The windy Aegean

Dick and Irene Craig
Sat 16 Aug 2008 13:47
We moved from the anchorage at Matezana, Astipalaia on Tuesday morning when the wind had subsided and made our way to the town of Scala, a distance of less than 3 nautical miles. We intended to anchor in the bay and take the rib ashore for to buy some provisions but a small harbour was being constructed in the bay. A dredger, with its massive crane, was moving huge rocks and boulders, adding the finishing touches to the break-water.

We had some difficulty making the boat safe as the wind was determined to smash the back of the boat against the concrete quay. Eventually, after over an hour since we dropped the anchor and took lines ashore, the boat was secured and we went ashore to make our purchases. Skala is a delightful, unspoilt little town but with too many steps for me just now. I cannot believe how long it is taking to regain my strength following that nasty bug that attacked me while we were in the Middle-east.

We rose at 6am on Wednesday morning, to catch a window between blows. The wind was forecast to be force 4 to 5 and blowing from the north should make for a good sail. By 8.25am, we were tied up again in the harbour following a problem with the genoa, the cause of which we were unable to ascertain until we were back at Skala. Fortunately, we didn’t need a sail-maker, although a neighbouring catamaran had located one for us. It seemed that the sail had become detached from the swivel at the top of the foil. Using a winch, I pulled Dick up the mast so that he could lower the offending item, which he was subsequently able to fix.

At 10.30 we were again on our way to Amorgos, whose claim to fame is that it was used as the setting for the film, The Grand Bleu. Nonetheless, this island is not on the main tourist route, remaining unspoilt and therefore, for us, a lovely place to visit.

Within the hour we put a reef in the main sail but shook it out later as the wind decreased as we moved away from the island of Astipalaia.

The pod containing the auto-pilot became detached from the boat, other than by the cables linking it to the instruments below. We tied it onto the bimini supports to stop it being buffeted by the movement of boat.

I started to wonder if perhaps we should have set to sea today. It was after all, the 13th of the month, though not a Friday. Then I wondered, as things generally happen in threes, what the 3rd misfortune was likely to be. When the trim fell off the port side cross-trees, I was relieved. I am not really superstitious but I don’t care to tempt fate.

Three hours before we reached our anchorage on Amorgos, the wind was strengthening and the sea steep and confused. We put a reef in the main sail and then a second reef an hour later. The water threw itself over the bows and the fly-bridge as we fought our way north eastwards, close hauled, with the wind blowing 40 plus knots. The log tells us that it registered a high of 46knots.

We sailed along at 7, 8 and 9 knots then at 1.9knots as we went up and down in the steep  troughs. I kept looking at the log to see how far we had still to travel to our anchorage and the estimated time of arrival. While we were sailing at the higher speeds, we could expect to reach our next waypoint within the hour but when our speed was much reduced, it looked as if we were going to spend most of the night at sea.

We tacked closer to the island and switched on the engines, motor-sailing to our destination, where we arrived soaked, cold and tired. What an awful passage! At times like this, I wonder why I want to reach out of my comfort zone.

We stayed 3 nights in the protected bay of Kalotaritissa. There was a mono-hull in the bay on the morning following the second night, but it had left by 10am. A couple of hours later a 49foot catamaran arrived. By the look of their main halyard and a couple of other lines, one dangling into the sea and the genoa sheets badly twisted, they had experienced a problem and taken refuge in this bay to rectify the situation.

On the morning of the 16th August, we cautiously moved out of the bay. The wind was blowing a gentle force 4, though the sea was still steep. However, after the onslaught of the previous passage, we found this to be an encouraging start.

We made our way to Katapola, a distance of just 7 miles, planning to tie up on the town quay. So much for remote islands, the quay was choc-a-bloc with boats rafted 3 deep. It seemed that we had chosen to visit here, the same weekend as two separate yacht rallies had also arranged to be here. Good business for the island.

We dropped an anchor in the bay, had a swim, then went ashore for lunch, in the rib.