We left Psara mid-morning on Tuesday 22nd heading for the nearby island of Khios. The wind was variable – there seem to be a lot of localised effects from the islands so it can seem very windy close to the land and then drop significantly at open sea or vice versa. The direction can be changeable too. The majority of the journey was under sail although the engines were required now and then.
The notable event of the sail was a near miss with a cargo vessel. There are very well defined regulations for avoiding collisions and in open water, vessels under sail have priority. The AIS showed a collision course and we were taking compass bearings. The ship ‘Lion’ did not appear to be altering course. As it started to get close and still showing no signs of having seen us, Cy called them on the radio. It took a few goes for them to answer and the captain said he would alter course to port (which, as we were approaching from his right (starboard) didn’t seem the most appropriate option). Unfortunately, this was too little too late and the course alteration kept him in front of us and did not remove the collision risk. By this point Cy had already started the engines just in case we needed them and it was apparent that some evasive wiggling was required. A “swift” gybe turned us parallel with Lion while we waited for it to pass. 100m from a container ship feels very close and I was pretty freaked out, unlike Cy who wasn’t the least bit bothered, just annoyed at the lack of professionalism shown by the skipper of Lion (in his humble opinion).
The anchor went down at around 5pm in a bay on the South Eastern side of Khios, Ormos Salagena. The night was pretty windy and there was some swell into the bay but the anchor held.
The island of Mykonos was the destination for Wednesday 23rd, a longer run of some 55 nautical miles. We left the anchorage at sunrise.
As on other days, the wind was a bit up and down and there were a few periods where it was necessary to motor but it picked up later in the day and Doris was flying along. We even hit 10.4 knots momentarily, which for our Doris is quite a feat!
Parking at Mykonos marina was a bit tricky as the wind kept blowing us sideways as Cy was trying to reverse in to pick up the mooring. A crowd of ‘helpful’ bystanders appeared to give instruction (they always seem to appear, no matter how deserted a quay looks). The harbourmaster directed us to a berth but gave up and left us to it after our second try at getting in. A skipper from one of the local day trip yachts was extremely helpful and managed to give some useful instruction whilst keeping the shouting from the others at bay (for the duration of our stay in Mykonos we (Sarah!) referred to him as ‘Mr Hunky’). The combination of the gusty weather and the significant swell from the ‘Seabus’ as it passed us en route from Mykonos town to the cruise ship terminal made it an uncomfortable mooring.
In total, we were stuck in Mykonos for five days waiting for the weather to settle. The strong winds and rough sea made it impossible for us to move on in any useful direction. Crete or Libya would have been fine but we thought we’d leave them to another time…
Mykonos is a very popular island – ferries and cruise ships were coming and going constantly and there seemed to be flights arriving every hour. It is possible that our judgement was coloured because of being stuck and not feeling safe enough on the mooring to leave the boat for too long (we did snap a mooring line over the course of our stay), but we found little to love in Mykonos.
Mykonos town itself is architecturally beautiful – narrow paved alleys and streets with whitewashed stone buildings. However, each and every one of these was a tourist shop of some sort – designer jewellery, clothing, trinkets, handbags etc. It felt to us like a place with its heart ripped out.
The area around the marina was a bit desolate but had a small cafe, Maistros, which we visited every day. The owner, Kiki, was warm and welcoming and we could enjoy a beer whilst still watching Doris from her balcony. There was also a bit of a community on the pier, with a fair few local yachts friendly crews. They were also stuck as the weather was too windy to take holidaymakers out for the day. The main entertainment seemed to be watching the arrival and departure of any other yachts (and the inevitable assistance of “Mr. Hunky” – Cy).
We eventually escaped at midnight on Monday 28th August. The forecast showed a brief window in the weather, so the decision was made to do a long passage and get to the island of Aegina if possible. The course was to windward, so we were not certain that Doris would be able to make it. Cy had a plan b,c and d ready just in case. We started out fairly well but soon the sea state became problematic. The design of Doris means that in the wrong conditions, the bit between her hulls slams down on the water, sounding and feeling like she will rip apart with every one. We had to endure this for a good few hours. Large waves crashed over the deck and water was leaking inside in several places. Not the most fun we have had overnight and the arrival of the daylight was most welcome indeed. The conditions did improve during the course of the day, and we were able to snatch a bit of rest when off watch.
We reached the southern edge of Aegina in the late afternoon and began looking for an anchorage. The first couple were a bit too deep for us. We also passed the harbour of Perdika which is renowned as being a busy place and difficult to find a space. It certainly looked chaotic with yachts piling in from every direction.
We carried on and anchored in the next large bay. The anchor was set at around 18:30 and as usual, Cy gave it a good blast in reverse to dig the anchor in and check it was holding. Everything was fine. We had a quick swim then had dinner and crashed out – we were exhausted from the long trip and all the associated stresses. Close to midnight, the anchor alarm went off. When Cy went to check, we had not only dragged our anchor, it looked like it had completely given way and we had rapidly drifted backwards a few hundred metres and were still doing so, at a rate of knots! We managed to get the anchor up quickly (40m of chain and rope) and reset but decided that it would be necessary to maintain an anchor watch for the rest of the night. Thankfully, there were no further problems. Cy fell asleep on his anchor watch (don’t tell my old skippers…). I managed to stay awake by doing yoga on the deck and crocheting by the light of a head torch.
It’s easy to lose track of time with overnight sailing but this was now the morning of the 30th August and there was a bit of rain, which was lovely – the first we had seen for some time. I even caught a glimpse of a small rainbow.
We left the anchorage at 11:00 and headed a couple of miles up to the harbour at Aegina town. It is another busy place – the close proximity to Athens make it a popular weekend destination for yachts and lots of the charter boats head here. Fortunately we found a space and were all secure just after midday. Shortly afterwards, a Danish flagged boat came in next to us. Cy helped with lines (who needs Mr. H – Cy) and got chatting. They were a really lovely couple, Orla and Isse-Lotte and invited us for beers on their boat which we naturally accepted.
Later in the afternoon, once the temperature had dropped slightly, we explored the town and were completely charmed by what we saw. So much so, that we decided to hang around for a few days.
A 24 hour scooter rental seemed like a good idea, so we picked one up in the evening for use the following day.
We set off before first light on the 31st, aiming to find the Temple of Aphaia and watch the sunrise. Unfortunately, the temple is fenced in and locked until 8am but we were able to climb a hill and watch the sun come up over the temple.
As the temple still wasn’t open we decided to have a wander and stumbled across a small monastery where we were welcomed in and shown into their chapels. It was shortly after sunrise and there were no other visitors about – the feeling of peace permeating the place was extraordinary; a delightful experience.
By this time, the temple was open to visitors. Once again, we beat the rush and were the only people there.
Afterwards we headed into a small town nearby for breakfast and then back to Aegina town via the monastery of St. Nektarios. He is a relatively modern saint with an interesting story and the monastery was full of people on pilgrimage to his tomb where miracles have been said to occur. It was much ‘busier’ and for us, not being up to speed with Greek Orthodoxy, a little baffling.
The scooter was great fun if a little terrifying at times and a super way to explore the island.
We had definitely fallen a little in love with Aegina. The evening ended having dinner in town with Orla and Isse-Lotte, a great finish to a great day.
We spent another couple of days in Aegina mooching around and taking advantage of the chandlery and hardware shops preparing for our next leg.