Friday night was spent alongside in Ayos Nikolaos collecting George and Nigel from the airport at Iraklion and the following morning, using the same hire car, delivering Steve and Mike to the same airport. All achieved for €37 plus €20 fuel. Somewhat different to the €80 per journey requested by taxi drivers!
|A traffic jam on the lanes of Crete (milk collection)!|
That done we decided to make use of the hire car and make a tour of this end of Crete, whilst the opportunity presented. Christoph had lived in the area for a period some years ago and was keen to revisit the mountain village, Agios Ioannis, where he stayed. Late that evening we returned the hire car, settled our bill at the marina, and set out for one of the anchorages at Spinalonga. In the event we chose to anchor, just as the sun was setting, in the anchorage on the eastern side of Spinalonga island.
A superb anchorage but one that is on the “grockle boat” itinerary and therefore we vacated fairly early next morning to coincide with their arrival. (For those unfamiliar with “Grockle” it is the term used in Cornwall to describe tourists). At 0930 we sailed off the anchor and very slowly edged our way into the lagoon again, here we were to stay for the following 24 hours.
|The night anchorage was in the furthest of these two bays|
It really is a superb anchorage and I took the opportunity to climb to the top of Spinalonga island to take some shots of the anchorage we had used the previous night.
|Kurukulla and anchored in a bay on the west side of Spinalonga|
Next day dawned clear and bright, with a light northerly breeze, and hence we sailed off the anchor, beat out of the lagoon and northwards to the point where we cold turn west towards Iraklion. Our first stop was to be the small port of Khersonisos; our original intention was to make this a lunchtime stop but the anchorage outside the harbour looked only barely tenable and at best uncomfortable; hence, we opted to enter and try to find a space. In the event we were lucky and managed to find a spare slot between two fishing boats in the inner end of the harbour. The Port Police kindly volunteered to take our lines and informed us that if we were only planning to stay one night then the berth was available to us. The Khersonisos harbour chartlet in the Heikell pilot shows a shallow patch in the centre, rocky and less than 2m in depth, making it a tricky harbour to enter. We had carefully skirted around this obstruction on entry only to be informed by the Port Police (Coastguard), when attending to pay my dues, that the obstruction had been removed and the whole harbour centre is now dredged to over 3m in depth, not all was lost though as they also declined to charge me on the basis that a one day stay was not worth the effort! That night we went ashore to investigate the town (very touristy and hardly worth the effort) before dinner and also took the opportunity to top up on victuals from a very well stocked supermarket.
Our departure next morning was to be rather less smooth than our arrival, yet again on lifting our anchor (having been careful to lift it as near as possible over the point we dropped it) we discovered we had picked up a 4 claw mooring anchor for the second time in four days. These really are a pain in Greek harbours. In so many ports every fisherman lays this type of mooring anchor for his individual holding off line meaning that the harbour bottom is littered with them, making them almost impossible to avoid for visitors dependent on using their own anchor. Sinkers and a chain to which all attach is a much more satisfactory solution but one that requires cooperation!
A forlorn hope I suspect. Anyhow after a five minute “ballet”, in the centre of the harbour, we were free and on our way.
Next stop was to be in the Nisis Dia, a group of islands just north of Iraklion. Our landfall in the islands was just before 1400 and by 1430 we had chosen our spot and were anchored in a small cove, on the southern shores of the main island, ready for lunch. To limit our swinging radius to the available width in the cove we had anchored in the shallower water, reasonably close to the beach; something that we were to slightly regret later! A swim in the crystal clear waters, a foray ashore and a good lunch, what more could we ask for. The answer was a more consistent wind! During lunch, unnoticed by us all, we had turned and gone very gently aground on the beach. It was a very light bump that alerted us to the event. Notwithstanding the softness of our landing it took us a good 10 minutes, and a quick swim by me, to discover that we were very delicately balanced on a small rock, hence the engine alone would not be enough too get ourselves back off the beach. The crew were duly invited to climb onto the boom, the boom pushed out to heel us over, and with our draught duly reduced by the angle of heel we were off in 10 seconds. We changed bays!
|Balast on the boom to get us off the beach!|
For the overnight stop that we had planned we anchored in the western bay which is less enclosed but offers more swinging room. The western end of the western bay is not quite as well sheltered from the westerly winds and care is needed of several shallow areas on the western side as you enter but it offers much more swinging room!
