A girl and six guys head for Mykonos.

The story of their sailing holiday.


The crew: 1 skipper and six pals.
Type of cruise: private yacht charter
Yacht: Beneteau 50 sailboat
Departed: Paros, August 23, 2014
Returned: Paros, August 29, 2014
Weather: 28 degrees, fair, northerly wind 10-15 knots.

Like every year, our group of friends makes a trip together. This summer, we are sailing the Greek Cyclades islands. None of us has any sailing experience this is why we chose a skippered boat from a reputable charter company. Here is the story of our adventure, please read on!


croisiere Archipel grece
   Our boat: a Beneteau 50 named Archipel. Departure is imminent.
 
croisiere Archipel grece
   Alex enthusiastically follows the skipper’s instructions. Here at the winch.
 
croisiere Archipel grece
   Stopover in Mykonos
  

DAY 1: Paros - Mykonos - Rhinia

We reach Paros from Mykonos by ferry in a little over an hour. At 12:30, we land at the port of Parikia and less than five minutes walk later we are the sailboat harbor where Vanessa Gritsis welcomes us, with whom we had booked our cruise. We deposit our luggage on the boat, a Beneteau 50 carrying the simple and evocative name of Archipel. Nice surprise upon boarding, we are greeted by our skipper Eva, a lovely 30 years old and fluently trilingual. Eva presents the yacht with 4 wood lined and beautifully decorated cabins. Each has an en-suite shower toilet / sink / mirror closet. For landlubbers like us, they seem a bit cramped but well appointed. The aft cabins benefit from a little wider double bed than the front ones and are preferred by couples. From the outset the layout seems well thought out, like a true high seas camper, properly equipped and comfortable with a woman's nice touch!
 
We meet George Gritsis, Archipel’s boss and connoisseur of Greek islands, at the Marina Café for a friendly snack. During the many email exchanges we had reported our desire to track a route where the first stop would be Mykonos in order to pick up a traveling companion. Together with our skipper and George and we review the week‘s weather forecast: conditions are met to achieve our project, joy is unanimous! A few Mythos (Greek beer), souma (local grappa) and milkshakes later, we leave Paros heading for Ornos Bay in Mykonos to recover Lawrence, our missing companion.
 
The sea is desperately flat, the sun shines, we motor at 5 knots. Eva has the brilliant idea to install a light canvas awning leaving air and light through but sheltering us from the direct sunlight. We easily make ourselves comfortable in the cockpit.
 
Three and a half hours later, we pick up Lawrence and leave crowded Ornos bay to arrive before sunset in a cove at Rhinia, an island just west of Delos. Delos’ archaeological site is a World Heritage Site by Unesco. The light is exceptional here. We have dinner on the boat, Mykonos’ lights disappear under the twinkling stars and the Milky Way: change of scenery, vacation may now begin!


cyclades-en-voilier
   The world heritage site of Delos near Mykonos..
 
cyclades-en-voilier
Lunch on board in a cove at Rhinia. The yacht’s galley is equipped with everything needed for cooking.
 
cyclades-en-voilier
Deck cushions are available for those wishing to relax during sailing.
 
cyclades-en-voilier
Meeting a Syros’ resident.
  

DAY 2: Rhinia - Delos - Syros

07:30, we rush ashore after a quick breakfast because Delos may only be visited during the morning and we would like to be done before the arrival of tourist hordes pouring from ferries and other cruising vessels.
 
Delos visit and swimming in a desert cove.
Tightly packed aboard the inflatable tender, we follow the historic coast of Delos to its small port. Powerful sunlight illuminates the prestigious remains and cradle of our civilization. Admission fee of 5 euro is quite reasonable. Almost on our own among these legendary ruins, we find the Agora, the temple of Dionysus with its erect stone phalluses and that of Apollo. Going up Mount Kynthos we catch our breath a few moments in the cave of Hercules before discovering the magnificent panorama of the islands of Rhinia, Mykonos, Tinos, Syros, Paros and Naxos. Walking back down to the port, we admire the mosaics of the house cat masks, bleachers eroded theater and the tranquility of the remnant of Cleopatra’s house. It is midday, the ruins are now invaded by hundreds of tourists. Eva collects us and we head away from the crowds towards Rhinia for a leisurely lunch and swim. We incidentally encounter en route her brother Nico, also a skipper. He later joined us on board with ice cubes for our drinks.
 
