Where the wind blows

19 to 24 May 2018

Patmos to Dhenoussa, Cyclades, N37° 05.74’ E25° 48.24’, 38nm, 6 hours 30

to  Panormou, Naxos, N36° 56.09’ E25° 28.46’, 20nm, 3 hours 30

to Platis Yialos, Sifnos, N36° 55.68’ E24° 43.83’, 32nm, 6 hours

to Poros, N37° 30.33’ E23° 26.88’, 68nm, 12 hours 30

to Piraeus, N37° 55.93’ E23° 39.22’, 28nm, 5 hours

Before we decided on an Agios Nikolaos reunion our plan had been to head north from Turkey to the Greek island of Samos. Our logic was that the further north we went the easier time we would have travelling west in the prevailing northerly winds. We had planned to hop across the Eastern Sporades and through the northern Cyclades to Athens.

Having spent two week with wonderfully calm settled weather but having ended up in Patmos further south than we had planned we were faced with an immediate forecast of northwesterly winds turning stronger and from the northeast. We were not going to get an angle on the wind that would get us further north so it was time to rip up plans again and for the weather to decide how we got to Athens to meet Stefan’s dad on 5 June.

We decided to sail overnight from Patmos to Dhenoussa, a small island east of Naxos. We spent our last day on Patmos in an incredible bay on the west of the island. Its rock formations rivaled those of the Maddalena Islands and Ponza in Italy but without the crowds.

The water was so beautifully clear we couldn’t resist a dip. It was a great place to test our fledgling underwater photography.

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After a night sail with more wind than forecast we arrived in an anchorage on the south of Dhenoussa at about 7am. The guidebook had threatened a nudist beach ashore but the wind and cloud cover mercifully ensured those who braved the beach remained fully clothed.

The weather forecast was niggling us. We’d had 10 knots more wind than had been forecast and our plan to head north round Naxos to the northern coast of Paros would be no fun into wind that strength so we changed our plan again. After a short rest in our anchorage on Dhenoussa we set off for the southern coast of Naxos. We had a gorgeous sail and arrived in the incredibly rural harbour of Panormou.

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Far from the tourist crowds of the north of the island we were welcomed by the harbour master, Vassili, who had a side line in selling his homemade goats cheese and eggs – or maybe it was the other way around! The cheese was excellent – very mature and strong in taste. We resisted buying his other varieties.

This seemingly forgotten corner of Naxos was, like Patmos, a beautiful palette of dusky pinks and yellows. We enjoyed a walk in the rain (its such a novelty for us!) across the beach.

and along the marbled cliffs whose colours seemed to match the landscape.

The only taverna was only half open with a limited menu but we enjoyed a warm welcome from their Rizzo look-a-like and some of the best mountain greens we’ve had in Greece – its like spinach but creamier.

We looked again at charts and forecasts and decided it made sense to continue west to Sifnos. It would be our third visit there but we knew the harbour with its lazy lines would be a good option for the strong wind coming in. However misplaced, there seems a sense of security in being somewhere familiar.

We arrived in the bay at Platis Yialos in about 25 knots of northerly wind. We knew from our first visit that wind from the north made getting in very difficult so we decided to anchor off the beach before thinking about going in. The gusts were very strong and it was bumpy at anchor but we were holding firm. Stefan dinghied into the harbour to see what the situation was. He found three other yachts moored alongside the quay with a space for us to do the same. He did not find our favourite Cycladian harbour master, Spyros. He had been replaced by another but with his help and the German couple on one of the other yachts we safely got Pintail into the harbour.

Platis Yialos was much quieter than when we had been there in September last year but still had the lovely laid back atmosphere we’d enjoyed on our previous two visits. We couldn’t resist another meal at our favourite restaurant where we had celebrated my birthday with Sarah and Jon.

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The forecast was still not looking good for the coming week. A sustained period of 30 knot winds, touching 40 knots at times, meant even our secure harbour in Sifnos was not looking like a fun (or safe) place to be. In fact anywhere in the islands was looking no fun at all. We had a couple of days of good wind to get out of there. But where to go?

We considered going back to Porto Heli on the Peloponnese. We knew the anchorage there was well sheltered and the bottom mud. Our forecast, however, was for at least 6 days of strong winds and we didn’t much fancy being stuck there for that long. We considered using the following days to get up to Athens and to stay there for two weeks until Stefan’s dad arrived and use the time to explore some of mainland Greece while we had the chance. It would also give us a bit of a breather from moving on constantly.

As fate would have it we heard that our friends Suzie and Mike of SV Toy Buoy were in Poros. This would be a perfect place for us to break the journey to Athens and would enable us to catch up with them. So Poros it was. Leaving Sifnos at sunrise, we had a great day sailing the 70nm across. We were dodging an increasing number of tankers and ferries and sailed through a couple of squalls that increased the wind to 25 knots but generally we had 15 knots on the stern quarter and a speedy 7 knots boat speed.

After a long day we anchored off the north quay at Poros town and dinghied round for our reunion with Suzie and Mike, who are circumnavigating the Peloponnese in the opposite direction to our trip last summer.

We first met them in Alghero on Sardinia exactly a year ago. Suzie’s beautiful handwritten and painted diary recorded the moment of our meeting. “Seemed nice folk” she wrote. And they still seem to like us!

It was so lovely to see Suzie and Mike again and, before we headed on to Athens, we celebrated the anniversary of our meeting with breakfast and a wander around the pretty backstreets of Poros.

Former model Suzie used the cobbled streets as a catwalk and Mike couldn’t help himself in joining in! We parted with a promise to meet up again soon either in Athens or in the Ionian where Toy Buoy has been based over winter.

On passage from Poros to Piraeus we passed close to Vrakonisis Petrokaravo, the tip of an underwater mountain in 200 metres of water. It is sometimes hard to imagine what goes on under the surface. Views like this remind us that the seabed is far from flat!

On the approach to Piraeus, Athen’s port, we were more concerned with above the surface hazards. The concentration of tankers, ferries and cruise ships, not to mention other yachts of all sizes, required a sharp look out in all directions and reminded us that we were well and truly leaving behind the rural, idylls of the islands and the peace and quiet in favour of the noisy, busy, big city…

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