Over the past month we had our first friends come to visit since May. Anastasia came for 4 days at the end of August and our good friends Frank and Dian came for almost 2 weeks beginning the 13th of September. It was really great to have them, and we had a truly wonderful time.
Anastasia’s arrival coincided with our son Michael’s departure from Istanbul so we rented a car and and had a fun 5 hour road trip to Istanbul. We had left Purrr at a marina in the (much smaller) town of Ayvalik (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayval%C4%B1k), located just east of the Greek Island of Lesbos. Ayvalik is the most northerly port we would visit this year. From here on we will drift south along the Turkish coast until the end of October when we will leave Turkey and head back to Greece. We have reserved space for 4months at the marina in Agios Nikolaos (http://www.cretetravel.com/guide/agios-nikolaos/) on the Island of Crete where we intend to spend the winter.
Before we left Istanbul, thanks to Anastasia’s great pre-planning (although Sue is getting better, we usually just tend to wander aimlessly wherever we go… Be sure to remember this when you come to visit! If you don’t plan where you want to go and what you want to see, we’ll likely just float along aimlessly!!:), we spent a great day with Anastasia and got to see many of the main sights, including the Blue Mosque, Topkapi Palace, Aya Sofya and the Grand Bazzar.
Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, is truly one of the world’s most amazing cities. Part in Europe and part in Asia, its people are very friendly, helpful and welcoming, and the sights sounds and smells are spectacular. Although you certainly need to be aware of petty crime like pick pockets, at no time did we ever feel threatened in any way, and that is saying a lot – seeing how the condo we rented was in probably one of the seediest parts of town (the stairs to our apartment was actually the birthing ward for the local stray cats and our doorperson a different lady of the night each night (I told you we don’t do a lot of fore-planning!!).
To give you a bit of a sense for Istanbul; Population: 14.5 million, although everyone we asked that that question to said that in reality it is much more; compared to Toronto at 2.6 million. Area: Istanbul 5,461sq km, Toronto 630 sq km. Istanbul is the 5th largest city proper in the world. It’s population has grown tenfold between 1950 and 2000 as a result of migration of population from eastern regions of Turkey. Primarily people looking for work and greater prosperity. (hmmm sound a bit familiar Toronto!?!?)
The 1.4 km long pedestrian street, İstiklal Caddesi (along which there is an “entertainment district”, which our condo was in the very middle of, and which parties very loudly until 5am every night except the night Anastasia arrived), receives more than 3 million people during a single day on weekends (more than the entire population of Toronto!), and we can attest to it! After a few days walking around a bustling city in the heat of summer, we were more than ready to head back to the relative comfort of life on the water (although still hot!).
Our loose plan with Anastasia was to spend a couple of nights at anchor along the way to another small town called Foca (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fo%C3%A7a), about 50 miles to the south, the now infamous town where our outboard was liberated from our dinghy and put to some other apparently more important use! (See my next post for a blow by blow of that fiasco!).
We found a wonderful anchorage between two Strange Islands…. really, that’s what they are called; Garip Adalari “Strange Islands” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garip_Island) (N39⁰ 00.341’ E26⁰ 47.381’), where we stayed for two nights before heading on to Foca. The anchorage was as close to perfect as it gets. Crystal clear water, almost deserted, well protected from the Meltemi and almost everything else. It was a great day and couple of nights.
On both days heading to and from the Strange Islands we had fabulous winds (15 to 25 knots) and great sails. After Arriving in Foca, a smallish fishing village turned touristy, we walked around the old town and had a wonderful dinner under a canopy of grape vines. The next day we saw Anastasia off in a taxi to the Izmir airport where she was continuing her planned vacation in Italy.
We loved Anastasia’s company and hope she will come back to visit us again real soon – but next time, we hope she stays much longer!!!
PS – click on any pic to see more…
Yup – we did it! We made it to the destination we set out to reach four months and almost 1500 miles ago… And we even have a couple of days to spare. How about that!?
We are about five miles from Ayvalik Turkey, anchored all alone in a gorgeous secluded bay called Cennet Koyu. We have marina space confirmed for tomorrow, and the wind has even started to subside! Just like we planned it!!
