Diaporos Island – Halkidiki, Northern Greece

Diaporos has been a lovely haven of peace and tranquility for  most of the time – apart from hiding out from a storm one night, and the CONSTANT bombardment of speed boats (oh, and lets not forget the wasps!).  The island is tucked up in the Halkidiki peninsula (“Three Fingers”) in Northern Greece and has the channel to the mainland is protected by the fact that each entrance is fairly enclosed so it creates a sort of “inland sea”.  The area is beset with hazards – it’s extremely rocky and both the south and north entrances need to be navigated with care – not something to do at night!  Our CMap/Jepperson charts gave leading lines, and following those gave safe passes, but our Navionics chart had a lot more rocks so we used both.

There are several good anchorages around Diaporos and there are not too many sail yachts Diaporos Anchoragesbut there are several hotels and campsites in the area with small rental motorboats so during the daytime it’s like a motorboat race track.  Unfortunately the day rental people are obviously not experienced boaters – and they seem to have no idea at all of the impact of their wakes or the size of them.

The Diaporos North anchorage is a long bay which can only be accessed from the outside so it tends to be quieter (although not from the motor boats).  The anchorages on the inside to the South of the island are much larger so tend to be less calm – but they have easy access to the mainland for trips ashore.  The seabed is a mixture of sand and weed.

We stayed in the North bay for two nights – then Ed decided he wanted a change of scenery and we decided to move to a bay on the South side, where our friends in Mistral were still laying at anchor.  We retrieved the Mantus at around 14h30 on 20th August and slowly cruised the 4 miles around the island to the other side.  For the first time, we had issues setting the anchor – there was a lot of weed and twice we pulled it out of the ground when setting at full power and had to start again.  On the third attempt, we were guided by Lachie from Mistral – who gave us the tip of checking on Google Earth to see what the ground was.  We’d never thought of that before but right enough, you can easily see the sand and the weed with the little blue dot of where you are!  On the 3rd attempt we set fully next to them.

Ed decided it was time to test out the new Fin Delta riding sail – although there wasn’t much wind but it was a good time to work out how to haul and fix it and to see what the result was.  It was a bit tricky to work out where the sail should be fixed – given the large size of our bimini and Ed has already designed a “quick launch” system in his head which will make this easier in the future!  Until he can get the parts he needs, we have a series of knots and use of the cleats.

The theory of the riding sail is that it gives stabilisation when at anchor – it should keep the boat pointing into the wind at all times and stop the bow blowing off all the time, which adds additional pressure on the chain and anchor (which was one of the main issues we had in the storm in Skiathos).  As the wind blows, it catches the bow but the delta shape of the riding sail pushes it back again before it goes too far.  When in the wind, the delta sail also keeps the chain more extended – so in light airs we tended to be more at the outside of our anchor circle than normal.  The sail definitely worked – we were almost always pointing into the wind and there was almost no yawing – result!  The DOWNSIDE of this in a tight anchorage is that other boats are not moving in the same way so you have to be careful that you have enough room.

The first evening in the Diaporos South Bay, we went ashore for dinner with Lachie and Deb from Mistral and they showed us the best place to beach the dinghy and access the town of Vourvourou on the mainland.  We don’t normally “dump” our dinghy on beaches … but we didn’t have much choice and it worked out fine.  There were a few heavy rocks and a concrete filled tub had been left there by someone so we could tie up and use the dinghy anchor on the stern to hold it off the beach.

Mistral left on my birthday – 24th August – and we decided to have a relaxing day on board and not go out.  Ed made fresh bread for lunch and a nice dinner …. getting too old for too much fuss on birthdays!  We did go out the following day though and left Liberation after dark to head to the same place we had been with Deb and Lachie.  Unfortunately, we had failed to take much notice of where the beach was …. and couldn’t find it!  It took a while of driving up and down in the dark to find the right place and just as we were approaching the beach, we were attacked by a flying fish!  It came out of nowhere and smacked me around the head, then jumped on to Ed and into the bottom of the dinghy – the little “B” did not want to be caught and by the time we had got it out of the boat, we both stank and so did our clothes and the towels.  It was interesting sitting in a restaurant eating dinner – but funny thinking about it afterwards 🙂

On 26th Ed decided he wanted a change of scenery again – the weather forecast is pretty horrendous and there is a major meltemi heading in over the next week with 40 knot winds forecast.  We didn’t expect to have such a problem in Diaporos where we were, as it is very well protected, but we felt we would be better off in the more protected bay.  So we retrieved the Mantus – which had been perfectly set and not moved an inch – and motored back to the North Bay.  We didn’t bother to take the Fin Delta down, and just motored with it on.

We dropped the anchor slightly deeper into the bay than the last time to make sure we had set on sand and not weed – and this time we had an issue with the chain.  We had only about 10m out (so anchor only just on the ground) when the windlass jammed and I discovered there was a massive knot in the anchor locker which was impossible to untangle!  I couldn’t even get my arm in the locker to do much about it – so we swapped places and Ed hauled out all 100m of chain onto the deck from the other side and eventually managed to untangle the knot.  Mmmm …. all this time we’re bobbing around in the water as the anchor was just hanging down – but the Fin Delta kept us pretty stable in the wind, so it wasn’t much of an issue.

Finally the chain was free and we finished anchoring – once again the Mantus setting first time and holding fast as we motored it in on full power.  We settled in for a week of bad weather which was an opportunity for me to catch up on my work – with a whole new team of staff starting in the UK, I had a lot of training documents to write and preparations to do, even though I wasn’t actually delivering the training of course!

We had a few spats of rain but nothing serious – although looking at the forecasts outside in the bay, and the messages we were getting from Mistral, we were in a very protected place.  The storm itself came on the night of 29th August – and during that afternoon several other yachts came into the bay for refuge … most were fine except for one.  As usual, a charter boat with an Austrian skipper who dropped his anchor way too close and also failed to check it had set.  We really should have moved, but at that time there wasn’t anywhere else we could go.

During the night we had some heavy rain and thunderstorms all around us – and the boats all turned to the North East as expected.  And … of course … the Austrian boat was way too close and only a couple of metres off our stern at one point.  The Fin Delta kept us perfectly pointed into the wind and the storm was no issue – the maximum wind we saw was gusts of 19 knots.  Had it not been for the Austrian, we would have had a fantastic night’s sleep!  He, of course, slept like a baby ….

The following day the skies cleared and the wind dropped – and we were back to calm and sunny conditions.  We could still see the waves crashing in at the top of the bay though, so not as calm outside of our little haven.  We heard stories from other boats in other places around us which were not so good – a friend over in Ithaca had been sailing in 40 knots of wind and a boat moored on the Southern Breakwater in Volos (where we were a few weeks back) had been damaged with 55 knot squalls throwing the boat over onto the quayside.

We stayed around for a couple of days after the storm to allow the sea outside to calm down but on 1st September Ed had had enough!  The main reason was that the North Bay had a lot of wasps – and they were becoming more annoying each day.  Ed is allergic to wasp stings and when he was stung between the toes a couple of days ago, we decided it was time to move on.  We also needed fuel desperately – spending so long laying on anchor, we had consumed a lot of fuel running the generator.  We had found a couple of harbours to the North which said fuel was available – so the plan was to leave the following day, re-fuel and cross to the other side of the bay to the Athos peninsula.

So … after a lovely time here .. time to leave Diaporos tommorrow!

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