Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Sometimes I can Be Such An Idiot.

2012 08 07
Ormos Ornos, Mykonos Island, Greece

The title for this post is a paraphrase of a frighteningly self aware friend of mine who also sails.  Among  his many talents is knowing when he has screwed up and what he did wrong.  I am well behind him on both scales but I am learning.  Take today for instance.

Our daughter is due to arrive on Mykonos Island in two days for a vacation.  Graciously she and her significant other are setting aside two days to be with the old folks, an event we are looking forward to mightily.  It is Christmas since we last saw our children and there is an aching void where they used to live.

Wanting the boat to be properly provisioned and ready to sail on their arrival we put in to the town of Naoussa on the island of Paros, just 16 miles south of Mykonos.  Naoussa has a marina with potable water, fuel delivered by minitanker and a grocery.  Just about everything we needed to get ready for visitors.  

The ride to Naoussa was vigourous and played out in strong winds and fair waves.  We arrived tired but happy.  Entering the bay late in the afternoon the autopilot failed.  It had been a long day and we were tired so we anchored and took the rest of the day off.  Wind was hitting 30 knots at the marina so we did not want to even try docking.

Next morning we tied up to the fishermen's wharf in Naoussa and in short order found out that in typical Greek fashion the marina was full, the grocery store was not a grocery and it would be hours before the fuel truck could attend at the dock.  

When the fuel tanker finally arrived the nozzle on its hose did not work and the operator of the tanker managed to pump a couple gallons of fuel into the Med.  This has been the experience every time we take on fuel.  Greece fills the Med with diesel.  One wonders why the operators don't just add a charge of two gallons of fuel to every order and save the environment.  I would gladly pay.

That night we anchored in a protected cove inside Naoussa Bay.  Repairs were effected to the autopilot.  On this just let me suggest you carry a couple of spare 12 volt relays and some high voltage diodes in your spares.  

By the time repairs were effected it was well past noon and the Meltemi, those Northerly winds that scour Greek islands every day all summer long, were blowing full bore.  Even in our protected anchorage the wind was hitting 25 knots.  Disconcerting as we were hiding behind a big bejeezling mountain.  

Careful readers will have noted that we were anchored 16 miles south of Mykonos and so had to travel North to get there.  The Meltemi blow out of the North at velocities in the 30 to 50 knot range.  This would be problematic for mere mortals.

But I had a plan.  Physics and facts do not stand in the way of an idiot's progress.  Here were the details based on my observations over the 7 days we had been in Greece:

Usual form is for the Meltemi to die down significantly after dark.  By 2200 usually conditions are mild.  

Meltemi do not appear usually until 0900 or a bit later.  Not exclusively but largely.  

We had only a short distance to go.  Sixteen miles could be covered under diesel in little over 3 hours.  

So the plan was:

1.  when the Meltemi died down at night wait a few hours to allow the waves they create to die down.

2.  wake early in the morning before the Meltemi started up

3.  motor like mad in calm seas Nort to the lee of Mykonos.  

4. Because we were sailing into the "lee" of Mykonos we really had only 13 miles of open ocean so our exposure was little more than two hours.

Instead of two hours of calm seas we spent six hours in crashing conflicting waves and wind building steadily from nil to 25 as we inched our way northward out of Paros. 

How did such a simple plan go astray?


1.  The Meltemi were fierce and did not die down at 2200 last night.  They carried on   until nearly 0200 this morning.

2.  We were away by 0600 and the winds had died down.  The waves had not.  Apparently between Mykonos and Paros there are two conflicting currents that beat each other's brains out continuously.  This morning they also beat our brains out.  

3.  Because we were caught in crossed waves in the two to three metre range our forward progress was significantly reduced.  Therefore the three hour trip to Mykonos took five hours.  

4.  Because the trip took five hours the Meltemi were up and raising havoc for hours before we landed on Mykonos.  This added another hour to the trip.

But it was a really good plan.

We anchored and are now resting comfortably in Ormos Ornos (Ornos Bay), south side of Mykonos.  Gusts here are now exceeding 25 knots as the Meltemi build into what is going to be an exceptional wind day.  

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