As I type this, Sans Souci is near Athens! This represents a major milestone for our adventure.
|For our run from Ios to Paros we had totally flat water. It was a dream come true.|
|Our anchorage at Naoussa, Paros, Greece|
Our favorite anchorage thus far was on the north side of the island of Paros. We anchored in a huge bay about a half-mile from a quaint village called Naoussa. The bay was protected on all sides. What made it perfect was that we were an easy tender ride into the very cute town, which had everything we could want: restaurants, car rental, grocery stores, a wine shop, a pretty boardwalk, interesting places to drive, and a place to tie our tenders. Add to this that we could get good internet at our boats (Vodafone 3g cards), good holding (our anchors weren’t likely to drag), room to swing, and we were surrounded by beaches. We had the best of all worlds: civilization plus a great anchorage.
Steven summed it up best when he said, “I finally feel like we have arrived.”
|Some of the roads in Lefkes, Paros, were crazy to drive on. Here you see my rental car driving through town. Many of the roads were like this, and the others were worse. A couple of times I thought I was going the wrong way on a one-way street, but I was never sure.|
|Aliki was a very cute little town at the southern tip of the island with a nice beach. We had dinner there, which was nice. But, as much as I liked the town, we felt about a million miles from the boats. I can’t relax when I can’t see the boat at anchor. I like to know that if a high wind came up I could get back to the boat quickly. In fact, a wind did come up, and getting back to the boats turned out to be a serious adventure.|
|I’m not quite sure it worked as advertising, but this seafood restaurant hung real fish bits over the tables to attract customers. You can’t tell it in this picture, but the large fish head has his fin hanging out of his mouth. I was trying to think of something humorous to say, like, “His foot in his mouth,” or “His head in his tail,” but nothing seemed to work.|
Our time in Paros was not totally perfect, in that we were hit a couple of times by strong south-east winds. These winds, called “Sirocco” winds tend to be strong, in the 25-35 knot range, and can last for days. They hit suddenly and are impossible to predict. It is frustrating to look at a perfectly calm weather forecast, then be blindsided by a huge wind. But, it is what it is…
One day, the Argosys and us were caught in town when the wind came up. We had gone through a similar windstorm before and weren’t worried about the boats dragging anchor, but we had to get our tenders back to our boats; the formerly placid bay was now roiling. We each returned to our boats in four-foot chop, running the half-mile at extremely slow speed, treating each wave like a new mountain to be climbed. I knew we’d be fine, but our puppies seemed to have doubts. We held them tight as we bobbed and weaved our way back to the boats. I wonder what they must think: they left a wonderful house with a nice yard to play in — and now were sitting in a little rubber boat, held onto like a receiver might hold a football on a touchdown run, being slammed by waves many times their height. They must be wondering what comes next!
Because the Sirocco winds come from the south they carry red dust with them from North Africa. This dust blankets the boat and is a major pain in the tail to wash off!
Each country seems to have their own name for the various winds. Here in Greece we have yet to see a Meltemi, which is a strong wind blowing in from the northwest. The Meltemi seems to be the dominant wind in summer, and we’re a little early for it. Once we cross over into the Adriatic we’ll have a new host of winds to cope with, including the Bora and the Mistral. Oh boy!
We seem to have settled into a routine on this trip where if we like a place, we drop the tenders, fill the hot tub, have dinner in town, and settle in for a few days. If we’re not that impressed, we keep the tenders on deck, spend the night and head out at dawn. Departures are extremely well organized, and something to behold. Seabird and Sans Souci are like well-oiled machines. We decide before going to bed what time we’ll depart, and within seconds of the designated time, the anchors are up, and the boats are moving.
Paros kept us engaged for four days, after which we reluctantly decided to move on. Our last night in Paros wound up being a bit of a disaster. During the day we noticed a stage being constructed on a nearby beach, for some sort of party. We were close enough to hear the live bands as they performed, and performed, and performed. At 10pm they were fun. At 6:30am they were still going, and a lot less fun. We heard the boom boom boom of the music all night long. Not much sleep that night!
