We woke up early and tried to deconstruct our spider web before anyone could see it. The wind was still strong from the north, but not quite as strong as it seemed the night before.
We decided to head for the island Kithnos instead of Sounion Bay because it would get us off the mainland and into the Cyclades Islands. I was a little bummed because I had been reading about the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion and was looking forward to seeing it. The temple was built around 440 BC as an offering to Poseidon (Greek God of the Sea), I think to appease him and hopefully get fair winds/seas. Sounion is also the place where Aegeus, King of Athens committed suicide by jumping into the sea, and thereby giving the Aegean Sea its name.
We soon learned that Poseidon gets pissed off if you dis him by not stopping by the temple.
We hoisted sails and started heading east. The wind was building some and was around 20 knots. We had one reef in the main and we romped along at 7.5 knots.
I’d had my VHF radio around my neck doing the automatic channel scan for any weather information. We passed about 5 miles south of Sounion and could see the Temple of Posidon way off on top of the point – pretty neat.
Shortly after not stopping by to see Poseidon’s temple, the radio crackled with a bunch of Greek words, but imbedded in there was the broken English phrase ‘Gale Warning’. They then read off a bunch of channel numbers (we think) for more information. We scanned all the channel numbers that were listed, but there was nothing else.
Daniel and I were at the helm, and we did some thoughtful reflection. Does that mean a Gale Warning for our area? Or is it a Gale Warning someplace else in Greece, like the Ionian? We put another reef in the main for good measure. The winds were around 26-28 knots.
They built fairly quickly over 30 knots, and we decided to abort our crossing to Kithnos and go say hello to Poseidon’s temple. Daniel & Tom went on the deck to secure the sails and it was quite a dramatic moment. We saw the winds go to at least 35 knots (probably more), which is officially a Gale, and it started raining (sideways). We had to head up into the wind to get the sails down which meant that we were slamming up and down straight into the waves. I would guess that the vertical motion of the bow going up and down was at least 20-25 FT vertical.
Our other rookie mistake is we didn’t have the harnesses & tethers ready, and we shouldn’t have had Daniel and Tom on the deck without them. Harnesses are straps that go around your body, and tethers are about 6 FT long straps that go from the harness (and your body) to secure places on the boat or onto a line/strap that runs along the boat. They basically keep you from being blown or thrown off the boat. It was a combination of luck and the fact that Tom and Daniel are pretty tough that kept them from being tossed into the foaming drink.
After their epic battle with the sails, Daniel & Tom looked like they had been hosed down with a high pressure fire hose.
We pounded our way back to the relative calm of Sounion Bay, just below the Temple of Poseidon.
Dropped the anchor on the north side of the bay, in front of a small church. Seemed to be sandy bottom, good holding. Two other boats were in the bay when we arrived and 4 others crawled in later. We posted an anchor watch all night, to be sure we didn’t start dragging anchor and that the wind direction didn’t change. Nice having 8 people on board, so each person is awake for about an hour during the night. On this night, though, I was fairly wired (and still on Alaska time, -11 hours) and Michele and I stayed up all night talking.
We estimated the wind outside the bay to be at well over 40 knots during the night since it got to 30 knots inside the sheltered bay.
Stuff I’m glad we brought: Our self-inflating life vests, with integral harness, and our tethers. The life vests on the boat are the gigantic orange ones and would be really cumbersome to wear and you would get even more blown around by the wind when on deck. There are separate safety harnesses on the boat, but it’s much more tidy and easy if they are integral with the life vest. I’ve done quite a bit of sailing and rarely had to use this equipment. Little did I know that I would be wearing this stuff most of the trip and my swim suit would be unused.
Stuff I wish I had: A serious blanket. We’re getting fairly cold overnight and the blankets on the boat are the same as the little blankets you get on airline flights. I dream of our puffy down comforter at home, but would be thrilled with just a sleeping bag to throw over us.
We do have a generator onboard, and if we start it, we can use the boat’s heating system. However, if we start it, it wakes everyone up. It also sounds like the engines, so sleeping crew tend to think something is wrong. We finally decide the person on anchor watch can start the generator every couple of hours during the night to pump some heat into the cabins.
Stuff I’m glad I brought: My Spot GPS location device. It doesn’t rely on shore radio, internet, etc. It receives GPS signal from satellite and sends our location back via satellite. I’ve got the new version called ‘Spot Connect’ that also lets us send small (about 41 characters) text messages from my iPhone. For example, after we hit the gale and got safely anchored: “Safely at Anchor”. The reason this is so nice is that we don’t have any other way to let friends and family know where we are and that we are okay. Also there is an SOS button that supposedly goes to a global rescue center which dispatches local help. I used the Tracking feature of Spot to track our entire trip and friends/family could check it from a web browser.
I then used the Tracking data to make the maps that are on this Blog. It only cost about $160 plus an annual service fee of somewhere around $100. For what it does, I think that’s an amazing value.
The iPhone app seems a little buggy to me – you have to re-establish the BlueTooth connection each day when you turn Tracking on, and a few other irritating things. However the product is brand new (a couple of weeks old) and I’m sure they’ll get the bugs worked out . The Spot manual says to use only “2 AA Energizer Ultimate Lithium 8X batteries”, and it’s true. After I had to swap batteries, I could only find normal Alkaline, and they only lasted a day or two in track mode. There is probably a way to wire it into the ship’s 12 volt system, but I never had a chance to research that.