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.

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