3 days hopping in the Greek islands

The crew: 1 dad & skipper, 1 mom, 2 kids, 1 skipper
Purpose of cruise: check anchorages around the little Cyclades islands
Yacht: Pahi 53
Departed: Paros on August 15th 2013
Returned: Paros on August 18th 2013
Weather: fair, 20-25 knots northerlies

Maximum tourist attendance in the Greek islands on August the 15th, day of the Holy Virgin. Under the unrelenting sun, yachts come and go in Parikia harbour, the quay is crowded. Today Archipel’s team does not manage embarkations, it’s the team itself that boards the Pahi 53 catamaran with George and Vanessa’s kids Cyril and Jason aged 11 and 4. Mission: to inspect anchorages in the vicinity of Paros. There are indeed worst jobs than this one!
A few hours prior to embarkation, Cyril beholds the olive grove on the Byzantine path in the hills between Lefkes (Paros’ ancient capital) and Prodromos while munching figs gathered straight from the trees.

greek taverna
At night fall we dine in Parikia at « Paros » taverna. Kids visit the kitchen to look at the fare and greet the owners. Despite the Greek debt crisis which saw this family business loose half its local patrons, they are holding out. Everyone works here, from the grandmother to the granddaughters and as usual we are treated with great kindness. We will order grilled lamb chops, ambelofassoula (local summer long green beans) and melitzanosalata (eggplant dip).

parikia august paros
From the catamaran’s deck we observe the festive fireworks. Later at night candlelight processions will take place but its time to go to bed, as tomorrow morning we should have an early start.

croisiere Archipel

DAY 1 : Paros-Naxos

7:45 AM. Both our skippers, George and Eric, initiate the departure by silently casting the mooring lines. When the kids wake up, Paros is already well astern. Wind mildly blows around 12 knots. A gentle swell rolls the deep blue sea. Air temperature is around 25 C.

pahi 53 catamaran
George and Eric evaluate conditions, planning the next maneuvers.
pahi catamaran

sailing vacation with Archipel
Its time to raise the foresail. Prepare the sheets’ block and tackles then remove the sail ties. Both gaff halyards in hand the sail is swiftly hoisted and sheeted in, as to prevent flogging.

paros yacht charter
We hug Naxos’ southwest coast. At 11:00 AM the sheltered cove of Roga is in sight. We drop the sails and furl the jib. This is a great, tranquil place and luckily no real estate development is visible!

cyclades islands sailboat Archipel
Roga is an ideal anchorage far from crowds, perfect for a swim and a meal.

greek sailing vacation
Our young laddie Jason is heaving a large fender while Cyril tries to pry information from Eric regarding the efficient use of a fish trap.

naxos yacht charter
After coffee, we round the southern tip of Naxos, reaching Kalando bay under an hour. Tucked in the northern corner, we moor at a small quay, among fishing boats and a large motor yacht. To the west, stretches a long beach of fine sand. Kalando’s tiny harbour is a good compromise between anchoring (perfectly quiet but mandatory dinghy ride to get ashore) and docking (crew and guests come and go at will but potentially noisy if crowded).

Archipel greece
We stroll ashore and talk to the fishermen. The sun quickly sets behind Naxos’ tall mountains and temperature gets really pleasant. Although at the height of the season there are so few folks around that very quickly everyone‘s face gets familiar and friendly.
A local stockbreeder runs a BBQ stall on the hill overlooking the port and we get our dinner there, sampling lamb, kid goat and sausages. The motor yacht’s owner prefers take away and observe a funny ordering exchange between her and the shepherd’s wife.

greek sailing cruise

DAY 2: Naxos - Schinoussa

Gently awaken by the morning’s golden light, Vanessa checks her emails in the galley (she’s a working girl!) while Jason, Cyril and the local kids angle from the pier.

greek islands sailing
Remember Cyril and Eric discussing fish trap techniques? Well here’s the catch after spending the night immersed. This rainbow wrasse is too rare and pretty to be eaten so she’s quickly released.

