Tag Archives: Skyros

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!

 

 

Nisos Skyros

Linaria

The island is quite small, has one port on the sheltered south side of the island, an airport and, it would appear, just one major town called Chora.    Linaria, the port, is simply the cluster of buildings that has sprung up around the ferry terminal but has a fantastic little town quay.

The island made an appearance in Greek Mythology.  Achilles, was hidden here by his mother, Thetis,  in order to keep him from getting killed in the Trojan War – and we know how that worked out!

There after the island changed hands amongst ‘the usual suspects’, Athenians,  Romans, Byzantines, Turks, and the Venetians built a castle high above Chora.  It was a part of the Ottoman Empire and the island played a large role in the Greek Wars of Independence.

We found the island to be quiet, almost deserted in places, and delightfully pretty. Chora was quaint, with narrow streets and steep alleyways leading up to the Venetian Castle and the Monastery of St George.

Monastery of St George
A street in Chora

We hired a car intending to tour the north end of the island but didn’t quite make it.  We drove to Chora on Monday, the 12th, and visited the north eastern tip of the island and a prehistoric settlement, which was closed.

Chora’s main street at 1 minute past 2!

Chora is the old town clinging to the mountain beneath the castle and monestary.  The streets are so narrow that cars and vans delivering to shops drive in and reverse out.  We were warned that the town, in its entirety,  closes between 2 and 5 pm and that was no exaggeration, come 2 o’clock it was like a ghost town, completely empty streets and every shop shut!  The old castle was closed for maintenance and repair and the monastery was also closed.   That seemed to be a theme here!  It was lovely wandering around the town, clambering up and down the steep streets and although they were and bit of a maze it was hard to get lost.

Chora

The following day we drove along the north west coast spending most of the afternoon on a beach we found at a place called Fokas, one of the anchorages I’d identified as Plan B if we couldn’t use Linaria.   We stopped in a Taverna for a snack and a coffee and ended up staying there!  Steve had his Calamari fix (he does love his calamari!) and Zeynep went swimming.  It was a really relaxing afternoon.

The bay at Pevki with Linaria in the distance
View from Taverna kyra Kalis, Fokas.
Fokas
Bay at Atsitsa
Vrak Atsitsa

That evening we had a BBQ and invited our neighbours to join us. Paul and June, an Australian couple in African Jacana were off to Turkey and so Paul spent a lot of the evening pouring over his Pilot Book with Zeynep giving him the benefit of her local knowledge.   Our other guest was Claude from Belgium in O2. We were chatting about SSB radios and arranging to test ours over the coming days.    We were even joined by Sakis, the Harbour Master, at about 9 pm as he went home for a well earned glass of wine; he’d started work at 8 that morning.   He left with the sincere thanks of all three crews.

It was a great way to end our stop over in Skyros.

Ormos Kastri to Linaria, Skyros

Ormos Kastri in the morning

We made an early start from Kastri. The morning was calm and Zeynep and I heaved up the anchor.  She took turns with Steve on the helm as we set off north for the island of Skyros.

The weather forecast for the next few days was for strong north east winds, the Meltami, and so we decided to head for Linaria, the only port on Skyros.   The Pilot Book didn’t give much information about it other than it was small but well sheltered, and so we had a back-up anchorage close by as Plan B.

As we cleared the coast of Evia we hoisted the main sail, hopefully, and motored into slowly building winds which began to turn slowly but steadily to blow from our starboard beam, settling there at between 11 and 14 knots for about 4 hours as we flew along under our main sail and Code Zero, at points making 8 knots  through the water.  The wind only died away as we entered Kolpos Kalamatsis,  the bay on the approach to Linaria.  It was the best afternoon sail we’ve had, the wind was rock steady from the east and hardly varied in speed. The sea was relatively calm.

As we approached Linaria we couldn’t see into the harbour for the huge ferry berthed there, so we crept in wondering what we’d find; and what a suprise. We were met by the Harbour Master in his rib and guided in, stern first using  laid moorings, no need for an anchor.  The Town Quay is about 10 boats big and there was plenty of space for us.  The HM then gave us his welcome to the port, with high lights including piped music in the showers; the water was so crystal clear that we had to keep our Black Water tanks closed and weren’t allowed to shower on board!

Tea and medals in Linaria

The port is very well sheltered from almost every direction but there is almost nothing here other than restaurants; you can see the entire port from the quayside.  It was fantastic!  Although there are a couple of ‘Mini Markets’ the emphasis is on Mini, if you want anything resembling a proper shop or supermarket you have to go into Chora, the island’s capital about 10 km away.

So we settled in to wait out the Meltami and spent Sunday doing very little in Linaria because it was raining on and off most of the day and was rather windy.  For us it was quite restful, Steve found a cafe with Internet and did some writing while Zeynep went and explored the local beach.

Linaria, floodlit water.