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.
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!
The day after Josh and Erin left us the wind was finally at more acceptable levels so we sailed off back to Rhinia, our favourite of the islands round here. We had a good sail round to the west side and anchored in a beautiful cove – Ormos Miso.
We had a lovely couple of days here exploring the island and dodging flying shot gun bullets, as the farmers were constantly out hunting birds.
We managed another impressive beach clean-up here: Collecting something like 200lts of plastic debris. The most unusual finds were, curtain hooks, tile spacers, an intact huge electric light bulb.
Most prolific finds; plastic straws, glow bands, balloons, plastic bottle lids, fisherman’s twine and netting.
Good job done; we sailed across to Syros in yet more fruity winds and parked on the quay with the help of Thannasis, the lovely, stylish, colour-coordinated and helpful harbourmaster.
Further exploration inland revealed a beautiful town, marbled paved square and streets, Venetian style Neo-Classical buildings, bulging wrought iron balconies, tall shuttered windows and a charming elegance we have not seen elsewhere. The bay is huge. At its heart is the newly bankrupt shipyard and dry docks. Once providing employment for 2500 people it has just stopped operating some 5 months ago.
In the south part of the bay is a newish mariner which is not properly managed or maintained since it seems no one can agree who should have the contract. So, it is left un-cared for and defunct before it has even been completed. Boat owners use it regardless…for free but it is a shambles.
Ian carried out his daily engine check and discovered that seawater was getting into the saildrive: Another potentially costly repair.
We organised for an engineer, Stamatis and his son Georgios, to check it and he confirmed what we suspected. We would have to be hauled out for the repairs to the saildrive. We agreed to come back in on Friday morning after having dropped Keira in Mykonos.
We had a lovely few days in Ermoupolis, and had the added bonus of meeting up with a Clipper chum of Ian’s called Mike Stephenson who was out on a charter yacht with his wife Amanda and friends. We had a pleasant evening with them and waved them off in the morning.
We headed back to our favourite place on Rhinia, shocked to see a HUGE rock across the entrance to the cove that we had not spotted on our first stay. We took a bearing on the GPS so that we could add it to our chart.
We enjoyed sunbathing, swimming, back gammoning, eating and watching a couple of films. (A fish called Wanda – helping to complete Keira’s film education) and then, all too soon, it was time to head back to Mykonos to say goodbye to Keira as she heads back to the UK after her year abroad.
We finally waved goodbye to harbourmaster father and son team Nikos and Makos in Naxos. They wryly commented that we should have asked for the monthly mooring fee. We returned to Paros. We anchored in the south west part of the bay of Naoussa and enjoyed a fine afternoon swimming and snorkeling. Erin spotted a beautiful starfish for us all to admire.
After a super calm night, we headed north in great winds to Finikas. Arriving with a flurry of charter yachts, we were hoodwinked into thinking that the quay would be a good place to be overnight, despite forecasts of strong southerly winds in the night. Foolish error!
We were awoken from fitful sleep by the grating noise of the spreaders and stays clashing with those of the neighbouring boat. We managed to pull forward so that the rocking would be safer and went back to bed. Ten minutes later, Erin shouted out, ‘Boat!’ in a tone of great alarm. She had popped her head out of the forward hatch and to her amazement saw a charter yacht pinned across our bow at 0400h in the morning, in the dark!
We all dashed on deck to fend off this yacht. Another departing yacht had tripped its anchor and so they were forced to leave in some haste. On motoring out, they wrapped a rope round the propeller so they had no power. Left to the devices of the strengthening wind, they were blown along the bows of the boats on the quay, stopping at us because they fouled their keel on our anchor chain.
After hours of fending, our anchor finally gave up and their keel was free. They continued to bounce along every single bow along the quay finally stopping about 2 metres from some rocks. Ian helped them to get their anchor down and then they waited for the coastguard to arrive to tow them to safety.
In the meantime, we were all busy on Linea. First, we pulled the anchor as tight as it would go. Then, we kept the engine on in case we need to motor forwards at all. We tried to limit the damage as much as possible whilst this boat was pressing us back against the quay. Tthe swell was lifting us higher than the quay and it is a miracle that the rudder didn’t get damaged. Josh was doing sterling fending off with the popped fender.
Ian eventually came back to the boat and we decided that since it was almost dawn and we were not happy with our anchor we would leave. The boat on our starboard side had to leave first since their anchor chain was lying right over ours. We motored to the anchorage on the other side of the bay.
After a few hours nap we were beginning to see the humorous side of the story. We still couldn’t quite believe all that had happened during the night. We were mightily relieved not to have incurred more damage. The boat next to us had not been nearly so lucky; having its stern constantly smashed into the quay.
We moved on to the practically deserted island west of Mykonos and had a wonderful night in a perfect cove with Delos in the distance. A beautiful place to calm the nerves.
On Wednesday we set off to Mykonos, as Josh and Erin had bought fantastically cheap flights back to Manchester from there. (£38 each) We anchored in the bay south of town and sat out the evening’s strong winds.
