Chapter 35:   May, June, July, 2007

 

It has been a full summer!  We had guests on board for the first time since our Atlantic crossing with Bernard in 2004, and it has been terrific to share our adventure again.

 

Most of May was spent cruising northwards with our long-time friend, Jon Stoddard.  Jon joined us in Mykonos early in the month and we island-hopped to the north of Greece.  Tinos, Andros, Evia, Skyros, Skiathos, Skopelos.  The list of islands sounded vaguely familiar before, but now each has taken on a personality for us.  We had visited Tinos last fall, but this time we were able to tour the island’s famous school for sculptors.  Here students learn to carve marble in the tradition of the great Greek sculptors of ages past.  The work is not only interesting, but the skills of the students are impressive.

 

Andros was a pleasant surprise.  Important as a shipping center a century or so ago, the main town has now experienced a revival of sorts as well-heeled Athenians seek a place to escape for the weekend.  Many of the old homes in the town square are being beautifully restored.

 

We were rained out of our first tour of Skyros, but next day we rented a car for an inside tour.  The island is out of the way, and not many tourists visit here.  But it’s simple and sweet and we loved the winding alleyways and small villages overlooking the sea.

                                    

 

Skiathos was the first truly “tourist-destination island” we visited in this northern part of the Aegean.  It is filled with resorts, and the airport is a constant flow of charter jets from northern Europe filled with holiday-makers.  One of those holiday-makers concluded his week’s yacht charter by colliding with Seraphim as he was backing into a berth.  The captain, of course, departed the following morning and left us to negotiate with the charter company for the damages.  Little was happening (“Tomorrow, tomorrow, etc.”) until John visited the Captain of the Port seeking advice.  Fortunately, the Captain refused to allow the Athens-based charter company to rip off a tourist, and forced them to make a reasonable settlement.  Needless to say, we made our exit as soon as possible to avoid another run-in with these inexperienced sailors.

 

And a good thing we did, too.  After a night at anchor in a secluded cove on Skopelos, we arrived at Skopelos Town just in time to see the town turn out for a major holiday festival, complete with music, dancing and a bake-off!  A tasty treat for all the senses.

                                                            

Most of the cruise went off without a hitch (other than the mishap with the charter boat) until we made a rather “rookie mistake.”  The forecast was for light winds, so we decided to tow our dinghy to the next anchorage.  Only 25 miles.  No sweat.  Ha!  The winds built steadily to over 40 knots, and the dinghy flipped over on its painter. It felt as though we’d deployed a sea anchor, and the strain on the whole rig was intense.  John and Jon fought with the dinghy and managed, after some rather tense minutes, to right the dinghy and on we sailed.  But not for long.  Within a minute the whole scene repeated itself, but this time the dinghy was even more difficult to get under control, and we were within minutes of cutting the dinghy loose.  But eventually we did get it under control and righted.  We were concerned about doing damage to both the dinghy and Seraphim, so we ended up holding the dinghy up to the side of the hull to prevent its blowing away again. By this time the wind was a fierce 48 knots.  The harbor we labored into was just what the doctor ordered; perhaps the best “hurricane hole” we have ever seen.

 

Our Early Summer Cruise ended in Sani, a rather fancy resort and marina on the Kassandra Peninsula just south of Thessaloniki.  Costas and his family (who else?) have a weekend retreat here, and we so wanted to see them all again.  Jon flew on to Athens for a quick tour before returning to the States.  We were sorry to see him go, but excited all the same: our niece, Sarah O’Neill would be arriving within the week and our Mid-Summer Cruise 2007 was about to begin.  Our plan for Sarah was to explore the northern and eastern Greek islands of the Aegean, ending up in Turkey six weeks later.

 

Realize that Sarah, age 16, had never spent much time on any boat, much less a sailboat.  Would she manage the small space?  Would she be able to sleep on the hard settee?  (No problem there!) Would she be seasick?  Homesick?  Well, we had nothing to worry about; Sarah was a joy to be with from beginning to end. 

 

Our first “stop” was a cruise-by of Mount Athos, the “Holy Mountain” of Greek Orthodoxy.  A cruise-by was necessary because no women are allowed on Mount Athos, and boats are required to stay at least 1 kilometer from the coast.  We arrived on station just as the sun was rising over the mountain, and the view of the monasteries was spectacular.  Orthodox monks from all over the world have made Mount Athos home for over 1,000 years.  We especially liked this monastery perched over the sea:

                                                                                     

We were to stop on ten islands in all, but the highlights were expected to be Lesvos, Patmos and Kos.  They were all interesting, and we found some of the others enchanting, too. 

