The Sounds of Symi

Panormitis, Symi

8th May: After 6 days of easy life in Rhodes it was time to crack on. The two crows that had hidden a stash of bread in our mainsail cover

The cheeky crows and their stash

were probably sad to see us go although looking at the way they were attacking the window covers on a motorboat nearby, they would have a new hiding place very soon. We had a great sail across to Symi, although the sky felt it was ok to throw some rain down on us. Does it not know we are fair weather sailors? Luckily it was only a few spots. The wind and seas picked up from behind sending Emerald romping along under genny only, doing 7kts at times. The only problem with the wind was that we would have to come in to it to round the bottom corner into Panormitis bay, but when we got there the wind was from a different direction. How odd!

The trip boat that nearly squashed us. We thought we were plenty far enough away from the quay!

We were a little disheartened to find the bay a bit crowded with at least 10 other boats in. Aren’t we still in low season? The wind was throwing some strong gusts at us, so not wanting to weave between already anchored boats in those conditions, we picked a space at the back. We reckoned we were plenty far enough away from the ferry quay and not long after arrival we got to find out. A huge horn honk split the quiet and in came a large ferry boat. It proceeded to head straight for us. We scrambled into action, starting the engine and moving ourselves forward. I’m sure the ship wouldn’t have dropped anchor right through our aft deck but it felt awfully close. Then having dropped anchor way off to the side of the quay, it swung around and reversed in. We squeezed in another 20m further forward and all was well when the ferry left.

That evening more yachts arrived, about 18 by dark. It’s a good job there weren’t any ferries in the next day as some of the yachts would have been squished given they were anchored right in the ferry entry path. The weather was grey and the winds blew strong on Tuesday so we were confined to ship. A bit of a rest was needed anyway after our late nights in Legends. Later in the afternoon when things calmed down, we were able to move to a new spot further in to the bay, well away from any ferries!

What a difference a day makes – the view of Panormitis when the sky turned blue

Oh dear no busking for Colin. And see how detailed the no nudism picture is!

By Wednesday the wind had dropped right away and boats began leaving, only a handful of us were left which was nice. We had a wander around the bay and the monastery between ferry arrivals and it’s disgorge of tourists. When a ferry arrives, the following happens: first the ferry lets out a long, loud, sky renting honk on it’s horn as it enters the bay. A jolly recording of church bells ringing is then played in response to greet the visitors. All this noise sets off the peacocks in the monastery grounds a-squawking. Honk, bong, squawk. Honk, bong, squawk. Four times a day on some days. Outside of this noise it wasn’t all peace and quiet either. The monks broadcast their chants and services on loudspeaker, all fine and dandy except for the Sunday service which began at ………. 7am!!!!

We also heard our first Scops Owl of the season, a high pitched peep, mostly heard during dark. If you hear a lower pitched peep immediately after the first, it’s a lady owl responding to the mating call.

Emerald at Panormitis

Us at Panormitis

Lovely sunset

It was the place for ‘firsts of the season’. I bravely had my first dip in the sea, although not for very long as it was a little chilly. Lowering myself gingerly off the stern ladder rather than going for the full plunge, it was a refreshing way to clean off the dust of our walk and cool down from the heat of the day but it wasn’t that pleasant to stay in for long. We also cracked open the BBQ although it nearly didn’t happen as we couldn’t find the charcoal that we were sure we had stashed somewhere. After almost emptying the cockpit locker, Colin found it so we could fire away in the company of Tony and Sally from Ron Glas.

A place for firsts of the season – swim and BBQ

Symi Town

The view from the bus

Colin enjoying the steep drop offs along the way

We’d been recommended to take the minibus trip to Symi from Panormitis for the views en-route. The bus runs three times a day – 7:30am, 12:30pm and 3:30pm. Having decided we didn’t fancy tying up to the quay at Symi, we did still want to visit so got ourselves up early for the 7:30 departure where we were joined on board by a handful of children that live in the monastery grounds on their way to school. Not long after setting off, the road begins a series of tight switchbacks winding their way up an almost vertical cliff face. The views down to the bay were fabulous enough to distract from the drop off along some of the stretches. Over the top of Symi island and then more tight turns down the other side into the main town.

What a beautiful place Symi is, the harbour nestled like a fjord surrounded by pastel coloured houses rising up the hillsides. It made me think of Scandinavia. We’d not had breakfast before setting off, it being so early, so we needed coffee and food. Unfortunately everywhere had tourist prices, but on the plus side, the place we chose did do good coffee.

Fortified, we felt ready to tackle the 400+ steps of the Kali Strata, leading up to the old town above the harbour. It wasn’t so bad a climb with plenty of flattish bits between the steps and plenty of things to look at for distraction. The path was lined with beautiful old houses, some derelict, and as we got higher, the views over the harbour got better and better. We continued on up as high as we could get along narrow walkways and more steps, up to the ruins of the old Knights of St. John castle and the church within it’s walls for more great views.

Kali Strata

Strolling the Kali Strata

Once grand houses on Kali Strata

The remains of the castle and view from the top

Cute coloured houses of Symi

Whilst we had the height we also walked over to look at the line of windmills marching along the ridge, mostly in disrepair but a couple had been converted into dwellings. What a cool place to live.

A fixer upper windmill for sale

Windmills and castle in the distance

Back at sea level we still had plenty of time before the return bus at 2pm. There is a small shop at Panormitis but we needed to restock our veggies. There was plenty of choice, however the prices were on the high side although we did find some reasonably priced beer. Island price or tourist price?


Two Churches Walk

Up the road beyond the monastery gates a track forks off, running up and across the hillside behind the buildings. We took a walk up there, finding a tortoise trying to hide under a bush. Unfortunately for the tortoise, it had chosen the driest, most rustley bush it could which alerted us to it’s presence.

Not the best hiding place

Keeping on upwards we came to a point where the track splits; we turned left and into the welcome shade of a pine wood. Following the track downhill we ended at a clearing with a smallholding and olive grove. On the left of the large track, a small indistinct path follows the small holding fence and is marked with red paint. This leads to a small church on the hillside. On the way back we had a look inside another church in the woods which we guessed was dedicated to St. George. Total walk distance was around 4 miles.

Another Greek church in the middle of nowhere

Useful Info

The bus between Symi and Panormitis costs €3 per person, each way, the journey takes between 30 and 40 minutes. There are three a day during the summer. At Panormitis there is a cafe, small shop and a bakery with very nice bread baked fresh in a wood fired oven. Inside the monastery are two small museums, one showing folk life, another displaying precious objects from the monastery. A ticket costing €1.50 gave entry to both.

Sea related items donated to the monastery. There’s even crocodiles!

Sailing Info

Monday 8th May: Rhodes to Panormitis, Symi – 24nm travelled (16nm sailed)
Weather: cloudy with a few spots of rain. Light easterly winds to start, increasing to F6 with a building following sea.
Initially anchored in 5m in position 36 33.019’N 27 50.734’E, later moved to a better spot in 7m at position 36 41.43’N 28 02.43’E, very good holding.

Looking down onto Panormitis Bay