Our first impressions (less than 24 hours) of Turkey are exactly what we were told, and as we expected – wonderful! I haven’t quite figured it out, but there is a completely different air about life here. Everyone is so friendly and happy. The town is a bustling mixture of old and new. The “market” district, with its narrow bustling streets probably looks much like it did 2000 years ago; lined with stalls selling everything and anything you could ever need, and probably a whole bunch more. Intermingled are the most modern designer shops and boutiques. The sights – like the older women in their colourful scarves and long skirts, mixed with the young, elegantly sexy (and beautiful) women, wearing sheer, flowing-in-the-breeze outfits, complete with head scarves and stilettos no less; and, the smells – of spices, roasting chickens, shawarma and fresh baked goods; and the sounds – of vendors calling and chanting to lure buyers, the call to prayer over loudspeakers – all mix wonderfully together to create a truly exotic feel.
It’s been a fun and interesting time getting here. Since we crossed the Aegean (see our last post), we spent a few wonderful days touring the island of Chios, a night at a little island called Oinousses, motor-sailed most of the way to the town of Mytilini on the Island of Lesbos where we spent our last night in Greece, and did a quick two-hour motor over to Ayvalik, where we are now.
We spent most of the time on the Island of Chios, where we walked through the medieval towns of Mesta and Pirgi, we rented a car and drove to the north end of the island to a town called Agio Gala to visit a Church built over the opening of a large cave that has had inhabitants living in or around it for over 10,000 years. After Chios we clawed our way up-wind to our last stop in Greece, the Island of Lesbos. By the time we reached Lesbos we were out of time, so visiting the island will have to wait for another day. We stayed in a marina in the main town of Myltini because it was the only reasonable place to stay (in 25 knots of wind), that was close to the customs and immigration offices that we needed to check out of the next morning.
We woke up yesterday to an unfamiliar sound – silence! There was no wind. So we jumped out of bed and shoved off the marina dock and headed over to the customs offices at the other, commercial end of the harbour. It was there that we finally got a taste of why Greece has a less than stellar reputation when it comes to local people welcoming tourists. Until yesterday we had not really noticed the “rough/rude attitude” toward visitors that we had been told is prevalent in Greece (we had been asked a number of times by Greeks that we met, how we were finding the people – attitude wise! They had all said Greece has a bad reputation for rudeness and arrogance). We think we were probably exempt from the attitude because we are Canadian. Greeks love Canada. There is a very large population of Greeks in Canada, and many Greeks aspire to go there, so as soon as people found out we were Canadian, their attitude changed. And they always asked. Maybe because I had forgotten to put our flag out that morning, we and three other boats were treated to a very healthy dose of the exact attitude we had been warned about.
Our first approach to the customs dock was met with an angry yell telling and pointing us to leave – “Not now. Come back in two hours, at least” – with no explanation. Me being me, of course I didn’t leave, I just started doing circles right off their dock, which turned out to be a good move because not five minutes later another agent told us to tie up in the exact spot the other had waved us off of!! So we backed onto the concrete wall, looped two lines (one off the outside end of each transom), around a bollard, and kept Purrr idling in forward pulling on the two lines, holding us perfectly perpendicular off the dock. Sue and Michael, with ship’s papers and our passports in hand, jumped onto the dock. They were immediately met by the same customs officer that told me to come back in two hours, and ordered to get back on the boat, it was me that he wanted to take the ship’s papers and go to the office (I guess checking out is a man’s job!). I thoroughly enjoyed informing him that Sue is the “owner”; she does the paperwork; I am the skipper, I stay with the boat! I have also learned that as soon as the captain invokes his/her right to stay with their ship, they cannot ask him/her off without taking responsibility of the ship’s safety, etc.! We figured out early on in our cruising life, that letting Sue do the checking in/out formalities greatly enhanced my chances of staying out of jail!! So off they went.
To their credit, they did have a lot on their hands. Not long after Sue and Michael disappeared into one of the several buildings they had to visit, I noticed 8 or 10 scruffy and meek looking men just standing around without purpose. A few of them walked over to take a closer look at Purrr and me. They didn’t come too close nor did they say anything, they just stared with an empty sort of look completely void of any emotion. A couple of minutes at most later a customs official yelled at them to back away from the dock and sit down, which they immediately did, again with no sign of emotion. Then I realized what I was seeing. I had completely forgotten that Lesbos was one of the main islands that was getting the onslaught of refugees, and of course the customs and immigration dock that we were tied to, would be the place that they all got processed through if/when they got picked up.
No sooner had that realization struck, when I noticed a small coast guard boat tying up a ways down the dock from us . It was crowded with people in life-jackets, and towing a large, now empty, inflatable raft. I then also noticed the tent camp at the far end of the dock. Lesbos was one of the main islands that the refugees were fleeing to. Understandably so, as Turkey is a mere eight miles away.
It’s one thing to see or read about it in the news, it’s another to actually see it. I will not forget the empty, almost lifeless look in the eyes of the few people that glanced over at me. One of those humbling moments in life that makes us realize the incredible disparity in the world we live in, and how truly lucky we are!
