If we were lucky to have an ole’ salt in Kelly aboard for the passage from Schioussa to Paros, we paid our dues with Jennifer and Tracy going to Poros. A 12-hour passage and forecast to be off and on high winds and bigger seas than we like to see with guests aboard, we received their blessing when we asked if they wanted to give it a try.
We knew (and assured Jennifer and Tracy) that there was no safety factor in jeopardy or, of course, we wouldn’t have left. But the seas were forecast to be 3 feet at 3 seconds. The 1-meter seas were not the issue – but rather the time interval between the waves. A 3-meter sea isn’t so bad if it is a long swell with 15 seconds in between, but when the period is the same as the wave height, it indicates short steep chop which is very uncomfortable. Gratitude is a full ocean crossing sea boat though, and while we don’t love the uncomfortable ride of short steep chop, Gratitude couldn’t care less. She is in her element in big seas.
Another factor is from which direction the waves and wind will present, and for us, it was going to be forward of the beam. If the waves are not on the nose, we have found that the stabilizers do a brilliant job of coping, but any component forward of the beam increases the discomfort. So, the forecast of 3 feet (1 Meter) and 3 seconds 10 degrees off the nose did portend a lousy ride. To be honest, we would have taken a pass if it was just us, but anxious to get our guests to another island and one closer to Athens for their final few days with us, we rolled the dice.
I don’t like suggesting that gambling is something we do regularly on Gratitude – but what we got was in some places quite smooth, yet in others, 4-6 feet with 3 seconds. Really uncomfortable.
Jack and I usually take a ½ a seasick pill when we know the conditions are forecast to be lousy and Jenn took one herself. Luckily, Jack and I did fine – unfortunately Jenn did not. Alec, Tracy, and Pratt all handled the sea like pros. So, several hours into our 12-hour passage I asked Jennifer if she wanted to duck into another island. Trooper that she was, she said “Nope, press on”. To be fair, we had moments of nice weather, but it was, unfortunately punctuated with steep pitching for most of the passage.
But we made it to Poros, and we really enjoyed our time there.
Enroute, and when it appeared certain we would be going the distance, Alec and I began doing research on the 3 islands which make up the Saronic archipelago. Wanting to go to Hydra, we soon discovered that there is no transportation from one end of the island to the main town given that no cars are allowed. But by going to Poros, we were able to enjoy the lovely anchorage off one of the prettiest beaches we have seen, while being able to enjoy the main town of Poros. Additionally, there is ferry service to Hydra, so we managed to get another island visit in.
As I have previously written, each of these islands are completely different from each other and in the case of Poros and Paros, two islands couldn’t be more different. For one thing, the Cyclades Islands, of which Paros is a member, is more arid, drier, and breezier with cool winds nearly constantly pelting the island. There is little green, and olive trees dot the Cyclades only sporadically. It is lovely in its own right – don’t get me wrong – but it is totally different than the Ionian side of Greece or the islands closest to the mainland in the Aegean.
More closely resembling Italy, Poros had mountains covered in Cypress trees and olive groves by the dozen. Even the houses and hotels followed their own color scheme of terra cotta roofs with natural hued facades contrasting with the Cyclades stark white buildings with blue domes and trim. The water was equally cool, but the air was much warmer as we were now out of the heart of the cool Northern Meltemi winds.
Away from the touristy mecca of the Cyclades, we found the shop owners and restauranters’ slightly more hospitable. Arriving in the Sporades meant a return to the hospitality tradition of thanking guests with a small gesture after dinner of a sweet treat or sometimes a drink of ouzo or lemoncello. There seemed to me a higher ratio of locals/guests even though Poros was clearly a charter fleet start/finish.
We enjoyed meals ashore; sauntering around town and in and out of shops and we even hopped aboard a free bus to have a quick look around.
We spent a day swimming, snorkeling, and laying on the beach changing our view for a day.
And we took a ferry to Hydra.
Known for its beautiful if pebbly beaches, and stunning Byzantine architecture, Hydra (pronounced IIdra,) even has their own flag. Alec and I could have whiled away the entire afternoon watching the sport of boats attempting to arrive and depart in the incredible wind and waves which pounded the port. We enjoyed meandering through the cobbled stoned streets and wandering in and out of shops. Jack and Tracy took a short trip around town on a donkey.
We loved an old monastery – Panagia Phaneromeni (The most Holy Virgin Mary Revealed of Hydra). According to the information on the building, in 1656, Barbary pirates raided the island and the Monastery. They stole the Sacred Icon of Mary as well as 3 notable Hydrean citizens. While heading toward Crete, their ship encountered a storm and fearing that they would sink, pirates begged the pious Hydreans to pray. One of the pirates desecrated the icon by chopping tobacco on it, and then broke it in 2 and threw it into the sea when his comrades asked for prayers.
A short time later, both pieces of the icon were found joined together on the shore of Hydra nearby the Monastery. The clergy, with incense and candles, reinstated the icon to the place in the Monastery. Simultaneously, in Africa across from Crete, the Most Holy Virgin Mary appeared to the pirates and ordered them to liberate the 3 captives. The men were returned unharmed to Hydra. A book, published by the Sacred Cathedral in 2014 recounts this and other miracles.
Riding back on the ferry we encountered the same high seas and wind we observed in the boats coming and going. The ferry departed 40 minutes late due to the slower speeds they needed to travel and 20% of the passengers were ill on the trip. All of us were fine – but we felt bad for the steward who was busy delivering sick sacks and caring for the ill passengers.
The rough weather, due to persist over the next several days caused us to change plans – again. Jennifer and Tracy decided to take the ferry back to Athens and we would take Gratitude, thus giving them a few more hours in Athens and a smoother ride. We all met later in Athens aboard Gratitude.
The next post will consolidate my 2 trips to Athens. The first with Kelly, then Jennifer and Tracy and finally with Michael and Marianne who arrived from a cruise ship on our final 24 hours in Athens.
Until next week…
PS As I write this, we are at anchor in Turkey. We are nearing our 3rd week in this amazing country, and I have already begun writing some of our experiences – I can hardly wait to share!