The journey from Sikies to Chalkida was 32 nautical miles and took us the afternoon, yet again running on engine. We could have sailed as the wind was 12-14 knots S/SW so we would have been easily doing good speeds down wind – however, we weren’t in the mood to sail and wanted to follow the coastline and see where we were going. Until we approached Chalkida there wasn’t very much to see or do – the coastline in the end was pretty uneventful. There isn’t a big population in this area and although there are a few towns with ferry terminals, it is unremarkable.
As you approach Chalkida, the landscape changes and it becomes much more industrial – as well as having a number of tourist beaches. You have to start properly navigating quite a way before you get to Chalkida – you turn into an enclosed bay which has shallows on either side and you need to ensure you follow the channels and avoid the obstacles in various places. We had plotted an automatic route which we had carefully checked before departure which took as through the safe area on auto-pilot.
At the entrance to the final basin before the Chalkida Bridge, you pass under the new bridge for the new motorway – this is a high bridge with enough clearance for us so no special arrangements were needed …. apart from my usual panic attack!!!!
We dropped the anchor outside in the main official anchorage in the bay before the Chalkida Bridge – our friends in Scout had already made it there earlier in the day, and were planning to cross the bridge that evening. We had other plans as we needed to provision and we wanted to take a look at the town.
Chalkida Bridge is a low opening bridge which used to be the only road connection onto the island of Evvoia – and as you can imagine the town would have been completely choked with traffic. Even though there is now the new motorway bridge, there is still a lot of traffic passing the bridge – and it therefore only opens once a day, at night, for leisure traffic to pass. This has to happen at slack water – when the tide turns. Although the Med doesn’t have much of a tide, the streaming at this bridge is horrendous – we went into town with the dinghy and were completely taken by surprise by the strength of the stream. Luckily our dinghy has no problem with power but it was funny to watch some of the small fishing boats.
The procedure at Chalkida is that you have to register your boat to pass the bridge in the afternoon or early evening before crossing. There are official places where you can wait at either side – either on the dockside or at anchor. We would not recommend using the customs dock as the wash from the stream and passing boats is significant.
The office at the dockside will take your details and your money (the cost was about 35 euros) and you then have to register with the port police in the early evening. You are told to standby on Channel 12 from 22h00 onwards and await instructions. The time of slack water varies every day – and an estimated time as well as the full instructions for passage are available on the Chalkida Bridge website – the site also has a live stream where you can watch as it opens and see the boats passing. You must not approach the bridge until called by boat name – they call you 10 minutes before to prepare for departure and you take up the anchor, put your navigation lights on and wait on standby – only when called that it’s your turn do you approach the bridge and pass. In our experience, the north to south traffic passes first – then the south to north traffic is called – but the port authority will decide at the time and they refuse to give you much prior information!
The day of our arrival at Chalkida, Scout was crossing but we went into town for the evening and arranged a car rental for the following day. We stayed ashore for dinner and waited until the bridge opened at around 23h00 – half an hour later than expected.
The following day we picked up our rental car and went hunting for parts we needed to fix the dinghy pickup points – we had noticed that the GRP was cracking quite badly at the bow end of the dinghy and were afraid it was going to break and fall out of the davits. It was badly in need of strengthening – and we did manage to source a make-do solution which would do for now. It took a trip to almost every hardware store in town and the surrounding area – but it was nice to get out in the car for the day. We also managed to find all THREE of the LIDL supermarkets there are around Chalkida! We did our provisioning at the last one and headed back to the boat after registering with the port police and paying our dues. It was a bit strange to drive around and see Liberation all on her own in the middle of the bay – when you’re on board you don’t realise how far from the shore she is, but looking down from the road was odd. She looked very lonely!
We made our dinner early and made sure everything was put away – and prepped the boat for a night sail. Our headsets were charged, and the flashlight was put ready – and the internal lights were set to red to avoid ruining our night vision if we needed light on below. All the instruments were set to night vision – and we sat down patiently to wait, listening in on channel 12. We had seen on the website that the scheduled slack tide was at 23h30 – but we were not called to standby until 23h40. As they had done the previous night, the vessels passed first from north to south – and we crossed around midnight without incident (apart from the fact that I didn’t have the camera setup properly and couldn’t see in the dark to change it – so the photos are not good!).
We had checked out the bays on the other side during the day with the car – so knew exactly where we were heading. We passed the main town and recommended anchorages by a few miles and dropped our anchor just north in the big bay past Kakokefali Point at around 01h30. It was all quite a simple process, but still quite exciting as it was a different experience – and we could watch our own boat pass on the live website.
Time for sleep 🙂