23 October 2016 | Santorini Greece
Having set off early we had a reasonable run onwards Santorini, part sail part motor. As we reached the shores of the caldera we were able to sail on the jib right into the caldera itself. A visit to Santorini on land about 14 years ago had sparked a dream for Pete to someday sail the waters and see the sights from the sea. So dream come true. However we found the wind flukey and wanted to concentrate on taking photos so furled the sail and gently motored around the foot of the cliffs. These alone are something to behold, made from volcanic ash and rock they are a deep brown black in colour, striations of red run through them and there is clear evidence of the major volcanic eruption in 1646 BC when the whole of the islands habitations, plants and wildlife were wiped out. There is a huge striation about the height of a 3 story house. The most recent eruption was in 2012 although little damage was reported.
We did the tourist bit by skirting the major towns of Oia and Fira and snapping away on our cameras. There were some areas of the caldera where you could tie up to huge mooring bouys but these looked rather dilapidated and the risk of catching others lines a very big possibility, that and the vast amount of trip boats zooming around we decided to carry on to Vilychadas marina at the South eastern side of the island.
A very slow motor into the harbour was needed, there are rocks and shallow water and the approach is on a very specific course. The guide book says to keep to the port wall on entering as there are shallows to the starboard side. I inched in with a day hire catamaran on my stern, he was shouting something at me and I was a little flustered. In the mean time the harbour master shouted to Pete telling us to moor alongside the wall, I steered over all the time looking at the depth sounder reading only 1 metre under the keel. It was a textbook mooring, shame no one was there to see it. We quickly tied our lines and hooked up to electricity, after all a cold drink with ice was called for and so the ice asker was put to work where it worked hard for the 3 days we were there.
As we sat taking in the sun and cold drinks we received an email stating the car I had booked was no longer available!! Typical. So we wandered ashore, found a sign by a taverna and got them to call the rental company where we booked a car but for only a day rather than the two we originally booked. 2 reasons for this, firstly as usual cost and secondly there would be a weather window to go to Crete Sunday but then strong winds for several days. The choice was stay in Santorini marina, probably costly or take the risk and move, we decided we would check again but 'do the sights' in one day. Our first evening on Santorini we sat by the beach looking out over the twinkling water. Charter yachts all motored or sailed around waiting for the sun to set, another great photo opportunity. As the sun set so we saw our first ever 'green flash', very feint, very quick but still we saw it.
The following morning we collected the car at 9am and I drove with Pete navigating using his phone maps. Firstly we drove to Oia. This is well known for its tiny cobbled streets and amazing caldera views of the sunset. We wandered the streets and took many pictures, some traditional and some even a little arty. The weather is still hot in the sun and by lunchtime we were already tired and thirsty so stopped at a small bakery on the outskirts of the main town. We shared a large baguette sandwich and each had a bottle of drink for the cost of €4.90 . In the main town an expresso was €3.50 so we were glad to have waited.
From here we went into the mountains, the road was fairly good but in a little Nissan Micra the hills were challenging. I was often in first gear afraid that I would need to stop and then not get going again. One road wound up and up and up. When we reached the top the views were stunning. It was very windy and Pete got out to take pictures only to find a sign saying no photos as it was a military base. He did sneak a couple of shots away from the base but it was a little frustrating.
On out way to Oia we had noticed a Lidil. To those on boats you will appreciate the excitement of this, to those at home believe me it is a highlight when you find one as basic foodstuffs are both cheaper and things like baked beans are often available. So we made our way back and stocked up, then returned to Argonauta to store our goodies both refrigerated and tinned.
After a quick drink we again left and headed towards Fira, the capital. We were able to find a free parking space and I put a pin in the electronic map in my phone to make sure we could find it again.
We walked up the steep hill to the main square and then on through the tiny cobbled streets, filled with shops aimed at the cruise liner clientele, way out of my price. The views in Fira are stunning. Whitewashed housed, deep blue domed churches and hotels where every balcony had either a small pool or a jacuzzi looking out onto the magnificent caldera.
We looked down on the harbour a long way below, this is accessed by a cable car,
587 steps or donkey/mule. We decided we did not need to go to the port as having seen it from the sea the day before we knew that it was an access point from the water only.
Whilst climbing some of the remaining 587 steps to the very tip of Fira we were overtaken by the donkey/mule train, with the drover calling us to move to the side. We were squashed against the wall whilst they passed, hooves very close to our feet and definitely affected by the mule smell.
We reached the summit about an hour before sunset, a handy concrete seat opposite to the cliff wall meant we could sit and enjoy the view whilst waiting. We shared a drink and some nibbles purchased from the supermarket and got talking to an English couple on holiday.
As the sun dropped so the clouds came and by sunset there was no sign of the sun at all. I did however get some amazing pictures of the sun as it glowed towards the horison.
As it grew dark we wandered the streets again and back into the main square where we went to a small family run taverna and shared a 'plate' that had chicken, pork and chips.
We returned to Argonauta tired but happy that we had packed into our day so much.
Sunday saw the wind calmer, we rechecked the forecast and agreed we would do the run to Crete. We decided it was a better option leaving about 5 pm and sailing through the night as if we were there too early we could reduce sail and slow down, if we aimed for a day crossing and got there too late it would be more of a problem.
Pete went to settle our marina fee. We were told when we arrived it was €28, this we assumed was per night. However there is a flat fee of €20 and then €3 a night so our total bill was €26!!!! If we had known we may have stayed longer but the decision was made so we set off out of the channel about 1630 and then once past all obstructions set course for Crete.
There was actually very little wind, again all or nothing. We sailed until 0100 then had to motor sail until sunrise when the wind again returned. When I came up for my watch at 0300 I could just make out lights of land. By 0900 we had reached the turn point for Spinalonga and by 10am we had dropped the anchor in a secluded bay to the east side.