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Greece  4

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Frank van Mierlo, his wife Ruth and their two sons Martin and Vincent spent a marvellous 9 weeks in the Greek waters, below their sailing adventures.

Part 4  Santorini - Hydra

This is part four of the logbook that describes their yacht charter holiday. Please, click on the thumbnails to see a larger 800x600 photo in a new window.

Part one: Athens - Ithaca
Part two: Ithaca - Corinth
Part three: Corinth - Santorini
Part four: Santorini - Hydra
Part five: Hydra - Athens

Santorini to Amorgos (August 6)

We left fifteen minutes before dawn and saw the sun come up as we were under sail. Weather conditions were perfect and we went 7.8 knots on a beam reach with an 18 knot wind. We tied up at Katapola on Amorgos which was a larger town than I expected. There was internet and two grocery stores.

Amorgos is a lovely island and the ideal follow up on Santorini, The elegance chic and bustle of the former gets replaced by authenticity nature and one of the most spectacular monasteries I have ever seen, it is just one dwelling wide and hangs onto the side of a cliff suspended between the heavens and the sea below. And of course Greece did one again extract its ounce of sweat as we hiked up the granite path to visit the three monks that still live there.

With the local bus we traveled to the Chora and walked its winding streets. Life can hardly get any better.

Amorgos to Donoussa

What a difference twenty miles can make; In the morning the monks in Amorgos insisted that everyone was completely covered up. The sight of a knee was enough to deny entry into the monastery. This afternoon we are anchored of a beach where at least half of the people are nude and a few of them are even attractive.

The weather is calm; the bay we picked on Donoussa will protect us well from a Western and/or Northern wind. At the moment the wind is causing a swell from the South west which makes the ship rock somewhat.

The swells made us lift anchor to 6:00 pm and we motored around the island to to Rousso bay (NW Donoussa) where we had a calm night.

Donoussa to Rinia

We woke up to a nice breeze, most of the crew had slept on deck. After lifting the anchor we raised the sails and proceeded to sail closely hauled with a 12 knot wind. For four hours we had great wind and enjoyed a nice sail. In the afternoon the wind died and we finished the journey on the motor.

The navigation through the Delos channel was tricky and we posted a lookout on the bow. After clearing all the rocks and reefs we ended up in a beautiful deserted bay with some of the clearest water we have seen in Greece. The swimming was good and we saw lizards and some curiously fresh looking white flowers on the island.

Rinia to Syros

After eating our rice pudding we anchored at Delos which was just around the corner. At 8:15 am we were the first tourists to arrive on the island. Delos, island of the Gods, is the most important archaeological site in the Cyclades. The 3000 year old ruins were extensive. It did make think how fragile our civilization is and how easily we loose what was achieved.

After the inspiring visit to Delos we set sail for Syros, well actually, we motored on a flat calm sea as there was no wind.

Syros has a large attractive harbour at Ermoupolis. We moored our stern to the quay and hooked up water and electricity. As far as large cities go, Ermoupolis is the fairest we have seen in Greece. Its marble laced streets are a pleasure to walk. There are many beautiful churches and attractive buildings. Through savvy alliances the island escaped a lot of war and shows it in its well preserved heritage. We stayed until noon the next day and with ship stores filled to brim we set sail for Kythnos.

Syros to Kythnos

The wind picked up in the afternoon. For a moment the dark clouds on the horizon had us worried that we might be getting a squall but all passed. We took advantage of the fresh breeze to practice our man-overboard manoeuvres. Ruth, Vincent Ron and I all had a turn. “Jimmy” was recovered successfully several times and with quiet confidence we entered the bay of Loutra. The harbour was full and there was 20 knot winds from the south forecast so we tied off to the rocky shore with three shorelines and further secured the boat with the anchor and 50 meters of chain. Everything held well through the night, several other boats had to retie there moorings as the wind picked up just after sunset as predicted.

Kythnos to Aegina (August 11)

I woke up at six am and went to shore in the dinghy to untie two of the three shorelines. I love the early mornings when everything is quiet and the temperature a bit on the cold side. I slipped on the rocks and made a minor but impressive looking mark on my leg.

