Lu Heikell reflects on how we perceive the weather especially when we transition from one part of the year and life to another


There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats – as Ratty said in The Wind in the Willows, and with the season well underway, I would have to agree. OK, we’re not on a river, and Skylax is somewhat more advanced than Ratty’s craft, but the idea holds soundly for me. Sure, in Greece this summer it has been plenty warm, and it gets busy in places, but I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else – exploring different places on the whim of Aeolus.

This spring the weather in Greece took a while to settle down, with a cool and wet May leading into an unusually unsettled June. Spectacular thunderstorms should not be on the meteorological menu here at this time, but they most definitely were. And then suddenly July arrives with super-charged temperatures just to confound you.

Part of it I am sure is that we move from our indoor winter lives out into life on board, which surely brings a greater awareness of the weather. It has been hot – desert-hot. The lucky part is that from our floating base we can escape the worst of the heat out on the water. We pick an anchorage and set the hook before slipping into the water for a cooling swim. It is so far away from the humdrum of life ashore it is magical.

‘Are you still, you know, still doing the books?’ must be one of the most common questions we get asked when out and about on Skylax. Since most of these encounters happen in harbour, the enquirer won’t necessarily have seen us ducking in and out of anchorages and harbours for the last week, or seen me
at daybreak on the top of the hill overlooking a bay snapping a new image, so it is a fair question.

Lu and Rod Heikell waving from the deck of their yact

Lu and Rod Heikell keep their yacht, Skylax, in the Mediterranean and are the leading pilot book authors for the region. Credit: Kevin Jones

It is always great to meet up with the wonderful people who buy our books – swapping notes on new pontoons and where to find the new best restaurant. Our schedule is probably a little different to most cruising sailors, taking in three or four stops a day, sails down, drifting around taking soundings in the dinghy and altering the plan and notes for each place before scooting off around the headland to the next bay.

As the afternoon breeze kicks in we get pangs of jealousy seeing yachts striking out close-hauled across to the next island as we meander around the coast. Chugging around on Skylax is undoubtedly the best bit about keeping our books up to date, and while it can get in the way of a decent sail at times, it isn’t a bad office.

Wildlife spotting is a favourite distraction. We have been lucky enough to see more loggerhead turtles this year than I remember. These ancient reptiles are far less persecuted than they once were, and many harbours now have a home population of several individuals cruising around. The largest one
I have seen must have been over a metre in diameter.

A friend recently reported seeing a monk seal in an area I wouldn’t have expected, and we were lucky enough to spot one too. We’ve seen dolphins, though not as many as we would like. These smiling assassins, as I call them, are always a welcome sight. Another favourite is the kingfisher – Alcyones in Greek – usually only spotted as a fleeting glimpse of iridescence.

In Greek mythology Alcyones was the daughter of Aeolus, so we always nod in deference when we spot one.

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