Rounding the peninsula of the Peloponnese, we had opted to head due East, rather than make the turn North heading to Athens. Our primary considerations for the next 6 weeks are the 7 guests arriving in 4 different increments. Since all our family and friends arriving should see, at a minimum, Athens- and most want to see Santorini. Our challenge is that we don’t wish to spend 6 of our precious 12 Greek weeks in these locales, so it has involved a bit of “visitor calculus” to make sure everyone is getting what they want after traveling 5,000 miles to be with us.
While we have only hosted 2 people thus far, we have high hopes for achieving these goals – though weather will certainly play a big role in this. The summer wind events in Greece known as the Meltemi have been causing a few disruptions to the schedule and we must plan to make sure we are where we can receive guests – i.e., near an airport or ferry. In fact, during the most intense Meltemi, even the ferries cancel service. That said, we have had 2 events so far and we arrived in Milos ahead of the first, and we tucked into Folegandros for the second. So far, so good. But back to Milos, where we entered the Cyclades….
Our first visitors arrived in Athens within a couple of days of our arrival in Milos. We planned this so that they could spend a couple of days acclimating to the time change in Athens and see the Acropolis and anything else they wanted to see, then take a ferry to us in Milos. This worked perfectly as we were then “stuck” in Milos for several days while the Meltemi blew. We had several days of 35 knot winds during which travel would have been in violation of rule number 1 on Gratitude – “Keep the pleasure in pleasure boating”. That said, by the time they arrived, we were rested, ready and had some family time “in the bank” so that our week together was enjoyable.
Milos is an amazing island and since I had never heard of it before this visit, I can only assume it is considerably underestimated. The southernmost island in the Cyclades Island group, located just north of Crete, it is known for its stunning beaches and is also famous for the location of the discovery of the Venus de Milo.
We originally planned to anchor in the south of the island due to the prevailing Meltemi from the North but opted instead to try out the harbor as the journey around the island to collect our niece from the ferry would have been a long one. Surprisingly, the harbor was very comfortable and reasonably protected with the 30 knots of wind we encountered on several of the days we were there. This can only be attributed to the excellent holding of the anchor and the ‘flopper stoppers” we deployed to counter the effects of the swell. I don’t think we would have been any more comfortable at the marina and, In fact, as it was much warmer at the dock, I can only imagine we would have been far less so.
The port town of Adamantas was busy but lovely and contained many shops, restaurants, and bakeries as well as a salon where Jack got his hair cut. He has been letting it grow long but found that it is interfering with the seal on his snorkel and mask, so he has decided to cut it. I love function over form, and I personally prefer his hair short, so this was a welcome change. We also toured the old caste near Trypiti, and after Ryan and Sarah arrived, we went to the fishing villages, Sarakiniko beach and the Catacombs. Discovered in 1844, The Catacombs of Milos are an ancient burial site for Christians as well as a place of worship during a time when it was dangerous for Christians to openly practice their religion.
Wishing to avoid further delay, we opted to head to Folegandros, to wait out another weather opportunity for our planned destination of Thira (also known as Santorini).
A smaller island than Milos in terms of occupancy and historical sites, it more than made up for any perceived deficiencies in terms of beauty and hikes. We found a perfect little anchorage, again in the South, and out the path of the Meltemi but the surge was remarkable and probably given other circumstances, we may have gone elsewhere. Still, the flopper stoppers performed admirably and, mindful of lockers closed and locked, we had a wonderful stop. We were here for US Father’s day which we were happy to celebrate with Sarah and Ryan. The Chora in Folegandros was adorable and we found one of the best meals we have eaten there. And this little shop housed handmade toys and crafts that reflected the sweet nature of the shop owner and craftsman who made them.
The final island on Sarah and Ryan’s itinerary and the place where we will continue to stay awaiting Kelly’s flight on Wednesday, we were fortunate to secure a mooring ball in Thirasia. Warned by multiple sources that the Infamous Thira – aka Santorini – would be difficult to manage in terms of anchorage or marina opportunities, Alec worked hard to find a suitable option for us. And here is why: Santorini is so incredibly well known that for us or our family to miss it -would be a shame. Added to that is the convenience of having an airport large enough to accommodate arrivals and departures from Athens. While we probably wouldn’t have planned a week here, this week is necessary between guests to clean the boat and hit the master reset on our family time. While we love having family and friends visit, having 2 back-to-back would fail to honor their visit with our best selves.
THIRA (SANTORINI) Anchoring… or not…
The island of Thira is a giant volcano which most recently erupted in a cataclysmic event in 1400 BC. For this reason, the mountains climb to 100 meters and descend to depths of 300 meters leaving little in the way of suitable anchorages. Not only are all the shallower depths littered with volcanic rock (not the best medium in which to anchor), the depth alone prohibits suitable anchoring. We typically use a scope of 5 to 1 meaning that in 300 meters of depth we would need more than 5000 feet of chain. So, you see the dilemma. There are also no marinas on either of the 2 islands. There ARE, however, mooring balls. Used primarily by the day tripper boats shuttling tourists from Thira to the smaller neighboring island across the caldera called Thirasia, the owner of the substantial mooring offered to rent it to us for several nights. Problem solved. We have the privilege of watching 5000 thousand daily tourists invade this tiny island of approximately 150 year-round inhabitants. Honestly, it’s not as bad as it sounds. They come to deliver people en masse to the handful of restaurants and have a little swim in the cool clear waters away from the main towns of Oia and Thira. I don’t blame them; the water is gorgeous and the respite from the busy streets a wonderful break. The cost of this service ranges from 1035.00 per person on the catamarans to 2200.00 for the faster speed boats. It includes lunch and drinks. I’m not sure what the charge is for the giant, filled to the rafters, tourist boats but for those lunch and drinks are not included.
But with Ryan and Sarah we only had 1 day to make the most of their visit here so with little time to spare, we enjoyed some traditional Greek music at a sweet small festival on Thirasia, and we went to Oia for the day.
Charming and quintessential, Oia is the lovely cliff top town on the North side of the island. The shops, though certainly catering to tourists, (and there are many that have the cookie cutter “evil eye “likely made in China), are many artist shops and special places that reflect the unique nature of Thira. The lovely and Jet set abound up and down the streets crammed with restaurants and those iconic white buildings with blue accented doors and domes. But it works. Arriving by dinghy at the port, we were all a bit daunted by the site of several hundred steps to the top but Laurie, Sarah and Ryan climbed up while Alec and Jack (worn out from our 2 very large and steep hikes in Folegandros) opted to take the donkey to the top.
There is a reason why Thira is the most famous and photographed island in Greece. There is simply no other place like it. End to end the island is only approximately 9 miles long but the interior Caldera is roughly 6 miles. Which is to say that much of the volume is water of depths exceeding 500-900 feet. Fascinating.
Following Ryan and Sarah’s departure, we spent a family day on the small boat, searching out snorkeling spots and in search of the famed “White” “Red” and Black” beaches. The “Red” Beach is probably the most famous and interesting with oxidized iron accounting for the red color of the cliffs.
Jack has spent some time building the huge project that Sarah delivered. Jack had ordered and paid for the immense Lego with birthday and job money months ago. And Alec and I have gotten caught up on some “life admin” tasks. Gratitude is all shiny and clean following an entire day spent cleaning her inside and out and we are ready for Kelly to arrive next week.
Next stop… Ios….