Saturday, 7 June 2014

Unstable air

June, say the old timers, is usually the most beautiful month in the Mediterranean. This year however June has them - and the rest of us -  flummoxed.

Berthed in Naoussa, looking north

We came from Amorgos on a brisk south-westerly wind, romping along under sail until the wind collapsed in the channel between Naxos and Paros and the time came to find shelter. Tiny Naxos harbour, not unexpectedly, was full. There were more strong winds forecast in 48 hours. People were getting ready. Those lurid little boxes on the Windguru tables with figures like 52 knots have a way of focusing the mind.

Where is that weather coming from?

In the end, we took shelter from this next unseasonal blow - predicted to come from the east and then turn to the south-east - in the expansive sweep of Naoussa bay at the north end of Paros. There are several good anchorages around Naoussa, but as it happened, when the barometer jumped off the cliff we were attached to a stout mooring line in the privatised "marina" by Naoussa town, once a fishing village and now chock full of cocktail bars and jewellery workshops. These things happen, and not in this case for the worse (in my opinion). Naoussa's glitz is lightly applied.

The vege van in Naoussa town

Enki has a deepish draught (we say 2.5 metres, to be on the safe side) and the only spot the much-pressed harbourmaster Yannis could offer her was in a tight corner on outer pontoon. There was no boat alongside us because the bottom rose sharply there. Alex watched the depth sounder and worried. He does that. On the night the storm arrived (somewhat diminished in strength but a howler  nonetheless), the wind drifted into the north, and that drove a fractious swell into our corner which made sleep impossible.

Yannis, Naoussa harbourmaster, pulls in a charter boat

The pile of nets which anchored Enki on her starboard side
In calm weather,  who need worry about those depths in the corner? 

All anyone could talk about for those few days was the weather. Alex tied and retied lines to the dock. His piece de resistance was an extra long line slung around a hefty pile of fishing nets. Rusty iron cleats were mincing our nylon lines, and the lengths of hose protecting them. Freddy and I, not possessed by the captain's fervour, caught a bus one morning to Paroikia, the main port on the west coast of Paros. The museum there has a few treasures (including the Nike below), but there was more evidence of the island's famous white marble on the modern tombstones behind Naoussa cathedral than in Paroikia's archeological collection.

Nike's torso in the Paroikia museum 

Even without head and arms she's lovely

Freddy hits the road

Lemon pie in Lefkes

Eventually, the weather cleared, and we moved out to anchor. If our Vodafone internet connection had not fallen over, we might still be in that lovely spot near the island with the monastery. But who lives these days without internet? No-one we know. Naxos had the nearest Vodafone shop.

The Blue Star ferry approaches Naxos harbour

Enki alongside the English beast

We've been in Naxos harbour for a couple of nights, tied alongside a behemoth of a boat, hailing from London but looking as though it hasn't moved from Naxos for some time. Alex came to Naxos a long time ago, alone, and he has had some ghosts to deal with here. Freddy and I have seen the town and fertile island through un-scorched eyes, and the beauty of the landscape and the clarity of the water is something to file away for another time, should there be one.

The fertile valleys of Naxos

Taverna tablecloth

Restoration of an ancient sanctuary of Demeter, the harvest goddess

Picking wild fennel

In Naxos town

Lunch by the water in Apollon
Giant kouros lying in a quarry behind Apollon (and below)

Marble quarry on the west side of Naxos

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