Northern Greece 2013, Neil Armitage
Monday 29th April. A beautiful, cloudless, windless morning we were out of bed by 7 o’clock and with the travel fatigue and tiredness of the past 3 days behind us it was now time to start moving. The 44 hour journey from home in Wellington, New Zealand to bed at 5:00 am at the Sofitel airport hotel in Athens was as tedious as usual.
Athens to Khalkis
The mind had already blocked out reality when we boarded our first flight from Wellington to Auckland but reality prevailed as we waited at Heathrow to board the flight to Athens. We were tired but a few cat naps throughout the flights wouldn’t allow a decent doze off in the waiting areas nor would the mind allow any measure of concentration to even read let alone attempt sudoku or crossword puzzles. Lying down on a soft hotel bed was bliss but sleep did not come easily. We arose at noon on Saturday and the taxi arrived at 1:00 pm to whisk us off to Alimos Marina where we boarded ‘Chocolate’ our Sun Odyssey 32i. With only a few hours remaining before shops closed for the weekend our first priority was to organise a new Wind contract and SIM card to enable an Internet connection. Georgia from SIB offered to do this for us while we went through the yacht briefing by the owner, Vassillis. Georgia later returned with the SIM card after which Yvonne and I headed to the local supermarket.
Saturday is always a busy day in Marinas, which are bases for yacht charter operators. Alimos was just that, so that when we arrived at the supermarket it had been stripped of many of the basic items we were looking to buy. Not to worry, we had planned to leave on Monday anyway so we would have time to revisit a supermarket before we left. I tried to run the new SIM card but only succeeded it ruining my USB T stick so when Georgia returned on Sunday morning she agreed return to the WIND office first thing on Monday to check out the T stick and SIM card and get a get a replacement for which ever didn’t work! By 8:00pm we had found the nice taverna that Yvonne and I had visited two years previously and enjoyed a great Greek dinner.
Sunday was a productive day. At first we slept in then managed to get a number of jobs done on Chocolate, which help to make things easier for us and the way we like to run a yacht. The cockpit locker on Chocolate was quite small and was crammed full of all manner of gear, not the least heaps of bulky heavy warps. Vassillis had taken several of these away on Saturday which eased some of the problems. I emptied the locker and repacked it, putting anything that we were unlikely to use away in the farthest corner, re-located the life raft (that was stored in the locker and not mounted in such a way that it could be deployed easily if required) and stacked those things that we would use on a regular basis in the most accessible places. The 2 warps that were currently holding Chocolate to the pier had very frayed ends so these were replaced, the frayed ends cut off and eyes spliced into the ends making them easier for later use. Our wind pennants were attached to the shrouds, the NZ flag raised on the halyard, the broom (cleaning decks etc) and boat hook, both normally carried in the locker were each tied to one of the legs of the back stay – close to hand and out of the way. Finally we measured the anchor chain, a surprising 70+ metres (8 lengths of the deck), and attached coloured electrician ties at each deck length (9+ metres).
We were slipping back into our old routines quite easily a couple of drinks after showering then off to the taverna. The proprietor was surprised to see us again as he thought we would have departed along with the other yachties, the bulk of last night’s patrons who had now departed. At first he seemed a bit aloof but later softened, his English was perfect and as the evening unfolded we discovered he was a classicist, a scholar of English, art, history and music. At one point he placed his bill under a glass then kept returning to our table, each time with a new food sample to try and finally a liqueur. In all we had a great evening.
So, Monday morning arrived as did Georgia with the news that my Telecom USB T stick was kaput and bearing a new Wind replacement. She hurried off having spent more time attending to our needs for an internet connection than she thought she should have done. We headed for a supermarket, filled our standard pantry inventory and returned to Chocolate. One last act before we left was to install the new T stick and establish an internet connection. The netbook installed the T stick ok but it could not find the proper phone connection, this did not bode well. We might again have to plead to Georgia for help. However, we could sort this out in 5 days time when we reached Skiathos in the Northern Sporades where we had arranged to meet her and collect two charts for our route down the Eastern Sporades.
We cast off at noon and motored Chocolate out onto a flat sea slightly ruffled by a light breeze from astern. Nothing to sail by so we pushed up the engine revs to 2500, turned on the autopilot and headed at 6+ knots southeast to Ormos Sounio, a sheltered bay beneath the headland of Cape Sounion upon which lies the relic of the Temple of Posiedon.
The trip was uneventful, the breeze filled in from ahead (always) and with the unwelcome shade from the bimini it was quite cool. Just on 4:00pm we dropped anchor onto good sand at the northern end of Sounio bay, where the pilot had recommended, spending the remainder of the afternoon in warm sun rapt with the view of the Temple nearby watching its mood changing as the sun set. Just before heading to bed I booted up the net book and to our delight the T stick worked and we could now establish an internet connection, Georgia would be most pleased.
Tuesday 30th April. The breeze of yesterday afternoon had died before we turned in, a light swell rolled into the bay and gently rocked Chocolate throughout the night. At 6:30 this morning a fresh breeze from the north developed and gusts funnelled into the bay shaking Chocolate vigorously. Not a cloud in the sky, outside it was warm, the weather internet sites, Posiedon and Windfinder both showed a strong northerly air flow in the region for the next 2 days at least.
We motored Chocolate out of the bay about 9:45 turning east around the headland then northeast up the channel between the mainland and Makronisi Island. The breeze from ahead at 15-18 knots was kicking up a steep chop. Chocolate slowly punched her way into the chop and breeze barely making 4 knots headway. After 2½ hours we gained the northern end of Makronisi where we could bear away on a heading of 40º towards Karistos at the southern end of the Island of Evia. The heading gave us room to sail, so with a reefed main and headsail Chocolate took off at 6-7 knots in 18-20 knots of breeze. She held this heading for nearly 2 hours until the breeze died leaving us to motor another 2 hours to Karistos.
Karistos lay in a deep bay quite sheltered from any wind from the north. We tied up stern to the town quay and, after coffee (tea) and biscuits headed off to reconnoitre the town and to pick-up a few supplies. Quite a pretty town, the flower beds were being planted and new spring shoots were sprouting on all the ornamental trees along the water front. The temperature on the pharmacy sign said 25ºC at 5:00pm.
Wednesday 1st May. Things didn’t start too well. I managed to get into Posiedon for a weather report which indicated today would be like yesterday, F5-6 out in the Aegean and similar in the south of the Evia channel. Then the netbook told me I only had 25 minutes left so I plugged into the inverter which immediately gave me a warning before cutting out. It was about 7:45am so I went up to the nearest coffee shop where the proprietor was happy for me to plug into power and recharge the battery. After asking around we managed to find an electronic shop where the technician tested the inverter in his car outlet and pronounced it ok so the problem belongs to the yacht, probably a fuse. The proprietor was thanked profusely, we gathered the netbook now charged from the coffee shop and headed off. It had been our intention to go outside the Island of Evia on our journey northwards but with the prospect of strong wind we altered our course and elected to go north up the Evia channel.
Motoring Chocolate out of the town basin onto a flat slightly ruffled sea we pulled on the headsail and motor sailed 3 miles to the mouth of the bay into a fresh breeze gusting to 30+ knots as we passed the headlands to the south of Evia. We reduced sail and kept the engine ticking over at 2000 revs, Chocolate made 7-8 knots through the gusts. We cleared the south west of Evia expecting the breeze to ease, it did after a mile or so and we began heading north. After half an hour we were punching into a steep 1-1.5 metre chop and 20 knots of wind going nowhere so we eventually flagged heading north and turned west across the Evia channel towards Rafia. When in more settled water, about 3 miles off, we checked the Pilot and found it did not recommend Rafia particularly in strong northerlies. We could only turn south now to a more sheltered port and the anchorage at Port Rafti, in so doing gave up 7-8 miles of northing.
Today had turned into a 6½ hour ordeal, which was about 2 hours longer than it should have been. At 6:30pm the wind was still whistling outside and Chocolate was weaving and rocking on anchor, but we are safe. We hunkered down trying to become immune to the gusts, the shuddering of yacht and the shrieking of the wind. Eventually the wind died down somewhat and it became a reasonable night with Chocolate rocking less severely.
Thursday 2nd May. A quick glimpse at Posiedon this morning said we were staying put all day, it was blowing F5-6 outside and going head to wind in these conditions were on a hiding to nothing with only an 18HP engine. A clear sky and a warm wind which started about 7 o’clock blowing 15 rising to 21 knots in this sheltered harbour. It shook Chocolate all day testing the holding of our anchor, luckily well bedded in sand.
I spent the morning trying to find the fuse box on Chocolate so that I might have some idea as to how to fix the problem of the dead socket and solve our dilemma as to how to proceed without being able to charge the batteries on our communication devices that we had become dependent on. It was to no avail, without a Sun Odyssey 32i handbook on board we were completely lost, in desperation we sent an SMS to Georgia and waited all day but got no response – sometimes an SMS from Greece to Greece via Vodafone NZ either takes a long time or gets lost on the way.
We hunkered down for the day testing our immunity to the wind shrieking in the rigging, the violent tugging on Chocolate as the gusts rose to 20+ knots and the constant rocking from the small bouncy wavelets kicked up with the wind. A game of cards called patients was aptly named, with which we survived the day. Later in the day, sitting back with a glass of Metaxa and Club Soda, we compared and contrasted the previous yachts we have had and commented that Chocolate was the only yacht that had had fans. That said we turned them on and eventually found that they worked off one of the cabin light circuits, interesting, we immediately plugged in the inverter and, to our delight found it too only worked if the cabin light circuit was switched on. Panic for nothing, pour another Metaxa and Soda and start looking at the charts as to where we will go tomorrow.
Friday 3rd May. Last night was relatively quiet. This morning Posiedon predicted the strong N-NW wind system in the Aegean was losing strength and by 9 o’clock this morning should be down to a F4 in the south entrance to the Evia channel and diminishing throughout the day. North of Rafina and before the narrows at Cape Marina the wind should be a subdued F1-2. We were tidied up and were ready to go by 8 o’clock, raising the anchor at 5 past and motoring out of Porto Rafti on a flat sea and 12 knots of true wind.
Outside the heads we turned north, the breeze now up to 13-14 knots on our starboard bow started to kick up a short chop. Chocolate pushed into the wind and waves, the 6 knots of boat speed at 2400rpm was knocked down to 5 knots. As we pushed northwards the true wind built to 15-16 knots, about par with Posiedon but as the morning wore on the true breeze at times reached 18-19 knots and the steep 1-1.5 meter chop knocked Chocolate back to 3 knots at times. We made about 12 miles in 3 hours, it was a bit frustrating, at one point the wind did subside to 12-13 knots and just when we thought the weather was in tune with Poseidon in came a few gusts and the wind speed built back up to 17-19 knots. We plugged on and our perseverance soon paid off. For the last 7 miles to the narrows the wind dropped to 12 then 10 knots, the sea reduced to a short half meter chop and Chocolate picked up to 5.9-6 knots of boat speed. We passed through the narrows and rounded Cape Marina about 12:30 then had another 13 miles to run into the small town and harbour of Karavos. Such a contrast from this morning, light 5 knot following breeze, flat glassy sea and hot sun.
Karavos is not a great yachting stop-over in fact there were no other cruising yachts to be seen. The old harbour, with its refurbished mole had been taken over by local boats and fishing trawlers; private moorings littered the basin and it took 2 circuits of the harbour to find a spot in which to moor that had at least a couple of boat widths between mooring buoys and lazy lines. We dropped anchor well out in the yacht basin to avoid old moorings and had laid out 50 meters of chain by the time we tied up stern to the outer end of the south-mole.
Coffee/tea and biscuits over we wandered through the small town, the quay being the main drag hosted many bars, coffee shops and tavernas. We found one small mini market that had most of what we would need although the pilot mentioned only limited supplies were available in this quite delightful little town.
Saturday 4th May. Karavos appeared to be shutting down last evening when we left the Taverna and returned to Chocolate and crawled into bed. Not so, we were rudely awakened a short time later by fireworks let off at the end of the mole right beside Chocolate, then the church bells tolled a solemn note and the disco at the root of the mole turned up the volume and boogied till 5:30 in the morning. This was the start of Easter weekend, events of which we were to inconvenience us later in the day.
A quick call to the only mini market for partial supplies, no eggs (strangely the taverna last night had no chicken perhaps the fox had been to town) no bread yet but could we wait a couple of hours. We bought what was available and at 10:30 released our mooring and motored Chocolate out onto a flat sea beneath a hot sun, turned on the auto pilot and worked on our suntans as we headed towards Khalkis and the feared sliding bridge.
Khalkis suspension bridge
Khalkis is the major town of the Island of Evia which is sited at the narrowest point between the island and the mainland, a separation of only 39.3 meters spanned by the sliding bridge. From the south, the Evia channel narrows considerably for 2 miles before the bridge, the passage through this narrow, shallow lake-like area is buoyed. At one point the channel narrows to about 200 meters where it is crossed by an overhead suspension bridge (clearance about 39 meters). We traversed this narrow section at a sedate 5 knots and when negotiating the narrows beneath the bridge encountered the fierce currents renown for this section of the passage. At 5 knots on the speedometer we were standing still and had to rev up to make headway. Later when in the basin moored to the quay before the bridge, were quite tossed around in the swirling current.
