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Winds, Winds and yet more Winds…..

May 16, 2014

Well, we left you in limbo, awaiting our departure from Ag Nik as the end of our contract with the marina approached. We had masses of work to do but managed to get Rampage into a fit state to sail away and all without too many shouting matches about how to do what….. We even managed to get the mainsail on and the reefing lines right first time – a first for us. (Editor: he’s talking out of his bottom; we’ve done it at least once before at Little Vathi last year).

 

The lagoon at Spinalonga from the fortress on the Island.

The lagoon at Spinalonga from the fortress on the Island.

We were actually due to depart from the marina on 30 April but they let us stay an extra night with no charge so we were able to sort things out properly and departed on 1 May roundabout mid morning. We had decided to head for Spinalonga lagoon, where J wanted to visit Spinalonga Island, the setting for the book “The Island” which she had read and besides we needed to dive on the boat to replace the prop anode as we have not had Rampage lifted this year. The trip went well, only a couple of hours motoring and we found a lovely quiet anchorage in a bay looking south towards the town of Elounda. That afternoon we had a disappointing email from Nicky and Paul on Carmel; they’d had quite a lot of work done on their engine over the winter and when they tried to leave after us they found that their stern gland (the bit that stops water getting in round the propeller shaft) was leaking. They’d contact their mechanic but it would take them several days to get bits together before repairs could be carried out and they would therefore not be joining us in the lagoon.

 

We spent a couple of nights there and managed to find the last outstanding cache on the sheltering headland which we had not bothered to find on our last visit. We had, of course, been watching the weather with our usual fanatical interest. We wanted nice gentle winds from the west, the south or the east; indeed anywhere but from the north so we could sail to the island of Ios, our next port of call. So what was being forecast? Northerlies. Strong ones. Gale force and above. For days.

Spinalonga Island,taken from aboard Rampage as we entered the Lagoon.

Spinalonga Island,taken from aboard Rampage as we entered the Lagoon.

Well, that left us with no real choices; we could, of course, have gone back to the marina to wait things out but after flying back to UK so often over the winter we’re, how can I put this, broke. So we decided to stay in the lagoon, as the holding for the anchor is best described as phenomenal, as was proved when moved closer to the village of Elounda so that we could get ashore more easily for provisions; we had a real struggle getting the anchor to break out of the bottom.

 

Paul had advised us to make sure we didn’t anchor too close to the course that the trips boats take from the village to Spinalonga Island, as they take no prisoners and have two throttle positions: stop and go. That first day anchored off the village was reasonably quiet as far as wind was concerned, so we took one of the said trip boats to the Island which is a wonderful mix of historical buildings. It has, for centuries, been a fortress guarding the entrance to the anchorage and you can trace the differing styles of fortifications that have been added over the years. It was more or less abandoned as a fort in the 19th century but in the early 20th century it was turned into a leper colony to serve the then independent island of Crete. Further building took place to accommodate the lepers, including a couple of 1930ies reinforced concrete art deco monstrosities. We found the place fascinating and enjoyed the trip; finding a cache helped out in this I feel. (Ed: although it was frustrating that we ran out of time to look for a second cache which is on the Island.)

The mouldering remains of the art deco monstrosity on the Island

The mouldering remains of the art deco monstrosity on the Island.

The next few days were exciting and boring at the same time as the winds arrived with a vengeance. In some ways it would have been easier to live with if they had just blown constantly but no. We’d get a few hours of howling gale (40mph +) which would see Rampage sliding from side to side at the end of the anchor chain to be followed by a period of light or no winds and then abruptly back to gale force again. It didn’t match the forecast exactly and was often a good deal stronger than expected.

 

After an hour or so of the first bout of wind, I realised that the conditions were ideal for the wind turbine, which we hardly bothered rigging last year as the wind was never strong enough to give a decent output. So I dug out all the turbine bits, put them together and took the generator off the stern of the boat. One set of the pivot bushes came out easily, the second took a couple of hours hard work, inventive cursing and ingenious misuse of a gear puller. Then we got the thing up and it was spinning furiously but to no avail – no output. I went through the wiring loom and found no faults, traced back to the plug on the stern but all revealed no faults. In the end I gave up for the night and left the thing spinning happily away to itself. The next morning, I started in again but reversing the operation by working from the turbine end. Despite not finding a fault with the plug, I rewired it as a precaution, plugged it in and was astounded to discover the wretched thing worked fine….. It continued to spin like a mad thing and produced lots of lovely wiggly amps, more than keeping pace with the demands for electricity on board.

