Saturday, 4 August 2012

Turkey in sight

Hurrying east, along the north coast of Patmos

For two months, we've been heading east. Last night, after the sun had gone down over the distant  Cyclades islands and as a huge full orange moon was rising over Turkey, we dropped anchor in the shelter of Patmos, an island which is still part of Greece though it is within sight of the Turkish coast. Soon we'll turn south, and I'll be glad of the change of direction. I'm tired of being frazzled from behind by the sun on its long slide down into the west.

I'm conscious of sounding peevish lately. That embarrasses me. I look at what we have and what we do each day, and wonder that I am not in a state of perpetual gratitude, bordering on bliss. I should be. But today I realised something that will seem incredible, if not downright rude to those of you who are toiling away in real jobs. I'm exhausted. I tell Alex we're moving too fast. He agrees.

Ha, you say in disbelief. Is there a slower way to get to Turkey?

Let me explain. We had thought of crossing from Greece to Turkey in short hops - of mooching from island to island, exploring a village here, ordering grilled octopus there, generally taking it very easy. Isn't that what you picture when you think "cruising in the Greek isles"? Now I'm sure that happens (and we're determined to make dinner-at-the-fish-taverna-on-the-beach happen tonight), but what I'm equally sure of is that it doesn't happen quite as effortlessly as the charter companies would like you to think.

Finikas, on Siros island
 In July and August a northerly wind known as the meltemi, blows hard, really hard more often than not, almost all the time, day and night, down the east coast Greece and the west coast of Turkey and over the water in between. What you do, and what charter skippers must do, is sail with the meltemi, not against it, and between anchorages which are sheltered from its aggressive bluster. In fact, it's a bit of a mystery to me how the charter boat industry survives in the Aegean. In the bay we're in now (pictured below), two yachts dragged their anchors in the space of two hours.

Ormas Meloyi, Patmos
Now Enki has a great anchor (a Rocna, for those in the know) but she also scoots along in a bit of wind. In a flattish sea we cruise at 8 knots, frequently more, and even in a woozy beam sea (the kind that hits the hull from the side) with foam streaking off the top of waves, her speed doesn't slow much below 7 knots if the breeze stays steady. We've seen 9.3 knots on the dial. So somehow the island-hopping thing got canned, and instead we chose to canter across the Aegean in two big runs - the first from Piraeus to Siros (70 nautical miles) and the second from Siros to Patmos (100 NM). The first run was solid, but yesterday's 13-hour run was the one that scuppered me.

I've spent today "recovering". That means not going to see Patmos' famous monastery (said to be where the apostle John did his apocalypic writing) but admiring it from a distance. I can live with that. I'm learning to pace myself, and today that has meant going ashore in the dinghy, walking, swimming and reading  - the stuff you think we do all the time and which, believe me, I'm very much in favour of.

I could mention that the smart new charger doesn't seem to be charging as it should, and that the mast started creaking rather ominously yesterday in very fresh winds. Alex has adjusted the "forward lowers" one turn, after phoning Markus. As our friend Mike commented, you lose one intractable boat problem, you gain another. That's the fun of cruising, isn't it? Keeps you on your toes. But it's not like going to work. Not at all.

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