Heading for Syros
Around 16:00, we head for Syros, the administrative capital of the Cyclades. The sun beats down, the wind decided to stay behind the mountains, the engine purrs at 5 knots on this unseasonal clear and calm sea. Eva offers Lawrence the opportunity to helm. Subject to seasickness, the activity allows him to focus on navigation, and it works! Two and half hours later we arrive in Syros, at Ermopoulis the commercial port and shipyard. The sun sets over two churches overlooking the city, one Orthodox the other Catholic, remnant of the former French protectorate. The city is lively all year around and it shows immediately. We moor at the yacht pier, an obvious place of encounters, with its trendy bars, stylish restaurants and shops.
 
We prepare to go out for dinner on the city hills at the Oniro, a small popular restaurant nestled in a lush courtyard. On our way we cross Ermoupolis’ town hall main square, where locals seem to have gathered for a contest of local products. Student and artistic city, art exhibitions are open till late. In front of the Apollo Theatre, a miniature replica of the Scala of Milan, Frangiskos, a sixty year old Greek approaches us in French, happy to practice our language and talk about his city’s history. He tells us of the local strong links with France before taking off to listen to a Greek poet performing somewhere in town tonight.
 
It is 21:00 pm; we arrive at the restaurant whose lounge very setting enchants us. We order a selection of typical Greek dishes, each better than the other: octopus with fava (split pea dip), spinach puff, pepperoni coulis, grilled mushrooms, cabbage salad with walnuts and braised veal 'papardelles', moussaka, Syros sausage, fresh grouper with khorta (boiled greens), all served with local island wine. What a treat! To conclude this fine evening, a group of local jazz performs violin and guitar themes in gipsy Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt style. We go back, satiated, to the port without omitting a tasty and refreshing last stop for the best ice cream in town!

eglise ermopoulis syros
   Lights and shadows in Ermoupolis church.
 
ermopulis syros
   Ermoupolis daily market..
 
circuit grece
   Swimming at Rhinia.
 
voile initiation grece
   Eric at the helm.
  

DAY 3: Syros - Paros (Naoussa)

We had a difficult night at Ermoupolis harbor between the noise of bars and the heat: no one really slept well. But how do sailors handle this? Borrowing strength and vigor, Laurent prepares a full breakfast with scrambled eggs decorated his own way, smoked salmon and sliced tomato / feta, not to mention the oven fresh bread, butter and jam.
 
Syros visit
While Eric and Alex conclude their festive night enjoying the breeze on deck, the rest of the group went sightseeing. They ascend the steep marble stairways to the church overlooking the harbor. The view of the surrounding islands and the shipyard is breathtaking. A dry docked four masted sailing vessel being repaired there reveals its massive structure, like the carcass of some mythical beast. On the way back, visit of the amazing and captivating Agios Nikolaos orthodox cathedral near the port. The bluish light plays with multicolored stained glass panels and reflects off the gilted chandeliers and icons of biblical representations. An austere and soothing Christ Redemptor fresco on the dome seems to protect the faithful and convert visitors. After this spiritual food, it's time to go to the open market, alongside a lane leading to the port. Fruits and vegetables are exhibited on the shelves, fish flash their shiny scales and restless merchants hawk their wares. Our shopping consists of figs, eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms, chocolate, eggs, Syros wine, but no carrots ... Non available, they are obviously not in season. Once assembled on the boat, we set off for a cove on the nearby lighthouse island, the oldest of the Cyclades. It is 13:00.
 