An hour and a half after tying up, Sue and Michael returned, with smiles on their faces (We were checked out!) and take-out food in hand! Seems one of the offices they had to go to was in town, so, ever-thinking Sue couldn’t resist one last chance to do Greek fast-food!! The two of us do think an awful lot alike!!
About two hours later we were anchored outside the Ayvalik marina (because they were full, and had no space for us!). Same marina chain that we had stayed at the previous night at in Lesbos Greece (about 15 miles away). The same size and pretty much the same amenities, but in Greece the cost per night was 33 Euros. Here, when they if they find space for us, it will be 140 Euros! Yowza – so much for our plan of leaving Purr here for two weeks, and touring the inland country side!
My preliminary take on why such a big difference is that Turkey has long enjoyed a better reputation for tourism – friendlier and nicer – than Greece (we were told this by a number of Greeks), and now, add to that the financial mess that Greece is in, and Turkey wins the tourists hands down. The only reason we need a marina is because we want to leave Purrr unattended. Given a choice, we would never stay in a marina! Let’s see: Marina = noisy, lots of lights, lots of people, dirty water (can’t swim) and $140 Euros/night…. Anchorage (15 minutes from marina, five by dinghy) = secluded, beautiful scenery, swimming, quiet and dark at night, and free. Easy choice for us!
We shall see how nice Turkey is over the next weeks/months…
I’ve had worse days for sure, but I could probably count them on one hand!
Finally leaving Athens!
All of our preparation was done, Purrr was as finally as “ready” as we could get it, and as we needed it to be, for a month and a half of cruising with family and friends, and then another 2 months by ourselves before the time came to tuck ourselves in for the winter. Michael, Sue’s youngest had arrived on schedule, and I had just returned from a 3-day business trip (yes – I do still “work”… a little!). So off we set, and not a minute too soon.
The weather in the Aegean in the summer is simple; always sunny and ridiculously hot, with the Meltemi wind thrown in to keep it interesting. The Meltemi is a warm wind from the north that blows fiercely and regularly for days at end. The only uncertainty is for how many days it will bless you with its presence! Most of the time you get a few days warning before it arrives so you can usually plan around it. Sometimes you don’t! Because it’s warm it doesn’t cool things down, it just makes the heat a little more bearable. I feel like I’m not sweating as much, Fbut I’m convinced that’s only because the wind sucks the sweat out of your pores before it has a chance to pool on your skin. The days are still hot! The dichotomy for a sailor is that if the Meltemi isn’t blowing there isn’t any wind! So it truly is feast or famine when it comes to sailing.
Everything we hear and read about sailing in Greece in the summer, July, August and the first bit of September, has the same theme; don’t do it if you want to sail. Wait until mid-September or October. And, if you do go sailing during those months don’t venture far from a protected harbour or anchorage.
The Meltemi arrives like a high speed freight train, sometimes without warning, but mostly with a day or two advance notice. Because it arrives so quickly, we have experienced no wind to 30 knots in what seems like 10 minutes, and the other way around. The seas can get very interesting indeed! Those of you that have sailed with me know that I have always been the one heading out for a sail when everyone else is running for shelter. I like wind! There are three main types of sailboats: racers, cruisers and cruiser/racers. All are designed to sail in strong winds and heavy seas. Not necessarily hurricanes, but sailboats are made to be sailed in 20 to 30 knots of wind. It’s the people who own and sail them that might not be. So, as long as your boat is well built, well maintained and properly equipped, may as well have some fun! We have not let the Meltemi stop us, and in fact we’ve had our best sails in them. It doesn’t get any better than sailing on a beam reach in 25 to 30 knots under a brilliant blue sky!
So here we were leaving Athens for the last time in who knows how long, and everything seemed to be going our way, including the weather. We had just spent a few very hot, no wind days in a marina, so we were very happy when we saw that the weather was changing and wind was coming.
We arrived at Sounio Bay, about three hours south of Athens, just before sunset. After a refreshing swim, a fabulous BBQ pork chop dinner and an evening under the stars listening to Michael strum some wonderful jazzy chords on his guitar, it was an easy decision to spend the next day anchored precisely where we were and to do it all again!
