Leros- the joy!

It was just very unfortunate timing- arriving in Leros in peak season- and suddenly the seas, bays and harbours were full of Turkish Gullets, huge motor Gin Palaces and American flagged charter Yachts/ Motor boats hired by any nationality other than American! The crew seemed to be in the main Philipino, and they used so much water to wash down the boats in the evening and to sparkle the stainless that we could not see how they could sustain more than a few nights away from a water supply! We would not mind, but they seemed to have no regard for anyone else who was anchored/ moored before they arrived, no regard for keeping walkways to the tavernas open and free of mooring lines, and they made no eye contact or acknowledgement of anyone around them as they thrusted their way into a ‘space’

The 3 bays we visited were on the Eastern coast- O ALindas, Pandeli and Xerokambos on the Southern coast. Alindas was not so bad, as we anchored in the North of the bay and walked the 3 Km into the picturesque town of Ay Marina- as we needed to get to a cash machine- yes ran out of cash again! We were lucky actually as we spent over 4 hours away from the boat- the wind had got up already- and were back on board about 2 hours when our anchor gave way in the weeds and we started to slip back. Being almost dark (always happens at night!) we decided to take one of the unused mooring bouys, and worry about moving if anyone came along later. It was a good job we did, as the wind picked all evening and we slept soundly on the bouy.

Pandeli was were we really ran into the holiday traffic- a very scenic tourist town on the other side of Ay Marina. It was here we were swamped with large beasts to our left and to our right, and felt a bit intimidated having our super and playing cards in our little cockpit as they sat down to their 3 course served up by the crew on their teak tables and chairs! Still, at least we had better night vision than usual, with blue lights lighting the water around their boats, pink lighting their walkways and flashing lights on their mooring ropes- all of which required the generator to be running to keep them alight.

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Spot our little Solon, shown here the next morning when the big boys the other side had left.

When the winds had dropped sufficient, we left this tourist trap and found some peace in Xerokambos. Here you picked up mooring bouys that had been laid by the tavernas, and it is understood that you visit for a drink/ meal as payment for the night on the mooring bouy. We had ran out of fresh veg and meat by now anyway, and rather enjoyed our 2 nights eating at the taverna- a little treat.

We ventured as far South as O Emporios on Nisos Kalimnos, where we celebrated news of the birth of our first Grandson Remy who arrived 9 days late on Nelly’s Birthday. Many congratulations to Jenny and John, and we hope to take him sailing in 5/6 years time if we are still going by then! Isn’t he just perfect?

Baby Remy

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Agathonisi, Lipso and to N Arkhangelos

Having spent over 2 happy months travelling together, we tore ourselves away from Giuliana and Robbie and the safety of Posidonion Bay- as we were expecting to hear news of being made Grandparents at any moment, and Nelly had a flight booked from Bodrum in Turkey that had to be kept. We will fondly remember all the special meals and moments we shared, and particularly miss our shared enthusiasm for Lidl UHT milk (found to be on offer at €0.59 so had to be bought in bulk despite not being able to get it home!) and of course their lovely large fridge!

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Oooops , can you turn the handlebars Robbie?

Agathonisi island was a passing one night visit for us, and we had a peaceful night in the remote South Eastern cove. It was really idyllic until we realised that we didn’t have any phone reception in the bay. Being anxious to get any message from Jen and John (baby now over-due) we had to take the dingy ashore several times, climb up the hill to the end of the road- literally. Obviously an EU funded project that ran out of money! Further up there was a chapel and a good signal to pick up our messages- what no messages! We at least benefited from the exercise and picked some fresh basil from pots near to the church to eat with our tomatoes- nice. Also loved the slopey shed someone had built!

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You never said anything about wanting a level floor!

The next day we set off for the island of Lipso, and as it was under 10 miles we arrived early into the bay on the South East of the island. We were now noticing an increase in the yachting/ boating traffic, especially Turkish boats, it being the last week of August I suppose this was to be expected. We checked out the town harbour, but as there was a stiff side wind blowing, and already several yachts and motor boats in the harbour, we did not want to risk another anchoring incident- so we headed for the anchorage spot just outside the town, near a small chapel- more basil if we could only make it to shore!

