Barb, Tom and Michelle are leaving fairly early, so they are first up. They grab a taxi to the airport and it takes a couple of attempts to find a taxi big enough to haul all the gear. They are taking a big box back for us, which is really nice.
Daniel and June leave next via taxi to a hotel (Novatel) where they are staying a couple of nights to explore Athens.
Susan, Sheven, and I hang at the boat to meet Nikos for the checkout. We get to spend an hour or so chatting with him.
He takes us into his monohull next door. It’s a Greek-made Ocean Star sloop, 56 FT long. I’ve never heard of the manufacturer, but it seems to be a very excellent high quality construction. The craftsmanship is beautiful and there is a surprising amount of room below. He explains they cost about 20-30% more than the mass-produced boats like Beneteau, but that they are very rugged, high quality boats.
We ask Nikos more about his business. He has 3 sloops like the adjacent boat and also the Catamaran we rented. Sometimes they are chartered through The Moorings and other times through his company.
We have a small list of things that didn’t work on the boat and he carefully goes through the list, making sure he understands. I’m sure he will have them fixed before the boat departs next.
The Moorings representative shows up, has me sign a couple papers, gives me back my credit card imprint for the deposit and offers to call a cab for us. He says the cab will be there at noon and he disappears. The cab never shows.
Nikos is working around the area, calls us another cab, then runs to the front of the dock, gets a cab and brings it back for us.
I’m still scratching my head and wondering what The Moorings actually did for us. At the beginning they took my credit card, and at the end they called me a cab. That’s about it. I suppose they also deserve credit for lining us up with Nikos, since presumably if he was a bad operator, they wouldn’t be doing business with him. I also suppose, though, that I could have done some more internet research and found reviews for local companies and found a good outfit myself.
I didn’t want to put Nikos in the awkward position of probing his relationship with The Moorings and asking what it was that they actually did on our charter. So I avoided any discussion of The Moorings with him.
Nikos’ last name is Zouras, his company is Zouras Yachting and his web site is www.zouras-yachting.gr
When I come back, I’ll go straight to Nikos – he’s an excellent operator.
We take the cab to the same hotel as June and Daniel and get a room. Fairly cheap (107 Euro) and it’s a nice, gleaming, modern hotel.
Then we go explore the Acropolis. It is swarming with tourists, but it is still worth it. An amazing place.
We walk down the hill from the Acropolis and explore the markets and streets below. There are a huge number of street vendors hustling for a buck and trying to sell everything you can imagine.
When you eat at a restaurant around here, you get asked to purchase something (watches, toys, sewing needle threaders, flowers, etc.) by vendors at least 20 times. It’s distracting and I’m surprised the restaurants allow them to come in.
We go back to the hotel hoping to hook up with Daniel and June but they are not there. We leave messages again, then head out to find food. A couple blocks away we find a small restaurant that appears to be full of locals and we have our last, excellent stuffing of Greek food.
In the wee hours of the morning, Sheven jets off to Portland via Zurich and we head to London on our way to Anchorage.
It’s been an awesome trip, despite the rough weather. We had an excellent group of people and the Greek Islands are a perfect place to cruise in a sailboat. I’m happy, and starting to think about the next trip.
According to our GPS tracker, we covered about 600 miles. I think I’ve also switched over and become a Cat person. I might need some counseling when I get home.
Forecast (courtesy of Barb’s iPhone and poached WiFi) is for winds 20 kts from north and northeast. We get up and ready at sunrise to ensure that we have time to reach our marina on our last day of sailing.
Daniel took us out, then handed the helm over to Michelle. Her inner-ear/balance problem seems much better, and she points out the irony of it getting better on our last day. We have one reef in the main.
Wind is about 25 kts, straight from the north. We head up as much as possible and are able to set a course in the general direction of Athens, although we had hoped for a little more east in the wind so we could get a straight shot.
When we are about 15 miles off of the mainland, Tom takes the helm to give Michele a break. The wind shifts to the west for the first time on the trip and we sail straight north toward the mainland. Far off in the distance we can see Sounion Bay and the Temple of Poseidon where we had hunkered down on our second day and attempted to appease Poseidon.
When we are about 5 miles from the mainland, the wind drops to about 5 kts, and we pretty much grind to a halt. We start the motors and head in the direction of Athens.
We haven’t taken a swim in the Aegean Sea yet (except Daniel’s snorkeling at Santorini to check the saltwater intake for the motor), so we pull into a pretty little bay and drop anchor.
I’ve been curious about our auto-inflating life vests, so I jump off the top of the bimini into the ocean. It is compellingly cold. About 10 seconds after I hit the water, with a big hiss, the vest inflates with a lot of force. It’s so tight around my neck/head, though; it wouldn’t be very easy to swim. I suppose that’s best, since if you were knocked off the upper deck, you would likely hit a few hard things on the way to the water (dingy davit, gangway, railing, etc.) and could easily be unconscious. The rugged vest would for sure keep your head above the water.
The second part of my mission in the water is to see if I can unplug the starboard holding tank discharge fitting. Tom fashions a sewer snake out of a wire coat hanger. I got the snorkel gear from the boat in an attempt to dive under, find the through-hull fitting and auger it out. The fins are much too small so I try it without fins. I find the thru-hull, but it’s not as near the surface as I thought it was. The mask is completely worthless and I can’t keep water out of it. I get the hanger stuck into the hole, but then have problems getting far enough under the hull to apply some pressure. It’s also quite cold, so I cancel the mission, and climb out.