The pilot reported the eastern quay, where we had moored, was a permitted area to await transit through the bridge but we were instructed to move on as were in a secure customs area. We eventually motored around into the yacht basin where there were private moorings at two yacht clubs. No-one appeared at any point to help us, direct us or turn us away so we picked up a buoy in a vacant spot on the north side and moored bows to the pier.
It was now after 4:00pm, Yvonne and I hurried off to find the Bridge Authority with whom we had to register, pay the due fee and get instructions about traversing the bridge space when it opened some-time between 11:00pm and 3:00am; when the tidal flows were least. Attracting the attention of the only person still at work we were informed that, due to this being Easter the bridge would not be opening until Monday evening! Have a nice weekend.
More than a bit despondent we retraced our steps back to the marina and Chocolate, had a cup of coffee/tea with biscuit and mulled over what to do next. Do we wait and continue north or do we completely re-plan our trip based on more southern locations. We had already used up 3 of our 5 spare days so it was clear we would have to radically modify our north Aegean itinerary if we were to continue heading north. We had a couple of drinks, dinner with wine and decided to make a decision tomorrow.
Sunday 5th May. A quiet night and we slept in till 8 o’clock. Natural forces suggested we were going to stay here and continue north tomorrow. We were going to have to revise our original plan but in doing so we would probably be more in tune with what we can achieve by sailing as opposed to where do we want to be and need to use the motor.
After a late breakfast we set out to try and find the nearest diesel station then to visit the fort on the hill above the bridge on the mainland side of the channel. We had asked directions from several people as to the nearest gas station, we tried in vain to follow these but with little success. One strong lead from a dog walker we happened to meet took us across the bridge where we immediately spied a Shell station. It was closed but we imagined it should be opened tomorrow, diesel was advertised at euro 1.43 per litre.
Khalkis sliding bridge
We continued up the hill wandering along narrow roads and lanes following our instincts until we came to a paved walkway that eventually took us to the fort. This was a rather small fortification the centrepiece of which was a small chapel and a modern, roughly fabricated stage where presumably some theatre is performed. We retraced our path down the hill back across the bridge and when we came to the now quite familiar square we espied a Mobil gas station, it was open 24 hours a day and diesel was euro 1.34 per litre.
We returned to Chocolate for lunch, lashings of cold water and half a loaf of tear-apart bread that we had bought in Karavos. A beautiful sweet, soft plaited loaf, glazed with slivers of almonds on top. We rested for quite a while then bent to the task of getting diesel. Armed with a 20 litre carry can and the boat hook we walked 600 metres back to the Mobil station, filled the can and with it slung between us on the boat hook we staggered back to Chocolate and emptied it into her fuel tank. Three times we made the trip to the Mobil station until we had Chocolate’s fuel tank filled and had a reserve can of 20 litre of diesel. Back to where we started in Alimos. We had used 52 litres of diesel running the engine 27.5 hours; a consumption rate of 1.89 litres/hour. This was much better than the 3-4 l/h as suggested by the advisory notice in Chocolate. It was a bit of a high five-moment, in spite of the hour and a half of heavy hauling, profuse perspiration in the 30º+C heat we were well pleased with our days work. Biscuits and coffee/tea and a shower were great pleasures.
Adjacent to our mooring we had noticed that one of the water taps was open; we attached a hose and gave Chocolate a good wash down. It crossed our mind that if the water tap was open perhaps the power was also on, we connected the power cable and bingo we had shore power. We should sleep well tonight for tomorrow we can only expect an interrupted stressful evening when we transit the bridge at midnight, or thereabouts.
Tuesday 7th May. Last night was quite an experience. We sat up playing cards till 1.00am, twice we called Bridge Control for up-dates on when the bridge might open, once after midnight when we had been lead to believe opening might be about 12:30 and again 40 minutes later when we found the VHF had reverted to channel 16 (instead of 12) and we panicked in case we had missed the call. The call came about 1:30am just after we had made a cup of tea; that always spurs things along, tea down the drain we got Chocolate underway heading out of the yacht basin and joined two other yachts milling around near the entrance to the narrow bridge channel.
The lights on the bridge showed north bound vessels would go first. The bridge opened with a small freighter leading the north bound fleet followed by the 3 yachts when called, we came last. The town was a blaze with lights and thronging with people, it was still Easter holiday, the bridge was an attraction and we were well photographed as we passed through the narrow gap and headed over to the quay near the pilot berth mooring adjacent to one of several disco bars. This was going to be an unforgettable night.
Heading to Skiathos
Heading to Skiathos
Moored at the town quay after transiting the sliding bridge
It was quiet at 7 o’clock when I got up, Yvonne slept on for a bit but we were ready to get underway by 8:30. Long streaking cirrus clouds painted the sky and a breeze was blowing from the north. We motored down the buoyed seaway north of the bridge and into 9-10 knots of true breeze in the northern Evia channel. Clearing the rocks off a headland some 5 miles away and with more sea room we pulled on a reefed mainsail and full headsail, switched off the motor and for the second time in a week enjoyed sailing again.
The breeze held at about 9-12 knots true and Chocolate scampered along at 5+ knots. At one point the breeze softened and we shook out the reef in the mainsail but later it hardened and we pulled the reef back in. At our first tack I calculated we should run for 3½ miles before tacking again to lay the next headland. The breeze freshened further and we took 3 rolls off the headsail, in 18-20 knots of apparent wind Chocolate sat on 6½ knots. The freshening breeze lifted our heading by 50 degrees so that we held this heading for 6 miles before tacking again. After a couple of miles we ran into very soft air and languished about at 1 knot, while not more than 300 yards away a black line on the water indicated wind that never reached us. Motor on we closed the gap to find a breeze which now gave us a nice beam reach. Yvonne had Chocolate up to 5 knots, the breeze built, the helmsperson changed and the speedo sat on 6½-7½ knots with the wind indicator reading 18-20 knots of apparent wind. Several white horses came charging across the sea towards us and Chocolate lifted to these, surfing off them with the speedo hitting 8 knots. Yvonne fixed the safety harnesses before taking several further turns off the headsail. This took the pressure off and Chocolate dropped to a more sedate 5½ – 6½ knots with less heeling. Turning into Atalantis Bay brought the wind astern, we ran before this breeze for couple of miles before taking off all sail when our speed dropped below 4 knots and motored around to Skala Atalantis.
North Evia channel, our second sail in a week
Skala Atalantis is a small hamlet with a small harbour, just 2 moles extending out to sea without any real breakwater; although it is sheltered to some extent by the closeness of Atalandis Island. The pilot warns of silting (-2 meters) at the entrance to the harbour. We edged Chocolate towards the end of the north mole, depths came up to 2 meters quite quickly so we turned away moving across the opening and finding depths of 2.5 metres. Edging towards the harbour near the south mole the 2.5 meter depths held then increased to 2.8 meters in the harbour itself. Great, we now had to find a place on the wall where we could park Chocolate. The northerly breeze at 5-8 knots was going to be a bit of a problem, Yvonne dropped the anchor well out in the harbour and Chocolate crabbed her way over towards the north quay and a space clear of private mooring bouys, unfortunately a couple of anglers were displaced. One helpful fisherman and one other person took our lines and made them fast to bollards. A long spring from the bow, two stern lines and 50 meters of chain had Chocolate held quite fast.
It was now past 5 o’clock, a 40 mile day (including all the tacking), and were were ready for a cup of tea/coffee followed by a short walk around the hamlet. This was a collection of bars and tavernas along the seafront, none suffering any overuse syndrome as the tourist season was still 2 months away. The small harbour had a 20 ton fixed crane for hauling boats, several boats in cradles on the hard stand and a Coast Guard boatshed with a substantial RIB. Back to Chocolate for drinks and nibbles then, slightly dressed up, we made sure that one Taverna had at least two customers tonight.
Wednesday 8th May. This morning the sky has a large flat white covering of stratus cloud, no wind to speak of but the tide is lower than when we arrived yesterday so clearing our mooring and the harbour could be interesting. Breakfast over we readied Chocolate then started with a depth check, 1.9 meters on the depth sounder but we are floating. We released the spring and the head fell off a wee bit, we released the starboard (lee) warp and Chocolate drifted off the quay and to port, settling in 1.6 meters according to the sounder but still floating, good. We doubled the port warp climbed aboard, set the auto helm ahead and ran forward on very low revs, Yvonne retrieving the warp and calling the depths while I lifted the anchor. Chocolate drifted over depths ranging from 1.6 to 1.9 meters and we headed slowly to the end of the southern mole where we had found greatest depths when we entered yesterday. We cleared the harbour with 2 meters on the depth sounder; depths slowly became deeper as we headed away, free, great!! In retrospect the depth sounder sensor is beneath the hull near the centre line approx 0.4+ metres below water level so, with an overall draft of 2 meters Chocolate did have a bit of wriggle room before she would have bottomed out.
It was motor all day, west to the strait at Krimidhou, the narrowest section of the northern Evia channel where the tidal flow was quite significant and kept shifting Chocolate off course. For most of the morning a light breeze filled in from ahead, the sun lost its battle with the clouds and except for a few moments it was barely seen. Rounding Cape Kinaion into the Oreon channel we came into a 10 knot breeze on the starboard bow, enough to motor sail with the head sail giving chocolate a boost of 1 knot. This lasted 2 miles before the breeze shifted to directly ahead, we rolled away the headsail and battened down as heavy rain drops began falling. We managed to get the bimini up but not before we were both soaked. With 14 miles still to run before reaching Oreoi, our destination tonight, we plugged away into the wind eventually mooring to the quay in the harbour about 5:00pm.
Oreoi was where our Greek sailing began 32 years ago when we joined a 2 week flotilla. It might have been a sentimental return but nothing was really recognisable. The harbour seemed quite different and the quayside; with its wall to wall tarvernas were new although the streets perhaps had retained their old Greek charm.
Thursday 9th May. We got up a couple of times during the night, once to release the anchor as the tide was setting, the stretching warps had Chocolate creaking like a drum. And again when rain started and we dashed out to bring in washing we had left pegged to the railings. We slept in till 9:00 arising to a grey day with low clouds and an occassional drizzle of rain.
Poseidon indicated F4-5 for the Trikeri Channel at the North of Evia, our route to Skiathos and the Northern Sporades. We could have opted to stay put for the day and avoid a headwind bash but to do so we would reach Skiathos at the time when charter yachts change over and space on the quay would be limited. Furthermore, Georgia had arranged for us to meet Minas, the SIB contact, and pick up a couple of charts we lacked on board. Looking forward, Poseidon predicted north easterly winds of F2-3 for Friday, no wind for Saturday then a southerly flow on Sunday. This senario might well suit our goal of reaching the Chalkidiki peninsular in the northern Aegean without too much trouble.
We decided to press on today, so sent an SMS to Minas saying we should arrive in Skiathos about 5:00pm. After a quick call to the supermarket we cast off. Yvonne pushed Chocolate out of Oreoi into 15 knot wind and a short chop. Keeping the revs at about 2300 Chocolate made 5+ knots against the wind and sea. Heading northeast following the course of the Trikeri channel the winds continued to head us, strengthened to 17 – 18 knots and the frequency of the chop became more intense. We battled on, often a series of waves would knock us back to 3.9 – 4 knots but Chocolate always crawled back to 5+ knots. A trawler on our port seemed to be us kept company for a long while and eventually it became clear we were on a collision course and we had to give way, it sucked a bit loosing ground under the conditions we were in.
As the island of Skiathos became more visible the winds did lighten, the sea moderated and Chocolate started to make 6 knots headway and good mileage. Near the southwest of Skiathos the seas became quite rough and confused with several 2 meter waves. I figured this was a meeting point for the north-south current running between Skiathos and the mainland and the easterly seas kicked up by the wind, which by now had risen to 17 knots. At 4:00pm and 6 miles out from Skiathos we sent Minas an SMS saying were were about an hour away and duly entered Skiathos harbour at 5:00pm, spied Minas who directed us to moor alongside a 50 foot Beneteau. We really enjoyed the tea/coffee and biscuit.
Narrow streets of Skiathos
Skaithos generally resembled the place we knew 32 years ago but today the quayside is a string of bars, cafes, tavernas, a couple of tourist shops and a supermarket. We checked out the supermarket and the tavernas before heading into the maze of narrow cobblestone streets to find a tavern, one the locals might use at prices the locals like to pay. We did find one it looked nice and said we’ll be back later on. We promptly got lost and wandered about following promising leads often thinking would we ever find the marina again. I was a bit scary but eventually we located a couple of recognisable signs and trusting logic over intution we managed to extricate ourselves from the maze. More importantly we remembered the way back to the Taverna. It was a great Taverna and a great meal, far too much to eat at one sitting so we returned to Chocolate with a big doggie bag of leftovers.
