Kurukulla at Anegada, BVI

Thursday, 20 June 2013

The best anchorage so far

Fish and chips Faros style!

Sunday 16 June dawned clear and bright with a moderate north-easterly wind blowing, almost ideal conditions for heading south to Milos and its surrounding islands. By 1000 two of the other boats in the anchorage had already departed and I prepared Kurukulla for getting under-way, under sail. By 1030 we were sailing gently out of the anchorage past the remaining yachts and past the scene of the celebrations some days earlier. In the interim I had discovered that what I mistakenly described as a church was in fact the monastery of Panagia of Chrissopigi (1650), the protector of Sifnos.
The monastery of Panagia of Chrissopigi (1650)
Some of the flags and banners were still flying as I passed.
Manolisi on arrival
The passage south was uneventful but for the wind coming and going and backing round to the north west. My intention was to head for the anchorage at Manolonisi on the island of Poliagos some 7 miles east of Milos.
Manolisi at sunset
On entering the anchorage I was overwhelmed by its beauty, well protected, crystal clear azure water, sandy beach and only goats for company; well until that evening anyway! The winds were light and the sea warm so I swam ashore taking the camera and flip-flops and set about getting some good pictures of this little piece of paradise. That evening another single hander came in to anchor, obviously well travelled, in an aluminium hulled boat Belgian registered; he himself was Italian. He explained later that the reason for the Belgian flag was to avoid the Italian bureaucracy; having spent many years living in Italy I sympathized with him! We were later joined by another Italian registered yacht.
The bay from inland
Next morning strong northerly winds were forecast and did not disappoint, not a day for going anywhere! All three boats spent the day swinging round our anchors and frequently swimming out to check their security. With 40m of cable out in only 4m depth my anchor had buried itself so deeply into the golden sand that nothing was likely to move it.
The offending fridge motor
The terrain of Poliagos
Thus it was I stayed four days here, partly by choice and partly by necessity. On the evening of day two my refrigerator gave a grunt and stopped working, not ideal, and so on the morning of day three I set too to repair it, which would have been a simple-ish task had it been on a work bench. Tucked away on the top shelf of the corner cupboard under the sink was a different matter. There are some times when you really would like to meet the designer of some of the equipment used in the marine field, just to educate them on the environment in which their equipment is used. After a two hour long struggle to remove it I finally managed to wrestle the cooling water pump motor free of the heat exchanger coil inside which it had, for some reason unknown to mankind, been encased. It was not even to cool the motor as they had carefully wrapped it in rubber sheet before using it as a former around which to coil the heat exchanger pipe; madness! This stupidity overcome it took me another hour or so to dismantle the motor, rectify the problem, and reassemble it. An hour later saw it on its was back in, minus much of the rubber, making it a much easier fit. Two hours later I sat down to an ice cold beer, the fridge having recovered its temperature and running efficiently again.
One of the inhabitants of Poliagos
Day three was spent on a hike round part of the island. The terrain is amazing, like walking on a field of railway ballast. It must be the remains of the volcanic explosion that created the crater in the centre of Milos (Milos being rather like the more famous Santorini in form, an island with a flooded crater at its centre). There is very little wildlife to be seen, a few goats but otherwise almost nothing, not even the ever present lizards that are prevalent in most of the other islands. It was beautiful for its desolation, all the same. Four hours later I was back onboard enjoying another cold beer! That evening the Italian single hander left and I decided to head for Milos next day; in the morning if the wind had abated, evening if it had not. Suffice to say it is five in the afternoon of the next day and I am still here. Hopefully the wind will drop as evening approaches but it is not showing much sign of it at the moment! At least it is only 15 miles or so to Adhamas, the main port of Milos.

The chora of Milos
Ultimately I decided go for it and so at 1730 we sailed off the anchor with two reefs in the main and 10 rolls in the No 1 genoa (I did consider changing to the No 2 but the forecast in 24hrs time is for much less wind and hence it would be a change back; too much effort for such a short sail and it was likely to be nothing closer than a reach). As soon as we cleared the anchorage we were doing 7 kts plus so this was going to be a quick sail! The straights between Milos and Kimolos were negotiated without problem despite gusts up to over 40 kts (force 8) and from there it was beam reaching in open water and with lumpy seas until turning downwind through the gap between Nisos Akradhia and Milos and thence into the entrance of Ormos Milos. Once in Ormos Milos there were still three miles to go but things calmed down a little!
Sea Cloud at Milos
We finally anchored in 10m off Adhamas, the main port of Milos, at 2030; deploying 50m of cable in the poor holding and gusty conditions. Who should we find anchored here, Sea Cloud, the same square rigger we saw in Delos.
Tomorrow morning I will berth Kurukulla on the main town jetty but this passage had provided enough excitement for one evening!
More when I leave.

Friday, 14 June 2013

North versus South!

