Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Greek islands of Ikaria and Fournoi

[Kyle]It was sunrise when we sailed into the lee of Ikaria and the wind died to a flat calm. Calm! I couldn’t believe it. Poor Kate and Mark. It was so calm that the sails became pointless so we stowed them and motored the length of the island towards he capital Agios Kirykos. We were now out of the Cyclades and into the Eastern Sporades.

Ikaria and the neighboring islands are former hideouts for pirates of the Byzantine and Ottoman times. More recently this is where communist sympathizers were sent (during the civil war of the 1940’s). Ikaria is named after Icarus who both attempted to escape from King Minos on wings of wax and feathers built by his father Daedalus. When Icarus ignored his father’s warnings to keep away from the sun, his wings melted and he crashed into the sea, supposedly creating the island of Ikaria. Ikaria is also (according to our trusty Lonely planet guide) the birthplace of Dionysos, God of Wine. Homer attested that the first-ever wine makers were from Ikaria.

At Agios Kirykos we found the harbor to have too much swell for our liking and only one obvious place to dock (another med-mooring), we decided to move on 2km up the coast to Thermia. The tiny harbor there was full of elderly swimmers who we gently picked our way through to tie up alongside the concrete pier in the center. Our guidebook suggested we could anchor, but it was so small it is hard to see how the local boats could get in or out if we did. There was not much to Thermia a few derelict looking buildings and a hand full of cafes. The main attraction? Spas built on thermal springs which draw an international elderly clientele to relieve their arthritis and other ailments which these thermal springs like almost all others are reputed to cure so many problems. To me it seemed the people going out were just as hunched over as the people going in but I’m sure it feels good at least while you are in there. These were extra special “radioenergic” thermal springs (i.e. radioactive) was this safe?

After tying up, we asked around the town and found that the pier was used for a ferry service expected at 5pm that afternoon – so we’d have to be clear by then. We were pretty sure we could see the whole town twice over by then. Our next planned day was a short 12nm trip so we decided to leave Ikaria by 5pm and head to our next anchorage a day early, we’d get our proper rest in then.

In the tiny harbor in the tiny town, suddenly Footprint was THE attraction. It was like pitching a circus tent in the middle of the town square, we were hard to miss, and plenty of locals and visitors came to greet us and attempt discussions in a mix of sign language and smiles.

Ikeria, with a mixed messages of high end spa and communist decay

We selected the busiest restaurant for a big meal of two giant table appetizers accompanied, of course, by a jug of the local wine (which was good, and inexpensive). We walked off our lunch by traversing the 25 steps to Footprint to collect our swim and shower gear for a visit to the town’s spa.

For €4.50 we got 20 minutes in a Jacuzzi pool bubbling with the healing thermal waters, for €3.00 I added a 20 minute stint in a natural steam sauna, built into a side cave. (Further up the coast you can do almost the same for free at a local beach, but Maryanne was happy to pay the €4.50 for the fresh water shower alone after the Jacuzzi). I started with the sauna while Maryanne found a shady spot to read her book. Even after experiencing it, I’m not sure I understand the appeal of a humid room heated to 150°F in Greece in the summer!


After spending the first half of my allotted time in the sauna alone carefully keeping track of the time for the moment when I could finally burst out into the cool air of the Greek summer I was joined by several more people. There were three women who I wish were wearing more than bikinis, happily chatting away to each other in Greek. Behind them came 4 gentlemen (complete with speedos). After a while I thought I heard a couple of words of French and one of the men asked if anyone spoke English as he was trying to find out what the time limit was. I answered 20 minutes in French at which point he asked me where I was from. I told him I was American and he immediately lit up. “You are the boat in the harbor?”. We then proceeded to have a lively conversation, all in French about our travels until Maryanne came to fetch me, concerned I was over my 20 minute stay and ready for her Jacuzzi. After a quick cold shower I was ready for the hot bath, which seemed surprisingly mild. We once again were joined by the Frenchmen where Maryanne was able to also join in with mixed French and English. They were really nice guys.