Friday 10th May. The sky was a lighter shade of grey and a light breeze ruffled our flags. Yvonne and I made a quick outing to pick up postcards and a few supplies before we met up with Minas again. We had decided we would not now need the charts for Lesvos and Chios in the Eastern Sporades but Minas was able to get us a higher definition chart of the Northern Aegean. After checking one of the burners on the stove and pronouncing it normal he found water to refill our tank inspite of there being no water on the quay, refilled our diesel (26L for 12½ hours motoring was a 1.56L/h consumption rate) and helped us cast off just before midday.
The wind was still from the north – northeast, clear of the many islets about Skiathos we hoisted sail and Chocolate was rollicking along at 6+ knots on a fine lead heading southeast towards the bottom of Skopelos. The wind lightened as we moved across the Skopelos strait but Chocolate maintained 5 – 6 knots, the sea was a bit ruffled so she nodded along; it was great to sail in lighter winds with full sail. We covered the 9 miles to the south of Skopelos in good time before dropping into the wind shadow and then discovering the current was setting us backwards. It was cat and mouse with the motor on and off for a couple of hours as occassional gusts came off the hills of Skopelos enabled us to sail for 5 – 10 minutes at a time. Eventually we cleared the south of Skopelos heading due east at 4+ knots in 7 – 10 knots of wind, way south of our course to Rousoumi Bay which was adjacent to Patitiri on the island of Alonisis. As the afternoon wore on the clouds dissapated, the sun emerged, the breeze lifted through 70º and we ended up sailing directly towards Rousoumi Bay, motoring only for the last 2 miles. The super food we had brought back in the doggie bag from the Taverna last night re-heated in the oven was just as nice this evening.
Saturday 11th May. Not a cloud in the sky, Greece had returned. Chocolate nosed about on anchor sniffing out a light breeze from the south. Poseidon predicted light winds from the south for today and tomorrow which seemed to auger well for our final run northwards to the Chalkidiki. This was also our last internet connection for a couple of days. Our aim was to position ourselves in the secluded Planitis Bay at the north of the island of Kira Panayia, as this was the closest stepping off point for the run north – a distance of 40+ miles. With only a short 20 mile run today we launched the dinghy, rowed ashore and walked over the low hill to the village of Patitiri calling in at a neat little shopping centre on the way to buy lunch, a loaf of bread and a banana all for 1 euro.
Back on Chocolate we pulled up anchor just after 11:30am and motored out into a light breeze, the engine quietly ticking over and the headsail adding ½ a knot; we kept motor sailing when possible for most of the journey. The day was hot and there were few other boats about. Coasting along the east of Peristeri, south along Kira Panayia then north through the narrow strait to the east of Kira Panayia gave a sense of remoteness. The islands were barren except for the small Monastry on the east of Kira Panayia. The entrance to the anchorage at Plantis Bay is narrow and quite exciting to transit. Today it was calm but 32 years ago we recall it was quite exciting sailing into the bay through the narrow entrance with quite a large southerly swell behind us.
We checked out both anchorages that were recommended in the Pilot and, after trying to anchor in the southern arm of the bay we returned to the northern arm and anchored in the same place as we had done on our 1981 visit. Two fishing boat were moored to the shore nearby, a third trawler arrived shortly after us. It was a tranquil scene baring the cries of the seagulls and crows and the bleating of a small herd of goats. The rocky hillsides were interspersed with stunted shrubs; but for a small lonely cottage sitting near where the fishing boats were moored the place was quite barren.
Fisherman cottage in an otherwise barren Planti Bay
Narrow entrance to Plantis Bay, Kira Panayia
Chalkidiki in sight
Sunday 12th May. Last night was quite peaceful the fishing boats went out and returned, their wakes rocking us a little bit, we spun on anchor a few times as the light breeze boxed the compass. We arose about 7 o’clock to an overcast sky and as the last fishing boat headed out of the bay. Breakfast done we were ready to leave by 7:50, retrieving our anchor and motoring Chocolate out throught the narrow channel into a light breeze from astern setting her head on 345º towards Porto Koufo, 38 miles away at the southern tip of the Sinthonia peninsular.
It was an overcast day, 2400 revs on the motor maintained a steady 6 knots. An hour out of Planitis Bay the Coast Guard vessel turned up and took station about 30 meters away, a shouting session followed as we answered their questions as to where we had spent last night, where are we going and what was our nationality. They have a huge coastline to patrol and they are a first line of defense against people smugglers, given their assistance to us when we were caught in a meltemi 2 years ago with no motor we have a great respect for the Coast Guard. The auto helm took control all day, we compensated from time to time for an easterly setting current but never touched the helm until a couple of miles out of Porto Koufo. At one time we set the headsail and for an hour the breeze from astern added 0.2-0.4 of a knot to our speed. Later, the breeze came in on our starboard beam and the headsail again added 0.5 knots to our boatspeed. We carried this configuration until about 2 miles off the heads into Porto Koufo, a secluded harbour protected from all winds.
The pilot suggested several places where a yacht might moor to a quay or jetty. We cruised slowly by the quay noting many private lazy lines and unsuitable moorings, the larger jetty was taken over by fishing trawlers and one permanently moored 40 foot Beneteau yacht. Nosing into the basin beyond we, rapidly retreated when the depths rose quickly to 2.9 meters just as a shout from a concerned citizen reached our ears. We edged our way around a yacht moored stern to the end of the second jetty noting a space near the end, the depths again rose quickly to 2.9 meters, we turned Chocolate away from the basin but alas soft sand and mud foiled our exit the gentle sucking on the keel and the speedo that said zero was an unmistakable sign that we were stranded in less than 2 meters of water.
Hard astern did no good. Time to launch the dinghy with a 50 meter long line in tow I vigorously rowed to the jetty where a couple of bystanders had now gathered. We fastened the long line and heaved on it as Yvonne put Chocolate into full astern. She made a bit of ground then stuck again. I returned to Chocolate and fastened the main halyard to the kedge anchor and rowed out square to the mast, dropping the anchor and returned to Chocolate to winch in the halyard hoping to cant Chocolate over and raise the keel. We didn’t do so well but Yvonne noticed that the depth sounder was reading 1.7 meters and we should be afloat! Aha, the weighty bit protruding aft from the base of the keel must be the bit that was holding us firm. The long line was now fully tensioned with knot at the quay end and a crossed turn on the genoa winch, a handy pocket knife fixed that, freed from the quay we put Chocolate into slow ahead and helm to port, she responded and gently moved out into 3 meters of water, phew what a relief.
Port Koufo, hanging off the end of the pier
With a float on the kedge anchor we ditched it for the time being then moored at the only obviously clear space in the harbour, the one we had noted when nosing about. After retrieving the kedge anchor, tiding up all warps and lines used in the battle, finished a cup of tea the owner of the yacht moored to the end of the jetty, who had helped us throughout the fiasco, quietly informed us that we would have to move soon because this was the ‘private’ space of a charter operator and his 50 foot yacht. We did so choosing also to moor stern to the end of jetty, our port stern fended hard against the corner of the jetty and parallel to the other yacht off the end. The Pilot probably needs to reflect that there are now very few useable moorings for visiting yachts, areas once suggested as suitable may now be too shallow particularly when considering the tidal range.
A great day shattered by the mooring debacle needed a bit of de-stressing, Yvonne and I took a long walk firstly to find the supermarket 500 meters away from the small collection of tavernas that made up the waterfront, then over a hill to a bay with a long beach of coarse sand. On retracing our steps we had to waiting while a couple of goatherds slowly moved a large flock (100+) of milking goats off the roadside roughage and returned them back to their enclosure. We returned to Chocolate, had a drink then repaired to one of the tavernas for a really nice dinner.
Monday 13th May. We made a slow start to the morning. In the journey to get to the Northern Aegean, our goal, we seemed to have lost some of the lustre of Greece as we had known it. The days pushing against wind or with no wind at all, only three days sailing, overcast days and cool temperatures (baring a couple of days in Athens and 3 days in the Evia Channel), and the drama with mooring yesterday had left us a bit shattered. We pottered about, poured over Poseidon as to what we might expect for wind over the next few days, topped up the diesel tank on Chocolate then refilled the 20l can at the gas station, went on to the supermarket for bread & bananas for lunch and returned to Chocolate.
Did we want a holiday or were we to continue the ordeal of punishing ourselves to achieve what now seemed like too great an ambition. The former thought trickled to the surface. We would spend a few days here in the Gulfs of Kassandra and Singitokos, we were not looking forward to the slog around the sacred Atki peninsular so decided this was an unnecessary barrier. We would watch the weather patterns and when winds looked favourable we would head east to Limnos then, Evstratios and back to the Northern Sporades.
Port Koufo, rain
With the plan now readjusted we were starting to get under way when the thunder storm moving down the Sithonia peninsular arrived at Porto Koufo with buckets of rain that put the brakes on going anywhere right then. We had lunch and did a few puzzles then when all had cleared we left Porto Koufo motoring west towards Skioni on the Kassandra peninsular.
It was a glassy sea for the 7½ miles across to Kassandra before encountering 8 – 9 knots of headwind and a short chop. Chocolate dropped speed to 5 knots. We pushed on wondering why we were doing this. Our only chart for the area was more for the purposes of planning than navigating. I had estimated the distance would have been about 18 miles, it turned into 21 miles. The chart had place names but no definitive points but the pilot had the latitude and longitude, and chart details of Skioni appeared on the chart plotter when we were within 3 miles of the town. Lacking good coastal detail we had also kept about a mile off the coast which added to the mileage.
The harbour looked great, the Pilot noted shallow water in much of the basin and a yacht charter company had started operating from here. The charter yachts took up most of the north quay and a large trawler took up the rest. The inner part of the mole where depths were greatest was occupied by permanently moored yachts leaving a space between two fishing boats near the outer end of the mole. Dropping anchor in the entrance channel we moored stern to the mole near one of the fishing boats, a fisherman helped us indicating it was ok to moor there. Uncharacteristically the Pilot made no comment on the holding in the harbour; we later found that we needed to penetrate the heavy weed before getting into good holding in mud. A gust of wind from ahead tested our holding and we adjourned dinner to reposition Chocolate alongside the mole. Now well settled we finished dinner and went to bed.
Quayside at Skioni
Tuesday 14th May. Three o’clock this morning we were awakend by a bump and voices, looking out two fishermen were in the process of moving us so that a large trawler could moor in the space we were occupying. They were most helpful guys and very caring, towing Chocolate forward off the mole and reaffixing her alongside one of the moored trawlers. Another drama over, it was back to bed.
The morning was overcast with a northerly breeze and we were in no hurry. After a visit to the supermarket and topping up the water tank (our hose from the tap on mole now just reached Chocolate after last night’s relocation) we motored Chocolate out into the northerly breeze just before midday. The breeze was a good 15 – 17 knots, we pulled on a reefed main a full headsail and ran south doing 5½ – 6 knots with the wind on the starboard quarter. We stayed on this sailing angle for 7 miles until we could gybe onto port and lay Cape Paliouri at the southern-most point on the Kassandra peninsular. Soon we were in the wind shadow of the hills and ran out of wind but it had been a great 2 hour sail. Motor on we pushed along on a now flat sea to Nea Marmaras on the west of Sithonia peninsular, mooring to the pontoon amid a flotilla of Neilson yachts to enjoy the rest of the day.
Reaching south of Skioni
Wednesday 15th May. A glorious day when I awoke at 8:30am, breakfast at 10:30 felt more like brunch. We browsed the town again, post office for stamps, tourist shops for post cards, different supermarkets for better prices and bakeries for sticky buns, before stepping out for a longish walk to a church atop the hill above the town. This had a great view of Marmaras with a seat to sit on and munch a sticky savoury bun. We then walked back to town to find a sweet sticky bun, which we ate near the water front. As good as any birthday treat.
Broken pontoon, Marmaras
Life is not without its dramas. The Neilson flottilla had all departed by midday and with no yachts now on the town side of the pontoon to secure it, our anchor managed to pull the pontoon onto our stern. The pontoon was in very poor shape, it had broken near to where we were moored so that we had one warp on the near end of the pontoon and one warp on the outer end. We tied a rope between the broken ends of the pontoon and managed to stop any further bending and tighten up our anchor so that we were quite firmly moored again. On inspection, the outer (free) end of the pontoon only had 2 chains holding it to the seabed, all the rest had rusted away. The near end was more securely fixed to the seabed but was at an angle to the original line of the pontoon indicating some of the chains had also given way. The wave breaker pontoon forming the seaward edge of the harbour had broken at most of the joints and one section had been removed and was lying up on the quay near the fishing boat berths. The day finished with a great dinner at the nearest taverna.
Thursday 16th May. This morning it was slightly overcast with no wind. Poseidon predicted F2 rising to F3 from about midday and into the afternoon. We pottered about in the early morning then headed off to an ATM to withdraw a few funds but happened to chance across a market near the harbour. This was huge, we followed the line of stalls starting with fish to cheeses, wines, oils and veges through to general goods, shoes, clothes and we were well into the haberdashery before turning back, not anywhere near the end. We found a hand held kitchen sieve and at 1.5 euro it was worth it just to salvage the mesh to replace that which was slowly burning out on our toaster. Repairing the toaster helped fill in the morning until we raised anchor about 11:15am and motored Chocolate out onto a slightly ruffled sea heading northwards to Nitikas about 10 miles away.
