Our journey through August took us from the Eastern Sporades to the Cyclades and back to the Dodecanese, with some of the windiest weather we have experienced all summer. The mighty northern ‘Meltemi’ winds threw a few unexpected surprises our way and we certainly got our share of adventurous sailing. Tahnee Mara took a bit of a battering in the high winds and big seas but proved herself to be the sturdy boat we know and love and kept us safe as always. We spent some time ‘buddy sailing’ with our friends on ‘SV Dream On’ and embraced the company of some more new friends that we met along the way. The highlight of the month was time spent with our daughter Beth, who joined us onboard after a period of particularly bad weather and a gruelling sail across to the island of Mykonos. Our burgee flags are a testament to some of our experiences during August and serve as a reminder of the force of Mother Nature!
At the end of July we took our time to sail down through the Eastern Sporades Islands, from the small island of Oinoussa back to Khios, where we spent time in some beautiful anchorages, had a couple of days alongside in Khios town and sat out four days of high winds, safely tucked away in the quiet fishing harbour of Lithi.
Lithi was a beautiful little seaside resort, perfect for a few weather-bound days alongside… The water was so clear and the most amazing colour – impossible to capture in a photograph!
During our time there we kept ourselves busy with boat jobs and took some long walks up through the island’s famous mastic groves to the local village. It was interesting to see how the Mastic sap was being harvested and the smell on the route up through the groves was incredible!
The village was set up high in the hillside above the beach, presenting us with a stunning view of the craggy island landscape and the feisty state of the sea beyond – the whitecaps evidence of the high winds and sea state outside of the harbour.
Finally the wind abated and we took in one last anchorage on the southwest corner of Khios, where we met up with our friends on SV Dream On, before heading off together towards the island of Samos.
The two boats sailed within sight of each other for most of the journey and with light winds broad off the beam, we decided to give our Gennaker an airing. Still getting acquainted with the new furling system, the sail took a while to hoist and much to our horror the tack broke free taking the foot of the sail flying off up into the air. Gentle chaos ensued as we fought to bring the sail in, feeding it down below to prevent damage and to take stock of what had happened. Although sorely tempted to abandon the idea and leave the sail below we decided to untangle the mess, re-rig the sail and try again. We had experienced few opportunities with the appropriate lighter wind conditions to fly the Gennaker and we needed to properly test out the new furler, so out it came again.
Finally the big, beautiful sail was flying and we began to pick up speed again rather nicely. Sadly the excitement was short lived – within half an hour the wind had picked up beyond what was safe to fly the sail and it had to be brought back in…. On a positive note, our audience onboard Dream On were duly entertained for a while and very thoughtfully filmed some of the sorry fiasco for our own viewing pleasure!
Over the next few days both boats explored anchorages around the eastern coast of Samos – together and independently, before meeting up alongside in the busy resort harbour of Pythagorian.
It had been lovely to spend time at anchor and sail together, but this was to be our last meet-up for a while, as we were now making plans for the trip back west to Mykonos to pick up our daughter Beth. We had a final meal together ashore, bade farewell to our friends, provisioned the boat and checked in on the weather again, before slipping our lines from the town quay.
After one more anchor stop on the south coast of the island of Fournoi and with more unsettled feisty weather closing in, we made our way across to Ikaria where we planned to wait for our next weather window to Mykonos. Thankfully we managed to find ourselves a space alongside in Agios Kirykos – home to one of Greece’s many unfinished marinas.
Safely tied up amongst an odd assortment of long-stay and visiting boats, it was clear that we were not the only boat waiting out the bad weather as the small harbour steadily filled. The unfinished marina was a strange and sadly neglected set-up with new toilets and shower block locked and unused, but with a couple of working power and water points available for free, it made a good ‘bolt hole’ for the next few days. Having shore power meant we could run the air-conditioning, allowing us to escape the incredible heat and I was able to drag the sewing machine out to make a new sunshade for the windshield, to protect our navigation instruments on the dashboard.
Ikaria had been on my list of islands to visit and armed with details of ‘must see’ spots around the island, we had planned to use our time alongside to rent a car and explore some of the island. Unfortunately our arrival during the Greek National Holiday period meant that after three days of trying to rent a car with no luck, we were forced to explore as far as we could on foot. During our treks out from the marina we managed to find our way to the beautiful village of Thermia, famous for the healing waters of it’s therapeutic cave springs.
