4 to 18 October 2017
Chania to Rethymno, Crete, N35° 22.39’ E24° 29.22’
30nm, 7 hours
As he was there to greet us when we arrived in Chania, Akis was there with a couple of bottles of raki to say farewell and document our departure from Chania.
Our passage to Rethymno taught us why Crete isn’t high on the list of cruising grounds. Although the bad weather that had welcomed us to Chania had passed the swell outside the harbour were still high and as we turned to head east along the top of the island Pintail was being hit side on, rolling us side to side. We quickly took our seasickness tablets which kept sickness at bay but it wasn’t the most comfortable of days!
We were glad to arrive in Rethymno and turn into the wonderfully protected harbour. After relying nervously on our anchor in Chania we were even happier to find lazy lines on the pontoon and some friendly liveaboards to take our lines and welcome us in. We were also delighted not to be parked right outside a lively restaurant but just outside the bustle of the town. We didn’t intend to stay there for nearly two weeks but we are glad we did. It turned out to be the perfect place not only to sit out some rough weather but to get to know Crete better.
Rethymno has all the hallmarks of a Cretan city: Venetian castle; Venetian doorways, Venetian windows, Venetian fountains
and then the visible signs of the Ottoman invasion.
We visited the fortezza – the original Venetian fort, taken over by the Turkish after a siege which ended after the surrender of inhabitants who barricaded themselves in, soon to run out of food and munitions. Not exactly a happy ending but better than some of the stories we had learned in our trip into A short history of life and death in Crete.
The inside of the mosque built on the site by the Turkish invaders was simply but beautifully decorated, bringing back memories of the Real Alcazar in Seville and Alhambra in Granada.
We never quite got the hang of Rethymno’s maze of lived in streets, with their reminder of much more ancient Greek history. We made several attempts over successive days to find the folklore museum but eventually gave up!
But there were lots of opportunities to shop for souvenirs, worry beads, pastries and ceramics.
By the power of Facebook we learnt that my friend Angela and her husband Malcolm were on holiday just up to the road in Georgioupoli and were able to spend a day showing them around Rethymno and introducing them to Pintail and our new way of life. Malcolm even overcame his fear of boats and braved a trip around the harbour in the tender!
High up above Rethymno we found a very quirky, hippy nature park. Run by volunteers who give guided tours, it showcases Crete’s indigenous plants whose many and various properties and uses were explained to us by an incongruous Californian.
The park is also home to some friendly chameleons, a Minoan wine press and a cave made of fossilised coral long ago thrust up from the seabed.
We sat out two lots of bad weather in Rethymno which blew huge, rolling waves crashing onto the beach. It didn’t seem to deter the holidaymakers on the beach but put us off taking to the sea again. We didn’t fancy another day like our passage from Chania and were waiting for a window to enable us to safely anchor at the uninhabited island of Dhia before heading into the Spinalonga Lagoon and on to Agios Nikolaos. With time on our side we found ourselves feeling quite at home in the marina. We were even invited to a barbeque on the pontoon with those staying there for winter. Rethymno also proved a good base for Finding art and beauty (and English breakfast) in Crete.
If the marina had lift out facilities we might have considered staying there for winter too but eventually the sea calmed and a forecast of a good few days weather told us it was time to move on …