Archive for the ‘Greece’ Category

My body still rocks and sways from all the days and nights on the sailboat—and the flights home.  Flying home (Singapore home) was intense, with an eight-hour layover in Istanbul in the middle of it.  And then, of course, the endless flights it takes to cross the globe.

Two years ago our family planned a bareboat sailing trip in the Greek isles, long before Singapore became a possibility for us.  Now seven of us would furl sails on a 50.5-foot monohull, headed for the great unknown, high-seas fun and adventure, with brother Scott (All hands on deck!) as captain.

One minor disaster was over early—Mike and I missed our tight Istanbul connection on the way out and got stuck in Athens overnight.  We needed to get to Kos, island birthplace of Hippocrates . . . but more importantly .  .  .  our launch spot!    You’ve missed the boat took on frightening new meaning.  Fortunately, someone had seen our urgent email that we were still coming, so the rest of the crew unpacked onboard and provisioned and waited in the Kos marina for our late arrival.  Unfortunately, our luggage did not make it; we had essentially the clothes on our back.  (A week of carefully packing two large, matching duffels with onboard essentials mocked how much we really needed—a lesson in here somewhere.) Stores close on Sunday, but one marina shop netted us a few toiletries, a pair of sox, underwear, and sweater each—and we were off!

Mediterranean waters look so different from tropical waters we’d sailed before—deep, deep, almost navy blue—sometimes gentle glassy swells, sometimes choppy surf, sometimes brilliant whitecaps.  These latter are the best because they mean we’ve got wind or “puff on!” as first mate Lauren frequently alerted whomever was helmsman of the moment.

Greek islands rise rocky and mountainous out of the deep blue—quaint Greek villages, medieval fortresses from times of the crusades, ancient ruins from the Golden Age and Hellenistic times, and seafood!  We ate squid, octopus, sardines, mussels, and whole fish of all sizes–all freshly caught.  We sailed the Dodecanese (twelve islands) closest to Turkey in the Aegean Sea—the very waters Odysseus wandered, lost for ten years—and now I know why!  The morning air was always heavy with dew and mist, small islands and Turkey’s jagged coast just barely hints on the horizon.  Without GPS and our modern sailing charts, we’d still be wandering the Aegean too!

On Nisyros we rented a car, drove up to the still-bubbling volcano caldera, and hiked, some all the way to the bottom, but Mike and I enjoyed the sulfur aromas from only partway down. We strolled through tiny, old-world villages with residents scrubbing and painting for the tourist season—but we, the only tourists this early . . . friendly Greeks happy to see us, and we delighted to see islanders in their homeland.

We sailed through the narrow channel where the legs of the Colossus of Rhodes (one of Seven Wonders of the Ancient World) would have spanned over us in 300 BC.  With Rhodes a larger, more populated island, we stayed two overnights onboard there.  We explored the extensive, walled medieval Old City and took a side-trip (via two taxis) down to another coastal town and climbed its high acropolis, 400 years older than the Parthenon.

Several days held glorious sailing—the winds, sun, and temps were just right.  Only one day we had to motor the whole way between islands—but the weather sparkled, despite the lack of winds.

Another day was WILD at sea—big waves, loads of wind (20 knots), and several of us suffering degrees of sea sickness—me worst of all, my motion sickness wrist bands safely tucked in lost luggage. We all learned do not go below when the waves are like that.  We heard glasses/dishes crashing each time we’d tack—and we were heeling over so far we had to fight your way to the other side of the boat each time we shifted directions.  When we finally did go below after mooring, things were tossed all over, but nothing broken.  I was really glad I experienced this kind of sailing—sickness and all—because now I can much better imagine a storm or high seas in all these books I read.

Since docking sailboats is the norm on Greek islands (different from Tahiti), we shared several exciting experiences learning to back in, set anchor, and tie up in a tight spot between other boats (translation – lots of shouting, panic, and redos).  Only once were we able to anchor out in the water, at one remote harbor on Symi–much easier.  That night we slept to gentle lapping against the boat and distant bleating of goats from surrounding hillsides.

We agreed that if we do this again in another few months–instead of two years between trips–we might remember some of the sailing tricks we learned.  But this trip stands–an experience of a lifetime.

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