Mykonos is a sort of magnetic anomaly; there are things about the island that attract you and others that you feel compelled to reject, some aspects have a magnetism that tempts you to stay and others drive you away.
The elusive north winds have blown fitfully but never consistently, or not for more than a day. For this reason I decided to enjoy an extended stay on the island. In such a small place it is impossible not to get to know a fair few of the people who live here; in some ways it's a bit like village life! After being storm bound here last year, for almost three weeks, and having spent nearly four weeks here or here abouts this year, it is incredible how many people I now know. You are greeted like a long lost fiend in all the places you have visited before; goodness know how the Myconian people have developed such a good recollection for faces and names but they are amazingly good at it!
Rubbish cascading into the sea!
The net result has been a few very late nights, or early mornings, usually preceded by an invitation to dinner at a friends house. Mykonos night-life does not close down until after 0600, a fact I have witnessed more than once! What Mykonos lacks is a good marina; the basics are there, albeit that the structure is already beginning to collapse in places, but the services are not. That said this year water was intermittently available at many of the berths, an improvement on last year. The Port police seem to have abandoned the place. The office carries a sign saying “In case of emergency ring this number”, other than that on my three visits to their office I found no one other than the maintenance man / general factotum. Hence it was a free visit, unlike last year when I was charged by the day (one overnight equalled 2 day charges!) There are rumours around that a Turkish firm has bought the rights to operate the marina; if that is the case I suspect things will improve rapidly.
Many of the Mykonians will privately admit that Turkish style organisation and inward investment is what Greece needs! Symptomatic of the Greek problem is rubbish collection where, I am told, the local Mayor and associates established a firm who then bid to provide the rubbish collection services on the island. Having won the contract they have now decided there is insufficient money to provide a full service, the result can be seen in the photo, rubbish being dumped in the sea. No wonder the Aegean is full of floating plastic!
Agrari and Elia drop into the distance on departure
Faros town from the anchorage
I finally departed Mykonos on the morning of 11 June; amazing how time passes. The departure morning dawned bright and clear with a brisk south easterly wind. Not particularly comfortable for the anchorage I was in but ideal for a fast passage to Seriphos or Sifnos. Under-way at 1000 and all was going superbly for the first 2 hours. It was 47 miles to Sifnos (the furthest of the two potential destinations) and we were beam reaching at 6 – 7 knots; then the wind changed! In the next four hours the wind went through 360 degrees resulting in very confused seas, and it varied in strength between force 5 – 6 and force 0! Mediterranean sailing can be a cause of much frustration! We were sailing at times under every sail combination from single reefed Mainsail and 8 rolls in the Genoa to all sail set and becalmed. Suffice to say we arrived towards dusk and anchored in the most easterly of the two bays at Faros in Sifnos. My recollection of this bay was that the bottom was weed covered but with some good clear patches of sand to anchor on. This year it would appear the weed had multiplied somewhat! After two failed attempts to get the anchor to hold (it is a Bruce anchor and not good in weed) I headed for the western bay and anchored well into the bay with 50m of chain out, despite the depth being only 6 – 8m. The wind that evening decided to settle in the E but because ot the variation in the wind from earlier in the day a swell continued to roll in well into the night leading to a very roly and disturbed night. Next day the wind had settled into the north and life became much more stable.
Greek Navy presence at the celebrations
As a result of a family bereavement my next crew member has had to defer joining by four or five days and so I have a few days to spare around this area before I need to be in Milos. As a result I decided to stay put in Faros for a day or two. By chance I had arrived on the day before the local saints day, for which much of the island turned out; visitors arrived by a variety of means including a chartered fast ferry and the Greek Navy. The celebrations seemed to centre on the small church, on the coast, just south of the entrance to Faros; I would estimate more than a thousand were present for the sunset celebration and of course it was a local public holiday next day to allow them to get over their hangovers! That same evening I was joined by a group of three charter yachts who arrived an hour or so before dusk. Having shouted at two of them to avoid them anchoring over my anchor cable they finally got themselves anchored and set off ashore, closer than I would have liked but not excessively so.
View of the town with Kurukulla in foreground
By 0100 when they all came back onboard the wind had changed and two of them were excessively close to each other; also somewhat closer to me as my cable had pulled out into a straight line with the force of the North wind. (I had originally anchored on a SE wind and it was now from the N). The noise they made woke me and there followed a form of “ballet of the night” as they first tried to uncross their own anchor cables (which they had managed to get crossed whist weighing anchor) and then had several attempts at re-anchoring before they could get their anchors to hold. I watched silently, but with interest! As I have said before the most dangerous thing a yacht owner will come across in the Mediterranean is a charter yacht with an inexperienced skipper. Charter yachts are also very much larger these days. Almost nobody charters a vessel under 40ft long and many well over 50ft. The skipper may well have qualified on something very much smaller and easier to handle, if indeed he/she has any formal qualifications at all! Next morning we exchanged pleasantries and they informed me all three were heading for Mykonos at the end of their charter; in a brisk NE 4 – 5 they had a lumpy ride ahead of them.
The day was grey and threatened rain, hence I decided not to move on but to have a day relaxing, reading and doing some minor maintenance. It passed amazingly quickly! The following day has dawned equally grey with intermittent rain, hence it looks like another day anchored in Faros. Sailing in the wet and cold is what I and Kurukulla are in the Mediterranean to avoid (if possible). More when I leave.......

