Better late than never. Some thoughts on the Aegean Tour 2018. And, to follow, a picture gallery.
Paul was not an experienced sailor so I decided that he could not take one of the watches on his own. Also David had injured his knee (or at least he said he had!) so I judged it wise not to have him on watch on his own. That meant that there would be two watches – Ruth, Paul and me, and David and Jon. We decided on three hours on three hours off, which we would come to regret later.
Of Stars and Stripes
There is not much to say about the passage to Rhodes. It was long, at times boring and at the end extremely exhausting. There was a good breeze throughout – varied from 6 to 12 knots but gusting up to 20 at times – but always head on. We decided to go on the engine all the way as beating to windward for 48 hours did not seem too tempting and also we needed to ensure good steady progress – no sense in making the passage any longer than it needed to be. I sensed some disappointment amongst the crew.
We rounded the headland of Akrotiri at 1400. Two hours later we cleared Episcope Bay. At 1800 Aphrodite’s Rock was off the Starboard beam. We had been sailing six hours and we still had not left the Cyprus coast!
At 2100 our navigation lights were on and we were on a heading of 292 for Rhodes. I checked the keel bolts again before we started moving away from Pafos. All dry, all fine. Rhodes by Independence Day!
The boat is equipped with a really cool navigation aid which comes into its own at night. The AIS system is an international GPS tracking platform that is installed in all large ships and now in many pleasure boats. It enables us to spot ships/boats/yachts on the electronic chart and to know their speed, heading, closing speed and, very important as far as I’m concerned, the likelihood of them hitting us!
So as we watched Pafos slowly recede behind us we spotted what appeared to be small fishing vessels on the AIS dead ahead, but they had no lights and would not respond to VHF hailing calls. We proceeded with caution, keeping an eye out in case we ran into trailing lines or fishing nets. But no sign of the invisible fishing boats.
Pafos put on a firework display just as we were passing by which I thought was very thoughtful of them. We enjoyed the spectacle and later, glancing back, Ruth said she saw what she thought was a gigantic atomic explosion over Pafos. It turned out to be the moon rising, but it was an easy mistake to make … hmmmm. As far as I am aware the good holidaymakers of Pafos have not suffered any kind of catastrophic nuclear holocaust – more’s the pity!
So we settled down to gaze at the stars, with the aid of the Sky Guide app. Truly amazing. It is free to download and is well worth it. As the lights of Pafos disappeared we had a full and spectacular view of the Milky Way.
If we can help somebody ………
From about 1800 on 2nd July we had been receiving security messages on the VHF about NATO activity in the area and advising us that if we spotted anything suspicious we should ‘phone it in to a special number. An odd thing to request really, I thought. Presumably NATO knew where their own ships were, and surely the point of the exercise would have been to spot any hostile vessels through their own tracking systems, rather than relying on the observational skills of passing pleasure cruisers and gin palaces. The problem was that we never had a pencil and paper handy to take down the number, so we were of no use to them! BUT …
Some time during the first night, during the 0300 watch handover we encountered an unidentified floating object (UFO). We were busy trying to work out where all of these invisible fishing boats were when suddenly on our starboard side, about 20 meters off a white pole appeared. About two meters high and steady in the water. At first we thought it must be a marker laid by one of the fishing boats but on reflection we decided that was unlikely as the water depth was something in the region of 1000 meters.
Now I have no basis for this theory but I think what we saw was a submarine periscope. NATO exercise, nobody knowing where anybody is, put the periscope up to see what’s going on. Ahh Lothian Sky, “It’s OK boys, the SKY is out there looking out for us. No need to worry. Carry on.”
What? It’s possible.
Anyway, we reached Rhodes almost exactly 48 hours after we left St Raphael. All crew were exhausted. The three hours on three hours off was a bad idea as it did not give time to rest between watches. A lesson learned which would be remembered on the way back from Crete.
Wind speed 12 – 14 knots, good visibility and at 1200 on 4th July Ruth parked the boat in the new Rhodes Marina, almost without incident, and we were home and dry. Beer!! Happy American Independence Day!