Across the Angry Sea to the Dodecanese: Part 1

4 to 5 March 2018

Sitia, Crete to Fry, Kasos, N35° 25.09’ E26° 55.37’, 48nm, 7 hours 

Time had come for us to get back into the habit of passage making and to get it started we were going to make a 50nm crossing from Crete to the island of Kasos in the Dodecanese, across what is known as the Angry Sea. We had read that the sea state could be at its worst in the straits between Crete and Kasos, Kasos and Karpathos and Karpathos and Rhodes – exactly our planned route to Turkey!

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A closer look at the chart explained why. The seabed shelves very steeply like the Bay of Biscay creating notoriously big seas. So like Crossing the Bay of Biscay we chose a day of light winds after a day of calm in the hope of avoiding the Angry Sea at its worst.

To add to the nerves Stefan declared me skipper for the day! With no wind and calm in the harbour I passed the first test and got Pintail safely off our berth. As we headed out the wind increased and we unfurled her sails for the first time this year. This skipper insisted on one reef in the sails, not being sure what the effect of the mountains would be on the wind. That reef was needed as the wind continued to belie the forecast and started to gust up to 35 and 40 knots! Once we said farewell to tip of Crete there was nothing south of us until Egypt.

It was a feisty sail for our first long one but once clear of Crete the wind was less gusty and we enjoyed a lovely beam reach at 7 knots all the way to Kasos.

It gave us a good opportunity to get back into passage making habits – taking seasickness tablets (just in case!), drinking loads of tea, making meals whilst heeled over. We got used to strange mealtimes again- a banana at 7am followed by homemade minestrone soup at 11am. We also needed to get used to thinking about our energy use. Four days since we unplugged from shore power we had to start thinking about how many Amps we are drawing from the batteries which means remembering to turn the tv off standby every night. As well as being at the mercy of wind and wave we were also at the mercy of our very eclectic music collection – where else but on Pintail does Metallica’s Enter the Sandman precede Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colours on the decks?!!

The wind increased again as we approached Kasos, whipping around the island’s western tip. The passage between Kasos and the islands fringing it to the north saw us hit speeds of up to 9 knots but then as the high land sheltered us the wind died and we turned into the harbour at Fry (pronounced Free). The Angry Sea had overall been kind to us – more mildly irritated than angry!

There was no one around and no room inside the small harbour amongst the fishing boats and a yellow yacht seized some time ago for people smuggling. We decided to put Pintail alongside outside the harbour wall. Wind was gusting from the south east through a gap in the mountains as I jumped off with the stern line. Seeing the bow blowing out Stefan also jumped off with the bow line – both of us ashore at the end of lines holding 20 tonnes of boat being blown off the wall! With some effort we were able to secure Pintail but lesson learnt: Stefan will stay on the boat in future!

Fry appeared a ghost town and was made even more spooky by the sandy air still shrouding us. I found a door ajar to the Coastguard’s office and found Kostas inside. He confirmed that we were ok to stay outside the harbour wall. The ferry that comes every few days had already been that morning and wouldn’t be back until the day we planned to leave. Better, if we didn’t stay longer than 2 days we didn’t have to pay.

On our wanderings around town we saw more geese, cats and dogs than humans – just a few fishermen, an out of sight group of cheering football fans and a woman beating her carpet on a distant balcony.

The town felt dusty and tired and more of the houses were derelict than lived in. It felt like the everyone had abandoned it. The primary school had closed years ago although we did spot a few children. When reading about the history of the island we learned that it had been victim to a genocide at the hands of the Egyptians in 1824. 7000 of the island’s inhabitants were slaughtered. During the last century more islanders deserted it and emigrated for a better life in the USA. When we visited it really felt like there were very few people left.

Despite the sandstorm we managed to get some views of the island from the hills around Fry. It was surprising to find a small airstrip. In the strong winds no planes were coming or going however.

The Coastguard had recommended the Mylos taverna overlooking the harbour. It had looked silent and closed all day but by dark a few lights indicated it was open. We sat at a table in the smoky main room, two old boys drinking raki and chatting to the taverna owner/cook on another. On the tv was a Greek musical tragedy. A simple menu contained all our favourites so it was spicy cheese, big beans and courgette balls for us washed down with some passable red wine. We ate captivated by the film, despite not understanding a word.

The predicted winds we had planned to sit out in Kasos started early on Monday and did not stop its relentless howling through the island and out over the harbour all day. We were being  blown off the quay but it was still a bit nerve-wracking and hard to get off the boat. We had to winch the boat closer to the wall to go for a walk in the afternoon. Kasos’ windmills were certainly well placed when in use.

Back at the boat we discussed plans for our onward journey. We had planned to go from Kasos to Karpathos only 25nm away. The forecast was for a lull in the strong winds on Tuesday followed by increasing winds through until the weekend. The harbour at Pighadia on Karpathos no longer seemed like a good idea. We thought about a longer passage up to Rhodes but that meant 90 miles through the Angry Sea, which after all this wind might be angrier than before. So we looked at the charts and decided a better plan could be Tilos. With predicted winds it would be a good almost downwind sail and a shorter distance.

In anticipation for an early start we went to bed at 8pm. We were woken again at 11.30pm when the wind stopped howling. We decided to take advantage of the lull in the wind and to get up and go through the night instead. The Angry Sea was again kind to us and, for our first night sail of the year, it was an uneventful night as we headed up to Tilos…

 

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