Sometime later the next afternoon, as I was reading the sailing pilot (a technical guide book that tells you everything you need to know about sailing in a specific area) in preparation for our next leg, I discovered a small paragraph that I hadn’t noticed before titled “Caution”. Apparently, passing through the Doro Strait, the gap between the islands of Andros and Evia, and the only way we could go to get to where we needed to be, was not to be attempted by small craft if the Meltemi was blowing! The wind gets amplified as it funnels through the Strait, and there is a 2 – 4 knot current created by the waves. Excerpt from the Greek Waters Pilot: “With gales from the north, small yachts should exercise considerable caution in the vicinity of the strait. I have seen large ships anchor in the roadstead off Karistos rather than proceed through the strait…” When freighters don’t go, it gets my attention!
So after about an hour of checking the wind forecasts and looking over the charts to check sailing and wind angles etc., I calculated that we could still make our schedule if we made a dash for the island of Chios, 100 miles away on the other side of the Aegean almost directly east of the Doro Strait, provided we were anchor up by no later than 5:30 the next morning, so that we could make it through the Strait by noon. The forecast showed the winds steadily building over the next two days starting mid-morning. By noon the next day the Andros weather station was predicting 15 to 20 knots. I planned to cross the strait on a north easterly angle, which based on the very predictable north wind of the arriving Meltemi, would almost allow us to sail. But we could motor-sail, and it was only 10 miles to get through the gap. So only an hour and a half of discomfort out of a 12 to 14 hour day! J After we got through the Strait we should have a glorious beam reach the remaining 55 miles to Chios. So, with the plan set, we headed off bed early in anticipation of the very early (for us!) morning.
The alarm went off as planned, and about 10 minutes later we were on deck preparing to raise anchor. Our routine for long sails is Sue goes back to bed after we get underway for a few more hours of sleep, and then later in the day she takes over for me so I can nap. We had the anchor loose from the seabed and about 10 meters from the deck when the windlass suddenly stopped. The chain had wrapped itself around the windlass like it was a reel. It is not supposed to do that! To make matters worse, it was very tightly jammed. So we limped Purrr, with anchor dangling about 5 meters below the surface, out to deep water. After I determined that getting the chain unjammed would take more than a few minutes, we used the halyard winch on the mast to bring the rest of the chain and anchor on deck. With Sue at the helm turning circles I started to work trying to unjam the chain. After an hour and a half of hammering and prying (I’ve had anchor chains get jammed before, but never like this) we gave up and pointed Purrr’s bows toward Athens, and started the three and a half hour motor back to the marina we had left a day earlier. As forecast, the wind had not started yet!
Sue was completely deflated and discouraged. One more thing to go wrong! And, after all this, we wouldn’t make it to Turkey in time to meet our friend Anastasia. Turkey was also where Michael was to fly home from, and where our good friends Frank and Dian were to arrive at. At one point I’m pretty sure I heard Sue say something like “maybe it’s time to give up and try a different mode of transport for our retirement travels.”! Having no experience with boats (new or used), Sue had been finding the problems we were having with Purrr very difficult to cope with. There is no question that we have had a good bunch of repairs and maintenance, some of which were time consuming and frustrating. But we have not had an unusual amount by any means, and nothing we’ve had go wrong was dangerous or major, just annoying. Having bought and owned three used boats before, I know Purrr was in fantastic condition (and is even better now!), and everything that has happened is quite reasonable. I am not disappointed or discouraged in any way.
I knew our windlass problem would be a quick fix. We had one of, if not the, best windlasses on the market, and all it needed were some tools and a part that I didn’t have (yet!). We discussed the possibility of leaving for Chios later that afternoon/evening and doing an overnight crossing direct from Athens, but quickly dismissed that thought when I realized we would be entering the Strait in the middle of the night, so after … and then, after about 2 minutes of cold sober thought, we decided we were going to have to just give up on Turkey – even though that was the prime destination for our first year cruising, and the schedule we had set out to achieve almost four months and 1500 nautical miles earlier. So what that we had to reschedule everyone’s flights to Athens from Istanbul. The southern Greek Islands are spectacular also, so it really isn’t a hardship; we could always do Turkey next year. So why did it feel so frustrating?
When Sue gets sad or disappointed there’s no talking to her, and she was about as sad and disappointed (and grumpy) as I’ve ever seen her. So I headed off to the equivalent of my man cave; the helm. Nothing beats sitting in the open air, and at that moment, exerting ultimate power and control over the purring beast that ruined our day! If there is one thing I do not do easily, it is relent to defeat! After a 35 year career of almost literally, trying to push liquid up a hopeless slope, and then doing nothing much challenging the last few years, I have huge reserves of built-up tenacity just dying to take on and conquer a good challenge! The optimistic, bite off more than you can chew and then chew like hell side of my brain was saying damn the weather, we have a strong capable boat, we can do this!!!!! ….But then the logical, risk management, killjoy side of my brain kicked in. So I took out my cell phone and wrote Frank a long email telling him we were making a change in plans. ….With decision made and course changed, I started to feel (a little) better.