The wind turbine hoisted in the rigging - a quiet moment in an otherwise windy day; hence its not spinning and we were able to get into the dinghy.

The wind turbine hoisted in the rigging – a quiet moment in an otherwise windy day; hence its not spinning and we were able to get into the dinghy!

Talking of electricity generation, we bought some small (20 watt) solar panels whilst we were in UK. I have glued them to some plywood and finally got round to mounting them on the bimini in a break in the winds, so we now have quite a bit of ‘eco friendly’ power generation on board. Whether it will be enough to cope with demand over the summer remains to be seen but it is a good start, especially if we get a little more wind this year that makes it worth the hassle of putting up the turbine.

 

Nine days after we arrived in the lagoon, the forecast started to look favourable in terms of making our way north. The northerlies were due to pack up, there’d be a short spell of no winds before setting to westerlies for a time. That’s what we’d been waiting for! On Saturday 10 May we went ashore in the gaps between blows and shopped for a couple of days, aiming to leave on Sunday 11 May for Ios.

The village of Elouda, looking through the port into the town centre.

The village of Elouda, looking through the port into the town centre.

Our planning had been based on leaving late on Sunday to arrive in Ios mid to late afternoon the following day. I took our water container collection ashore first thing and to top off the aft tank (we hadn’t used the forward tank at all so far) and suddenly decided that there was no point hanging about so we took down the wind turbine and turned it into a towed generator again, hoisted the dinghy up onto the stern and managed to get the anchor out of the mud by just after 11am and set off for Ios.

 

We met Paul and Nicky coming into the lagoon as we left and exchanged greetings; Paul told us to get more clothes on as it was cold in the open water and we rounded the island and finally headed north. Paul was right; the wind was chilly and we took turns to go below and put on more clothes. We cleared the headland of Ak Fatsi and picked up a steady westerly breeze, so we got the sails up and relaxed as we made about 4½ knots slightly to the east of where we wanted to go. After a few hours we were well north of Crete but 5 miles off track, so we tacked to gain a bit of ground to the west before tacking again to get back on our northerly course. By 6pm the wind had started to drop so we motor sailed for the next few hours, keeping a steady 4 – 5 knots with the engine on tick over. The wind continued to drop as the evening progressed and we put the foresail away but continued at a leisurely pace through the night with just the mainsail up and engine on.

 

The night was uneventful but bright as it was near to a full moon. J was on watch as land appeared at about 2.30am. The wind reappeared in the early morning so I was able to open the foresail as the island of Santorini took on definition as sun rose in the eastern sky. The only vessel I saw during the night was a cruise ship making her way into the caldera of Santorini as the dawn broke. We quietly sailed on to the north and arrived in Ios by just on midday after a most enjoyable passage; a bit of motoring but mostly quiet, gentle sailing with enough wind to keep us moving but not enough to be stressful. If only it could be like that every time!

Ios port, looking down on from the steps leading to the Chora.

Ios port, looking down on from the steps leading to the Chora.

The port on Ios is small and open, more of a sort of niche off to the south of a deep narrow bay running sort of south west to north east. It is home to a smaller than usual collection of local fishing boats and has good quays for visiting yachts, along with electricity and water pillars. Oh, and it’s the island ferry port. Bear that last point in mind….

 

As I said, we arrived at middle day to find that there was lots of room available, including some alongside berths, so we sorted ourselves out and went alongside the quay about 50 metres or so from the ferry building (too big to be a hut, too small to be a real terminal). It took us only a few minutes to finish the mooring lines and I foolishly walked half a mile before finding the bakers about 50 metres from our berth…. We had a drink in a quay side bar and watched the place come briefly alive as a ferry arrived; the quiet returned about 5 minutes after it had left. Rampage bobbed about alarmingly as the ferry came in and left in standard Greek fashion: screaming approach, only slowing in the last 100 metres, full power as soon as it was pointing the right way on departure. Ferries arrive here about 5 or 6 times a day, each accompanied by a swell which has every boat in the place pitching and rolling. Irritating but the Greeks just shrug their shoulders so we must do the same – and put out plenty of fenders.

