Tag Archives: Crete

Back to Spinalonga.

Getting down here to Crete, with fair winds and a following sea, was simple; however, getting away again is not proving to be so easy.

The Meltemi blows here every afternoon and recently has been blowing all day, every day.  As it hits the north coast of Crete the wind turns to come from the north west and west, the direction we want to go.   So we are back to waiting for favourable weather to head up to Peloponnisos, then on towards Cephalonia, Lefkas and Corfu.

On reflection ‘favourable’ may not be the right word, perhaps ‘least unfavourable’ would be a better description!  When we get good weather in Crete it is not so good further north, and vice versa.  But we have decided to go for it on Saturday morning aiming to reach the anchorage off Porto Kayio on Sunday evening anticipating generally north westerly winds to 15 knots for most of the way, we hope.

So, having said farewell to Lu and Marco we left Ágios Nikolaos Marina on Tuesday morning (with a bit of a struggle against the wind still pushing us onto the jetty) and returned to the south end of Spinalonga Lagoon to anchor off Elounda again.

Although sheltered here, we still had up to 30 knot winds whistling down off the high ground to the west of the town but apart from the, sometimes sharp, snubbing of the anchor bridle as we swung in the wind it was comfortable enough.  Getting ashore in the tender would have been a very wet endeavour though so we sat on board until Friday when the wind stopped.

Elounda Church again

The weather forecasts appeared to remain unchanged, showing 15 knot winds again, which seemed to translate to double that at the bottom of the mountains.  But on Thursday evening the wind  off Elounda died away and Friday was a beautiful calm day with the occasional puffs of stronger winds.  We went shopping,  had lunch and managed to scrounge 40 litres of fresh water from the skipper of a day trip boat on the quay and another 40 from the restaurant Poulis, right by the scrap beach (all of 30 metres long and 3 metres wide.

So on Friday evening it was early to bed looking forward to heaving the anchor at sunrise and setting off for our 36 hour passage to the tip of the middle finger of Peloponnisos.

Elounda in the evening

As with a lot of places we’ve spent any time Elounda grew on us.  It is a tourist town and base for the day trip boats to the Venetian Fort,  but it was not manically crowded and in the evenings was quite quiet.  It is hardly picturesque but it is pleasant and has a certain charm to it.   The harbour area and sea front is home to numerous restaurants right on the water, literally tables on the beach in the case of Poulis!

Also, just south of Elounda is the site of the Minoan city of Olous. Most of it is submerged beneath the sea and what were salt pans.  I had a walk around looking for the remains pictured on the web site but found nothing but some goats.

Over all Elounda was a pleasant stopover.  A nice place to wander round; we found fresh fruit and veg, a butcher, water and some nice restaurants.   I have read of people spending the winter in Spinalonga; that might be a bit much but there are definately worse places to wait out the weather.

The Birthday Weekend with Lu and Marco

We arrived as planned in Ágios Nikolaos marina on Friday afternoon, the 25th, and settled down to wait for Marco and Lu; they arrived some time after midnight and we had a glass or two of Champagne and Prosecco awaiting them. I was fantastic to welcome them on board.

Our idea had originally been to leave the marina for the weekend and return to Ormos Porou, anchor and spend Saturday and Sunday there, going to the Kanali Restaurant for Valeria’s birthday dinner and maybe going out for a sail on Sunday. However, the Meltami had other ideas. Getting into the marina had been easy as they put us on a berth against the harbour wall which the wind simply blew us onto. Getting out again would have been a challenge even if the wind was blowing half as strongly as it did from then on. For the entire weekend it was consistently blowing 20 knots, even peaking at 30 on Sunday. Being out at anchor, or trying to sail would have been far from relaxing and so we remained pinned to the wall, quite literally, for the entire weekend.

On Saturday afternoon we went for a wander around Agious Nikolaos. Although a holiday destination it didn’t seem as extreme as I had thought it might be, all 18-30 holiday makers and all day discos. We spent the afternoon chatting and enjoying the ‘breeze by the beach!