Things to bring next time: our own excellent mask/fins/snorkels. It would have been quite easy to accomplish with gear that fit.
We deploy the gangway and Michelle runs off the end and into the water. She confirms that the water is cold, and it doesn’t feel much warmer after you stay in a while.
It’s a beautiful sunny day, and the kitchen crew has made a sumptuous lunch. We enjoy the scenery outside at the table (first time that the weather has allowed this) and upon a closer examination of the shoreline, we see that there is a nude and well-oiled couple engaged in adult activities on the shore directly next to us. Then another guy walks up the beach and takes off his clothes and covertly starts watching the other couple. Ah, finally the nude undulating beaches we have read about! Feeling a little ashamed of ourselves for watching the wildlife so closely (some with binoculars), we haul anchor and continue toward Athens.
Tom has the helm for our final run back to Athens.
It’s stunningly sunny and beautiful. There appear to be several sailing races going on as we head to our boat’s marina. We pass the racers and wave hello to some beautiful big monohulls with crews of about 8 hanging off the windward rail.
We motor into the marina, I take the helm, and we consider calling Nikos (the boat owner) since he said if we call, he would help us get the boat back into its spot. We decide to give it a try ourselves, since we’re also not sure if we can get a phone to work.
The marina is extremely packed, just as it was when we left. As we approach our spot, Nikos runs out the adjacent boat’s bow and motions us in. It’s good to see him. It sure doesn’t look like we can fit back in the space; but nonetheless, I spin the boat around and back it toward the space. Our nimble crew and Nikos grab adjacent boats and fenders and squeeze us in. We can’t quite make it because a couple of the fenders are too big (they were actually pretty small), so they are swapped out for smaller fenders, then Nikos moves his adjacent boat forward and out of its slip a few feet allowing us to squeak into place. It’s amazingly tight, with literally about 4″ between boats and fenders squeezed in the 4 inches.
As soon as we are stopped, Nikos starts shouting, obviously excited, and smiling “captain, oh captain, you are a beautiful captain!”. I’m thinking it’s because we just backed a 25 ft wide boat into a space that is only 24 ft wide. Turns out he has been watching the weather the last two weeks, and as he puts it “sevens, then eights, then sevens, then eights!” (on the Beaufort Scale). He had been quite concerned about his yacht (and presumably our well being too). He said that he was fully expecting a “bad phone call”. He’s very happy to see us and he bounds over to his adjacent yacht, pulls out a bottle of gin, then bounds over to Sunday and presents it to me.
I can only imagine how he had been worried – we pulled out two weeks ago and there have been many days of gale force winds and he doesn’t have a clue where we are or if we’ll show up this afternoon. I’m sure he’s fully insured, but I can also imagine the amount of time (and lost revenues) it would take to deal with the insurance claims, get another boat, all the proper papers and back in action. I’m sure it couldn’t be done before the sailing season ended.
Anyway, he’s very happy, we’re very happy and there are strangers watching on the dock who seem to be happy too.
He says the boat isn’t rented for another 2 days, so we can check out tomorrow whenever we want. We say between 10 & 11am would be good.
That night, we take trolleys and subways to the Acropolis area, and eat at a restaurant.
The restaurateurs are quite aggressive here, and they chase you down the street. The food wasn’t as good as it was on the islands, but it’s still okay. I am totally drained and feel more tired than I can ever remember. I fall asleep standing up on the subway on the way back to the boat.
Wind is medium strong in the morning, from the north with a little east. The forecast is for light winds from the east and we still think that’s a possibility.
We decide to head for the harbor on the northeast side of Kea, which positions us well for getting to Athens Friday night. We turn around the southeast side of Sifnos, motoring into the wind, heading north. When we get to the NE corner of the island, we raise the sails, double reefed main. It’s gusting to around 28 knots.
I really like the Raymarine Chartplotter on this boat. It’s got a big, bright screen. It also has oblique aerial photos for most of the anchorages and marinas. That way, you can have an idea of what a place looks like before you head in. In the photo above, it’s in the split screen mode with a map on the left and a bunch of navigational info on the right (SOG means Speed Over Ground).
We make really good progress west and a little north, around the south end of Kithnos. It starts getting quite gusty – above 30 kts. Wind is almost straight from the north, which is exactly where we want to go. We need to tack upwind along the west side of Kithnos and we realize that for almost 2 weeks of sailing we’ve never tacked upwind. I’m looking forward to seeing how well the boat points upwind and how much progress we make.
We do a few tacks, tweaking the sail and heading as high as we can into the wind. It seems the sweet spot is around 45-50 degrees off the wind. Definitely not as good as a monohull, which is no surprise. We did about 6 tacks over the course of 1.8 hours, covering 3.6 nautical miles to the north. That’s 2 nm/hr net velocity going north. Not very good, and we won’t make it to the harbor in Kea before dark.
You can see our tacking on the map below.
We scope out harbors on Kithnos’ west side and it looks like there is a good spot on the west side, toward the north. It’s gusting quite enthusiastically and the waves are throwing us around. I decide we should drop the sails and motor to the harbor so we can relax and enjoy our last day on the islands. We can motor in less than an hour, but if we sailed it would probably take 4-5 hours. I feel a little guilty and The Sheven enforces that by questioning if I’m really a sailor. We drop the sails and motor anyway.
We arrive in the beautiful harbor with The Sheven at the helm. Only one monohull is Med Mooring along the quay, all hands on deck, and we execute a perfect Med Mooring. This is in stark contrast to our performance at the beginning of the trip on the east side of this same island when the Germans were yelling at us. Our crew is organized and nimble and we’ve learned a lot.