The hot and arduous hike up around the coastal road and back down into Thermia was well worth the effort – the views above the village were spectacular and the workout was certainly needed!
The weather closed in as expected and we continued to monitor the forecast, watching the sky change and steadily growing more moody and dark.
We regularly checked our lines and fenders, preparing ourselves for the increasing winds and the subsequent swell that was now coming into the harbour. During the worst of the high winds Tahnee Mara was tossed around in her mooring, buffeting the fenders hard against the heavy black rubber protection of the harbour wall, but luckily the lines and fenders held strong and the only damage sustained (to the fenders) was easily rectified with a good scourer and some ‘Cif’!
A weather window finally presented itself for us to make the 80 nautical mile trip to Mykonos and with Beth already waiting on the island, we planned to make the journey via a night sail. With maximum winds predicted to reach 20 knots we slipped our lines from Agios Kirykos early evening as light began to fade, with our course set for Mykonos. Settling ourselves in for the overnight passage, we became aware that wind and sea conditions were increasing and quite obviously not as predicted. The weather prediction inaccuracy became more shocking with wind speed and sea state continuing to climb as we made our way west along the coast. The wind funnelled furiously down off the island with mountainous waves crashing over the deck, drenching the helm and cockpit. We motored on with the wind gusting higher and higher – Damian hand steering through the waves, both of us totally thrown by what we were experiencing. Once again we were reminded of the mighty force of the weather, as wind gusts reaching 46 knots tossed Tahnee Mara around in waves, which were now rising up beyond 4 meters out of the water. With nowhere safe to run to for shelter we continued through the night, finally reaching the southwest corner of Mykonos in the early hours of the morning after nine gruelling hours of motoring.
We dropped our anchor in a big wide bay in the dark, to snatch a few hours sleep before picking Beth up.
At 7am we pulled the anchor up to head into Mykonos Marina and by 9am Beth was dressed in full foul weather gear and ready for action. The Meltemi wind was still blowing strongly and we were going to make good use of the wind behind us to push south. Beth was fully prepared for the adventurous sailing and very quickly settled into crew mode – her calmness and enthusiasm was just what we needed after our arduously long night.
During Beth’s time onboard we cut a path back through the Cyclades Islands, from Mykonos to Naxos, Skhinousa to Amorgos, Levitha to Leros and finally to Kos.
One of our favourite stops was the small island of Levitha…
where we shared the buoyed bay with a dozen or so other boats, most of who joined us in the journey up along the craggy path from the bay, to a small family run taverna hidden up in the hillside.
The basic menu on offer was very traditional and the warmth and friendliness of our hosts made this a very special and memorable experience. The island is reported to be inhabited by just a lighthouse keeper and a handful of fisherman (with plenty of goats for company) and our return journey back to the boat with torches in the dark was a little precarious and highlighted the desolate nature of where we were.
In between more feisty sails we spent the majority of our time at anchor, enjoying the peacefulness of less chartered sailing ground and some quality family time together.
Our girls are both water babies and Beth spent most of her time in the sea, swimming, snorkeling and enjoying the beautiful warm turquoise waters around the islands. We cooked together, read, played cards and savored the short time that we had, which was over far too quickly!
It was wonderful to have Beth’s company and our time was filled with family banter and joyful laughter – easing the tensions of our previous few weeks of hard sailing and high winds.
Our final sail together from Leros to Kos for Beth’s flight home was once again windy and lumpy and we were all pleased to get alongside into the Kos Marina.
It was good to have a little time to wander into town and savor what was to be our last family time together for some time and as Beth’s taxi pulled away from the marina, we were both aware of the sense of deflation that comes hand in hand with saying goodbye at the end of time spent with our children.
That night we sat down to make plans for the next stage of our journey, which was to make our way back towards our winter home in Sicily, we had four more weeks until the start of our winter contract and we were more than ready for some calmer, less windy sailing experiences. It was time to leave the Aegean……
Once again thanks for joining us on our sailing adventure, don’t forget to hit subscribe to receive notification of when the next BLOG is published.
Good to have you along as always.