Three masted cruise ship moored overnight in the ferry port.  They left the next morning before the ferry arrived.  Rampage is the centre one of the three yachts.

Three masted cruise ship moored overnight in the ferry port. They left the next morning before the ferry arrived. Rampage is the centre one of the three yachts.

One of the reasons for coming to Ios was to meet up with Jason and Kate off Crystal Stream, who were just down the pontoon from us in Ag Nik. They run a dive centre here, Meltemi Divers, and we hope to do some diving with them before moving on but so far the weather has been against us. Their boat is moored in the harbour and we moved the following day to a berth alongside theirs on the advice of Jason who warned that keeping off the quayside where we were would be difficult in the forecast winds. J did a stack of hand washing as the knicker supply was getting thin whilst I emptied the starboard cockpit locker on the hunt for a leaky oil container. We must have resembled a gypsy encampment with J doing the laundry surrounded by the contents of the locker.

 

Its always a bit of a revelation rediscovering all those things that you had previously decided were precious enough to preserve by hiding them in the locker. I found a scrap toilet pump body that I had no recollection of keeping along with a slack handful of other things that hadn’t seen the light of day for some years. I got rid of several bags full of junk and, when the locker and contents had been cleaned, the remainder was re-stowed in a tidy and shipshape fashion.

J doing the washing on the quayside surrounded by the contents of the starboard locker.

J doing the washing on the quayside surrounded by the contents of the starboard locker.

That evening our tranquillity was shattered by the arrival of Lyn, another escapee from Ag Nik who is spending the summer working at Meltemi Divers. For some reason I had it in my head that she wasn’t due to get here until 15 May so was quite surprised to see her! We had a drink together before she left to go to her accommodation; she’s studying for further dive qualifications and had homework to do!

 

The following day we spent cleaning the boat, as it had picked up a good thick coat of red sand during the Spinalonga storms. We had a quiet afternoon followed by a walk up to the Chora as the afternoon cooled off. The Chora is the main part of the town, built on the top of a hill overlooking the harbour. This is a common practice in the Med, where the port is vulnerable to marauding pirates. The main town is usually to be found some distance away, often atop a hill or similar and therefore more easily defended from said marauders.

The maze that is the Chora.

The maze that is the Chora.

Anyway, these pirates made it up the hill to the Chora is a charming place in the daylight, all narrow walkways, whitewashed walls and blue shutters. It is a true maze; I challenge anyone to find their way through it without getting lost! We had been heading for a collection of small churches on the top of the hill overlooking the harbour which give splendid views over to the next island. We never made it! We plan to return another day for sunset before we leave here.

 

I said earlier that the place is delightful in the daylight. However, Ios has a reputation as a ‘party place’ for the younger set and the Chora is where much of the nightlife takes place. There are any number of bars, clubs and similar places of high repute that come alive as the sun goes down; indeed we are reliably informed that one doesn’t bother to open until 3 am! Thankfully the noise doesn’t really affect the harbour as the Chora is behind a ridge line from us.

One of the narrow streets that wend their way through the Chora.

One of the narrow streets that wend their way through the Chora.

J was also delighted to find a laundry on our walk and even more delighted that the owner volunteered to come and pick our laundry up later that evening. He duly appeared and took away a load of washing that was almost too much for him to manage on his scooter. Good to his word, he reappeared this morning with the clean dried washing! Result.

Laundry man and our next door neighbours laundry.

Laundry man and our next door neighbours laundry.

So, that’s brought you all up to date. What next? Well, J has booked us a trip to the island of Santorini tomorrow; we will stay overnight as the ferry timetables don’t permit a day trip. After that we have decided to take advantage of a special offer to visiting yachts for cheaper car hire so that we can explore this island and, of course, we hope to get some dives in. The winds are against us moving until next week and we have yet to decide where we’re going. We will chat to others and make our minds up over the weekend.  

Deifer the dog with Jason from Meltemi Divers; the coolest dog on Ios?

Deifer the dog with Jason from Meltemi Divers; the coolest dog on Ios?

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One comment

  1. Think we will permanently be 10 days behind you! We are sitting in Spinalonga experiencing exactly the same sort of winds as you did, nothing like the forecasts, waiting to make the escape north. Hopefully will catch you up at some point!



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