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

20/8/201511:5036.45085°N028.22685°E26621009SL0xLeft Rhodes, New crew: Tigs, Mike, Paul
12:102645280xGenoa and main reefed, full mizzen
17:0036.55156°N027.84620°E2694Symi, Panormitis anchorage
21/8/201507:1036.55156°N027.84620°E26941007SL00Weighed anchor
09:002704W 23145.51007SL0Water maker on for 45min - 50Lts/hr
10:412712W 32225.61008SL0xSwitched to full sail, south of Datça peninsular
16:0036.73541°N026.97514°E2761Anchored in Kamari Kos, 5.1m depth
22/8/201508:0036.73541°N026.97514°E2761NW 310070Lifted anchor 8:10
09:002766NW 52525.51007SL0xReefed genoa and mizzen
10:452776NW 52456.31007SL0xReefed genoa and main, full mizzen
12:252786NW 52536.51007SL0x3.5 nm from land
15:3036.54778°N026.35428°E2789037 miles, South cove on Astypálaia, warship, gusting 30+
14:002845NW 3/42756.51009SL1xWater maker on, 6nm from N Santorini
15:3036.46010°N025.38055°E2854NW 4-10090xPick up old mooring on north Island of Santorini
24/8/201513:1528541010Cast off Santorini mooring
17:3036.195N024.565 E2880N 72117.71011M / R0xRunning down wind till wind eases, Dolphins
19:1036.105N024.446 E2894N 62507.81011M / R0xSea reducing, wind easing
20:3636.083N024.317 E2905N 628371012M0xGenerator 1hr, heading south of WP
25/8/201502:0036.188°N023.491°E2941N 527071012M0xHeading to West
04:0036.210°N023.308°E2956N 52757.61011M0xShooting stars
07:202979N 331361013Sm0xWater maker on, engine on at 07:00
08:5036.50759°N022.98355°E2984Anchored in Elafonisos