We left Milos after an informative morning at the Mining Museum and headed to an anchorage about 15 miles east. We anchored over incredible sand and enjoyed some snorkelling. We saw a wide variety of fish and even an octopus.
Next day, we headed to Ios in the southern Cyclades and arrived bang on our ETA.
We anchored in Milapotas Bay over white sand and clear waters. We discovered that Keira and her group of hen party friends were staying very close to the bay so we met up for a beer in the evening.
It was so great to see them all.
The following day Ian and I took a bus to Ios port and I tried in vain to orientate myself with my 39 years old memories. It all seemed to have changed quite a bit. There are certainly lots more buildings in the bay to the north and the dirt road as was, is now a proper road.
We walked up to the Chora (litter picking the plastic debris on route as it is Trash Tuesday again) and had a wander round. It wasn’t quite as charming as I remembered although there were some pretty bougainvillea shrouded squares, bonny churches and old windmills.
Of course, we had a pitta gyros and toasted my best friend, Stephanie Minto, with whom I shared a good few gyros during that summer of ’79.
Meanwhile, there was lots of communication back and forth between us and Erin as her plans for her plans for Grandma’s 80th birthday trip to Wimbledon came to a head. Her source for tickets didn’t work out; then Grandma missed her train.
But it all worked out alright in the end and they are about to crack a bottle of wine on Henman Hill !
It was a massive amount of organisation for Erin to do whilst working many hours at the restaurant too. She sorted travel, accommodation, transport to Wimbledon, parking, tickets, picnic and even strawberries and cream.
Having arrived in the sweltering heat it soon became apparent that Monemvasia didn’t want us to leave. The wind changed to a strong Westerly, grew up into a boisterous teenager and went through full blown adolescence in the course of the following few days.
And so here we were. Pinned against the harbour breakwater with gusts of up to 50 knots rocking us over and slamming the cutlery drawer open and shut in the throes of a proper teenage temper tantrum. Thunder and lightning overhead have caused some yachts to lay chain from boat to sea bed to provide a possibility of earthing any strikes. All of us have put our electronic items in the oven!
One night we all watched anxiously as two charter boats with a large group of Russians aboard demonstrated a Charter boat cha-cha in the middle of the night. Poor things. They ended up side-to the very end of the pontoon in howling winds after some impressive midnight maneuverings.
The up side has been that we have met a great bunch of people. Some waiting to head south, some, like us, to head east.
There have been; Brits, French, German, Dutch, Polish. We have completed a Trash Tuesdays harbour plastic pick with everybody (Four large bags of plastic most of it in minuscule pieces, about 15kg in all) and had coffee and drinks on various boats. There was a breakwater party one evening and a barbecue the next. We have all been out for a meal to the T’Akrogiali taverna run by Tsakis, who is a delight, and whose Mama does all the cooking.
In between fending ourselves off the quay, we have had the chance to walk around the very pretty village of old Monemvasia (It is like a smaller and more rustic Dubrovnic) and do a circular walk around the jagged rock. We have restocked our provisions, gas and water supplies.
We have seen the giant loggerhead turtles that frequent the bay daily. They have distinct markings so we know it is the same two that return. They gracefully swim around and pop up from time to time for a breath. I was cutting Ian’s hair the other day whilst sitting on the back of the boat and one of them swam right under his toes.
Tomorrow the wind will have died down a little which means that:
A) We can actually get off the quay
B) We can sail most of the way to Milos, due east of here.
Of course, we will have to come back this way in order to sail back to MdR in Sicily. So far this year, despite the best laid plans, because of unfavourable winds, we have still seen very little of the Peloponnese, the Argolic gulf or the Saronic gulf.
When the pilot guide states that the second most southerly cape on mainland Europe has ‘a fearsome reputation’, there is nothing more guaranteed to put the wind up two recreational sailors!
To add to the angst, there are no weather buoys in the vicinity so we had no guide to potential weather or wind on the cape.
Rod Heikell, the writer of the guides, tells of various scenarios on leaving his safe anchorage on Nisos Elafonisos. On one occasion he had left in no wind and then was met by 40kt gusts off the cape. So bad was it that he returned to the island. On another occasion, he had left in strong winds, with two reefs in his main sail and a pocket handkerchief of a jib, and then had to motor round the cape.
Our experience this morning was mixed.
We set off with light winds. We put up the main for stability in the swell. We began to turn more to the east and the wind freshened behind us. We put out the head sail too. We approached a steep bluff towards the tip of the peninsula and the wind picked up to 25kts in the blink of an eye.
We eased the main to spill the wind, rounded up a little and reeled in the headsail in. Being stuck between the busy shipping lane and the coast we had little room to manoeuvre.
The AIS alarm alerted us to a ship approaching from around the corner which as yet we could not see. We were on a collision course in approx 19 minutes, when it would be precisely 89m away.
But, we needed to keep our course!
As we gained some distance from the peninsula the wind calmed a little and we were able to put a reef in. The cargo ship sidled past steering well clear. Then the wind died completely…so I decided it was time for a coffee.
I heard the engine start. All was calm. Coffee making was almost complete and then I heard a shout.
‘We need to put another reef in!’
I brought the coffee up on deck and set it down so that if it did spill it wouldn’t be a disaster.
We set about bringing the sail down a bit. Just as we were pulling in the reefing line when the block holding the line on to the sail broke with a dull but meaningful thud. Ian replaced it whilst I held the boat to wind.
