MILINA – MEDICANE ON A MOORING – EURIPUS CHANNEL
Days were slowly becoming shorter and we could sense the end of summer. Except for a few afternoons that we went sailing around the Trikeri peninsula, most of our time was spent hanging on a mooring. Time was filled with reading, swimming, fishing and relaxing. Finally we could taste what was like living on board full on. At one point, we realised that we hadn’t walked on land for nearly two weeks ! That was a treat.
But something was about to disturb our tranquility. The weather forecast was predicting a Medicane for the following days ! It was baptised “Ianos” and without a doubt, was coming towards Greece. Fortunately, time was left to prepare the boat, but we still had to secure the mooring properly.
The depth of the anchorage was around 10 meters and free diving was the only way we had to inspect the condition of the mooring. We decided that the chain was a bit too rusty and that it would be safer to fasten the boat with an extra line. We used a couple of stainless shackles and some zip ties to attach the new line parallel to the old chain. A few dives later, the mooring was finally ready and secured.
News from the other side of Greece were alarming. The Medicane had already sank several charter boats in the Ionian Islands and gusts of 60 knots had been recorded. The most worrying thing was that the meteorological models could not predict the track of the storm. Nobody could tell with certainty if “Ianos” would pass over mainland Greece or under the Peloponnese. Still, we had to be prepared for the worst and chose to take down the Genoa: less windage would be better in strong gusts.
“Ianos” didn’t hit us directly but still, we didn’t sleep all night and recorded gusts around 35 knots.
The next day, the sky was filled with heavy cumulonimbus and we had some more showers.
After big storms, sunsets can sometimes be stunning…
Beautiful skies and autumnal atmosphere…
But it was now time to continue the voyage further south.
We left Milina by the 3rd week of September and headed south into the Northern Evoikos. This is a very fascinating stretch of water lying between the Island of Evia and mainland Greece. In this area, tides and strong currents can be observed. Surrounded by majestic high mountains, these waters are a bit off the beaten track, probably because there aren’t many anchorages or ports to hide.
We first sailed around the Northern top of Evia and stayed an evening in Limni: a tiny little port build on the west coast of Evia in very deep waters.
The next morning we motored the last 20 miles to Halkida. By midday, the boat was moored alongside the town quay waiting for the Euripus bridge to open.
The sliding bridge finally opened in the middle of the night. The current was nearly slack and all boats waiting were called on the VHF one after the other. We were asked by the port authorities to proceed as fast as possible. Apparently the direction of the stream changes very quickly and can be extremely strong. We even saw some whirlpools during the day.
Euripus channel and the local tidal flow is relatively difficult to understand. Above all, it is hard to compare with other tidal areas of the world where the phenomenon has a regular and predictable pattern. The phenomenon in Halkida is worth a few words of explanation.
In general, tidal flows in the Mediterranean are quite weak and only some areas are well known for their tidal stream: Gibraltar Strait, Messina Strait etc… The Euripus Strait seems to be a unique case by itself.
A sliding bridge lies in the narrowest part of the channel which is only 38 m wide and 8,5 m deep. In general, the current changes every 6 hours from North to South and vice versa. The strength of the current can reach up to 6 even 9 knots, especially when strong northerly winds are blowing. Moreover, on full and new moon, there is an increased water level difference between the North and South Evia sea, consequently increasing the tidal flow. However, during the 1st and last quarter of the moon, the tidal flow is weaker but also totally irregular. More specifically, the tidal current can be predicted for the 29 days of the lunar month except for the days 7-8-9 (first quarter) and the days 21-22-23 (last quarter). During those lunar days, the direction of the current seems to be unpredictable.
We stayed about a week in the very friendly Yacht Club of Halkida. September was ending and it was more than time to move on. On the 30th, the alarm clock rang at 5:00 Am. We woke up in a surprisingly fresh morning. It was probably due to the previous rainy days. We could certainly feel the autumn approaching. After a quick coffee, the engine was started and the deck prepared for casting off. A northerly wind was blowing through a clean blue sky. It was forecasted a nice breeze around 20 knots just from behind. We passed under the hanging bridge and headed south towards the end of this narrow stretch of water.
Once in open water, the foresail was unfurled and the speed went up to 6 knots. We kept sailing fast downwind towards Lavrio: 60 miles further south. The barometer was climbing back after several days of bad weather and it was now reaching 1015 millibars. By 12:00 Pm we passed Aghia Marina on starboard with a NNW gusting around 25-30 knots. A slight annoying chop started to build up on our stern. Unexpected gusts were coming down the mountains and brought short and angry little waves. Still, this wind was our chance to cover those sea miles before sunset. Lavrio is a big commercial harbour with lots of traffic and we wanted to make landfall in daylight.