but nothing, then from nowhere an old man pops up, can’t work out whether he works there, he’s lost or whether he’d stowed away in one of our skis when we parked in Kos :). It seems fortunately he does work there but can’t understand what we’re doing there. We open the skis and point at the caps….we’re in business, difficult trying to fuel up while we’re bobbing around in the sea and then swapping the pump line between the skis without hanging ourselves with it. We do it and we’re full and good to go again! Once we get the fuel bill we realise why this is the wealthiest of the Dodeconese and actually most of Greece, fuel certainly isn’t cheap but as wind power is useless to us we better just swallow it. Its 2pm now so we need to make some headway to Leros (island 3).
3. Leros Island
We head North Westerly up the East coast of Kalymnos, the sea has gotten bigger now its afternoon but its manageable and we skis make light work of it. Its not to long before we spot the small island of Verona that separates Kalymnos and Leros so we keep West of it as we come deep into Leros. Leros has really deep coves with long wide peninsulas meaning you have to travel some distance to get to shore. We land at what I now know to be Parthenou which is South on the island, not very much there, it’s probably 3pm now but we know there must be more at the capital Ag Marina to the East so we decide to keep going. We’re conscious of time but feel we’ve more chance finding a bed somewhere more touristy. We skirt in and out of the coves up the East of Leros for 45 mins but we see very little. We’re sure that Leros can’t be that big, how have we not found Ag Marina we thought?? We skirt deep into some coves in the hope we get lucky, sometimes seeing boats entering or leaving as a clue there may be more life that way but we kept coming to nothing.
Leros may not be the largest of islands but due to these deep coves and huge peninsulas it has a huge coastline of 44 miles. We’re at a loss as to why we’re not finding anything, we finally come into a cove that appears to have tall masts in the distance….bingo….life at last…we press on the gas, more than half empty but no worries we’ve found civilisation and hopefully somewhere we can land up and get a bed, food and fuel. It was only when we came right up to the marina we realised why the masts were so high, it was a dry dock for boat repairs, nothing else there, no fuel, no food, no nothing really apart from boat repairs. We shout a man working on a boat and he says Lakki is 5 more miles to the left. Lakki I thought, thats only 3 miles from where we’d started in Leros, we’d done the whole of Leros almost and some 50 – 60 miles from when we left Kalmnos.
We had no choice but to carry on so we thanked the man and headed out to sea once more, we was coming down the West coast of Leros now and it was much rougher, it was 16:30 and the sun was looking low as the skis fuel gauge, it really was time to find civilisation, we must find Lakki. I had a rough idea that we was averaging 20mph now so if it was 5 miles then we should be where we need to be in 15mins, if not we’ve gone too far and missed Lakki. True to his word we started to see something in the distance to the East, it had to be Lakki and fortunately it was. We trundled in and tried to eye a good place to land. Admiral grits muscled his way between two yachts, a space I thought was far too tight so I hung back a bit expecting him to come back out but he’d struck up conversation with a gent and his wife off the Yacht asking if he knew anywhere we could stay and get fuel. By the time I’d manoeuvred my ski in the man was already making arrangements on his phone, seems he was quite connected, we had a mobile fuel tank come fill us up and a driver collect us to take us to a nearby apartment to stay the night within 5 minutes…impressive indeed. The Greeks are really hospitable and helpful but when they’re boaters too I think they go the extra mile, he let us tie our skis next to his boat to keep an eye on them overnight!! They think we’re mad but seem impressed when we tell them where we’ve come from that day.
The apartment was clean and tidy and for 60 euro a bargain really, couldn’t believe we had everything sorted within half hour we were showered and enjoying a beer and a laugh on the balcony, or we were until an angry looking gentleman had turned up wanting money, I’ll spare you the details but it was a big misunderstanding, after a very animated 20 minutes of heated discussion, we all said yes and no a lot and the words Euro and Lira featured heavily too, oh then another big fella turned up. It just got to the point where I thought we were about to be murdered and I was looking for an implement to dispatch the pair with when we realised that we’d paid the petrol man in Lira instead of euro and he’d sent someone looking for us…our fault and easily sorted by Admiral’s wallet in the end thankfully!
We finished another couple of beers and went and got some food, we went to a restaurant called Ostria on the front and spent the rest of the night laughing about the misunderstanding and how far we’d come on the skis.