I’ve always prescribed to looking ahead at the bright side, only look back so that you learn from your mistakes…. So, with my new found logic and optimism in hand, I engaged the autopilot and eagerly set off to see if I could pull Sue out of her funk with some of my new found logic. And then it happened! As I stood up from the helm seat my cellphone caught on the wheel and flipped out of my hand. I stood frozen. I could not believe what was happening! It was as if every ray of hope had to be squashed. I watched it first bounce off the helm seat, then the step that he helm is on and then what seemed like each of the four transom steps, any one of which it could have landed flat on and stopped it’s determination to completely ruin the new thread of hope I had just built, but no, it just kept on going, right off the end. I swear I heard nah nah na na nah ringing out of it as it slipped beneath the frothing wake. You will be pleased to know that I didn’t let it go silently. I screamed profanities so loud that Sue came bolting out of our stateroom below convinced we were either about to die, or that I had fallen overboard!
After about an hour of testing the theory that misery loves company, we pulled out the two old broken cell phones to see if we could get one to work with my Canadian sim card. And of course we only had one completely functioning cell phone between us because I was reluctant to spend the money it would cost to replace Sue’s 10 year old antique half-working phone when it finally packed it in a month ago, even though she had repeatedly said she wanted/should have/needed her own phone…. After eating lots of I told you so pie, we finally managed to get one of our antique phones to make calls. At full Canadian roaming rates of course, about $6.00per minute! Just imagine trying to communicate with service technicians in their second language at $6.00 per minute! So much for my new found optimism! And, I was still replaying the moment my phone splashed down over and over in my mind, for no other logical reason than to feed the devil that lives in the pessimistic side of my brain!!
The one good thing for us about the financial tragedy that Greece is working its way through is that it is incredibly easy to get quality, experienced technical help in very short notice. The Windlass technician was on his way! Dare my optimism poke its head out from under the rock that it slithered under…. It was all I could do to pry Sue away from her computer where she had already started looking for road trips and other things we could do for the next week and a bit that Michael would be with us, and convince her to take a taxi into town and buy a cell phone. If we hurry, and if the repair didn’t take too long, we could still leave and head out to the nearby islands. Unfortunately, Sue does not quite share my optimism! But I had a secret weapon; something much stronger. As blue or upset or angry Sue is, she cannot resist a chance to go shopping, especially when it is for herself and for something she wanted and thought she should have gotten long ago! So off her and Michael went.
With Sue gone and me waiting the promised half an hour for the windlass technician to arrive, I set out to ask some folks that might have local knowledge, what they thought about us going through the Doro Strait tomorrow. I did say I was tenacious…. The first two, one marina worker and one crew member of a motor yacht berthed across from us, both said it was crazy to even think of it. The forecasts were for steadily building winds starting late this afternoon (everyone that lives or works around boats knows the weather forecast). They recommended we stay put, or if we really wanted to venture out, to go to some of the very pretty) islands much closer to Athens. When the first technician arrived and we were waiting for his partner (everyone seems to do things in teams), I asked him what he thought as well. He was obviously a sailor because he knew and greatly admired Purrr. He offered, and I quickly accepted, to call a sailing buddy of his who happened to be an Olympic racing sailor that knew the Aegean inside out. His buddy said he would call back after he did a bit of weather research. Not five minutes later he did just that and his advice was that we should have no problem at all. The forecasts had pushed the arrival of the heavy winds off almost a day, so although it would be a bit rough, we had a very competent boat that would take everything in stride. That was all I needed. By 4pm, with windlass fixed, and as an added bonus, a new propane tank fitting in hand that we could not get in time a few days earlier, we cast off and headed back to Sounio Bay to set the stage for our 100 mile leg across the Aegean to the island of Chios the next day (yesterday). Nothing like climbing right back on the Cat after it throws you off!
The alarm went off at 05:00, and we had the anchor up (without a hitch) and our way around the point, with Poseidon looking over us from his temple high above, by 05:45. We turned the corner out of the bay and headed almost dead north and into the wind. By 07:15 we had 20 knots of wind dead blowing straight at us. So much for the forecast that said the wind wouldn’t start until close to noon!
Oh well, what’s the worst that could happen!? The Strait was 6 miles wide at its narrowest, and we were starting from the edge of the west side, so if it was too bad, all we had to do is turn ourselves downwind, tuck Purrr’s tail firmly between her hulls, and let the wind push us back the direction we had come. The humiliation of defeat aside, all that would be lost is the better part of a day!