Anchor dropped in the sand, turquoise water- perfect. We had been there only a few minutes when the gusts started. They seemed to wrap around the hills on either side of the Chapel, and come at us sideways blowing the boat 180 degrees around the anchor. The wind gusts continued to increase, as 2 other Turkish boats joined us- dropping anchor so close that they swung within 1 m of the nose of our boat- we could have reached over to pass the bread for lunch!. Amazing when there is so much space around us. We had put out another stern anchor to try and hold the nose into the direct of the gusts, but even so it was getting so uncomfortable that we couldn’t do anything on the boat and certainly couldn’t leave it to explore the lovely town of Lipso. One of the 2 Turkish boats dragged anchor (thankfully not the one just on our nose) and left for the harbour. An hour later the other joined him, and we decided we could not sleep if this continued- so pulled up anchor and sailed off in now quite choppy/ gusty conditions. It was getting late as we reviewed the second bay option- which was full of yachts/ motor boats- all doing a similar thing when caught by the gusts. We didn’t like the look of any of Lipso bays in this part, so sailed on further to N Arkhangelos which is the small island North of Leros that protects it from the Northerlies. As the sun was setting we snook in amongst 20 or so other yachts, and managed to get some protection from the gusts. Whilst there was nothing here in the way of shops/ tavernas or even a chapel, we had a good cosmote internet connection, flat water and good snorkelling so were happy to pass the next few days sheltering here from the wind.

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Planning the next stop Nelly?

The next step South would take us into direct collision with the August peak season traffic- pimped up motor luxury cruisers, 3 masted Turkish gullets and American Flagged charter boats- the joy!

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Sheltering in South Samos

We crossed the 25 miles to the South East of the island of Samos in record time, averaging about 6 knots. As we left the North and travelled down the East coast we had expected the wind to ease, but it still gusted between the bays and we were down to a small Genoa and 2 reefs in the main as we turned into the South. At last,  we came into the protection of Posidonion bay, and we anchored with some 10 or so other boats to recover from our recent experiences.

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Ahh,  also a fresh water shower on the beach-paradise bay!

Our Italian mates R & G were in their element here, as they found that the local restaurant owner was Italian, she had come to Greece at 19 and married into the business. They rented out apartments next door on the beach, and had the town pretty much sewn up. They were also extremely helpful, and over dinner at their restaurant that night we were fixed up with a lift with their veg man to Samos town where we could hire scooters, and get a lift back with the scooter hire people when we dropped them back 2 days later- perfect. With our scooters we were able to explore the other bays, and really appreciate the greenness and richness of this island. Vines and vegetables were grown everywhere, and water was obviously in abundance as we saw many small water leats providing a welcome sound and place to cool your toes in the heat of the day.

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The mountain village of Manolates was a real gem, and we found a town house for sale (by an Italian- hence we had a tour around the house with G & R) at €90,000, would take €70,000 so that meant about maybe €50,000 for cash, so we were sorely tempted- distant sea view and lovely front room- maybe an exchange for the yacht??- Noah thought not, Nelly was tempted!!!

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We have the contact details if you are working at your computer and are also sorely tempted to write that book you always wanted to start?

Would you believe it, but old Pythagoras spent some of his time living in the caves on this island, and it is reputed that he came up with his famous theory of squares of the hypotenuse = sum of  square of other 2 sides thing-all very deep stuff coming from flintstone type living!

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A nice cool spot to contemplate mathematical problems!

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Our Greek courtesy flag shows how we were feeling in late August- it being peak season and all- a bit worn around the edges- so our stay at Posidonion bay came about just in time- better replace the flag and keep going a bit longer!. Oh, and this octopus was too small to cook for super- let it go Robbie!!

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Trouble in Karlovasi, Samos

In our last posting, we forgot to tell you about the local mastic trees unique to Khios cultivated for its resin. They mark the tree trunks to let the resin drip, for use in medicine and varnish-making, and since classical times as a chewing-gum for preserving the gums and sweetening the breath. The Arabs made an oil from the berries for lamps, and more recently it has been used as ‘mastika’- a potent liqueur. August was harvesting time, and we saw tiny beads of the resin on the sand prepared bases of the trees and along the cut lines of the bark, but failed to see how this could be sufficient to supply the island with enough chewing-gum, let alone the world!,and if you ask us it’s value would have to be more than the weight of gold to make it worthwhile collecting all the tiny droplets. despite a long conversation with a local it was impossible to pin down the real method of harvesting. We tried a taste of it but it was like eating dried evo stick with a hint of mint.

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Ok, so another early start for the 48miles journey to Samos on the first day of the Meltemi, which was predicted on our weather charts to get up to only 25 knots in this area. We had a great sail, and the wind was steady, so we made good progress. By 4.30pm we were making the approach into Karlovasi harbour with a growing sea on the North West side of the island- not a great position for protection from the Meltemi but the alternative would have been an additional 25 miles to the other ports on the South of the island- which would mean arriving in the dark-  and the write up for this harbour was that it was reasonable shelter once inside.