After and hour and a half a breeze filled in and for 40 minutes Yvonne managed to make a mile or two sailing on a fine lead. The breeze was fickle and we ended up motoring the last 3 miles into a really nice marina, currently noted in the Pilot as a small fishing harbour with new finger pontoons. Depths seemed to be about 3 meters and we moored stern to the end of one of the finger pontoons, laying out an anchor obliquely to the pontoon so as not to engage with any lazy line but we did lift the nearest line and double up our bow fixing. The pontoons had water, power and there was a diesel pump near the office. The Marina manager made us a short visit and invited us to pay 10 euro at the Office, which was deserted each time we went by, but he kindly came to Chocolate with a receipt book in hand later in the afternoon.
The small resort, as described in the pilot, was actually a serious town. We followed a street away from the marina that had all manner of retail outlets, including engineering businesses. After a kilometre we came to traffic lights at the intersection with the main highway. Following along the highway we came across two large, modern custom built supermarkets with car parking and all manner of goods at real city prices, a temptation impossible to resist.
Friday 17th May. Another overcast morning and a breeze tugging at Chocolate on the mooring. We got underway about 10 o’clock with a wind from astern which chased Chocolate over her anchor as we were retrieving it then blew us out of the harbour. In 20 minutes were were a mile offshore, fenders stowed and with a reefed main and headsail turned south. The breeze at 17 – 18 knots over the deck came on the beam and Chocolate took off with the speedo sitting on 7+ knots. It was a great sail for about 2 hours before running into lighter winds and finally, just off Marmaras, no wind at all. We were in flat water doing 1.5 knots, not far ahead wind ruffled the sea but the line didn’t close on us so there must be major wind shift. With the main limp and the headsail rolled away we motored for 25 minutes to pick up the breeze now blowing from the south. Re-setting the headsail we began beating into the wind, first to clear the small island of Kelyfos then out into the gulf to clear a headland some 5 miles distant. As usual the wind shifted and the seas built, soon Chocolate was getting knocked by the building sea and later by the 1.5 – 2 metre swells rolling up the gulf. After 4 hours sailing and having made 19 miles on the clock we rolled away the sails and resorted to motoring the 11 miles back to Porto Koufo. This time we anchored in the bay as it was obvious the only free space on any quay had already been taken.
Narrow entrance of Port Koufo harbour
Saturday 18th May. A cool morning but clear sky, the decks were wet with dew and condensation on the outside of the windows obscured any views. We waited for the dew to dry from the spray hood and bimini before airing the linen. Five large trawlers moored at the fishing quay had quietly left during the night, small fishing boats puttered in and out of the harbour on a sea like a mirror.
We left just after 10 o’clock motoring Chocolate out through the narrow head of the bay then south around the bottom of the Sinthonia peninsular to the Singitokos gulf. A swell from the south had us rocking and slewing, at times quite violently. Rugged cliff faces of the south of the peninsular contrasted with the green tree covered rolling hills which make up the Kassandra and Sinthonia peninsulars.
The east of the peninsular was largely uninhabited, one or two small fishing villages tucked up in bays, a few caravan parks, camp grounds, a denuded hillside bearing the scars of a developers bulldozer, a growing ribbon of leisure property developments. The day was more or less cloudless, we worked on our suntans. When a breeze filled from the south the headsail boosted Chocolate along by half a knot. Near to 4:00pm we anchored in the delightful Dhimitriaki bay, sat out in the cockpit and watched the world go by on a few motorboats, a couple of yachts, a pair of jet skis and a two couples having a quite time on the beach.
Auto pilot to Dhimitriaki Bay
Sunday 19th May. A slow morning, clear sky, dew on the decks, the bay like a mirror. We lifted anchor about 10:20am and motored around to the small village of Panayia in the adjacent bay. The Neilson Flotilla lead boat was just vacating a spot on the town quay close to the water tap, we waited until clear then moored Chocolate, refilled her water tank, quickly cruised the town and picked up a few supplies at the Supermarket (open on Sunday) before casting off.
Two miles out of Panayia we had full sail up on Chocolate and in a 4-5 knot wind on the starboard beam started sailing at 2½ knots across the gulf to Ammouliani, 10 miles away. The sea in the gulf was flat baring a slight ripple from the light southerly breeze. We switched on the autohelm, the breeze stayed constantly on the starboard beam and Chocolate just trundled on at 2½ – 3½ knots. We worked on our sun tans. As we neared the island of Ammouliani the breeze picked up to 9 – 10 knots and Chocolate forged ahead at 5+ knots. In the lee of the island we downed sails and motored for the next 50 minutes, not the least to charge the batteries, to the small harbour at Ammoulani village.
The sheltered (inner) side of the quay was full and a local fisherman indicated we should moor on the outer side of the quay between two large trawlers. All was well even after the trawlers had left. The wind had dropped away and it was all calm until a fast moving trawler well out in the bay cast a wake that had us crashing against the side of the quay. Later another vessel did a similar thing so we up stakes and moved to the inner side of the quay mooring stern to the quay between two large tripper boats. This was an area generally reserved for these vessels. The outside of the quay is definitely not for yachts or light vessels in any weather.
Monday 20th May. A breeze from the north was ruffling the waters and strumming the rigging. The two tripper boats either side of us were anxious to know how long we were staying as they both wanted to leave this morning and, we think, they thought us a bit of a nuisance. It was 8 o’clock and all we wanted to do was fill the diesel can at the local supermarket then we would be off. There were variable opinions as to whether diesel was available here on the island but the locals were insistent that it was. We fronted up to the supermarket just after eight with our can and boat hook, the owner said wait 10 minutes, he found someone with a van and they took off with our can. He was back again in 20 minutes with a full can of 22 litres of diesel, we paid, he asked our boat name then jumped on a motorscooter and headed off to the quay with the full, a really nice and helpful person.
Colourful Ammouliani village
One tripper boat was about to leave when we returned to Chocolate, we waited to let it go which gave us a bit more space. We then made a polished exit. Negotiating the shallows to the south of the island of Ammouliani we followed the coastline south along the Akti peninsular. It was very hazy, the sun did manage to burn through the haze but visibility was low. We wanted to cruise passed the first 5 of 17 monasteries on this rugged peninnsular which has existed as a world unto itself for more than 10 centuries. Whilst the original buildings may date back many centuries modern day contruction was apparent at two of those we passed. High rise construction cranes were being used in the building of multi-storied blocks which could have been for accomodation. The monasteries were quite spectacular. At one point we failed
to observe the 500 metre exclusion zone and were warned off by the administration authorities. When we had reached Dhafni, the administrative centre for the peninsular we had seen all we wanted to see so turned west and headed out across the gulf to Sikias bay on the Sinthonia peninnsular.
Ammouliani, trawler with accompanying tug boat
We were on motor for most of the day except for 40 minutes when half way across the gulf a breeze from the south became strong enough to sail. As the wind died we saw a fin emerging from the water from time to time. It wasn’t the dorsal fin of a dolphin or shark, or the flipper of a turtle. It was dark and the body of what ever owned it seemed quite large. It remained submerged and moved quite slowly resembling the fin and antics of a large ray. We checked the Pilot which said Greek stingrays are small bottom dwellers, so who knows what it was.
We made it into Sikias bay just before 3 o’clock, cruised by the Skala Sikias, which was crowded with small fishing boats and one anchored yacht, then headed over to one of the anchorages noted on the north side of the bay. This seemed reasonably sheltered so we settled on anchor in 5 meters of cool water surrounded by a sandy beach with a few deserted caravans parked amongst the trees. The weather window looks ok for tomorrow so we intend to set off reasonably early for the 50 mile trip to the island of Limnos.
Monastery on Atki Peninsular
Atki Peninsular with Mt Athos
leaving the anchorage at Sikias
Limnos to Skiathos
Tuesday 21st May. We left the charming bay of Sykias at 8:30 set Chocolate on a heading of 100º at 2400 revs (6 knots), switched on the autohelm and sat back wondering how to fill in the next 8½ hours. It was a very hazy day, the sun only just made it through the heavy over head cover. Mt Athos, a 2000 metre peak only 18 miles away, was totally hidden. The sea was flat, slightly ruffled by a light 2 knot zephyr and after 6 miles the Sinthonia peninsular that we had left just an hour ago was almost obscured by the haze.
There was little to provide any distraction, one trawler off Athos, later in the day a Turkish warship patrolling the sea lane to the Dardanelles, 2 freighters crossed our stern by some miles heading north. Navigation provided a point of interest, a north setting current in the mouth of the Singitikos gulf carried us 2 miles off course, we made a correction to the heading, later when freed from this current we corrected back to our first setting. Athos came into view off our port side part way across the Singitikos gulf and stayed with us for most of the day. By mid afternoon a 6 knot breeze filled in from the north, the headsail added ½ a knot to Chocolate as we motor sailed for the next couple of hours. We finished a number of word puzzles, consumed a couple of bottles of water and eventually Limnos started to appear on the horizon. After 8 hours 40 minutes and 52 miles we moored stern to the town quay of Myrina.
Wednesday 22nd May. Myrina is the main town on the island, typically Greek and not too tainted by any tourist industry. The main shopping street, once a narrow road characteristic of these towns, was now a mall but the shops and boutiques had dressed up the buildings which had retained the old charcter. A short chat with the owner of the adjoining yacht suggested we look carefully at Posiedon for the weather over the next 2 days – quite strong southerly winds were predicted.
We thought that we should take today off but looking at Thursday’s forecast it suggested that we should stay put for 2 days at least. Not to worry, we were keen to look at the great bay of Moudhros. Although we had planned to sail there it would have been unlikely that we would have gone ashore at the town of Moudhros where there were still relics from when the Gallipoli campaign was launched. As the tourist season had yet to start and no tours were operating we could catch a local bus that would leave Myrina at 7:20am and return at 12:30, this seemed to fit the bill. Now having a plan for the next couple of days we struck out for a tour of the surroundings. The castle atop a craggy rock dominates the town so in the heat of the day Yvonne and I trudged uphill to make the customary visit. Later our next call was to the chapel on the hill to the south of the entrance to Myrina harbour, glinting in the sun its white walls and roof gave it an ethereal look.
Back to the quay, Chocolate had acquired a couple of neighbours with a third new yacht a few spaces along the quay, sheltering from the anticipated blow no doubt. Late afternoon there was much checking of warps and anchor chains, one yacht decided it might be better to leave the quay and went out to anchor in the bay. We felt comfortable as we had dropped anchor in 8+ metres of water and laid back on 45 metres of chain when we moored. We did put on a couple of springs and Chocolate rode the rising breeze and swell like a veteran. We went to bed only to be awakened at 1:30am by the adjacent boat wanting to leave the quay. Its anchor had dragged and was now hard against our port side. We fended off as it made its getaway only to hear the ugly grinding of crossed anchor chains. They lifted our anchor so when we were freed we drifted on to our other neighbour. In a hurry we gathered in the now loose chain which fortunately reset the anchor and pulled Chocolate into a stable position stern to the quay again, al beit with now only 30 metres of anchor chain out. We sat on anchor watch for 2 hours but the scope (30 metres) was too short, the wind 10 – 15 knots on our bow was oscillating 30º alternately pushing Chocolate to port then starboard which gnawed away at out anchor and our stern warps slowly drooped. At 3:00 am there was no point in keeping anchor watch all night so we had to leave the quay if we wanted to get any sleep. Extricating Chocolate from the quay we motored out across to the more sheltered side of the bay, dropped anchor and 60 metres of chain, went below and back to bed confident we were going to hold.
Thursday 23rd May. Chocolate rocked in the waves and tugged away at the anchor for the rest of the night, morning dawned with not a cloud in the sky, just a southerly wind rising to a steady 25 knots by midday. Suffice to say we were not on the bus to Moudhros bay this morning. Not much to say really, a few word games, many hands of patience, six o’clock came around so the drinks came out followed by dinner and a glass of wine, we watched the sun setting behind Mt. Athos 40 miles away, checked the anchor then crawled into bed.
Sun setting behind Mt Athos
Friday 24th May. Last night was ok until early this morning when the wind changed to the southwest and brought with it a large swell directly into the harbour; we were in the direct line of the swell. Wind will make the yacht shudder, make the rigging sing, make the yacht twist and turn at anchor but a swell really sets a yacht rocking and this morning our previously safe anchorage was untenable.
