travel

Our Big, Fat, Greek Sailing Adventure | Part Two

sailing-parttwoThis is the second post of a two-part series about our sailing adventure in Greece. If you missed the first part, you can read it here.

I’ll start where I left off in Nafplio.

Sailing Day Four

Before leaving Nafplio, Chris grabbed gyros for everyone to enjoy on the boat while we headed for the island of Spetses. Can’t get enough of those gyros (and Greek salad).

Spetses is a pretty affluent island and is know for their wooden boat-building industry. This was a pretty important stop for us because we needed to refuel and refill one of the water tanks. The boat needed a good cleaning as well. Why? We had a little bit of ran a day or two before and it turns out that it’s common for the rains to carry sands from the Sahara Desert! It left a light red dust everywhere. So while Haris hooked up the fuel/water lines, and swabbed the decks, we explored the island.

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Island of Spetsus

The island is small, but pretty wealthy with upscale shops, restaurants, and art galleries.

We all took a liking to the white and gray pebble mosaics that decorated the ground before the doors of many homes. After doing a bit of research online about this art once we returned home, I found out that these “pebble pictures” are a traditional art dating back several hundred years. I would love to incorporate something like this in our backyard.

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Examples of pebble mosaics

We walked around town until it was time for dinner. Haris made reservations for us at a wonderful restaurant, Mourayo. I loved the decor-the mix of the stone walls and soft-colored fabrics. The service and food were top-notch. You have to remember that this time of year is considered the off-season for tourism. There are dozens of restaurants and tavernas wanting your business. And when they get it, you better believe they will make sure you have the best experience! Many of establishments we visited asked if we would review them in Trip Advisor!

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Seating at Mourayo

The following morning we wanted to visit one of the boat-building workshops and found two. Very simple workshops, but what comes out of them is gorgeous!

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Wooden boat building/repair in progress
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Spetses wooden boats

It was time to leave Spetses (and give our slip up for a super yacht that needed to refuel.

Sailing Day Five

The next island we headed for was Hydra (He-dra). I enjoyed a G+T (or two) along the way.

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Chillin’ with a G+T

Haris was a little concerned about getting to Hydra’s small harbor in time to get a place to dock to stop for a swim. But he promised there was a beautiful place to swim once we got there.

When we finally entered the harbor at Hydra, I think there were tears in my eyes Greece (we got the last spot in the harbor, by the way). This place was GORGEOUS. It is considered one of the prettiest towns in Greece.

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Both photos show the harbor as we approach Hydra

And the swimming hole wasn’t bad either. This bar with adirondack chair and tables with thatched umbrellas were settled on top of a cliff. There was a path from the bar down to the water where you can swim.

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Tiki Bar on cliff with access to swimming

We had a little photo shoot before dinner:

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Love this guy. Photo by Jim Vespoli
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I made sure I had plenty of blue in my wardrobe this trip 🙂 Photo by Chris Sill

On our way to dinner, Haris met up with his best friend, Pentolis. The two of them were being interviewed by a local paper-for what reason, I can’t remember. But Pentolis is very well-known on the island. He actually has a dual-citizenship (Greece & USA) and is a Vietnam Vet. He spends half of the year here in Tarpon Springs, Florida!

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Pentolis and Haris. Photo by Jim Vespoli

One of the most interesting things about Hydra is there are no motorized vehicles on the island. Residents get to where they need to go by foot or donkey. When we woke the next morning, it was delivery day for the island. Two small ferries were off-loading goods onto the land where a line of donkeys were lined up, ready to be loaded down with groceries, building materials, and other goods to be delivered to shop owners and private citizens.

Those are 25kg bags of limestone strapped on the donkey! And there are 5 bags! And check out how they strap roof tiles to them in the photo below.

This whole operation was so interesting to watch.

We loved this island. But we had to move on…

Sailing Day 6

We left Hydra and headed for Aegina.

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Sails up! Note the American flag!

We stopped for a swim along the way.

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Another day, another swimming hole.

When we arrived in Aegina we took a taxi to visit the Temple of Aphaia.

Aegina is known for their pistachios. Our taxi driver stopped along side of the road near a pistachio grove (?) so we can see how they grow.

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Pistachios

Never knew they grew like this! They have a ways to go yet before they are ready to be harvested. Our driver broke one open for us to see what they look like inside. The shells are soft and the nut is small right now. But the shell will harden as it grows. Pretty cool, huh?

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Young pistachio

We made it to the Temple of Aphaia. It was once believed that this temple, along with the Parthenon, and the Temple of Poseidon formed an equilateral triangle and was a source of power. Looking at a map, Chris and Jim found this not to be the case as the distances between these three temple does not form an equilateral triangle, and disproved a belief that was thousands of years old 😂 (we will probably never be allowed back in the country).