Unfortunately, we were not able to visit Santorini, due to its reputation for winds and poor anchorages. The other “big name” Greek island was Mykonos. But we had decided to bypass it as it was a bit out of the way, and because it has a reputation for being too touristy. However, given that we had bypassed Santorini, and with Mykonos only 12 miles out of the way — why not go there? There’s a chance that we’ll only be here once, so .. .we should see what there is to see.
The cruising guide we’ve been primarily using for this phase of the trip is the “Greek Waters Pilot” by Rod Heikell. It’s a fairly conservative and traditional cruising guide, mostly focused on details about weather, currents, marinas and anchorages. From time to time, however, it delves into cultural details, and describes Mykonos this way:
|“Mikonos has almost passed into the English language to describe a certain type of touristy island in the way that Benidorm describes the most down-market of resorts. To ‘mikonos’ means to take the most wonderful place and completely change the values and worth of the community so that while physically little appears to have changed, the place is soulless and possesses little that was valuable in the old community. So it is that in the summer the locals rub shoulders with the yacht set, the jet set, backpackers, artists – real and pseudo, nudists and recently the gay set as well as plain ordinary holidaymakers. Mikonos is bright and breezy by day and by night the hum of the bars and throb of discos into the wee hours is all part of the scene.”|
Now, I was really impatient to get there!
|On the way to Mykonos we passed the island of Delos. The girls were excited about going there, but we would later find that Delos closes on Mondays, which was the only day when we were there.|
|Sans Souci and Seabird, at anchor, Ornos Bay, Mykonos|
|We anchored at Ornos, on the south side of Mykonos, six miles from town via the water, but only two miles by road. Entering the anchorage I was convinced it was too tight, too windy, and would never work, but it turned out to be just fine.|
|Entering the anchorage we passed this boat, which has a toy I’ve never thought about. We take our water toys serious on Sans Souci, and appear to have been one-upped!|
|Mykonos has an “old harbor” and a “new harbor.” We had heard that entering the old harbor is forbidden, and thus, hoped there was space in the new harbor. We arrived in 25 knots of wind, only to find that the new harbor was full. They did actually find space for us, but in a tight location where we’d be hammered by swell coming into the marina. This meant backtracking to an anchorage on the south side of the island.|
|Roberta and I at the old harbor in Mykonos. See the megayacht? It was interesting watching him come into the port. He entered at a snails pace, dropped anchor, and backed to the wall behind him. It didn’t feel fair that he was allowed into the port, but we were excluded.|
|Hiking around town was hot. Luckily, in the Little Venice section of Mykonos we found a waterfront restaurant who knew how to make a great frozen Margarita.|
|Scenes from around Mykonos. As regular readers of my blog know, Roberta has a Starbucks obsession. In this case, though, it was Steven who insisted on the Starbucks run (to buy a couple bags of fresh ground coffee for mornings on Seabird). To get there we waited for nearly an hour, in the hot sun, for a taxi. A girl in line told us that there are only 45 taxis on the island, and that this is the maximum allowed. She was wearing a Seattle T-shirt, but had a British accent. I asked if she had been to Seattle, which caught her by surprise. She had to look at her shirt to see what it said. “No. It’s just a fashion statement.” Being from Seattle, I found this amusing. Seattle is not usually famous for high fashion.|
|Perfection, to me, is dining on the beach looking out at Sans Souci happily at anchor. In this case, there was an awesome restaurant on the beach. After weeks of Turkish and Greek food I was in the mood for something more interesting and we found a sushi place. Yum! There may not be much in the way of culture or history on Mykonos, but there’s a lot to be said for a good beach, a calm anchorage, a wide selection of restaurants and a Starbucks. Lastly, while I’m thinking about food, if you haven’t yet checked out my son’s “recipe a day” food site, http://www.djfoodie.com. Please do. In addition to being very entertaining, it’s awesome for people who like good food, but want to eat healthy and lose weight doing it. Check it out.|
Plus, we had discovered an anchorage on another island, Kythnos, that looked great.
