The weather (as usual) looks a little better this morning. Our crew futzes around town, since we are not in a hurry to leave. Barb finds a WiFi signal to poach, gets the forecast and the weather seems to be OK. A few of our neighbor boats leave.
As we are preparing to get under way, my VHF crackles with the dreaded mixture of many Greek words wrapped around the English phrase Gale Warning. While we had sailed (unplanned) in Gale force winds the last 4 days, we hadn’t ever departed with the knowledge that there was an active Gale warning.
We paused our departure and Sheven and I walked back into town, to a bakery with WiFi, and checked the weather on all 3 web sites. They all basically said today is 5-6 and tomorrow 7 or higher (Beaufort Scale). Perfect weather today for sailing. We scurried back to the boat and ready for departure.
We still haven’t figured out when you hear “Gale Warning” on channel 16, if it’s for any place in Greek waters or if it is for local waters. We have also never been able to find any information on any of the other channels they list for more information even though my VHF is programmed to scan all of those channels.
Tom is at the helm today. He is a smooth operator and we had a perfect departure.
We do a broad reach around the southern end of Siros and head for the town of Parikia on Paros. The winds start out perfect and comfortable – around 20 knots. Then (as usual) starts building later and as we approach Paros, we are running straight downwind and hitting 10.5 knots boat speed. That’s pretty fast for a boat this size, and the fastest we’ve done on the trip so far. Tom takes some pride in the speed, which seems to arouse a competitive spirit from The Sheven. I get a little nervous going that fast since I want to make sure we don’t get over powered, and I’m just starting to get a feeling for the boat. Not that we are in danger of capsizing, but I don’t want to stress Niko’s nice boat/rigging, or stress our passengers who are sitting in the saloon below.
I should mention, too, that our speedo doesn’t work on the boat so we are watching the ‘speed over ground’ GPS speed on the chart plotter. The speedo is the only significant thing that doesn’t work on the boat, which is a credit to Nikos, in my opinion. It would be nice to have, though, because then you can switch between ‘apparent’ and ‘true’ wind speeds which is handy for determining tactics.
For about 10 minutes, a group of dolphins comes to swim off our bows. We go sit on the trampoline and bow seat and watch them, watching us. I’ve experienced this often, but I find it thrilling every time. I like how they tilt their heads a little and you can see them looking right at you as you’re leaning over and looking at them. In Alaska we have Dahl porpoise that have black & white markings that look like mini killer whales. These guys were the grayish color similar to ones who played off our boat around Catalina Island (California) a couple of months ago.
When we are about 2 miles from Paros, a squall line approaches. Since the wind was already gusting to 30+, I wasn’t looking forward to additional wind, so I said I thought we should drop the sails and motor the rest of the way. Everyone agreed. Daniel and I went up on the deck to drop the sails and wow, it felt dramatic. Tom pointed us into the wind and we were flying up waves, jumping off the crest and plowing down the next trough. All the while we were dropping the sails and trying to secure everything. I found out later the wind speed was showing 35+ knots. It’s humbling to feel the power of even 1 square meter of sail in a 35 knot breeze.
The wind then dropped a little and the squall line faded away. I think Daniel was worried that I would want to raise the sails again (I didn’t) because word is relayed to me that if I did want to raise the sails, we would need to “have a discussion”. I think our crew is getting tired of handling sails in 40+ MPH winds and we are at risk of mutiny.
Tom motors us into the northern approach to Parikia. Just to the west of us are Portes rocks where in September 2000 the ferry Samina crashed in a gale and 80 people drowned. It was nighttime and the wind was an 8 (34-40 knots), and somehow they managed to rescue 400 people off the ship. Quite an amazing feat, and I had read about how the northern wind and current aggressively sweeps ships toward the rocks, so I kept telling Tom “more left!”.
We got into the harbor, which is protected from the north, but the wind was still whipping up to 30+ knots. We motored over to the marina area, which is actually quite small and there wasn’t any space (as foretold by Jabba the Hutt). There are some nice anchorage areas, though, and we chose an area on the north side of the harbor. We paid extra special attention to setting our anchor since the forecast was for quite strong winds (7-8) tomorrow. This is where we plan to ride out the bad weather on Thursday.
We do a couple of dingy runs to shore and check out the town. We find several marine shops, but none of them have the CO2 cylinders for our vests. Turns out they are special order items. Note to self: bring extra cylinders on the next trip. Both Daniel and I have accidentally inflated our vests during the heat of battle.
We get fairly drenched coming back to Sunday in the dingy (up wind). It’s about 1/3 mile, but 25 knot wind is a bit much for a small dingy with 4 or 5 people. By the time we come back, it’s dark – we are ready for that with flashlights and Daniel flicks Sunday’s lights on and off so we can find her amongst all the other lights.
I suggest that since we have this many people on the boat, we should rotate anchor watch about every hour just to keep an eye on things. The person on watch can read a book, etc. and periodically check to be sure we are not dragging and that nothing else ghastly is happening. There are lots of strange sounds on a boat like ours that is anchored or moored in high winds: clinking, banging, squeeking, gurgling, beeping, etc. If someone is on anchor watch, then the other 7 people can sleep peacefully and hopefully ignore the noises and motions of the boat.