Dancing with Zorba,
Monday, 1st October 2018
It's been a funny old few weeks. In fact, it's been an odd second stint of our cruising season. Normally we tear around like lunatics on one circuit or another visiting new spots. Not this time. First the Meltemi dictated our terms. We happily anchored in a nearby bay for a few days and played photographer for the Leros regatta organised by the Nautical Club and a Scandinavian group commemorating Goran Schildt, a Finnish writer and sailor who loved this area. We were urged to join in - another year maybe… As it was we followed the start, large boats and small, modern and more traditional; Greek, Swedish, Finnish, German, Turkish and British. It was a boisterous start for them, roughly a 70nm race over 3 days, with a "cultural" rest day in between on Samos. We sailed up to Archangelos to anchor off and catch the return only to miss the entire fleet. Unbeknownst to us, the finish had been diverted to Agia Marina on the east of Leros. We passed our pictures to the Nautical Club and a few individual entrants nonetheless. A small (the smallest in the fleet?) Swedish boat took overall honours on handicap; their crew were thrilled to bits.
We got shot of the Meltemi. And headed west for a night on Levitha, an almost uninhabited rock that is a good stepping stone to the Cyclades, with nothing but goats and the possibility of kingfishers for company. But no sooner had we got rid of one lot of wind than rumour of an approaching hurricane started rearing its ugly head. We saw its track would take it directly over where we wanted to go. This was now termed a "medicane" (horrible word), locally called "Zorba".
So we bailed and headed back east, first to Emborio on Kalymnos, then to the main port of Pothia - all fishing boats, tourist boats, dead graveyard boats, ferries and sailing yachts. It is home to a lovely little archaeological museum, a sponge diving museum and thriving climbing club. We (the sailing yachts) were ably managed by Yannis the harbourmaster, who seems to be able to remember each one of us. We sheltered here through the northerly blasts, with good mobile signals that enabled us to track Zorba. Ferries were cancelled for two days. The Coastguard was not allowing anyone to leave the port - too dangerous.
Zorba was being capricious and the forecasts changed every few hours. First we had F9/F10 due over us, then F10/F11 over Leros, our "home" port. The wind would go from northerly (nicely sheltered here) to strong southerly, making where we were downright dangerous. Loads of chit-chat amongst the assembled sailors. Most wanted to head southeast, or over to Turkey. Not easy going, but heading in the right direction for lighter conditions. Neither was a viable option for us. Every path we chose, Zorba decided to be there too.
Finally, it got bored playing games with us and decided first to track south, then stay west, then move north. Leaving Leros on the fringes with no more than F7/F8 forecast. That will do nicely, with a day or so of calm to get ourselves moved. We tucked ourselves down a mile long inlet on the west side of Kalymnos, in a spot famed for its climbing routes. The island is a world-renowned climbing haven with now over 3,000 established routes. Here we watched as small groups of climbers scaled the vertical cliffs and ridges towards myriad caves. And watched the two head-torches of a several hours long night time descent until the pinpricks of lights were safely at sea level - phew - it looked a terrifying and difficult feat.
We arrived back to Leros 2 days early. Stelios slotted us in as protected a spot as he could (wind direction horrible for here) and had us belted and braced to within an inch of our lives for the forthcoming gale. Dreadful mix of sayings, that - sorry! But all good. Having fretted for days over Zorba and our options, it all suddenly went relatively quiet for us (no gale, just a bit lumpy) - we felt almost cheated! But grateful too. We saw footage from the Ionian, Saronic and Peloponnese of boats struggling and damaged, some smashed to bits and/or sunk.
So a curtailed season finishing with a dance around Zorba. We are doing jobs, ordering stuff to be done over the winter, listing equipment failures and repairs needed, and comparing notes with our Aussie, Swiss, Canadian, Greek and other European neighbours. We'll head to the north of the island tomorrow, for a last taste of life at anchor, swimming and barbecues. Then it's time to be lifted on Wednesday, next phase being the hectic process of putting the boat to bed. Hoping the sun shines....