After so much sailing in no winds whatsoever we were about to experience our first Meltemi. The forecast was for 6 days of 35 mile an hour winds. On the Beaufort scale that is a force 7 wind. We didn’t want to be sailing in this and we didn’t want to be exposed to large waves in an anchorage. Reading in the Greek Waters Pilot, the Meltemi winds are good for sailing East. We made the decision though not to scare ourselves silly, to play it safe and to sit it out and not to take any risks. We would sail to Milos in the Southern Cyclades and hide in the large circular bay for the week.
It meant we had to leave ‘Elephant’s Noses’ (the island of Elafonisos) on the Saturday morning … early! So we had just one night on the island which was a great shame. Hopefully we will get the chance to go back there and explore a bit more. We planned to set out at 4 in the morning to make it around the tip of the third finger of the Peloponnese by day break. In actual fact we awoke at 3am so we set out then. By 3.10am the anchor was up and we were away.
It was dead calm! Eerily calm!
After coffee and chocolate ….. funny how its too early for breakfast but never to early for chocolate, I went into the bridge deck (inside on the settees) whilst Paul drove. He had previously set up way points in the chart plotter so could set Manwell to work (Manwell is our autopilot who sometimes works and sometimes does not). This means driving now is just watching for lights. After an hour I began to hear mutterings and swearing. “What is it?” I went out to investigate. “Bloody fishermen” he cursed, “They haven’t got lights on. They are driving around in the dark!”.
“I can’t see anything”, I piped up, “Exactly! So how do we navigate around them?” “I guess we don’t, we just have to make sure they can see us. Oh what are those lights?” I pointed to a series of lights on our port side “Little fishing boats maybe” Paul answered, “to close to be the mainland.” There was a ship out to sea about 2 miles in front of us so we reckoned if we followed his course it might be safer. We then realised that the small lights must be nets or fishing pots because they were just a meter off the water with no boats nearby.
Paul talked me through the navigational warning lights from the land with the chart plotter showing us how far we could see the lights out to sea. We also had a recap on the lights we could see from the ships so that you can tell in which direction they are moving. Now with the new VHF which picks up AIS targets (automatic identification system) and displays the information on the chart plotter, we could pick up a lot more information about the ships including their name, size, their destination and their speed. It also calculates our closest point of approach (CPA) and at what time that will be (TCPA). Because we are not transmitting AIS the ships cannot pick up our details at all. This means that unless they see us visually, they will not know where we are and even if they do see us they will not know how fast we are traveling.
Once we were around the bottom point of the third finger of the Peloponnese, we would be crossing the shipping lane which carries a fair few ships through to Piraeus. There was one ship that we saw we would have the closest point of approach at less than 0.2 of mile in 22 minutes time. Because the ship was 960 feet long, we figured this was far too close for comfort, we radio them to notify them we would alter our course to starboard. It is worth remembering that a ship of this size is restricted in his manoeuvrability so much easier for us to alter course and aim for his stern which in fifteen minutes would have long since moved on.
As the day progressed any wind that we had dropped to nothing. We were in the middle of the Aegean with not a whisper of wind. It was a magical moment.
We saw dolphins on our crossing but apart from that it was uneventful. We motored into Milos at about 6pm in the evening. It had been a long day with the engines on for the whole time. Now we had to prepare the boat for the winds.
We went in to the marina in the morning to top up with water. We had hoped to get fuel as well but we missed the man with the van but was able to arrange to go back at the end of the week. I slipped ashore for a few supplies while Paul filled up the water tanks and gave the boat a bit of a shower too.
The town Adamas looks a lot more Turkish than the Italian and French looking towns we were used to. But it felt friendly and was obviously popular as large ferries were arriving from Santorini, Athens, Paros and others. We enquired about staying on the town quay but the charges were way too much for a whole week, we resumed our place in the anchorage a little further out and prepared for the wind.
We didn’t know what to expect, we were sheltered from the north although the hill wasn’t that large. When it started, the wind howled through the rigging but the waves were small. Perfect, this was doable.
The strong wind makes any dinghy rides uncomfortable and wet, even without waves. It didn’t matter, we had food, water and internet and lots of jobs to be doing so we planned on not going ashore much. Because the wind was constant we hardly moved on the anchor so we didn’t have any rolling or bouncing at all. Occasionally the lazy jacks of the stack pack would begin to slap against the mast. These are the lines that ensure the sail falls back into a nice pile after sailing. There are also quite a few lines, halyards, shrouds which might create a buzz in this sort of wind. A bit like pulling a bow over a violin string, the wind creates a resonance at a particular level, point or strength. Because we are on board all of the time, we tend to move the halyards so they cant slap on the mast constantly or hum continuously. It is only is big winds that there might be one or two that are able to begin their orchestral warmups!
After three days of howling wind it does become very tedious. Because we are anchored out in the bay it means we cannot go in to town unless the wind dies down. It is just not sensible to take unnecessary risks. After 3 days it is calmer and we can venture in to town, stock up with supplies and walk Lilly whilst we wait for the waves to calm out at sea.
We have learnt that it takes two days of calm for the open sea to be calm again. Our boat doesn’t like going into big waves so if we need to travel it is worth waiting a while to get a more comfy sail.
Our weather windows also have to coincide with my work days. I don’t like moving if I have any consultations booked, even if they are much later in the day. I still worry that if we arrive at our destination there might not be internet and also the starboard engine is under the bed in my office so it makes the room extremely warm. Not the best environment for working in.
We make a break for it on Sunday and we have a lovely sail to “Snifnose” (Sifnos) we head into a little bay with the tiny village of Vathi (our 6th Vathi to date).
We realise we have just 2 days before our next blow comes in! What do we need to do for that?
We are back on anchor and free to sail. (In the image above is the bay we are now sitting in). Well that is the theory anyway! In reality we need to do another shop and we need to pick up a parcel that hasn’t arrived yet So in the meantime we can test all of our...
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With all of unknown surrounding Brexit, many UK sailors have been exploring all of the different ways in which we might or might not be affected by Brexit. Before we left the UK, we were approached by several doom and gloom merchants who felt that there was already...
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