An event­ful visit to Karpathos

Is­abel Joce and hus­band Bob wit­ness Europe’s mi­grant cri­sis first­hand while cruis­ing in Greece

Yachting Monthly - - CRUIS­ING LOG - The vil­lage of Olym­pos is home to around 400 peo­ple

In late June 2017, our plan was to sail to Rhodes from Crete, is­land hop­ping as we went. From the tiny is­land of Ka­sos, we sailed the 18 miles to the long thin is­land of Karpathos, renowned for be­ing very windy. Ini­tially we had a smooth Force 4 reach across to its south­ern tip; like many moun­tain­ous is­lands, the lee­ward coast of Karpathos is prone to se­vere gust­ing as the wind is chan­nelled down ravines – so we reefed in an­tic­i­pa­tion for more wind as we ap­proached. The wind duly in­creased to Force 6 and even­tu­ally we just had a tiny genoa, but were still mak­ing 5 knots in the right di­rec­tion!

We had moored in har­bours for a week now and thought an an­chor­age would be nice. We re­jected the first pos­si­ble an­chor­age on Karpathos as it looked as if a hur­ri­cane was blow­ing through it, and the wrecked ship just out­side was rather off-putting.

The wind dropped as we ap­proached the next an­chor­age, Or­mos Amor­fos, a large, very open bay where we set the an­chor in crys­tal­clear wa­ter then had a well-de­served swim and rest. We were alone. When we went to bed, the offshore wind had in­creased to around 15 knots but we were con­tent, as we knew our an­chor was well dug in and there was no swell.

The wind in­creased though the night and I was hav­ing trou­ble sleep­ing due to the noise of the wind in the rig­ging. At 0130 I heard some voices, so got up and, al­though it was dark, saw a boat be­hav­ing er­rat­i­cally up­wind and quite close to us. Per­haps it was some lo­cal lads on a late-night fish­ing trip? I was con­cerned as they were so close, and woke Bob. He was not im­pressed at be­ing wo­ken, as ini­tially he thought they were fish­ing due to lots of torches flash­ing. Then he looked through the binoc­u­lars and said, ‘Oh my god, it’s a mi­grant boat!’

The ves­sel was a 50ft wooden gul­let-type boat with about 50 peo­ple on deck. Then,

another ves­sel ap­peared sea­ward with bright lights, and it was head­ing straight for us. As it passed, we saw that there was a port po­lice­man on board. As soon as he was sighted, all of the lights on the mi­grant boat went out and the engine was turned off. The port po­lice­man started shout­ing, ‘Eyes down, no talk­ing, sit down’ in English sev­eral times, very ag­gres­sively, and then tried to find the cap­tain or some­one who could speak English. Un­sur­pris­ingly, there was no re­sponse from any­one on board as any­one deemed in charge of a mi­grant boat would have been in se­ri­ous trou­ble.

By now, the fish­ing boat was along­side the mi­grant boat, but up­wind and grad­u­ally drift­ing to­wards us. I was in my best py­ja­mas but de­cided to shout out loudly as both boats were be­ing blown in­ex­orably to­wards our bow.

The port po­lice­man bel­lowed at me to stop talk­ing. I replied that they were both go­ing to hit our yacht. He shouted at us to ‘go away’, ‘leave this place’ and ‘throw away your an­chor’. It was very dark and windy so we didn’t want to go any­where, let alone ditch our an­chor.

The fish­ing boat gave a nudge for­wards so Bob was just able to push the boats off our an­chor chain and fend them off the side of Capella. There was lots of shout­ing and even­tu­ally, the fish­ing boat put a tow­line on the mi­grant ves­sel. It took a long time, but it was towed to the nearby port of Pi­gadi four miles away. I think the port po­lice­man had been trained to avoid panic on board the ves­sel and avert a po­ten­tial cap­size. We re­ally were not scared by the mi­grant ves­sel (once we had seen other boats ar­riv­ing) as the peo­ple on board looked trau­ma­tised and re­ally wanted to be taken ashore. We watched them go off into the dis­tance for a while and then had a cup of tea be­fore go­ing back to bed. I didn’t sleep well.

Af­ter our mad night, we sailed up­wind still in Force 5 to Di­afani, a small har­bour to the north of the is­land, where we moored along­side a trip­per boat. The cap­tain told us the mi­grant boat had ar­rived safely in port with 120 (not 50 as we had es­ti­mated) peo­ple on board and had come from Turkey. They had made an in­ter­na­tional dis­tress call to alert the au­thor­i­ties, claim­ing to be sink­ing.

Our an­chor­age was more than 80 miles from Turkey and there were sev­eral other closer Greek is­lands such as Rhodes. How they ended up in Karpathos is a mys­tery.

Al­though we’ve seen such in­ci­dents on TV, it is ab­so­lutely heart-wrench­ing to see with your own eyes the dan­gers peo­ple will go through in or­der to achieve a bet­ter life. We were able to just sail away and move on.

De­spite our noc­tur­nal ex­pe­ri­ence, we loved Karpathos and strongly rec­om­mend a visit – prefer­ably when the winds are be­nign.

The crys­tal-clear wa­ters of the Greek is­lands

The re­mains of wind­mills can be found along the top of the moun­tain

We de­cided to give this an­chor­age a miss but hadn’t bar­gained on the ex­pe­ri­ence we would have at Or­mos Amor­fos

The Byzan­tine-style church at Olym­pos at­tracts tourists ev­ery year

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.