We took a final soap and water shower and returned to Footprint for our departure. The Big Top was being stowed away, our new French friends waved us off enthusiastically from the beach, wishing us “Bon Voyage”.

The wind was so light (sorry Kate and Mark) that we motored all the way to our next anchorage at the south end of Nisis Fournoi where we now had the luxury of two nights in a row to relax, sleep, and get caught up with the blog. We also set aside some time for exploring, the highlights of which were spotting not one, but two separate octopuses (octopi is not the correct plural since the octopus is NOT of Latin origin, but Greek) and a sunset walk along the road lining the bay.

Exploring another new island anchorage

Octopus hunting on Fournoi

Sunset from Fournoi


[Kyle]We finally did get a good night’s rest (mostly). About 1:30 in the morning Maryanne woke me to tell me she’d heard a bang and felt like we’d hit the boat beside us. I was asleep and couldn’t understand what she was talking about but she insisted on getting up to check. It turned out one of our stern lines had come un-cleated and we had indeed drifted into the boat alongside us (thank goodness for fenders). In order to get ashore to retrieve the lines I first had to take some of the slack out of the anchor chain (allowing Footprint to get closer to the wall), Maryanne jumped ashore and fed the line through the ring and tossed it back to me. We then cranked everything back into place and went back to bed. An hour or so later I heard banging and on investigating found that the wind had blown our passerelle into the boat and was now dangling lopsided and crashing into things (no doubt also waking Kate and Mark who were berthed directly below it).

Kate and Mark start the long journey home

We all got up early to share breakfast together before the mid-morning ferry departure back to Athens for Kate and Mark. Even though we must all have still been full from the previous night’s dinner we managed an assortment of Greek pastries that Kate and Mark had bought at a local bakery after dinner the evening before. We walked with Kate and Mark to the ferry terminal. Maryanne stayed with Mark and the bags while Kate and I went to the port Police to check Footprint in for the previous night’s arrival and to remove Kate and Mark from our official passenger list. Clearing in was uneventful, I asked if the port was closed due to the weather but the woman just chuckled and said “you’ve been to Athens? We never close”. I then asked her if they were open 24 hours in the event we would need to clear out that night – she said “yes, 24 hours, but not after midnight”.

On the walk to the port police Kate lobbied to have an extra day in Tinos for Maryanne’s sake. After the bashing we took the previous night I was also exhausted and could have used a rest day myself, but Turkey is still a long way away and we have very few extra days to throw around. If the weather was at all similar to the previous night I agreed there was no way we were going out in that, but if it really did turn out to be OK, then we would need to be on our way. Kate gave me a look that showed she didn’t really like my plan but once I explained I had no intention of leaving if the weather was bad, we sort of agreed to disagree. At the time of our walk it was still howling like crazy and the harbor continued to be buffeted and full of whitecaps, so it looked like there would be no chance we would actually leave that day and Kate would at least win by default. She is a good friend and wants to make sure we are safe and not subjected to any more misery than necessary; I appreciate her looking out for us.

After a short wait their ferry arrived, a gigantic catamaran perched high in the water we followed alongside behind the fence as they boarded and waved as their boat tore off into roaring winds, making it look surprisingly smooth.

They really were great to have aboard. The cruising world is filled with many stories of couples that come together for a vacation aboard and end up separating under bad terms. Kate and Mark were easy to get along with and in spite of horrible sea conditions always emerged at the other end of a rough sail with smiles and an eagerness to explore the next new place. I was very glad that they didn’t cut their visit short in Kythnos and had made it all the way to Tinos.

The boat felt surprisingly empty as we prepared Footprint for a possible departure that night without them. We hope their ferry journey back to Athens and their last night there would be a good one.

