DeDannan feels the 'Meltimi' again
10 November 2019
The further adventures of Tony Olin as he continues his famous 'warts and all' journal and log on his beloved yacht 'Dedannan':
We are here at Zea Marina, Piraeus, Athens having some repairs made to our Kohler generator which went crackers some weeks ago, to cut a long story short, it cost us over €3,500 to put right, and that’s just some electronics replaced.
Piraeus is a great port to spend some time, it has lots of shopping and everything you could want is here, some very trendy cafés and bars along the port with a choice of different foods apart from the usual “Greek” taverna that you only find in the smaller ports. A word of warning though to anybody travelling to here on the rail network from the airport, the trains are littered with pick pockets, very good ones that can relieve you of your cash and even take the watch off your wrist without you knowing. We have met several cruisers that have fallen victim to these guys. The Greeks always blame the Albanians and Romanians for anything bad over here, but I’m not so sure.
Our time living it up in Zea Marina was over, a fifty four foot yacht looks small and humble in this place I can tell you, and we needed to crack on out to the Cyclades and the port of Finikis on the island of Syros some seventy five miles to the south east for a meet up with the Amel owners face book group.
Having looked at the forecast predicting strong winds, we set full sail in a fresh northerly wind of some 15/18 knots making 7/8 knots close to the mainland coast in order to keep out of the way of the heavy ship traffic that runs in and out of Athens. We kept well inside the long traffic separation zone that runs parallel to the Athens coast. As we left the cover of the mainland and approached the small uninhabited island of Ag Georgios and the entrance to the south Evia channel to port some thirty odd miles from Athens, the wind started to climb and the sea along with it. We have bad memories of this area and the huge sea that the dreaded meltimi kicks up when it gets going. This is also an area where heavy ship traffic is running to and from the big ports of northern Greece and on passage to Istanbul where they transit between the islands of Kea and Kythnos.
We furled the main and took in a few rolls in the genoa, left the mizzen up, a change of course to the east and settled in for a rough ride to the port of Loutra on the north east coast of Kythnos some 25 miles distant.
As the hours and the miles clocked up, so to did the Meltimi, as the sun started to go down behind us, delph, the contents of the chart table and my banjo were thrown to the floor, we were in no doubt that we were back in the Cyclades. The north wind climbed to 38 knots beam on with white water washing over the decks as we barrelled along making 8 knots to our next port.
We arrived to a full port in the dark of night and tied up to the outer wall between some charter boats, it’s a bit exposed here but was comfortable enough for the night. It’s always amazing to me how well sheltered most of these ports are, one would never think it was so rough outside as the cruisers in port were sitting out having dinner in the port side tavernas.
We tidied the boat and hit the taverna for our dinner, it was past midnight when we went back and hit the sack for a well earned sleep. We were not long into our slumber when the German gang on the charter boats both sides of us came back from the boozer, the music went on full tilt, Bono, Phil Lynott, Queen and every other rocker known to man blasted out of those speakers till dawn.
The next morning after breakfast I went on deck, the Germans were getting ready to head out back to their charter base to return the boats, all looking the worst for wear. I looked to the left, Guten Morgen, I said, did you sleep well last night, I enquired, needless to say, in true German fashion, I was totally ignored, as I looked to the right I got the very same response. For a nation that live by the rule book back home, their arrogance and behaviour when away is all to often appalling.
We looked at the weather and we didn’t envy them heading out into what we had come in from, we decided to stay for another day to see would the wind come down and moved into the port as a berth came free inside. The skipper of the charter boat whose berth we moved into was not very experienced, he did damage to three boats including his own as he went out to haul in his anchor, he kept letting the wind take him as he bashed off two other boats and pulled out their anchors, his wife and daughter were up front unravelling the anchors and it was soo dangerous the way they tried to deal with chains under strain, he then pissed off without as much of a wave and left everybody to sort out the mess he created.
The port police and the harbour master Costas made a call to the charter company to advise them that claims against their insurance were going in for the repairs to guard rails and gelcoat damage. If this guy made it back to Athens with young children on board, I doubt he would be getting his deposit back, he really wasn’t up to handling a boat in the weather he was taking them out into, against the good advise he was given from sailors in port that know better.
The following days the meltimi just blew and blew only stopping for a breather between midnight and 03.00 each morning. We eventually left the comfort of the port to make the 22 miles voyage to Finikis. The wind was at 33 knots from the north as we headed across with a big sea beam on, Linda was not too happy about leaving the comfort of Loutra as we made 8/9 knots until our arrival at the port of Finikis on the island of Syros.
As we turned into the well sheltered bay at Finikis the wind dropped instantly and the sea was almost flat as we took a mooring that was reserved for us putting our stern to the wind. Finikis is one of the best sheltered bays in the Cyclades for sitting out the meltimi, there were many boats resting comfortably on anchor in the bay awaiting better weather.
Due to the bad weather not all the group made the meet up and we were the last boat in on the Sunday morning, we had missed a dinner party for the group the night before but it was nice to meet people in the flesh from all over the world who we had got to know through Facebook.
