Having a favourable wind, since the north wind turns into mistral in this part of the sea and this is the usual wind that blows in summer around Agathonisi, we entered a course of 110 degrees and easily crossed the 22 nautical miles that separated us from the land.
Sailing now on the waters of the Dodecanese, we entered the large bay of Agios Georgios, which is on the south of the island, and headed deep to its far end where there is the port and the seaside village that shares the same name. The big and extremely wide waterfront on the eastern side of the harbour was full of sailing boats, so we tied just opposite, on the rather small stone paved dock in front of the seaside road. Having settled the ropes of the anchor and the bow lines, I lit a cigarette and sat comfortably on the bow of my boat.
I automatically recalled in my memory images and unique moments of the past. It has been several years now, since I entered this port for the first time. Then, it was early August and once more we had tied up alongside the waterfront as we were the only boat on the island. There was no "motion" and no human presence in the port. A single tavern, which had put its tables out on the seaside, was the only sign of life in this place. An incredible peace and a wonderful silence spread everywhere.
Several things have changed since then. Units with rooms to let were built, the coastal road around the harbor was asphalted, two more taverns and a cafe opened and some important infrastructure projects were realised. However, everything was so carefully arranged that not only the character of the place was not altered but made it even more beautiful. Numerous boats and people started visiting the once isolated Gaidouronisi, as it was called in the past. The waters of the harbour are still crystal clear and the same peacefulness prevailed even now, as I was staring at the pebbles in the bottom of the sea, distinct in their every detail.
Around the port, the whitewashed houses with the flat roofs and the blue shutters are spread reminding us more of a Cycladic island than one in the Dodecanese.
In front of the houses, and next to the harbour, there is the stone pebbled beach that attracts many people and is one of the most beautiful on the island.
The centre of the harbour is the starting point of the steep concrete road that leads up to Mikro and Megalo Chorio, the two mountainous villages of the island. Invisible from the sea, they are slowly revealed as we go up the road. At a distance of approximately eight hundred metres, on the eastern slopes of the harbour, there is Megalo Chorio. It is the oldest village on the island, where most of the hundred inhabitants live. Just opposite, four hundred metres away from the port, there are the few houses of Mikro Chorio, where very few people live.
Late in the afternoon we went up to Megalo Chorio on foot and after wandering for quite some time in the streets, we got together to the small stone paved square. We hanged out till dark at “13 brothers”, the cafe of the square, along with the elderly of the village who very willingly talked to us about their place.
Circumnavigation of the island
The next morning, we sailed out of the large bay where the port is. In that place there are three smaller bays, with beautiful beaches, where many mostly large boats are anchored. We turned our bow east, sailing very relaxed for the circumnavigation of the island. Around the island there are many places of interest, with many well-shaped bays and very safe anchorages along the coastline which on the whole does not exceed 13nm. A mile south of the harbour’s entrance there is the small islet Kouneli, while on the north side of the island there are several islets and scattered rocks suitable for fishing.
Beyond the bay of Agios Georgios, on the south side of the island two more bays are formed. The first is quite open, and hosts the small beach of Amoudi and the second, which penetrates for long into the mainland, is divided into two separate oblong coves. One of them looks over sorokos, the southeast wind and hosts the beach of Balos. A few metres before reaching the pebbled beach, the water’s beautiful colour forced us to anchor there and stay offshore for several hours, enjoying our swimming. The other bay faces the south and leads with its shallow waters to the beautiful, small, sandy beach of Poros. Here is the safest and most ideal place for an overnight stay on the boat.
Passing by the southeast cape of Agathonisi, the Cape Tholi, that is Domes, which is called like that because of some old domed buildings located there, we started to climb the east side of the island. Sailing carefully through the channel formed by the large mainland and the islet Katsagani, we slowly entered the narrow cove of Catholico, in the northeastern end of the island, where there are fish farms. We approached the long concrete dock, looking for a place among the crowded boats. A group of fishermen, who were sitting under the shade of a large sea tree, jumped up and ran toward us when they realized we were there. Willingly, when they saw that there was no place, they urged us to lead our bow between the stern of their boats and tie onto them. Impressed by their excellent behaviour, we thanked them and stepping on their boats we reached the dock.
There are five or six old houses and a number of folded nets along the dock, literally covered by the long branches of the sea trees, which formed a tunnel of shadow, and provided a real oasis of coolness during these hot midday hours. Two long tables and some benches around formed a kind of living room, next to the creek of the oblong bay, where, the simple ouzo bar of captain Lefteris opened for the first time this year. Two big octopus tentacles on the grill filled with their wonderful smell the tiny pebbled shore, where two boats were pulled, leaving little room for the two kids who were splashing there. This very small village, Catholico, and its narrow sheltered bay, which is totally protected from Neronisi, which withholds the force of the north winds, has been a fishing refuge and hangout of the fishermen for years. Hidden beneath the sea trees in this secluded corner of the Aegean, as if we were in a hideout where no one could discover us, we enjoyed our ouzo along with the stories of the good-hearted fishermen. We savoured two whole sun-dried octopus with their large grilled tentacles served one after another and tastily cooked by captain Lefteris. We spent several hours in this neighbourhood of the fishermen. We felt, however, that we were left there for days.
While the sun was setting, we turned back to the harbour of Agios Georgios. Heading west, we quickly sailed round the northern coasts, where there are some small and remote beaches, but with no windless bays. So, we passed by Misogiati the northwestern cape of the island. Sailing down the west side, we entered the two open bays that are there one next to the other, which host some wonderful beaches, and in the end of our amazing circumnavigation, we tied once again to the stone pebbled dock, at the harbour’s entrance.
The winds that blow in Agathonisi in the summer, are usually northwestern or western. It is typical that while sometimes there are 3 Beaufort winds north of Samos and Ikaria, at the same time they are of 6 and 7 Beaufort north of Agathonissi.
There are several sheltered coves for overnight stay, both in the south and the east side of the island. Apart from the coves in the bay of Ag. Georgios, or the bay of Catholico, we find in the bay of Poros some very good anchorages which are also safe from the winds.
The gas station in the wide concrete pier of the port has closed down and it is also difficult to find ice.
There are mainly two dangerous spots around Agathonisi. The rocks, one of which barely rises over the sea level, on the west coast, about fifty metres far from the cape Gremos. The second and more dangerous point, which is not even depicted on nautical charts, is the shallow western side of the islet Katsagani. Many boats have come to a standstill there, so we need to pay special attention when we pass through this channel to keep sailing closer to the island.