The night here was uneventful which is more than can be said for the following morning! Our plan was to sail off the anchor and reach over to Iraklion in time for lunch and to do the tourist trip to Knossos. As the mainsail went up something quite substantial, from the top of the mast, hit the deck and bounced over the side. It was the masthead pulley for the main halyard! In 9m depth there was no point in trying to find it and recover it and so we decided on the next best option, motor over to Iraklion and get a new one made!
The trip to Iraklion was and uncomfortable motor with the wind and sea on the beam. However after an hour of rocking and rolling (I really do not understand the joys of motor-boating!) we were safely inside Iraklion harbour. Fortunately we were able to find a berth inside the old Venetian harbour however life was never going to be that simple. The “marinaio” (marina hand) ashore directed us to a berth in a downwind corner of the marina which was about as tight as is it possible to get Kurukulla into with a force 5 wind blowing her into the corner. His misjudgement was not understanding that Kurukulla does not have a bow thruster, mine was accepting the berth! It was to be a one shot attempt to get her in, no second chance would be available. In the event I probably should have gone in faster but entering a blind berth, with no where to go, at speed, is a brave man's game. My compromise resulted on a lot of heaving and hauling, by all concerned, but we got in, inelegantly, and without doing any damage to anything other than my pride. Now it was back to the mast problem! George and Nigel were despatched to go and do the Knossos thing whilst Christoph and I stayed to sort out the mast (we had both seen it before, if some years ago).
My first trip up the mast confirmed, my diagnosis that the main halyard pulley had come free, and
|Iraklion port across the marina in the Venetian Harbour|
Christoph's judgement that winding me up the mast was going to be a challenging process! The pulley spindle, common to both halyard and topping lift pulleys, was held in place by two flimsy stainless steel plates (not a clever design) and one had detached allowing the spindle to move sideways and the halyard pulley to escape. I came down armed with the topping lift pulley to use as a pattern, the offending spindle and failed “keep plate”. The next challenge was to find a new pulley. A trip to the local yacht chandler was unsuccessful other than obtaining the name of a local craftsman who could potentially make one.
A one mile walk later and into the port area via gate 3 and we found Manolis Dimitrolioi (+30 2810 289 765) in his workshop; an absolutely charming artisan who, despite our lack of a common language, did everything he could to help. By 1900 that night he had made a new pulley, out of PTFE that he held in stock, and it was ready to fit next morning. That night we did a walking tour of Iraklion before having supper in one of the waterfront fish restaurants to celebrate our success.
|Some of Irakleon's amazing architecture|
It was not to be that easy! When I collected the pulley Manolis explained to me that it was 0.5 mm wider than the original but as both he and I were sure that the tolerances were not that tight I was not worried. We were wrong; as I found out on reaching the top of the mast next day. There was no choice but to return to Manolis's workshop and get him to reduce it to the exact dimension. This I did, accompanied by slight mutterings from the crew about having to wind me up the mast for a third time! Whilst walking back to Manolis's workshop I also contemplated, again, the securing arrangement for the pulley spindle at the top of the mast. I decided to avoid the need to re-rivet the rather under-designed keep plate, to remove the other one, and go for a bolted solution that would last for the rest of my lifetime at least. As a consequence I needed to persuade Manolis to make me two spacers in addition to reducing the pulley.
|Me doing mast repairs at Iraklion|
He initially shrugged his shoulders and offered me a collection time of 1900 that night. Once I had produced the necessary material from his scrap stock he turned up the piece required, on his lathe, in 5 minutes and I was on my way. My attempt to pay him for this further work was robustly repudiated and any attempt by me to press the matter only resulted in a deep frown. His total bill for manufacturing the new arrangement €15! (Plus a further €2.50 for the new bolt and nylock nut from the chandler). An hour after my return to the boat we were ready to go to sea again.