We had not been to Syros before so we hung on here for a few more days to visit the island that is considered the capital of the Cyclades. The main port of Ermoupolis was once a major port for the bunkering of the old steam ships crossing the Aegean Sea. The port is big and deep which also had several ship yards in its day, it now is a popular port for cruise ships to visit.
The buildings around the harbour reflect the power and glory of the past, it has a huge 18th century square paved with Italian marble and shaded by many trees. There is an opera house modelled on La Scala and a large Catholic Cathedral near bye. The narrow side streets are alive with interesting little shops and cafés.
The town quay has mooring for visiting yachts, but there was a terrible swell entering the port causing the yachts to roll very hard to the point of masts hitting off each other.
The 'Meltimi' blew up again, it was blowing force eight and nine which kept us in the port of Finikis for eight days, many cruisers with schedules to keep were getting very agitated hanging around the port, several yachts on charter did not make it back to their base. We had no schedule to keep and we were glad we were here in the comfort of a well sheltered port. Nicos the harbour master was telling me that this summer was the worst Meltimi he has seen for many years, it’s hard to find a wind that will blow non stop for weeks on end in any other part of the Mediterranean. The ferry captains earn their money hard operating day in, day out, in conditions like these as they ply their trade from island to island.
Eventually, the wind just disappeared and their was a rush of boats pulling up their anchors to head off. We had Scottish neighbours on the boat next to us, they had been in port waiting for the weather to come good to leave for over two weeks, they were heading straight back to Athens pledging never to come back to the Cyclades again.
We took ourselves off south in a flat calm sea with not a breath of wind to the island of Serifos and the wonderful port of Livadhi, another good port if the Meltimi kicks off again. It has an abandoned marina that was built with EU money only ten years ago, for some Greek reason or other there is nobody managing it, the services are all there but not working. There is good anchoring in the bay surrounded by tamarisk and olive trees on the high ground and a very nice beach with reasonable holding in seven meters on sand and weed.
There is an old chora (old town) high up on the hill all painted white and blue as is traditional in the Cyclades. The view of the port and the islands beyond from there is only spectacular. In ancient times the people of the islands always built their town high up above the port in order to protect themselves from invaders, they are always pleasing to visit and the chora remains much as it always was with families still living there.
We met up with three other Irish yachts that had all been holed up in one port or the other during the past weeks, we had a good time getting together in the beach side tavernas at night and visiting the Chora during the days to drink and take in the views.
The weather has been fantastic even with the wind howling day and night, everybody is still in shorts and flip flops in mid October with average temperatures of 25 degrees in the day time.
Our time in Livadhi was up, the weather forecast for the next week was showing the meltimi coming back so we decided to head back towards Athens and visit some of the Saronic islands. We set off for the port of Merikas on the island of Kythnos some twenty five miles to the north, the wind was light and the sea flat calm as we meandered along the east coast of Serifos.
We arrived in the ferry port of Merikas in the late evening, dropped anchor and tied up to the town quay, the harbour master was quick to come collect his fee, he was an arrogant character which is very unusual for a Greek, I took a disliking to him and the way he went about his business. He demanded €30 for the night, I questioned him on the cost which he didn’t like and I demanded a receipt, he didn’t like that either as he took out his receipt book to write one up.
I sent a photo of the receipt to the municipality by email and asked the correct fee for DeDanann, they wrote back promptly to say the receipt was not an official receipt and we should have been only charged €16. He hit lord knows how many boats every day for €30 and pockets the money for himself. Although, being Greece, he probably drops a local politician and nothing happens to put a stop to him.
Next morning early we set sail for the wonderful port of Poros some fifty miles distant in the Saronic in order to get out of the path of the forecasted meltimi before it hit. We had a good sail in fresh north wind for the first five hours, as we neared Poros the wind went down and we motor sailed the last twenty miles. The winds are so much more tame in the Saronic islands and out of the path of the Meltimi.
Poros has a big naval academy in the port, I watched a thousand new recruits pass out to great fanfare with marching bands and all the pomp and ceremony that goes with it. It was all very formal as they marched around the parade ground with their families all watching from the stalls. There were speeches made by various officers to which they all stood to attention, then towards the end a very senior officer, admiral or something got up on the bandstand to talk. He was a small fat guy dressed to the nines in a very fancy uniform and a big sword, from the moment he took the stand you could feel the tension as he just stood looking out over the parade ground for a while, there was total silence, even the spectators all shut up. He started to speak with serious authority, I hadn’t a clue what it was he was saying as it was all Greek, but by jasus he put the fear of God into them all, it was like looking at paisley in his hay day. Then as his speech came to an end he turned friendly for a brief moment and a thousand white hats were thrown high up into the air and the band struck up again as they all headed over to kiss the mammies.
We will hang about the islands here relaxing for a few more weeks until the weather gets bad, we have a few jobs to tend to on DeDanann before lifting out for the winter in a yard near to Athens and that’s it for this year.