Euboea to Velika
30th October - end of day Agiokampos
Early start with a following wind to cruise down the sound between Euboea and the mainland. A group of three bottlenose dolphins come near then fall in behind. They are cautious rather than shy, and don't swim straight lines, so I throw in plenty of gybes to fit in better. A very peaceful encounter. After 45 minutes they break off to investigate a fish farm nearer to the rocky coastline. I follow, but am distracted instead by the many egrets in the treetops. In Greece, where there are fish farms there are egrets.
The wind dies early. Nice day.
31st October - end of day Katigioris
Paddle a few miles early. Convenience stop on a sand spit: the paddle also makes an excellent shovel... Wind comes in. Zigzag against it for a few miles to the next town. Buy supplies. Cross the 8 miles to the mainland side in ideal breeze. Beautiful sail and good speed. Add another 5 miles towards evening, but when the wind drops off upwind performance does too, so reach Katigioris after sunset.
Beautiful little port. The houses different to those I have seen so far in Greece: less Mediterranean, more (perhaps?) Balkan? No tavern open, but camp mashed potato and sardines mix is excellent.
1st Nov - end of day Kommos Beach
Not really any wind. Like it here, so potter and make adjustment to method for securing sail when paddling. Sail round the headland later, so am now headed north, then have to paddle. A very pretty and uninhabited stretch of coastline this, so a surprise is to meet a couple in a canoe. I continue to the last beach in the series, before the coast turns to continuous cliff, a beautiful spot and strategically sensible, making the hop for tomorrow more doable.
2nd Nov - end of day Agios Ioannis
The forecast these next days is for very light headwinds, with the Meltemi blowing across the central Aegean and sending swell this way. The sea is already stirring so I get away early. It's quite a mission. 12nm paddled is said quickly, but with all the gear, and a rigged sail, and a slight headwind, on open sea, it is no given. I sometimes measure progress in terms of marathons, and am happy with today's 'half' that get's me to a proper port.
After landing, I learn that Severne Sails are building replacement sail. Great news! I like to make the gear last, but the current sail is now truly at end of life, and has become a limiting factor that conditions route-planning decisions.
And here at last is a taverna that is open! Brilliant red mullet, roast aubergine and garlic, chips. I shovel in the calories.
There's decent swell hitting the beach by evening, and a possibly surfable point break where rains have carried rocks from the mountains down to the sea. On the right day you could have a ball here.
3rd November - no sailing
The next safe hop - disregarding another small harbour just round the corner - is a 14nm stretch. I only decide not sail later, but my subconscious is well aware that conditions for sailing and for paddling are terrible, so guides me instead to do some proper patching up of the sail, and to observe the evolution of the day, so that the clock runs down... There's a window of a couple of hours where progress could have been made.
Back to the Taverna Posedonia for more aubergines.
4th November - end of day - Chorefto
A four-egg breakfast to fortify me for the pain I know is coming. Manage 4nm before the wind becomes so light that there's no power to drive the board through the confused sea. The sound of board being slapped to a standstill comparable to that of nails on a chalkboard. Seasickness rises in me. I try paddling, just to confirm what I already know, that it's next to impossible, at best suitable only for clawing a few hundred metres. Decide upon retreat. The knot or two of following wind eases the pain, as I belch my way back to Chorefto, for a net gain of 2nm.
A good harbour, and another small and pretty town, also with an open taverna. The challenge now 12nm.
5th November - end of day - Keramidi
The day dawns still. Even if a breeze comes I know it won't last, and paddling with the rigged sail, in this sea, is just too impossibly difficult. And the sail won't survive a de-rig at sea. Options are to either wait it out until conditions change, or organise on land to paddle the whole stretch with sail derigged. Worth a try. I set to the task, tie everything down securely, and head out from the shelter of the harbour wall.
With so much top-loaded weight the instability is perhaps even worse than with the sail rigged. Imagine an upside-down weeble. But at least the waves can't catch at the boom, and with the usually front-stowed bag positioned instead as a seat, I can sit and paddle. If I concentrate intently on the waves, on the less-bad parts it's also possible to stand-up paddle. I am making progress.
The first milestone is where I had reached yesterday. At this rate I can make it. Inevitably, I do fall in. And when I do the board naturally capsizes. But with the load well-secured it is also easily righted.
At 4nm there is a tiny beach. With a rigged sail, and zero wind under the cliff, it would be a totally unthinkable landing site. But configured like this I can tuck into the most protected corner and make landfall for a short break.
A 8nm there is a few-metres-wide cut in the rocks, allowing for another brief touch of terra firma. Next stop will be at a place, so I ditch all the water I am carrying to lose a few kilos. For the final third to Keramidi port the slight headwind falls away.
Fatigued, but well satisfied. A brief look around town finds nothing open, so dinner is mountain food spag bog. Then bed. Cramps around the arse/pelvic region attack me through the night - reflecting that the major effort was not the paddling but the balancing.
6th November - end of day - Velika
Early away, because there is *some* wind forecast for the morning, and only 6nm required to reach easy stopping today. The coastline becomes lower, easier. Now further north, the swell is also smaller and the angle more from behind. The breeze fades, but allows to reach the next harbour, which marks the start of a long section of beach. The air goes still. There's nothing open here either. But a few miles on there is Velika, and later a weak sea breeze develops to allow reaching there. I buy supplies. And go for a beer and pizza at Hliaforas Bar, where Nikos kindly offers a shower and a bed. First shower in two weeks. Clean and refreshed. Ready for more.