A lot of the time when I say we motor places, what I really mean is that we are motorsailing.  In this case the sails are still up and the motor moves us through the water.  The speed the motor adds increases the apparent wind operating on the jib. Apparent wind is the combination of the two vectors of wind on the moving vessel – the wind generated by moving forward and the naturally occurring wind. When sailing upwind, the jib is acting as an airfoil, so the boat’s motor is acting like a plane’s propeller, moving the airfoil through the air so that it can generate lift. (In the case of the jib, the airfoil is vertical and so the “lift” is really a horizontal pull.) Anyway, I got into all of this just to say that when we motor we almost always have the mainsail up. (People ask.) The reason for that is not speed, but stability. The boat has a keel which acts to dampen motion, especially rolling (i.e. side to side motion), below the water. The mainsail can do the same with the air. It’s much bigger than the keel because air isn’t as dense as water. Once the mainsail is up, the boat has two stabilizers and the ride becomes a lot more comfortable. Also, if the wind picks up, you have the sail ready to go.

We pulled into Astipalaia after several hours. There was a nice little quay there that was half empty with only three or four boats tied up. We had to do a Med mooring job and it took some finagling at the end to get our stern lines tied up correctly. It was late in the afternoon already and so we headed up to see the castle that overlooks the island. Astipalaia is a quaint little town with blue-trimmed white houses built in the 50s on. The place was leveled in an eartquake around then, so not much remains of the original town. Still, they did a nice job maintaining the character. You still find twisting stairways between the blocky similarly painted houses. We twisted up towards the top of the hill through narrow alleyways between houses. At one point we asked a young girl, maybe 5 years old, if a narrow set of steps was the right way to go. She had been sweeping outside her house and she gave a sidelong look back to the doorway as if to check with her parents the propriety of talking with these strangers. Then she came over and pointed up the stairs with an authoritative declaration in Greek. It was indeed the right way.

The castle there is interesting in that the outer walls were actually formed by private houses, some of them three stories tall. A few purely defensive bits were added to shore up the fortification and it worked that way for many years. Before the earthquake the locals had taken over the houses and added extensive wooden balconies on the outside. Those all fell off, causing untold damage. Most of the buildings on the inside of the castle – which had been residential up until then – were also flattened. Now it’s just some ruins and two restored churches that are quite lovely with their bells and blue domes.

After that we had dinner in the main drag of town, up by some disused windmills. I actually climbed all the way back down to see if Joe wanted to join us. He was busy trying to find some relief for a toothache. The locals were unanimous in recommending ouzo.

The town was subdued and not without its charm. Andrew and I speculated about having a small studio apartment here, cute and cozy with a magnificent view of the Mediterranean. It’s not a bad idea, although I’m not sure it would be my first purchase with the lottery money. I’m ignorant of the character of Greek daily life. That would an important factor in wanting to spend much time in a place like this.

It was another day of early to bed, early to rise. I don’t think any of us felt any better for it, but we have to make the most of our time before the meltemi starts to blow. The meltemi, if I haven’t mentioned it before, is the prevailing summer wind in the Aegean sea that comes out of the N, NW and NE. We are going in what could be considered the wrong direction around these islands since we are trying to go North into the wind all the time. The sail to Santorini, however, was not to the North, but mostly West. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much wind of any kind. So, we ended up motoring most of the way.

Arrived at Santorini and docked where three locals told us not to, because of the waves caused by the ferries going in and out. Andrew and I walked up the donkey path. Lots of donkeys, lots of donkey crap and a blistering sun to top it off. Felix, Itai and Alisa took what they call the funicular, but which is really a gondola/cable lift thing. At the top of the hill we encountered more bullshit than donkey. The whole place was a disgusting tourist trap of boutiques and souvenir shops. When you could find a space between them where you could see the white houses arrayed along the hill, it was certainly a nice view, but the town had as much magic as a shopping mall. We couldn’t believe that people would come there for their honeymoons. Scores, or grosses of cruise passengers were dropped off on a regular basis, presumably to shop for jewelry or glassware.

We had a meal at a restaurant overlooking the crater. The real magic of this island is that it is the rim of a crater of a volcano. The other islands around it are other parts of the crater, with a central plug that forms another rocky pile in the middle. It’s absolutely mindblowing to imagine the explosion that jettisoned so much land. According to our pilot book, Santorini is now considered the most probable candidate for Atlantis. The eruption of the volcano, in 1140 or so, basically destroyed the Minoan culture that was centered there, including the farther reaches of it on Crete. The Cretan part would’ve been swamped by a huge-ass (it’s a technical term) tsunami. They estiamte that the explosion of Santorini would have been three times more powerful than that of Krakatoa. We moored up in the crater of that, still active, volcano.

Mooring up was a bit of an issue. We went right up to the cement pier below the town. Locals warned us that our boat could get crushed up there. The wake from the large ferries and especially the fast ferries can pummel you against the side. We fendered up really well and left Joe on board to keep an eye on it. It wasnt until we came back after several hours that the boat got its first and only knock. As we approached with some provisions (yes, it might have been beer.) we saw the mast rocking back and forth like a metronome. Then we heard it crack up against the side, an awful sound. We quickly hopped aboard and cast off.

That night we spent in an anchorage on the central island of Nea Kameni. Sadly, we had to get back to the port very early the next morning to drop off all of our guests. Felix had a ferry to Athens and Itai and Aliza had one to Rhodes. They both left around 6 a.m. Which meant we had to get up at 5:30. Blech.

The rest of the day turned out nicely though. Andrew and I rented scooters and tooled around the island. We hit an organic winery for a tasting and then drove up to the highest point on the island. The monastery on top was closed, but the views were pretty nice. Then we came back down and went to another winery for another tasting. That place also had great views looking down into the crater.

We had dinner in the taverna at the marina and hit the hay.

The next day we left for Ios where we were going to meet Ben, our newest guest/crew member. He arrived on the ferry a few hours after we pulled into the cute harbor there.

That night we went out for the famous nightlife of Ios. It turned out that the whole scene there is dominated by teenagers. So, we didn’t really fit in. Still, it didn’t stop me from staying out until 4 in the morning – and Joe didn’t get back until 9 a.m. There’s more to the story of that night, but suffice to say a few dreams went unfulfilled and a few glasses became unfilled.

From Ios we thought to go to Sifnos. Instead, we pulled unto a little cove on a neighboring island. The place was so enchanting that we stayed the night.

(see next post for some details)

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