[Maryanne]With our friends gone, the guest room was again 'free' and our boat stowage could be rearranged to make access more convenient, we had lots to do before our next passage. I tried desperately to persuade Kyle we should take a lazy day and an extra night in Tinos to recover and get a good night’s sleep (the next passage was to be 60 miles and an overnight one). However the forecast was good, time pressure strong, and Kyle was keen to get going. Compromise? We’d prepare the boat as if to leave and if the forecast suggested we should stay we’d take the rest time after that, but we should be ready just in case. One of our big needs was water. Tinos is reputed to have the best water in Greece. I tried the hoses, but they didn’t work. I walked to the Port Police office, where I was told they didn’t handle that. Look for a woman in a sky blue shirt. There was no woman in a blue shirt. After much investigation, I found a phone number to call. I got a guy who said he’d be there at five. He wasn’t, but a woman with a blue shirt showed up at 6:30. Provisions, boat spares, and general rearrangement complete. Weather checked, harbor and distant seas looking calm – we were going! Doh!

[Kyle]Just about the time that we were going to resign ourselves to another night on Tinos the weather calmed down, really calmed down. There were no more whitecaps in the harbor and the wind was down into the teens (the forecast was correct?). It was also supposed to swing to the Northwest giving us a good tail wind for the long next leg to Ikaria.

The long climb up the the church, especially if you are on your knees

With the boat finally ready for passage we had a couple of hours before departure. We made a point of going to see Tinos’ main attraction The Church of Panagia Evangelistria. This relatively new church (built after 1822 when the icon was found on the site) is a Greek Orthodox version of the Catholic’s Lourdes, people from all over come to be cured of their ailments, it’s a big deal. Along one side of the main road from the harbor to the church is a carpeted strip to ease the journey for the pilgrims to supplicate themselves on hands and knees while pushing a candle up to the church. {Maryanne: They certainly deserve to be cured for the effort involved, I was puffing from the walk.}. The church is very simple on the outside with picturesque courtyards and stairways all painted in white or using the local Tinos Marble. The inside is very ornate, crammed full with silver chandeliers and votives brought by pilgrims for curing of their various ailments. We arrived just as a service was ending and popped in a side door to hear the last of the chanting in Greek. Once everyone had left we freely explored inside the church more thoroughly, regarding the silver decorations and half lit ambience of the church.

Tinos Church of the virgin Mary

We stayed until sunset and walked to the port police one last time to officially clear out. Again we had a Greek port police moment. There was only one man in the office and I feared that even though it wasn’t he might consider it officially past midnight, so to speak. We told him we wanted to clear out and presented our paperwork, he inspected it, and it seemed this is the first time he’d ever seen such paperwork. He advised we should come back at 8am. “But we want to leave now”, we pressed… Feeling bullied, he relented and resorted to a phone call where he was talked through the steps to take to clear us out, stamp here, write there, etc… Whew, we were free to leave now.

We departed just after sunset and were not the only boat to cast off her lines at that time. We had a fast trip down the coast of Tinos to the southern end where the wind just died in the lea of the island. We bobbed around for a couple of hours rolling back and forth in the left-over waves. I was thinking the horrible winds of Tinos would return at any moment and this was just a momentary lull in the lee of a local mountain, but the wind took a long time to materialize. Once we finally drifted into open water again, the wind did return, mercifully not in full force but remaining quite mild and we had a nice fast downwind reach to Ikaria in mild and comfortable seas (this is more like it). I had two thoughts: one was that I was glad it was not worse and therefore in big trouble with Maryanne (and even Kate); the other was that it was such a shame that Kate and Mark had not seen fine sailing like this during the entire time they were with us. Those mixed feelings would rise often over the next couple of days.

On to Siros and Tinos

Exploring and relaxing in Siros

[Kyle]Since we’d arrived in Siros in the black of night, none of us had yet seen it fully until we emerged groggy from our berths the following morning. Wow, it was spectacular; the whole bay was ringed by steep high cliffs of tan rock and scrub-covered hill. Our cove was rock walls on two sides, with sandy beach on the third. We were all eager to make haste towards our next island of Tinos but this place was too good to pass up so we made time for some leisurely swimming. I was able to sneak away long enough to get to the top of the nearest high thing – an outcrop of rock with a cairn placed atop as a signal to me to stop climbing. I made my way back down to Footprint where we all had a good rinse before leaving for Tinos.