With a 12 – 17 knot wind on the beam it was a tricky job returning Chocolate stern to the quay but we managed with the help of a yachtie on shore taking our lines. It was now 8 o’clock and time for breakfast. We needed diesel, a new month on the ‘Wind’ internet card and a couple of things at the supermarket. But first, after trying the electricity card that we had purchased on Tuesday but had to disconnect when we departed the quay early Wednesday morning we found it now had zero euros on it. Off to the office we went to plead for a return of lost credit. The kindly man who spoke no English understood our dilemma and reinstated 5 Euros so we could recharge Chocolates batteries and refill her water tank. We located the Shell gas station and negotiated with the owner that if we brought our 22L diesel can would they fill it and deliver it back to Chocolate, they agreed. We then trooped off to the supermarket for the supplies, returned to Chocolate, emptied our full diesel can into the main tank, headed back to the Shell shop calling into the Wind shop on the way, then returned to Chocolate courtesy of the Shell owner.
Myrina converted mall
The swell rolling into the harbour was still quite wicked. Posiedon had predicted F5 reducing to F4 winds outside the harbour so we decided to leave for Moudhros Bay, about 18 – 20 miles away. It was midday when we released our lines and picked up anchor. We cleared the adjacent yachts ok freed the anchor then Yvonne pushed on the gas and got Chocolate moving into the wind and heading into the 1 – 1½ metre close frequency swell. Chocolate rose up and down like the perfect playground rocking horse, but his was not a rocking horse or a playground and at 2500 revs she was just making 3.6 knots. It seemed a long time before we cleared the confines of the harbour and made enough distance off shore before turning south around Limnos towards Moudhros bay.
It was a perfect day, not a cloud in the sky, the deep blue sea, a tourquoise flash of breaking white caps, sun glinting off the sea, the wind a steady 15 – 18 knots over the deck. The swell boosted by waves rose to 3 meters leaving great gaping holes in the sea. There was no rhythm to the waves, the sea was very lumpy and disorganised like an angry frustrated crowd having no leader and not knowing where it should be going. Chocolate was tossed around for the first 5 miles until we started to make some easting along the south coast of Limnos. The sea began to moderate; now coming from behind it added a knot to Chocolates 6 knots on motor. The entrance to Moudhros bay came up quite quickly and we found refuge tucked up under the low hills in Tarrant bay on the south side of Moudhros.
The surrounding low hills gave the bay no real protection from the wind but there were no waves and no swell once inside the wide mouth of Moudhros. A barren countryside with no trees just a few scattered houses and buildings, the small town of Moudhros and two other small clusters of houses. This bay has been said to be one of the finest fleet anchorages of the Northern Aegean, it was the bay from which the ANZACs and other assembled forces began their assalt on Gallipoli in 1915, some 60 miles away.
We filled in the afternoon; the warm breeze took care of drying the washing; another yacht joined us in the bay for the night; we had a couple of drinks, then dinner, then bed.
Saturday 25th May. The rigging sang all night, sometimes quite loud and we did get up about 3:30am when the wind changed to the west and the breeze freshened. Generally we had a restful night and the morning dawned with a typically cloudless sky, sun pouring through the companionway and the breeze ruffling the water. We pulled up anchor about 9:30am motoring Chocolate the 4 miles out to the entrance of Moudhros bay. A breeze came from the south but we waited until we were clear of the entrance before putting on any sail, not knowing how strong and from what direction the breeze might come once we were out to sea. Perhaps it may have been better to have put up sail in the relative calm of the bay as the jumble of waves, the swell and the cross current made doing so quite difficult today.
Evstratios lay to the south west with the breeze coming directly from it. We started out on a starboard tack with reefed mainsail a full headsail and 15 – 18 knots of wind over the deck. We shook out the reef after 3 miles, tacked then tacked again several times during the day only making slow progress towards Evstratios. The wind stayed in the 13 – 17 knot range but the swell and confused sea close to the island of Limnos often had us almost stopped. The waves and swell became more regular the further we got from Limnos. As we closed on Evstratios the breeze began to head us on both tacks, a frustrating feature of trying to sail dircetly upwind to an island. Eventually we gave up sailing and motored into the small port, mooring alongside the quay in the company of 2 other yachts.
A couple of locals helped us tie up, quite overjoyed as we were the first yachts that had visited the port (island) this season. Just as were getting comfortable, with full cups of tea/coffee the ferry was due to arrive and we 3 yachts would have to move while the ferry berthed. It would only be for 15 minutes so we scuttled out to sea and motored around in circles for a more than half an hour. It soon became apparent that the ferry was not going to leave today, as we had been lead to believe and we returned to the quay and reattached ourselves. Due to the southerly wind the ferry needed to whole of the quay to remain steady while it moored at the base of the quay. Ordinarily mooring in the more common northerly wind could have been done without inconvenience to us. Yvonne and I scouted the small village for a supermarket, one of two, and a taverna for the evening, one of two open at this time of year and enjoyed eating out ths evening.
Sunday 26th May. Poseidon predicted south to south east winds for today which seemed ideal for a run back across to the Kira Panayia in Northern Sporades. However, a couple from one of the other yachts intending to do the same thing seemed to have different information suggesting we might strike head winds all the way! The morning dawned clear, now quite usual, and the breeze still seemed to be in the south but Posiedon was down because no maps appear this morning and Windfinder seemed to back up the soft westerly wind prediction. However, just before leaving the couple we had spoken with last night told us Posiedon was now back up and they were opting for its prediction. We waited until both other yachts left so we could move Chocolate back down the quay close to the water tap and top up her tank. We got under way 20 minutes later.
The sea was quite choppy with a 10 knot breeze from the south. We motored out clear of the headland noting that both yachts ahead of us were now sailing. We pulled on sail as soon as we could and were looking forward to a good sail. The mainsail wouldn’t hoist beyond the first reef so we left it there, pulling on the headsail and getting under way. The breeze became too light for a reef especially with the chop so we tried again to hoist a full mainsail but the shackel holding the main halyard came away from the head of the sail, the sail collapsed and the halyard swung happily from the top of the mast. On went the motor, we tidied up the sail and had to be happy with motor sailing for the remainder of the journey. With the motor at 2000 revs Chocolate would normally scuttle along about 5.3 knots but in this sea and breeze she would have been knocked back to no more than 4½ knots. So, keeping the headsail working away hard on the wind Chocolate barrelled along at 6½ knots slowly gathering in the 2 larger yachts ahead. The is was to be a 46 mile day, after 20 miles we had caught up with the others, mind you they were truely sailing, and in the 17 – 18 knot breeze at that time we passed them both, Chocolate was hitting 7½ knots. We anchored back in Planitis Bay at the northern tip of Kira Panayia in the Northern Sporades just after 4:30pm.
Thinking that we would not get back to Skiathos until Tuesday how could we retrieve the halyard at the top of the mast. We had a bosuns chair and Yvonne volunteered to go aloft to try and do the job. We surveyed the mast head through binoculars and could see that the shackle with knotted halyard was held up at the exit block and should be easily retrieved. So, we unrolled the headsail and pulled it out of its track so we could use the only other halyard on Chocolate. After fitting Yvonne into the bosuns chair, designed for someone 2 – 3 times her weight and fitting her safety harness, we tied the halyard to the fittings and started to take up the slack. We had reeved the headsail halyard through turning blocks back to the winch on the cabin top but now with the halyard down at deck level it no longer reached the winch! Fat lot of use having a bosuns chair. After all of that Yvonne, who was really not too happy with the ride to the top of the mast anyway, was pleased the plan wouldn’t work. The headsail went back on, every thing got tidied away and one of us went for a swim.
Plantis Bay, Kira Panayia
Monday 27th May. Today was bright and sunny again with a light breeze keeping Chocolates’ nose pointing to the north. Posiedon, at our last visit had predicted that winds would turn to the north last night, ending a week of southerly winds. Many others must have thought similarly as several fishing boats and a large motor launch had pulled in here last night as well but they had all left by 6 o’clock when I got up to turn the anchor light off.
We were out of mobile phone coverage in this beautiful bay so we could not verify Posiedon this morning. Once we had left, motoring north around Kira Panayia heading to Skopelos, the winds followed the direction we were heading and settled in from the southwest. We trundled on at an idle pace making 5.2 knots on a very sloppy sea. It was too sloppy for the auto helm to manage so we alternated helming Chocolate. The partial bimini completely shaded the helmsperson creating a cold unforgiving position today so it was a great relief to sit down in the cockpit in the sun for a warm up.
Skopelos was a revisit from 1981. The greatest changes appeared to the harbour, now enlarged with plenty of yacht moorings. There were many spaces when we arrived about half past two but later, even as late as after 8 o’clock, yachts kept arriving. While it is no where near the height of the season right now this would be a very busy and crowded harbour in July/August especially when the comings and goings of the fishing boats, large ferries, small freighters and tripper boats are taken into account. Notwithstanding the fame of Skopelos created by the film setting for Mama Mia, the postcards said it all, it is a most quintessential Greek island.
The shops, houses and narrow cobbled streets of the town look little changed since our visit in 1981 although many of the houses have been converted into boutique shops. Wandering through the old town we came across shops in almost every narrow lane and back street. Back on Chocolate we sat in the cockpit and watched a procession of large 40 – 50 foot yachts mooring up, supped a drink wondering if the loud music blasting across the harbour was from a yacht full of yuppies or a comunity service. It turned out to be a practice session for the inaugural music festival of Skopelos featuring Greek music. A small stage and seating area had been cordoned off near the base of the quay and as we headed off to a taverna a musician was tuning up a traditional stringed instrument playing a very Greek number. On our return the festival was in full swing, there was a fair crowd and great music but it was cold standing out in the breeze so we headed back to Chocolate hoping the music would carry the 100 meters. Unfortunately it didn’t.
Tuesday 28th May. Bright morning but the blue sky bore a few streaky clouds which increased during the day turning to an overcast sky through which the sun did break from time to time. Not a busy day, we left the quay about 10:30 and motored north around the island of Skopelos, passing the little church on the rocky outcrop which featured in the Mama Mia film. Along the east of Skopelos the sea was flat and glassy until we turned at the north of Skopelos when we pulled on the headsail and managed a short motorsail. Crisa, one of Minas’ team, was on the quay in Skiathos to meet us. She directed us to a berth and opened the water cabinet to refill our water tanks. We made a leisurely call to a largish supermarket where the drinks cabinet became the main recipient of the purchases, some of which should see us through to the end of the cruise. After finding a tube of superglue we had a productive time repairing one or 2 breakages. Minas should be here first thing in the morning to help retrieve the main halyard.
Skiathos to Gavrion
Wednesday 29th May. Minas arrived on the midday ferry returning from business in Athens. He assessed our situation then scaled the mast using the tried and true grip and pull method until defeated by the greasy section above the spreaders. We, a mechanic on an adjacent yacht and I, rigged the bosuns chair pulled it to the spreaders, Minas climbed in, then winched it to the top of the mast from where Minas retrieved the halyard. He then replaced the original halyard shackel, declaring the old one kaput, we tidied up Chocolate and were ready to leave soon after.
Minas retrieving the halyard
A F4 northerly wind was scheduled to die down later in the afternoon but a southerly of some force should develope in the evening. This didn’t seem to reconcile with the predictions of Poseidon. We weren’t too happy with the prospect of staying in Skiathos if a strong southerly eventuated; Wednesday last week when we had bad weather in Limnos Skaithos had F7 winds 2 metre waves at the quay and the outer floating pontoon, with yachts attached, was blown adrift.
The south arm of Panormos Bay on the west of the island of Skopelos seemed to be the ideal spot, sheltered from the north and south. We motored out of Skiathos pulled on the headsail for a 1 hour reach across the Skopelos strait and into the south arm of Panormos Bay. The bay is quite deep but the depths come up quickly close in to the shore. We cruised the edge at the 3 – 4 meter depth, found a good spot on the west side clear of 3 other yachts and dropped anchor in 9 meters of water, reversed back to the shore stoping in 3 meters then swimming 10 metres or so to attach a line to a large rock on the shore. We were very sheltered, we had coffee/tea, someone slept in the sun, later drinks and nibbles then dinner. It was a very peaceful spot.
Thursday 30th May. There was not a sound or any movement during the night. The water was like glass when I got up to turn off the anchor light at 6 o’clock, then crawled back to bed. Eight o’clock when I got up Chocolate was rocking slightly as a light breeze ruffled the water. A 9:45am early swim released the long lines from ashore before motoring Chocolate out into a 12 knot breeze from the southwest. Sails up, it was good to see two big white things aloft again, and we started to make 5 knots on the wind for a mile before we needed to resort to the motor again. Once clear of the currents along the south of Skopelos we managed another half an hour sailing before the wind died and it was motor on for the rest of the way to the south bay on the island of Skantzoura, an uninspiring journey broken for a few seconds when we encountered 3 pairs of dolphins.