rainbow wrasse
Cyril picks this lovely and very angry swimmer crab from the nearby estuary. We shoot a picture from the trophy before returning it to its habitat.

cyclades sailing
It’s 11 AM and our skippers’ activity indicates imminent departure. Sailing time is expected to last 3 hours and the forecast to be windy. Very soon we approach the acceleration zone between Naxos and Koufonissi, clearly visible with its dark blue sea dotted by white caps. The wind starts howling, the waves are covered with froth, Cyril holds fast while Vanessa forestalls the spray sheltering little Jason in the steering house. Clearly George and Eric enjoy the action: this is Meltemi time!

schinoussa greece
We swiftly shoot through Koufonissi straits, taking a peek at the anchorage and the brand new boat harbour, before bearing off, heading south towards Keros. Wind abates soon and we reach Schinoussa with a mild force 4. Jason fell asleep while it was rough and suddenly awakening inquires if playmobils ever get sea sick! Instead of making for the charming Mirsini (the island’s diminutive harbour) we drop the anchor in Livadia bay which we want to investigate. Before taking the 20 minute uphill walk on the dusty path to the village, we wait for the sun to lower and enjoy a nice swim.

Archipel schinoussa
The hilltop hamlet of Schinoussa commands a great view on the Aegean Sea and …our boat! George expects a pretty rough passage tomorrow and great sugar requirements for the crew: he subsequently purchases 15000 calories worth of baklavas, those sugar syrup and nut sweets that Greeks usually savor in (small) quantities after a nap with coffee. In our case this will be our “fuel” to survive the next trip… When a captain talks like that, you better have a double helping!

dinner with Archipel
We are back in Livadia Bay by sunset and enjoy the excellent fare at the shore side taverna. This is definitely an authentic place where kids can freely play on the beach. Later at night we return on board with the inflatable tender. Above us, sparkle zillion of stars in the still air, below us the sea glitters in reflection : what a privileged evening!

DAY 3: Schinoussa - Paros

08:40 AM. Breakfast is followed by sailing preparations. Anything which is in the way or might get wet or even blown off is stored away for this last leg of our voyage. Being also a safety issue our captains are quite uncompromising. I negotiate the right to keep a large beach towel in the cockpit as I know from experience that young kids often doze off during sailing as long as they are sheltered from wind. After 40 minutes of calm, things get sportier as we enter the Naxos/Paros straits. We get 3 hours of close reaching under reefed sails ending in a splash of color as we finally motor through a swarm of kite-surfers fluttering between Paros and Antiparos… Watch the video!

traditional greek shop in paros
This last leg over, we dock at our usual slip in Parikia. This tiny marina (by international standards) suddenly appears gigantic to the the Small Cyclades harbours! Since its only 3 PM we decide to take a stroll ashore. The picture shows the mom and pop grocery in Kostos, where the owner happily recalls the sixties, when electricity was not available in these mountain villages.

marpissa paros greece
Here’s Haroula’s family tavern in Marpissa. You get genuine food cooked with local, produce and meats. Just beware that all dishes will be served with chips, so if you avoid fried stuff, just do not forget to say so.
Like so many other island villages, Marpissa’s medieval center consists of a maze of cobblestone paths winding through narrow arches and white washed houses. Windows are tiny; walls are of thick stone showing antique carved marble inserts, denoting how ancient this settlement is.

greek salad
Our catamaran getaway ends here, with a generous Greek salad, the traditional Horiatiki.
To all our readers we wish fair winds and happy land falls!
    George, Vanessa, Eric, Cyril and Jason.
    August 2013.

What we liked

- excellent wind conditions
- perfect anchorages: peaceful, preserved and beautiful
- good vibes on board.


What we didn't like

- the briefness of our voyage
- the festive noise of August 15th celebrations in Parikia, heard till the yacht harbour.
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