We moor at the far end, next to the ferry dock, closest to the ferry dock so that no boats will be alongside us and we can fire the sewage canon on the starboard hull at will.
We met this very cool cat who was looking for handouts. I wanted to take him home – he had quite the personality.
Soon, we have lots of company. There is a regatta of 34 Russian sloops sailing in the area and some of them start arriving. It gets quite busy with the Russians, then some Italians, a French boat, and several other nationalities that I couldn’t identify arrive. It was funny watching them yell instructions at each other in English (which seems to be the universal mooring language) even though it was obvious that most of them didn’t really speak English. There was a lot of confusion and yelling, but everyone got tied up okay and in the end, seemed to be having a good time.
We are moored with about 15 gorgeous monohulls that are about 50-55 FT long and rigged for serious sailing. Although I’ve really come to like our cat, and I think, cats in general, they (my opinion) just aren’t as pretty as nice monohulls.
Michele and June hike around the island and see about 17 other boats anchored in a cove north of our location.
A friendly harbormaster dude comes by and warns everyone that two ferries will be arriving after 5pm and to expect strong ferry wash. Soon the first comes, it’s quite large and ominous, and we are next to its dock area. I start the engines in case we need to power up to hold ourselves away from the wall and/or in case the anchor slips at all. Everyone else along the wall seems to be doing the same thing. The ferry goes stern-to and keeps its engines roaring as it’s tied up to keep itself off the wall, and the wash spreads to us, while people and vehicles pour on and off the ferry. It powers up and turns as it leaves, blasting us some more.
The second ferry is about the same size but quite a bit smoother and less dramatic. We wonder if it’s a difference in the ferry design that makes such an obvious difference in the amount of wash or if it’s a difference in the captain’s styles.
Things quite down, and we go on our normal shore eating excursion then pass out.
Awaken to cloudy weather, 15-20 knot winds from the east in the harbor, gusty. East wind is perfect for us today since we want to head north.
We can’t find any weather forecast on the radio or any WiFi. Tom and I take the ship’s papers to the harbormaster, who said someone would be there 24/7. Nobody is there. We don’t know the protocol – we speculate that we only need to pay money if there is water or electricity, neither of which are available here that we can find. So, being uncertain if we owe any money and not being able to find anybody to pay, we untie and head out. The spastic French monohull (which trashed our anchor) has already left, and the stylish/savvy French monohull is still there, but re-positioned their boat to ride more comfortably on the swell.
The sea state is quite choppy, so we opt to hook around to the south and up the leeward side of Folgeandros. Much calmer conditions here on the west side. We cruise by beautiful big cliffs that have all kinds of interesting layers/swirl patterns.
We are headed for Milos, but then we do the math and determine that if we stay in Milos overnight, we will need to do 2 very long days to get back to Athens by Friday afternoon. Not including any slop factor in case we hit bad weather. This doesn’t seem to be a good idea given our expert record of finding bad weather.
We decide to cruise past Milos, and then continue up to Serifos in the northwest. Our nice French neighbors in Paros who have been cruising this area for 4 years said it was one of their favorites.
We head north along the east side of Poliandros, weather is pretty sketchy, gusting to about 30 knots. There are a couple hours of pounding in waves and wind. Crew retreats to berths to sleep. I sit at the helm with Sheven. About 4-5 times we get doused by rogue wavelets, and laugh it off. When we both finally don full foul weather gear over the top of our soaked clothes, the weather (of course) subsides a little.
When we get into the lee of Sifnos, the sun starts to come out. Tom takes the helm. We hoist sails and have a kick-butt sail the remainder of the way. Gusting to 22 knots, we make about 8-9 knots SOG.
Crew is eating snacks and drinking in the Saloon like we are tied off on shore. I like this catamaran, or maybe catamarans in general. I think I’m becoming a Cat Person.
We rip up to the harbor on the southwest corner of Serifos. Head into the marina, pull alongside the nice dock and tie off. Perfect position, and very smooth docking.
We’ve learned to head into a harbor being ready for anything: throwable lines on all 4 corners, The Sheven ready to deploy off the aft gangway (in case nobody is there to grab lines), someone ready with anchor, and a couple of people with emergency fenders. Then when we get to a harbor/marina, we are ready for all combinations of anchoring, Med Mooring, or tying alongside. We also have the sewage cannon ready amidships on the starboard side to clear more space if needed.
After docking, a crew member in the starboard hull goes below to use the toilet, flushes, and fires sludge all over the dock. We decide it’s time to figure out the origin of the sewage cannon and the mysterious “Tank #3”. On the electronic display in the cabin, we can see levels for Water Tank #1, and Water Tank #2. There is also a “Tank #3” and we’re not sure what it contains, but it is ¾ full.
Tom and I pull up all the flooring and start tracing pipes. We find what appears to be a sewage holding tank behind the shower in the starboard hull, aft cabin. Current guess is that the sewage cannon is actually a vent pipe. The discharge is apparently plugged between the holding tank and the through-hull fitting and when the pressure builds, it rises and discharges from the vent. Our problem is that we need to unplug the sewage discharge under the starboard hull.
