Average speed: 5.45 km/h
Total time: 04:36:16
On the longest day of the year, the summer solstice, I embark on this adventure to kayak around the island of Crete.
The day is good, not only for the long amount of daylight available, but also for the sympathetic wind conditions.
I decide to set off in the afternoon, so I can arrive in Balos not long before dusk and enjoy the latest sunset of the year.
My girls come with me to Mavros Molos, the most recognizable beach in Kissamos. It’s 2:30pm, the sky looks good, there is some breeze from the North.
I make straight for the tip of Kissamos harbour’s outer arm. Then I take a very wide, almost asymptotic approach to the long peninsula. The paddling is easy. I meet some fishing boats. I pass by Kakia Skala (Bad Ladder or Landing), full of jagged shallow rocks. I see the huge cave, open to one side, perching on the cliff. I spot the little church at the Northern end of the same bay. It’s been almost two hours, time to take a break. I spot more fishing net buoys, and tie my boat to one of them. The wind gusts are not weak, and I don’t want to drift back! After a snack, I restart very close to the cliffs. As the wind dies down completely, I meet two of the big boats coming back from Balos packed with the day-trippers. I raise and shake my paddle to salute, and dozens of people on the side wave at me at the same moment. That’s a good boost!
As the sun descends, it plays hide and seek behind the tall cliffs on my left, and I shift between light and shade until the cape. There are multiple rocky outcrops before the actual cape, I don’t quite know which is the right one, until the island of Wild Gramvousa comes into sight. Behind it, in the misty distance, a glimpse of Antikythira, 50km away.
I paddle around the cape, where the cliffs become lower while staying vertical. There is no difference in the wind, it’s still very still, but it’s definitely choppy now and there are rebounding waves that make the sea look like it’s been brought to a gentle boil.
More features appear in order: the island of Tame Gramvousa, Mouse Island, and at last Balos lagoon, right ahead. I aim straight for it. My arms are very tired at this point.
When I get close enough, about 1km from the shore, I put my mask on and jump in the water. The temperature is similar to the air outside, but the liquid medium all around my body feels good. I tie the kayak rope around my waist and start swimming slowly. I get distracted by a big shell first, which I dive to pick up. A local fisherman has just finished putting down his net nearby. He comes to me with his little boat, ‘Pirate’, offering me a tow to the shore, which I decline. I restart swimming and I spot a big flat brown circle on the sandy bottom: a ray! Then another one, then some more. I follow them around for a few minutes.
I hear familiar voices. My family is swimming towards me. We have a water reunion. The little girls tow me to the shore. The sun is already low. We eat some sandwiches, hide the kayak in the dunes, make our way up the path to the parking lot. It’s the very last light as we start driving back. John’s old Seicento, which has served us so well for the last 6 months, stops after a few km on the rocky road. It stubbornly refuses to restart. We hitchhike with the very last cars coming back from Balos, two Spanish girls living in Bristol give us a lift home for the end of the day.