Swimming, sailing and cooking
20 minutes later we quickly eat a salad before donning fins, masks and snorkels (provided on board) for an extended swim in translucent emerald waters where fish play and sea urchins hide between rocks. Season is in full swing, we are not the only boat in the cove, yet we enjoy great quietness on board with a song by Anastasia in the background. The comfort of the boat and the surrounding wilderness give this stopover an unforgettable flavor. Everyday hassles seem so remote!
 
Around 15:30 we resume our voyage to Naoussa, charming seaside village near the northern tip of Paros. The wind is light, Eva decides to hoist the sails and take the opportunity to introduce the willing to the basics of sailing, maintain a heading, follow gust and wave or assess the course of other boats. Meanwhile, despite the light heel, Cedric, Alex and Lawrence play virtuoso in the galley. We arrive around 18:30 in Naoussa bay, anchoring before a monastery, which we will visit tomorrow. After a dip and a short swim, we feast on eggplant dip, zucchini flan / basil and banana cake / Nutella ... While at sea, our land lubber cooks got their sea legs and skilful hands, for the greatest pleasure of our palates!
 
Ross Daly concert
After the sun with its last rays has bathed in orange the bay’s deep waters, we head by rubber dinghy to the completely restored amphitheater close to the monastery. Leaning against the rocky slope on one side, the amphitheater extends to a beach bar on the seaside, making it almost modern. Tonight we attend an outdoors concert by Ross Daly, an Irish composer installed on the island of Crete since 1975. The mixed sounds of the Lyra (rustic viola) and Laouto (plucked lute) join together towards the starry sky, travelling us to other lands.


Archipel
   A halyard harnesses the inflatable tender for easy launching.
 
visite naoussa paros
   Naoussa, beautiful seaside village north of Paros.
 
  

DAY 4: Naoussa - Naoussa

The night at anchor was airy thanks to the good air flow between hatches and portholes. It is 9:00 am, the water displays its inviting deep blue hue around the boat. The first on deck can not resist the urge for a dip. We enjoy this privilege of all the time. Laurent prepares us his special breakfast treat; a rolled goat cheese and herbs pie plus a tomato pancake, served with a full-bodied coffee.
 
Naoussa, looks like Saint-Tropez
 
Seeing that today we were more inclined to take our time, Eva suggested that we overnight in Naoussa. We sneak in to a free boat slip at the small marina and enjoy the local Saint Tropez to the tunes of the Paris Marais. Trendy bars and chic fashion boutiques rival those of Mykonos, the crowd less so. The old town is a maze of narrow lanes with colorful flowers, punctuated by stairs and chapels adorned with gilded wooden icons. Behind a church, time stops in a typical cemetery, graves revealing affectionate decorations in honor of the deceased. Returning to the harbor bustling with jubilant life, trawlers spread their tan nets displaying their catch, octopus and gunas (a kind of mackerel). After several hours stroll, we walk along the water front playing with the sea splashes. Without getting wet, we arrive at the terrace of a small bar washed by the waves.
 
We return to the boat around 18:00 to ready ourselves for dining out at a fish restaurant in the old Naoussa harbor. A drink later, we left our boat. The wind whistles in the rigging of neighboring boats, like a ghost trying to remind of his presence. Once replete, we walk through the port’s main streets to finish at “Fotis Mellios” for a last drink to the sound of waves breaking at our feet. At midnight, we are all in bed!


naxos grece voilier
In every Greek island (like Naxos here) the main settlement is called 'Chora’.
 
epicerie traditionnelle naxos
   Old fashioned grocery in Naxos.
 
marin grec
   Painted gourd representing a Greek sailor.
  

DAY 5: Naoussa - Naxos - Kalandos

What a night! Perfect sleep in port lulled by the whisper of a cool breeze. Sweet buns straight from the oven and hot coffee on the table: the mood settles as the crew awakens. Hector, a skipper on leave for a few days, comes along with us to Naxos. We met the day before at Ross Daly’s concert and had offered him a lift. Some buns later, we leave Naoussa heading for Naxos!
 