I go to town in search of a sewer snake to auger out the plugged line. I finally find a tiny hardware store. The nice lady speaks zero English and “sewer snake” is not in the list of 3 greek words that I know. In order to pantomime “sewer snake” I first need to get her to understand “toilet”. It doesn’t go well, but I finally find a chair and pantomime opening the lid and peeing, then putting the lid down and sitting on it. She brightens up … yes! She leads me over to a section of the small store, removes some boxes and bags to reveal a beautiful new white porcelain toilet, and she is ready to sell it to me. I then pantomime a plug in the toilet, then I make an “augering” sound and wave my arms around like I’m a snake. God only knows what she is thinking, but she acts like she understands. She pantomimes that she doesn’t have one. I pantomime a question of who might have one. She says nobody. I’m pretty sure she thinks I’m crazy and the safest thing is to get me out of her store as quickly as possible.
We find a bus ride to the Chora high above the marina.
Susan and I get accidentally separated from the rest of the crew and we spend about an hour wandering thru the town, looking for our group. The place is totally deserted and we call it the ‘Ghost Chora’.
Susan keeps wanting to walk down, while I want to go up. She refuses to climb a rickety ladder with me, which ends up breaking before I can get up. We don’t see another person for about an hour and we’re thankful when we see another live person.
We finally find our group at a Taverna, and have an awesome dinner, bus ride down the hill to the boat, and a deep restful sleep.
It’s a nice morning and the forecast is for the wind to turn easterly and slow down around noon.
We leave Santorini with June at the helm. She motors us out of the shallow marina into the sea, and we hoist the sails. For the first time on the trip, we do some close hauled sailing.
Half way, as predicted, the wind shifts to the east and dies down to only a few knots. We furl the jib, and motor sail.
The Port engine temperature alarm sounds, so we stop the engine and continue along on the starboard engine. There seems to be only about a .7 knot speed difference running on only one of the engines.
We head toward the tiny harbor on the southeast corner of the island and into our most bizarre docking/mooring experience.
As we motor toward the tiny harbor dodging the rocks, we see many hundreds of people gathered along the dock, and bulging on every boat. Everyone seems to be focused and quiet, and we wonder what is going on. Since we have read that there are several hundred residents of the village, it looks like they are all present.
I’m pretty sure it’s a funeral. There are two small boats rafted together, seemingly official, that other people from the shore and other boats seem to be looking at. I tell June to stop and we turn around slowly, our intention is to loiter slightly out of the harbor area until they are all done with whatever they are doing.
Fairly suddenly, all the boats in the harbor gun to full speed and start roaring towards us. We do a quick crew consultation: should we flee? Attack? We hadn’t perfected our sewage cannon skills yet, but it could be used as a defensive tactic.
We opt to stay where we are, and all the boats roar past us, complete with fireworks/explosives, smoke bombs, etc.
We sit in silence after they roar past, wondering what is going on. We decide to use their absence as an opportunity for Med Mooring.
We sneak into harbor, spin to Med Moor. There is a strong cross wind, which makes it tricky since there is so much surface area on our boat, we blow to the side. We use the electric winch to grind us upwind and toward the dock. As we are tying up, the hundreds of people come roaring back and onto the pier we are mooring to, including teens with explosives (aka fireworks). Everyone is very friendly, but it feels like a “live fire” exercise with all the commotion, punctuated with the huge “booms” of the teens explosives. Everyone flinches when one of the bangs/booms goes off. As Daniel points out, some of them actually hurt and leave a ringing in our ears.
Someone starts talking to some tourists (from Canada), who tell us this is the big “end of easter” celebration and it included the priest doing a blessing of the ships.
We are finally fairly secure, but I still don’t like our setting. There is a swell that moves the stern up and down and pushes us into the pier. We are only about 1 FT from the wall, and if the anchor drags, we could damage the boat.
A monohull of French people arrives, and they start to Med Moor and it’s soon obvious they are a little out of control. They drop the anchor and motor around in circles until they have caught and knocked our anchor loose. After they are moored, we need to set our anchor again. I still don’t really like our setting – it’s too dependent on the anchor.
Tom has great idea to find out if we can tie up alongside the ferry dock. He talks to the harbormaster who says its fine, but to wait until 5pm when a “small boat” drops people. The small boat ended up be a big ferry, with a good amount of wash, but when it was gone, we moved over and tied alongside.
An excellent spot and I’m glad Tom checked it out. We can now go to shore knowing that our boat will be okay.
The French boat doesn’t seem to be bothered by the precarious mooring. They have all gone to shore and left their boat alone, bumping up against the wall in the swell. It’s clearly a rental boat and I wonder if they would leave it like that if they owned the boat.
We start hiking up the road to the Chora/village.
It’s not far, about 3km, but uphill. Tom sticks out his thumb, and a nice older gentlemen in a Mercedes stops to pick us (Susan, Sheven, Tom, and me) up. We roar by the rest of our group who are hoofing it up the hill and honk and wave.
The Chora is beautiful, nice, just opening up after the siesta time. Mostly residents and Greek tourists. We stock up on groceries, produce and rum.
We find an excellent restaurant with a big table and dine on pasta, mixed Grill (goat, pork, rabbit), potatoes, Big Beans, fava beans, eggplant pate, Ouzo, Wine, bread. Awesome.
Our recon crew has determined there is a bus back to the harbor at 8:30pm and we jump the bus for a dark ride back to the boat.
At the dock, swarms of people are waiting for a ferry. A huge ferry arrives – big enough for tractor trailers.
It is a festive party atmosphere as people and vehicles pour off and onto the ferry. The ferry departs, and within minutes it is deserted and quiet again.
Cats start to appear. They are friendly and obviously looking for handouts. Some are very aggressive, and others seem sickly, weak and passive. We decide to try to feed the sickly looking ones first, which is challenging since the healthy ones are quite aggressive. It becomes a bit of a game as we distribute the remains of our mixed grill.
