To the islands

12 September 2017

Ormos Molos, Nisis Idhra to Kamares, Nisis Sifnos, N36° 59.50’ E24° 39.21’

73nm, 15 hours,

* Few photos of this episode exist, for reasons which will become apparent!

So, you will be wondering what happened to us when we left our anchorage on Idhra to cross to the Cyclades islands.

When we went to bed the wind was strong but from the south and we had good protection from the island. All was calm. The Germans on their catamaran were still a little too close but keeping enough distance.

The anchor alarm went off a couple of times after we went to bed. We got up in turns to check. We weren’t dragging, just moving round as the wind changed direction. At 3am the alarm went off again. My turn to get up. I stuck my head outside in the dark and could see that the wind was now, as predicted, blowing from the west and the bay was not so protected anymore. Pintail’s stern had swung round to face the beach we had swum to the afternoon before. We were now close to a motor yacht on its permanent mooring. I looked over to the catamaran. They were now extremely close to two fishing boats that had come in for the night. All was dark on board. They didn’t seem worried. The wind was getting stronger.

We now have enough experience of anchoring to

(a) have always discussed a plan B in the event the anchorage becomes untenable, and

(b) make a decision about whether to leave sooner rather than later.

So we left, sooner rather than later, and executed plan B: get out of there and head to the islands early.

It was far from ideal. The anchorage was nearly pitch dark. It was bordered by a rocky reef on one side and the two small unlit islets in its entrance. We often wonder if we would have the guts to sail at all without a GPS. Even with it, feeling our way out of the anchorage was hair-raising.

In the channel between Idhra and the mainland the wind was gusting up to 40 knots and there were more navigational hazards in the form of small islets littered close to each coast. We got a safe distance from each shore, turned to the east and put the sails up. Both of us agree that, despite the circumstances, this was one of our nest sails ever. 7 knots with 2 reefs in the sails. “This is downwind sailing, baby!” Stefan rejoiced. Shame it was dark and silly o’clock.

As we sailed through the channel in the dark I tried to get a couple of hours sleep. I didn’t – too much adrenaline. At sunrise I got up and we turned towards the Cyclades. As the sun rose higher the wind decreased but we were being hit beam on by horrible swell. Memories of the Atlantic coast came flooding back! We had another 6 or 7 hours of being tossed and turned ahead of us and it was already getting too much for Stefan. I sent him to bed for a couple of hours.

The wind decreased still until we couldn’t sail anymore but the swell wasn’t budging. It was a pretty miserable day. The hours passed painfully slowly. Stefan was feeling sick and Serifos, our intended landfall, just didn’t seem to get any nearer. One of those days that is payback for all the blissful days we have had. But we were confident that we had made the right decision about leaving when we did.

At about 1pm we finally reached the coast of Serifos, an apparently bare rock of an island, and were not far from our intended anchorage. We had already worked out that the direction of the swell was going to make it an uncomfortable one. As I motored the boat into the entrance we were practically surfing in on the swell. One brave catarmaran was sitting it out but after the night and day we’d had we didn’t fancy it. So for the second time we had to come up with a plan B.

The main town on Serifos, Livadhi, was about 7nm away but didn’t get good reports for its moorings. We decided to skip stopping on Serifos altogether and head to Sifnos just south and a harbour which promised a town quay and an anchorage in case that was full. It meant an extra few hours but at least we were now motoring with the swell.

The entrance to the bay at Kamares on the north west of Sifnos was spectacular although we were a little too weary to appreciate it. High mountains on both sides and evidence of much more greenery than on Serifos.

It was by now nearly 5pm, just the time when all other boats are heading in for the night. The small town quay was already full and three catamarans seemed to take up all the available space in the anchorage. Permanent moorings for local boats filled the gaps in between. Far too tired to contemplate finding somewhere else and with three other yachts hot on our heels we dropped the anchor as safe a distance from the others and the moorings as we could. We hoped we had left enough room for the ferries to manoeuvre onto the quay. By the end of the evening about another 5 boats had squeezed into the already crowded harbour.

We were exhausted and both agreed that this had been up there as one of our most epic sailing days so far. We declared ourselves in need of a holiday…



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