On the northern beaches of Crete, such as Ammoudara, the several kilometres long wide sandy beach directly west of Heraklion in August you see the red flag flying – forbidding swimming – almost every day. (Not that anybody takes the slightest notice.)

The reason?

The beach is fully exposed to the meltemi.

Meltemi, also meltemi wind

Line breaks: mel|temi
Pronunciation: /mɛlˈtɛmi 
A dry north-westerly wind which blows during the summer in the eastern Mediterranean.
(Oxford Dictionary)

The English word derives from the modern Greek: μελτέμι (meltemi), which in turn is a Turkish loan word (meltem), possibly originating from the Italian mal tempo (“bad weather”). The ancient Greeks knew the wind as etesian: ἐτησίαι (etesiai) – “periodic winds”. (Wikipedia)

The legendary meltemi winds are so sudden and so strong that they play havoc with ferry schedules to the islands, so you can imagine what they do to a tiny rowing shell. At last year’s test event, the course had to be shortened after the meltemi kicked up and several boats sank.

The quote above comes from an article about the 2004 Athens Olympics. The meltemi is a summer wind in the Aegean, which usually starts up early afternoon and dies down by sunset although on occasion it can blow for days.

The meltemi can get quite strong (up to 7 or 8 on the Beaufort scale) and consequently dangerous, especially as it comes in clear weather with no warning. According to the website in the wide channel between the Dodecanese and the Cycladic islands where “the meltemi blows undisturbed over 100 miles”, it can cause waves over three metres high made steeper by adverse currents, which “can be seriously dangerous” for small yachts. (You’ve been forewarned.)

Waves whipped up by the meltemi batter the breakwater of Heraklion harbour



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