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Down-wind sailing, rock and roll Solon!

Well, as the sea depths dropped around the entrance the waves built, and we all but surfed into the mouth of the entrance, following another yacht in with our Italian mates G & R behind us. Being Brits we politely circled several times waiting until the first boat had gone stern to, and eyed up our large spot which gave us a fair chance of doing a turkish style mooring- ie come in nose in dropping the chain anchor, use the chain to help spin you around at the last moment and then reverse the back end in. We couldn’t come in nose to as the winds were too strong to use only the rope anchor off the stern, so had no choice but to perform this manouvre that we had done only once before- great!. Italians being Italians and cannot help themselves, our mates then stole our prime wide spot whilst we were circling and gearing ourselves up for the drop. Just then, a massive ferry arrived and caused huge waves and currents in the harbour, jostling all the boats. We waited until it had started to unload the cars and then thought we would use it’s bulk to shield us from the wind and go for the park.

Although done with conviction and confidence, events conspired against us: the anchor winch jammed and too much chain escaped at the wrong time, the Swiss neighbour to our mates (under German flag!) had selfishly put a long line across the only remaining parking space and was refusing to remove it- even though he could see us coming in!, the wind picked up and we were forced to abandon our approach. Then followed a harrowing 5 minutes that seemed like hours, trying to hold Solon into the now gusting strong winds to prevent here from picking up all the other anchors as Noah had to manually haul in 40+ metres of chain that had escaped under the extreme duress of the now re-loaded ferry reversing and leaving the harbour! Boating stress or what!

Thankfully, the anchor was successfully retrieved, and we circled several more times, a second ferry came and went-we contemplated leaving and sailing on to the South (which in hind-sight we should have done). However, our mates safely in, they worked hard to talk a local fisherman into letting us use a spare lazy line further along the quay, and so we didn’t have to risk the anchor drop a second time- we settled for that. A beer or two later, we sat in the bar watching the boats go from bobbing, to gentle dancing to 1980’s disco dancing as we contemplated what it would be like to sleep inside! It was difficult enough to get onboard the boats, let alone stand up inside, and we cleared the central trott and quarter birth for the night- being less prone to movement than the bow of the boat.

We slept fitfully, but by early morning the ropes were making wrenching noises that we knew were not good, and the boat was heaving up and down in the waves. We dropped back further from the quay when we saw the damage the ropes had done to the front section, where the force had split the wood on the  rail.

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Nelly was feeling sea sick but it was too rough to jump from the front of the boat onto the quay, G & R came to shout about alternatives from the side of the quay. The sea outside the harbour wall was huge- dark grey and spray was coming over the top- so we did not like that option. The other yachts moored with an anchor were all worried it would not hold, and the Swiss guy was threatening to leave- OK if you all leave in turn but if one goes from the middle there is a danger of anchors getting tangled and someone else coming free- which is exactly what happened half and hour later as he pulled off- the large steel English boat next to him had his anchor dragged up which let the tension go on the front of the boat and he smacked his rear end into the concrete quay- damaging a large section of steel which could have been worse had it been GRP or wood. The decision was made that we could not stay- the wind was getting worse and would be for at least another day and night. No sign of the port police whose cosy office’s were just by the boats- no words of wisdom from them- nothing. A local fisherman told us that there were sufficient depths alongside the opposite quay wall, and that it was safer there- so we all helped each other relocate. It was marginally better there, although the boats were still lurching continuously they were blown off the quay rather than on it, and it looked preferable to risking the 25 miles in open sea option. Having successfully relocated, Nelly appeared having secured small apartment for the night- the best €30 spent so far this trip. It had a floor that was level! a fridge/freezer, a bed with clean linen , a shower, a small terrace, kitchen and WASHING MACHINE! We went from an all time low to a high in no-time, and were happy to visit the bucking Solon every few hours to see if she was still there! Luckily we were fully recharged by morning, enough to take the additional damage Solon had sustained when the large ferry pulled off and the currents created after it left bashed her into the quay side- hey ho!

 

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Clean hair and ice, 2 loads of washing done- things were looking up!

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The day after the winds, all looked much calmer, impossible to capture the rocking on a still photo but the damage to the rail shows the impact with the quay which could have been far worse- we got off lightly. We have never been so pleased to leave a harbour, and it was such a shame because the weather is such an important element of your experience boating, and Karlovasi will long be remembered for this nightmare stay by all the yacties in the harbour those 2 nights.

