We sailed from Naxos to Amorgos today. Before we left, I looked at the weather forecast, plotted the course accordingly and left with two reefs in the main as the meltemi (the local north wind) was forecast to blow at 20-25 knots and that usually means it’ll be gusting beyond 30 knots (up to 35 mph).
I had forgotten how radically land masses can effect the wind. The first surprise was the enormous gusts we got between Paros and Naxos as the wind was funneled between the two land masses.
At one point we were travelling faster than the waves. We were doing about 12 knots in 35 knots of wind from almost directly astern – usually when the wind is that fast the waves are travelling at about 20 knots or more. But not today, so we were surfing up the back and down the front of the waves.
F U N !!
Then I got my big surprise. I had expected when we rounded the southern tip of Naxos that we would be in the lee of the island and the wind would die. What I hadn’t expect is that it would reverse it’s direction! The seas were a mess/confused when it happened, one minute the wind is behind us at 35 knots, and the next its in front of us at 15 knots. That’s a 50 knot wind shift!
I can only assume that the wind is funneled around both sides of Naxos – which is quite high. And at the same time, Naxos gets very hot. As the hot air rises it creates a vacuum and so the air rushes in. This is normal and called an on-shore breeze. But I’ve never seen an on-shore breeze reverse a 35 knot wind before.
Then as we appeared on the other side of Naxos and zipped in between a few lesser islands, the wind picked up to 45 knots from the north. In fact it reversed itself about a dozen times before it finally decided to blow like mad from the north. The seas were pretty flat because were were in the lee of the island (the island was protecting us from the open ocean) though as you can imagine with 50 mph winds there was a ton of spray. You would have thought that the small islands would lessen the winds. But my theory on this is that the wind lifted up over the island and then accelerated as it slammed down onto the other side. Ironically, I suspect it would have been calmer further away from the islands.
Then finally we were in the open ocean for a short sail to Amorgos. It was gorgeous and fast. The swells were gentle white caps – as they broke you could see the most beautiful green through the water.
Ondine handled it all with aplomb. We saw lots of boats with just the jib out, but not us. We had the main and the jib and we flew all day.
Now we’re here tucked into a little bay with a beach waiting for the day trippers to go home. Tomorrow we’ll visit this monastery.