Overnight passage to Thassos; thunderstorms and dolphins

Last morning coffee in Linaria

After 3 days in Skyros it was time to move on towards Thassos.  We had spent slightly longer here than was originally planned and so we decided to skip our stop over in Limnos and head straight for Aliki, a small anchorage on the southern coast of Thassos.   As Steve and Zeynep both wanted to do some night sailing we decided to do an overnight passage and spend the following day in Aliki, resting and swimming.  That was the plan at least.

Stenon Valaxa

We slipped from Linaria at 10 on Wednesday, the 14th, and set off west across Kolpos Kalamatsis towards a narrow channel between Skyros and the island of Valaxa, the Stenon Valaxa.  This is 125 metres wide and has 5 metres of water and, although we went cautiously, it was far from the Pilot Book description of ‘scary‘.

Steve checking the set of the sails

Once through we hoisted the main sail and turned to a more northerly course and motor sailed passed the bays we’d visited yesterday.  By mid-day we were sailing along the north west coast of Skyros and heading for Thassos with the Main and Code Zero set making 5 knots.  We were in no real hurry, as long as we arrived before sunset; I don’t like entering small bays at night!  Zeynep and Steve started their watch keeping routine of 4 on 4 off during the day and 3 on 3 off over night.

By mid afternoon the wind had died away and we motored. I took the opportunity to show both Junior Crew Guys how to plot Latitude and Longitude on a chart and how to take visual positions with a hand bearing compass.   We then went through their RYA Competent Crew book to make sure we’d covered as much of it as we could.  Between lessons Zeyep took more photos.

As the sun set the wind died away even further and Valeria noted thunder storms and lightening away on the horizon to the north and west, we had calm seas, good visibility and partly cloudy skies. .

The calm before the storm

I was called at just after 11  pm as the wind suddenly shifted to the east and began to increase.  We began to lower the main sail and as we did so a squall hit us, and that set the tone for the rest of the night.   The thunder storms were now on top of us with wind now gusting to 30 knots carrying rain.  Although the sea was not that bad we were making little head way north and I decided we’d make for Limnos after all and hide in the port of Merini.   With the wind now mostly behind us we were flying along at up to 7 knots, rather than the 3 knot struggle into the wind.   By 3.30 we were entering Merini harbour (so I got my night entry as well) with the weather dying away as we anchored with a couple of other yachts in the harbour.

The thunderstorms had moved down to us with no warning at all.  At 11pm Zeynep had written in the Log “winds dying away”. Thirty minutes later we experiencing 30 knot winds!  So it looks like we were destined to go to Limnos after all.

Although a little scary, Valeria would use differant adjectives,  the boat is capable of weathering such conditions with ease.  But thinking of the Ancient Greeks in open boats with no navigation aids it must have been a pretty terrifying experience.

By daylight the storms were gone and calm weather had returned so we decided to push on for Thassos as originally planned, heaving our anchor at 7.30 and resuming our passage.  There was no sign of last night’s bad weather, the wind was absent, the seas mirror smooth and best of all we had dolphins.  The water was so still and clear it was as if the dolphins were flying alongside us rather than swimming below us.   You only knew there was water there when they broke the surface! Magical!

The rest of our run up to Aliki was calm and uneventful and we arrived at 4.30, anchoring in a very small cove off a beach covered in sun umbrellas and beds.  We spent the rest of the afternoon chilling and then went ashore in the tender for dinner in a Taverna over looking the cove.

Not exactly as planned, and a bit more stressful, but that was all a distant memory now, filed away for the next time we need some stories of daring do!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *