After a chill time relaxing in Nickouria Bay on the Greek island of Amorgos we upped anchor and slowly eased our way out through the shallow northern cut and turned the nose of A B Sea north west towards Upper Koufonisia just 16 nautical miles away. The winds gods were obviously having a day off that day and we were thankful that we'd only have to motor a short distance.
Along the way Aannsha spotted something white in the distance bobbing on the surface of the water. It's not unusual for us to see litter of all shapes and sizes floating around the Mediterranean. Most of it gets blown off the shore by the wind when people don't properly dispose of their plastic bottles or snack wrappers. Quite a lot comes from fishing boats. In particular the polystyrene trays that they pack their catch into and don't get me started about fishing line and fishing nets.
From a distance this white object was either polystyrene or a white boat fender. Either way we were going over to take a look. As we got up to it, Aannsha, who was ready at the bow with a boat hook, happily declared that it was a boat fender and it was just the right size to be used as a replacement for our now split, deflated and totally buggered current step fender which we bought just before we left the marina in Spain in September 2018.
With the fender on board we carried on towards our destination while Aannsha swapped out the old fender for the new one.
A stunning bay
The water in Pori Beach Bay at Koufonisia is outstanding in terms of clarity and more importantly for us the bottom is mostly sand with a few small and easily avoidable weed patches. Our anchor went in first time and pretty soon we were enjoying the view from the cockpit with a cold beer and a chilled white wine.
It's a very popular day tripper destination and on top of that there are small ferries that come in and out every 20 minutes or so. The ferry drop off point is outlined in the picture below so try and avoid anchoring too close to the zone marked in red.
One by one, as the day moved on and the sun got lower in the sky, the tour boats all left until there was only us and 6 other yachts left at anchor. The wind dropped to almost nothing and after watching the sunset while eating dinner up on deck we went below to watch a movie.
That was when the it started. Slowly at first, but as the night wore on and we settled down to sleep after the movie, it became relentless.
As quiet and as calm as the bay was, the dying wind had left us side on to the mouth of the bay and a small swell caused us to roll all night. Nothing too severe, just enough roll to not allow for any proper sleep. We were both up with the sunrise the following morning and ready to move on to the next anchorage, anything to get away from the rolling.
Back to Ios
Our next destination was Ios, we'd visited there and tied up in the main port when we were on our way to Turkey in late 2018. This time we were planning on anchoring in the big bay just to the south of the main port.
It started out nice and calm with hardly any wind but by the time we'd reached the northern part of Ios it was blowing 20 to 25 knots and because we'd been taught a lesson by the wind gods the last time we came around the northern tip of Ios, about furling our sails in before we rounded the island, this time we were prepared. Or so we thought.
The furling lines, which we winch in to put away our main sail and head sail, had begun to fray and we'd been keeping an eye on them for the last week or so, planning to replace them as soon as we reached an island with a chandler where we could buy the correct diameter line to swap them out.
Watching the northern wind blowing the waves into whitecaps I could see that it was probably building up to 30 knots further out. On A B Sea we have a huge head sail, I don't know what percentage it is but when it's fully unfurled it comes way past the mast. The one thing we do know is that you don't want all of that head sail out in 30 knots of wind.
I made the call to reef in half of the head sail and we both grabbed the respective sheet and line. As Aannsha controlled the easing of the sheet, I began winching in the furling line. Suddenly it became almost impossible to winch. I looked down at the jammer (clutch) that the line feeds through and I could see that the outer sheath had separated completely and was bunched up on the outside of the jammer. The strong part of the line, the inner core, was fully exposed and only it had managed to make it through the jammer.
If that snapped under load we'd be buggered!
I eased the load on the line. Aannsha tied a rolling hitch onto the section of the line forward of the jammer and we securely tied the hitch to another winch, while we took a moment to figure out how we were going to get the bunched up line through the jammer.
Aannsha came up with the idea of wrapping the frayed outer sheath with electrical tape to make it thin enough to pass through the jammer and that did indeed work. A few minutes later and not a moment too soon before the 30 knots wind arrived we had the head sail reefed and the frayed line safely through the jammer and off the winch.
