Skala on Sikinos
36:40.487N 25:08.744E Wed 16th August 2017
Looking down on Katapola harbour:
In the end we stayed four nights on Amorgos which seems to attract mainly Greek and French tourists. It was the location of a famous French film in the 80s called “Le Grande Bleu” which may be why it is on their radar. We even managed to get a bit of exercise in which was a bonus. One morning we headed up the hill behind the town. through thick thorn bush looking for a path to the top where there are some ancient ruins. We eventually made it to the top, mostly on goat tracks, although a brief walk before breakfast turned into a 2 hour scramble. The ruins here are called Minoa but are in reality more recent than the Minoan civilisation. They were still impressive however, dating back to at least 1000BC and worth the effort. David also had a run one afternoon as the cooler breezes made it just about bearable. In fact the temperature has been quite bearable for the first time in ages.
On August 15th, the Feast of the Assumption, we watched the town icon paraded through the streets and people following in their Sunday best. All the local tripper boats with mainly kids on board, then whizzed around the bay with horns tooting before everyone made for the cafes along the waterfront. At midday we took the bus up to the Chora (high town) and wandered the gorgeous little lanes of whitewashed houses before having lunch in a pretty, shady spot and then walking up to the rocky ridge with its line of old windmills and incredible views. We saw some very rough seas from up there and wondered at the wisdom of setting off the following day. We walked back to the harbour via a 5km rural path along the side of a valley which was a lovely way to see a bit of the countryside. We were amazed to pass a spring with some frogs living at its base on this seemingly parched island. In the evening, back on the waterfront and just feet away from our berth, the town celebrated the feast day with a concert that lasted from 10.30 pm until 4.30 am. On this occasion however, it was fun to be so close and the music was delightfully traditional and mostly quite folksy. It even sounded a bit Celtic at times to our ears. Dancing started with young children lead around in a circle by a lad of about 9 or 10 who knew some interesting steps. After that the adults joined in until by the small hours most of the onlookers were dancing in that distinctive Greek snake-like way. We had sometimes wondered if that style of dancing was only reserved for tourist entertainment these days, but this is clearly not the case. It all seemed great fun and also very inclusive and relaxed – and no-one drunk at the end of the long night.
Assumption day boats rides:
Views of the Chora:
After a somewhat uncomfortable night on the quay in Katapola with a swell now working its way into the bay driven by increasing winds, we decided to move on before it got worse, as forecast. We had to use the engine for extra power for most of the first hour, going to windward with 3 reefs in the main and using the little staysail for the first time since the gale on the Atlantic crossing. We were heading either for a bay on the south of Ios, described to be sheltered from the Meltemi, or ideally to Sikinos where there is a small harbour with “good shelter”. So most of the day we were able to bear away and go slightly downwind, absolutely screaming along despite hardly having any sail up. The winds kept in the 25-40kt range and the seas were mostly confused and very rough, so there was a great deal of reefing and letting sail out again, normally just before another huge gust made us regret it. As we approached Ios the wind went ahead of us and the seas got worse, so much that I had to take over from Ray, the autopilot, who was having difficulty stopping us from being blown towards Ios’ shore. One look into the so-called sheltered bay there decided us to carry on, despite it meaning nearly 2 hours going to windward in pretty difficult conditions. Goldcrest seemed to know what to do though and, for the record, we were in 30kts with a wind angle of 50 degrees and making over 7kts most of the time. I was impressed, if a little uncomfortable! We had some impressive waves breaking over the front of the boat one of which ripped a seam in the spray-hood and we even had the end of the boom dip into the water once or twice.
Anyhow, we made it perfectly well to Sikinos (5½hrs, 38 miles), were there is no shelter at all! We anchored in winds stronger than ever (gusting to 40kts) which is pretty tricky in a relatively small area. The inner harbour was full of small boats where it wasn’t too silted up and shallow for us, so we are being blasted around by winds channelled over the top of this bare rocky island through a large valley. Fortunately the holding is perfect and the anchor is well dug in to the sand and we are veering about on a very long chain. We thought at first that it was too uncomfortable to stay and we would get up early to head south to Crete where the forecast is for lighter winds. Overnight we changed our minds – a week of very strong Meltemi winds peaking today would make for a really uncomfortable ride. Better to be stuck on anchor watch here, being blasted about but safe, than risk damage during a fast run in huge seas. We really are moving about though – the boat is sailing around the anchor (we did nearly ½ mile yesterday evening!) and heeling alarmingly in the biggest gusts. Thankfully we have a good anchor set-up and feel secure if not entirely comfortable. The winds aren’t due to lessen until Friday at the earliest, so we are here for a while.
Skala on Sikinos: