Restrictions to movements have just been lifted, and a few of us have been itching to go out at sea, what with the spring coming and having been stuck at home for what felt like a really long time.
The day promises to be good, and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s absolute calm when we launch from Sfinari, and it will stay like that except for a moment in Falasarna bay just before we land.
Martin and Spiros came along today. We passed by the cliffs near Kokkina Gremna, we navigated through the shallow rocks over the turquoise water, we explored the low rock tunnels ending into secret pools, we paddled by the offshore islets, we cruised over the shipwreck and I even jumped in the still cold sea.
A great day out kayaking along a beautiful section of West Crete coastline. Liberating.
February 29th. There is some oddity in the air, it’s the carnival weekend in Greece but official celebrations have been cancelled over epidemic fears.
It’s a sunny day, so we head South with some friends to spend the day in Elafonissi.
When we get there, it’s windier than expected, but we launch anyway. We launch from the West side of the peninsula to circumnavigate anti-clockwise. First we ferry the non-kayaking crew across one of the channels that open in the winter and cut off the peninsula, making it technically an island.
Then we paddle into the East breeze. It’s cool, even wearing some gear. We can’t avoid splashing ourselves. We ride some waves and we get to the passage between the shallow rocks on the South-West tip. We navigate perilously with the waves picking us up and then coming from the side, but we manage to reach safety unscathed.
From the sheltered side, it’s easy going. The sea is flat now and we can just enjoy the scenery. We pass all the little beaches and we join the girls on one of them. We land on a sheltered spot, then we go for a swim.
The best part is around the corner though, there’s another channel with unbelievable colours, from gold to pink on land and from emerald to turquoise in the shallow water. We navigate into the channel, in very shallow water and strong current.
In the end we get back, ferry the group 2-3 at a time across again, and go for a picnic behind a sand dune. A day to appreciate the colours of nature.
Early December and the weather is still great. The sea is about 21° C, and on this day it would be pretty still on the South of the island, so I went out for a paddle from Elafonissi, which to me always brings to mind the idea of a tropical beach.
Nobody was on the road on the almost one-hour drive there. In the summer there is a continuous flow of cars and buses going back and forth. Around the beach, there were a few campers with campervans. I launched in dead calm sea from one of the small coves on the East side.
I paddled easy, playing hide and seek with shags. I admired the clearness of the water and the amazing visibility to the sea bottom.
After about one hour, I reached Viena, a hidden cove that is incredibly well sheltered. There are ruins of an ancient sanctuary on the shore. I had a quick snack and got back in the water.
I considered snorkelling around the shallow rocks, but the cool slight breeze that had picked convinced me against it for the moment. I navigated through the rocks instead and paddled back towards Kedrodasos little beaches.
I watched the turquoise sea under me and the cedar trees to the side. A good size rock offered a goal, and I paddled on.
I must have been now less than 1Km away from the start. After tying the kayak rope around my waist, I jumped in with mask and snorkel, swimming towards shore. I spotted a couple of small cornetfish in the shallow water.
Today we had a little adventure kayaking on the edge of Kissamos Bay. We started from Ravdoucha, as we thought we would be sheltered on this side.
But as soon as we left the bay the wind started blowing from South-West, and it grew as we were out. We rode the wind and the small waves for a fun time, an hour or so, then we found shelter in a small bay. We only had the time for a quick break and a bite, not even a swim – the wind grew even more during our break, to the point that the bay no longer offered shelter. We looked back, and the sea had become a lot whiter. On top of that, the sky that looked so clear in the morning, turned really dark towards Gramvousa and North-West.
So we turned around and resigned to get back, as quickly as possible, against the wind. We had an hour and a half of just paddling into the wind, without any breaks and without any talking. A rib with some divers passed us and asked Spiros whether we needed towing. He said no, we were almost back at that point. Still, we couldn’t resist a little playing between some rocks!
In the end, we beat the storm to the little harbour in Ravdoucha. We managed to get everything packed away and the kayaks on the car before the rain. The storm arrived relatively slowly, only in the afternoon. The lightning and the flooding knocked out the power in our village for almost a day, and our telephone landline and internet for a week now and counting!
We went out with Spiros for a paddle along the Rodopo peninsula, starting from Afrata and going North. The air was quite still, we were sheltered from the West wind by the mountains. There was a good swell though. It was not so big when we started, but by the time we passed the first big headland North of Afrata we had some waves higher than 1m, as proved by the disappearing of the horizon.
I paddled in a regular sit-inside sea kayak that I borrowed from some friends, and while not an absolute first time, it took me a while to get used to it. While Spiros was enjoying paddling very close to the coastline, I was keeping a safe distance, and I was mostly feeling dizzy, then hungry and tired. Later I realized I was just not well that day.
Things improved a little after I tested getting back in the kayak from the water, and made it quite easily. With the knowledge that I could get in and out at will, at least in decent sea conditions,, I felt better prepared for snorkelling and emergencies, and relaxed.
We paddled about 10Km in total. We saw lots of cliffs, some caves, some interesting deep, wide bays. We had some boiling sea where the swell was hitting the vertical walls and rebounding straight back. In the end I even tried doing a roll, and realized soon that I wouldn’t be able to do it on the first go based on pure instinct! Still fun.
Today Spiros and I kayaked along the North-West coast of Crete, for my real first kayak outing this summer.
After checking the forecast, we saw that Wednesday would be a good day to go, with 0-2 Beaufort winds.
