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MELTEMI MADNESS

The island of Samos, lying close to the Turkish coast, is in a part of the Aegean called the Eastern Sporades, and like other parts of the Aegean this time of year, the prevailing wind is the meltemi.  The meltemi is notorious for blowing Force 5 through 7 on the Beaufort Scale (17-33 kts.) from the NW for days on end, particularly in the Cyclades islands which is our destination.

We left Samos on July 5th with the intention of going to Patmos which is south of Samos only to change course and go to Fournoi more to the east due to the wind direction.  We were making 7 kts. under sail in 20+ kts. of wind leaving Samos and by the time we arrived in Fournoi we were flying along at 8-9 kts.  Kent was a happy man. 

After spending one night anchored in Fournoi we left for Mykonos.  The wind had died overnight and we motored for about 60 NM on flat seas.  Not a breath of wind, and when a little did come up it was from the west and directly on our nose.

Motoring to Mykonos--looks more like a lake than the Aegean Sea

Since we wanted to stay in a calm weather anchorage on the south side of Mykonos that we had visited on Kent’s 60th birthday trip to Greece, the weather was good for anchoring if not for sailing.

Destiny anchored off Mykonos

One night in Mykonos surrounded by mega-yachts, jet skis and water ski boats, was enough.  We had fulfilled the “I want to go back here in my own boat” pledge and were off to one of our favorite islands—Paros.

We arrived in the pristine anchorage in Ormos Ay Iannou on the northern end of Paros in the Cyclades on July 7th.  We had visited this bay last spring and had hoped to return during the summer season when they have concerts in the little amphitheater in the park at the head of the bay. 

We also wanted to hike to the lighthouse along one of the many park trails.

The lighthouse is a long walk. . .

but the views are spectacular. . .

even straight down.

We made it!

The next night we sat in the amphitheater under a star-studded sky listening to a jazz ensemble from Paris while the lights of boats in the bay and the town of Naousa twinkled in the distance. 

First the jazz ensemble rehearses. . .

next the stage is set. . .

and finally. . .Bewitched by Paris Paros Project!

When the US born chanteuse who performed with the group belted out “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”—we had to agree—it was a magical night.

The wind did not abate overnight and by the next morning the entrance to the bay was filled with short, choppy whitecaps.  We headed out only to turn back to the protection of the anchorage and settled in to wait out the wind.  By mid-afternoon it appeared that the wind had lightened and we set off yet again. 

Outside the bay the lighthouse looked small and the waves HUGE!

Once outside and past the point of turning back we realized that it was a mistake.  The seas were very confused and rolly.  We couldn’t carry a sail and ended up motoring 10NM to Paroikia in conditions that caused me to say “what were we thinking.” 

Actually, I was thinking "I would rather be on the ferry" that passed us along the way.

On the other hand, while the meltemi makes for some wild sailing (or motoring) it also makes the days more temperate and the nights cool for sleeping.  This time last year in southern Turkey we were sweltering in 100 F days with not a breath of wind and only able to sleep if at a dock with the air conditioning running. 

Upon entering the bay at Paroikia that we realized we had been there before—again on Kent’s birthday cruise in Greece in October, 2005.  This time we anchored on the north side of the bay with good shelter from the meltemi. 

Paroikia is a ferry hub for the Cyclades--you can get to Athens or Santorini from here.

Ferries are very busy this time of year

The first full day in Paroikia we got reacquainted with the town. 

The streets of Paroikia reflect Cyclades architecture. . .

with ubiquitous chapels. . .

ancient windmills. . .

and every shade of blue. . .

and white. . .

including the sky and sea.

We wandered into the historic Panayia Ekotontapyliani (Hundred Doors Church) on Sunday at mid-day and saw preparations for baptisms that were taking place that day.  Multi-generational families, milled about posing for pictures under the dome of the basicila built by the Emperor Justinian who ruled the Byzantine Empire in 527-65.

Under Justinian's Dome. . .

preparations for baptisms. . .

as professional photographers record the event.

 There have been several additions to the church over time, as well as the creation of a museum for eccelesiastical exhibits.

A later addition to the church. . .

and one of the 99 doors--according to legend the 100th will be discovered when Constantinople is Greek again.

In the church museum are clerical vestments from the 16th century. . .

and Byzantine artifacts.

When the meltemi kept us pinned down for a few days, rented a car and explored the island.  We visited the monastery of Saint Anthony sitting high atop a hill overlooking Marpissa.

We hiked up a steep path. . .

only to find the gate locked. . .

but a pile of rocks conveniently placed next to the small wall of the courtyard was a "God send" so to speak.

We could at least admire the gleaming white exterior of the building. . .

cool off in the shade. . .

enjoy the view. . .

and the tranquil setting.

Our hike left us hungry for lunch in the small mountain top village of Lefkas with views down a valley to the sea.  Our server turned out to be a Greek/American who grew up in both Athens and Chicago and was now married to the restaurant owner.

View down valley from Lefkes

After five days we thought the seas had subsided because the wind in the bay was light.  Not so.  The thing about the meltemi is that once it has blown for a few days it takes time for the seas to abate.  We were barely out of the bay when we were confronted with HUGE seas that tossed Destiny about like a toy boat.  Not intending to repeat our last passage, we turned around and were back at anchor within an hour.

Another day in Paroikia means another opportunity for good food.

Jolie and I like outdoor dining. . .

Jolie and I like outdoor dining. . .

in a garden setting.

Our weather window to go to the next island finally arrived on Friday, July 15th.  We were up early and ready to get underway when the generator overheated.  Now we had a mechanical instead of the meltemi to contend with.

We spotted a boat leaving the town quay, and quickly pulled anchor to capture the coveted spot that would protect us from the wind and allow us to plug into shore power while we diagnosed and fixed the problem with the generator.

Destiny safely moored at the Paroikia quay

A couple of hours later the problem was diagnosed, the parts ordered and hopefully before the wind comes up to full meltemi strength again we will be on our way.  In the meantime, there are worse places to be stuck than Paroikia which bustles with shops and restaurants.

As we leave the Cyclades and head to mainland Greece the meltemi will be less of an issue.  It tends to blow the strongest through the islands in the middle of the Aegean than along the mainland coast. 

At Paroikia the sky glows pink at sunset. . .

and then night settles over the town.

The meltemi is a blessing in a way—it makes us slow down a bit and see more–like the famous pink sunsets at Paroikia.

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