Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Mikonos & Syros

Finally a decent wind allowed us to sail the 70 miles from Lipso to Mikonos. We celebrated our arrival just before dark, feeling that our ambitious schedule might yet be achievable. However all that changed the following morning when we awoke to the sound of a near gale blowing through the "sheltered" anchorage with the forecast indicating that the strong northerly winds would dominate for at least the next two days. The idea of leaving wasn't particularly appealing, neither was the prospect of being storm-bound for two days and ruining our plans. Postponing any decision we hiked across the island and spent the morning in the main town.
The packed tourist centre provided a stark contrast with the tranquillity of our anchorage in Ornos, with the narrow streets overflowing with visitors whose numbers had been multiplied by two large cruise ships in port. Still it killed a few hours and on the return trip we tried to convince ourselves that the wind was dropping - not easy when even swimming pools had white-caps - but despite the evidence we decided to leave. Our plan was make a short 20 mile hop to the next island, Syros. More modest than our original destination, but in the circumstances it felt like a good pragmatic choice.

Back onboard we were nearly foiled in our efforts to stow the dinghy by a couple of ferocious squalls which mocked our attempts at controlling the hoisted inflatable. Eventually we wrestled it onto the foredeck, having to shout to be heard against the howl of the wind. While we busied ourselves preparing the boat for sea, we both tried to ignore the self-evident truth that the wind had increased throughout the morning. How bad could it be? We'd both skippered boats across oceans and Kika felt in good shape, though as we struggled to raise the anchor in the teeth of the gale, I started questioning my assumption that the challenges of the Mediterranean would be trivial compared with the Red Sea. Mark later admitted to having second thoughts about leaving. Once the anchor was up it was a shock to realise that we were heading out of the bay making 5 knots under bare-poles and spray-hood and we anxiously watched the spray being blown off the waves in the squalls. Tentatively we raised a minimum of sail - a tiny genoa and three reefs in the main - Kika raced towards the south-western tip of Mikonos; easy sailing on flat water which lifted some of the apprehension we both felt.

Once round the headland we were exposed to the full fetch of the Aegean and our course brought the wind round to a close reach, however Kika came alive. She felt more like a dinghy than a 13 ton yacht; instantly reacting to the helm and bending to the squalls as they hit. It was a wet, but exhilarating sail as we headed at 7-8 knots in the gale towards Syros.

In no time at all we were dropping sails and negotiating our new anchorage. Unusually we had the bay to ourselves, normally something to relish but we'd hoped there'd be at least one other boat to be impressed with our achievement - like conquering heroes with no-one to welcome us home. The anchor dram of ouzo and water felt well deserved and gradually the waves of tension lifted as the screaming wind ceased and my ears adjusted to the shelter of the anchorage.

Damage report: One bowl shattered beyond repair (poor stowage) and both toilet seat supports fractured, though easily repaired with epoxy.

Mikonos 19/5/09:N37deg 25.1' E25deg19.4'
Syros 20/5/09: N37deg 23' E24deg56'

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