The first pleasant surprise came an hour later when we turned the corner to head NE for the 21 miles to the south entrance of the much anticipated Doro Strait. We were able to sail! We hoisted the main with the second reef tucked into it, and unfurled the solent (self-tacking jib), and sheeted them in as tight as we could. The motion and sound instantly got civil (motoring into one meter waves with 20 knots of wind dead on can be a bit noisy and bouncy, even in Purrr!). For the next almost 3 hours we had a fabulous sail. Even our electronics were working perfectly. The problem the auto pilot had holding a course seemed to be gone, the result of the most recent repair efforts. So we sat back in the morning sun and enjoyed. With apparent wind angle ranging from 42 to 60 degrees (50 to 80 true)and 20 knots of wind, we Purrred along at a steady 8.5 to 9.5 knots. Perfectly balanced, no weather helm at all.
We reached the southwestern edge of the Doro Strait at 11:00. As we came out from the lee of Evia, we immediately noticed what all the fuss was about. The wind increased by about 10 knots, from high teens to high 20’s and it came around to about 25 degrees apparent, so we had to turn on the engines and motor sail. But the most noticeable difference of course were the waves. We went from the relative calm < 1 meter waves that we had in the lee of Evia to a very boisterous 2+ meters in less than 10 minutes. The waves in the Med are completely different than in the Atlantic or Caribbean. The fetch (distance of open water that waves have to build up – the longer the fetch, the larger and longer between the waves, in this case about 125miles), is relatively short and the wind builds from nothing very quickly, so the waves are very steep and short. Steep and short = uncomfortable to potentially dangerous. But so far so good. So long as we kept our speed down to below 7 knots we didn’t pound, and we were not taking any blue water over our bows, but it was incredibly noisy and wet! Spray was tossed right over boat each time the bows came down.
The wonderful thing about Sue is she forgets the nasties very quickly. She had managed to sleep most of the time we were motoring earlier in the morning, and she came completely alive during our sail across to the Strait. At one point I think I may have even heard her apologise to Purrr for doubting her! So it gave me a great feeling when, as I was at the helm in my wet weather jacket, taking considerable spray in the face, I looked around and saw Michael sitting inside, happily playing his guitar, and Sue laying on the leeward cockpit bench, on her tummy, feet in the air, reading a novel, just as happy and comfortable as can be. I didn’t have to ask to know that neither of them had the slightest concern over where we were and what we were doing. I guess that stands to reason, because aside from the spray and noise, Purrr handled the seas and wind like she was out for a Sunday stroll. Other than being a little difficult to walk around (we had to lie the water bottles down so they didn’t fall down), everything was perfect.
As it turned out, the 25+ knots of sustained winds were not just the effect of the strait. The Meltemi had arrived in full force. The angle of the wind was affected by the Strait, so around noon when we came to and were able to head off the wind a little, we turned off the engines and found ourselves sailing on a glorious beam reach (wind at about 90 degrees) the whole 55 remaining miles to Chios. And what a sail it was. As the day progressed the waves continued to build. At their peak, I am fairly certain we had some four or even five meter waves role under us. They were so steep that at times that Purrr resembled a monohull (for a few short seconds), and every once in a while the top of a wave would break just as it rolled under us, slapping into the side of Purrr and launching a torrent of white water over and through the windward side of the cockpit. But even that barely affect Purrr’s determination top deliver us safe and sound. At no time did we ever feel like we were pushing her hard. She was comfortably purring all the way. We sailed at a steady 8ish knots all day. I don’t think I adjusted the sails three times, and if I did, it wasn’t because they needed it. The wind peaked at 30 knots, but seemed to stay unusually steady between 25 and 27. All was good. All was very good!!
The first “incident” happened when we lowered the main and put the engines in gear. The port engine immediately stalled, which it did again the second time I tried it. Sue just looked at me. Just before we entered the bay we came very close to a fishing float, so my immediate response was “I bet we just picked up a net line or something”. I was very surprised to see that Sue wasn’t immediately thrown back into her funk. Seems that the day’s gloriousness had a more profound effect on her than one lost engine! The bay only had two other boats in it so that was a blessing. A catamaran handles incredibly well under power with its two widely spaced engines; when it has only one engine, not so well! So we selected our spot from a distance, and did one big circle to check the depths and found that it was going to be a relatively deep anchorage, 10 meters, so we needed lots of chain. We motored up (remember, we have almost 30 knots of wind blowing) and started to lower the anchor. Sue was at the bow and I at the helm. Normally we do it the other way around, but because of having just one engine… After about 15 meters of chain had let out it stopped. So I started pulling it up – no problem. But it would not go down! Sue and I just looked at each other and said nothing. Sue jumped to the helm and started heading to deeper water while I got a flashlight to see what had happened.