I explained to Kate and Mark that our 16nm passage would require the first 2.6nm to be upwind to round the island, but after that it should be a fast, cross-wind passage, with conditions improving as we near the protection of Tinos. That is not what happened.

The closer we got to Tinos the worse things got. After we rounded Ak Trimeson at the North end of Siros winds were in the low teens (great), with slightly sloppy seas, “this isn’t so bad” we thought. Kate was even sitting out on deck enjoying the views. The further we got though the worse things became. Eventually it became apparent that Kate would get a thorough drenching if she stayed there so she went inside. By about ½ way across the 19kt forecast winds were steady in the high 30’s and we were taking a real pounding again. I felt terrible for our poor friends but had the reassurance of knowing that we only had single digit miles to go and we would shortly be in the shelter of the island.

Those last 8nm ended up being about the longest I’d sailed in my life. By the time we were within 2nm of the harbor entrance the seas were no calmer, and the wind was gusting into the 40’s. I was steering while Maryanne would call out wind speeds (Mark later reported that he heard her calling out speeds of 26/27kt and thought that was what we must be sailing through. In reality Maryanne was reassuring me that the latest gust had died back down.). One gust hit us that was so bad I had to abandon our course altogether and sail straight down wind to try and minimize the forces on the sail and rig, during the worst of the wind indicator reported 48kt relative wind, and we were travelling 12.1kt in the same direction of the wind – making the true wind 60kt (that is 69mph – hurricane force winds). This is the strongest wind we have ever had underway in Footprint, it was truly terrifying, we longed to reach that safe harbour and felt terrible for our friends we'd convinced to continue the journey.

By the next appreciable lull (wind down into the 30s) we had been blown a couple of miles downwind of the harbor, I rounded up and Maryanne quickly went forward to dump our double reefed mainsail. We started the engine and began the long upwind bash the 2nm remaining to the harbor. The wind was so strong that going into it even with full cruising rpm we were only able to make a knot or 2 over the bottom and in some gusts it was impossible to keep the boat pointing straight against the force of the wind. Things didn’t actually improve until we were inside the concrete breakwater of the harbor at Tinos. The wind was still in the mid 30’s but it was smooth enough that we could set fenders and prepare to Med-moor at the dock in the inner harbor.


We were anxious about the whole med-mooring procedure in those conditions but the wind was straight off the dock which made for easier manoeuvring and the inner harbour was more protected. Quite a few people were on hand to watch our arrival as we were the only boat moving about the harbour and conditions were still rough. It required all 4 of us to get safely berthed. I was at the wheel, Maryanne at the bow with the anchor, and Kate and Mark each had a stern line. Conspicuously people on several of the other docked sailboats were happy to sit and watch but offered no help (this seems incompressible in those conditions), this required Mark to take a leap of death to shore to help attach our lines through the rings. By the time we attached our stern lines to the wall our wind indicator was showing just 13kts, unbelievable. There was little sign from the square behind our boat of the violence that was occurring just outside the harbour entrance.

We encouraged Kate and Mark to escape ashore and confirm their ferry arrangements for the following day, while Maryanne and I cleaned up the mess inside the boat and completed our ‘done sailing’ check list. The med-mooring system makes a boat pretty lurchy if there’s any swell in the harbor as the boat jerks to the end of her lines. On one particularly bad lurch from a ferry wake, Maryanne fell, sending a bucket of bilge water she was heading out with all over the interior. Some of it landed on her computer. As far as we can tell, it still works with the exception of the screen. It’s a good thing we have two. She swapped her hard drive into my machine, so we’re back up and running with the blog until she can get hers fixed and I can have my hard drive back. With tasks completed, we were all ready for a grand-finale meal and big drinks ashore. We selected a waterfront restaurant from the many and were seated by an adorable waitress. As we were perusing our menu Maryanne noticed another boat arriving with crew all in foul weather gear and attempting to berth in the space beside us and sent me to help collect their lines. Every person on that boat had the same look on their faces that I imagine we all had a couple of hours before - wide eyes, wild hair and complete exhaustion. When I tossed the line back to the woman at the stern she looked like it had been the nicest thing anyone had ever done for her, but she was too exhausted to say anything, so she just gave me a weak and very grateful smile.

