I’m writing this blog sitting in our little rented studio in Limni, Greece, while A B Sea is out on the hard. I’m feeling poised on a fulcrum between good memories of last year’s sailing season and anticipation for next season. At the moment, our future plans are sketchy at best. While we know roughly where we want to be by the end of the 2020 sailing season, how we will get there is still to be determined. But that’s a few months away with a lot of boat work between now and then. So I invite you to join me as I reflect on our 2019 season.
2019 as statistics
In 2019, we sailed A B Sea to:
3 town quays
6 fuel docks
We travelled 954 nautical miles which is 1,766 km or 1,097 miles
It took us a total of 6 months and 4 days.
All without an auto pilot. Not bad for two relative newbies, I reckon.
This past year we became more familiar with actually sailing, rather than mainly motoring, as we cruised up the Turkish coast of the Mediterranean Sea and on leaving Turkey for Greece, experienced the very different conditions of the Aegean Sea.
What was the sailing like?
The Turkish Riviera is also known popularly as the Turquoise Coast and is the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. We sailed the Turkish Riviera between April and May 2019. It was a wonderful blend of fairly predictable wind and seas, making sailing (sometimes motoring) and anchoring in the crystal clear, blue water very enjoyable. From June the Meltemi wind blows along this coast, but we were fortunate to not be affected by that in Turkey and eased into sailing again, accompanied by our friend Jim and his sailing companion Alex on Jim’s boat Acheron.
The Aegean Sea is the part of the Mediterranean Sea which is bounded on the west and north by mainland Greece, to the south by the largest Greek island, Crete and to the east by Turkey. It bathes many of the Greek islands which we visited during the season including the Dodecanese, Cyclades and Argo-Saronic groups, as well as Crete, the Sporades and the North Eastern Aegean island groups.
The body of water in the Aegean has a very different structure and feel to it than on the Turquoise Coast, probably due to the many islands in proximity to one another, coupled with the infamous Meltemi wind that blows from the north during the summer months between June to September. The Meltemi does affect the Turkish Riviera too, but we left there before the main Meltemi season began.
The Meltemi blows at its strongest from the early afternoon, dying down at night time. Sometimes it will blow for several days at a time and there are also times when it is quiet. The Meltemi often averages around 10-20 knots (4-5 Beaufort Scale), but can reach between 20-40 knots (5-8 Beaufort Scale). Add into the mix unpredictable katabatic winds and gusts when sailing around the islands and what starts out as a relaxed sail can turn into a seat gripping adventure.
These conditions lead to the Aegean Sea having very short, sharp waves, and depending on whether we sailed into the wind or on a beam or broad reach, we experienced either a bouncy ride, or a smoother and faster pace.
In terms of sailing, A B Sea doesn’t really get started until the wind hits 11 knots, and is at her best at around 25 knots, so depending on the direction we wanted to travel, the Meltemi could be viewed as a slightly unreliable friend who could turn on you at short notice.
Advice: keep a close eye on it
Every day (sometimes twice daily), we gathered wind data from www.windy.com and also www.predictwind.com. Sometimes they agreed with each other and sometimes they were vastly different in their predictions. Occasionally they were both totally wrong. Realistically the best way of ‘predicting’ the wind was to stick A B Sea’s nose out of the anchorage and find out for ourselves.
Having said that, before we went anywhere, Baz and I would take a good look at the weather prediction sites and the charts (Pilot Guide, chart plotter and Google Earth) and seek out the best anchorages that would provide us the best shelter from the Meltemi if it was blowing, and also good holding for the anchor (preferably in sand). We’d choose our preferred site and also a backup anchorage or two.
We learned early on in the season that all of our chosen anchorages could be full or untenable (as happened when we sailed to Fourni from Samos), so a second choice of anchorage is a must have. When Fourni failed us, our only option, given the sun was setting, was to sail south with the wind and hope we’d find a safe anchorage on Patmos island. We did, and it was very pretty with a great beach in an isolated pebbly cove where I gave Baz a haircut. Having to sail to Patmos however, meant our planned trip through the Greek islands changed radically. Not a bad thing. But it pays to be flexible with your sailing plans.
A B Sea loves sailing
A B Sea is sturdy and glides through the waves like an old pro, and the more we sailed in her the more we trusted her abilities. All we had to do was choose the best sail set, point her in the right direction – often times being able to see the island we were heading towards – and hand steer.
Hand steering in lieu of an autopilot
As our newly installed second-hand autopilot failed three hours into our shakedown cruise to Kekova Roads from Kaş harbour in Turkey at the beginning of our sailing season, Baz and I had to take turns hand steering.
I actually think that while it was a proverbial pain having to try and get the thing fixed it was also a blessing. It was repaired in Marmaris, but it failed again at Ios island and this issue is something we’ll tell you more about once we’ve fixed it now we’re on the hard.
Suffice it to say though, I think losing the autopilot early on wasn’t a completely bad thing, as everywhere we were going to was generally not more than 6 hours sailing away and most destinations were either just up the coast (Turkey), or an island that was clearly visible (Greece). So maintaining course wasn’t difficult as we still had GPS. Sailing without and autopilot did give us the opportunity to get a feel of the boat through the wheel while she was under sail. We got to know A B Sea better and learned to steer in all kinds of conditions.
