Crossing the Aegean
Day 1 (2022-03-28) to day 2 (2022-03-29)
Departing from Marmaris brought a mix of excitement and sadness.
In one hand we wanted to get going, get back on track with our delayed plans but on the other hand this time we had friends in the anchorage to say goodbye. Not just acquaintances or friends we had just met, we had been sharing Marmaris with these friends for nearly two months while waiting for our new rigging and sail.
Some of these friends we had met in previous years, knowing that we are leaving the Med and will not see them again for awhile left us with tear in the corner of our eye.
At the same time this departure still in March means getting out of the comfort zone, facing some cold nights on watch and potentially unsettled weather.
The day before our departure marked the 1 year anniversary since our last arrival to Turkey. It was also the 4th year anniversary from our departure from Lisbon to come to the Mediterranean Sea.
The day of our departure was the day we started closing a few chapters on this sailing adventure.
The day started with our Brazilian friends Caci and Renato giving us a farewell while upping their anchor to go to the fuel dock at that moment we were getting ready to move to the customs dock for formalities.
A few ours later, already after checking out and leaving Marmaris bay, the Aussie gang of SV Lemonade and SV Leading the Escape jumped on their dinghy and motored two nautical miles into the sea from their anchorage to wave us goodbye as we passed by.
Another emotional moment.
The friends we have met along this Mediterranean journey truly marked us!
We started our day with a persistent light downwind breeze that in true Eastern Mediterranean style would not shift direction unless we decided to go in the wrong direction for hours on end. Something we weren’t willing to do due to the already tight weather window, so we decided to sacrifice speed but at least head in the desired heading.
Just before leaving Turkish waters we managed to download one last weather forecast, crucial now that we had found that our European SIM card was not connecting to the mobile network. This latest forecast showed stronger winds than previous one for the first 48h of the journey but in general (and other than that) still similar to the previous one.
We proceeded with one reef on the Mainsail (already in preparation for the stronger winds expected later in the day) and one reef on the Jib to avoid the wind shadow caused by the Mainsail when the apparent wind angles is more than 140 degrees.
By mid afternoon we were already in Greek waters crossing the shipping lanes near Rhodes, the winds persisting on the aft quarter instead of the aft beam we were expecting but at least they build up during the rest of the afternoon giving us speed although forcing us to sail deep down wind to an apparent wind angle of 165-170 degrees port side in order to keep our desired route.
With the apparent wind angle in such position the reefed Mainsail was still slightly shading the Jib despite it being also being with one reef.
The winds build up to 20 knots throughout the afternoon and into the night and then we missed those two precious lessons. By dinner time the winds started gusting 24-25 knots and I questioned if would be better to bring the Mainsail to a second reef just in case but both agreed the boat and rigging seemed not too stressed so we discard the thought, that is lesson number one, if any mentions a reef then you should do it. It’s easier to shake a reef than to put one at later stage specially during the night. Lesson number two is very Estern Mediterranean oriented, I call it "error factor of 10", meaning, if the gusts forecast shows yellowish shades (20 knots and increasing) you should count with a margin of error of 10 knots because most likely you will get gust in the order of 30’s.
Conclusion is we should have put that second reef on the Mainsail.
I went to my off watch sleep but by midnight UTC (3am Turkish time) I woke up due to the rolling swell and feeling really cold. John was furling the Jib, the winds had just picked up that extra notch of the "error factor 10" and it was now blowing 32 knots gusts, meaning we potentially had too much Mainsail out. The boat and rigging didn’t feel that over powered but by now we were doing 9knots easily nearly dead downwind which is not exactly a comforting thought.
After much discussion we decided we needed to do something and the most reasonable solution at that moment due to the waves was to do a Mainsail dead drop as fast as possible because putting that second reef now would mean slamming into the huge waves for too much time in the dark.
John turned the engine on and preformed a turn in a very controlled and fast manner while I literally opened the jammer for the Mainsail halyard that I had prepared in such way it would all drop without my guidance. I quickly clipped myself to the jackline outside of the cockpit and quickly rushed to the mast base to pull the remaining Mainsail down and clip the halyard. We are pretty used to this manoeuvre by now so each one knows exactly the task in hands and what to shout at each other for guidance if needed, to aid the task we had turned the foredeck lights on so both can see what we were doing on deck. In no time John was already turning us again downwind and with the engine just ticking over we proceeded on our way.
Off course all this came at the cost of some engine hours and it meant that when the winds later in the night returned to calmer speeds (10-13 knots) the remaining sea state was still too bad to hoist the sail again leaving us just with the option of using the Jib. We decided that these were not the conditions to try out our new Solent sail although it is a heavy weather sail.
As the morning came the winds started picking up again and the sea state that had not yet calmed down become even more unsettled with quite big but short waves of around 2 meters on a period of 3 seconds.
At that point we made the decision that it would be wiser to stop somewhere and wait for the following morning when these strong winds were supposed to have already passed and hopefully the sea state calmed a bit. We quickly poured our attention over the charts and pilot book and found an isolated all weather anchorage without having to go back on our track. It would mean however a detour north from our route for 4 nearly 5 hours.