We used more electrical tape to put eyeball marks on both furling lines so we knew just how far we could safely let them out. We'd be running both sails permanently reefed until we could buy replacement lines and have a day with no wind so that we could replace the lines.
Reunited with Jim and Acheron
As we sailed into Milopotas Bay the wind was still blowing at 25 knots and we were very thankful that our anchor went in first time and we had good protection from the north. We'd seen our buddy boat Acheron on the AIS and we watched as Jim brought her in a short while later and set his anchor. A quick chat on the radio confirmed that as everyone was quite tired we'd meet up the following morning, both boats needed cooking gas refills and A B Sea needed some new lines.
The following morning was a pretty late start as Jim and ourselves tied off our respective dinghies just off the beach. First job was to find somewhere to dump our rubbish then catch the bus from the bay into the main port. It's a short 10 minute trip in modern air conditioned coaches and each journey is 1.80 Euros (AU$3) regardless of where you get on or get off.
Leaving Jim and his boat guest Ev to enjoy a cold beer in a quayside taverna in Ios port, Aannsha and I wandered over to the port police office to ask if there was a chandler in town. None of our online research had indicated there was. The friendly officer told us there was a small chandler in town just next to one of the supermarkets.
Unfortunately the chandler didn't have enough 10mm line in stock, but they happily suggested we try Jacobs rent a car, two shops down the street. We were a bit perplexed as to why a rent a car place would sell 10mm braided line, but we duly followed up on the recommendation. At Jacobs the helpful girl behind the counter said that Jacobs did have lots of boat stuff, but not at the car rental location. We'd need to walk about 700 metres (0.45 mile) out of town to Jacobs hardware store.
We walked back to Jim and Ev at the taverna and decided to fortify ourselves with cold beer and a pork gyros before we took the trek out of town to the hardware store.
Ev was leaving Ios on a 3.00pm ferry so after we'd eaten, Jim, Aannsha and I walked to the hardware store where we were greeted with an Aladdin's cave of stuff and not only did they have plenty of 10mm line to satisfy our 27 metres and 17 metres needs, they also sold 3kg replacement cooking gas refills for 14 Euros. We walked out of there 3 very happy sailors.
Happy joy to despondency
All three of us walked from Jacobs hardware store up the hill to the old town (Chora) and bought fresh supplies before catching the next coach back to Milopotas Bay. We invited Jim to dinghy over and join us for dinner and wine that evening so that we could properly catch up and share our stories of where we'd been and what we'd encountered.
It was a great night and the laughs we have with our shared, slightly twisted, sense of humour always make for a good time.
The following morning, once the sun was high enough in the sky to completely recharge A B Sea's domestic batteries, usually by 9.30am in the summer, I switched on the instruments as I always do to transmit our AIS data to anyone who's interested in following exactly where we are in real time. It's also nice to be able to see wind speed, wind direction and depth of water under the keel.
I'd only been sat, down below, in front of my computer for 5 minutes when there were a lot of alarms going off on the chart plotter in the cockpit. A quick look showed that there was no AIS or GPS data being fed into the system. The last time this happened was when the autopilot failed on our shakedown cruise to Kekova in Turkey. Taking the sun cover off the autopilot screen showed that it was the same problem. There was no display on the screen and as it failed it had taken out the AIS and GPS.
After powering down the systems I emptied the starboard cockpit locker so that I could access the power and data cables at the back of the autopilot and disconnect them. With that done I restarted the navigation instruments and held my breath waiting to see if the AIS and GPS would come back on line. Thankfully they did. But now we were in the middle of the Greek Cyclades islands with a broken autopilot. What were we going to do?
Superhero Jim to the rescue
The next day Jim had planned on beginning his trip back east towards Turkey and one of his overnight stops was Marmaris, where we'd previously had the autopilot repaired. He'd take it back there, Nail could repair it and then somehow we'd get it mailed to wherever we were in Greece.
That sounded like a plan. We removed the broken autopilot and handed it over to Jim and it was with great sadness that we watched him up anchor and sail out of the bay to the east. It's so very hard saying 'see you later' to good friends.
What will be the outcome of the autopilot saga? You'll have to wait until a future blog to find out.
To watch the video that accompanies this blog click here.