Our initial plan had been to set sail for Rethimno that day, early, but with a robust westerly wind and too little time even to make Ormos Bali which was the next suitable recommended anchorage
|The hamlet at Ormos Bali|
(about half the distance), we decided to return to the western bay on Dia Island and set off early next day. This we did. A pleasant second evening was passed anchored under the church on the western end of the island and we finally set off westwards at 0800 next day. Our plan of heading straight to Rethimno was again thwarted by the westerly wind which, although it had moderated to F3-4, had left a lumpy swell for us to battle. After six and a half hours on the wind we decided it was time for a comfortable lunch and headed into the shelter of the bay at Ormos Bali and anchored just outside the small breakwater there. Indeed it was so comfortable that we stayed for the rest of the day and the overnight.
Our slight delay had required a rethink of where George and Nigel would need to depart from. The original plan had been Khania, near the airport of the same name, but now it would have to be from Rethimno. Next day we set off westwards again in an almost flat calm. We motored, motor sailed and sailed as far as Lianos Cavos where, in an almost flat calm, we anchored off the caves for lunch and a swim into the caves.
|Our first berth in the old Venetian Harbour at Rethimno|
Both were excellent! Two hours motoring later we were in the harbour at Rethimno and decided to at least poke our nose into the old Venetian Harbour there, to see if there was space, before opting for the marina where berthing was bound to be available. To our surprise there was an empty berth just on the left as we entered. Five minutes later we were tucked in on the corner and George and Nigel had set off ashore to organise a hire car. Christoph set off on a photographic expedition around the old town and I tried unsuccessfully to find the supplier of diesel oil, as listed in the pilot. (I was later to find out that the reference is to the marina where they will direct you to the right garage). As part of my research I decided to
ask the local Port Police if they knew from where fuel was available. Mistake! Almost before I had made my request I was being told by an over officious Port Policeman that there was no way I could stay in the old harbour, I “must move immediately to the marina” “the berth was needed tonight”,
neither of which was true. I suspect there was a backhander somewhere between Marina operator and Port Police (Coastguard), there is almost no other explanation for his insistence! As it was I got my documents inspected and, once the crew returned, we left for the marina; a quarter mile away. We berthed there for the night and were never invited to pay. I didn't object and, after my experience with the Port Police, neither did I volunteer!
The evening was passed doing a return trip (1 hour each way) to Khania airport to drop off Nigel and George, followed by a quick outing with 2x25 ltr jerry cans in the back of the car to get fuel for the boat, This was followed by a meal ashore and to round it all off, an ice cream in the old port area just to check whether our earlier berth was still empty; it was, as were many others.
|The "Mosque" (museum) at Khania|
|The marina at Khania|
Next morning we returned the hire car, watered ship, and set off at 1000 for Khania from where Christoph was due to depart next day. It was again light airs sailing and mixed with more than a bit of motoring towards the end. We arrived in Khania at 1730 and berthed just inside the marina without difficulty; there was even a holding off line available!
A quick trip to the bus station confirmed the availability of buses to the airport next morning and a recommendation from the local owner of the powerboat next door produced an excellent meal ashore at the “Hrysostomos”
|Self at Khania|
Taverna (near the Yacht Club at the end, and back from the waterfront), all accompanied by rather too much local wine and excessive quantities of free digestif (which might have accounted for my fuzzy head next day).
Christoph departed next morning, for UK, and I set off at 0900 for the western end of Crete.
|Anchorage under the castle at Nisis Gramvousa|
At the time I was undecided whether to go straight to Andikithera, an island half way to the Peloponnisos or head to Nisis Gramvousa a delightful anchorage at the very western tip of Crete. In the end, given that it was a downwind sail, I opted for Gramvousa. From the photograph you will appreciate why! The anchorage is in the shadow of the fort on the top of the island and is in a lagoon filled with crystal clear, blue, water. There are a couple of dwellings ashore and a few fishing boats but otherwise nothing. Paradise.
|The wreck of the old coaster|
Whilst there I was also able to snorkel around an old coaster (I suspect built circa 1920) which ran aground on the rocks in the bay. Her side is split open and her cargo of bagged cement is spilling onto the sea floor in perfect bag shaped blocks. She represents a sad end to what was once someone’s livelihood.
