Sailing: the fine art of getting wet and becoming ill while slowly going nowhere at great expense.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Time to Enjoy Pretty Mykonos

Our main reason for coming to Mykonos was to see the ancient ruins on the nearby island of Delos. 
We were a bit hesitant about visiting Mykonos itself as it is known as a very popular tourist mecca. We generally try to avoid the full on tourist catastrophe, if possible, but the lure of Delos overcame any reservations we had.

Delos is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  It was the holy sanctuary for ancient Greek mythology and is now one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece.  It is considered the birthplace of the twins, Apollo (god of music, poetry and arts) and Artemis (the huntress), the children of Zeus (king of gods) and Leto.  Excavations of the site started in 1872 and are continuing today.

We finally got into the town of Mykonos to be tourist.  We first inquired about boats to Delos.  There was a late afternoon trip so our first activity was to enjoy the ferry ride to the island.  Delos is impressive but I must admit not nearly as impressive as Ephesus in Turkey.  We still maintain that the best Greek ruins are in Turkey.  We had a few hours to walk around but could have stayed longer.  Sadly the on-site museum was closed for renovations so we did not see many of the smaller unearthed artifacts.
Delos from the waterfront looking onto Mt Kynthos on the right
Poppies amongst the ruins
The city overlooking the harbour
Floor mosaic in the House of Dionysus
Avenue of the Lions
Another day we were able to tour around the town of Mykonos.  It is full on tourism but not of the crass type.  The streets were packed with tourist but the shops had a minimum of tat.  The pedestrian area of ‘Little Venice’ is delightful.  In fact if one were a shopper (I am not), one would be in heaven.  There were endless up-market clothing, leather, accessories and jewellery shops.  These combined with the iconic Greek blue and white buildings, tavernas and cafes make Mykonos a tourist paradise.
Streets of Little Venice
Iconic windmills
The rounded architecture of the Cyclades
Bob making his way through the narrow streets
Every corner is a visual delight
We also visited the archaeological museum and nautical museum in town.  Both well worth the visit.
3000 year old pottery
Naughty Pan
Jewelry from 600 BC
The lighthouse in the garden of the nautical museum
Intricately carved shells at the nautical museum
  Despite the boat troubles experienced in Mykonos, we were pleasantly struck by the charm and beauty of this touristy island.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Boat Issues in Mykonos

The marina we were in was behind those cruise liners
Our time in Mykonos Harbour continued to be full of fun and games.  Everyday entertainment was provided by snagged anchors and crossed chains.  We were not immune to providing this entertainment.  The day after we arrived we thought we would have another go at going stern-to onto the pontoon in the morning when the winds were calmer.  This didn’t work for the northerly pontoon but we managed to moor on the southerly pontoon.  At least we were stern-to but the southerly pontoon is not the best for the prevailing winds which come from the north.  

Later that morning a hired professional skipper of a moored boat across from us came over to inform us that he thinks we had crossed over his anchor chain.  He said his clients went for a swim but should be back in an hour or so and then he was leaving the marina.  So we delayed our trip into town to wait for the clients return to assist in untangling anchor chains.

One of the many ferries zipping around the harbour
In the meantime we saw an opening which would allow us to go side-on to the dock.  We decided to go for it while we could.  As we were lifting the anchor we managed to uncross our chain from the other boat but then the anchor got snagged in a thick mooring line that runs down the center of the harbour between the two pontoons.  I quickly donned my wet suit and dove down the anchor chain to see if I could free the anchor.  The anchor was down too deep and I could not hold my breath long enough.  Plus the anchor was well and truly snagged and I would not have been able to lift it.  So we were stuck in the harbour until a diver could come and free the anchor.  At least we didn’t have to worry about our anchor dragging.  We were well and truly set in.
We should have anchored like these boats instead of going into the marina
Our first errand was to try to find a sail maker to fix our mizzen sail which had ripped along the leech edge.  We found a chandlery at the top of the hill above the town.  It was a hot, steep walk carrying a sail.  It is a puzzle why a chandlery would be so far from the harbour?  Apparently there were no sail makers in town to fix the sail but the man at the chandlery made a few suggestions of upholstery repair shops which might help.  We took a taxi to the shop and the man was very helpful and made a repair as we waited.  He had limited English but was eager to show us examples of his work on boats.  He was not a sail maker but did very nice upholstery on boats.  

