It’s always been a love affair between Greece and me. It has been since my arrival in Athens on my 21st birthday after a horror show debacle in Bangladesh. We had been offloaded from a budget airline flight in Dhaka and told we may get another in weeks, if lucky.  At that point we were headed to Nepal but as I lay weeping in a dingy hostel Rick said how can I make this better (don’t you love him?) and I just said: ‘get me out of here’.  So he went off to the travel agent and returned saying there’s a flight to Hong Kong and another to Athens both leaving today.  Which did I want to get on? Well Athens was a no brainer really as I was Europe bound eventually. By the end of my very long 21st we had arrived in Athens and had then been chased by a pack of wild dogs (I am not kidding) into a tiny lamp lit restaurant in the Plaka, one of the few open in February, where we sat eating moussaka and drinking retsina (first and last time for retsina I’m afraid). Then it snowed and we decided to leave and go to Egypt but that’s another story.

I don’t remember it looking quite so lovely but i remember the cold!

I stayed in Greece for months while Rick went back to work in Oman. And for me it was the beginning of coming to know and love the national treasure that is the Greek summer.  The exodus from the cities to the islands and the long languid days of having nothing more to do than figure out which beach to swim at and where to spend the evening watching the sun go down. For me this happened on Kythera.

Diacofti on Kythera where we camped under the olive trees.

It was cicadas, olive trees, camping in the heat and eating thyme honey for the first time. Rick returned to me in Athens and we also chartered a boat for the first time. It was 1985 and we were very young and inexperienced and made every idiot rookie error you can make but loved the experience whole heartedly and found ourselves re-living the magic of this charter for years afterwards.

Sadly no pics of us on this yacht, a Beneteau First, 29 foot – top of the range in 1985!

And I have been itching to get back ever since.

Each successive visit has deepened the experience and has given shape to the things I continue to love. But it ultimately boils down to simplicity and beauty. The islands are all beautiful in their own way.  Often stark and rugged and without trees yet filled with their own unique character none the less. The food is simple but can also be finely nuanced and the ingredients always the best. But this is a story about where not why so enough of this as I could just go on as this is a love that is loyal and has burned for the last 30 something years.  But instead I’ll take you on a little tour of our travels northwards and hope that you get some of what makes it special by seeing it through my eyes.

After 7 weeks in Turkey and a side trip to visit our new granddaughter in Spain and a bit more boat work we were finally in the water and ready to go at the beginning of July.

With any extended sailing adventure conversations between us and with other yachties always revolves around the weather and where you will go with this precious summer time.  This year in the Aegean it has been very windy. To the point that many people are really over it and are planning to move on to less windy places like Turkey or over to the Ionian to get away from the being holed up in anchorages waiting for high winds to abate or being forced out into them due to commitments to be in specific places at set times.  The Meltemi (the summer northerlies) have barrelled down from Macedonia or Turkey and the Black Sea with little break between them.  This is the unusual part.  They are the prevailing summer winds and as such are always expected but they usually follow a pattern of 4/5 days of wind then a break between them of a similar length or longer.

This is a screen shot of what is coming next week. Blue is calm. Red is 30-40 knots or beaufort 7/8

So bearing this in mind we still decided to head north to do an anti-clockwise circuit of the Aegean before hauling the boat back out of the water on Leros at the end of October. This means we needed to jump on every bit of wind we could to head north. Of course, we were open to change at any moment and there is always a plan B if the weather doesn’t cooperate but we figured that by taking this route we would be in the quieter, less visited islands in August which is one of the busiest months for European yachties and charter boats. The other considerations are to make sure there is ample time to turn around and head south again by catching the last of the Meltemi’s before the winter southerlies begin. We also wanted to maximise the warm summer weather up north.  Another bonus of this plan is that as we return to Leros, we would miss the majority of the summer holiday crowds of boats and people in the busier islands of the Northern Sporades and the Cyclades.

So with a plan in hand we headed north. Stay tuned for part 2.

Loose Plan A………
Posted by:cathmaddox

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