After an intense 36 hours in Thessaloniki, and with the new crew Michael embarked, we departed at 1100 on Friday 31st of July heading for the anchorage at Ak Epanomi where we planned to spend the night. This time we headed for the eastern end of the beach which is slightly more sheltered but comes with a major fish trap on the 6m line! We avoided it without problem. The sail down from Thessaloniki was almost all downwind and offered another opportunity to give the spinnaker an airing. 4kts of wind over the deck and 4-5kts boat speed, it does make a difference!
|Sunset off Ak Epanonomi|
The next day we were destined to transit the Portas Canal, cut through the neck of the Kassandra Peninsula, to take us into the Gulf of Kassandra; a gulf I had yet to enter on either visit to this area. Heikell gives the clearance on the road bridge over the Portas Canal as 16m. With a masthead height of 15.6m and aerials, windex and instruments on top, this was not enough. Other sources on the internet gave the clearance as 17m. A phone call to the Port Police, responsible for the waterway, gave a figure of 16.5m, just enough, but this advice came with a warning that a boat had recently brought down the overhead power cables above the canal and were we to do the same we would be held liable!
Overall we needed 16.2m clearance and
so decided to give it a go. After a two and a half hour close reach
down the coast we entered the canal, rolled up the genoa and
proceeded under main alone for the first section, clearing the power
cables by a small but sufficient margin.
The bridge ahead looked
daunting but as we approached the wind dropped to zero and we had to
resort to the engine, perhaps no bad thing!
In the event we cleared
by what looked like 30 – 40 cm, enough but only just; close enough
to elicit a scream from one of the girls on the canal bank! Michael
thought he saw the VHF aerial touch but I was sure it had cleared.
|Entering Portas canal|
|Portas Canal, under mainsail only!|
From here we headed out into the Gulf, under full sail, in very light winds; that is compared with the winds the other end of the half mile long canal. Eventually we had to resort to engine again, for short periods, in order to arrive in daylight at the anchorage just south of Nikitas where we planned to spend the night. It was a beautiful sandy bay, surrounded by camper vans at the back of the beach; we were not the only ones to have discovered it!
Waking to a light northerly breeze next morning we wasted no time getting under way and running downwind towards the headland, Ak Psevdhokavos, at the end of the middle peninsula, named Sinthonia. As the morning wore on so the wind became fickle and eventually settled in the south east blowing 25 – 30kts. With this potential headwind for rounding the headland we chickened out and headed for an anchorage just 500m from the headland and sought shelter for lunch! Priorities satisfied! By 1700 the wind had abated and we decided to try to find an anchorage on the eastern side of the headland, either in Ormos Mamba or further north in Ormos Sikias. In the event Ormos Mamba, although very attractive, proved untenable in the prevailing sea and so we settled for the SW corner of Ormos Sikias to pass a rather roly night, not so bad but certainly more swell than the last time I was here a week or so ago!
|The anchorage at Ormos Kriftos, Nisis Dhiaparos|
With another early start we set off North West to Panayia, which proved to be a brisk beat to windward away, or the first half anyway, the final hour we were forced to motor; needing to get in to allow sufficient time for Michael to arrange his transport to the airport for the next morning. I did the same manoeuvre as I had done with Nick a week or so earlier; dropped him on the jetty and stooged around until picking him up 20mins later. From here we adjourned to the anchorage at Ormos Kriftos, a delightful and perfectly sheltered anchorage on the northern end of Nisis Dhiaporos. Here we spent the afternoon before adjourning into Panayia again but this time securing alongside for the night and adjourning ashore for a splendid last meal before Michael's departure early next morning.
|Harbour at Panayia|
|Sunset, Ormos Kriftos, Nisis Dhiaporos|
With the next two visitors onboard we set off on the 10th of August for a final night at Ormos Sikias before setting off early the next day for the Sporades and with the intention of heading for the anchorage at Planitis on Nisos Kira Panayia.
