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Monday, September 21, 2009

Wind, wind and more wind

The Greek Islands are notorious for the seasonal meltemi wind that starts in about May and reaches its peak in August – height of the sailing season.  Before we went to Greece we watched weather patterns, read other cruisers’ blogs and studied the guide books.  But whatever we did, there was no avoiding the fact that the meltemi is a persistent summer wind you can’t avoid.
We did discover that are some places that are less affected by the meltemi than others.  The sailing was vigorous at times and we certainly appreciated the inner forestay we had put on in Turkey. 
Some of the worst winds we had came in late July when we were due to pick up the Crawfords from Tinos.  We’d picked up Tina Hamilton there the week before and had a real bash upwind to get to the harbour.  As we successfully docked – after three attempts in gusty winds – a neighbouring yachtie came and took our lines.  “you look a bit windswept,” he said, obviously noticing our stand on end hair and salt encrusted faces.  “Yeap – 35 knots,” we replied.  He laughed and said we were lucky – they’d had 42 knots the day before.
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The day Diane, James, Harrison and Sophie Craford were due to arrive was another typical meltemi and it was just too hard to motor north so we ran off down to Mykonos.  Thank goodness for cellphones – we texted and they stayed on the ferry for another bouncy hour.  Diane was looking quite pale when they finally arrived!
We had a great week with them.  Diane and I have been friends since journalism school in 1977….although we knew each other before then from our Hamilton school days.  It’s a friendship that has survived living in different countries most of our lives.  Whenever we do meet up we always pick up exactly where we left off.   After a few days in Mykonos and Delos we headed down to Paros before dropping them in Naxos for the ferry back to Athens.
We then headed back to Paros to pick up Chick and Pete Anderson who were flying in from Athens, due mid afternoon.  Once again thank goodness for cellphones – they texted to say their plane had turned back with engine trouble and they were on the late ferry.  They eventually arrived at 11pm…..tired and hungry. 
We headed around to Naxos with them as it is one of our favourite islands and had a few days there before running with the meltemi behind us down to the Small Cyclades.  We’d been there the year before with German sailing friends Katrin and Frank who assured us it was always sheltered from the meltemi.  Once again they were right – it was so calm and peaceful down there.
Our time in the Small Cyclades was magical.  The islands of Schinoussa and Koufanissi are probably what the busy Cyclades islands of Santorini and Mykonos were like before the crowds arrived. 
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On Schinoussa we went ashore one day and stumbled across a Greek man crushing grapes by hand to make wine.  The island is very agricultural but cultivation is quite primitive.
 We also went to Amorgos which is another of our favourite islands, the highlight here being the amazing monastery build into the side of a rocky hillside.  Then it was back up to Naxos.
 We had a week before Del Bissell was flying into Paros so we headed to Sifnos which was a gorgeous island.  With its terraced hillsides it was quite different from the rest of the Cyclades.  We enjoyed exploring it by bus and staying in some lovely bays.              DSC_0739                                 DSC_0683

With Del we sailed from Paros to Amorgos and then onto Kos where daughter Rebecca flew in from London.  We then set off for Turkey where Del and Rebecca were doing a horse trek in the Cappadocia region.  It was wonderful having them on board and we had some very relaxing days.  End of the season again for us!