There was a fresh breeze blowing and we were close to the shore. To make sure we would leave without incident we woke up everyone. Vincent and Ron went ashore to untie the last shoreline and as usual Martin manned the anchor while Suzanne kicked down the chain, Ruth took the helm. We left in a well executed manoeuvre and at a quarter past seven we were steaming out of the bay at 8 knots. Eight hours later we entered the port in Aegina. It was like coming home, this was our first port of call where we made our first Mediterranean style mooring. This time we were much better. The mistake that most people make is two fold. First when reversing the boat just before dropping the anchor, they forget to take into account the prop walk. Secondly when approaching the quay they slow down to early, once the boat is at a standstill you loose all control, although it is important to slow down before one hits the quay, you must get close enough to get the two lines to shore as soon as possible. Once the lines are fastened to the quay you put the engine in forward and haul up enough anchor chain so that the bow is firmly fastened to the sea floor. The angle of the chain is an excellent indicator of the tension. At this point the manoeuvre is completed. There was a beautiful symmetry in all of this. Vincent who, thanks to Tom, knew how to tie a Turkshead, made bracelets for everyone on board starting with Celina.

Aegina was the last port for the Tyler family; they were going to see Athens and would soon return to their home in California. That evening Ron and I went out for a few drinks, friendships are special and we should spend more time cultivating them. Too often life's tasks get in the way of the stuff that is really important. The next day I took the fast, 32 knots, Hydrofoil ferry to the mainland where I was going to meet my sister and her family in Kalamaki. Together we sailed their Beneteau Cyclades 39 to Aegina where we were all reunited just before sunset.

Aegina to Angistri (August 13)

We left in the early afternoon and had a relaxed sail down to Angistri. We found a small bay on the SW side of the island and ran two very long lines ashore. That together with some fifty meters of anchor chain securely fixed the boat for the night. The Bax family came along side and the kids had a blast racing the two dinghies around the bay. Swimming in the crystal clear water was a joy. Close to the boat in 4.2 meters of water I noticed a CD on the seafloor. I wondered if I could still dive that deep. That turned out to be easier than I expected and soon “Cher” was playing in our on-board stereo system.

Angistri to Russian Bay

The pace is slowing a bit and I think we all like it. The gales in the Aegean had caused us to make a detour to the Ionian. This had added a lot of distance to the original schedule. Now that we have seen both the Ionian and the Aegean, there is little incentive to get up before dawn and sail for ten hours.

We left the bay at Angistri at 1:00 pm. There was a gentle breeze and we spent the afternoon tacking towards Poros. In the last stretch the wind picked up and both Martin and Vincent executed a successful man-over-board manoeuvre. I am proud of my two sons; they have really become quite competent.

There was 18 knots NW wind predicted so after dinner we separated the two boats and we each settle for the night behind our own anchor. The boys wanted to sleep on deck again. Ever since Andreas bay this has become the more popular location. The wind never came and we had a quiet and restful sleep.

Russian Bay to Hydra

The passage through the Poros channel was a lot of fun. It is important to sail close to the meandering shoreline as the more direct route has a number of reefs and mud banks in its path. Poros is build on a hill and looks like a beautiful town. With a bit of luck we can stop there on the way back.

After we had rounded cape Skillaion we anchored in a small bay and all went swimming. Ivo stepped on a sea urchin, luckily both my sister and her husband are full fledged doctors so he is in good hands.

We entered Hydra at one o'clock and it took a full hour before we were moored of at the quay. This is the busiest harbour we have been in, probably because it is both small and absolutely gorgeous. It is the first time we saw sailboats making a second row in front of the first line that was moored with their stern to the quay.

In the evening Ruth and I went out on a date while Peter and Mirjam took charge of the five boys. We had dinner at the “Veranda” half way up the mountain. Great company, excellent food served by a young waitress and the view over the city was not bad either.

Hydra has a typical Greek history; it once was important then expended all its resources on warfare and subsequently declined into insignificance. More recently it is being propped up by tourism. In a nutshell this is the story of all of Greece. It is impressive what was achieved in these parts two and even four thousand years ago. Blessed with an easy climate, plenty of food and few insects there was extra time to create cities, science, art and armies. Strive between the different cities, gave another impulse to progress. All that wealth was then squandered in endless warfare that drained society of its resources. The Peloponnesian Peninsula never recovered from the 400 year war between Sparta and Athens, Macedonia never recovered from the folly of Alexander the great and Hydra never recovered from the war with the Turks.

For me the real lesson of 10,000 years of history is to be strong. I know of no example in the last 10,000 year where it paid to be weak. The history of Greece shows it is equally important to be careful and stingy with the exercise of military power. Lets hope our masters in Washington have learned this lesson.

 Story and photos by Frank van Mierlo

Part one: Athens - Ithaca
Part two: Ithaca - Corinth
Part three: Corinth - Santorini
Part four: Santorini - Hydra
Part five: Hydra - Athens


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4 Jan 2009
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