Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sailing In The Aegean

A church on the Greek island of Fourni.

Our sail down from Cesme, Turkey to Fourni, our first Greek island was a delight. We had good winds and it was everything we had dreamed of when dreaming about sailing the Aegean from island to island.

We saw fish jumping at the surface from a feeding frenzy, but even though we trolled through the spot twice, we didn’t catch dinner.

Everything was so dreamy until about a quarter mile from shore when we suddenly noticed we had lost almost all steerage to port.

While Jennifer took the helm and did slow circles to starboard, I clambered down into the cockpit lazerette to investigate. Nothing I could see there. Next, I unscrewed the compass from the binnacle. The binnacle is a column which leads the steering cables and chains up to the wheel. Now we could see that the steering cable had slipped.

The tricky part was that we had to secure ourselves by dropping an anchor in 40-feet of water and then back up so we could tie a sternline to a cement column on a rocky shore. I dropped the anchor, then backed up and launched brave yeoman Jennifer in a dinghy with a stern line.

We were successful.

We went ashore and had dinner at a local taverna. A very local taverna. A taverna with more flavor in its character than its food.

The tarverna consisted of an outdoor area in front of a beach-side, white, one-story block house. There were huge trees that seemed to be some sort of genetic mixture of willow, cedar and pine. From a wire strung from tree to tree dangled light bulbs illuminating a scrabbly, stony, dirt court-yardish area with several rickety tables, draped with colorful plastic tablecloth and white plastic chairs.

We were directed by a Greek mama to a table and we sat as the night’s first gentle breezes fanned the wispy tree drapery. It was perfect. We had arrived.

The food was serviceable. We were charged a ridiculous amount, but after we got over our indignation, we acknowledged to ourselves that we should have asked the price before being served.

We returned to Phoenix and looked forward to a good night’s rest, given the long, almost twelve-hour day on the water, the tumultuous arrival with loss of steering and the tricky anchoring maneuver with the stern line to the shore.

In the middle of the night, I was jolted awake with a jarring jerk by Phoenix as her hull hit something hard. I scrambled out the bunk, up on deck and saw we were up against the rocky cliff. Our anchor had dragged and the wind changed, now blowing us onto shore.

I started the motor, threw it into forward gear and yelled to Jennifer. In a rare moment of deep sleep, she hadn’t noticed the commotion. As she kept the boat slowly motoring forward, I went forward and began winching up the anchor.

Keeping the bow directed into the bay was hard. First because we had almost no port steerage at all, and secondly because the strong Meltemi wind was awakening and playing with our bow like a cat batting a ball back and forth.

Every now and then I would shout at Jennifer that we were veering off course from the ball. She would shout back that she couldn’t stay on course. Eventually, with enough stress, shouting and swinging around, we finally hooked the mooring marker and hauled in a huge mooring line. If its attachment point to some unknown thing below the water was uncertain, at least the girth of the line inspired confidence.

Jennifer went back to our berth. I slept in the cockpit. Well, slept is inaccurate. I lay there with my eyes closed. Finally, around five in the morning, I joined her down below.

Another minor victory over chaos and mayhem.

We were woken the next morning by fisherman shouting to us. Stumbling into the cockpit, I saw they had our dinghy onboard. It had apparently broken loose in the howling winds. We lost our anchors and seats, but at least we had our dinghy.

Another wounded soldier recovered from the battlefield of mayhem.

Phoenix moored in the a bay of the Greek island of Fourni. On the shore, you can make out the courtyard of the taverna. In the water around Phoenix, you can see the "cat paws" of a breeze that blew around the bend for two days. These breezes would hit the boat at 25 knots, howl through the rigging and swing the boat around almost 360 degrees.
We explored the island of Fourni. Cute and simple. Not touristy. Nary even a postcard shop to be found.

We stayed there two, three days, waiting for the Meltemi to settle down and to fix our steering.

The fishing fleet of Fourni.
From Fourni, we motor-sailed to Leros, where we are now. Leros is also off the beaten path. Here we have rented a motorscooter and are exploring the island.

The Castle of Leros. (Also known as the Castle of Pandeli.) We scootered up.
From the castle, we could see our harbor which is the far bay on the right.
The road to the castle passes this sextet of old windmills, restored but missing their wings.
We ate at a wonderfulLeros restaurant called Dimitri's, where all the seating is al fresco overlooking a bay. I wasn't allowed to post the photo in which Jennifer is just to the left of that pot. She had squid stuffed with cheese and tomatoes. I had sea urchin spaghetti. Yum! 
These past ten days or so have been just excellent. This is what we came for. Islands, exploring. Having more fun than fixing things.

I write almost every day. I have written much longer accounts of the above. Who knows; maybe it will become a book someday.

Jennifer has been doing little improvements to make our lives aboard more comfortable and enjoyable. She's been hanging hooks in all the right places. Yesterday, she fixed the leaky faucets by cutting out leather gaskets. She has sewn a super cute toiletry bag for her evening walks to the shower. Next project is to sew some kind of hoodie for our outboard.


abbot said...

wtf ?
ya burned one up...
now you're dropping steerage, dragging anchors, losing your dinghy, and running aground.....
guess after you put this one up on the rocks, the next boat will have to meet it's end out to sea ?

"These past ten days or so have been just excellent. This is what we came for. Islands, exploring. Having more fun than fixing things"

waking up in the middle of the night against the rocks sounds "excellent", restless nights in the cockpit and waking up to a lost dinghy must be a blast.... losing steering when you need it, well that's just an all out party !

a little less fun things, and a little more maintenance, repairs and attention to properly securing things IMO,

it's gotta be alot more fun cruising around and exploring on the ciao scooter when your mind is at rest that the boat is secure...

c'mon Mr 3x5, time to make some checklists, before you're out deep on a crossing (with no SSB) and the nearest possible assistance is hours away and non-english speaking

judymac said...

as usual, you conquer the problems, and then find joy!!!

I want to see Jennifer's handiwork & decorating skills....which are many

Joel Gardner said...

I'm glad you're having such a great Fourni-cation...

Seriously though, Phoenix, anchored in that bay makes the bay look *small*.