Fairly late in the evening another French monohull comes out of the dark. It spins around and does a very stylish med mooring. Maybe the best we’ve seen on the trip and far better than our performance. We grab their lines for them and make observations that might help us later to improve our “style”.
Wind picked up overnight from northeast. Lots of swell. Because we are tied up on the port side, the residents of our port hull (Locklairs and Constantines) report lots of jerking, squeaking and not a high level of sleep comfort. Starboard hull wasn’t so bad.
At some point in the middle of the night, I heard a huge, distant thundering/roaring. It went on for over a minute and I sat up to listen to it building, then it faded. I remember thing thinking: Crap! The volcano on Thira (Santorini) is erupting! I wake up Susan, who sleeps with ear plugs but she never heard anything. None of the rest of our crew heard it, so maybe I was dreaming.
In the morning, the weather looks great (as usual), although it’s a little cloudy/overcast.
We motor a short distance out of the harbor, hoist sails and start our excellent run to Santorini/Thira.
Greek islands have multiple names, given to them by the different people who conquered them. Usually there are at least Greek, Italian, Turkish, and English names. For some reason, the island of Thira (Greek name) is most often called Santorini (Italian name). It’s the same island, though, from what I can tell.
The island of Thira is a volcanic crater that was formed by a massive eruption around 1400 BC – one of the largest eruptions in recorded history. Some experts now think that Thira was the origin of the Legend of Atlantis.
As soon as we leave Ios, we can see Thira in the distance directly downwind.
Daniel is at the helm, and we go ‘wing on wing’, which is a beautiful point of sail with the main on one side and the jib sail on the other. It’s a tricky point of sail in that you need to watch the wind closely to keep from jibing or back-winding the jib. Daniel does an excellent job and we make very good progress.
When we get into the crater, the wind subsides a little, the sun comes out and it is incredible.
We sail through the crater looking up at the buildings perched high above. The crew sheds all their layers of foul weather gear and spreads out on the front deck in the sun. This is our first sunny basking & sailing day of the trip.
On the inside base of the crater, you can ascend to the top edge of the crater via either a)tramway, b)donkey, or c) walking. A shore detail forms which is interested in either method a or b.
We sail near the inside shore of the crater to deploy the shore party via dingy. The shore party consists of Daniel, June, Michelle and June, and Tom will be their dingy driver. We plan to drop them, then we will take the boat to seek space in the marina on the south side of the island. We all have radios in case of changes.
From reading, it’s difficult to find space in the marina (crowded) and the entrance silts in and we might not have enough water depth to gain entrance.
After trying to start the dingy outboard a few times, we realize the kill switch for the dingy outboard is missing. Current thinking is that it was stolen while we were tied up in Ios the night before. Tom finds some zip-ties and uses them to wedge into the kill switch space. He manages to start the motor, deliver the shore party and return to Sunday. Once aboard, he disappears for about 15 minutes and returns with a new kill switch, which he has whittled out of a wooden clothespin. This one is better than the original, too, because it would float if you dropped it into the water.
Since Day 1, we have noticed that Tom is perfect cross between a nautical Energizer Bunny and MacGyver. He’s constantly moving, cleaning, tweaking, organizing and he can fix anything.
We motor around to the south side of the island where the marina is located. The port engine high temperature alarm starts sounding. We check for saltwater cooling discharge and it is discharging as it should be. We stop the engine for now and continue on only the starboard engine.
Tom is at the helm. When we reach the marina entry, there is an erratic monohull near the entrance. As we start to enter, the monohull darts in front of us, then starts dropping their anchor. Tom smoothly navigates around the boat, then we see a guy standing on the concrete wall motioning us to stay to the right – he pantomimes that is too shallow on the left. He then guides us to an area in the marina and motions to pull alongside the dock in a specific space. Tom docks us, then I go talk to the harbormaster.
He says that the entrance is very shallow (1.8 meters) and it gets worse when the wind blows from the north. Our Cat only draws 1.3 meters so we are fine, but the monohull that anchored in the entry couldn’t get in and another one that was in the marina had been “stuck” there for 6 days without enough water to get out.
I start looking around the marina and there are 9 big Cats (including us) and only 1 or 2 big monohulls. Ha! A place that discriminates in favor of Cats!
We bask on the foredeck for a while and for the first time on the trip, we feel the new sensation of being hot.
The crew we dropped on the other side of the island appears via taxi. They report that they took the tram up the cliff and that the town is too swarming with tourists. Tom, Susan and I thumb a ride into town to re-provision the rum. We get into the main part of town and it is obviously swarming with tourists and t-shirt shops. The same thing happens with many pretty towns in Alaska and Hawaii – it’s not unique to Santorini. I’m quite hungry, so Susan and I go in search of food, while Tom continues the search for rum and returns to the boat.
Susan and I find an awesome little café, perched on the edge of the cliff dropping into the crater. Far below I can see the area where we had dropped the shore crew earlier in the day. We feast on seafood pasta and Greek Salad, with a killer view of the crater – It was a world-class magic Mediterranean moment.
Then we grab a taxi back to the boat/marina.
As we are winding down for the night, Susan says something about the toilets flushing strangely. I check it out and much to my surprise, I find that when we flush the toilet in a starboard head, a spray of sewage erupts from about 5 feet above our waterline and sprays about 6 feet horizontal. A couple of thoughts occur to me: 1) it shouldn’t be like this, and 2) we can use this ‘sewage cannon’ to our advantage during Med Mooring situations, for example, to clear people or boats away from our starboard hull.