Tomorrow was a big day with Patmos first on the list so we needed some rest….time for one last beer on the balcony then hit the sack; we calculate we’ve probably done 75 – 90 miles in total so far.
I woke early, 6am and it was still dark so I went for a wander to check on the skis and leave the Admiral to get some extra rest. Lakki is a sleepy little place but with a huge harbour, in fact one of the deepest in the whole of the Mediterranean, which is exactly the reason the Italians took control of it in the war. It is strategically positioned and able to cope with huge warships so it was perfect for the navy. Mussolini was said to have had a mansion there but no idea where exactly. Lakki is still used by the Greek navy; the British liberated it from the Italians and gave it back to the Greeks in 1948.
I had a coffee in a little pastry shop and watched it come to life, in fact I had a few coffees, I was wired. It was nice watching Lakki wake up, the sea was like a lake, not a ripple. I checked my iPhone to try and use the gps to get a bearing on where were in relation to Patmos some 18 miles away, it seemed doable if we could see Patmos in the distance, if we missed it to the West we’d be screwed, nothing for another 20 odd mile in even bigger sea, if in doubt we should bear East and at least bump into Lipsi first I thought. I got another couple of coffees and some fresh almond pastries for breakfast and took them back to the apartment; Grits was up and raring to go! We went over the plan for Patmos and went down to the skis. The Greek guy and his wife were up so we thanked them for their help and set off for Patmos.
4. Patmos Island
As we head out of Lakki we pass a naval patrol boat, they all wave and we zoomed past out of the bay with Lakki disappearing behind us, we immediately notice the sea is rougher than the day before. We turn north, it’s foggy but we get a rough heading and we’re on our way. It’s not long at all before the sea starts to get really big, within minutes we’re ploughing up and down 10 foot waves. This is scary now but manageable we think, the skis are performing and if we stay as we are we’ll be ok. We catch sight of Patmos in the distance through the morning mist so at least we have land to head for now with Leros disappearing behind us. 30 minutes of rough going and we’re about 5 miles from Leros and in open sea, we stop for a minute to discuss our options as its getting really quite big out there, Grits is good and so am I, we decide we’ll go for it under the proviso we’re ultra-careful and keep our wits about us, we don’t want to come off our skis in this sea, if one of us comes off then best case it would be difficult to reunite with the ski, I don’t want to think of the worst case!
The sea just keeps getting bigger, the waves are 10 – 15ft, its difficult sitting down in this so I decide to stand, the skis are unbelievable, jumping from wave to wave, it feels amazing to jump from one crest to the next, when you time it just right you can skip across the waves, power on….power off, like motocross but with a moving track, I could see Grits to my side doing the same but still seated….no easy feat and not for the faint of heart!
Over an hour in and by this time we are many miles from home in open sea facing easily 20 foot waves, we should not be doing this, but we are and there is no going back its as far to return to Lakki as it is to get to Patmos. There are no yachts about like there were on the other side the day before, its too rough for them I guess, I remember thinking how scary it would be to be in a yacht now then thinking are you having a laugh we’re on jet skis in open ocean.
It was really tiring keeping up momentum but if you rested a little the sea would take charge and throw you where it pleased; we had to keep powering forward and hope that Patmos would keep getting bigger. Every few seconds you’d get a wave wrong, not enough power or too much power and hit the next wave wrong and boom! The ski would literally enter the wave with you attached and suck its way out of the other side, let go…no….hold your breath and hold on and hope you come out the other side, the noise of the engine changes and you think you’ve had it but the ski just pushes you through….remarkable! I look to the side and watch Grits get the same treatment, like watching a salmon power upstream!!
As we approach I see a yacht about 3 miles off the coast so make a small detour to get confirmation that we are heading correctly to Patmos, the sea is that loud I have to scream PATMOS and the captain points at where we’re heading so we know we’re on course. We make it…..just…..that was more than hairy; hopefully that’s the worst of it. We land on the East coast in a little bay called Grikos, lovely little place but really quiet. We throw skis up onto the beach and look for a well-deserved beer and toast to the fact we’re still alive. We’ve probably only done 20 miles but it’s taken 2 hours. While we drink we see another man with a little fuel van so I run over to see if he can fill the skis but he says he only has diesel…I knew we couldn’t be that lucky again!