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The Temple of Aphaia (both photos)

Back at the boat we enjoyed a bag of island pistachios and watched the sun set behind the rolling hills before going to dinner.

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Island pistachios
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Aegina sunset

Sailing Day Seven

It was our last day on the boat and we still had one more stop to make before heading back to the harbor in Athens. We left Aegina around 6:30 am and headed Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon.

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The Temple of Poseidon

The views from the Temple were breathtaking:

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That water!!!
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View of our catamaran from the Temple of Poseidon
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Just us. Photo by Jenifer Vespoli

It was pretty hot up there while walking around the grounds. Once we got back to the boat we took one last swim in the Aegean. There was something really special about swimming under the Temple of Poseidon.

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View of the Temple from the cat.

Once we left Cape Sounion, it was another 4 hours back to Athens. As we got close to the harbor, there was no less than 3 dozen other chartered boats heading in as well. Our week was over, but those memories will last forever!

We stayed on the boat in the harbor our last night. In the morning Haris came to say good-bye. He plotted our course on a map and gave it to Chris. He will send us the digital log book via email. He wants us to return next year, this time for two weeks, and to bring our kids. Ha! I don’t know if we would all fit on the cat! We may have to charter a super-yacht for that trip!

travel

Our Big, Fat, Greek Sailing Adventure | Part One

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Around the beginning of the year, one of Chris’ close college friends and fraternity brothers (and best man at our wedding!) asked if we would be interested in chartering a 42′ catamaran with he and his wife in Greece and sail along the coast and islands. Their daughter was finishing up her college semester studying in Greece. They wanted to go visit her right before the semester ended, explore the country a bit, and fly back with her once the semester was over. That was a no-brainer. Of course we said yes! Chris and I have talked about possibly living on a boat part time and we thought this would be a good test to see how we would like it. On April 25, we took off from Orlando and started on our adventure.

I posted several photos while we were there on my personal Facebook Page and Instagram account. I had many people write and ask about how we did this, where we went, etc. This post will be a two-part series (possibly three), sharing photos and details of what we did.

Although we live in Tampa, we flew out of Orlando because the flights were cheaper. We had an 8:30am flight on JetBlue out of Orlando to JFK. It was the first time we flew JetBlue, and were really happy with them! It was also our first time flying into JFK and we won’t do that again (although our flight back was going back through JFK). Not a fan of that airport at all. From JFK we boarded a Turkish Air flight to Istanbul. One thing you may not know about me is that I hate flying (and my husband was a pilot in the Marine Corps). For me to fly on an international airline that I am not familiar with, well, needless to say I was a nervous wreck. But then when I saw that Dr. Oz is a spokesperson for the airline, I guess it can’t be all that bad, right? And it wasn’t. Such a great airline. Awesome service–they gave us little bags with socks, slippers, lip balm, and a mini toothbrush and toothpaste. The food was good, too! From Istanbul, we flew to Athens, again on Turkish Air, and after 19+ hours of traveling, we finally made it to our hotel near the Acropolis by taxi on Thursday, April 26 (Note that Athens is 7 hours ahead of east coast time here in the US).

Jim and Jenifer, the couple we were sailing with, were not arriving until Friday. And since we could not get on the catamaran until Saturday, we had two nights in a hotel and some time to explore Athens. Once we arrived at our hotel we took about a 2-hour nap and then we were up to explore the city!

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The Parthenon
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The Erechtheion and Porch of the Caryatids
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Close up of the Porch of the Caryatids

Pretty impressive close-up, right? I have another one coming up here in a bit. But about the camera I used. It’s a Nikon CoolPix B700. I have a Nikon D80 that is just about as ancient as the ruins in the pics above. It still works fine, but I didn’t want to take a bulky DSLR with me with all the lenses. My iPhone 6s+ has a better resolution than my D80 (waiting to upgrade to the iPhone X)! I just LOVE this new camera! It totally got the job done!

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Selfie at The Parthenon
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One of the many Greek Salads we enjoyed on this trip

On Friday we visited the Agora and Roman Forum.

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Columns of the Stoa at the Agora
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Roman Forum from a distance
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Close-up of the fallen pillar from photo above

I gotta mention the camera again. Notice the column that is toppled over in the photo of the Roman Forum. The photo right below it is zoomed in on the cap of that fallen column. The 60X optical zoom on this little camera is awesome!

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Acropolis at night

Jim & Jen arrived in Athens earlier in the day on Friday and spent some time with their daughter. We met them at the Air B&B the rented and the pic of the Acropolis at night was the view from their place!!!

