|Descending to Vroukounda|
|Tombs at Vroukounda|
The day after Mike and Steve's arrival was spent touring northern Karpathos island in a hire car, taking in Vroukounda and its associated tombs and the village of Avlona, which must be one of the remotest places in Greece; the return leg took us to Olympus. All this was a very enjoyable way of passing the time before the arrival of Christoph, our next crew member.
On the following day the forecast was for a north westerly wind and so we decided to make life easier by moving Kurukulla round to the main port of the island, Pighadia, where a “new” yacht harbour has been financed by the EU. After sailing out of Finiki, under genoa alone, we had a fast sail down to the southern tip of the island followed by a fairly gentle reach to the headland before Pighadia. As we rounded the headland it was a very rapid pair of reefs in the mainsail and a much reduced genoa. Having reached into the bay for shelter we dropped all sails and then motored into the yacht harbour. Mike was there to greet us, having driven round the coast from Finiki, monitoring our progress as he went.
|The "new" yacht harbour at Pighadia|
The “new” yacht harbour proved to be somewhat of a disappointment. The available space had mostly been occupied by local small boat owners, all of whom had laid their own moorings leaving lines and floats all over the place, each of which represented a risk of getting a line round our propeller. After some careful manoeuvring, and assistance from Mike on shore, we were in. Only to find that the water and power facilities had all been either vandalised or died of neglect! Why do the EU bother! Wasted money which totally fails to achieve the objective of bringing in tourists to boost the local economy. They might as well have thrown the money in the harbour! I found out later that even the majority of local boat owners had vacated the place when they were asked to pay for their berths there, they just left all their rubbish and lines behind when moving back to the original inner harbour.
We were to spend the next two days here due to strong NW winds. Manoeuvring to exit the harbour in these conditions was going to be too tricky and, given the uninviting conditions outside, not a prospect we relished! Ultimately we were able to victual the yacht ready for escape and then made our escape, during a lull, on the evening of Thursday the 8th of May. Our target was to anchor in the bay that night and then set off mid morning next day. A slight hiccough with gas supplies, like we ran out (the full bottle left over from last year proved to be not so full after all!), meant a quick dash back into the harbour to replenish before setting off south. In the event this delay probably did us a favour as by the time we were half way down the east coast of the island the wind had increased to almost gale force and the seas were building rapidly. We decided to run for cover and, after a very wet and testing hour, we anchored in a bay just 200m south of the runway flight path for the airport. Good news for Mike who is our resident plane spotter!
Next morning we sailed off the anchor, rounded the southern tip of Karpathos and headed for our original destination of Ormos Khelatronas, on the southern tip of the adjacent island Nisos Kasos.
|Anchorage at Ormos Khelatronas, southern tip of Nisos Kasos|
On arrival we discovered another yacht that had departed Pighadia at the same time as ourselves. His tales of his crossing were enough to convince us that we had made the right decision! Ormos Khelatronas is a beautiful bay, with a sandy beach at the head and well protected; hence, we spent a pleasant evening there and planned to set sail reasonably early next morning. In the event we sailed off the anchor and out of the bay at about 0830 next morning (the other boat had departed at 0700, obviously an early riser!) to make the crossing over to Crete. Our destination was one of the anchorages on the very NE corner of the island. By good fortune this was a brisk crossing, all on starboard tack, and we arrived in the anchorage at Ornos Dhaskalia in time for lunch and a swim. A delightful anchorage, all to ourselves; that is unless you count the two military personnel who turned up to throw us out, apparently we were inside a “Military Area” despite the Rod Heikell pilot stating that we were not.
|The second anchorage bay at Dhaskalia|
We assured them we would leave once lunch was finished and that seemed to pacify them in the short term; in the event we were just sailing out when they arrived to repeat their warning. We moved half a mile to the next bay south where we anchored without interruption or harassment. After supper in the cockpit, for the first time this year; a peaceful night, and an early morning swim (bracing); we set off for the short sail round to the port of Sitia, on the opposite (W) side of the peninsula.
|Alongside in Sitia|
|Anchorage at Dragonada, under St Anthony's church|
|Anchorage at Dragonada|
|Inside St Anthony's church|
Sitia is far from picturesque but welcoming all the same. The harbour is well protected and with space galore. We even managed to go alongside, rather than the more usual Mediterranean moor, (anchor out and stern to the jetty). That night it was a trip to the local supermarket, to stock up; followed by dinner ashore in a local restaurant. Next morning I had to go to do battle with the local Port Police (they had called by whilst I was away at the supermarket) and pay the harbour dues after which we were free to go. Our plan was to head out to the Dionisades Islands and anchor there for the night. Anchorages here are not many and those that there are tight for space. After swinging round our anchor, in a small bay under the only building on the island (a church of course) we decided that there were two options, leave or tie back to the rocks. Half an hour later we were tied back and secure for the night. Christoph and I set off for a walking tour of the island of Dragonada whilst Steve and Mike stayed on board to keep a check on the boat. The island is small, one square mile in total, but with steep hills rising to the centre. Reaching the top and then descending again took us two hours. In the process we discovered another fishing boat anchored in the adjacent bay but not another living soul; that is until we got back to Kurukulla to discover two small motor boats sharing our anchorage. The owners had come over to the islands to go hare coursing with their dogs and have a BBQ that night, before departing next day. They explained to us that the refuge next to the church was available for public use, by anyone who came to the islands, and was their intended “home” for the night. In the event other friends of theirs arrived at 0300, in a motor cruiser; eliciting a cheer from the hunters on their arrival, and generating a saga on departure. Their attempt to depart at 0430 resulted in them getting a rope around their propeller from one of the hunters boats and fishing up our anchor cable with their anchor! You can imagine how impressed we were with being woken by the sound of their anchor grating up our anchor cable at 0430! After 30 minutes of pantomime we were free of their anchor and they motored off at high speed, taking the anchor of one of the motorboats with them. Oh how I enjoy power boat owners!
|En route Spinalonga Lagoon|
|Venetian fort and Leper colony at the entrance to Spinalonga|
We motored out of the anchorage at 1030 and headed westwards out of the sound (similar but very much smaller than Falkland Sound) heading for Spinalonga Lagoon. For the first hour we were sailing gently, or motor sailing, westwards; but then the white horses ahead became more defined. Yet again, within 30 minutes, we were double reefed on the main and heavily reefed on the genoa, struggling to hold course, in 35 – 40 knots of wind, (Force 7 – 8). The first time this year the foul weather gear and safety harnesses have been out of their stowage! Two hours later we arrived in the Spinalonga Lagoon, sailing past the Venetian fortress at the entrance, with its associated leper colony, and anchoring in one of the bays with a brief sigh of relief! Supper on deck was achieved in the quiet of the evening but as I write this I am sitting onboard, next day, at anchor, in the lagoon, listening to the wind howling through the rigging yet again! Tomorrow we move on to Ayios Nikolaos from where Steve and Mike depart and George and Nigel arrive.