Crewing the Med: Sea legs and night watches

Greek warship

Log & Chart

We sail from anchorage to anchorage, Panormitis on the island of Simi, Kamari on Kos and Astypalea. Slowly acclimatising to sea life, the first few days are a little nauseous but it passes. Pedaling legs are becoming sea legs. By day we hoist our canvas into the great Meltemi wind and power trough rolling seas, by night we rest by small towns and sheltered coves.

I listen to the radio and scan the seas, the region is currently host to one of the largest refuge crises of our time. Kos is currently a haven to some 28,000 refugees forced to run by the horrors to the east. Even the short stretches between the islands can be whipped up into formidable seas. There is a slightly odd atmosphere in the small harbors, not much discussion, just the odd story of a missing dingy and a the occasional patrolling Naval ship. I miss the stark encounters of the road, by sea you traverse no man’s lands between populations, often maintaining a moat of security. Places even seem to become indistinguishable.

I ask of our action plan “What do we do if find someone in the water?”. The response is a little clinical at first “it depends on what the coast guard says”, but ultimately we treat them as if it were you or I.

The only sign we see is a haunting reminder on the dark sea; an empty life ring drifting miles out.

We practice taking watches, learn the ropes and scribble entries into the ships log.

A strong wind surfs us under the towering cliffs of Santorini where we pickup a morning line which immediately snaps only a boats length from the lee shore rocks. Finally parked Tigs and I scramble up the cliffs to idyllic Greece turned up to eleven. Pure white building grow organically from the dark volcanic cliff tops, crowds pour through the twisting streets pooling along the west to watch a sunset that could launch a thousand ships.

As with most days we cook and eat aboard, big fireworks across the caldera light an eruption-like spectacle, part of a cruise ship experience I suspect but shared with everyone against the night sky.

Skipper Chris climbs the mast for repairs, impressive strength make it look easy as we belay below.


Leaving Santorini the force five turns to six with rough seas rolling us around and slabs of brine blowing over. The Meltemi winds are hot and powerful but ease off enough to let the dolphins play alongside. They link leaps and criss-cross under our bows, even the half size young ones are inquisitive, then as abruptly as the appeared they leave us to our first night sail. We take watches; two hours on six off, I draw 12 till 2. Despite the rough sea state and force five winds it’s still swim-shorts friendly, it’s all I’ve worn for nearly two months now. To some have a worrying fade to them, to me they are maturing with miles.

By morning the wind dies so we switch to the iron sail which chugs away under the deck. Life on a boat is made up of a fairly simple set of tasks but each is precise and fraught with practical detail, much like on the bike but to higher order of magnitude, shared as a team and expressed through the skipper. Every tiny task comes with constant tuition and warning; how to cleat off a rope, store cereal, tie a knots, open the fridge, wash, make tea – everything must be consider against safety, wear, convention, water, gas and battery life. It abrade ones spirit, but slowly instructions hone to muscle memory.

It takes three attempts to anchor in the cove of Porto Kagio on the tip of Peloponnesia’s second finger. But it’s worth it to spectate lethargic village life trundling along the sandy beach highstreet, all from the ships hammock. I giggled with childish joy when I discovered the hammock.

A week as sea has passed quickly, we have slowly settled are forming a strange crew. 320 nautical miles or 590 cyclist kilometers have passed through infinite waves, horizons and tea brakes. We are traveling west.

Log & Chart

Chart with course across from Rhodos to Greece

20/8/2015 11:50 36.45085°N 028.22685°E 2662 1009 SL 0 x Left Rhodes, New crew: Tigs, Mike, Paul
12:10 2645 280 x Genoa and main reefed, full mizzen
17:00 36.55156°N 027.84620°E 2694 Symi, Panormitis anchorage
21/8/2015 07:10 36.55156°N 027.84620°E 2694 1007 SL 0 0 Weighed anchor
09:00 2704 W 2 314 5.5 1007 SL 0 Water maker on for 45min - 50Lts/hr
10:41 2712 W 3 222 5.6 1008 SL 0 x Switched to full sail, south of Datça peninsular
16:00 36.73541°N 026.97514°E 2761 Anchored in Kamari Kos, 5.1m depth
22/8/2015 08:00 36.73541°N 026.97514°E 2761 NW 3 1007 0 Lifted anchor 8:10
09:00 2766 NW 5 252 5.5 1007 SL 0 x Reefed genoa and mizzen
10:45 2776 NW 5 245 6.3 1007 SL 0 x Reefed genoa and main, full mizzen
12:25 2786 NW 5 253 6.5 1007 SL 0 x 3.5 nm from land
15:30 36.54778°N 026.35428°E 2789 0 37 miles, South cove on Astypálaia, warship, gusting 30+
23/8/2015 07:00 36.54778°N 026.35428°E 2798 NW - 1008 0 x
11:00 2025 NW 267 7.7 1008 0 x
14:00 2845 NW 3/4 275 6.5 1009 SL 1 x Water maker on, 6nm from N Santorini
15:30 36.46010°N 025.38055°E 2854 NW 4 - 1009 0 x Pick up old mooring on north Island of Santorini
24/8/2015 13:15 2854 1010 Cast off Santorini mooring
17:30 36.195N 024.565 E 2880 N 7 211 7.7 1011 M / R 0 x Running down wind till wind eases, Dolphins
19:10 36.105N 024.446 E 2894 N 6 250 7.8 1011 M / R 0 x Sea reducing, wind easing
20:36 36.083N 024.317 E 2905 N 6 283 7 1012 M 0 x Generator 1hr, heading south of WP
25/8/2015 02:00 36.188°N 023.491°E 2941 N 5 270 7 1012 M 0 x Heading to West
04:00 36.210°N 023.308°E 2956 N 5 275 7.6 1011 M 0 x Shooting stars
07:20 2979 N 3 313 6 1013 Sm 0 x Water maker on, engine on at 07:00
08:50 36.50759°N 022.98355°E 2984 Anchored in Elafonisos