In late June of 2013, Chris and I spent two full weeks sailing the Greek islands aboard a 40-foot catamaran along with our two sons, our niece and nephew, and my brother and sister-in-law. We hired a local skipper and set sail from Alimos Marina near Athens. It was an epic trip, stunningly beautiful, historically significant, and culturally rich. Loved it! Chris took the time to blog about our experiences:
- Part 1: The Planning
- Part 2: Athens and Meeting our Boat and Skipper
- Part 3: Athens to Kythnos
- Part 4: Kythnos to Serifos
- Part 5: Serifos to Milos
- Part 6: Folegandros
- Part 7: Ios
- Part 8: Antiparos and Naxos
- Part 9: Mykonos and Delos
- Part 10: Rineia, Syros, and Kythnos
- Part 11: Poros, Aegina, and return to Alimos
Overall the trip went well, but we had a few bumps along the way. The two biggies: our dinghy only worked intermittently, and we couldn’t visit Santorini. More about those and more in these lessons learned:
Regarding itinerary and sightseeing:
- Acclimate first: It would have been nice to allow for a day or two to acclimate before setting sail. We arrived in the morning after an overnight flight from JFK, had a few hours of sightseeing followed by grocery shopping to provision the boat, and then set sail the next morning. In retrospect, it would have been gentler to have one more day on the front end to allow for a light day on arrival and an overnight in Athens.
- See the Roman Agora first: Our inital sightseeing in Athens took in Hadrian’s Arch, the Temple of Zeus, the Panathenaic Stadium, the National Gardens, the Greek Parliament House, the Plaka, and the Roman Agora. Check that – we wanted to see the Roman Agora but it closed early at about 2:30 or 3pm and we just missed it. We should have reversed our loop and started with the Agora.
- Take a taxi: While it’s adventurous to walk and take public transportation, we should have taken a taxi from Athens to the Alimos Marina. The Metro from the airport to downtown Athens was a breeze, but figuring out the other train (while dragging all of our luggage) was difficult when severely jet-lagged and exhausted from sightseeing.
- Hire a tour guide: We hired two different tour guides, one for the Parthenon and one for Delos. Both were phenomenal and well worth the time and money. Official tour guides in Greece are highly educated and trained; ours brought history to life. Fantastic!
- Take a hard copy of sightseeing info: Wifi was spotty throughout the trip, so it was especially handy to have all of our pre-trip sightseeing research printed and tucked into a Greek Islands guidebook. We brushed up and made plans as we approached each island, then hit the ground running.
- Mooring vs. sailing: We really wanted to be active participants on the boat and help sail but were only needed for mooring; unexpected, but the guys got really good at it! Perhaps we could have sailed more on a monohull.
- Sailing vs. motoring: We sailed less than we thought, especially in the beginning. Wind was light so we depended on the gas motor.
- More time on the boat: Travel between islands took longer than expected, at least 4–6 hours each day.
- Our broken dinghy: On a trip like this, the boat’s dinghy (a small raft with motor) is the lifeline to shore. Ours was dodgy from the beginning, leaving us stranded on the boat or facing long swims to shore. Very frustrating! In hindsight I should have been more forceful from the get-go insisting on a replacement.
- No Santorini: This was the biggest disappointment of all. The charter company knew which islands we wanted to visit, but made vague statements that itineraries must be flexible due to changing weather conditions. Our skipper said weather wasn’t an issue, there simply weren’t any places to moor. Aaargh! We regrouped of course, but it was a blow. If planning the trip again and Santorini was a must, we’d spend a night or two in Athens, then ferry out to Paros (one island where sailing charters are based). We’d use Paros as a home base, take the ferry for day trips to Santorini and Delos, then sail a few other islands on a 7-day charter.
Even with hiccups and low points, this was a dream trip. We made memories with family that I’ll cherish forever.