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Adventures and Misadventures

Cruising, Clubbing and historians in the making...

ITALY | Monday, 26 January 2009 | Views [1090]

Skiathos, we finally arrived at our required destination in Greece late in the afternoon on a calm Greek day.  We were ushered in by a noisy and bossy Greek port manager but even he was unable to ruin our excitement at finally being on a bustling Greek island. Our place in the port was in the centre of the village where white houses with red tiled roofs scattered busily up the hill facing the port.  Being mid-season the boat was in need of a spring clean so for the next week we worked really hard cleaning every surface we could find. I even spent a full day sitting aloft in the bosuns chair and being slowly lowered down in order to clean the mast.

We may have been working hard but it didn’t quench mine and Anita’s thirst for getting off the boat and exploring. Every night after work we wandered up and down the main shopping streets and around the lively port area whilst munching on all sorts of streetside delights from Crepes to fresh BBQed Corn to the ubiquitous Greek Kebab – known as the Gyros. The Gyros is a wrap like no other and perfect for a hangover. A flat freshly baked pita spread with lashings of tzatziki, tomato, onion and succulent juicy meat carved off a big rotating spit (gyros) and finished off with a big serve of FRENCH FRIES (I know – random!) before being wrapped up and handed to you – delicious and drippy. It’s like a bbq/salad sandwich/dip platter/chip butty... in one convenient package and pricced at only 2 Euros. All I can say is whoever invented it is clearly a genius and most probably a known descendant of Aristotle.

Skiathos is known as little Mykonos and a short 300m walk from the boat began the ‘Club Strip.’ Determined not to miss anything and make our own judgements on this extraordinary claim it wasn’t long before we headed out for a dance. We had observed that things started pretty late here but against the skippers advice we decided against having a nap first and headed out around 1am.  The Club Strip lived up to its name with 6 or 7 clubs all in a row distinguishable only by the name and decor. There were clubs in all white and all black, clubs playing house music and some playing trance – there was even a Shisha pipe club in oriental style! They all had a main dance floor and bar on one side of the road and on the other waterfront side a gorgeous outdoor seating area. We danced the night away, swore to return again (which we did a few nights later) and 2 very seedy girls arose for work the next morning!

Our other favourite discovery was an outdoor cinema on the main strip and all movies were thankfully shown in English. First we saw X-Files and then another night we saw Mamma Mia which was actually filmed in the Sporades Archipelago and partly on Skiathos! Saturday we finished work early so we headed out to explore the island. We found a beach a short walk away and enjoyed a relaxing hour in the shade. On the way back along the beach Anita spotted a water sports sign... ohoh... Soon after a session of pleading and begging along the lines of “Please Anna, Please, Please, Pretty Please come on the ski biscuit thing with me.’ Little Miss Puppy Eyes finally persuaded me and we jumped in the water and onto this inflatable thing... I don’t think I've ever had so much fun as we screamed and giggled our way up and down the beach – 10 minutes of pure indulgence that ended perfectly our week in Skiathos.

Within a few days the owner and a few guests arrived and we spent the next five days cruising the Sporades Archipelago visiting the islands of Skopelos, Alonnisos and Panagia before returning to Skiathos for their flight home.  The weather for our guests was calm and sunny and the islands beautiful. The Sporades archipelago belongs to a marine park and the water was crystal clear and a stunning blue. Unlike most dry Greek Islands the hills were covered in thick green pine forests and shrubs.  We spent a night in Skopelos port and went out for a yummy Greek seafood feast. The next morning I rose early in order to go for a walk before the guests awoke and explored the village around the port. In the bright early morning sun the whitewashed buildings sparkled and the bursts of flowery colour painted a magic picture against the cloudless blue sky. It was untouristy and encapsulated my image of Greece.

After they departed we were informed that we had a further 11 days without guests but we had to make our way across the archipelago to Samos near the Turkish coast.  We headed south as soon as possible and after 2 passage days we arrived in Syros the capital of the Cyclades where we had elected to make the boat ready for the next visit. We stayed for four nights and again settled into a pattern of working during the day and exploring the port and city by night.

The weather then improved and no wind was predicted so we decided to make a break for Samos. The first night we stopped at Mykonos and wthin half an hour some Americans on a charter boat in front of us had asked us over for a BBQ. BBQ?! We were there! After a few drinks and a bbq on their boat we decided to mission into town and explore the gay centre of Europe. A few drinks at little Venice and next thing we knew we were still dancing in a club at 06:30. All plans for sailing the next day were scrapped as the whole crew felt hungover so after a big sleep in Anita and I decided to make the most of our free day and headed into town. We wandered the alleys and indulged in a little shopping before stopping for lunch in Little Venice (looking completely different in the daylight.) We admired the picturesque windmills and then headed to a nearby beach to test out the togs!