South bay Skantzoura
The south bay on Skantzoura is a narrow cove open to the south with good depths throughout the bay. We dropped anchor in 9 metres and laid out 45 metres of chain to rest in 4 metres of water. A quick swim had us tied to a rock about a boats length from the shore then after launching the dinghy we had Chocolate secure to the opposite side of the bay with another long line. It was mid afternoon with hardly a breeze, the water over the sandy bottom was turquoise, the low rocky hillsides were covered with low Cyprus shrubs, small plants and grasses. The island was uninhabited and very barren. I went ashore for a walk and a photo shoot then dropped into the water for a snorkel around the bay. By five o’clock a breeze had sprung up from the southeast, not too unexpected from Poseidons prediction this morning, it built to about F5 and the wind was deflected into the bay pushing Chocolates bow to port. We watched for a while and although the anchor was in sand and holding we decided to set the kedge anchor off the starboard bow to control some of the swinging as the shore was just a boat length off the port side! That done the breeze from the SE lessened, but the after swell rolled into the bay and kept us rocking away. Later a lighter breeze developed more from the south which helped to keep Chocolates head pointing directly out of the bay.
Friday 31st May. This morning there was a slight breeze from the south and a little bit of rocking from a light swell. We were up by 6:30am and began to unleash ourselves from our various attachments in the anchorage. First we had to retrieve the kedge anchor; I picked up the line and chain by dinghy and freed the anchor from the sand. Yvonne pulled the line and dinghy, with anchor trailing back to Chocolate, where we could lift onto the deck. We tidied the line and stowed the anchor. Next we retrieved the long line, which was taking no strain at this time – dingy to the rock untie the line Yvonne then pulled us back to Chocolate and we stowed the long line. The shorter of the shore lines was taking a lot of strain from the light breeze so we needed to be quick retrieving this and making our get away as Chocolate would drift as soon as the line was released. We stowed the dinghy and I had another early morning swim to the shore, untied the line, and swam quickly back to Chocolate which by now had drifted out into the middle of the bay. Back on board it was up anchor and in a few minutes we were out in the open sea with a 10 – 12 knot breeze from behind. It didn’t take long to get the sails up and for a short time we sat back with the speedo recording about 5 knots.
Our heading was 130º but the breeze was backing all the time and to beat the swell we needed to reach closer to the wind otherwise the wind kept getting knocked out of the sails. After 2 hours and about 7 miles were were heading at 190º degrees, we gybed into really light air so took in the sails and turned on the motor. We still had 22 miles to go to Linaria on the Island of Skiros. Before dousing sail though we were entertained for a short while by a pod of dolphins. Later on while motoring we came across another pod of 10 – 12 dolphins, that really wanted to play and show off. They dived beneath Chocolate, surfaced at the bow, porpoised from all directions and at least three stayed with us for a full 20 minutes (2 miles). They were great entertainment. Perhaps the area around Skiros, which is a marine reserve, has been successful in restoring the dolphin population. Over the past few years we had noticed a decline in the number of sightings.
Mid afternoon we rounded the end of the breakwater to Linaria harbour wondering what we would see as the pilot didn’t have an enthusiastic write up on this harbour. To our surprise and delight we were whistled over to a berth, handed a lazy line, made secure and invited to use the power, water and we could also have a wifi password if we wanted. The small hamlet was the ferry port for the island. On the quayside were 2 or 3 shops, 3 tavernas and a couple of supermarkets. For dinner we crossed the quay from where Chocolate was moored to a taverna. While there a ferry arrived and for a short while our table on the quayside seemed to be on a major roadway as cars and truck disgorged from the ferry and proceeded onto Skyros town.
Saturday 1st June. At 8 o’clock I heard the owner of the neighbouring yacht start his engine so I got up to help him away. He was on his own with a 41 foot yacht and the light breeze was blowing him across our mooring, 2 other yachts had also departed by this time. The day looked great and it was tempting to stay here for a day. On consulting Poseidon, tomorrow looked a bit grim so that if we did stay today we may be locked in for 2 days. Todays wind looked ok for the run back to Evia and to the town of Petries.
Moored to the quay, a public thoroughfare, Linaria
We scuttled about and by 9:40 were ready to leave, motoring Chocolate out into a 10 – 12 knot northwest breeze on our starboard beam. This breeze was predicted to die down to F1 – 2 by noon to be replaced by a F5 southeasterly by 3:00pm. The run to Petries was about 32 miles and rather than try to sail we motor sailed, the motor giving us 6 knots and the headsail adding another 0.7 – 1 knot. Early this morning the sky had a few streaky cirus clouds, as the day wore on the cloud cover intensified especially from the south and by midafternoon the cloud cover was almost total.
Almost on cue, by 11:30 the breeze had dropped to nothing, we rolled in the headsail and motored on for an hour when the breeze, having turned through 180º returned now on our port beam. On went the headsail again and Chocolate lept up to 7 knots. The wind built to 12 knots true and remained in this quarter, Chocolate reeled in the miles sitting on 7.2 knots for the next 2 hours to moor up in Petries harbour in the only small space available.
Petries, Chocolate wedged between three trawlers
Petries was a quiet fishing village, the outskirts increasingly showing the signs of new leisure properties. The waterfront houses came right down to a white soft sandy beach, something which is not at all common in Greece. The harbour was quite a utility; the quays were stacked with fishing nets, boats moored to almost every inch of the quay and large trawlers double berthed. The fishermen were a generous crowd, they were happy for us to moor stern to the quay in a space about twice our width between 3 trawlers, 2 of them double berthed. The quay was a busy scene with fishermen repairing nets, loading and stacking them onto the the boats so that they can be set easily when at sea. Eight o’clock in the evening was leaving time for the larger trawlers, each with its own ‘tug’ boat that strained to pull the vessel off the quay and when clear and under way the tug chased the mother boat, the boatman attached a line to the stern and expertly jumped aboard the larger vessel all as the boat was gathering speed.
We had the harbour to ourselves for the night although we had lost the wind shelter of our previous neighbours. The breeze from the south turned to the north during the night and slowly worked away on our anchor. We were awakened at 3:00am with a gentle bump on the stern; we had been blown back to the quay. Foruitiously the fishing boats were returning, we took up chain on the anchor but our stern lines still slackened. We could not leave the quay to re-anchor while the harbour was alive with returning boats. The fishermen saw our plight and suggested we take up more chain, I think they knew that the holding was not so good where we had dropped our anchor. We did as they suggested and got a better bite but for insurance they also took a line from our bow and tied us to the stern of one of their trawlers to help hold us in the breeze.
Sunday 2nd June. We studied Poseidon intently and figured that today would present as good a weather window to get to our next goal of Gavrion on the island of Andros, a journey of 45 miles through some of the windiest coast of Greece. It had rained off and on during the night and the morning was overcast with dark clouds to the south but Poseidon predicted the winds were not expected to be strong.
We were away by 7:30, an early rising fisherman cast off the long line from the trawler and Yvonne motored Chocolate out of the harbour heading 125º towards Cape Kafireas on the southeast corner of Evia. Within half an hour we had a nice 10 – 12 knot breeze from the east on our beam, on went the headsail and Yvonne had Chocolate motor sailing at 7 knots and starting to slide around in the growing swell. It wasn’t long before we had to depower, more because the shackel holding the foot of the headsail to the roller reefing had come adrift. We took a couple of rolls in the headsail to secure it and dropped the engine revs, Chocolate slowed to 6½ knots and became more controllable in the 1 – 1.5 metre waves coming on our port quarter. We made good distance before the wind backed to the north to come directly over our stern, we rolled in the headsail but still made a good 6 knots to round Cape Kafireas just after 4 hours and headed into the Kafireas Strait. The wind dropped to nothing at this point as Poseidon had predicted but, on cue, turned to the south and developed into a F4 – 5 which was stronger than expected. It was a slow upwind slog through the strait, the procession of 8 freighters did provide a different point of interest, and we eventually reached Gavrion at 3:15pm.
The ferries were huge, Gavrion
Gavrion was also a working port being the main ferry terminal for Andros. One ferry departed as we entered the harbour, two other ferries came and went within an hour of us mooring up. Another 2 returned about 7 pm and the last ferry passed through at 9:30pm. They were quite huge, especially from our point of view, nosing into the harbour and swinging away from the dock dropping an anchor as they went. Stopping then going astern to rest just off the dock; holding with the engines running slow ahead, two heavy lines at the stern. The rear door was on the dock as soon as the stern lines were attached; cars, truck and passengers disgorged and an equal number waiting on the quay clambered aboard, the turn around was less than 10 minutes.
This was quite a busy place even for a Sunday with many weekend travellers. The bars and tavernas seemed to be busier than we had seen elsewhere on this trip but there was only one other yacht in port. Yacht facilities, such as power and water connections had been installed but most were now out of order. We found one power plug that worked and 2 hose taps only just dribbled. Chocolate was filthy from a red dust that that always seems to occur when it rains and was in dire need of a wash. We’ll have to sort this out tomorrow.
shopping in Gavrion
trawler in Petries with tug boat
Monday 3rd June. The surge from the first ferry got us out of the bunks. The day was glorious and Poseidon predicted no wind to speak of. I tried the water taps again but not even a dribble came out. We transferred the diesel from our can into the main tank and started siphoning water from our 30 litre can into Chocolate when Yvonne tried the water tap on the quay again, water gushed out. A whoohoo moment, we wouldn’t have to carry both the water and the diesel cans over the road to the gas station, only the diesel one.
Using the diesel mop up rag we tried to remove some of the black tyre marks from Chocoate, scars from tyre fenders often fixed at many ports and very useful in protecting from violent surges which occur when heavy or fast vessels pass by. Using the ample pressure from the water tap, now open, Chocolate got a good wash. We unrolled the headsail and tied the foot down to the roller, hoping this might hold for the next couple of weeks then did some shopping.
After lunch we decided to motor 3 miles down the coast to Batsi, a small typically Greek village where there are no ferries, only a few local fishing boats and a yacht friendly port. We were the third yacht in port, later another 4 arrived keeping the port master busy mooring them and selling water and electricity. Some of the tavernas were very busy this evening, not from the yachting fraternity but seemingly a large population of greying ex-pats and land based tourists.
Tuesday 4th June. A sleep in morning, half the yachts in the harbour have left. Poseidon predicted F 3 – 4 winds from the south all day. Now in the Cyclades we have choices as to where can go depending on where the wind is blowing from. Today looked to be ideal for the 25 mile run west across to Kea and mooring with a choice of sites in the large bay of Nikolaou on the north of the island, sheltered from the southerly wind. We were away by 9:30am motoring out of the harbour into a light westerly!
Well if the weather wants to play games then so can we, Siros to the south was also in good sailing distance so we changed direction pulled on sail and for 45 minutes sailed south at about 3 knots. The wind then died away so on went the motor and we continued south towards Siros. For an hour or so the breeze fluctuated from 1 – 4 knots from behind before settling in from the south west at 10 – 12 knots. Great, on went the sails and we tacked west for about 5 miles before being able to lay a tack just to the east of Siros. There were a couple of anchorages on the west of Siros which, we thought might be sheltered from the south wind. The wind backed to the west during the afternoon. We sailed clear of Cape Trimeson on the north of the island then motored for 3 miles to the first of the anchorages. Even at the head of this small bay a 10 knot breeze and accompanying swell made it uncomfortable. We flagged this anchorage then decided that our other choice a couple of miles further down the coast would be similarly affected so turned about and motored 10 miles around to the major port of Ermoupolis on the east of Siros. Annoying because had we thought of it earlier we could have held on to a great starboard tack and would have made this port by 4:00pm instead of 6:00m when we eventually arrived.
Ermoupolis is an industrial port, not very pleasant, a large ship yard dominates the harbour; it is the major ferry port for the island. Yachts can moor at the town quay but being near to the ferry terminal it may be uncomfortable. We chose the little used marina in the south west of the harbour, the entrance to which was partially bouyed off where a large floating crane was busy smashing something nearby, dropping a large weight into the water. We managed to find a clear space to moor and, after several approaches up wind to a short quay we managed to get Chocolate tied up.
Wednesday 5th June. The morning dawned clear and calm; it was very still in the Marina. Poseidon predicted a southwest F4 in the morning turning south F4 – 3 in the afternoon. This looked good for a run across to Loutrou on the northeast of the island of Kithnos. We walked a mile to the outskirts of town to find an ATM and supermarket, returned to Chocoate and were away by 11 o’clock, motoring into a light north west breeze heading north back around Siros.
Clearing Cape Trimeson at the north of Siros
Part way around the island we hoisted sail, the wind and sea was reasonably calm and continued motor sailing until we had cleared Cape Trimeson at the north, feathering Chocolate through the few strong gusts as we rounded the cape. Clear of the cape we switched the motor off and under full sail laid a course for Loutou. A magnificent 3½ hour sail averaging 5 knots brought us almost to a stand still 5 miles off Loutrou. No point in pressing on under sail, it was better to have hot showers and cold drinks than try to beat the odds on sailing into port. A prudent decision because as we neared port the breeze coming over the island accelerated to 17 – 18 knots from ahead. It was a bit of a slog and we hoped that the closer in we got the calmer the conditions would be. There weren’t many other places to go as there are few ports or anchorages in the Cyclades that are not too exposed to a southerly wind. We made it into port and, luckily, there were a few spaces left where we could moor and did so, satisfied with a really good day sailing.