The passage across was faster than anticipated with a light but consistent NW wind until we were approaching the islands when the wind died completely and we were forced to resort to engine for the final hour. Not a bad transit overall though, 44 miles in 9.5 hours. The anchorage at Planitis is a delightful and very well protected one. The island only has one permanent resident and he is the monk who acts as caretaker on an otherwise deserted monastery. Later in the week we came back to the other large anchorage on the island, at Panayia, which is less protected than Planitis but enjoys better water quality being more open to the sea.
|Departing Planitis, Kira Panayia|
The next day was our second visit to Planitis, as mentioned above, and from there we were committed to returning to Patitiri next day to drop off Tom, the second Greek guest. This time it was literally in and out and we sailed round to the south side of Alonnisos, to Ornos Mourtia for the night. Although the wind stayed in the north the swell had other ideas and it was a less than settled night; c'est la vie! The occasional penalty for enjoying anchorages.
|Departing Patitiri, Alonnisos|
Given a slightly uncertain forecast for the next day, with winds from every direction forecast throughout the 24 hours, we decided to head for the anchorage at Ornos Vasiliko, on Nisos Peristeri, which proved to be much better than described in the pilot. A neat, clean bay, slightly obstructed by two laid up trawlers at the head but with ample room for anchoring and tying back along the north shore and well sheltered. Out night here was much more settled.
From here it was a detour into Skopelos for the next night for a meal ashore, water and victualling before almost circumnavigating the island to spend the night in the delightful anchorage at Panormos, surrounded by wooded hillsides and the smell of pine trees: another venue where tying back to the edge of the creek is all but essential.
|Ormos Vasiliko, Nisos Peristeri|
After Panormos we sailed up the channel between Skopelos and Skiathos to round the northern tip of Skiathos and head south to the bay called Banana II (or little Banana) a once unspoilt beach but now covered in sunbeds and umbrellas! A good bay to visit all the same. With the wind forecast to be consistently in the north for the next 5 days this was a safe enough place to spend the night even though it is completely open from W to SE through south. Needless to say the gods had other ideas and after a splendid afternoon and impressive sunset we were then treated to an unforecast thunderstorm that night and heavy rain all the following morning! Net result we had to move to Koukounaries, a bay sheltered from the NW which is just the other side of the headland and to the east of Banana.
After a quiet afteroon in Koukounaries we motored along the southern shore of Skiathos to reach Ormos Siferi, an anchorage sheltered from the N, and just to the west of Skiathos town. Although the majority of the night was relatively quiet, just the odd shower, the early morning produced some of the heaviest rain I have ever seen and that includes monsoons in the far east! This was combined with gusting winds. Several yachts in our vicinity dragged their anchors and had to re-anchor, some more than once. We were fortunate, the anchor was well dug in with plenty of scope and thus we stayed put throughout the storm. Andrew and Bruno were due to leave on the Saturday afternoon and so at mid day we motored the short distance into Skiathos harbour hoping that we might be able to get a berth stern to on the town quay. Not a chance! Packed to the limits and no one was moving. Even the charter yachts were berthed three deep out from the floating pontoon! It was to be the anchorage and the dinghy got its first outing of the year. The outboard engine started first time, not bad!
|Sunset off Banana II beach, Skiathos|
The crew having departed I settled down to a relaxing afternoon combined with a bit of clearing up. All went well until sunset when a second sailing “super-yacht” came in and anchored too close to the flight path onto the runway at Skiathos airport, the first “super-yacht” having arrived at 1800. The glide path passes over the harbour and anchoring in the approach area is forbidden. The crew of the second one could be heard marvelling at how close the aircraft were passing to their mast which was taller than the height of the approaching aircraft. Amazing how stupid people can be! Understandably this was followed by a rapid intervention by the Port Police who rightly required them both to move. What the Port Police had not reconed with was that both then made a rush to take any available space in the anchorage between the smaller yachts. These were both 40m+ length yachts, trying to anchor in spaces suited to 12m yachts. There followed a ballet in which both nearly collided and both then anchored in spaces far to restricted for their length. With minimal cable down it will be interesting to see if the forecast rain and wind produces chaos. I suspect it will! Unfortunately they are both just a boats length (Kurukulla measure) ahead of me and so even if I wanted to move I would have trouble getting my anchor out from under them! It is going to be an interesting night I fear!
Tomorrow another friend, Mike, joins via the flight arriving in Skiathos at 0630 so an early start. More when we get into the inland sea between the Greek mainland and Evia, on passage south.