It was time for us to point our bow in the direction of Samos only stopping for a night in the picturesque and unknown Fournoi for a night and a good swim. Anita and I have got into the habit of swimming to the shore to explore which provides us with good exercise – but not quite enough to stop all the beautiful full fat Greek food going straight to our hips! We had 3 nights in Samos before the owner and his English guest arrived for a 10 day stay. Both our guests were very interested in history so our itinerary was to be based around the sites of Ancient Greece and the birthplaces of famous Greek academics – it seemed fitting we started our journey in Pythagorio (the main town on Samos) which was the home of the mathematician Pythagorous! Our owner delighted in providing Anita and I with history lessons and I even began reading the ‘history of the Mediterranean’ which despite my misgivings proved to be fascinating.   

On our second day we headed for Turkey! Only 12 miles from Samos we docked in a Turkish holiday resort port which was the gateway to the ancient city of Ephesus. Kindly enough our owner invited the crew to join him on his private day tour so we all piled in the minibus picked up our guide and headed off. First stop was the Temple of Artemis – one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world. Originally a huge marble temple dedicated to the worship of Artemis (the pagan mother god.) All that remains after looting, bushfire and earthquakes is one 19m tall pillar topped by an eagles nest. In the background was the 6th century AD catholic church from the 4th city of Ephesus and further back one of the first mosques in Turkey built in the 15th century. So in one line of view was a spectacular mix of religions from Paganism to Catholicism to Islam.

We visited the 3rd city of Ephesus which Alexander the Great deigned to build and dedicated to Artemis. It is one of the best preserved ancient cities in the world and has some beautiful buildings including the 3rd largest library in ancient times with over 20,000 scrolls. It is also home to the 2nd largest amphitheatre in the world which means I have ticked off the 1st (Colosseum), 2nd and 3rd (Arena in Verona!) The ancient Romans had some interesting ideas including the belief that men were 4 times more intelligent whilst sitting on the toilet which explained the reason for a communal toilet where men sat together for their daily ablutions and discussed the most important political and theological issues of the era! I found it amazing as I walked out of Ephesus along the road which used to lead to the port and is now 7km from the sea shore that Cleopatra and Alexander the Great had held hands and walked along this very same road – perhaps placing their feet on exactly the same stone where I now stood.

It seemed summer disappeared overnight as the weather changed dramatically in the last week of September. It became cool and overcast as we island hopped south. One night after watching a  movie and retiring to bed we were hit with a sudden wind and rain squall. We donned full  wet weather gear in a scramble and hurried on deck to find Marietta on a slight angle. The anchor had dragged and with lines ashore and wind from the side we had skewed sideways onto a shallow kelp bed. A quick change of lines and using engine and winch power we pulled her around but had to retrieve the lines from shore before we could reanchor.  So Anita and I were over the side and at 2am in howling wind and driving rain with torch in hand we putted around the bay in the tender searching for the 2 floating lines.  After twenty minutes we had just pulled the last of the lines into the dinghy and set off back to the boat but it appeared the dinghy wasn’t going anywhere. Ooops in all the haste and confusion we had accidently drifted right up onto a rock. Anita jumped in ankle deep water and pushed from the back as I jumped around in the bow of the dinghy in an attempt to bounce her off. Finally it worked and we came free, I was ecstatic until I heard a plaintative cry from behind “Annnaaaaaaa.....” Anita had stepped forward when the dinghy came off the rock and found no bottom beneath her feet! I reached back and hauled her in by her braces bottom first! As she fell in the bottom of the dinghy despite the cold and the storm we were in hysterics.

The weather cleared for our arrival into Patmos island which was where St John the Evangelist wrote the Books of Revelations. We were able to visit the cave where he wrote his book and the UNESCO world heritage listed village of Chora which was the site of a large Orthodox monastery dedicated to St John.  For the next week we cruised westwards back towards the Cyclades stopping in spectacular fjord like anchorages and exploring some fabulous Greek villages on the islands of Amorgos, Naxos and Paros. We dropped off our English guest on Syros and continued on to Cape Sounion with just the owner. Our final anchorage here was incredible as the Cape is the site of a wonderfully preserved Athenian built temple of the sea god Poseidon and of a night the temple was lit up and clearly visible from the boat.  Our owner left us at a small fishing port near Athens towards the end of September and we continued on towards Western Greece and the Ionian islands edging closer and closer to Italy and the end of the season.

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