Sailing tales of the Southern side of Samos in next posting- have we put you all off yachting yet???

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Khios and Oinoussa

We had meant to visit Plomarion on the south coast of Lesvos, but we were presented with such great South sailing winds that we could not resist, and departed from Lesvos on the 25 Miles trip to Khios. This must be what it is like in the Atlantic with trade winds from a constant direction- on your tail, Solon was flying along. We made good time, and decided that the small island of Oinoussa on the North East of Khios gave the best protection for the night. The popular anchorage of Mandraki was busy, so we settled for the tiny bay behind it- enclosed between hills and with the sound of goat bells floating on the air. The wind blew all night long,  and although we were protected from the swell and the sea was flat Nelly still needed her ear plugs to deaden the sound of the gusts!

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Having tested our anchor all night, we felt secure to leave the boats in the bay and walked into the town of Mandraki. There were big money motor boats moored here, but the town itself had a sleepy appearance we liked, with locals sat in their shade passing a family Sunday together.

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We want one of these in our garden!

We stayed a few days here, then used the Meltemi wind to sail to the incomplete marina on Khios’s East coast. It is always nice to find these spots, but a shame to see them abandoned in this way. All that European money spent and no income for the locals. Giuliana and Robbie got their bikes out, and we were able to share them cycling the 3 miles into Khios town, calling at Lidl and visiting the 3 restored windmills at the mouth of the marina.

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Again the island of Khios was not as green as we thought, the alleged birthplace of Homer, it has huge craggy mountains right down to the sea, and there is a shortage of flat land to build on, so empty in between towns.

Travelling South we stopped at Ormos Emborios, another small bay with beautiful waters to snorkel,  in which we found these caves.We revisited the caves that evening in the dark with our torches and discovered it was full of tiny worms that evaporated into a cloud of dust when you touched them .  Any ideas on their identity we cant find them on the net yet.Also roosting Hirondelles in the ceiling screeched at us like bats.

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Things were looking up, so further South we went, and another beautiful blue water bay- Ormos Katofano, where people had set up small tents on the beach as a remote camping spot. Despite the daily temperatures of over 30 degrees, and lack of fridge and air conditioning, we were feeling chilled now- enjoying the sailing and the peace of the bays.  All this was about to change as we set sail in high spirits for our next island- Samos!

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A great sail to Lesvos

At last we managed to combine the Meltemi winds with travelling South, and we had wind on the back of the boat most of the way from Limnos to Lesvos, arriving in Sigri on the North West coast. We had expected this town to be bigger, but the bread and fruit and veg shop were tiny, tucked behind the church, and there were no cash machines here, so we were once again down to our last €20 due to bad planning! Sounds a bit negative, maybe lets rephrase : Woohoo!! we took a rollercoaster of a ride snapping along at 6 to 7 knots at times on the refreshing Meltemi machine. With the odd exhilarating surf down the waves of deep blue to arrive much earlier than could be hoped in Sigri, a charming little place without the hideous trappings of modern day life. The lack of cash machine saved us a tidy sum and the gravity of only having 20 euros  gave us a new outlook on life, full of ideas of kitesurfing and wine quoshing!.

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The lighthouse outside Sigri, not really the ‘grander greener and more fertile of any of the other islands’ we were expecting- looks more like Tenerife!

The bay in front of Sigri was sheltered from most directions, although we had some swell overnight that made the boats roll and pitch- not great to sleep with. Sigri is a well known kiting spot and inspired by our recent kiting experience in Limnos, we were keen to get some more practice in. After a few nights we got strong enough wind, and took Solon into the next bay to join the kiters.

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Solon joins the kiters in the bay

Having sat out the gentle Meltemi we had had for a few days, we were lucky enough to get a decent wind to sail and stay on the North coast, and pulled into the harbour of Petra. Here they had recently built a new immigration port of entry, and were obviously gearing up for a new ferry to Turkey. We had all got settled spreading ourselves alongside the long quay, only to be moved off the next morning when the huge Naval Coast Guard vessel pulled in. Apparently they are busy dealing with all the illegal immigrants that are coming in from Syria, although we never saw any evidence of any actual action- maybe it all happens at night? We were therefore forced to the smaller side of the quay, and once again just got settled when a massive 3 master Turkish Gullet decided to moor next to Solon. Well, their fenders were so high they were at ear level, and when they put their thrusters on the force sucked our boat towards theirs! We were initially not happy, but once they had secured themselves we got some great shade and protection from the wind, so not all bad. She was a beauty- all wood, and the guests on board must have thought we were travelling gypsy class with our washing blowing on the rigging!