Sailing Day One

On Saturday morning we all took taxis to the harbor to begin our sailing adventure. The company Jim went through to charter the boat was yachtsailing.gr. Although we (Chris and I) didn’t have any contact with them, Jim said they were wonderful to work with and are a top-rated charter company. Prior to our arrival, they provided us with a list of provisions to chose to have stocked on the boat when we arrived. Although we knew we would be eating out quite a bit wherever we dropped anchor for the night, we selected to have things like, bottled water, coffee, yogurt, fruit, cheeses, olives, and, of course, alcohol on the boat.

We really had no sailing agenda we wanted to follow. This was our first time doing something like this. Not being familiar with the waters, various harbors, or sailing conditions, we wanted to see what Haris was going to recommend. We did have a desire to go to Santorini and Mykonos, but Haris explained that we really would need two weeks if we wanted to sail the Cyclades. The weather can be a little unpredictable at times there this time of year and it is possible we could get stuck on an island for 2 or three days. Which is not cool when we only have 7 days! So after much discussion on the route, it was decided that we will sail around the Peloponnese peninsula and the islands around it.

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Haris, our captain. Photo by Jim Vespoli

This is Haris, our captain. He was a Greek Naval Officer for 27 years before retiring. Both Chris and Jim have ASA certifications, but were still looking forward to learning even more from him!

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Jenifer & I chillin’ on the cat. Photo by Chris Sill

Our favorite part of the the 42′ Lagoon catamaran named “Fantasy” was the seating at the front!

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This is not pool water…it’s the Aegean Sea

Each day of our sail we would stop in a secluded cove or lagoon to swim and then sail on to our next destination for the night. On our first day we stopped off the coast of the island of Aegina.

The weather this time of year can be a little iffy. Friends who have been to Greece before said to expect cool temperatures and chilly waters. But the weather Gods were on our side. Although the water temperatures were were cool (about 68 degrees) the weather was GORGEOUS with highs in the 80s the whole time we were there! And as far as those chilly water temps, your body quickly adjusts! I wasn’t going to not swim in the Aegean! Jumping into the water was a good way to get over jet lag (and the occasional hangover).

Our first stop was the island of Poros. Never heard of the place before, but man is it pretty! There was a lovely little church bell tower at the top of the hill. We enjoyed walking our way through the winding streets (uphill) to find it.

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The island of Poros

Dinner, Haris made reservations for us at a restaurant where he knows the owner. We didn’t even order off of the menu! The owner selected some fresh sea bass for us and he brought out a sampling of traditional greek side dishes. It was the first time I had octopus. It was delish!

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Steamed and marinated octopus
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Fresh calamari, fried
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Fresh sea bass

Sailing Day Two

As we were pulling up the anchor to leave Poros (it’s motorized), it got caught on an old chain that was laying on the bottom of the harbor. Haris was not happy and he had to call a scuba diver in to set us free!

Once freed, we headed for the seaside town of Ermione (Er-me-oh-knee). But first we stopped for a swim in the waters off the island of Dokos.

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Chapel on Dokos

This island only has one family living on it. Plus a white donkey (insert white ass jokes here) and we believe some goats. Haris told us that this is a place where many Greek celebrities come to get married as it is difficult for the paparazzi to get here. We did take the dingy off of the boat and went to the island. We pet the goat-Jim has the pictures (I’ll get them soon). It liked us and did follow us up and down the beach.

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We’re on a boat! Photo by Jim Vespoli

After our swim we docked the boat in the coastal town of Ermione. Just like on Poros, we explored the winding roads and ducked in and out of shops. We had any of Greece’s national drink-Ouzo-yet and found a beverage store and picked up a bottle to enjoy after dinner later. We also found a great bakery and bought some baklava and little spanakopitas (Greek spinach pie) to munch on. Chris became addicted to that spanakopita!

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Chris and a rack of octopus
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Blue and white forever

Sailing Day Three

We left Ermione and headed for another coastal town, Nafplio. On our way we stopped for a swim near a former home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. I will never get tired of that blue water!

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Swimming in the Aegean. Photo by Chris Sill
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View near the top of Palamidi Fortress

While in Nafpoli we had plans to travel by taxi to visit the ruins of the Theatre of Epidaurus and Mycenae. However it was May 1. May Day. This holiday is HUGE in all of Europe and unfortunately these sites were all closed. So instead we decided to climb the 999 steps of the Palamidi Fortress instead. Not that we could go inside, because again, it’s May Day and it’s closed. But we are so glad we did because the views were amazing!

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Full moon over Nafpoli

I am going to close this post with a picture of the moon above. If you can zoom in on it, do so! Look at the detail! It’s that camera! There is a moon setting on the camera and it is amazing! No tripod was used! I just aimed the camera at the moon snapped the photo and I got this! How amazing is that???

I will be back later this week with the second post about our sailing adventure. Thanks for reading!