Viewer discretion advised: Sewage Cannon
We also start to wonder how many of our mooring neighbors have experienced our sewage cannon without our knowledge.
While we’re at this marina, I also discover that Daniel knows quite a bit about diesel engines. He does a bunch of diagnostics on why the port engine might be overheating. He doesn’t find a culprit and suspects that the thermostat might be bad or too sensitive. As part of his troubleshooting, he does some snorkeling to be sure the salt water intake is not partially obstructed. He’s the first of our crew to actually get in the water, and it’s cold enough that he does not linger.
It is Easter Sunday, and (as usual) the weather looks a little better. We haul anchor early, shortly after sunrise, heading for the island of Ios. We have The Sheven at helm as we motor out of Parikia into big wind and waves. We decide to motor at least until we get clear of the shores and rocks. The wind hits 30+ and the waves seem dang big – in the 12 to 15 ft range, perhaps. I want to be cautious about not overstating the waves. When we sit at the helm on Sunday, our heads are at least 10 FT above the waterline. Sometimes we are looking up at the crests above our heads at about 5 FT. By my estimation, the waves were therefore at least 15 FT.
The Sheven hits the speed record of the trip – 15.4 knots surfing down a wave. I enter the Spincter Zone several times and try to slow things down. Here is Sheven shortly after the speed record.
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We also get hit by occasional surprise waves that spray us with water at the helm or in the cockpit. We affectionately call these Rogue Wavelets. After rounding Paros and the southwest corner of Andiparos, we turn toward Ios under sail (double reefed). The passing goes fairly quickly and we can see the highest point on Paros where we had visited via ATV and car a couple of days earlier. We head up into the harbor of Ios on the southwest side of the island. It is a very well protected marina. We drop sails when we get into the narrow harbor, I have the helm as we motor into the marina, do reconnaissance, then spin around and Med Moor.
One of the things we’ve learned is to head in and do some recon before mooring, maybe stopping well off the dock, to check things out and strategize before heading to moor.
It’s Easter Sunday and the town seems a bit like a ghost town, with all stores/shops closed. Easter is a very big holiday for Greeks. There are big celebrations over multiple days and we soon discovered that it also involves many teens with fireworks. To call them fireworks is a definite understatement, and I would probably call them ‘explosives.’ They are *very* loud and low frequency booms. I’ve done construction in Alaska were we were blasting rock for aggregate using professional explosives and (seriously) they were not as loud as the things the teens were setting off. Susan, Sheven and I looked up the hill to the Chora and counted at least 7 beautiful churches leading up to the highest church. We then depart on what we now call ‘The Walk of the Seven Churches’.
It is a gorgeous town with lots of tiny walkways/roads. Although we didn’t know where exactly we were going, we kept heading up thru the various steps, narrow streets, passageways and walkways. We pass celebrations, families out eating, churches.
When we finally got to the top it was breathtaking. We could see the harbor and our boat far below, the beautiful churches and houses, etc. There was also a musical celebration going on in the village below and we could hear it clearly.
I’ve always heard how picturesque Greece is, and it is seriously picturesque. I’m pretty sure you could give a blind person a camera and they could randomly point and shoot and take award-winning photos. At the very top church, Sheven asks “who wants a beer?” We all do, of course, but where can we get one? The Sheven has carried them all the way up here.
There is excellent music from a festival in the town below us – singing, violin and accordion. It’s a “magic Mediterranean moment”.
As we sip the beer, we hear little squeaks and meows from the rocks below our feet. A cute litter of very young kittens come out on wobbly feet to see us.
As we descend through the town, about half way down, we stumble upon an awesome spa/resort called Liostasi. We find the rest of our crew there on a patio with a bar and an infinity pool overlooking the harbor. Tom has come here on his unending quest to find Crown Royal in the Cyclades Islands (he never did find it).
We are hungry, and we stop to dine at the spa. We are the only diners and they have to go find the chef, but it is worth the wait. We follow our normal routine of engorging ourselves, strolling to the boat in darkness and passing out. Ios was a favorite spot for many of us. I was surprised to read later that many cruisers avoid it because it’s too touristy and the throbbing disco setting around the marina keeps you awake all night. I think because it’s before tourist season we had quite a different experience. Also we were giddy about finally being under way again, the sunshine, easter celebrations, and the beautiful Walk of the Seven Churches.
The weather in the morning seems better (as usual). We are pretty sure we will be leaving Paros.
I dingy a shore party of Daniel, June, Tom, Barb, and Michelle to the small boat harbor, where they take the rental car to a place they had seen the day before to the south of town. The plan is for them to have breakfast, head back and we’ll haul anchor.
In the meantime, Susan, Sheven and I head to shore a little later to use the (well used) shower in the little hotel room. We have some breakfast afterward and sit along the shore. It starts to get gusty.
We dingy back to the boat. Although it’s windy, this is some of the first sun we have seen, so we construct nests on the swim steps on the stern of our boat and bask in the sun. Finally, about noon, we start to get worried about the car crew, but soon the radio crackles and they’ve returned. They had driven to the top of the island, where we had taken the ATVs the day before, and they had driven to the harbor on the northwest. They said it was whitecaps and foam between Paros and Naxos and there was little enthusiasm by any of us to haul anchor.
We bask in the sun some more, considering the nasty weather we’ve encountered and our misfortunes with wind and sea.
I decided the only sensible thing to do was to go to shore and get a tattoo, hopefully to honor either Poseidon (god of the seas) or Aeolus (ruler of the wind). We had seen a tattoo place along the harbor, so Susan, Sheven and I dingy to shore to check it out.