There was time for some last minute hair braiding and back gammon championships.
Next day, we caught a bus to explore the lanes, whitewashed churches and bijoux shops in town. We walked round to meet up with Stephen and Gilly for a swift beer and to catch up on their island-hopping adventures.
It was a pleasant wander round Little Venice, past the windmills and up and down the steps on the hill. The town was thronged with doddering cruise ship passengers.
During the very wet journey back to the boat to collect bags, we saw yet another inflatable toy somersaulting across the bay. We managed to catch it and the girls were very happy with their swan (Susan). All too soon, it was time to bid a fond farewell to Erin and Josh. They headed to the airport and we went back for another windy night in Ormos Ornos.
During the last few days, we have switched the engine on and off a total of eight times and all seems to be well. We are gradually gaining more confidence that the fuel is clean and the pipes are clear. Phew!
Being rescued last week spurred thoughts of Thunderbird style rescues that we have been involved with since embarking on our adventures; those in which we have been on the giving rather than the receiving end!
The first occasion was in Mallorca in Cala Portal Vells when, in the middle of the night, there was an urgent knocking on Linea’s hull. We were roused from a deep sleep and adrenaline ensured that we were rapidly on deck. We leaned over the side to see a very frightened man in the water. He kept saying, ‘Boat tip!’ and in the dim light from the moon we could just about make out the silhouette of a small yacht far to close to the beach and leaning over at an alarming angle.
Ian deployed the dinghy whilst the man swam back to the boat to his friend. Initially, Ian tried pulling the boat forward off the sand but that didn’t work. Next, they pulled the boat over with a halyard to an even greater angle in an attempt to lift the keel out of the sand. This together with their engine and the dinghy eventually allowed the boat to move out of the shallow water.
They anchored again and kept a watch and left early the next morning to head back to Palma. It was their first trip out in the boat and we hope that they weren’t put off and that they have invested in a more substantial anchor. Thunderbirds were, ‘go’!
In Sardinia, we had gone ashore in the dinghy to do some shopping and came back to the beach just as another family of six was climbing into their dinghy. Unfortunately, they started their engine in a froth of seaweed and the engine gave up. In my faltering Italian, I asked them to jump in our dinghy so that we could take them back to their yacht. We towed theirs behind us. It was fairly slow progress with eight of us in the dinghy but we made it safely back and they were most grateful. Eat your heart out Virgil.
In Ormos Panormou on Skopelos, Ian whizzed off in the dinghy to help a crew member from another yacht secure the long lines to the shore. They were really struggling to attach the heavy lines and then bring them back to the boat. Puppets on a string!
In Porto Koufo this year, we were watching the rapid approach of a thunder-storm one evening when ahead of us across the huge bay I saw two people on a lilo kicking their way across to the opposite headland; snorkels poking up and face masks clamped to their heads. As the rain began to bounce down on us like bullets and the wind whipped up the water, I was concerned about the safety of these snorkelers.
Ian shot off in the dinghy and reached them whilst they were still in the sunshine. He asked if they were ok and they assured him that they were. He pointed out the looming storm and they shrugged nonchalantly. They refused a lift back to the shore and again said that they were fine. What more could he do? We watched them anxiously as they paddled back soon after; clearly they had realised their folly and were heading back to the safety of the shore. Safely back to Tracy Island.
In Limnos this year Ian disappeared off the front of the boat to help a couple whose anchor was fouled on another boat’s chain. He helped them disentangle the knitting and reset the anchor. Lady Penelope would be proud.
Recently, when we were anchored in Aggias Annas trying to fix our own engine, we realised that we needed more diesel and a full tank of petrol for the outboard. Just about at dusk, Ian set off across the bay towards the quay. He walked up to the petrol station and replenished our dwindling supplies. On the way back in the dark he was approached by another yachtie on the quay, asking if he could help him. He had run out of petrol for his outboard, too. Could he use some of ours to get him back to his boat? Ian obliged and Dimitri and his crew were very happy that he had turned up just when he did. International Rescue whilst rescuing us! A chip off the Gordon Tracy block!
The other day a couple came down the pontoon looking very tense and anxious. They had anchored in the bay and brought people ashore but now their dinghy had died on them and they couldn’t paddle all the way back. I offered them the use of ours.
Just yesterday, we were watching as a huge motor yacht pull out of the town quay here in Naxos. Their anchor was fouled on the bottom and then the port propeller was fouled on a mooring line. They were pinned in. Ian attended in the dinghy and with the assistance of other yachts nearby managed to secure the boat before it bashed into others boats moored on the wall. He freed the anchor and the harbourmaster dived into the water to free the mooring line. Job done!
This morning a yacht beside us that was pulling out and had his anchor trapped under the chain of a boat that arrived after him. With help from Thunderbird 2 and the harbourmaster’s Dad, (AKA Jeff Tracy!) Ian managed to free the anchor and the yacht was soon on its way. Another rescue completed.