Ah ha! At the back of the chain locker, where the chain never usually goes, is an opening to the adjacent chain locker (Purrr is set up to carry two anchors), and, it seems when the repair folks were working on the windlass they must have tossed the chain to the back of the locker out of the way, which is when the chain fell into the opening and got stuck, so it would not run out freely. One flip of my boat hook and problem solved! Whew! Those kind of problems are very easy to fix and accept. 10 minutes later, firmly anchored I immediately donned my mask and flippers and jumped in to find Ah ha #2. The classic sheet over the side gets tangled in the prop move! Fixed in less than one minute. Purrr has two permanent head sails, the solent (or self-tailing jib) and the Code 0 (or genaker or genoa). We keep the sheets attached at all times. The Solent leads back to the main control pod, and there is only one because it is a self-tacking setup. The code 0 sheets lead back and we store them in sheet sacks mounted on the two helm stations. Seems that one or two of the rambunctious waves that slapped us on the side reached into the bag and pulled a bunch of sheet out, which of course fell overboard and wrapped itself around our prop the minute we put the engine in gear. Checking that all lines are onboard is something I do every time before starting the engine, as I had done this time. Since we hadn’t used the Code 0, and the end of its sheet was still inside the bag, I assumed all was as it should be. Another easy fix!!!
So, the day ended perfectly (and quickly as we were all exhausted), and all was as good as it could be aboard Purrr once again.
A couple of quick FYIs:
Most of the repairs (mechanical, not electronic) that have been required on Purrr have been regular maintenance that is to be expected on a 6 year old boat, and all of which I could handle and make myself. However, since we have been on a schedule to get to Turkey for the past almost 4 months, and therefore time has been more important, I’ve elected to hire mechanics that know what they are doing instead of taking the time to figure things out myself. After we settle into our routine this winter, I fully expect to be doing most of these things myself.
On the day, we averaged just under 8 knots over about 100 miles. Top speed was 10.1, and the top wind speed was 30.1. Wave heights were hard to tell, but they were certainly the steepest and probably the highest waves I’ve sailed in. My guess is we had plenty of 5 meter monsters roll under us. About an hour and a half out of our destination, we sailed square through the main shipping channel that leads in and out of Istanbul. At one point we had 4 “targets” (ships) all converging within a 2 mile stretch to pass within a half mile of us. We only had to slow our speed down once for about 20 minutes to give two of them a little more space to pass in front of us, while at the same time a third one coming from the other direction clearly and graciously altered course to pass behind us instead of in front as our course was dictating.
It may be a very long time before we match that day’s excitement and accomplishment!
We arrived at Kolona Bay on the island of Kithnos on the 4th of August 2015 after a 3 and a half hour down wind sleigh-ride in 20to 30 knots of wind (very minimal seas – lots of fun!). Our plan was to stay for two nights. We ended up staying five. We probably would have stayed more if we didn’t have someplace to be on the 14th, and if it hadn’t been the first Greek island anchorage we’d ever been to.
Kolona Bay is a wonderful place. It’s part of a double bay divided by a sand isthmus joining Kithnos to the little island of Naylouka. The water is crystal clear, the clearest water we’ve seen yet in an anchorage. The beach is somewhat difficult to reach by land so it doesn’t get crowded. Life on Kolona Bay was wonderful, the only possible negative being that it was relatively crowded at times, but then it was the first week of August, the first week that all of Europe goes on vacation! If this is what cruising is going to be like, we may never stop!
We lazed our days away reading, swimming, sleeping and simply enjoying each other’s company. After 5 days of doing nothing more energetic than going out for dinner, we feel we’ve almost recharged our batteries!! Almost!
I did do one bit of energetic labour. Seems that all the bits of a boat that are exposed underwater (those that have not had antifouling painted on them), like the propellers, get all sorts of interesting things attaching themselves and growing on them!
I couldn’t believe what I saw when I jumped in with mask and flippers; after three months Purrr’s was well on her way to becoming the next barrier reef! Later that evening, after I completely exhausted myself trying to come up with a tool that I could use to scrape off these stubborn crustaceans (the closest thing I had to a scraper was a flat screw driver, but the job would surely take a week with it), I gave up and decided it was time for a beer. The moment I reached for my favourite bottle opener, I knew I had found what could possibly be the best barnacle remover and propeller scrapper ever! When I finally got at it the next day (I had already opened a beer and there was no way I was letting that get warm!) it took less than 2 hours to remove every single bit of unwanted crustacean.