All was fine, and so we decided some headsail was appropriate but not all of it. However, the wind had other ideas and whipped out all the sail and we were flying along in 18kts of wind.
We were leaning over at such an angle that my cushion was sliding off the seat in the cockpit and was glad that I had shut the seacocks in our bathroom. (We were subsequently to discover that the solar shower bag had silently slid off deck and into a watery death at this time, too.)
Within minutes there was a bang, followed by disconcerting flapping at the front of the boat. The shackle holding the headsail up had sheared in half and the halyard was no longer holding the sail in place. Ian went to the front to haul down the sail and lash it to the deck.
Whilst he was doing this he noticed that the anchor had bounced off its place on the bow. He pulled it back and tied it securely to the roller.
After all this we looked down to see that half our coffee had slopped out over the floor and it was less than hot. On top of that, Ian had somehow found time to scoff all the remaining biscuits.
We had an interesting day…and it was still only 1230h!
We had a few very unsettled days of weather in Kalamata with torrential downpours in the afternoon so we got cracking early one morning to set off on a drive.
On the advice of a fellow yachtie and Marina di Ragusa winter live-a-board, we decided that whilst Linea was in Kalamata marina we could do the spectacular drive from there to Sparta. Apparently, this road twists through limestone gorges and is one of the Top 10 drives in Europe.
It did not disappoint.
Seeing the rugged mountains, verdant vegetation, brightly coloured flowers, birds and views was a great tonic when you live life at sea level with water all around. (I am NOT complaining!)
See for yourselves…
Oh, and the scents wafting in through the windows….
I am approaching my 8000th nautical mile and I am finally beginning to feel a little more relaxed on the boat. (Some of the time!)
Recently, we met some new friends, Bridget and Steve on Waxwing of Dartmouth, and inevitably the talk turned to traumatic times we have had to suffer. It was then that Steve posed a taxing question.
‘Given the stresses and traumas experienced when sailing in the Mediterranean, what is it that we enjoy and what makes us want to continue with this adventure?’ he asked.
Hmmmm, I had to confess that I do sometimes wonder.
First and foremost, we have enjoyed learning massive amount along the way.
We have learnt:
To shut the seacocks in the bathrooms if we are sailing on a close haul or beam reach. (Otherwise the water siphons up and floods the bathroom!)
That the wind is either blowing too hard, not at all or on the nose!
To wear shoes on board so that we don’t stub our toes.
To keep everything stowed properly whatever the weather.
To invest in head phones so we can communicate without yelling at each other, especially in stressful situations.
To put up the sun awning up when anchored or moored to try to keep cool.
To tie the anchor firmly to the bow when not in use.
To remember that the rising crescent moon looks very like a fast approaching sailing vessel.
To continue to be stunned by the awe-inspiring sight of the star filled sky.
To keep checking the weather forecasts.
To practise anchoring technique.
To investigate strange noises immediately To check the engine daily according to the RYA ‘wobble’ mnemonic.
To fill up with water, gas and diesel whenever possible.
To use technology, (AIS – Automatic Identification of Ships, Radar or electronic charts) as an aid to navigation and sailing, but not the be all and end all!
To trust our instincts.
That sighting dolphins, turtles and starfish always lifts our mood.
Since there is mostly just the two of us; and not to get schmaltzy; we have had to rely on each other when things get tough. We have had to ‘man-up’ on occasions and are improving at staying calm under pressure. We have had to think in different ways to solve numerous boat problems.
We have had to cook when leaning at a rakish angle. We are constantly having to fix stuff. Especially toilets – often! Generally something breaks every day.
Sometimes it is a simple fix, sometimes it is much more involved. (As in; the Starboard shroud started to twist and break the other day so I had to carry 19.7kg of new ones back to the boat. ) We have had to use our initiative and think quickly or change plans rapidly to fit a new situation and make things safer. For the most part, we have succeeded and that, in itself, brings a certain satisfaction.
It’s true, that you really don’t know what the day is going to throw at you when you wake up (Thanks are due to Sue and Malcolm on Sukama for their insight, which I think is bob on. ) and we are better at reacting and adapting our plans accordingly. We have experienced violent peaks and troughs of adrenaline during the course of our travels which is oddly addictive. Even if the peaks do make me awfully thirsty!
I am pleased to have had time to read, to practise my Italian learning, and to play endless games of calming Scrabble.
I have been gratified to notice that people are making increasing efforts to limit plastic pollution in the seas (although still more can be done everywhere to reduce the amount of single use plastic being produced, used, bought and, ultimately, making its way to the sea).
We have been lucky enough to meet some really interesting and fun people. The other day we were with a group of Greek, French, Brit and Lebanese nationals which was really special.
We appreciate being part of a community of wonderful fellow sailors and live-a-boards who are always happy to share their spare parts, their experience, their assistance and useful advice on all sorts of boaty things.
We have met friendly, kind and accommodating local people almost everywhere. We have eaten some amazing food and cheeses from local producers. We have drunk some world-class wines, some mediocre wines and, occasionally, the truly awful – but it has all been fun!
We have visited some interesting places and seen lots of piles of old stones and enough amphora to sink a ship!
We have had great times making memories with new friends, visiting old friends and faaaaamily.
All of these factors combined have helped to make life enjoyable and to make the stressful times worth coping with.