Crossing the Aegean – July 2011

With southerlies (headwinds) predicted after dropping Suzy and Paul in Piraeus, we made a last minute decision to take a ferry to Hydra for the weekend. This is the way to see Hydra, a beautiful town, with a very small and very crowded harbour, with no room for Sea Cloud without rafting up 4 boats deep. After an energetic and hot walk to the monastery above the town we spent the afternoon sitting in one of the cafes on the cliff admiring the crystal clear bay below. Perfect for reading, swimming and relaxing.

We left Athens in light north westerly winds – first stop back at Sandbar Bay on Kithnos.


Great to be getting some more wind – most days now yield a predictable N NW 15 – 20kts as the pattern of the Meltimi sets in July/August. We sailed to Livadou harbour on Serifos, anchoring in the bay with the view of the spectacular chora (hill town) above us.

Another very hot walk to the top, a fabulous view over the Aegean and the boats in the bay. Note Sea Cloud framed in the right arch of the belltower dwarfed by the 120ft ketch seen through the left!

 

Next anchorage was Naoussa Bay on northern tip of Paros, a beautiful, relatively calm bay despite moderately strong Meltimi. Paros town was almost deserted, such a contrast to our last visit in 2009.


With an increase in winds predicted (Bft 7-8), we headed for Naxos marina, recommended as a safe spot to leave Sea Cloud while we rented a car and explored the island. Wind howls through the marina and the regular surges which occurred with the many ferries entering and leaving this busy harbour made our mooring compensator lines essential. The island is beautiful – quite lush with white sandy beaches fringing the west and south coast. The Temple of Demeter, a well restored and displayed Doric temple set amidst farm land was well worth the visit.  

It was not surprising to see wind farms on the ridge lines adjacent to the older windmills that are ubiquitous throughout the Greek islands.

Winds finally decreased so after 4 days in Naxos, we headed down the lumpy Naxos strait in 20 -24kts, to Schinoussa. The main harbour is very small, quite shallow and looked too much hassle with 2 super yachts virtually filling the bay with lines everywhere. Ducked around a couple of bays and found good holding in relative isolation at anchor to the east of town. This island is not on the main ferry route, hence relatively under-developed, quiet and tastefully restored.

We managed to coordinate a few days with Andrew and his friend Greg who were staying on Ios –just 25Nm away to the SW of Schinoussa. We anchored in the ‘sheltered’ anchorage of Milopotamou Bay (blowing about 24knots but good holding in fine sand) close to the rather smart hotel overlooking the aqua blue bay in which Greg and Andrew were staying.

 
We were very pleasantly surprised by Ios, the beach was beautiful and relatively empty apart from a few hours in the afternoon when the speedboats hoon around the bay. The anchorage was one of the quietest we have experienced in Greece, as all the action occurs in the main town (chora) over the hill. Andrew and Greg had a chance to sail Sea Cloud in lovely breeze but mostly were impressed with the aft sunbaking/sleeping deck with potential for entertaining.

As Andrew and Greg left for more partying in Mykonos, we sailed to Katapola bay on Amorgos where we anchored one night in the bay, and another on the town wall. We rented a car to see the highly recommended Hozoviotissa (9C) Monastery, built into the middle of a sheer rockface, high above the crystal clear water of the Aegean. It is an incredibly spectacular site. Visitors to the monastery are welcomed with a glass of local Raki (liqueur) and a Turkish delight –type sweet.

 A swim in the crystal clear blue water below us at Ag Anna was very welcome following the hot climb to the monastery. Amorgos, among others with high mountainous ridges, creates extremely high winds and rough seas on its leeward side despite our relatively calm anchorage on the windward side.

Amorgos was full of surprises, small white washed hill towns dotting the island, wonderful looking anchorages (as long as the Meltemi is not too strong) and spectacular scenery and as everywhere in the Greek islands, lots of goats!

The chora (capital) is a charming village, with winding streets, welcoming small restaurants and shaded cafes. Sailed south from Amorgos in those 25+ knot winds we had viewed from the top of the island the previous day. Unfortunately these lee shore winds died about 5-10 miles off shore, so we motor-sailed until in the lee of our next island, Astapalaia, where the wind promptly picked up to 25kts again. We had planned to anchor in Maltezana bay, a ‘meltimi-proof’ anchorage, but the sight of the beautiful chora in the distance made us reconsider. We anchored in Livadhi bay, a lovely, uncrowded (1 other boat!) but windy anchorage.

Although the winds continued strongly overnight the good fine sand we were anchored in meant we could sleep well. Unfortunately as the winds did not drop overnight, we were reluctant to leave the boat unattended. So instead of visiting the chora, we set sail for Kamares on the south western end of Kos. Our last stop before Turkey was Simi. Checking out of Greece here was an incredibly efficient and easy process in comparison with our check into Greece a few months ago.

We loved being back in the Aegean, had good winds, at times challenging but fun sailing and uncrowded anchorages. We really had the opportunity to put Sea Cloud to the test and are pleased to say at the end of our first few months she is great, very comfortable, sails extremely well close hauled and reaching. Downwind she needs a strong breeze to keep moving at speed – we’ll need to familiarise ourselves with the cruising gennaker soon. Unfortunately, our 400 miles across the Aegean in 3 weeks was all a bit too rushed – partly due to the Schengen agreement which meant we had a deadline to get out of the EU. However, we did take advantage of the ideal sailing winds get to across to Turkey in preparation for leaving Sea Cloud in Marmaris while we go home for August.

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