Thursday 6th June. Poseidon predicted not much wind from the south today so to go anywhere we would have to depend on the motor. It was a glorious morning, we made a slow start, took a walk around the waterfront of this small hamlet and contemplated whether we should stay for the day or go somewhere else. Loutrou is a small fishing village yet there has been quite an investment in the harbour mainly to attract yachts. The quay is well maintained, water and power are available and a manager is on hand to direct and assist mooring of yachts, a boon in yesterdays rather boistrous condition.
Contrary to Poseidon an easterly breeze had our pennants fluttering, so late in the morning we decided to leave thinking we could go south to Serifos or north to Kea depending on the strength and direction of the breeze when out of Loutrou Bay. Serifos won, we headed south and managed to sail at about 3 knots for half an hour before the breeze backed to the north. The motor went back into service and we attended to our sun tans for the rest of the journey to Serifos.
Livadhi, the main port on Serifos is tucked away in a deep bay on the south of the island, good shelter although it is advised that yachts moor on the south of the quay in strong northerly winds. It was a light southerly when we arrived so we headed to the north and dropped anchor well off the quay. Too far in fact as we ran short of chain and had to do it all again, but on the brighter side the exercise emptied the chain locker and we managed to find the pin that had come out of the shackel holding the foot of the headsail to the bottom of the furler. Livadhi is very popular with visiting yachts and, as with our last visit here, several late coming yachts managed to push in to what looked to be an already crowded quay. It is quite a beautiful place with the white houses of the chora high on the hill overlooking the harbour being described like icing on a bun.
Chora Livadhi, Serifos
Friday 7th June. An overcast morning, we awoke to raindrops on the bimini cover about 5am and again about 7 o’clock. Neighbouring yachts started departing around 7:30ish but for us this was to be a day in port. At 9:30 there is half an hour before the bus leaves for the chora so I replace the tang on the foot of the headsail with the shackel and we made the bus stop at the end of the pier as the bus pulled in. The 10 minute journey up to the chora was on a narrow switch back road, the bus having to do a 3 point turn at the top.
Looking out towards Sifnos
We alighted, checked the return time then started wandering the maze of narrow streets, some only as wide as large person, all with steps which barred vehicles and motorcycles, only foot traffic was possible. Many house were lived in, many looked as though they might be summer houses, others clearly unoccupied and a few were falling down – properties with great potential. The views down to the port and across the sea towards Sifnos were great. At first we wandered uphill to the chapel at the highest point of the chora then made our way down through the maze of streets and alleys. Before we knew it we were half way down the hill so we gave the return bus a miss and continued on through the lower chora finally finding the public pathway back to the port. On our return we rewarded ourselves with a sticky bun and a beer for lunch. The weather brightened in the afternoon; we spent the time doing word puzzles and helping to moor arriving yachts.
Saturday 8th June. A northerly breeze picked up last night as expected and was jostling Chocolate when we awoke this morning. Poseidon predicted this will soften during the morning so we decide to run with the wind down to the island of Sifnos. We were ready leave after a quick trip to the stores; we needed to stock up because we could be a couple of nights on anchor from tonight. One small hitch, our very long anchor had been dropped on by the neighboring yacht that arrived yesterday. No sooner had I lifted his anchor to the surface and was about to rope it he turned up in snorkel gear to help untangling the chains, which was most helpful.
We were soon on our way, motoring down the bay while stowing gear. The wind from behind was blowing a good 12 – 14 knots, Yvonne rounded Chocolate into the wind while we pulled up a reefed mainsail and headsail then brought the wind onto our port quarter and took off. Off the south east corner of Serifos gusts of up to 19 knots had us a bit pressed in the following 1 – 1½ metre swell. The impellor on the speedo must have jammed as it was not recording for quite a while but the GPS read our speed over the ground at 6 – 7 knots. It was a brilliant sail for an hour and a half then slowed down as the wind receeded and we came into the lee of Sifnos. A really pleasant 3½ hour trip brought us to the secluded bay of Vathi, obviously a popular spot as all of the choice anchorages had been taken.
Chocolate joined the end of a line of yachts (15 in all) extending around the bay from the small quay near the village centre. The village centre looked to be not more than a small supermarket and 2 or 3 tavernas but a line of houses and apartments extended around the shore, its beaches adorned with sun umbrellas and sun lounges waiting for the tourist season to begin. We sat in the cockpit watching the world go by and eventually turned on our anchor light and retired to bed about 9:00pm.
Sunday 9th June. A still night, Chocolate rocked slightly and spun around on anchor as the very light breeze boxed the compass. This morning a breeze sprang up from the west and by 9 o’clock had steadied to 10 – 12 knots in the bay. This seemed to concur with Poseidon although outside we expected the breeze to be a bit lighter and throughout the day the breeze was likely to fluctuate. We had thought about sailing south towards the islands of Kimilos and Poliagos just east of Milos but the Pilot wasn’t too encouraging about the anchorages around these islands in shifting wind conditions, which might include southerlies. Our aim was to reach the island of Ios before starting to work our way northwards and out of the Cyclades by the end of next week. So Dhespotiko Bay in the south of Andiparos, a revisit from 2 years ago, looked to be a good place for the evening with good shelter and within 20 miles of Ios.
We were away by 10:45 and out of the bay with sails set in 20 minutes, the northwesterly breeze on our starboard quarter pushing us along at 5 – 6 knots. We gybed south of Sifnos and carried on for a mile before sailing into the lee of the island. Twenty five minutes on motor got us into the northeasterly breeze from the east of Sifnos and one on which we could lay Dhespotiko bay. We held this tack for 3 hours until stopping in the lee of Dhespotiko Island; we put away the sails and motored Chocolate the rest of the way to anchor at the head of the bay. We ticked off another great day sailing.
Monday 10th June. Dhespotiko Bay is actually a strait between Dhespotiko and Andiparos islands. At the northern end of this rather deep bay is a small island with openings either side but with water depths of less than 2 metres it effectively hems in all but shallow draft vessels. The small island provides some shelter from the wind and reduces all swell. To the west is Andiparos with a small taverna near the shore and a growing number of villas and apartments dotting the hillsides. To the east is the island of Dhespotiko as barren as it was 2 years ago. A large herd of goats were in the yards nearby when we arrived, later they were let out on the lower slopes of the island.
This morning the bay was like a mill pond. We were away by 8:30am, motoring to the mouth of the bay where we pulled up the mainsail in a light breeze from astern then continued to motor for another hour. The breeze was light and fickle; we played with it for 40 minutes making at best 4 and at worst 1.9 knots before resorting to the motor again. Our heading was to Ios on a direct line at 145º. We made moderate progress with the motor ticking over on 2100 revs and Chocolate managing 5.6 knots. The dolphin we sighted seemed as lazy as we felt, slowly swimming and surfacing without the speed or gusto they normally exhibit.
Twenty miles to Ios took 4½ hours. For most of the way there was hardly a breeze but on entering Ios harbour we had 11 knots which didn’t help when mooring stern to the town quay with a heavy lazy line. Yvonne and I set off for a quick reconnoitre of the port area but got waylaid and ended up climbing up to the Chora. Not a bad climb but we took our time in the heat of the afternoon. Ios is a very popular tourist resort and everywhere there were hotels, villas and apartments. The lower section of the Chora has been developed into hotels, boutique shops, travel agents, bars and restaurants, all redecorated with modern linings and furnishings but retaining the original buildings, narrow streets and charm of the Chora. Colourful shop signs and advertising interspersed with whitewashed chapels with their blue painted roofs. On the higher slopes was the residential area with many lived in, many vacant and some derelict houses. Atop the hill were 3 chapels from which the views of the port and surrounding islands was superb.
Tuesday 11th June. A quiet night until we got up around 7:30 then a breeze from the southwest started funneling through the bay rocking Chocolate. We breakfasted, registered with the Port Police, topped up with water, returned the power/water key and retrieved our 10 euro deposit and were away by 9:30.
Poseidon predicted F3-2 winds from the southeast, good for a sail north to Naxos, but Poseidon is not always right. Out at the mouth of Ios bay we met an 18 knot breeze on the nose. We turned away to the north and took the breeze and swell on the quarter until we had rounded the cape just north of Ios bay and got into the lee of the island where we pulled on a reefed mainsail and headsail. Trying to sail was pointless as the breeze came from all quarters, we motored for another 3 miles with mainsail loosely sheeted until clear of the cape on the northwest of Ios, featering Chocolate through gusts of up to 18 knots. Thinking we were in clear air we pulled on a full headsail but soon found we were a bit over powered with the wind around the north of Ios gusting up to 24 knots. Poseidon got the directin right but the strength wrong. We took in a few rolls on the headsail, reducing it to a number 2, eased the main and Chocolate took off on a broad reach. At first she was making 5½ knots but as she gained momentum and settled into the wind, now steady at 18 – 21 knots over the deck. She built to a steady 7 knots boat speed holding this for the next hour until we came into the wind shadow of Naxos Island. Still at 6+ knots in 13 – 15 knots of wind she carried on and in 2½ hours covered the 16 miles from the north of Ios to cape just west of Naxos. This had been a heavy bit of sailing but quite thrilling at times.
Naxos hadn’t changed in 3 years since we were last here. The ‘marina’ was just as cluttered with local boats and a small collection of yachts; lazy lines had been taken out so we used our own anchor. The manager whistled us over to a berth on the outside of one of the piers as were both a small yacht and only staying for one night. The town was the same, the waterfront wall to wall tavernas and bars interspersed with travel agents. The back streets with their boutique shops, bars and hotels, geared for a tourist industry which may be starting to grow for the season if the numbers alighting from the ferries was any indication.
Wednesday 12th June. We made a reasonably early start. The morning was overcast and the harbour was being ruffled by a northerly breeze. Poseidon predicted the northerly at F 2 – 3 but when we left the sanctuary of the boat harbour it was blowing 16 – 18 knots true with a steep 1 metre chop. We thought the conditions were only local as the channel between Naxos and Paros acts as a wind funnel so we pressed on under motor heading to Ermoupolis on the island of Siros, waiting until we could clear the channel north of the island of Paros before trying to sail. Several yachts heading down the channel were under sail having a great ride, a small pod of dolphins escorted us for a minute or two and a large ferry followed us through the channel adding to the swell as it passed us at speed. The breeze did soften after 5 miles but the notion of trying to sail was discarded as the swell would have knocked the wind out of the sails. The swell eventually reduced to something reasonably comfortable and so did the wind. The only excitement to the 5½ hour trip was a 10 minute visit by a pod of dolphins who took great delight in cavorting about, around and under Chocolate.
On reaching Ermoupolis harbour we headed for the Sirou marina again, partly because it was quiet and sheltered and there was a gas station was nearby. After carrying a couple of 20 litre cans of diesel back to Chocolate Yvonne and I headed to town. The marina is quite some way out of town but there was a free bus leaving a car park and supermarket about 500 metres away. This was very convenient; we took the bus and spent a good hour wandering therough the town, regarded as the capital of the Cyclades. The Venetian dominance of the 18th century reflected in the grand buildings, churches, mansions, squares and general layout of the town as well as the pastel colours of buildings, quite a contrast to the blue and white of the Cyclades houses. We saw several yachts at the town quay rocking like metronomes in the swell kicked up by a large ferry when it moored and felt our choice of mooring at the marina had been vindicated.
Main square, Ermoupolis
Thursday 13th June. A sunny morning with several light clouds and a light northerly breeze in the marina. Poseidon predicted a northerly wind at F4 reducing to 3 by early afternoon and F 2 south and west of Kithnos later in the afternoon. We wanted to reach Merikha on Kithnos by tonight, a trip of 40 miles. Away from our berth in the marina, fenders and warps were stowed by the time we reached the harbour. Heading south around Siros we motor for 3 miles before a light tail wind, clearing several reefs then pulling on a reefed mainsail and full headsail for a run along the south coast of Siros in a 10-14 knot breeze across our starboard beam.
Chocolate was happy with the configuration, in the lulls she trucked along at 4½ knots and in the gusts, that hit 22 knots over the deck, she jumped up to 7+ knots. It was a bit tricky because the gusts would hit when boat speed was low and Chocolate would heel over, rounding up into the wind until she got momentum then parted the waves with a bone in her teeth. Near the south west cape we took a reef in the headsail and headed at 260º to lay the southern tip of Kithnos some 26 miles away. The breeze steadied at 17 – 21 knots across the deck but the 1 – 1½ metre swell coming around the southern cape was steep. The reefed main and headsail was ample and kept Chocolate going at 6½ knots for an hour or so. As Poseidon had predicted the breeze did soften late morning, we shook out the reefs keeping us moving at 5½ knots. Contrary to Poseidon the breeze did not soften to a F2 but stayed as a 4 often gusting to 14 -15 knots. Chocolate picked up speed to maintain about 6 knots until we were 4 miles off the south cape of Kithnos before we dropped into a big windless hole for a few minutes.