We asked the shop owner to call for a taxi and he rang his mate Costas, a rogue of an old gentleman who showed up with a motorcycle –trailer with three little stools to sit on.  We climbed into the rickety trailer with our sail and groceries and held on for dear life as he took us up and down the back hills of Mykonos.  When we finally arrived at the harbour Bob knelt down and kissed the ground.  Costas thought it was great fun to give us a scare!
Costas zooming through the back streets
The pained smiles are hiding pure terror
We got back to the boat and put up the ‘repaired’ mizzen sail.  A new rip appeared just above the repaired spot.  It looks like the 12 year old mizzen is beyond fixing and a new sail is needed.  We will have to sail for the next few weeks without a mizzen until we put up the boat for repairs.  Our time in Mykonos has got to start improving!

Friday, 16 June 2017

We Hate Catabatic Winds!

We left the wonderful haven of Linaria on Skyros to head towards Mykonos with the main goal of seeing the ancient ruins of Delos.  We were doing this 100+ nm trip in two hops.  (We are still very much day trippers here in the Med.)  Our first hop, Skyros to Batsi on Andros, was our longest to date on Songster, 13 hours and 68.5 nautical miles (Yes, this trip could be done in 1.5 hours on land in a car – such is the lunacy of sailing!).  The miracle in the Motorterranean was that we were actually able to sail the whole way!  The Mediterranean is a wonderful sailing ground in many ways – no tides, good summer weather, beautiful and plentiful anchorages – but the winds are usually too much or too little so that the window for perfect sailing winds is often very narrow.  But on our passage to Batsi we had that wind window and it was delightful.
Perfect conditions, lovely views
Since we arrived late we did not go ashore but the anchorage was very pretty and inviting.

Batsi, Andros
Early morning start
The next day the winds were predicted to be about 8 knots and we anticipated another pleasant sail.  Instead we received a baptism to some serious Catabatic Winds, notorious along the lee side of the islands of Andros and Tinos.  Catabatic winds or down slope winds are winds that swoop over the tops of mountains and come rushing down the other side (lee side).  They can reach gale force strength and are gusty and form whirlwinds so can be quite unpredictable.

Going along the coast of Andros was fine but by the time we reached Tinos the gusts along the lee side of the island were ferocious.  We were sailing with a handkerchief of a genoa sail out and still doing 5 knots with 20+ knots of gusty wind.  The waves were splashing up on the beam.  It wasn’t dangerous but it certainly was not pleasant either.  Some sailors thrive on this type of excitement but Bob is not one of them.
The chop, which never looks as bad in photos as it feels, off the island of Tinos
Our heavily reefed Genoa
But enough sail to keep us going along quite nicely
By the time we arrived at Mykonos harbour Bob was at the end of his tether and the harbour nearly did him in.  What a polar opposite to the helpful and well organised harbour of Skyros!.  Mykonos harbour is total chaos – Large ferries coming and going every few minutes, even larger cruise ships blocking visibility, yachts coming and going from every direction around a closely packed pontoons, crossed anchor chains, snagged anchors, charter boats everywhere with crew of minimal experience and a harbour master whose main function seemed to be to wave his arms and yell at you insisting you can only stay for one night.  (As we got to know the harbour master, Nikos, we found out he was really a very nice guy who has been put into an impossible position of single-handedly managing a totally inappropriate harbour.)

We tried several times to go stern to but with the wind against us, Songster just could not go backwards in anything near a straight line.  We eventually went bows to and deployed an anchor off the stern.  Not an ideal situation for us but our only option with the wind freshening in the harbour.  After spending an hour trying to get ourselves onto the pontoon after a fairly rough and uncomfortable passage Bob was definitely not a happy chappy!   

Okay, deep breath (and a strong drink).  This was an installment payment for all those beautiful anchorages, brilliant sunsets and wonderful friendships with fellow sailors.  Tomorrow there was another new island to explore.