The cruising guide mentioned some hot springs, which sounded fun. That said, we consider “hot springs” as jinxed after an adventure of ours in the Aleutian Islands. We had heard rumors of hot springs on an Aleutian island [Check out this blog entry: http://www.kensblog.com/aspx/m/Home/beid/31858]. We anchored the boats and hiked for hours only to be defeated by miles of thick vegetation. Then, when returning to the boats we discovered horrible swell, resulting in a sleepless night. We still talk about that night as one of the “lows” of our time spent cruising.
A quick side-story about our departure from Mykonos. One of the things that prompted us to talk about departing Mykonos was that we wanted to visit Delos. We had tried to get there from the port of Mykonos, but the ferries weren’t running on Mondays. We thought about taxi-ing into Mykonos town on Tuesday to give it another try, but the taxis are so random on Mykonos that we just didn’t want to go through the battle to find a taxi into town and then back again. So, we started discussing taking the boats to another island close enough to Delos to tender in. As we studied the charts we couldn’t find a bay large enough, and secure enough, to hold our two boats. Ultimately, we gave up. There are about a million reasons why it is good to travel with another boat, but one problematic negative is that we each need about a five hundred foot empty circle around our boats when we drop anchor. That’s VERY hard to find on some of these islands. When the cruising guides refer to an anchorage, they seem to focus on the little sailboats who seem capable of anchoring anywhere. It seems to be a recurring theme that we arrive at a pretty anchorage and find we can’t fit in. Ultimately, we dropped the idea of going to Delos.
|Once again, Kythnos was out of the way, but with this picture on the internet to look at, and the promise of thermal hot springs, how could we not venture out of our way? Amusingly, after all the hours spent plotting a route across the Greek Islands for this adventure, I believe we still have not stopped even once, at anywhere that we had planned to stop. Each day seems to be a new adventure!|
Approaching our anchorage, we noticed another boat hovering just outside. You can’t tell it in this picture but they have a whole row of jet skis, several tenders, and more in the water. No one was using any of them. A friend who captain’s charters on big boats mentioned that the standard routine, even on quick lunch stops, is to drop all the toys in the water, just in case a guest might want to use one. After lunch, everything goes back on deck. It’s a different world than our kind of cruising, where we have to do everything ourselves. There are definitely times when I wish I had a large crew who would leap into action at the slightest need. However, there are a lot more times when I’m thrilled to have just Roberta, the dogs and myself on the boat.
At Kythnos, the anchorage turned out to be just as awesome as it appeared on the charts. One particularly nice thing that doesn’t show in the pictures: When we started our trip the water was a chilly 68 degrees. I’ve been watching it inch up daily, and is now a somewhat swimmable 73.81 degrees. Yay!!!! I expect further improvement as the summer continues.
Check out this 3d picture of Sans Souci and Seabird at anchor next to the sandbar:
Unfortunately, whereas the bay looked huge in pictures, it was very tight, and very shallow, with rocks in several places hiding just beneath the surface. We did drop anchor, and took this picture, but I was only in eleven feet of water, and was very nervous that my boat would rotate into Seabird. It seemed a very dangerous place to be if high winds were to come up. Steven beat me to the radio and said, “Ken. This doesn’t feel right. We need to get out of here.” It was sad to leave such a cool place, but Steven was right. We had to move. We saw a nearby bay that looked big enough to hold us, and dropped the anchors. I noticed that Seabird didn’t drop their tender immediately, as they normally do, and asked on the radio if they were planning to drop the tender and go ashore. “No.” Was the answer. “We decided to eat onboard tonight.” Roberta felt the same way. We were now in a boring place, and the enthusiasm for hunting down the thermal springs seemed to have evaporated.
