Day 0-1: Lavrio to Kythnos
Our adventure started in Lavrio, a small port town an hour from Athens. Once we found our designated boat, Arethusa, a 33-foot Bavaria Cruiser, we quickly settled ourselves in and got the galley stocked from the local supermarket. It was late afternoon by the time we got everything set up, so we agreed to stay the night at the harbour until the morning.
Little did we know that the sleepy little town became a party hub on a Saturday night with the sound and vibration of dance music thumped well through the early mornings (I feel old writing this admonishingly). In the morning, we woke up to a torrential rain that would make Dutch Weather God proud. Not a good start of the trip.
Around noon the rain relented into a light drizzle, and we took our chance to take off, eager to take the boat out to sea. The cloud soon dissipated and the sun started to shine. We had some initial trouble with the furling mainsail, which got rotated the wrong way around and got stuck, but soon fixed it (all the while the Kid took to the helm proudly while we’re busy tinkering with the sail).
The wind died a pretty quick death, and once we passed the island of Kea, we had to give up with the sails and motored the whole way to Kythnos.
Kythnos Loutra was such a tiny harbour. We were a bit worried that we would find the space restriction to difficult to do our first ever mooring by anchor (a mooring method uncommon in Dutch harbours), but as soon as we pulled into the basin, helpful crews from neighbouring boats assisted us by shouting instructions. In the end, we nailed our anchor maneuver beautifully.
The village of Loutra itself looked like a rural fishing village. There were restaurants lining up the beach close to the harbour, a beach, and a natural hot spring somewhere close to the beach, but otherwise there are no other visible touristic infrastructure. Which is not a bad thing for us. And since it was our first island harbour, we found it quite charming.
Day 2: Kythnos to Paros
This was going to be the most ambitious and challenging leg of the whole journey.
In the morning, it was a bit chilly, but otherwise sunny and breezy. Hubby and the Kid went to the hot spring at the far side of the beach. By the time we ate our brunch and got ready to leave, the wind picked up in a good way since we did have a long trip ahead and we could use some speed.
We left the small harbour with no problem despite the wind. I was glad to learn another use for the anchor chain; to pull the boat out smoothly even with a side wind while Hubby brings in an extra pull from the engine.
Once we left Loutra Bay, the wind and the waves grew steadily stronger. By the time we could see the outline of Serifos, an island halfway between Kythnos and Paros, we were rocked by 3 meter tall waves and 6 Bft (40-50km/h) wind that we had to have a rethink whether to change course toward the island or going through. In the end, we decided to plough through, even though we saw many other boats changed their course and head north to the island. And it just got more dramatic from then on. The waves we had then must’ve been around 5 meter tall, the 7-8 Bft (50-75km/h) gale force wind was howling, sprays are soaking the cockpit relentlessly and the boat basically surfed the waves instead of sailing. At one point the boat must have heeled to almost 90 degree angle since it tipped everything to one side and almost flung me out of the boat. Everybody felt sea-sick, but I’m still proud with the fact that we all managed to keep our tummy content inside. The Kid tried to come outside to the cockpit before the wind got too strong, but by then went back and huddled in bed inside and tried to sleep (a trick she always uses when feeling sea sick).
We were hoping that once we rounded up the northern tip of Paros, we would be a bit shielded from the southern wind, but when we made the turn and heading into the bay, we realised that the mountain slope in front of us had acted as an accelerator for the wind heading toward us instead. The short journey reaching the Naoussa bay was even wetter, bumpier and harder than the open sea (getting salt water sprays in our eyes didn’t help). We couldn’t prepare the boat for mooring until we’re inside the harbour basin which gave us excellent protection, but it’s still too windy to do proper anchoring maneuver. Luckily we managed to put our lines securely and safely onto another boat.
After wet clothes removed, crusty and salty faces washed, cuts, scrapes and bruises inspected and taken care of, we took a proper look and walked around the little town of Naoussa. The fishing town looks dainty, clean and friendly. Naoussa was the only port town we visited where we found genuine local life going about; children played sport at the field, other children congregatde noisily in the playground well into 10 in the evening. This was also where the Kid found her short-lived friendship with a local girl who spoke rudimentary English, who would meet her after dinner to play there.
Day 3: Naoussa, Paros
We decided that we deserved a sailing break and stayed in town for an extra day. The following day was warmer, sunnier, and the town looked dazzlingly white against the jewel-coloured sea water. We took a stroll to the old fishing village, where fishing boats moored among the cafes, protected from open sea by the old breakwater and fortress. Lunch that day was a languorous outdoor affair with great food, and chilled wine (and I don’t usually like white wine), followed by a nap (well, for me anyway). I imagined this was how a proper Mediterranean vacation should be done.
At least I wasn’t the only one taking a nap, the whole island took their naps as well. Between 1-5pm, shops closed, windows shut and a hush descended over the little town. We took that quiet time to explore the labyrinths created by the closely built local houses.
We still wanted to go south to Santorini at this stage, but frustratingly, the wind was still forecast to blow from the south for several more days, and we needed to get there before day 6 in order to have the time to sail back on time. It was time to look for alternative route. We settled on doing the short sail to Naxos the following day instead of Ios, and see if by miracle the wind forecast was wrong and we got favourable wind to go south while we’re there.