Anchorages I particularly loved:
I have to say that there haven’t been any anchorages I didn’t like, except perhaps the rolly ones such as in Upper Koufonisi, Vathi in Folegandros, or Artaki in Evia in Greece, all being open to the swell. Even then, during the day, every anchorage in Turkey and Greece has proven to be postcard pretty.
Karacaoren – a simply stunning anchorage, surrounded by mountains on one side and a small island and reef at the entrance to the bay with crystal clear azure blue water. We stayed on one of the family run restaurant’s mooring balls and enjoyed a delicious meal cooked in their wood-burning oven.
Büyük Aga Köyü - where we anchored with our first line ashore. This is an incredibly beautiful comparatively small bay (although Büyük is Turkish for big) with a charming pebble beach and surrounded by green hills that are home to local farmers’ goats. There is a path from the beach that leads up to some ancient ruins and affords views of the surrounding water and inland valley.
Bozukkale – This is a long bay with three restaurants with jetties. We stayed at the one closest to the entrance – the Ali Baba – in 2018 on our way down the Turkish coast. That restaurant had great access to the ancient ruins of an old fort which is well worth exploring. On returning to Bozukkale in 2019 we opted for Loryma restaurant deep inside the bay. The food here was excellent and the service was hospitable. We found this a perfect place to tie up and relax. Even when there were 30 knot winds coming straight into the entrance of the bay, and pushing us back to the jetty, the lazy lines held firm and we were kept well off the wooden dock.
Pythagorio, Samos Island - was where we checked into Greece this season. The town harbour is delightful with colourful local fishing boats and visiting yachts moored in the great semicircular harbour. We anchored outside the harbour in the large sandy bay and found it to be very well sheltered with good holding. Tying the dinghy up on the outside of the harbour wall made town access and shopping easy. The town itself is a great mix of quaint old streets, tasteful tourist shops and ancient sites. We hired a car there and toured the island, discovering lots including Pythagoras’ hideaway cave, colourful hillside towns and had a tasty Greek lunch in a fishing harbour taverna.
Katsadia Beach, Lipsi Island – is situated on the south side of the island of Lipsi. It’s a sandy beach and the holding was great in clear blue water and sandy bottom. There are a few little coves tucked on either side of this bay and Baz and I enjoyed snorkelling around them. There is also a characterful taverna called Dilaila’s Bar situated close to the water and shaded by trees, and strips of colourful material hanging from open frames. We had a beer or two here, listening to the cicadas and gentle tok-tok of bamboo wind chimes. The bar tender was also extremely helpful to us on our search for data. I also found a large piece of aqua beach glass that has an ‘M’ engraved in it, on the beach!
Fikiada Bay, Kythnos Island – is the anchorage to the east of Kolona beach which is a sand spit that joins Kythnos to the small island of Aghios Loukas. The sand spit also separates Fikiada by from Kolona bay which is to the northwest of the spit. There is a nice tarverna – The Kolona – at the head of the sand spit where we had a couple of beers overlooking the two bays. One morning we went for a walk around the headland to a small natural hot spring where we bathed in 35 degrees Celcius water. Simply idyllic.
1. I was delighted to make lots of Mermaid’s Treasures jewellery using sea glass and shells that I’ve found on my travels so far and it was heart-warming to know that my customers have loved their purchases.
2. Having Shelley and Ian on board was a wonderful treat for us. I miss face to face contact with my girlfriends, so having good friend Shelley and her partner Ian visit us on their way back home to Australia from their Turkish holiday was brilliant.
3. Meeting new friends along the way – some of whom I’d consider soul brothers and sisters - has been one of the highlights of travelling for me. Sharing stories, food and lots of laughter is as enriching as it is enjoyable. It makes up for the fact that our son Luke is still living so very far away in Australia, and while Messenger chats are great (thank gawd for modern technology), it isn’t the same as having our ‘boy’ pop around and spend time shooting the breeze over a barbecue in the back yard. While Luke wasn’t able to visit us last season, he is planning on spending a few weeks with us in 2020 and I know all three of us are looking forward to that.
1. Apart from missing Luke, other family and friends, I think the only things I’d do differently would be spend longer at some anchorages and less time at others. Although to be fair, a lot of our decisions to say in a place has been dictated by our unpredictable friend, “M”.
2. Other than that, I have noticed that we spend much of our time in front of our laptops dealing with necessities such as uploading videos and talking on social media. But I think we could change the work/explore balance to a better ratio and looking back and realising how much we didn’t see of the islands we visited is definitely a wakeup call to not waste any opportunity of exploring in the future.
What does 2020 hold for us?
Because the great unknown called Brexit is still looming over us, we aren’t sure how long we’ve got in the Mediterranean/Schengen area before we fall into the category of other non-Europeans where we’re only allowed 90 days in any 180 days in the Schengen zone. The other factor is that the further west we travel in the Med, the more expensive it becomes. We’ve already noticed how vastly different costs are in Greece compared to Turkey. So we’re aiming on leaving the Mediterranean by the end of the season, entering the Atlantic and exploring the Canary Islands, Cape Verde and then onwards to either Brazil or the Caribbean (I know Baz has his eye on the scuba diving in the Caribbean).
We’ve yet to sit down together and work out a route – well, probably Route A, and backup Route B. But as soon we know, we’ll let you know. So remember to sign up for our newsletter, it will inform you of new blog postings, join our Facebook page where all of the day to day conversations happen. And if you want to see the video that accompanies this blog, just click here.