That evening we got a cab back to Kanali and enjoyed another great meal, then went for a walk into Elounda, about a mile away.

On Sunday we took another walk around town finding our way to the ‘lake’ which is rumoured to be bottomless. It is apparently  just  a very deep sink hole just inland from the harbour and connected to it by a short canal.   It is quite quaint, is surrounded by a low quayside with lots of small boats tied up to it and wall to wall restaurants behind that. Even though it is almost totally enclosed the surrounding cliffs and buildings did nothing to protect from the wind, that gets everywhere!

The lake by day
The lake by night

On Monday we hired a car. It was half the price of a cab to the airport and meant that we could do a little sight seeing before dropping Lu and Marco off for their flight home. Valeria had found a small beach in Elounda and although it was pleasant, the wind made it a little less than idyllic. We had lunch then set off for Irakleon to visit the ruins of Minos at Knossos on our way to the airport.

Reconstructed entrance gate

Knossos is the home to the Minator of Greek Mythology. Supposedly the Greeks had to provide 7 boys and 7 girls as a sacrifice to the creature who was eventually slain by Theseus in the Labyrinth.

King’s Audience Chamber

A more factual interpretation is based around the frescos found there which illustrated a sport which involved jumping over raging bulls. The youngsters were participating athletes and anything less than a perfect 10 was probably not good for their health. Add that to the labrinthine layout of the ruins at Knossos and the myth takes shape!

Throne Room

The ruins were heavily reconstructed during their excavation in the early 1900s and a lot of the areas are not open to the public. Our guide described to us a host of Minoan inventions usually credited to others, they had flushing toilets, and drainage for both rainwater run off and sewage. They also piped fresh water in via an aquaduct and used interlocking clay pipes to distribute it; all dating from between 2000 and 1100 BC.   Interestingly, Minoan hyroglyphics and their Linear A script have yet to be deciphered.

But  then, sadly, it was time to make or way to the airport via a restaurant in Irakleon for a light dinner. And all too quickly we were dropping Marco and Lu at the airport.

Although the weather scuppered most of our plans for a ‘yachty’ weekend it was delightful to see them and were really happy they decided to come all this way to visit us; and thanks to Vania for baby sitting.  Hopefully next time we’ll be able to do something slightly more adventurous.

Elounda

Elounda, or Skhisma,  is the small town at the southern end of the Spinalonga Lagoon.

Elounda

Arriving on Monday we had experienced some rather strong winds rolling off the mountainous Ak Ay Ioannis and Valeria didn’t want to risk even stronger gusts delaying our departure for Ayios Nikolaos later in the week, so we left Spinalonga on Tuesday.

Venetian Fort

We circumnavigated the island of Kolokitha, which forms the east side of the lagoon, and re anchored in Ormos Porou, as the crow flies only a mile from where we’d been.    We had a look in the four bays around the island on our way as we may have to return here to wait out the westerly winds forecast to blow for the majority of next week before we set off again, headed towards the northern Ionian.

Unknown to us before we arrived in Ormos Porou there is a small canal that cuts the isthmus which joins Kolokitha to the mainland and so we put the tender in the water on Tuesday evening and took a trip back into the lagoon to visit Elounda.  Passing through the canal we found a small restaurant on one bank and decided to stop there on our way back.

We found a minute section of beach, just big enough for two or three tenders and the two restarant tables already there, ‘parked’ Windy and went for a stroll.  Elounda is a tourist town but quite appealing despite that.  There are umpteen restaurants, some of which look quite pleasant and we think there could be worse places to wait out the wind than here.

Canal between Spinalonga and Porou

Before it got too dark we set off back to the canal; it is only about 6 metres wide and the entrance is between two virtually submerged walls.  There is a road bridge then the remains of two bridge supports for an old collapsed one, right before the restaurant.  There was a low wall alongside the canal which we tied up to and managed to get the last table for a light dinner.  The restaurant was called ‘Kanali’ and was really very nice.  We booked a table for 4 on Saturday for Valeria’s birthday treat.