During this time the winds picked up again to 32-34 knots dead downwind and we were again surfing following waves which meant engine on to keep momentum.
As we started rounding the island and shifted the wind from the port quarter to the starboard one to get to the anchorage we furled the Jib before it backed, at the same time we noticed the furled Code0C started to getting a flap in it, caused by the wind in this new direction. After we had received it from servicing a week before we had commented it didn’t look furled snugged as we usual do it so this was something we needed to address fast, before it became a problem instead of nuisance as we passed the acceleration zone caused by the island cliff.
Johns turn to go on the foredeck and guide the sail down and secured it on the deck as I slowly dropped its halyard. With that done we turned the boat beam on to the wind and powered thorough the tight gap that would bring us to the anchorage. With the wind now on our side we could truly feel it’s power, in the acceleration zone the gusts were around 36 knots but luckily we had already managed to get close enough to the headland without getting the huge swells side on.
In no time we were squeezing ourselves in this little tiny cove protected from the sea state although still getting wind gusts of nearly 30 knots.
With the anchor down it was now time for coffee, to pack the Code 0C tied on the deck into its bag and into the locker (we would have to wait for another sailing opportunity to furl it correctly) and to rest and catch up on the much needed sleep.
Overnight passages with such cold winds do take its toll!
Day 3 (2022-03-30) to day 4 (2022-03-31)
We started the day early, just before sunrise, lifted anchor, got out of our little hiding hole and resumed our journey. The swell resulting from the winds from the previous two days was still quite messy but not too annoying. The morning breeze was just starting very light so we wasted no time to hoist the Mainsail (still on a reef just in case and because by now our forecast was 3 days old and some stronger winds could catch us if the weather was running faster than the forecast) and open the Jib. For one hour we were sailing but instead of the winds increasing to the much needed and expected 15 knots they died off to none, forcing us to motor sail for a couple of hours, squeezing all we could from our sails until close to lunchtime when the winds were completely gone.
Without any wind in no time the sea state reverted to absolutely flat and we were left with the engine to make progress. At least it wasn’t cold and the shy sun was warming us up.
It was already quite late in the afternoon when the winds returned again in an erratic downwind with swell on the beam. We were approaching the area where we knew there was potential for strong winds again but they were supposed to be on the beam and gusting up to 20 maybe 25 knots. What we got was dead downwind gusting up to 10 knots
Not good at all, with our delay the previous day waiting out the weather we were now pressed to reach the Peloponeso before Thursday afternoon into a safe anchorage to sit out an extremely strong weather front with winds forecasted up to 50 knots.
We were already getting the swell generated by these winds but The Dream just slid up and down the side on swell.
When the night came we were coming close to approach the straits of the Peloponeso ‘and were already negotiating the heavy cargo ships transit. On AIS we could already see a great number of ships at anchor in the gulf of Lakonikos where southerlies storms are not supposed to carry the same punch (although still a huge punch for a vessel our size) as before the Peloponeso.
We made our way to our hopefully protected anchorage.
By the time we got there late Thursday morning the swell was already 3 meters still on a 3 seconds period, the entrance through the heads of the anchorage was a lively but safe one.
We anchored and prepared for the night punch.
The anchorage is surrounded by high hills and prone to katabatic winds when winds blow from north but the forecast was winds from south so we wondered how the night would be.
Reflective swell rolled in from S -SE direction but so did some reflective wind so we were aligned with both but as if the weather was coming from north.
Late afternoon a charter flotilla started to arrive one by one, their entrance through the heads was definitely done in high stress mode, the look on their faces from what we could see from the distance was of distress and relief. The anchoring shenanigans they are famous for started and it took a couple of hours for all of them to be anchored but of course things would not be that simple.
By midnight we were already in bed and not long after we heard that peculiar wind acceleration sound, the snubber stressing and through the main cabin window I glanced the mayhem on the flotilla starting. We quickly got up, dressed up and rushed to the cockpit all of those boats had already dragged a bit.
We prepared to start the engine as prevention and by the time the gusts reached 40knots chaos had settled in in their group. Boats dragging and hitting each other, fenders out, torches and screaming between them. Eventually they all managed to hold on to their positions after a few attempts and over an hour.
The winds settled and we all went to sleep.
Early morning the winds blew from south briefly but that was enough for the flotilla pains to start all over with half of the boats that had trouble the during night getting in trouble again with chain wrapped around each other and hulls hitting. More fenders, more shouting, more re-anchoring.
The swell now was often side on to all of us making it an annoying sea state and uncomfortable at times but not to the point of becoming a problem.
Late morning one by one the charter flotilla left but not before a few more shenanigans and unwise decisions (changing crew by driving up to one another, one still anchored the other not with reasonable swell and wind gusts. Motoring out of the anchorage heads passing too close to the north side of it with strong winds blowing from south and huge following swell), their exit looked like dolphins jumping out of the water. Engine at full throttle they made it through.
We were left alone with the anchorage all to ourselves for the rest of the day. We preferred to wait to give a chance for the sea state to calm a bit before venturing rounding the cape that would let us leave the Aegean behind our backs.
***In the spirit of sharing our dreams and experiences we have shared this blog post in the NOFOREIGNLAND.COM website sailors community.