 

First “real” stop:  the harbor at Molivos, Lesvos.  The small harbor just had enough room for three or four yachts, and for the first day there we were alone.  Then a rather stylish 47-foot Dutch sloop came in and moored next to us.  Peer and Silvia became instant friends, and we had a great time cruising together for the next week.

 

Lesvos was a great way to get the cruise going.  The island is filled with surprises.  It is predominately mountainous and very fertile. It holds the prize for the best olive oil in Greece and award-winning goat cheese. A huge artist community, a reported 279 species of birds and Sappho, one of the greatest poets of ancient Greece, all call Lesvos “home”.

 

We visited the wonderful tiny museum just down the coast.  Here we feasted on hundreds of first-edition prints made by Picasso, Matisse, Chagall and others.  John was most excited by Matisse, Sarah by Chagall, and Sharon by everything.  Later on we visited the petrified forest at the western end of the island and received a good natural history lesson as Seraphim sat out a near-gale in the protected anchorage just below.

                                                                                    

By this time, Sarah was starting to get the hang of things on Seraphim and it was good to have an extra hand on board.

                                                                                                   

We were generally unimpressed with Khios.  The island itself held little interest for us outside of the two mountain villages we visited.  In one, the villagers had developed an unusual way of decorating their homes, covering the stucco first with a black layer of cement before the final white coating.  The white coating is then scraped away in lovely geometric patterns revealing the black underneath.  We also loved watching the village women sitting outside visiting as they did their needlework.

                                                                                              

Patmos is special.  Here St. John had his vision and wrote Revelations (or The Apocalypse, depending on which Bible you are reading).  Photos are not allowed in the cave where John did his work, but the monastery atop the hill offers a great view of the harbor.

                                                                       

The boat next to us in the harbor had a load of Italian charterers aboard.  They were lovely people, and we got to know them as together we waited out another near-gale.  One evening, as they were going out to dinner they invited Sarah to join them.  (We were the designated “boat watchers” for the evening.)  Sarah had a fine time with them, getting to know these middle-aged Italians and dining on goat for the first time.

 

John was insistent we stop on Samos, as it is the home of Pythagoras, the great mathematician of ancient Greece.  That stop became a highlight of our summer, but not because of Pythagoras.  The island itself is charming, especially the villages high in the hills overlooking the Aegean Sea.  The forecast was near-gale conditions lasting for several days.  We took the opportunity to take an unscheduled side-trip to Mykonos.  We all three jumped on the morning ferry and spent the next three days visiting friends we had made over the winter.  We stayed with friends on the beach at Agios Ioannis (the 1980’s film “Shirley Valentine” was filmed here), and showed Sarah the sights we had come to love so during our stay here.  Of course, we checked in at Costas’ house to report on the progress there.  (It looks great!)

                                                                                                             

The really hot weather returned as soon as the winds died, and did we suffer!  Temperatures inside the boat reached 102° F, and there was nowhere to hide from the scorching sun.  If we were in an anchorage, we could usually go for a swim to cool off a bit, but within minutes we were sweating again. 

 

A quick poke into the harbor at Kos convinced us we wanted/needed to be somewhere else.  The old harbor was filled to overflowing with day-tripper boats, and the nearby marina was booked solid.  We decided to cruise around to an anchorage on the southwest coast of the island, and found ourselves in the delightful little town of Kamari. Here we not only rented a small car to explore the rest of the island (very nice), but we also discovered a swimming pool!  A tiny little “resort” with about three rooms sat adjacent to the car rental office.  We saw they had a pool, and inquired about whether it was “available” to non-guests.  “Come ahead, anytime,” was the response, so next day we spent most of the day cooling off in the tiny pool next to the car rental.

 

From here it is just a few miles to Marmaris, Turkey, the terminus of our little cruise.  We needed to check out of Greece so our papers would be in order when we arrived in Turkey, and we selected the island of Simi as our final Greek island.  We should backtrack just a bit and tell you that our friends on Mykonos, Theo and Irene, have a distant relative on Simi, and we were sent off with the usual instructions:  “If you ever get to Simi, be sure to look up….”  You know how it goes.  But this time, we recalled that the relative was a jeweler, and we just happened to spot the shop upon our arrival.  Another new Greek friend!

                                 

So, after six glorious weeks with Sarah we arrived in Turkey without incident.  The most significant occurrence on this leg of our voyage was the deepening of our understanding of, and love for, Sarah O’Neill.  She was a dynamic crew member and we already miss having her on board. Her presence this summer enriched our experience greatly.

 

The temperatures have not let up in weeks, and we are looking forward to our trip home with Sarah and some cool New England evenings.

 

Stay tuned. Next Chapter, Turkey!