Visite de Naxos
 
Eric accepts with undisguised pleasure Eva’s invitation to take over the helm. She keeps an eye on his steering, giving specific instructions as to the course. The Beneteau 50 powerfully slides on flat water. Approaching Naxos, we discover at peninsula Palatia the anchorage prohibited, in front of the beach. The area is now reserved for a speed ferry notwithstanding it docks only at night. We dock at the town pier for a jog in the Chora. Important first step, buy local cheese a delicious specialty. Next step, ascend the Kastro, through the last still standing fortified gate. No time to visit a Venetian and Byzantine museums, we rush under archways enjoying bougainvillea typical scent. From the citadel, the panoramic view is splendid. We return to the Palatia peninsula with its Naxian gate, the only vestige of the Temple of Apollo and only part of monument ever completed. We soon find ourselves facing the Portara. The magic of the place operates, whether appear in it a military ship or boat in the distance, the old town and bathers in the background or the majesty of chiseled cliffs, each angle has its magic.
 
Kalandos's taverna
 
Back to the boat, we resume our journey south of the island, towards Kalandos. We cruise along the many sandy beaches of the west coast. Further away to the south, they become wild. Arrived at Kalandos, we witness a rather hilarious if not shameful of our national image. A small sailboat flying a patched French flag accelerates, trying to grab the anchoring spot we were heading for. It didn’t make it, infuriating his captain who will find nothing better than insult us. We immediately respond in kind. Surprised to deal with compatriots, the boorish captain disappears down below. But double punishment for him, wanting to anchor a head of us, he dragged his anchor onto a much larger sailing ship... The Turkishflagged vessel has to get underway in order to get disentangled. We are a little ashamed about our colors but it is better to laugh about all this mishap! As for the Turkish sailors from the neighboring boat, they will probably not fail commenting on our crew where a woman orders six men around! After a long, refreshing and invigorating evening swim we disembark to taste the local mutton at the inn overlooking the bay. A good, simple fare: vegetables and very tasty BBQ lamb chops.


skipper Archipel
Eva really knows the dream places of these islands accessible by boat only.
 
epicerie traditionnelle naxos
   Lively sailing today!
 
marin grec
   Memento of good times aboard the yacht.
 
  

Day 6 and 7: Kalandos - Despotiko (Antiparos) - Paros

In the morning, not a single boat around us, the horizon is clear, what a wonderful feeling of being alone in the bay. The wind picked up today, sailing may get hectic! We cast off, heading south of Antiparos, towards the deserted island of Despotiko. The wind fills the sails, the rig groans, the hull shivers and heels, the helm hardens, stabilizing our Archipel on her port side. She easily slices through waves and foaming crests. Speed never drops below 10 knots. Each of us naturally finds his place. Cedric, unfazed in his berth, Jacques fun trying to balance, Laurent M slumped on his seat, Lawrence P. and Alex enjoy the splashing show at the bow. Confident, Eva leaves Eric at the helm focusing on sail trim. We carry the wind till the inlet leading to Agios Georgios. Time has stopped, now we really feel the power and nobility of sailing.
 
We once again moor in gorgeous surroundings. At Despotiko we anchored opposite a hill strangely looking like the Puy Griou cantalou. We land on the opposite coast at Agios Georgios where we meet Vanessa and George, the boat owners. We are happy to have dinner with them in a traditional tavern on the waterfront facing a beautiful sunset. In the evening, back onboard, Cedric prepares us a watermelon filled with souma (local grappa) an unstoppable remedy against insomnia.
The return back to Paros is uneventful; we cross a swarm of kitesurfers and windsurfers twirling off Punta. The colourful show enchants us yet our feelings are tinged with a little nostalgia as these are our last cruising moments. Approaching Paros port, a slip to dock awaits us. We will disembark with our luggage on dry ground. One last lunch together on the boat and then a last drink with our skipper in a bar near the harbor and we're off. In an hour we board the ferry towards Mykonos (oh yes, once again!).
 
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