A farewell dinner in Tinos

Back to dinner! In Greece food in restaurants is served differently than in the USA and the UK. Usually you find something on the menu you like and order it for yourself. Since we were all hungry we each ordered a main course and with 3 more starters to share. I had a feeling this might be a bad idea since most of the restaurants we’ve encountered in Greece (except Athens) seem to prepare main courses to share. When the appetizers arrived on huge platters we knew we were in trouble. Then the main courses showed up and suddenly there was almost more food than would fit on the table. But this was to be our last dinner together with our friends in Greece, and we’d all just been through hell, so we were more than happy to make a long evening of it and enjoy. We washed our food down with a large carafe of pretty good local wine, and the ubiquitous bottle of chilled water. It was a great time; we were glad to finally be on shore and had a relieved sense of accomplishment from having been through the worst period of rough weather that we had seen on Footprint while not on an extended ocean passage.

Last night in Tinos

This hadn’t been exactly the experience we had hoped to share with our friends but they were amazingly good natured and happy to stress the good times on each island, and insisted they were glad they had not left Footprint at Kythnos (I’m not sure I was glad that I hadn’t left Footprint at Kythnos!). For this attitude and their great friendship we are amazingly lucky. We somehow miraculously managed to eat almost all the food presented to us that evening and even managed to top it off with a shared bottle of ouzo to toast the trip and our friends. As we were about to settle the bill and leave the restaurant the proprietor came up and placed a dish with a tiny carafe of Rakomena (Raki with honey) and 4 shot glasses – an excuse for more toasting – wonderful. Oh boy! It’s a good thing Footprint was only across the street and we’d had plenty to eat. We managed more than that though, we walked off our dinner by joining all of Tinos in the traditional evening stroll enjoying the sights and sounds of the bustling little town before finally retiring for a good night’s rest.

An extra day in Kythnos

Dinghy ashore and Hike to the nearby village

[Kyle]In the morning over breakfast and a new forecast we decided our plan for the day was to figure out how to get Kate and Mark home from Kythnos if the afternoon forecast was not significantly better for our passage to Syros. This started with a row to shore (this time taking two trips so everyone could stay dry), and then joined the goat trails across a series of hills for the 40 minute walk to the nearest town of Stefanos (unfortunately its harbor had been full the previous night).

Pretty village of Stefanos

Stefanos was another pretty collection of about two dozen buildings centered on a little bay. We explored and took pictures at a meandering pace. At the far end of the town, in the ‘burbs, we found a tavern and settled in for lunch and to try and get some information on how to get across the island to the ferry port (the town of Merikha). We had a delicious lunch in a beautiful setting; we all agreed the best Greek food so far. Maryanne heard someone at a nearby table speaking English and went over to ask them if they knew anything about the ferries and transport across the island. It turned out they lived there for part of the year and were a great source of information. We sorted out escape plans for Kate and Mark, and set off back to the boat for a last check of the weather (and retrieve bags as necessary).

A lovely meal in the taverna of Kynthos

It was sad for me thinking that they would be leaving a couple of days earlier than planned and expected. One particularly tough moment for me was when Kate found a picked a ripe fig from a tree (she has a fig tree at home and we’ve been gleaning information from her regarding how to tell when they are ripe etc.). She seemed so pleased and I realized that there was soon to be no more shared experiences for the four of us. I tried my best but my heart was heavy for the journey back to Footprint. We had asked around at Stefanos to see if we could find someone to act as water-taxi back to Footprint and thus saving us the walk, but we’d had no luck; we trudged back home via the familiar goat path route.

