Friday, 14th September 2018
Mini Meltemi Circuit and "Delicate" Matters
Back to the heat at the end of August, one new MPPT solar panel controller fitted and we were in the water and off. Unlike some years when we've come back to have another major tour, this time we have started small. I think we were tired; having had a whirlwind of a home "break" and strange weather is afoot. So far we've had a mini anti-clockwise circuit - up the east coast of Leros, over to a lovely cove on the south of Lipsi, where we saw falcons (definitely Eleanora falcons … we think?...) and from there over to Agathonisi (tiny and within spitting distance of Turkey). We'll give Turkey a miss this time.
For such a tiny place, Agathonisi was surprisingly busy with the comings and goings of boats of all nationalities. The harbour is a fair size with an enormous quay, but the available space for small folk like visiting yachts is small and tucked up close inshore. It was good spectator sport watching boats having several "go's" at getting themselves safely anchored and not impaling themselves on their neighbours. When we arrived there was a very large tanker on the quay - we also had to move closer inshore as we were in the way of the incoming ferry that was almost as long as the harbour was wide. It wanted to do a handbrake turn to dock at the end. This was followed the next day by the largest Greek Coastguard & Border Patrol boat we have ever seen - methinks relations with their Turkish neighbours are somewhat strained?
To Samos then, to the home of Hera, Pythagorus, the philosopher Epicurus (4th C BC), the astronomer Aristarchus (3rd C BC) who apparently knew it all before Copernicus and Galileo, and Polykrates. Also home to one of the great engineering feats of the Greek world, the Eupalinos Tunnel (6thC BC), over 1km long to bring water to the town. The first instance of a geometry-based approach, the tunnel was dug out through the mountains, from either end, it took 15 years and the two ends met up smack bang in the middle where they should have. We admired the various ruins, mosaics and the tree-lined, flower be-decked cobbled walkways lined with galleries, art shops and craftwork. We anchored off; it was too hot to be against the quay with the noise and bustle; we could swim and have a quiet night. We moved along westwards and stopped first at Ormos Liminionas (rather nice low-key beach resort still on Samos) and on then to the island of Ikaria. I have written before of Ikaria - an interesting slab of rock!
The winds around Samos and Ikaria have a reputation for being strong and are very fluky. We went from no wind to a F7, back down to F3, back up, etc and from every direction possible. Sailing to the wind was a challenge if you wanted to go in one particular direction rather than round in circles. I think Icarus didn't so much scald and melt his wings, but plummeted to earth confused by the strong, contrary winds.
We wanted to keep heading west, into the Cyclades. The weather had other plans. The Meltemi (strong NW'ly wind) is still with us (it usually subsides come September), strong and prolonged. We wimped out and had a good sail down to posh little Patmos. We anchored in a pretty bay around the corner from the main Skala or port - it was sheltered with a nice beach, a taverna, braying donkeys and a rogue cockerel for company. From here we could walk over a saddle between the hills to the main Port. Patmos is famed for its hilltop "chora" and monastery and for the cave where St John wrote the Apocalypse. We happily sat out a few days of Meltemi, corresponding (the joys of internet) with other sailors similarly holed up in other parts of the eastern Med, planning where to go next.
Plans change. We discovered we had a "delicate" problem. Forgive this next bit, and those of a squeamish disposition should stop now. We smelled something not very nice, decidedly drain-like. We could smell it outside, inside and, more worryingly, in the cockpit locker. Where the holding tank lives. Oh dear, one cannot, one must not have a holding tank problem; that is a real show-stopper. We needed to investigate. It didn't seem to be loose pipe connections. It must be the tank itself (although superficially it looked alright). But most of it is pretty inaccessible so we reluctantly decided the only option was to complete the Mini Circuit and head back down to "home" base of Leros where we could go into the marina, have hardware shops available and have a general food stock-up as a bonus. We were glad we hadn't got stuck in the Cyclades - it was only a 4 hour sail to Lakki, Stelios found us a slot but warned we only had a few days as they were booked out next week with a regatta.
Having each of us spent time, crouched and bent double, in the cockpit locker with torches, mirrors, endoscopic camera and the like, Richard discovered 4 tiny pinpricks of holes on the (barely accessible) outboard side of the stainless steel tank - obviously corrosion from the inside out. Not what one would expect. It meant the tank had started slowly seeping its contents, hence the smell and subsequent streaking we found. Lovely! What to do? Richard mixed up some epoxy putty, sealed up the holes and any other areas that looked potentially suspect along the seams. We waited for it to cure. We filled up the tank with fresh sea water until it reached the overflow and waited. No drips, dry as a bone - hooray - big sigh of relief.
This is a temporary repair and should see us out for the rest of this season. But it's an expensive problem, next year we are into buying and installing a new tank. Next year's luggage for the well-dressed lady going cruising should be interesting.
We have said our temporary good-byes to Stelios and crew, come round the corner to have a swim and plan the next moves. It is a dance around the Meltemi, back with a vengeance from Sunday onwards. Where to go and what to do….