Trip Reports

Meltemi (22-Jun-2002-21-00):
9:00 PM local time, Saturday, June 22 (1800 June 22 UTC) 37 06 N 025 22 E. Temp. 78, Humidity 67%, Cloud Cover 0%. Med-tied stern-to at the dock at Naxos Harbor, Island of Naxos, Greece.

Greetings from the crew of Maverick.

We're hunkered down here in Naxos, the largest of the Cyclades, because it's been blowing outside. Back when we were in Nisiros, on the ninth of June, we heard that the wind was going to strengthen to force five to six and that the harbor there may become untenable, so we made a run for the lee side of Kos. Weather services and sailors here all use the Beaufort scale, which was devised by a man who was coincidentally himself named Beaufort back in the nineteenth century. But Beaufort called for sea states to go along with wind speeds, and these seem to not coincide with what we get in the Med. For example, he says force six gives you 10 foot waves or so, but in the Med we've yet to see anything over about half of that. But the seas we do get are uncomfortable to a degree that is far out of proportion to their size.

So we get up to Kos and get anchored. The sails we take from island to island or along the coast here are often navigated as the sailors of the Bronze Age did it, by line of sight. It is not unusual to be able to see the day's destination as soon as you clear the harbor. We set waypoints and study the chart anyway, in case we have bad visibility but also just because that is ship's SOP.

We are meticulous about setting our anchor, as we notice few others are. The main step we rarely observe others taking is backing down on the anchor and then challenging it with full power. Now in some anchorages, full power will pull your anchor out and it must be reset, and perhaps this process must be carried out several times. We are probably regarded as fools, setting our anchor and then backing down on it so hard we pull it out, only to set it again and pull it out. If the anchor will just not hold when challenged, you have some information that those who did not challenge it do not. Perhaps they fear, ironically, that if they challenge the anchor, it will pull out, but this is just what you want to find out. (By the way, the inability of boats with no engines to do this takes some of the romance out of the notion for me.) But knowing how good the holding is having tested it, you can move to another anchorage with better holding, or stay where you are with some extra precautions depending on how settled the weather is. Later that day in Kos the wind shifted about 120 degrees and rose to about 25 knots. Out of six boats in the anchorage, three immediately dragged. Luckily someone was aboard each boat, and they managed to reset, although one was well out to sea before the problem was noticed. Maverick didn't budge, but we took the precaution of starting the engine and challenging the anchor again anyway, and it held satisfactorily. Or so we thought; but we had taken the wrong lesson from the other boats' dragging. We should have noted that the holding was particularly bad, for anchors, no matter how poorly set, usually do not drag. But since we held we only smugly considered our superior technique. This particular anchorage was also rather steep, meaning that whereas you're anchored in about twenty feet, within 100 yards to seaward the depth is fifty and soon after that, over 100. So if you have five to one out at twenty feet and drag and it's downwind to a deeper bottom, pretty soon you find yourself adrift at sea with a hundred feet of chain and an anchor hanging off the bow.

Mr. Shrode's knee was bothering him a little, so I took the dinghy ashore for the hour-long bus ride to check out the main harbor at Kos on the other side of the island. I returned in the afternoon, and Mr. Shrode reported that just as he was dozing off earlier in the day, he noticed something didn't feel right, and when he reached the deck he realized we had drug about thirty feet towards another, smaller boat. Had Mr. Shrode been less alert, or worse, if his knee wasn't bothering him and he had done the more usual thing of accompanying me, Maverick would have bounced off of the other boat, then off some rocks, and headed for the next island to leeward, about six miles, where she would have foundered. As it was, he was able to get the anchor properly reset without assistance. We believe that what occurred was that though the anchor held when we tested it, it had fouled itself on some weed and then as the afternoon wore on and Maverick sailed back and forth in the strong breeze, the coarse grass did not allow the anchor to reset itself properly and it worked loose. It is the first time our anchor has dragged, ruining a perfect record, and will mean we will be even more cautious in the future. It's not like we can stop using the anchor or anything.

We believed that the wind we saw that day was what's known around here as a meltemi. According to the pilot, it blows sporadically in June and then strengthens in July and August, about starting at about force four and working up to seven or eight, which is about forty knots, more or less northerly. So we figured that what we had, which was say force five, and then gusting to six on the lee side of the island, was our first experience of the meltemi and typical for its strength at this time of year. The seas got choppy, but nevertheless we headed off next for Astipalaia and then Amorgos and Dhenousa, upwind and bumpy every inch of the way. Each time we arose when it was still dark and were underway as soon as there was enough light to see, since the wind and seas pick up in the afternoon and this way we could make our destination before then.

But in Dhenousa we heard another forecast and it reminded me of that scene in Crocodile Dundee where he's accosted by muggers who produce a knife and he says, "That's not a knife. This is a knife." Then he pulls out something with a twelve-inch blade. The new forecast called for force seven to eight, gusting to nine, meaning up there close to fifty knots, so the conditions we had seen so far weren't the real meltemi. The seas at twenty knots hadn't been pleasant, so we didn't like the prospect of more wind. We were in a safe enough anchorage on Dhenousa but there was absolutely nothing around and it was gusty and pretty rolly considering what the expected wind speed might do. If we stayed there it would make for an uncomfortable and boring few days. We decided to make a run for Naxos before the strong winds hit and got here, to a very secure harbor. The wind came up that afternoon, a few hours after we arrived, and it looked pretty lumpy out to sea.

One thing about Naxos is that the ferries have been on strike so what you have is a bunch of travelers who are stranded here and looking for rides. As a result there's an endless parade of young German and Scandinavian girls that come down to the dock and ask, or actually, plead with the crew of Maverick, to take them to Ios, which is where they are heading to amuse themselves. We could easily get a full boat to go there, and it's only about twenty-five miles, all downwind. Ios is where young adults from all nations take their clothes off and cavort on the beach, or so we've heard. Needless to say, we have absolutely no interest in such behavior, unless we may profit from its observation in our sedulous sociological researches. But, if you will, "A boatload of young girls desperate to get naked and party." It is a phrase with a certain charm, is it not? Scarcely a word out of place, one might be tempted to say. We'll probably let you know what we decide, at a later time.

Next report from this location: The Greek Islands

Back to the Progress Chart | Back to Trip Reports
Progress ChartTrip ReportsPhoto GalleryAbout MaverickThe CrewGlossary & Technical Weather Check