To save the two long trips, once we reached the dinghy Mark hiked along the shoreline while I rowed Kate and Maryanne towards Footprint. With me rowing in the dinghy and Mark picking his way across rocks and prickly bushes we were about equal in progress towards Footprint until I suddenly spotted a turtle surfacing for air. I stopped our rowing and waited for it to surface so Maryanne and Kate could also see the old mariner; eventually he did surface but just briefly until their squeals of delight caused him to dive back below the surface.

As we were making plans to take Footprint around to Stefanos to drop off Kate and Mark with their bags, I checked the latest forecast. It seemed much better, but I was still wary of trusting it. I had so little faith in the forecasts, but also wanted to believe it so we could continue on with our friends. I was worried that if it did end up being bad again and they missed their chance for a way out, everyone would think it was my fault and so I was reluctant to discuss the new improved forecast. It felt like everyone else was already on the path of getting our friends off Footprint and I no longer felt a right to a say in the matter. It was heartbreaking watching them pack. I could not take it, so I busied myself on deck trying to distract myself but it didn’t work.

After I’d taken too long over a minor task Maryanne sought me out and asked me what was wrong. I told her I really did think the forecast was acceptable and I hated the idea of our friends leaving only to hear reported in the blog that we had had a wonderful time in the places they were supposed to have been sharing with us. Maryanne grabbed me by the hand and took me to the cockpit where she sat me down and insisted I explain all this to them. They listened attentively and to my surprise and great relief agreed that we should at least try the passage to Siros; if it didn’t work we could always return and drop them off at Stafanos the following day. We promised to give them vito power to turn Footprint around if either of them didn’t want to continue. After so many rough passages and anchorages, we were amazed that they were willing to expose themselves to more rather than jump ship early and have a leisurely last few days in Greece free from the dictates of the winds.

We left at sunset to ensure the passage to Siros was in the lowest of the forecast winds. It turned out all right; for once the winds were as forecast. We had a fast and not too uncomfortable reach and were pulling into the anchorage at Siros after only 3½ hours. The anchorage I’d selected, Ormos Aetou, turned out to be less populated than I expected. The entire bay was just a black wall obscuring the stars. We felt our way in with radar and spotlights. I had originally planned to anchor in the North cove, which our guide advised required a line ashore as there was no swinging room. We inched our way in to check it out and confirmed that the rocks were far too close to allow for any swinging room. I wasn’t in the mood to swim in the dark so we backed out and headed to the larger but less protected cove to the East. Inside the cove the wind was completely blocked by the surrounding cliffs, but the large swell was still making its way in. We set the anchor in good sand and toasted our arrival before another night of terrible rolling and more fitful sleep.

Greek Island of Kythnos

Our remote Kythonos cove, where Kate finds a hammock to relax in

[Kyle]We had an unstructured morning of snorkeling and hiking around the local hills. This included a visit to the most conspicuous landmark in the bay – a small and well kept church. Despite being small, it still seemed large for the number of people it could serve (two elderly farmers?). We poked our heads inside and found it tidy and well kept and with candles lit for the day (presumably by the goat herder) so it was clearly still in regular use.

Mark was a good sport and joined me in my trek up to the highest point I could find. The farm by the beach had many more signs of life in the morning, as we landed with our fins and were changing to shoes a herd of goats past us pushed along by an elderly goat herder who greeted us in incomprehensible (to us) Greek; we responded with our basic Greek greetings (Kalimera, and Yassas) and smiles all around, before parting ways! Beyond the beach wall another man was unloading packs from a donkey having just walked down to the farm from the road high above. It was clear from the roads and trails around that donkeys were the only viable means of transport on this part of the island; we had stumbled back in time. So we find ourselves in a bay on a remote part of a remote Mediterranean island, with no obvious signs of modern day civilization in sight (no roads, no power cables, no televisions) and yet we still could access internet using our Greek wifi card – amazing. By now we had learned not only of an earthquake hitting Virginia (where our visitors Kate and Mark lived) but also that a hurricane was on its way to directly hit their town – Yikes. Kate and Mark’s house being sturdily built in the days before particleboard had seen many hurricanes so their main threat was potential flooding and certain electricity loss. There was nothing we could do but enjoy where we were.