We need fuel and we won’t find it here so we decide to drink up and head to Skala which is further round, not too far only a couple of miles. We can’t find any fuel in Skala harbour itself but we can see there’s a petrol station behind the harbour so Grits goes to see if he can get a can off them and fill that way instead. While he’s gone a police car pulls up to find out who we are then tells me to watch our speed in the harbour, I think we were doing about 6mph but sometimes people treat you like you’ve just rolled up on a nuclear warhead. It doesn’t matter as Grits has sorted the fuel and has got us a 30 litre container full of petrol and a cut off water bottle for a funnel. He does a couple of trips and we have the skis full again.
5. Marathi Island
Time to find island number 5, Marathi. If we head out to the most Eastern peninsula and keep that heading we should get to Marathi, a tiny island off the West coast of Arki. The sea is still rough but not as bad as the previous journey to Patmos, we get there relatively easy but it takes us 20 minutes of meandering in and out of little islands and coves before we find life… bingo! We see a skull and cross bones and know we’ve found the pirate beach bar, Marathi. Only a handful of people live here either working in the few tavernas or herding goats. The water is crystal clear and in the cove it’s like a pond again, you could be in the Caribbean. The pirate man owner gets us a beer as we counted the few remaining euros, we were short but he agreed to make us some goat to eat for what we gave him anyway. It’s beautiful here and we imagine he makes a fortune with boats coming from Lipsi with tourists. No time now to sit for another beer we need to make tracks. It’s a long way back to Turkey yet and we’ve no idea what the sea will be like. We need to hit island number 6 on the way back… Lipsi.
6. Lipsi Island
We calculate that if we head south we can just kiss Lipsi’s Eastern side and land there before heading down to Leros. The sea isn’t quite so bad here and we make good progress, Lipsi seemed really quiet with lots of tiny little coves and quiet beaches, we landed for 10 minutes on a beach and talked to a couple of lads sunbathing, they were astounded at where we’d been on the skis, so were we for that matter!! No more time to chat we want to be home before dark so it was time to hit the saddle again. We agree we’ll head south down the east coast of Leros right to the bottom till we see the Island Piganoussa where we’ll make a left turn back to Yalikavak, the sea is getting big again but we’re making good progress at least. When we get 20km down Leros to Piganoussa I try to get a GPS confirmation on my phone but for some reason it’s not getting a good fix I’m not certain we’re exactly where we should be, the phone isn’t getting satellite and its trying in vain to get a triangulation between celluar masts between Turkey and Greece I think…not reassuring at all. Now we have stopped in the middle of the sea and with the engines off its throwing us around, we need to decide whether to head to Kalymnos and retrace back to Kos then home or have a guess where we think Yalikavak is and go for it. 23 miles away so if we get the angle wrong then that will amount to a large distance error, worse still we’re on half tanks now so fuel is a concern too!
We know we can get a heading using Piganoussa and the bottom of Leros behind us…if that is Leros :)!! We decide to go for it.
The sea was rough but we’d almost become used to it, I’d lost count of the number of times we’d almost been dragged from the skis by a 20 foot monster, we were fixed on the land in the distance and where that lay in relation to the tip of Leros behind us. We ploughed on for about 45 minutes towards where we thought was Turkey… hoped was Turkey! We had seen a fishing boat and I shouted ‘Yalikavak?!’ at him but he just shrugged his shoulders and sailed on. Helpful I thought, hope he never passes anyone in real trouble!
We stuck with it and as the land grew bigger Grits was convinced we were going in the right direction, the sun was over my left shoulder and I knew for that time in the day we were definitely on the right heading…or roughly at least. It was taking forever, this was more like 40 miles away than 23 the land seemed to be taking ages to get closer and you second guess whether you’re seeing buildings in the distance or just white rocks and the fuel gauge had just dropped to a quarter… great!! Soon after Grits recognises the land and is 100% we’re indeed heading into Yalikavak… Fantastic we’ve almost done it!! We then see the Marina and I could see the huge hill that we watch the sun go down behind when we’re at the villa where we were staying, it’s really distinctive and looks as though it’s a silhouette of a convoy of caravans travelling over it. We’d done it; we’d made it back finally. Its 5pm Saturday!!
Battered by the sea and dazzled by the sun, Grits lost his shades between Leros and Yalikavak and did the last 10 miles pretty much blind
We’ve travelled 70 – 80 miles today
160 – 170 miles total
12 hours on the skies
Used 600 euros worth of petrol.
Truly a trip to remember and never to be repeated… EVER!
Let’s get a vodka… we deserve it!!