“Malaka” or “Malakas” is a Greek word meaning the English equivalent of “wanker” (to find a fairly acceptable word). It is a much used Greek slang word and I think probably correlates to “bugger” in Australian (as in “you’re a funny bugger” and “stupid bugger”). We’ve heard it a few times when sailing schools take their budding young sailors around harbours in their tiny optimist sailing dinghies. Since our friend Nikos explained its usage, I’ve wanted to say it to someone. And then the opportunity arrived.
We were motoring along towards the narrow part of the Evia channel when we saw a small fishing boat in front of us on our port side. It didn’t look as if he had any fishing gear out and was motoring home by the looks of the speed he was going. We also noticed that he appeared to be talking on the phone. And he was approaching us. And hadn’t noticed us.
As the stand on vessel, we did have right of way at this point, but rather than be hit by this fellow, Baz made a sharp turn to the left and the little fishing boat and fisherman passed in front of us completely oblivious of anything but the phone conversation he was having.
“Malaka!” I said, absolutely delighted to be able to use the word in the right context.
“Malaka!” said Baz. And we both laughed. “Here’s one for you Nikos!”
Strongilo to Eretria
Anyhow to back track a bit, after staying overnight in Strongilo and finding some beautiful shells for making ‘Rock Pool’ pendants, we were looking forward to heading further north to Eretria. Strongilo is a pretty anchorage and the little nearby fishing village looked as if it would be worth taking a dinghy to and visiting. But we were on a mission – we needed to get to our haul out destination in Limni, further north on Evia island in Greece. We’d had a bit of a rocky night because we were side to the swell, but it was a sunny day and we looked forward to the five hour passage.
Baz had just dived into the clear water to rescue the lens cap from the GoPro and he told me that it was actually warmer in the water than the air temperature. He dried off, we lifted the anchor and set off – motoring because there wasn’t enough wind to fill the sails.
Our journey took us parallel to the east coast of the mainland and it was enjoyable to see green hillsides. The water was so calm that it was almost like looking into a blue mirror, and there was a haze that blended the sea with the sky at the horizon. I took a lot of footage as this was serenely beautiful, with dusky clouds adding a feint pink tinge to the water.
As we neared Eretria we consulted the chart plotter that showed a cable ferry spanning the narrow distance between Eretria and the mainland town of Oropos. We weren’t sure how deep the ferry cable sank as it wasn’t marked on the chart and Auntie Google couldn’t help answer that question either. So we watched the two ferries cross mid channel and waited until we could enter Eretria harbour at a safe distance from either of them. Travelling slowly to allow the outbound ferry time to depart Eretria meant we had a glimpse of some of the tiny islands that hug the south of the bay. This area would certainly make a lovely sailing holiday.
After we’d anchored we were highly embarrassed and quite a bit dismayed to see a large circle of diesel soot floating on the water. A B Sea had made it this far but at a cost, and unfortunately some of that cost had been passed onto the environment. That saddened us as we do what we can to keep the environment clean and unfortunately, Nature had to wear the brunt of our engine that was desperately in need of maintenance.
Over time I noticed the soot patch was claimed by the harbour water. But my silent apologies went out to the fish living in the water. I could tell by the way Baz looked silently at it as I complained my way down the companionway stairs, that he felt bad about it too. And probably stressed about whether the engine would hold up all the way to our final destination.
Shallow waters and an edgy captain
The following day, we headed out nice and early waiting until the ferry had departed. It was cooler that morning so we wore our foulies, aware that winter was coming. Baz had been agitated but quiet which I read as a sign that he was feeling stressed. Or edgy as he said. Three times. Why?
There was a lot of careful navigation to be done through narrow and shallow waters approaching the first – suspension – bridge on the approach to Chalkis. There were lots of channel markers to follow and Baz was concerned that we’d have enough room to move to the side if a larger boat came in the opposite direction. He was also concerned silently about whether A B Sea’s engine would cut out when he needed it for manoeuvring, but he didn’t share that with me. I think it might have been a quiet case of if I don’t mention it, then it doesn’t exist.
The channel approaching the bridge was much wider than it had looked on the chart (isn’t it always?) and we had no issues with boats with deeper keels that we had to make space for. Eventually I caught a glimpse of the suspension bridge – at 694.5 metres in length and 35m high, it was technically difficult to construct and was opened after 8 years in 1993. The bonus being that at 35m high, it wouldn’t prove a problem for us as A B Sea has a mast height of 19m (including the VHF antenna). I enjoyed filming the approach and lay down on deck to get some decent footage of the underside of the bridge.
After that, it was only a short time before we arrived at the bay on the southern side of the second, oldest and narrowest of the two Chalkis bridges. We anchored there, relieved to have arrived without any undue occurrences. Talking with Baz confirmed his great relief.
All that was left to do that was have a snack, a beer and then get back to work – video editing on my part and an engine check on Baz’s.
The next day we would be up early with the ship’s paperwork to register A B Sea for passing through the northern bridge the following evening, sometime between 10pm and 1am. We’d have to go to the port authorities to do that, and I’ll share how we went about that next week.
You can see all of this in the video that accompanies this blog. Just click here