Athens to Santorini, Greece with MarkJ
30 September 2011
20110919-0929 Athens to Santorini, Greece w MarkJ
You know you've found a true best friend when you enjoy each other's company, sailing days on end into heavy winds and huge waves. We found just that when MarkJ joined us for 10 days bouncing around the Cyclades Islands of Greece.
MarkJ is one of our closest friends, a good-natured, intelligent, humorous man we have known for almost 12 years now. After a day of down time catching up on each other's lives and sorting through purchased provisions he shipped with him, we toured Athens via a hop on hop off tour bus. We visited the major famed ruins of the Acropolis, the Parthenon, Ancient Agora, Temple of Zeus, the National Archeological Museum, Theatre of Dionysos, walked the Plakas, and googled at many Greek gods. Every evening we chilled and played music, card games or watched a movie, danced, and quite frankly were eager to be just silly together.
After several days of Athens overload, we were ready to set sail. We knew from the weather forecast the meltemi winds were to kick in and we would be in for some wild rides for the next week or so. These Northerly winds are characterized by their noticeably cigar shaped clouds that hover above the hills and mountains, and are a result of a gradient pressure from low and high pressure areas from the surrounding lands spilling into the Med. They begin their blows in June/July, reaching full strength by August and supposedly should lessen by end of September to October. However, for the next week plus they stuck around to greet us almost daily.
Our next anchorage was in a bay overlooking the Temple of Poseidon off the mainland after a healthy long day sail. Of course we hiked the temple, and then found a small family owned resto for a huge fresh grilled Dorado fish as the main course.
The next morning, we reefed aVida preparing for the forecasted 25 knot winds. The weather was somewhat cooler with some rain. We anchored off Kea and hiked up into the town which was a long walk upwards and perched upon the cliffs. Lunch at a Taberna and then an evening sail to Kithnos. We had some difficulty finding a suitable anchorage with very little light, as nightfall was approaching.... And as you can imagine none of us got very much sleep. It sure doesn't help having anchored with little moonlight, positioned in a narrow bay, and surrounded by a rocky shoreline by so many unknown feet away.
The next morning we set sail again, thankful we were not as close to the rocky shore as we thought. The winds increased to over thirty knots and the waves were probably 12 footers, very steep and close together. Mark made the call to turn back to our previous anchorage... there was no reason to suffer through this for the day. They say it's not so much the boat handling in heavy conditions you worry about - it's more the crew on board weathering it out.
So, anchored off Kithnos was a safe move, but the bay itself very barren. We walked the town and its mountains, which were both completely desolate, only with a spatter of empty vacation villas and not a Taberna in site. We chilled, tried our hand at fishing off the boat, swam, read, enjoyed a homemade meal, and watched a movie.
Next stop was Mikonos! And it was a long wavy and windy sail. We successfully docked off the quay and upon arrival finally took a shower, and then hit the town for an evening walk through its narrow alley-ways , white-walled building and stone surfaces webbed with white paint. They call the heart of the island "Little Venice" where swarms of hot spots and restos are engulfed along the shoreline. Drinks, dinner, music, and dancing in the evening (and for MarkJ the entire night!).
With aVida safely tied to a dock, we took a ferry to Delos the next day, a small island nearby known for having one of the most important archeological sites -the birthplace of the twins Apollo and Artemis from the 8th century B.C., with no population, and surrounded by the bustling other Cyclades Islands. A true soothing contrast to the relentless liveliness of Mikonos. Back on board after a meal at a beachside resto in Mikonos, cards and bed.
From Mikonos we sailed to Naxos, working our way SE. Anchored in the bay after several tries, we ventured into the town, found a quaint resto for dinner, with a hot dessert from a hot Greek donut man, then back on the boat. MarkJ was in heaven with his handmade donut treats made by this Greek god.
We rented a car to explore Mikonos, through cliffy winding roads, to see Mount Zeus. Lunch beachside, movie on board, and watching the weather as the winds increased.
Our sail the next day was kind to us. Despite the increased winds, they were behind us, allowing us good speed as well as smoother sailing. Our destination was Thira, aka the picturesque Santorini. We had trouble finding an anchorage close to the town because the depths were too vast due to the huge cliffy coastline. We settled on a very protected quaint anchorage in a town called Akrotiri situated on the SE side of the Fira touristy area town- only a 15 minute taxi ride away.
Santorini will take your breath away with its surreal landscape that was probably the biggest eruption in history. Rumor has it this was the lost city of Atlantis. Views from the edge of the caldera over the multicolored cliffs of its central town called Fira are breathtaking, and at night the edge is a frozen cascade of lights that eclipses the display of gold shops and restos in the streets behind.
Mark and MarkJ call me the cat woman. Just about everywhere we walked in Greece we were approached with many cats. I seemed to attract them. They were not just eager to eat my tidbits of leftover meals, they just wanted attention and affection... don't we all.
After dinner out, we spent our last night chillin again, with music, dancing, and just having fun among friends. Of course the next day was departure day for MarkJ and an emotional one for us all. We say we would like to keep MarkJ inside our pockets and let him out whenever we need a good laugh. He says we are one of his closest friends. We always will treasure our adventures we have had together and look forward to our next MarkJ "fix" in the future.