 

 

On our way to Crete – finally

Our plans of a leisurely cruise through the Cyclades were scuppered by our Watermaker problems and so with a two or three day window of reasonable weather we decided to head straight to Crete, 170 nautical miles which we’d complete in about 34 hours.

We were not sad to be leaving Lavrio, all things considered, and I was happily up at 5 am on Sunday morning preparing to leave.  We slipped our moorings at 6.30, just before the sun rose above the island of Makronisos.

The winds were forecast to be northerly 20 knots for most of the morning before dying away by mid afternoon and immediately out of Lavrio harbour we headed into the wind and raised our sails before settling down to sail passed the southern tip of Makronisou and then down the west side of the islands of Kea, Kythnos, Serifos and Sifnos.

The wind stayed at between 15 and 25 knots as forecast and we put the first reef in main sail a couple of times as wind speed topped 20 knots.  The instructions for the boat say this should be done at 23 knots with the wind astern but speed-wise in 20 knots of wind we can make 7 knots with a full main or with the first reef in.  I am sure there is a purist out there who’d be tutting loudly but as long as we make over 5 knots,  our target passage speed, we’re happy!

Passing Kythnos we had a Dolphin Escort.  No fleeting visit this!   They were with us for over 2 hours as we sailed passed the island and even hung around to watch us as we turned into the wind to shake the reef out of the sail.  We’re not up on our dolphins recognition, and the sea was a little to ‘rough’ to make them our with clarity, but these guys were larger than others we’ve seen, 2 or even 3 metres long in some cases.  There maybe a dozen of them treating us to all sorts of jumps and belly flops.

Nisos Serifos

By 2 pm, south of Serifos, the wind began dropping off so we dropped the sails and began to motor, although it did pick up again a little later we decided to carry on motoring so I could get some rest ahead of my night watches.

Sunset over Milos

We passed between Sifnos and Milos and as we passed Folegandros we watched the sun set over Milos as we set off on the long leg of our journey across the Sea of Crete.  This was one straight course of 85 nautical miles taking us passed Santorini, 14 miles distant, and the tiny unlit island of Christiani.   Christiani showed up on radar but could only be seen visually as the lights from Santorini disappeared behind it!

The night was uneventful until an hour or so before dawn when we were joined by another dolphin; just the one I think.. The sea was calm by then and he appeared alongside the helm position breaking the surface noisily before shearing off then charging back towards the bows like a pale torpedo.  At just about sunrise we had a pair of small dolphins practicing ‘synchronised swimming’in our wake!

Ak. Ayios Ioannis from the south

All night the glow of the lights from Crete had been visible, a distance of over 80 miles but it wasn’t until midday that we had reached Ay Ioannis, the mountainous headland sporting a wind farm, behind which lay Spinalonga, our destination.  Spinalonga is a few miles north of Ayios Nikolaos on the western side of the Gulf of Merambellou, the big chunk out of the northern coast at the eastern end of the island.

As we approached Ay Ioannis we had a rather unhappy encounter with a large turtle.  We saw him a fair distance away because of the large plastic bag caught around his back flipper.   The idea of chasing after him in the tender and cutting it free crossed our minds briefly but would have been completely impractical. We continued on our way duly saddened.

Entrance to Spinalonga Lagoon

We followed the coast along to the entrance to Spinalonga lagoon and just after 1 pm we passed Spinalonga Island and the impressive remains of the Venetian fort at the entrance to  the lagoon.  We headed for the small port of Elounda in the south western corner of the lagoon, anchoring just before 2 pm just  outside the old harbour,

View of Elounda

We made pretty good time with the whole passage taking us about 31 hours.  We’ll now spend he next few days looking around before going into Ayios Nikolaos on Friday to wait for Lu and Marco.