The third evening at Kolona, we decided to get dressed 🙂 and go out for dinner. A little way up the side of the hill, overlooking the beach and both anchorages is a nice little taverna with an open air charcoal grill and a funky stone, wood and rope bar. Their icy cold beer and delicious food was only topped by the spectacular view of the sunset out over the anchorage. There Sue met our new friends, Heather and Yorgo and their friend Pano. She got acquainted with them as I was chatting with my son Daniel; it was the first time in about 6 weeks that our schedules aligned! We parted with the traditional invites to each other’s boat for a drink…
The next evening, at the suggestion of our new friends, we took the dinghy to the nearest little port, Merikhas, which is about 3 miles (2 of which is open water) from where we were anchored, a quick 15 to 20 minute downwind dinghy ride. From there we took the local bus for a very exciting 15 minute ride on a very narrow winding road (“narrow” defined as: bus and car cannot usually pass each other without one or the other pulling off the side of the road!) along the edge of the rocky, hilly countryside often with the sea beside, okay, below us to the hillside town of Chora. Chora is a wonderful traditional Greek village that has just enough touristic influences to prevent you from getting bored of it too quickly. Winding, narrow flagstone streets with cafes and tavernas spilling into them, and yup, whitewashed stone buildings with lots of azure blue trim. Walk a little off the main tourist street and it becomes completely rustic. Little offshoot laneways with views out over the rolling rocky hillside. Just how we imagined Greece to look. We had a great dinner in one of the handful of tavernas, and then grabbed a taxi back to Merikhas and our dinghy.
We arrived at Merikhas at about midnight and were pleasantly surprised to find a waterfront alive with people. So we parked ourselves in a cafe/bar on the beach and ordered a nightcap. It was just about then that I glanced out the harbour in the general direction that Purrr was anchored and saw absolutely nothing but a pitch black wall about 100 yards out from the beach! I had completely forgotten that the moon wasn’t set to rise until about 3 am! I had known this, and had prepared for it before leaving Purrr by making sure I had my cell phone with its wonderfully useful GPS and chart plotter, with me. What I had forgotten was that it was not fully charged, and I had gotten carried away taking pictures of our evening, so it was completely dead! No problem, one very helpful server, who of course had a Samsung charger, and an hour later, and my phone was sufficiently charged to get us home. All that time, and Sue never said a word. She was ready to go much earlier, and as far as she was concerned we didn’t need the GPS/Charts – and that is one of the reasons why I love her so much!! As it turned out I was only able to get one look at my chart as we left the harbour – because as soon as we turned out of the harbour we were met head on with a good 20+ knot breeze and almost one meter waves. Sue ended up riding most of the way crouched on the floor holding onto both hulls and her bag, in total darkness. 15 minutes later we turned the corner into the flat Kolona Bay to the sliver of a moon just peeking out over the hills of Kithnos.
Our last day in Kolona Bay turned out to be our best. We spent a wonderful afternoon and evening with our new friends, and their dog Mingo, that started with a beer in their cockpit telling each other sailing and other assorted adventure and misadventure stories. After that we all took a short dingy ride to the little island of Naylouka, home of many sheep and goats, for a sunset walk. When you make great new friends, why stop at sunset!?!? So before we knew it we had made plans to combine our evening meal and all prepare and have it together on Purrr. And what a fun and delicious meal that turned out to be! Sue started her Carrots and onion rice (which she served with homemade Trini hot sauce), while Yorgo cleaned and cut potatoes into fries that he then fried in olive oil – which I later learned (when I looked for the French fries at dinner) would go into his famous (French) fried potato and onion omelet. I bbq’d some tasty Greek sausages, and Sue added a fresh salad complete with feta and olives of course. All was consumed with a couple of bottles of Sicilian wine and Greek beer over much laughter and enjoyment! As if that wasn’t enough, after dinner we all climbed into our two dinghies for a short ride to the north side of the bay and a secluded stone beach that had a natural hot spring hot tub on it. When we were all seated or lying in the stone hot tub, under the most incredible sky, no light anywhere, more stars that I have ever seen anywhere, Yorgo produced a special bottle of “Rakhi”(spelling??), which is a type of homemade Ouzo that is aged in the sun – absolutely delicious!
And so our almost week long stay on the island of Kithnos came to an end. The next afternoon we lifted anchor and headed out for places unknown, literally as it turns out!!….