The team is back in business after a 72 hour layover in Falassarna. Tomorrow, the weather should be good enough to finally round the Northwest corner of the island. We have been expecting this to be the crux move of the expedition.
The two narrow, mountainous capes that extend North from the corner of Crete can create very rough conditions with the right wind direction and when you look at them on a map, it is easy to imagine them as the horns of a bull. We have taken to calling them the Minotaur’s Horns.
The day started like many we’ve had; a stiff wind to the face. But as we approached the cape that marked the beginning of our crossing, it became clear that the Northeast wind that barred our way for days was in its last defiant throes. We were soon making our seven mile open water crossing (across the Minotaur’s Horns) in a gentle breeze and mild residual swells. Two hours later we finished the crossing without incident and were rounding the second cape, (the northernmost point in Crete) Cape Spatha. We picked up a lot of garbage along the way, mostly plastic bags (so the turtles don’t eat them), and stopped at Diktini after 6 hours in our boats. The team went 15 more miles before bedding down for the night and adopting a small local black mutt that we named Hermes. She shivered with us all night.
The following day we woke up to doldrums and a heavy dew. Hermes left us for the first friendly looking people that walked by, but we enjoyed the short time we had with her. It was our first day of paddling with no wind at all and we were ecstatic… until we realized that paddling with no wind gets so hot that you are constantly wishing for the wind to come back again. It eventually did. The last hours of our day were spent plugging along into a headwind. After all, it just wouldn’t have felt right to have a full day of easy paddling. Our camp for the night was in the town of Stavros on the North end of the Souda peninsula where we met up with the owner of The Northwest Passage, and Cretan God, Rick Sweitzer who brought us two new boats to swap out for two of ours that needed repair. He treated us to dinner and drinks at quaint French-Greek fusion restaurant. The portions were not enough for our malnourished selves, but our beach beds were comfortable and sleep came quickly. We knew tomorrow was going to be a tough day.
Crossing Souda Bay
The sun was slow to rise over the mountains but we kept to schedule and were on the water at 8:00am. As we rounded the peninsula the wind turned to our backs and gave us a welcome push for a change, but there were few places to land along the rugged shoreline and we decided to make the long crossing past Souda Bay (home to a US naval base) without a break. We were in our kayaks for six hours and ten minutes before making the first pitstop in Octopus Bay, and if I never sit in a kayak for that long without a break again, it will be too soon. In the afternoon the wind died and we were again paddling through the sweltering calm accompanied by Rick (aka: Papu Canoe) who led us to Rockas Beach Bar, which is run by a long time friend of the company. We had a liter of cold beer each, which when accompanied by a hard day of kayaking in the sun creates a hell of a sleep aid, and could hardly stay awake through dinner. We’ve been making good time the last few days, but there are still hundreds of miles to go.