Uncooperative Winds

Written by Pieter Jan on Sep 26, 2019 — 3 min read

From: Monemvasia, Western Peloponnesos, Greece
To: Velanidia, Western Peloponnesos, Greece

In the morning — well, around noon actually, but it still felt like morning — we left Monemvasia to sail south. Our destination for today was the island Kithira, but as a great 20th-century philosopher once sang: “You can’t always get what you want.”

Bye Monemvasia!
Bye Monemvasia!

The wind prediction for today was north-east, 15 knots. Of course, it was south-west, 7 knots. Coming precisely from the direction we wanted to go to. This is the thing with sailboats: they sail in a lot of directions, but straight into the wind is not their forte. You can try to be sneaky and trick your boat into doing this — it’s called beating into the wind (you receive the beating) — but you cover a lot of water for little gains.

Still, the day started out fine. 7 knots of wind, 4 knots of boat speed, I was happy as a clam in high water. I didn’t let the whole “we’re not going where we want to”-thing get me down. Until the first tack. The wind seemed to shift with our tack, so we ended up going almost straight north when we wanted to go south. “Maybe the wind will shift back,” I hoped, “Surely the predictions, made by billion-dollar supercomputers, will come true.” I kept hoping for an hour or so. The wind didn’t shift. So we tacked again. Only then did the wind shift, to the wrong direction. To add insult to injury, it died down completely after another half hour.

Where did the wind go?
Where did the wind go?

We found ourselves in the middle of the sea, more northerly than were we started, without wind. How pre-19th-century sailors dealt with the frustration of not having an engine, I will never know. I hear the murder rate was much higher back then.

Motoring to Kithira was out of the question. It would have taken us 10 hours. And motoring feels almost like cheating to me. It’s okay for in marinas when there’s a lot of expensive stuff floating around, but on the high seas? Preposterous! Only the seas weren’t so high today, they were flat as a mirror.

Yep, we're cheating
Yep, we're cheating

The nearest harbor — not a lot of paradisical bays around here — was Velanidia. We would arrive just before dark, so Velanidia became the new destination. Sailing is all about downshifting your expectations.

And you know, even if the little harbor isn’t mentioned in any pilot, even if it’s just an industrial little port with a barge, a tug and three fishing boats, even if it looks like some mayor had big ambitions, ordered a lot of concrete and then died of a heart attack before his grand vision was realized… local fishermen descended in droves when we arrived and fought about who would handle our mooring lines. And that makes all the difference.

Plus, we had hot water from all the motoring.