The tattoo artist (only person in the shop) was a pretty cool guy who was also a master sword and karate fighter, as demonstrated by all the awards and photos on the wall. We explained that we were looking for something to honor the Greek Gods of wind or sea, thinking that he would have some ideas or a portfolio. He explains that he is Italian and not Greek, but “yes, yes”, and motions us over to his counter, where he proceeds to Google Poseidon and Aeolus, looking for images. Wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but what the heck. Soon, I take over his computer because while he might be a master at swords, karate, and (hopefully) tattoo, I have modestly better mousing skills.
I’d really like to do something to honor Aeolus – since we already have an alabaster bust to honor Poseidon on the boat. However all the images I can find are of him blowing gusts of wind. In my opinion, these illustrations look like someone throwing up. I can visualize people asking why I have a tattoo of someone throwing up on my leg.
Instead, we opt to focus on Poseidon’s trident, and come up with a nice trident design, which soon becomes part of my calf. Susan helps critique the design and location/size.
I am on the 2nd floor of the waterfront building getting the tattoo, I lie on the table and I can see out the window into the harbor of Parikia and our boat bobbing at anchor. It was magic, and surely Poseidon will be happy.
We have another awesome dinner on shore, basking in the sun, with a perfect view of our boat.
A couple of small sailboats – a Laser and perhaps a Flying Junior launch and sail around the harbor. I explain that this is a good sign since you usually can’t keep these small boats upright in higher winds. Shortly thereafter they are blown over by the wind, and we watch our nice French neighbors race via dingy to their rescue. They decline the rescue and make it to shore on their own.
Stuff I’m Glad I Brought: Our small Canon camera. It does nice still photos, but you can also do video. I brought our larger video camera, but it never came out of the bag because it’s too big (even though it’s small for a video camera) and I wouldn’t want to have it on deck in bad weather or lug it on shore excursions. Instead, with my small camera, I always have it in my coat pocket and depending on the situation, can do either video or still photos. I’ll bring bigger (or more) memory cards next time because it fills up pretty fast.
I’m also glad we have Tom on board. He can fix anything with whatever he can get his hands on. Here he is fixing the rail on the gangway.
Awoke to a beautiful day. The weather (as usual) looks better. Sunny, clear skies, 12 knots of wind from the north in the harbor. Barb, Tom and June did a quick trip to shore: weather forecast and baked goods. Barb is having departure anxiety related to leaving an excellent bakery she has found here.
Our nice anchorage in the north of the harbor has served us very well, but we are ready to leave.
Michelle is going to be at the helm today. She used to own a smaller sailboat, and she’s a 747 pilot, which counts for something. We haul the anchor and wave goodbye to our nice French neighbor boat (or are they waving to warn us not to leave?).
We motor out of the harbor (dodging big ferries), and start heading north, intending to curve around to the east and to the island of Naxos. The wind seems to have been building from the time we hauled anchor and shortly after we round the corner, I glance down at the instruments and the wind shows 32 knots and the waves get big. Dang! Abort Departure!
While I’m sure we could have pounded our way to Naxos, I don’t think it’s wise to leave with the wind blowing that hard unless there is some compelling reason. In Alaska, people do extreme skiing on ‘high consequence’ terrain. It’s called ‘high consequence’ because if you fall, you generally die. To me, leaving in a Gale is ‘high consequence’ sailing. Not really that dramatic because we probably wouldn’t die, but when the wind is going over 35 MPH and anything goes wrong (rigging fails, motor dies, we hit something, weather gets worse, someone goes overboard, etc.), it definitely has higher consequences.
So we go back to the same spot we had anchored, drop the hook and talk about options. Rather than waiting an hour or two and trying again, we decide to stick here and go do fun things on the ground.
Half of us (Michelle, Susan, Sheven and I) rent 4-wheel ATVs. The other 4 rent a little white car. We go explore the island. I’d never thought of doing this before, but it’s an excellent way to see an island. You can get places that cars can’t, it’s more fun, and it only cost around 12 Euros per ATV.
Our ATV group circles around the island clockwise. We go by Naousis harbor, which is another harbor we had considered on Paros on the northwest corner of the island. The wind was really ripping through the harbor and I was glad we had opted to not be on our way to Naxos. The harbor is mostly exposed to the north wind but over on the northwest corner, there seems to be some fairly protected areas. There is a jetty there and we can see some masts where boats are moored/anchored.
We drive further around the island, clockwise, and head up a road to Lefkes, which I hear is the oldest town on the island and used to be the capital during the middle ages. It’s about 1,000 FT above sea level. It gets steep and there are thousands of terraces built out of rocks. It’s amazing to think about all the effort that went into building these terraces, and we assume they were built to create flat areas for agriculture of some kind. We determine to find out what they grow and how old some of these terraces are – they look (and probably are) ancient.
We keep climbing up the hills. The ATV that Susan and I are on is the runt of the litter. I have the throttle wide open but The Sheven and Michelle whiz right by us.
We get up near the town of Lefkes and find a spectacular taverna with a terrace overlooking the valley. Susan asks the dude in charge and he says they are open. We sit on a sunny terrace, incredible view of the valley below us, and across the water over to the island of Naxos, our next intended destination.
After the mandatory 15 minute waiting period we have noticed in most Greek restaurants (even though we are the only customers), the dude approaches us and asks what we want. Beer and food, we answer in sign language and English. He says he has little of either, but to come into the kitchen to see what he has. Sheven and I go in. There is one large diameter pot there and he opens the lid. It’s dark inside, but we see what appear to be some kind of beans that don’t look very appealing at all.
