We leave Lemnos at dawn and head towards Kira Panagia, a remote and uninhabited island (with no internet!!) The anchorage has a narrow entrance (80m) and opens up in to a Y-shaped bay. Apparently in a northerly it can be fun surfing into the bay and likewise hard getting out! We try the western side but that has too many big brown jelly blubbers so we head to the eastern end. The pilot book says "If you want peace and solitude, this is the place to come..." And lots of charter boats have certainly taken that advice, completely spoiling the peace and solitude!
Tonight we experience what is known as the “pyjama dance”. A midnight thunderstorm storm (fortunately only 15kts of wind) and everyone is up on deck in their pyjamas checking their anchors, bringing in the washing and cushions. A big motor yacht with professional crew who decided plonk himself in the middle of everyone is also out re-adjusting everything. Fortunately they ended up further away from us, and kept an anchor watch so we could eventually get back to sleep.
We get away early again and make it out of the narrow entrance out of Kira Panagia. Up goes the main and genoa and we are initially making good speeds, however the wind eases and goes behind us. We goose-wing for a while and also use the gennaker but the breeze is eventually too light and as we get close to our destination the engines have to go on. It’s very choppy and the main is driving us mad. We get around the corner down the western side of Skopelos and get a bit more motor sailing in before dropping the main. Sadly there is no room in Loutraki Harbour to anchor or moor and it doesn’t look so nice anyway. We decide to head across to a small island between Skopelos and Skiathos to review plans - conditions are perfect to unfurl the gennaker, but then - Bang! Gennaker comes partway down. The halyard casing shredded and the sail is stuck halfway down. Impossible to furl it now. And this is the new Dynalite halyard we put in at Leros - Great!. It was very challenging to get it onto the boat and Keith got a whack in the head with the tension rope in the process. I held the boat just off head-to-wind to allow the sail to blow onto the boat, holding it against the boom, as bits of shredded halyard casing blew back towards me. We were unable to save the halyard so had to cut it and lose it completely. Bugger - that put a dampener on things. To add insult to injury there was no space in the small island anchorage so we continued on to the beach just south of Skiathos harbour, called Megali Ammos. We pack up, have lunch and rest up before taking the RIB ashore to walk around the town. Its a very pretty but touristy little town. We walk up to the church and clocktower at the top of the hill. The anchorage is a bit noisy during the day but it gets quiet and calm night and we have a great sleep.
Looks like the breeze is going to be blowing in the direction we want to go. Yee ha, I smell a kite run! No hurry of course, (its not a race...) as we dont have that far to go by our standards, so go and anchor off Komi Beach for breakfast. This is apparently one of the top 10 beaches in Europe/Greece/Skiathos (I forget which...) It has a lagoon behind it, crystal clear water and also lovely white sand, but there are deckchairs and umbrellas cheek to jowl. We take a walk along the beach and get away about 11am and get set up for the kite. Had a great run for about 4 hrs before the breeze dies. We enter the Evia canal and try to find an anchorage for the night but not much luck. We then finally make contact with the Chalki port authorities about the Old Euripus drawbridge opening times and sadly discover that if we don’t go through tonight it would be Monday night before we can! It's now 4pm on Friday, we dont have a great anchorage for the night (let alone 3 nights) and we are still about 30+nm away! So we hot foot it to Chalki on both Volvos and make it at 10:30pm, burning a fair bit of diesel. We head for the town quay, which is heaving with restaurants, loud music and people everywhere. There are some large bollards on the quay but the people milling around are more intent on their ice cream cones than taking a line! Keith brings the stern in expertly (as usual) so I casually lasso a bollard, (surprising even myself!) cleat off the line and step nonchalantly ashore, boat papers in hand, to go in search of the ticket office. Apparently I got a small round of applause from my audience, and yes the ticket office was definitely closed, not even a security guard to bribe! I got on the phone and managed to convince the Port Authority to let us through the bridge even though we haven’t paid. We promise to come by in the morning to give them some money before we leave. The bridge opens just after midnight, on the slack tide, retracting underneath the road revealing a narrow entrance. We watched nervously as the northbound boats emerged, and then one by one the southbound boats started being called through. Finally we hear ITIKI called and gunned it in case they changed their minds - its a relief to get through around 12:30am and anchor in the south bay, quite exhausted. Not quite the day we had planned!
