Race of Ancients and Missing Reveille 28th September 2017
It's the last couple of weeks of our summer cruise. It feels very early to be finishing, but we have a VERY IMPORTANT wedding to go to on 7th October.
We had a very good, fast sail from Mykonos for about 30nm until we hit the end of the cigar-shaped island of Ikaria. Now Ikaria is well known for being extremely windy, the katabatic winds howl up and over the steep interior of the island to flatten you the other side. We braced ourselves, should we reef ahead of time, or just be prepared for the wind to do a 360 or otherwise bamboozle us. Well, it did puzzle us. A mile after reaching the island (we were travelling east along its long southern edge) the wind died altogether. Not a puff. It's just fooling us; it will come and knock us over in a minute. Not a breath. We motored the next 15nm to enter an exceeding hot cliff-surrounded "marina".
I often put marina in quotes - here in Greece marinas can be notional only. They start building marinas, get the planning wrong, put in half the electrical supplies, turn on half the water outlets, do not finish them; they put a building up, but forget to install the showers and loos. Because it is not finished, they do not charge you for having a very safe haven to tie up to - one can always connect extra hoses to reach the unreachable water supplies…
Here we found our white-wild-haired Greek friend from Tinos who had encouraged us to join an ancient's race. Gathering in Ay Kirikos marina were a motley selection of other Greek sailboats, all skippered by people over 70 - many over 80. They had about 15 boats participating; the skippers an interesting and varied lot. Although native to here, one lived in Harrow, his son had attended the same school as Richard - it is sometimes a very small world. The route was from Ikaria (of Icarus fame whose wax holding together his feathered wings melted when soaring too close to the sun; he plummeted to earth here) over to Samos (home of Pythagorus), down to Fournoi archipelago and back up to Ikaria. About 45nm. A good challenge in one day, with winds as fluky as they are here, a pretty good test of their stamina. They were racing the day we left. We gracefully declined to enter (surely we would have beaten them, hah, and besides we are not yet ancient enough). We wished them well - we had a good F5/6 taking us down to Fournoi.
We have island hopped - the Fournoi reefy archipelago, over to Patmos (home to the Church of Apocalypse and the Cave of St Anne where St John wrote The Apocalypse, home to Saracen pirates for centuries until 1088, and also home to the monastery that built one of the finest collections of religious manuscripts), and then over to the National Park Reserves of Arki for dinner with Silent Wings, & Lipsi for eagle and falcon-spotting. This time we were pretty sure it was Eleanora Falcons we saw soaring over the cliffs. They look a bit red in the pictures Richard got due to the beautiful reflected light of the sunset.
And finally back to Leros and the gathering community of itinerant sailors on the ever-interesting quay. We got invited aboard other boats for drinks, we commiserated with others on the breakages and woes of things going wrong and how to get them fixed. It has been a convivial time sorting ourselves out before once more coming to the north of the island to be lifted out. Textbook stuff, we were up and cradled in no time. The only disappointment is that our local military base seems to have stopped their piping at dawn and dusk - what, no reveille? How do we know when to wake up and down tools in the evening? At least we still have the goat bells in the morning.
We have had a couple of days of sail washing, boat sorting, winterising, clearing, cleaning, etc. Up, down, up, down, up, down, this must keep us fit climbing steep ladders umpteen times a day! We are now pretty much sorted, bags are almost packed. Olympic Airways have just texted us our gate for tomorrow's 32-seater aircraft flight to Athens - so sweet - we are to proceed to Gate 1. That's good. Tiny airport, tiny runway, there is only 1 Gate.
A short season, but memorable: great to visit Turkey again, and to explore a couple of hitherto unknown islands as well as revisit old favourites. Until next spring when Myrica will be ready and raring to go again. And the sun is still shining.