At midnight, I was almost pitched from our bed as the boat rocked. Roberta also woke up. “What was that?” she asked. “Maybe it was a ship passing by?” I answered. Over the next thirty minutes the rolling continued. I went upstairs to see what was happening. It was just “swell” coming in from some distant storm. We had no wind there, but were being buffeted by the swell. We had seen worse, but we were still miserable. Roberta tried a trick with putting pillows on each side of her, to hold her into position, which did get her some sleep. I held onto the bedside table with one hand, which did keep me in the bed, but wasn’t working for sleeping. I was more worried that I’d roll over onto the dogs, crushing them, than that I’d fall out of bed. At 3am I radioed to Seabird to see if they were willing to depart immediately. No answer. At 5:30am, with the first light, I was back on the radio and woke them up. Apparently the swell wasn’t as bad where they were, and they felt it, but were able to get some sleep. My guess is that Sans Souci, sitting sideways to the waves, had acted as an effective breakwater, helping to shield them from the swell.
Seabird (Steven and Carol) didn’t sound completely happy about being woke up, but never complained. Thirty minutes later the boats were rolling to our next adventure!
And, a few things for the boat geeks
|Nobeltec Odyssey graphically displaying how close we’ll get to a freighter|
Both Steven and I are long-time Nobeltec users. Recently I upgraded to their latest release, called Nobeltec Odyssey. It’s a very different product, and not at all similar to anything prior, except their TimeZero product. Steven also upgraded, so that we could easily swap routes back and forth. At the beginning both of us spent a fair amount of time whining about the product, then little by little it captured our respect. At this point, I don’t think either of us would go back.
In the picture above you see a cool feature, which took us a while to figure out, but now we’ve found very helpful. You’ll note that both my boat, and the freighter have a dotted line extending out the front. This dotted line touches a solid blue line. The solid blue line connects the dots showing where our two boats will be at the time that we will be closest to each other. If the blue line is very short, we’ll be very close to each other as we pass. The dotted line, coming from the front of my boat, is angled to the right, reflecting that I have steered to starboard (the right) to increase my minimum distance to the freighter (the CPA, Closest Point Of Approach). Because the plus signs at the end of my dotted line is higher than the plus sign at the end of the freighter’s dotted line, it is telling me that the freighter will pass behind me. This solves one of the mysteries that has always been annoying. AIS tells me how close I’ll get to a target, but not what I need to do to “open up the gap.” I now know instantly which way to turn to increase the CPA with an approaching target.
|Sans Souci has many different ways to get internet, including wireless internet, satellite internet and via a 3g dongle.|
Sans Souci has several different ways to get internet, but most of the time, around the world, we’ve found the cheapest, fastest and most reliable, to be 3g internet dongles or sim cards. In Greece we are paying around $25 for each 5 gigabytes of data, and the speed is fairly good. This is a tiny fraction of what the cost would be via any other method. I do have my satellite connection, called VSAT, but it is slower, and although KVH, the provider, says that I have unlimited access, they lock down any website they perceive as offering streaming, and would shut me down if I used anywhere near my normal amount of data. Thus, the VSAT is only used when we are too far off-shore to get 3g data.
I threw together a quick slide showing how we do internet on Sans Souci: [CLICK HERE]
|Here’s the “disaster of the week.” We have towed our tender thousands of miles, from anchorage to anchorage. We normally only put it on deck for long passages, or ones we think might be rough. The miles have not been kind to it. During the off-season we put new tubes on the tender, but I should have paid attention to the tow-hook and replaced it. Sadly, it has now given up and is wobbly. I’m positive that if I tried to pull the tender the tow-hook would immediately fall off. Steven thinks he can help me put together something that would be ugly, but do the job. I hope he is right. Putting the tender on and off the boat doesn’t take long, so it’s not a huge issue, but it is a minor annoyance.|
That’s it for this edition of the blog.
Thank you everyone!
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci
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