Wanner Family Living Abroad in 2008/2009 travel blog

The next leg of our trip was designed to try something completely new, satisfy my curiosity for history, and provide the kids with some fun and sun. We had rented a sailboat, complete with a skipper, to sail for a week in the Greek islands. Having never sailed previously, the planning for this journey probably caused more anxiety that any previously. The vast number of boat styles, vendors, skippers, and itineraries was overwhelming. Thankfully our friends Chris and Mary Priebe are sailors themselves and advised we rent a boat larger than we think we will need. We ended up chartering the Alexis, a one year old, 4 bedroom catamaran (2 hulls) from a lady named Roula. I have to admit I was a little nervous about Roula, as she had perfected that wonderful Greek habit of being casual. I wasn't convinced based on our numerous conversations that we would have a car at the airport, groceries on board, a skipper, or even a boat when we arrived. As it turned out, all was meticulously in order with the car driver waiting with a sign, the grocer had stowed the food we ordered, and Roula was waiting. At this time, a man with long grey hair pulled back in a pony tail, shorts and a t-shirt extends his hands and introduces himself as our skipper, Achilles. I was a little taken aback by the name and responded pardon, to which he smiled broadly and proudly exclaimed, "like the Greek hero"! We had a little laugh and I realized my fears about spending a week in a confined space with a stranger was probably unfounded - I already liked this Greek Hippie. As it turned out, Achilles proved to be a wonderful guide and host, providing interesting stories about Greece, paying particular attention to the children's fun, and taking us to some fabulous beachside tavernas throughout our trip. Even though he smoked 2 packs of cigarettes each day, he was always careful to ensure the smoke was not infringing on us. He even drank beer with me, although limiting himself to no more than 3 at a time as in his words, "someone has to sail the boat". We hadn't set an itinerary prior to arriving, preferring to wait until we could judge the weather. We had a couple choices for a 7 day sail, and based on the weather and the things we wanted to do, Achilles suggested a tour through the Cyclades islands. That decided, we quickly stowed our gear and got underway as we had to make anchor by nightfall and the first stop was over 3 hours away.

Under the Temple of Poseidon

Our first anchor was in xxxx bay on the southern tip of the Greek mainland where overlooking the bay was a cliff with the famed 2000 year old Temple of Poseidon. During the 3 hour sail we had selected our rooms (each kid had their own) and unpacked. So once we were anchored and confirmed solid, we could go for dinner. Part of the skipper compensation when chartering a boat is to provide meals. Again, we were not sure how going for dinner with a stranger and although we had the option of having dinner on our own and providing extra cash for Achilles, we thought that might be rude. As it turns out, the experience was wonderful. Achilles gathered us in the little dingy to get to shore, chose a favorite family run beachside taverna, translated, made food recommendations based on the restaurant specialties, and selected appropriate wine. This was a routine that we would follow nearly every evening of our trip. As this particular restaurant's specialty was fish, he asked the cook if we could look in the cooler and choose the fish we wanted. He and I choose some sweet Barbonia and Cole some XXXX which are essentially tiny minnow like fish deep-fried whole. Hard to explain the feeling sitting on the beach, with the waves lapping in, and a full moon shining over the light highlighted Temple of Poseidon on the cliff above. Also real cool was our first night on the boat. Sitting in the quiet bay, full moonlight and only the sounds of the water. It was kinda surreal. Not long after we went to bed, we found out Emma's apparent dislike of her brother is not as strong as her fear of sleeping alone in a dark room under water (the beds are in the hull with these little windows looking down into the ocean - we sometimes saw fish swim by in the greenish glow). The sound of little feet, followed by hushed deal making whispers and Emma claimed half of Cole's bed.

The next morning we were all up early, and at Achilles urging into the water for a before breakfast swim. Even at 7 or 8 am the water was warm and more buoyant than we expected. Francine was convinced we couldn't possibly sink and drown. Although at first a little unnerving to watch the kids leap into the sea some distance from shore, we soon didn't think twice about it as they would be in and out of the water, swimming, snorkelling, diving, and racing to the beach whenever we had a chance. After the swim, a breakfast of Greek yoghurt, honey, cheese and fruit and then it was time to set sail for our next destination.

Before we left Athens, we had decided that based on the weather forecasts, and the 7 days we had allotted, that we should sail into the Cyclades - a chain of islands known for their beaches, towns on rocky cliffs overlooking the sea, and rich in history. A number of the Cyclades are also well known with tourists - places like Santorini, Ios, and Mykonos. We determined we would target some of the smaller and lesser known islands to avoid the summer crush. With this in mind we set sail for the island Kythnos, in particular a pretty beach on a spit of land separating the Agean from a small bay sheltering the town of Apokrisi. This bay was particularly compelling as it was very quiet, more than 2 km from the nearest town, only a handful of other boats anchored, perfectly clear water, a beautiful sandy beach and a single taverna. Achilles informed us that this particular taverna specialized in goat - something Cole and I were keen to try. Shortly thereafter, almost as if on queue, a couple shepherds were seen herding their goats across the beach providing quite a scene of old contrasting new with these simple shepherds and mulitmillion $ yachts sharing the space. Although Achilles thought these unfortunate animals may be our supper (they were heading towards the taverna), it was not to be. The taverna was not serving goat that evening, so Cole and I had to settle for lamb instead. Like the previous evening, and soon to be the norm for all our nights in Greece, we would spend 2 hours or more just soaking in the warm evenings, listening to the water, drinking wine and discussing Greece with Achilles. We also learned a valuable sailing lesson at others expense. Achilles, seemingly unreasonably, had us pull the dingy we used to get to shore all the way up the beach and tie it to a tree. I thought it was overkill, as the boat was at least 30 feet from the water and it was perfectly calm. However, Achilles assured us that the last thing we want to do after eating and drinking wine is have to swim out to our sailboat in the dark. Later that evening, as if on queue, we witnessed two young gentlemen watching their shuttle float helplessly away. Achilles graciously offered to take out his skiff to retrieve their boat saving them the unpleasant swim or loss of their boat. Full of wine and good simple food, we "skiffed" our way back to the boat for a nightcap in the light of the moon.

By this time Achilles had educated us on the fact that credit cards are not that commonly used in Greece - in fact very few places on the islands will accept them. Cash is really the only want to trade. This was somewhat unexpected and a bit of a problem as we typically used our cards we had not brought much cash. Achilles determined that our next stop was only a few hours away so it might be advised to head to a nearby town to get cash, and we could have lunch while we were at it. So weigh anchor and head down the coast to a small village. Here we were also able to eat at a place that dried its octopus outside draped across wires strung from trees - Cole and I thought pretty cool, the girls thought "gross". We had to try a couple banks, typical in Italy and Greece, but we did get some cash and felt better that we would not have to resort to fishing for our dinner. We also took the opportunity to stock up on further groceries - we were not going to go hungry.

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