Saturday 4 June 2011
Waking up inside a sailboat is a wonderful thing. Usually the heat inside the small cabin is what wakes you up in the first place (that’s not the wonderful thing), but when you come fully awake, the cry of seagulls and the gentle roll of the waves make the whole waking up thing much more pleasant. And then the best part – simply standing up on the bunk and pushing open the ceiling window hatch until you are head and shoulders through the deck of the ship, gazing sleepy-eyed out across the water at whatever Greek island paradise you happen to be at that morning. Delicious.
This was how we started our first morning of sailing, and the rest of the morning continued this way. The seven of us tottered off the gangplank and walked back into town to do some grocery shopping for the day. But grocery shopping on the islands is not like grocery shopping anywhere else. All the produce vendors sit out on the streets with heaps and heaps of fresh fruits and vegetables. On the main street (of which one side is storefronts and the other side is the sea) we found a woman with a sign for fresh strawberries. Realizing that we were looking to buy, she hastened out of the chair she was sitting in by the water, invited us aboard her boat she had moored nearby filled with fresh fruits, and weighed out a huge bag of delicious juicy strawberries for us. Grocery shopping like this is hardly a chore.
Stocked up with supplies for the day, Alexei directed us out of port, and we hit the open sea, bound for the nearby island of Poros. Since it wasn’t a very windy day, we were using the boat’s small motor to cross the broad expanse of water. With Nick at the wheel, and the sun shining brightly down, we were ready for a picture perfect day … until the motor spluttered and died. Alexei let loose a string of curses in Greek, and charged down the ladder to examine the engine. The verdict was not good. We were adrift, two miles out of port and nowhere near our destination with no means of moving anywhere, other than the weak puffs of wind that blew meekly through every so often. Regardless, we raised the sails and hoped. We were moving so slowly that we could easily float behind the boat in the water, keeping up with the smallest of strokes. So we did. Like we said many times, there were worse places to be stuck. With that, we enjoyed an afternoon playing and drifting in the sapphire blue waters behind the yacht as we slowly, SLOWLY, worked our way back to shore.
Many hours later, we met up with Vardis to get a replacement part for the engine, and we were destined for Poros (once again!). At first approach, Poros was beautiful. Quaint and small, the island of Poros lay cradled in the crook of the mainland, such that the space between them was more river than sea. Docking in the marina, we explored the town with Vardis. Now, one thing to realize is that in Greece (and much of Europe), any restaurant on a main road employs someone to stand out front and assure every passerby of the exquisiteness and superiority of the food served at that particular establishment. A walk down the street turns into a series of exchanges with each and every one of these men. Fortunately, Vardis seemed to know each of them, so they were all very pleasant and helpful. We grabbed some delicious Greek food (moussaka, saganaki, stuffed grape leaves, the works!) and watched the sunset.
The other fabulous thing about the Greek islands is that each town is a wonderful mess of whitewashed buildings, brilliantly colored floral trees, and winding staircases. Actual roads in these steep towns are rare, replaced instead by cobbled footpaths and staircases that are more suited to getting around the hilly terrain. After dinner, we explored this maze of stairs on our way up to the highest point in Poros – the big clock tower. The view from the top was beautiful – below us, the tumble of whitewashed buildings poured out towards the waters, across which the lights from the mainland twinkled in the black night.