PREPARATION – THASOS – MOUNT ATHOS – PORTO KOUFO
The last preparation of the boat before the journey was consisting in finding storage on board. When every little bag of gear and supplies landed in the cockpit, we started to think that we will not fit everything in. Amazingly, this was all cleared and stored in a couple of hours !
The first night on board was a very special one. It was the achievement of four years of hard work. We were a bit anxious but at the same time so happy and excited !
In the early morning, we said goodbye to northern Greece. It was just on time, before the arrival of tourists after the lockdown.
On our way to Thassos, a nice north-easterly morning breeze pushed us away from Kavala.
Heading south on the port tack: motorsailing with the genoa.
Finally free at sea after all those months of lockdown !
First stop, Limenaria which is lying about 20 nm south of Kavala. A newly built harbour, with little infrastructure and good shelter from the prevailing northerlies.
We left Thassos a couple of hours before dawn. The plan was to arrive in Porto Koufo in the afternoon, making sure we pass under Cape Athos in settled weather. This cape has a bad reputation among local fishermen. It is notorious for its big swell and katabatic winds.
When the daylight appeared on our stern, Thassos was slowly fading behind.
All the way from Thassos to Mount Athos, the wind was on the starboard beam, giving us a good average speed of 5 knots.
Mount Athos is culminating at 2033 m above the sea level, offering a conspicuous landmark from miles away. It makes an easy course to steer.
A few miles south-east of cape Athos, there is the deepest marine trench in the Aegean Sea. The soundings fall abruptly down from 80m to 1070m depth.
When we approached Athos, the sea was very calm and we managed to get as close as we could, contemplating the magnificent scenery.
It’s worth mentioning that is forbidden to land on the peninsula by your own means. The Monastic Republic of Mount Athos prohibits the access of any female creatures with two exceptions: cats and hens !
Even in this perfectly calm conditions we found out a current of about 0.5 knot carrying us west-south-west.
A few miles after the cape, the current decreased, slowing us down. The engine was running at the same 2000 rpm, but the speed over the ground was steadily dropping. A counter current was apparently against us. For a couple of hours, it felt like Mont Athos wouldn’t let us move away.
Our speed was now around 4.5 knots and the cape of Sithonia was hard to reach in this torrid greek afternoon. We were clearly missing a good bimini top.
On the approach to Porto Koufo we had to look out for the dangerous coastline, where a few submerge rocks are hiding. The narrow entrance to the bay lies between two rough cliffs with very deep waters around. Entering at night is probably not recommended.
Finally at anchor in Porto Koufo. This is a very well sheltered bay in Halkidiki, but you have to drop your hook in deep waters and holding is quite poor. Fortunately, the calm weather allowed us to stay at anchor for the night.
The next day we decided to go alongside the fishing dock.
Porto Koufo is one of the safest anchorages in Northern Greece. The entrance is nearly indistinguishable from the open sea, making it a hidden location. During the 2nd World War, the bay became a German submarine base. Firstly, the position of the bay was strategic in the Aegean sea, secondly it was also protected from air attacks thanks to the surrounding mountains.
According to Panagiotis Ilias (EagleRay Greece Sea Guide Vol. 2, appendix p.14, note 62) “Koufos (deaf) owes its name to the fact that no sound of the waves can be heard inside the bay.”
Laundry day at the fishing dock.
These two legs were respectively 20 nm and 60 nm. At the beginning of summer, the Meltemi is still not blowing much. However, because of the heat, a sea breeze can blow in the afternoon from the south. As a precaution, we tried to sail in the early morning, when the mountains tend to bring some land breeze.