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Pottering around the northern Cyclades.

Sunset at Naoussa
We finally departed Naoussa on Saturday morning at 0930 having dined ashore a second time the previous night and filled the boat with enough victuals to last for a month! The intention had been to head for Ios and for the crew to take a ferry back from there, to Mykonos, in order to catch their flight home on the Tuesday. With the winds forecast to be strong south west or west for the next five days we decided Ios was a non starter, there are no protected anchorages in Ios in such conditions, and so we decided to go north again so that the team could leave directly from Mykonos.
Supper at the Glafkos Taverna
Hence from Naoussa we sailed north towards Delos with the intention of navigating the Delos channel and then deciding whether to turn left to an anchorage on northern Rinia or right to Panormos on the north coast of Mykonos.
Sea Cloud anchored off Delos
As we sailed past Ancient Delos the sailing cruise ship “Sea Cloud” was also anchored in the straights, making a splendid sight. In the event the wind died for an hour as soon as we were north of Delos and so, after navigating the channel, we lunched in flat calm seas whilst motoring towards Panormos; conveniently, after lunch, the wind came up again and we arrived in Panormos at 1530, sailed onto the anchor and set about enhancing our sun tans!
Lunch under way (On engine!)
Next day dawned with the predicted westerlies blowing hard and, as a consequence, we stayed put in Panormos until it abated. In the event this didn't happen until late in the evening and so we opted to stay put for an extra night and to circumnavigate Mykonos the next day.

The swimmers ashore ready for lunch
Monday dawned clear and bright with a steady north westerly breeze and thus it was that we sailed off the anchor at 0930 and beat out of Panormos before turning east and heading round the eastern end of Mykonos. By 1200 we were anchored in the quiet bay at Tigani ready to swim ashore for a final crew lunch, the only slight snag turned out to be that the taverna on the beach was not opening before 1 June and today was 27 May! Not to be defeated we sailed off the anchor and headed for Agrari Beach where we knew from experience that the restaurant was open. We were not disappointed , the welcome was excellent, service friendly and the food fresh and delicious. Our opinion was in no way swayed by the free desert and liqueur provided on the house at the end of the meal!
Delicious lunch in fantastic surroundings
After a short sojourn in the sun we set off again for Mykonos Marina, that well known (by now) dust hole on the outskirts of Mykonos town. A final night in the bars and clubs of Mykonos ensured that no one was up early the next morning and, following a late breakfast in the Mathew Taverna (adjacent to the marina), we rented a car for two hours and I drove the departing crew to the airport. I suspect they slept well on the flight, they certainly needed to! I then returned to the marina via the supermarket, returned the car and set about sorting the boat out ready for departure next day.
Shortly after my return I received a text from Joachim and Michael, the two friends from Munich whom we had taken for a sail to Paros; they invited me to supper in a local taverna that night. They had found an excellent taverna about a mile from the marina and a very pleasant night was spent sampling their cuisine. Next morning they were also heading to the airport and so they came round for breakfast in the Mathew Taverna before passing a final hour on the beach and then they too were off on their return journey. I was alone onboard, single handed, for the first time this year.
The forecast strong south and south east winds made a departure that day unattractive and so I decided to stay put for a further 36 hours, finally departing Thursday morning at 1000. By now of course there was no wind! Typical, but after half an hour motoring south the wind came up and I was able to sail south to Agrari Beach and spend a quiet afternoon sorting myself out. That evening I decided, slightly against my better judgement, to stay put and remain tied back to the rocks at the end of the beach. It was so quiet and peaceful, that was until 0330 in the morning when the sea and wind got up resulting in me having to make a rapid departure, leaving the shore line tied to the rocks! I certainly wasn't going for a swim to release it in those conditions, in the pitch dark, and it wasn't going anywhere; it was after-all tied to the rocks. Twenty minutes later I made a night entry into the bay at Super Paradise, which was much more sheltered, and anchored Kurukula in 5m of water, 50m from the beach. Needless to say the discotheques were silent; the one time I could have done with their lights to light up the bay! Moral of the story, look at the weather forecast before going to bed!
Super Paradise beach with competing discos' right and left
Paros, viewed from Mykonos, Super Paradise
Next day I returned to Elia, in slightly calmer seas, and anchored for 20 minutes to recover my shore rope. Someone had kindly coiled it on the rock for me. After that I headed back to the shelter and noise of Super paradise for the rest of the day and the following night. The discotheques, which compete to out-do each other in volume, stopped at midnight; fortunately, the wind however had other ideas!Between midnight and 0900 it managed to blow from every direction under the sun, throwing up a short uncomfortable chop entering the bay and then veering round to west to hold Kurukulla across the waves. A very roly and uncomfortable night was had by all! But that's sailing!
I now have two weeks single handed before my next guest arrives; Melvin is joining via Athens and then ferry to either Sifnos or Milos. The present eight day forecasts are mostly light and variable hence it will be a slow drift down through the islands, that is once I leave the Mykonos area, I may just wait a day or three and see if the forecast improves!
More when I do.