Jul 28

Khalkis (old) bridge

Khalkis is the capital of Evia and in the centre of the town is an old road bridge that connects Evia to mainland Greece. The gap that the bridge spans is only 39m wide and there are strong currents in the vicinity, where the 2 large masses of water are squeezed through the small gap. The bridge only opens once a day, between 10pm and 4am, the exact time determined by when the currents are at their slowest. We arrived on the south side of the bridge and went to find the port police in order to sort out the necessary paperwork to pass through the bridge (and naturally pay the fee).

The port police is hidden down a small alley way away from the main road but thankfully, on a really really hot day, it had the best air conditioning I have experienced in weeks. There were 7 staff in the office all dressed in police uniform, all drinking ice frappe and most of them smoking. I handed over all of our documentation and soon realised that I was in for a long wait. While playing spider solitaire on my phone, the first guy with the documents went over and discussed some of them with a colleague, at some length. After some time colleague number 2 then got on the phone and engaged in further lengthy discussions, the only part of which I could understand was “almost free” and some head shaking. I was beginning to envision “permission denied” being stamped everywhere and us totally stuck; sailing up the east side of Evia to get to the sporades is not for the faint hearted and not a realistic option for us. Fortunately in the end, I was handed back my documentation and given instructions on what would happen when the bridge opened.

At 10pm we were all ready on the boat listening on VHF channel 12 for our call. As time ticked by we were all getting rather sleepy, Simone was already dozing in her cabin cuddling her kindle and Julian was out for the count. Suddenly at midnight, channel 12 came alive and we could hear other boats being called forward to proceed to the holding zone. Finally we were called and with Marc at the bow shining the torch ahead we managed to avoid all the mooring buoys as we left the marina.

As we headed out it suddenly became apparent that there were a large number of small local craft out doing night fishing, some of which had lights and some of which didn’t. Marc and Simone stood on the bow trying to guide me through them and we lined up next to the bridge waiting for it to open.

Amidst all the many lights we didn’t actually see the bridge open, first thing we saw was a large container ship come steaming through at what looked like breakneck speed, not sure if it was drive on by the currents or he was just a loony.

Once all the vessels going from North to South had passed, the lights on the bridge changed and it was our turn. The streets on both sides were lined with people, watching and waving which gave the whole thing a party-like feeling and as the last boat to pass through, the bridge began to close a few seconds after our stern cleared the gap.

The passing of the Khalkis bridge is a major psychological milestone for us:

  • it was the last obstacle between us and the sporades and we had heard stories of mechanical problems with the bridge leading to delays of several days
  • sailing conditions north of Khalkis will be much easier than our passage up from Lavrio, the meltemi blows strongest south of Khalkis
  • North of Khalkis we do a left turn and will hopefully be able to do more sailing and less motoring
  • we are now only 2 days from returning to the area that we know and love so much, it feels like coming home

All in all, a really exciting evening, and once we tied up alongside on the town quay 100m north of the bridge Simone, Marc and I celebrated by taking 5 steps from the boat to one of the many bars and having a well deserved cold drink.

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