We rented a basic double sit-on-top kayak in Kissamos and set off earlyish in the morning from a very quiet Falasarna beach.
The air was still as expected, but the wave height was bigger than forecast! It didn’t deter us though, we decided beforehand to not press ourselves and just turn back in case the going got too tough.
As it happened, the going got smoother over the course of the day. Wave height fell as we got closer to Balos, and even more significantly on our way back. The wind only picked up briefly just as we were approaching Balos, to die down again in less than an hour as we had our lunch break on the beach.
The cliffs were spectacular, and they didn’t feel as daunting as in my previous solo expeditions along this route. Company makes it easier to keep the mind off thoughts of impending doom! I was also less tired than the previous times that I paddled on this bit of coastline. Another positive, setting off after 8am meant that the ominous shadows cast by the high cliffs were gone soon after the start. We only had time to enjoy some shady respite in the very first part of the day.
We enjoyed the paddling. First we rode some waves and kept some distance from the cliffs. We admired the colours and the formation on the rocks. We jumped in the water in turns for some snorkelling, but for the first half we didn’t really approach waters shallow enough to see much with the mask.
We got to the South side of Balos in about two and a half hours, and it felt pretty easy. We knew there was no easy landing on this side, only rocks. We scanned the coastline for a good place to have a break. We found some narrow passages between the very shallow rocks, and parked the kayak in a sheltered pool.
After eating our pic-nic, we had a quick walk around busy Balos lagoon. It was hot and it looked crowded in the distance. The midday wind was carrying towards us the familiar whiffs of the beach cocktail: sun lotion, sea salt and sweat. A Frenchman started a conversation about the kayak, how far we’d come from and good places to snorkel. Spiros picked some sea salt from the rock pool.
We restarted and the way back was even better. With lower waves, we could take in the myriad shades of blue in the sea and get closer to the rocky cliffs.
Just off Balos, we saw some promising shallow areas and jumped in for a snorkel. Beautiful underwater rock formations, that we could stand on and went down to deep dark in the space of a few strokes. A lot of sea life swimming around the rocks: Saddled sea breams, damselfish, parrot fish, rainbow wrasses, small blue and silver fish.
We paddled and paddled. We warmed up and jumped in the water a few more times. We both went in at the same time, many times, taking turns to keep an eye on and hold the kayak. We swam in the bay just North of Falasarna, and again around the shipwreck. A last swim by the submerged rock off the beach. Big sea breams dancing around, more saddled sea breams.
Home beckoned. We landed in the small rock pool, dreaming of future expeditions.
Today has a calm start, the night was hot and the morning slow. The air is very clear, but there is no freak wind in Souda bay. It’s just still a little early, I will realize later.
I smoothly paddle across the bay and see Kalypso resort. Then across the next small bay, with Ammoudi beach and water sports. The wind picks up and pushes me from behind. I’m fast. I watch the rocky coast to the side, but mostly focus on keeping the boat straight. Some rocky arches, then I turn around towards Preveli and it’s suddenly calm. The water is clear, the caves and the rock formations are interesting. I take a break in a little gem of a natural pool, eat a few biscuits, all is good.
It’s another 5 minutes through some strong side wind and I’m in Preveli. I moor to a buoy and take another short break. A few more biscuits, some pictures. The water is chilly, the beach has lots of people but it’s not overcrowded, the palm trees look good, there’s a constant flow of people descending to the beach from two sides. I decide against jumping in the water and paddle on.
I can see Agios Pavlos ahead and soon the three stones of Triopetra. I am keen to get there before it’s too hot, I feel like I have taken too much sun in the last few days. The wind keeps pushing, there are white horses now. I see many beaches all similar to each other. Agia Fotini with a small cafe, Ligres with some tents. I slalom among some rocks. More long, thin sandy beaches. A few persons scattered here and there.
Shortly before Triopetra it gets really wild. The wind is blowing strong and I struggle to control the kayak. I ride some really high waves between the shallow rocks at the North end of Triopetra and decide to land right there and then. I go for the ‘paddle straight on to the shore and jump out quickly’ type of landing. Unfortunately, the sand I see on the shore has a flat rock of the same colour underneath, which I hit almost at full speed. The kayak gets scratched but doesn’t break completely. There’s one couple on the beach, I strategically land next to them. The guy eventually helps me pull up the boat and declares that the rock is soft, it’s not so bad. Fiona and the girls are on the other end of the beach, too far to walk. I decide to go back in and paddle there to meet them. I can do it. The guy is reluctant to let me go back out in such wind, he even offers to drive me there or them here. I judge that it’s going to be alright close to shore, and it is. Even the landing, with Fiona’s help, is all right.
We have lunch under a tamerisk tree at the back of the beach. The wind blows really hot, dry air. I figure maybe I can paddle a bit further at least to Agios Pavlos later. I can’t. In the afternoon the wind doesn’t drop at all. No breaks in the evening either. We put up the tent in a big cave on the Southern end. Maybe it will calm down during the night. Quite the opposite, it only gets worse. The wind is now blowing sand storms, picking up the coarse beach sand, and forcefully hitting the tent. We stupidly pitched it near the cave entrance for more air, but it’s too exposed and some corners come undone during the night. At first light we get up. We had left the kayak on the beach. We had filled it with many kilos of sand, a saving idea because when we remove them it starts blowing away. We see a couple of mini tornadoes in the sea. The water spray makes a rainbow effect. Tired of being sandblasted, we load the car and drive straight home.