For 5 miles we had watched dark clouds build up over the south of Kithnos and across to Serifos, then watched rain streaming down over Serifos and wondering when we were going to get drenched. Luckily we didn’t but streams of rain seemed to be all around us, even as we approached Merikha. Four miles from Cape Dhimitrios we took down all sail and started motoring, the breeze returned from dead ahead so we pushed on until bearing away after rounding the cape and were able to pull out the headsail and motorsail at 6 ½ knots for 5 miles into Merikha. There were a few places left on the quay, we moored but spent a wobbly 3 – 4 hours enduring the swell from the northwesterly wind and a couple of ferries. It was a long day, a bit tedious at times but a couple of drinks and a nice dinner at a taverna made it better.
Friday 14th June. The breeze and swell died down during the night leaving only a slight rocking and an awful squeek from the taut lines. By 8 o’clock the breeze returned posing a slight problem leaving the mooring as we were quite likely to be blown onto the end pier of the quay on our port side when we let our lines go. We pressed a favour from a person on the neighbouring yacht; we would return their fender which we had retrieved from the water if he would hold a line from our stern to keep us off the pier. He did and we slowly motored out beyond the pier picking up anchor chain as we went. It was a close shave but we made it.
We headed for the island of Kea, quiet close but directly to the north, motoring Chocolate into F4 breeze on the nose. Rounding the point to the west of Merikha the breeze freshened to a F5 with a steep 1 metre chop. For the next couple of hours we made slow progress across the Kithnos Strait watching, as we went, numerous reefed yachts broad reaching their way back towards the charter bases at Athens or Lavrion, Friday being the end of the charter week. Off the south west of Kea the breeze freshened again and we only just made progress in the 25-30 knot (true) breeze around this corner.
It took 3½ hours to make the 14.5 mile journey from Merikha where we joined one other yacht in the sanctuary of Kavia Bay, south west of Kea. Later 3 other yacts joined us only to leave after a couple of hours when the weather conditions improved but to be replaced by 3 other yachts late in the afternoon. One of these happened to crowd the anchorage of the original yacht from this morning and while this was getting sorted out we also got crowded by one of the arrivals. After a few words they conceded they were in the wrong and tried to move. This posed some difficulty as they had dropped anchor into rocks. After much diving they managed to free themselves, but had the decency to (or took pleasure to) tell us that we too were hung up on rocks that we would have to sort out before we could leave tomorrow.
Saturday 15th June. A clear, still morning dawned with just a light westerly ruffling the water. With the anchor problem gnawing away at us we got up early and I took a swim to assess our problem. The water was crystal clear, with white sand on the bottom the chain was easy to see, snaking its way across the sand into a shallow crevice between several large flat plates of rock. The chain was visible all the way to the anchor which lay clear in sand. All we had to do was carefully lift the chain all the way to the anchor and we would be away free. I took bearings on a house on the shore and noted the proximity to two other yachts and returned to Chocolate and Yvonne with the news. I didn’t relish the thought of diving to clear the chain as the anchor was in 7 meters of water and I wasn’t up to kicking down to that depth without a lot more practice.
With motor running slowly forward and Yvonne on the chain winch we followed as best we could the line of the chain, picking it up as we went. Near the anchor the chain jammed, we stopped lifting, Chocolate’s momentum kept her riding forward, the chain slackened and we lifted more repeating this process several times until we were directly above the anchor and finally lifted it out of the sand. We were away free.
Out to sea we met a nice F3 breeze from the north. We had intended to go across to the bay at Sounion for the night, 12 miles away, but the conditions were good so we elected to just keep going and head west for the Saronic Gulf. We pointed Chocolate to 255º set full sail and for an hour and a half enjoyed sailing in light airs. Eventually the wind gave out but Poseidon had reckoned that it would return in the afternoon from the south so we left the mainsail up and turned on the motor. Early afternoon the prospect of wind looked grim so the mainsail came off.
At this point we started wondering where in the Saronics we might end up tonight! From the chart Poros seemed to be the closest point so we altered our heading to 265º and motored on. Ten miles out the southerly breeze did arrive, on went the headsail adding half a knot to our speed and we enjoyed a great motor sail to the mouth of the Poros channel. It was 4 o’clock and we went straight around to the yacht harbour on the north side and were delighted to see it only half full. This had been a bit of a gamble as Poros is a very busy charter base and Saturday is changeover day, furthermore it is close enough to Athens to get boats from a lot of weekenders. The yacht harbour did fill up after we arrived.
Ermoupolis Venetian architecture
Pastel coloured buildings
Right: Sirou marina
Poros to Athens
Sunday 16th June. Poros is a delightful place. The town lies on a small promontory overlooking the very narrow channel between the island of Poros and the Peleponnese. Yachts and other vessels line the quayside that snakes around the shoreline, vessels traversing this channel follow the line of the quayside where water depths are greatest, the path resembles a river more than a sealane. The road along the seafront is only one way, to drive from west to east necessitates a circuit of the headland. When we arrived yesterday we entered the channel from the west and navigated south around the headland to the yacht harbour on the north side. Later Yvonne and I retraced our steps of 5 years ago through the narrow lanes of the town, in doing so located the Platanos taverna we were introduced to by Ron & Elizabeth on our first Greek flotilla charter in recent times. We ate there again last night.
Today was calm, sunny and not much of a breeze in the yacht harbour so we had a lazy morning and sketched out a rough plan of what we might do for the next 5 days. The waterman did his rounds about 10:00ish, we topped up Chocolates water tank then got underway, snaking back along the waterfront out to sea to the west heading for Ermioni. There was a nice breeze from ahead when we reached the western opening of the Poros channel as well as a strong current from the west. Several flotilla yachts were sailing in the breeze, which lasts for little more than 2 miles, but we are not tempted. We motor to the narrow gap between the islands of Spathi and Skilli, pausing to allow a fast ferry through first then turning northeast up the Ihdra channel. We picked up a breeze from the north on which we could motor sail for a while, passed a pod of slow moving dolphins and moored up on the inside of the small boat harbour of Ermioni just after 2:30pm.
Happy to be here, Poros
This was our third visit to Ermioni, quite a favorite place. A small town situated at the base of a headland with north and south waterfronts and a wonderful wooded reserve at the point of the headland. Typically Greek, built on a small hill above a harbour crowded with fishing boats, the north waterfront ringed with shops, the south with tavernas, the residential hill area with its narrow lanes and where Church bells ring out the hour of the day. Yvonne and I retrace the path around the headland to our favourite swimming spot where someone spent a good while snorkelling and we watched the slow moving pod of dolphins pass within 200 metres of the shore.
Monday 17th June. Bright and sunny, not much of a breeze in the harbour and at 10 o’clock the sign over the chemist shop read 29º. Poseidon this morning predicted light airs for today but tomorrow and Wednesday F4 – 5 northerly winds should arrive, possibly an early meltimi, which might make a passage through the Ihdra channel uncomfortable and tedious. Not wanting to get caught on the wrong side of the channel when we should be heading towards Athens by Thursday/Friday we changed plan and decided to head back to Poros today and spent a couple of days resting, cleaning and packing while the wind system blew itself out.
After a quick visit to the Port Police to register our stay in Ermioni we headed out into the Ihdra channel and into a light breeze on our starboard bow. Thinking that if we maintained our heading we should at some point be able to bear away to port, break out the headsail and motorsail our way out of the channel and north to Poros. No such luck. The breeze stayed on our starboard bow all the way to Poros, a method of navigation almost as reliable as GPS!
Tuesday 18th June. At 8 o’clock when we got up the light breeze in the yacht harbour seemed contrary to Poseidons predictions, we checked again but they were unchanged. By 1:00pm though the breeze in the harbour had picked up so we felt comfortable about our decision to stay here in Poros for the day.
After a lazy start we got the floor and bilges cleaned out then wandered around town to find a sticky bun shop as a reward. We managed to fill in the afternoon doing nothing until it was time for drinks and nibbles followed by dinner again at the Platanos taverna.
Platanos tavern, Poros
Wednesday 19th June. Poseidon had down graded the wind conditions for the Saronic Gulf today to a widespread F 4 – 5 but extended these conditions out to Thursday and Friday. The northern areas of the gulf were predicted to have less wind at the end of the week so we decided to head for Korfos in the north west of the gulf.
Motoring Chocolate west through Limin Poros out into the Menthanon Gulf shortly after 10:30am we faced a 10 – 12 knot headwind. Continuing on for 9 miles we gained the northeast corner of the Menthanon Peninsula where we pulled on sail. The wind lightened but we managed to make 3 knots on port tack for a couple of miles until we could line up a starboard tack and run through the Menthanon strait to Korfos some 16 miles away. Five miles of light airs sailing into the Menthanon strait suddenly got busy as we met gusts off the southeast of Angistri. This was a bit of a handful as Chocolate rounded up then accelerated off at 6½ knots. We first reduced the headsail by half in between some of the gusts and when passed the small island of Dhorousa at the south west of Angistri we managed to take a reef in the mainsail. This configuration gave us good drive and control through gusts below the small islands of Kira and Spalathonisi after which we finished the run into Korfos with a very pleasant 5 knot easy sail.
There were quite a few gusts in the harbour so we elected to anchor for the night. The other options were to moor stern to one of two tavernas but we would be expected to dine there or find a place on the open quay, although we noted later that a new pontoon was in place and there were a couple of places remaining. In the circumstances we felt it was going to be easier to anchor for the night and eat in, tomorrow we would moor at one of the tavernas and eat out.
Thursday 20th June. A relatively quiet night but the breeze sprang up again this morning. By mid-morning we were about to move over to the pier of Georges Taverna when a large yacht moved in dropping an anchor and trying to moor to the second taverna. We waited while they, as instructed, retrieved their anchor along with one of George’s anchors holding a lazy line. After extricating themselves from the mess and while they made attempts to moor stern to in a head wind, we uped our anchor and slipped onto a mooring at Georges Taverna. It was quite tricky picking up the lazy line and fixing it on the bow in the conditions but we managed although we were much smaller than the 45 footer that was still messing around.
Messing around in boats, Korfos
George, actually his son Babis, was a bit perturbed because he now had to go and reset the disturbed anchor of the lazy line. I offered to help, so together we spent an hour or so snorkelling to check the lines then, in his fishing boat picking up the disturbed anchor and dragging it out from the quay; then resetting another of his lines that had become broken. In all I had an enjoyable and productive morning. The rest of the afternoon wore on, we had a swim, we helped several yachts moor to the pier, eventually sun downers came around after which we stepped off Chocolate and took our place at the table in the taverna for a nice dinner.
Friday 21st June. This was our last day with 29 miles to reach Kalamaki Marina in Athens. We made a relatively early start motoring Chocolate out of the bay by 9 o’clock and pulling out the headsail to gain a half a knot in the 10 knot tail wind. Near the entrance to the bay the breeze gave out then boxed the compass until we were clear of the northern headland when it settled in from the north.
An end of day custom
We pulled on a reefed mainsail and headsail and got Chocolate trucking along at 4+ knots. South of the Dhiaporioi islands we caught a few gusts which popped the speed up to 6½ knots for a while. We were holding course with slightly freed sheets thinking that we could easily clear the islands of Ipsili and Stakhtorroi to the north but the wind headed us. We squeezed past the rocks north of Ipsili leaving them 200 yards to starboard but could not lift to clear Stakhtorroi so head south to avoid running aground. In the lee of Stakhtorroi we pulled on full mainsail and sailed a couple of hundred yards to clear the island then hit a 12 -14 knots of building breeze. For the next few miles we feathered our way through the 18 – 20 knot gusts where we rounded up until the boat speed jumped from 4 to 6. These conditions called for reduced sail, at first we got 2 reefs in the headsail, which took a lot of pressure off, then managed to take a reef in the main and let one reef out of the headsail. Chocolate was now quite balanced with this rig and although she still rounded up in the gusts she was much more manageable and sailed faster.
We squeezed north of Ipsili leaving rocks 200 yards to starboard
We pulled in all sail about 4 miles off Kalamaki when the breeze appeared to die away, we had sailed 20 miles of the 29 mile journey in 4½ hours. Nothing had been certain about the wind this year and it wasn’t about to change just yet. On approaching Kalamaki marina a 20 knot headwind arrived to end eight weeks on the water. We eventually found our way through the maze of piers and a thousand yachts and boats to moor at pier six. The crew de-briefed us and we were free to pack and go.
In eight weeks we travelled 1250 nautical miles but only managed to sail without motor for 25% of the time. We motor sailed on many occasions but overall the sailing was a little disappointing this year. To some extent we were to blame as we had often set quite long daily distances which meant we had to keep up speed rate of at least 5 knots otherwise we were in for a very long day. As an observation, the wind and weather this year was quite different to that which we had become used to from previous charters.
Chocolate was a comfortable home and provided no less of an accommodation than larger 34 or 35 foot yachts but it was a little more cramped in the sailing department. Storage space outside was at a premium. She performed well in light winds but was a bit tender and in winds exceeding 20 knots was less well behaved than other yachts we had chartered. We felt safe in her but we never really had to put her to the test in winds greater than 30 knots. Most of her work seemed to have been doing 1 – 3 week charters and we felt she was not well set up for the more extensive cruising that we had put her to.
Kalamaki marina, Alimos, Athens