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This was once they had settled- we were touching fenders initially- insurance forms at the ready!

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We did the touristy thing and got on the ‘train’ to Mithimna on the North coast, as we had heard that the port was  full of boats and less protected than Petra. Mithimna is a very pretty place, lots of old baronial houses from a former more prosperous time, with tiny cobbled streets between, crowned with a castle which was shut by the time we arrived!

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From there we went to Mitiline, the capital, which we had been looking forward to for getting all our jobs done- problems with the internet connection- Cosmote shop- problems with the laptop- computer shop, stock up with food- Lidl! We have a love/ hate relationship with these towns, expecting all our problems to be sorted whilst hating the hassle of it all. The town harbour backed onto a busy road, and all day and night you had the noise of the city, along with officious port authority that caught us for port fees but let our Italian mates (on their much larger boat) come in for free! What is that all about?

Our last chance for this ‘greener’ part lay in the South, so we headed for the lagoon of Kolpos Yeras, and found a quiet anchorage for 2 nights, then went into the mouth of the lagoon at Skala Loutra. To be fair it was a lot greener here, and as the temperatures were well into the 30’s we were glad of any tree under which we could get shade.

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Here the villagers really do keep goats for milk- 1/2 litre per goat per day.

We had been lucky with the winds in Lesvos, but as an island much preferred Limnos. Mithimna was definitely worth the visit, and we will long remember the “Happy (Will I am)’ tune played on a loop for the 30 minutes it took us to get back to the boats! The train resounded with clapping and singing from Dutch, French ,Greek and various pedestrians lining the roadside joining in on the act!.

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Limnos- Don’t I know you?

The crossing from Samathraki to Limnos was rough, as the wind shifted several times and we ended up with a rather wet beat around Cape Moutzeflos on the NW point of Limnos.

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The harbour of Myrina was very welcome, and as we were the last of our 3 boats in the others were there to help with our lines – which was a good job as the harbour was rather busy. The next day you could see why- Myrina seemed to be the perfect spot, and once safely in yachts tended to stay. Golden sandy beach with natural shade and fresh water showers only a few minutes walk away, public WC and HOT WATER SHOWER!!!, lots of shops and an impressive castle to stroll around in the evenings when it was cooler- what more could you want? We settled in- moving alongside the main promenade when a spot came available, and with our nose into the quay we managed to have some privacy from the people promonading until 4am!. Safely moored, we hired scooters to explore and check out the other anchorages. Once again the 50cc scooters struggled up the hills, and we soon discovered that the roads were radial and then went to dirt tracks, so there were a lot of retracing routes rather than doing a circular island tour.

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Robbie and Giuliana celebrating getting up the hill!

The first road ended in a military camp, and we had to go back the 15km to find the main road again. The highlights were Kotsinas Bay on the north coast, Keros Bay on the East and a tiny chapel in the mountains behind Plati with no roof- a lovely remote spot.

Whilst lunching at Kotsinas Bay, Noah went to ask the kiters on the beach about the local kiting scene, only to find Wim and Lianne- whom we first met kiting in the Cape Verde Islands in 2006. They didn’t look a day older- just as fit and young, and they were on their last 3 days of a 2 week kiting holiday here on Limnos- small world eh? They were staying in Moudros- so we resolved to sail around to join them. Harmony Bay was leaving to pick up family in Skiathos, and we had a final curry aboard to say our farewells. We managed to leave the comfort of Myrina harbour, and had one night in a remote bay- where the landscape looked like Yorkshire! Lacking enough wind to kite, Wim and Lianne joined us in the boat and we sailed them the 15 miles around the Peninsula Fakos, they then had a mile hike across the connecting headland to collect their hire car, and we sailed around to Moudros. All went well on Solon tours, although Lianne was a bit sea sick when we hit the unprotected sea beyond the bay. In return, we got a lift to the kite beach of Keros Bay for a day’s kiting on their last day. It had been over year since we last kited, and by the end of the day we were feeling our age and lack of fitness. Keros beach was the home of the young and beautiful, and we must have looked a sight with our old kit and rather sun damaged boards!

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Wim taking his helming responsibilites seriously- apart from wanting to cut the corner around the headland- which Nelly put a stop to!

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The cool kite surfing scene- breath in Noah and Nelly!!!

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