Part one: Athens - Milos
Part two: Milos - Paros
Part three: Paros - Athens
A group of 4 people from Hamburg is sailing another of the charter company's boats (an older 44’ Bavaria sloop named Hydra) for the same 2 weeks we booked. They’ve sailed in Greece for a couple of weeks annually during the past 10 years and this year they’re going south to the Cyclades Islands. At the owner's request they agree that we can tag along - with them acting more or less as our guide somewhat like the original flotilla leader would have done. If we accept their offer, we would essentially be doing a bare boat charter, a very different approach compared to what we originally bargained for. We would have much greater responsibility for the boat, our safety and for navigating among islands in an area of the Aegean we know nothing about. Also, the Cyclades Islands are less protected from wind and weather than the Saronic / Argolic islands where we would have gone. Overall, a significant challenge for us!
Athens - Alimos Kalamaki marina offers 90% of the charter yachts in Greece.
Joerg Hille comes over to our boat from Hydra and he and I have a brief discussion. He confirms their willingness to sail with us and agrees that we should all have a general discussion about how things would go under this arrangement. Over dinner at Vassilis Taverna, a short walk from the marina, we meet Joerg & Tina Hille and Gunther & Ushi Heyna. After dinner we all return to Hydra for a roundtable discussion over post-dinner ouzo. This goes well. We decide to do it … in for a penny, in for a pound (maybe more)!
The official owner of “Admiral III”, a retired Rear Admiral in the Greek navy and the agent from the charter company give us a thorough check-out on the boat and all its systems. “A - III” was built in early 2008 and is well equipped as described below. It has some features and controls I’ve never used or even seen on any of the boats I’ve sailed. Jim says the same thing.
Bavaria, Beneteau and Jeanneau and Hanse are ideal yachts for sailing Greece.
“Admiral III” … a 40’ Bavaria sloop with only about 475 hours of prior use and very well equipped as follows:
To bed on the boat at 11:00. Little sleep for me. I mentally review all the boat’s systems and feel some anxiety about the responsibility of being skipper given what we’ve decided to undertake. However in the end I’m confident that Jim and I have enough sailing experience to do the trip safely while learning necessary new skills as we go.
We motor along in calm sea and little wind for about 1.5 hours. Then the wind begins to increase and becomes moderate. We turn upwind, set full sail and get the boat trimmed on a close reach. We soon get a feel for how our boat handles under sail and autopilot. We’re pleased with it. The wind continues to increase and the waves get bigger. We’ll eventually need to shorten sail and should do so before it becomes necessary. The jib furls easily and we leave about 50% of it out. However we encounter difficulty reefing the main. It requires simultaneous management of 3 lines – 2 for the roller furling mechanism plus the outhaul. Jim and Norah handle the lines while I try to keep the boat head-to-wind to ease side pressure on the sail. The skipper (that would be me) allows the boat to do 2 unintended “donuts” during this process, but we finally get the mainsail about 30% reefed and everything back under control. There was no risk since we decided to shorten sail early, but this was a good lesson in dealing with new systems while underway … different from doing it during check-out at the dock with no wind.
Everyone is reacting to the rolling motion of the boat and we’re all feeling a bit “green”. Best to stay topside and keep the horizon in sight. To go below now would quickly induce nausea. How to prevent seasickness.
We arrive at Kithnos harbour after 8-9 hours underway and drop anchor in about 15 feet - 4.5 metres of water. We decide on a light meal on board after rehydrating with liberal doses of Mythos beer. It’s been a pretty good start to our trip and we’re all pleased. We pack it in about 10.
After a brief discussion with Joerg and Gunther to coordinate our sailing plans, we hoist our anchor and get underway on a close reach at about 11:00. The wind is now lighter than forecast so we decide to motor-sail along the west coast of Kithnos making only 5 knots. Guess we’ll be about 4-5 hours getting to Serifos today.
We arrive at Serifos about 16:00 and anchor in a fine protected harbour. Beer and nibblies in the cockpit, then we take our “rubber ducky” dinghy to town to replenish grocery and liquid inventories. After another drink and nibblies in the cockpit of Admiral III with our friends, we jump into the dinghy again and head to town for a late dinner at a nearby taverna. Back to the boat for a sip of ouzo and a bite of baklava. Sailing in Greece is turning into a nice experience.
The sea is calm, deep blue and very clear. I’m not sure how far down we can see, maybe 50 feet - 15 metres. About half way to Milos, 10 or 12 dolphins discover us and decide to play in our bow wake for a while. Norah and I rush up to take pix. Suddenly they tire of us and streak away to play the same game with Hydra now running parallel to us about 300 meters off our port side.
Wildlife, ancient culture and good food.
Mid morning and we’re still motoring in calm wind and a flat sea. Our wind meter registers a negative value equal to our speed through the water, pushed as we are by the “iron breeze”.
At about 12:30 we enter the long bay that leads about 4 nm further to Milos harbour and the town of Adhamas. An hour later we tie up to the pier and have a beer. It’s a very warm and sunny afternoon. After an hour or so resting and reading on the boat we all go ashore for a walk. Up many steps toward the highest point in town, along narrow streets past whitewashed homes and ultimately to the town’s church. This is a typical Greek poster scene – a pure white structure with a blue dome and a separate bell/clock tower.
Southern Cyclades provide the best sailing holidays in Greece: Santorini, Amorgos, Milos and Astypalea.
Back down to sea level, we walk about a km along the waterfront west of town. Lots of restaurants. Friendly people. One fellow is pounding a small octopus against a rock at the shore, presumably to tenderise its rubbery flesh.
We return to the boat for a shower and then buy 24 hours of access to fresh water and shore power from a dock attendant. This lets us use the microwave oven and other electrical appliances without draining our batteries. We meet our friends, flip a coin to select a restaurant and settle in for a nice meal near the harbour. We agree to cast off at 08:00 tomorrow and go to Ios, some 50 nm away. To bed about 10:00, stuffed and happy.
Story and photos by Bill Hone from Canada