A perfect downwind sail from Anafi island, took us to Gouves Marina, about 8 miles east of Iraklion in Crete.
Back in 1980, I spent three months in Greece, including a month in Crete. The objective was to have a holiday and walk a bit, to get my legs in shape again. I had stacked my Suzuki 750 motorbike on the way to work, fractured my right femur and tore all the left knee ligaments. I read about the 18 km long Samaria Gorge in western Crete, starting near Chania at an altitude of 1,230m and winding down to Agio Roumeli on the south coast. This hike inspired me to carry on hiking along the Cretan south coast, walking east for about half the length of the south coast of Crete, sleeping on the beach and wherever I could unroll my sleeping bag.
So here we were again, planning to cruise the north coast of Crete with Annie’s sister Penny and husband Frank. They arrived at Gouves the next day from a cycling tour in Croatia and after getting provisions and topping up the water and diesel tanks, we set off east, to go with the building Meltemi. We found shelter in Khersonisos bay with reasonably flat water and only the occasional strong gust to bother our fish barbequing on board. The following day we continued east through a very confused sea and 25 knot winds, until we turned the corner at Cape Fatsi to get into the big bay of Kolpos Merambellou and in the lee of the land.
A mile or two to the south, at the entrance to the Spinalonga lagoon, is Spinalonga island with its Venetian fort. There is a small deserted settlement which was a leper colony in the previous century. After 33 nm we anchored at Schisma in the Spinalonga lagoon.
This is an attractive town offering walks along the shore as well as numerous tavernas, to have coffees or dinner. The wind increased to a full blown Meltemi gusting up to 30 knots in the two days we spent there. We figured there had to be less wind further south and motored to Ormos Porou where there was some wind shelter, close inshore in front of a holiday resort.
By the evening it was gusting 25 knots again, so the next day we motored another 6 miles south to Agio Nikolaos, where we booked into the marina. It wasn’t more sheltered here, but at least we were securely tied to a pontoon in the marina. It gave us the opportunity to do our laundry in the marina laundromat. I bought a Greek gas bottle with a regulator as backup, if we couldn’t refill the Aussie gas bottles by the time they were empty. We also had a pleasant evening in the old town with a superb meal at a taverna.
On Saturday, after five days on board, Penny and Frank caught the bus back to meet their children at a pre-arranged holiday apartment near Gouves. We spent another night in the marina waiting for the wind to abate and explored the old town. At this stage, we noticed that due to the 30 knot winds, the seagulls and pigeons were walking along the road, because they couldn’t fly. The wind didn’t let up, so we ended staying a third day in the marina until the Monday when we bought more Vodafone data and posted stuff to Karen.
Vasilis, on the boat next to us, gave us some tips on the best route, sailing to Rhodes. By 11 am on Monday, we left the marina and motored back to Ormos Porou where we found a reasonable anchorage with varying levels of wind gusts, interrupted by the continuous drone of speedboats pulling inflatable couches of varying designs, filled with shrieking kids, testing the limits of the flexibility of their spines. The physios and chiropractors in this area must have a field day. We were to wait another two nights before the weather forecasts indicated a temporary drop in wind speed to about 15 knots, by the Wednesday and Thursday.
On Wednesday the 15th August, we set off at 7am to do the 23 miles to Cape Sidheros, the eastern tip of Crete. Well, hello! Within 10 minutes, we had to fully reef the main, furl the jib to about 15% of its area. In a big sea and on a broad reach we were bowling along in 25 – 27 knots of wind, hitting 10 – 11 knots going down the waves. We reached Dragonara island, just north of the cape in record time and anchored in a sheltered bay to recover. So much for weather forecasts – Valium or Zoloft please. Hang on, I have Retsina wine for a relaxed arvo.
At 6am the following day we set off, sail reefs still tucked in, to do the 36 miles across, reputedly, the worst seas, to Kasos island. “Anchor in Fry on the north side, because the south side, which although in the lee, is even worse” Vasilis said. OK, we were going to go around the south side, but let’s listen to local knowledge. The weather the next day was much like the day before and we got to Kasos having averaged 8 knots in a very big sea. Then, a big surprise – we haven’t seen any Aussie boats in Greece up to now, but tied up in the harbour were two boats from Fremantle, Perth. We were quickly welcomed and everyone met on Esprit for sundowners.
Clive and Jenny Willis from Perth on their Beneteau 45, mentioned that George, their impeccable Greek source, had told them the following day would indeed be a low wind day. They were going to leave early to do the 60 miles to Khalki island, west of Rhodes. We decided to accompany them and set off at 6 am, despite a hangover. We had perfect conditions with a flat sea and 14 – 18 knot winds on the beam, zooming past Karpathos to reach Potamos Bay, next to Khalki harbour at 2 pm. Sixty nautical miles in 8 hours, averaging 7.5 knots SOG (speed over ground).
On approaching Potamos Bay, who should arrive from the opposite direction – Mike and Sarah Mason on Soul! After a good night’s sleep, we picked them up with the dinghy the next morning, to go ashore and walk the kilometre across to Khalki village. Here we found Clive and Jenny’s boat tied up to the town jetty and went aboard “Australie” to introduce them to Mike and Sarah. A coffee in the quaint village, with a visit to the bakery and supermarket followed, before we walked back to Potamos bay. We stayed for two days.
Our next stop was the island of Alimia, eight miles to the north, which was used by the Germans as a U-boat submarine base during world war 2. We did a long hike and visited some of the deserted buildings. In one of these, nostalgic German soldiers drew a series of cartoons, depicting what life was like back home and what life might been like on some distant tropical island, if there had been no war.
The following day we had a relaxing 33 nm downwind sail to Rhodes, where we anchored next to the marina. They say you either love or hate Rhodes. We love it, especially the old town. On this our third visit, the number of tourists is overwhelming, as it still is the European summer holidays.
Tomorrow, Joe and Mary arrives to join us for 6 days of cruising. We will report on that in due course.
Cheers for now!