On our walk to the top of the hill Mark and I did find what appeared to be a vehicle road, although we both agreed it would be terrifying to drive and probably more terrifying to be driven along it. It was very steep and narrow, covered with loose gravel, and had regular hairpin turns over high drop offs. It terminated in a padlocked gate and quite some distance remaining for the donkeys to haul any load.

Views from the hills and of the hills

We met back at Footprint for lunch and as we were preparing for departure another boat arrived which through the binoculars we could see had a shredded mainsail. They anchored beside us in the small cove and after giving them some time to get settled we chatted over the radio – they were two Belgian men in a charter boat and had sailed from the North of the island (the town of Loutra) just 10nm of downwind sailing away. They reported big seas and strong gusts but could not give us any specifics, as they were not equipped with any wind indicator. Our forecast led us to expect strong winds all morning 9am-3pm and reduced winds after that (when we planned to leave). Their reports seemed to coincide with the morning forecast and we continued with our plans to depart after 3pm (still rough, but not unreasonably so). They had contacted their charter company and were advised the winds were expected to be lighter in the afternoon and would send them a new mainsail the next day. They wished us luck as we pulled up anchor and headed out into the mess they had just escaped from.

We cleared the cove and turned for Siros. The wind was strong (mid-20s and just forward of the beam) but the seas were no worse than we’d seen so far. We’d need to sail up wind and it was not going to be a pleasant day sail, it looked like another day of wishing we were already there. The leg from Kythnos to Siros was the longest stretch of open water we had planned during Kate and Mark’s visit. Unlike previous days the entire journey was to be just a stretch of open water. As we got further and further from Kythnos, both the wind and seas continued to build. Kythnos has the unfortunate position of being downwind of Kafirevs Sound, a large gap between Evvoia and Andros that lets the Meltemi blow in unimpeded from the northern Aegean. The seas also come through this gap, where they part around the protected island of Yaros before meeting again on the southern side in a mess of pyramid shaped cross-seas. The winds didn’t relax but grew from the forecast low 20’s into the upper 30’s bringing with it waves of 3m (even the occasional 5m wave). It was miserable and slow progress and a strong current also worked against us, forcing us to point even further into the strong winds. The boat pounded and objected. After an hour or so, we were beating into the heaviest seas and winds that we’ve ever experienced on an upwind sail, and no obvious signs of improvement (quite the opposite). The conditions meant that what we’d intended to be a 5 hour passage would take more like 13hours. It seemed none of us, including the boat, would want to tolerate for that long. A rough sail had deteriorated into near survival conditions and we made the decision to aboard the passage and return to our Kythnos anchorage.

Because of the current and winds, the return journey was also a miserable upwind sail (just slightly less so), and as we returned to Kythnos the wind and seas died down to normal levels. Realizing we would be here for an extra day, we tried a couple of different coves for variety, each of which had some issue that made it unsuitable for anchoring. We finally pulled up to our old spot near the Belgians, dropped the anchor, and to add to our misery it would not set. Another attempt, the same thing. We tried a slightly different spot, same problem. After a few more tries I finally donned a snorkel and mask and jumped in to find a decent sandy spot in which to dig the anchor. Maryanne drove the boat and Mark dropped the anchor. The whole process took us over an hour. Afterwards we were all feeling exhausted and shell-shocked.

Not much was said about the days attempted sail, we were all too tired. We just shook heads and shared the misery, we didn’t want to talk about it. The forecast for the next day was for a slight improvement but by then we had become very mistrustful of the forecasts. We discussed alternatives for Kate and Mark’s passage home? Was it better for them to have a nice few days on an island while we pressed on without them? Or should we trust the forecast and stick with the plan? We all went to bed to lick our wounds while the wind howled into the anchorage from the valley, buffeting the boat for another poor night of sleep.