We decide that maybe we only need some beer, so he shows us his refrigerator and we snag several beers. Back out on the sunny terrace, we take in the view and beer.
The dude then shows up with the aforementioned beans and bread – apparently we had not fully communicated our disinterest in the beans. Not wanting to offend, we consumed the beans. They were fantastic. Susan said they were Lima/Butter beans, Garbanzo beans, in a savory sauce of carrots, peppers, olive oil and spices. We devoured them, and then soaked the fresh bread in the sauce. Excellent.
We saddle up and ride further into the town of Lefkes. It’s got the tiny, narrow, steep streets you see in travel brochures. It’s hard to believe cars fit through the streets, since some are tight for our ATVs. It’s Good Friday, and a bunch of people seem to be dressed up and going to church. We hit some dead ends, then cut back and try other streets, going upward.
Finally we get above the town – incredible views, and continue winding up to what appears to be the top of the island. Multiple times, in the middle of what seems to be nowhere, there are beautiful little churches and shrines.
After going up and up, we finally reach the top. The wind is howling. Lots of communication towers, and (of course) a church. Incredible views all around – we can see the whole island, Andiparos to the west, Naxos to the east and Ios way out to the south.
We start descending on the other side of the island (west) and the road is rougher and rutted dirt. The runt is skidding most of the way down now. When we get down to the more lush vegetation and terraces we start seeing some more churches and shrines. Then a herd of goats comes across our road with a shepherd fellow. The goats are spooked by our ATVs, so we turn them off and the goats skitter by, urged by the shepherd guy who smiles and nods hello. It was a really special Greek-culture-tourism-Kodak moment for us.
We silently thank the goats for all the Feta cheese we have eaten on this trip, and we apologize for any of their relatives that we have recently eaten.
About an hour before sunset, we’ve made our way back to the harbor at Parikia.
There is a rumor of a Mexican restaurant someplace in Parikia, and we spend some time futilely seeking the place. It sounds strange, but several of us have been craving Mexican food. We finally give up.
We can see our boat happily bobbing at anchor, which is nice since I always worry a little leaving an anchored boat unattended. There is a taverna on the shore by the boat which is quite crowded. We take this to be a good sign, park our ATVs, and get a table in the sun overlooking the harbor and our boat.
Then we had another “special Mediterranean tourism moment” of basking in the sun, feasting on an incredible spread of pasta, seafood, wine, ouzo and watching the sun set behind our catamaran. Really amazing. Susan and I make the first of many marriage proposals to Sheven, but she politely changes the subject.
For the first time since we started our trip, there was virtually no wind.
We have been on water restriction because we haven’t topped our tanks for several days, so we got a room (30 Euros) at the hotel next to the restaurant so we could rotate through and take showers. Michelle stayed the night in the hotel room.
As predicted, the wind whipped up pretty well overnight and is quite fresh in the morning (gusting over 30 knots in the harbor). A very pleasant surprise, though: the clouds were all gone and we had glorious blue sky for the first time since we had started our voyage.
Because we are all Alaskans (and an Oregonian) who were seeking sun after a long winter, this has a huge psychological boost. All of a sudden, the beautiful town along the shore actually looks like the photos on the tourism sites: bright white buildings, blue waters of the Aegean, blue skies, etc.
Since we had planned to be weathered in here for the day, everyone arises at a leisurely pace. Soon some are ready for shore excursions and we do a couple of dingy loads to the small boat harbor. Our crew roams the town, eating, taking pictures, visiting the church (where there was some kind of mysterious ritual going on).
We take our laundry for the last week to a cute laundry place where they wash & dry our soaked and salty clothes and the nice lady double bags the clean/dry clothes for the wet ride back to the boat.
Susan and I hang out on the boat for a while, then we checked with the shore party via radio to make sure the forecast isn’t for worse weather before we head in. We realized that if the wind came up much more (became non-dingyable) and we were all on shore – nobody could get back to our boat if the anchor was dragging, etc. The forecast called for better weather and it was looking good, so we headed to shore too.
Parikia was pretty, and fairly touristy, but nice and we enjoyed it. There is a neat kind of labyrinth of narrow streets with townhouses and stores. It’s like a maze and we got a little lost occasionally. We joked about the Minotaur running through this labyrinth, looking for tourists to devour.
We find an awesome little cafe which seems to have moved its tables and chairs out into the middle of the street. We feast there on Greek Salads and Mediterranean seafood pasta.
It’s amazing how many big ferries come and go from this place. It doesn’t seem like there is a population here to support that much traffic, but there must be a lot more buildings/people on the island than we can see from our place in the harbor. Another cool thing is that even these big ferries do Med Moorings. They pull up to the ferry dock, spin around stern-to, drop their huge anchors and back into the dock. We joke that people also probably park their cars like that here too. The ferries are spectacular looking, especially the “fast” ferries. They look like streamlined space ships and they would certainly look like alien ships to the old Aegean Sea mariners of the past. You can imagine them on their old sailboats, looking up and squinting while this big orange bullet goes whizzing by at over 40 knots, kicking up a rooster tail of foam in its wake.
There is a nice couple from France who is moored on a 35 FT sloop near us with their dog. Some of our crew saw them in town and chatted. They’ve lived around here on their boat for the last 4 years and they said they’ve “never seen” continuously bad weather like this.
We extended the gangway out over the water and Susan did some yoga poses out over the water. Life is good.
We enjoyed our weather day in Parikia and the blue skies. That evening, we saw our first sunset with colors.