We get up late-ish by our standards and head over to the town of Chalkis. Up on the hill on the mainland side (we are very close to Athens!) there is Karababa's Castle where we get a glimpse of some of the rich history of this town. The Ottomans had dominated at one stage, fortifying the castle against the Venetians, and many of the relics are on display in the castle. We walk across the Old Euripus drawbridge that we passed through last night and manage to find someone at the (still closed) ticket office, who has limited English but an uncle living in Sydney, so we can pay our bill and be on our way. A quick grocery stop and then a visit by the fuel tanker to replenish what we burned last night, and we are off again. We motor under the new “high” bridge, past the derelict factory and further into the Evia canal. We hoist the main and unfurl the genoa but the breeze builds and we are soon reefing, then of course the breeze drops and the reef comes out, and of course it promptly builds again and reef goes back in. It continues to build and we reefed the genoa and then furled it putting a 2nd reef in the main. One motor goes on to help us punch through the chop. We have seen gusts of up to 32+kts and it builds as we get closer to land. There have been fires in Evia and we can see some smoke in the distance. Next thing there are water bombers passing overhead, picking up water in the bay nearby. In this kind of pressure that is no mean feat! We round the corner to our chosen anchorage but there is not too much relief from the Meltemi yet. Here is where the 'Elvis' skycrane helicopters are picking up water. There are at least 3 of them coming in quick succession, an amazing sight. We end up anchoring off a small beach club at Agiou Dimitriou. Holding is good but still subject to gusts. We end up spending a couple of nights here to catch our breath and enjoy drinks at the beach club, a RIB tour of the bay and watching the Elvises (or is it Elvii?) refill.
The wind looks like it has backed off a bit and is sort of ok-ish so we decide to take a small hop south to another “protected” anchorage to make tomorrow's planned journey to Andros a little shorter. We hoist the main with 1 reef and furl the headsail to 2nd reef. Needless to say the gusts were 10kts stronger than predicted and they don't seem to have any gaps between them, so they are not really gusts. We realise we haven’t been adding enough VAT to the forecasts! We saw up to 35 kts (just as we dropped the main of course) but at least it was a quick trip down and I didn't burn the bread I started making. Thanks to the extra batten cars (to stop the main from billowing on hoist/drop) and the 10mm Dynalite halyard, we can drop the main very quickly! The anchorage here (Elafolimano) is great holding but not the least bit protected from the strong winds. There was one other mono already anchored here, but the brave soul has already left by the time we get settled. Only hope he is going south and has a strong stomach! Yes he was French.
It is here, looking at the forecast yet again, that we finally have an epiphany. Yes we have a window to get to Andros, where we might have to wait for another window to get to Tinos and onto Delos, from where we can visit Mykonos ie racing from one protected anchorage to another, getting belted in between and not having time to see anything when we get there. Or we can concede defeat to the Meltemi and go south. The Meltemi has just about blown itself out by the time it reaches the southern Aegean. We are so over having it dictate where we go and what we see and do that we decide to avoid Andros, detour by Delos and miss Mykonos to go to straight to Milos.
Well normally we do our passage planning based on 6kts boat speed. If we are sailing and we fall well below that, especially if it means getting in somewhere after dark, the engines go on. Motoring long distances normally puts us in a bad mood, but after a little bit of sailing initially we more or less motored most of the 89nm in light airs. Knowing we did not have to fight the Meltemi anymore meant we didnt mind this quite so much! In fact you could not wipe the smiles from our faces. Yes we missed a few islands we will never come back to, but the relief is palpable. Arriving into Adamantus (don’t you love that they named the town after an ‘80s one hit wonder?!) was such a joy. We feel like a weight has lifted off our shoulders! Its marvellous what a difference Milos makes....
Lynda is slowly getting used to the transition from working to not working and racing to cruising.