|Departing NW Crete|
From here, next morning, it was onwards; north-westwards to the island of Andikithera; a beam reach in a north easterly breeze. Ideal sailing conditions. As I approached the island the wind went round, as forecast, to the west meaning that the anchorage at Andikithera was likely to be ideal, as it subsequently proved to be. The holding there is not good, very little sand on an otherwise rocky bottom so conditions need to be right. As it is the only tenable anchorage on the island I had allowed enough time to reach the next island, Kithera, in daylight, if required; it wasn't!
|The harbour at Andikithera|
The anchorage at Andikithera was calm and well protected and so after a long swim, (after which I moved Kurukulla's anchorage to the centre of the harbour where the holding looked better) and supper I settled in for an early night. The following day I set sail at 0930 for Kithera, again on a close reach, this time with the wind in the west. Strengthening as the day passed. My departure was timed perfectly, and purely by chance! Just as I exited the anchorage the weekly ferry turned the corner and entered. My anchorage position was in the middle of his turning area. An hour more sleep and I would have had a very rude awakening!
By the time we arrived off the SE coast of Kithera we were doing over 7 knots, close reaching; flying along. This speed persuaded me to miss out Kapsali, with it's walled chora (the capital of the island) and head to Ayios Nikolaos a bay further up the east coast. I eventually anchored here at 1400, just in time for lunch! The beach was all but deserted; unsurprisingly, as the day was starting to cloud over. Notwithstanding the cloud the air was warm and I swam ashore for a walk and some exercise. Whilst on the beach I was invited to take tea with Dimitrios, a Greek guy who had been working on a conservation project in the island's capital for the past winter and who had decided to leave his rented house but to stay on the island and camp on the beach for the summer His plan was eventually to leave the island and return to Athens next autumn. By the time I left the beach at 1800 it cooling rapidly and 90% cloud cover, signs of things to come.
The bay at Ayios Nikolaos is about a mile or more long so you can imagine my delight when only the second other sailing vessel I had seen that day came and anchored within 40m of Kurukulla; I watched, helpless, from the beach; unable to suggest they anchor elsewhere. My delight was even greater when, on my return onboard, I discovered they apparently had air conditioning for which they needed to run their generator all night! It was even running when I got up at 0500 to check the anchor situation! Why some yachtsmen feel the need to anchor right on top of any other boat in the anchorage I cannot understand; especially when they are then going to then disturb the tranquillity for all others and retire below themselves. It just baffles me!
|One mile of beach to choose from!|
Fortunately they left early next morning, saving me giving them a piece of my mind; my having had to suffer the noise of the generator all night! (I did try to get my own back though, a bit, by playing some classical music loudly before retiring: I'm not sure they noticed!)
Next morning having already checked at 0500 that all was well I was woken by the anchor drag alarm at 0800 telling me that Kurukulla had changed position and swung round her anchor to the north. The neighbours had fortunately gone.
The wind had set in from the south-east; totally contrary to the forecast but that is not unusual in these parts; it was time to weigh anchor and go somewhere else. I motored out of the bay, set sail north in gusty conditions debating where to go next. In the end I chose to get as far north as possible without leaving the shelter of the east coast of the island as by this time the wind was gusting 30kts and was now from the west; it was gusting even more strongly when funnelling down some of the valleys.
|The second in two days! Navigation matters!|
In the process I passed a larger and more recent shipwreck, aground on the islet of Vrac Pheidonisi, near Dhiakofti (the new island ferry port). Dhiakofti, or more accurately Makronisos Island appeared to form a good harbour/anchorage, positioned as it is halfway up the east coast of the island, but I declined it's welcome.
At 1300 I anchored in the bay off the small hamlet of Platia Ammos, a delightful small bay with good holding and plenty of anchor dragging room to the east if needed in the gusty conditions.
Here I settled down for the rest of the day and a good decision it was as there has been torrential rain ever since. Hopefully it will clear by tomorrow!
|The rain at Platia Ammos!|
Whichever, it has given me time to catch up on the blog! This will be posted when I can get a suitable connection, more when I get into the Gulf of Lakonika in the Peloponnese.