Russian BayBy Mark Stevens

Photos by: Sharon Matthews-Stevens

Mediterranean mooring in the harbour at Poros.

We did breakfast yesterday in the Greek port of Piraeus, just outside Athens:strong coffee, crisp bacon, fresh bread, and omelets spiked with Feta Cheese.

We did dinner last night, al fresco, in a village called Perdika on the island of Aegina.

Sometime over dinner it hit me;I knew I was on to something. Raising a glass of ouzo, I toasted my wife, Sharon, and our friends and crew, Ed and Kim North.

Getting ready to dine al fresco — witness the catch of the day.
Catch of the Day

“Forget about weddings,” I said, referring to a hit movie penned by a Canadian of Greek ancestry named Nia Vardalos. “Welcome to my Big Fat Greek Charter.”

Said charter started right after yesterday’s breakfast. By 10AMwe were slicing waters that were the stuff of Greek mythology in ‘Windsprite,’ the 440 Catamaran we chartered from the Sunsail base at Marina Zea. Velocity was good in the Gulf of Saronic in the Aegean Seaand the wind was around six knots.

Quest for Baklava

 

 

The Quest for Baklava: sought and found at Ermioni.

But no mere history for us, despite the fact we were chasing the ghosts of the likes of Jason and the Argonauts. No golden fleece for us.

We have loftier aspirations.

We’llchase the winds (Vorias and Boreas, Sirocco and Souroko) on our own hero’s quest. We’ll enjoy a sailing charter without equal – sampling delicacies both gustatory and otherwise from the moment we cast off. And we’ll discover the best baklava in Greece.

By midmorning we’dpicked up a breeze they call the Meltemi. Stark, green-dappled mountains (one surmounted by the Acropolis itself) fell away off our stern.

A cooling dip near the harbour on Hydra, where Leonard Cohen once owned a house.Cooling Dip

We threaded our way between racing dinghies, fishing boats, and a fleet of other Sunsail boats with their characteristic red-bordered foresails.

Perfect day for a sail; perfect time of year for a charter. “September’s the best month to sail here,” says Chris Donahue, a Sunsail lead skipper.

Roughly five nautical miles out, we stopped at a trio of stark, uninhabited islands and had an aquamarine swim; Corinth dead ahead, Athens dead astern.

Back on course, we noticed a splash of sun-splattered white foam off the port beam. We hove-to and watched a family of dolphins cavorting and kibitzing before disappearing beneath the surface.

Russian BayPerfect overnight anchorage at Russian Bay.

Seemed to me like the gods themselves (Greek gods, no doubt) were doing their best to ensure that this would be one of the best charters ever.

It was a feeling that only grew when we rounded Aegina’s north headlandand made our way down the lee side to the village of Perdika.


Perdika boasts a photogenic harbour with a tiny beach at one end. At sunset, the mountains of the Peloponnesian Peninsula morph from blue-gray to indigo to black. The waters blush and wispy cirrus cloudsare painted the colour of cotton candy.

In the foreground, white-washed buildings, some a thousand years old, front the seawall and line up along a meandering cobblestone path that makes its way south to a solitary and ancient temple, north to a gorgeous church. These buildings house tabernas and quaint shops, many selling an array of products made from pistachios: the island’s chief export. I feel like I’ve just walked into a postcard.

Then it’s dinnertime.

Ed and Kim opt for octopus. My wife and I share Saganaki, a sort of fried cheese, then Greek salad. I follow that with souvlaki, and we finish up with baklava.

Now inspiration strikes – accompanied by the clatter of glasses at this restaurant with impossibly delicious food and an impossibly unpronounceable name. Now the server delivers four shots of ouzo. Now I come up with both code name and theme.

From Athens to EpidaurusCalling our six-day sailing adventure in Greece ‘My Big Fat Greek Charter’ proves both apropos and prophetic, for we’ve embarked on a voyage that would prove to be a celebration as exhilarating, joyful, and rewarding as any mere nuptial.

Wherever you sail here you come face-to-face with history — from Athens to Epidaurus.

Consider this: a lunch stop in Russian Bay on the island of Poros. We’re snugged down just off a little beach guarded by the eighteenth-century ruins of Russian warehouses, built when Russian ships landed here to assist the Greeks in their War of Independence.

“One of Poros’ most beautiful anchorages,” Sunsail staffer Chris Donahue said at the Sunsail skipper briefing back at their Marina Zea base. “Certainly one of the most scenic beaches in the Saronic Gulf.”

He’s not wrong.

Umbrellas lounge beside crystal-clear waters in the lee of a tiny island boasting five or six trees and an even tinier villa. Here we snorkel, dinghy ashore, and sip a beer from a portable bar. My wife and Kim take turns balancing on a stand-up paddleboard. We love the anchorage so much we come back and overnight here later in the week.

Or maybe what stands out will be the landfall on Poros: gracious two-story Neoclassical villas share the shore with our boat; villas hunkered down at the base of steep hills painted with trim of Mediterranean blue, decorated by wrought iron balconies; a congregation of buildings sporting orange tile roofs, piled like building blocks, climbing a hill capped with a clock tower like the cherry on top of a sundae.

Or maybe we’ll remember a beam reach down the Gulf of Hydra, the harbour itself glides past our port quarter, mansions clinging to the sides of hills climbing up from a harbour where the only means of transport are mules, their hooves clip-clopping on the cobblestone, where the other sounds – a feast for every sense – are traditional Greek melodies performed by bouzouki (a sort of Greek guitar) in a tree-lined square. No surprise Leonard Cohen loved this island so much that he once owned a house here.

But don’t forget Ermioni further west, where we leave the boat (stern-to) and stroll a peninsula populated by a park replete with ruins from fifteen centuries ago, where we dine high above the sea as the sun gilds the waters at day’s end, where we discover, to our delight, some of the best baklava we’ve ever tasted.

And then there’s the sailing.

Chasing the winds in the Saronic Gulf.

Saronic GulfWe round a headland where winds and waves have sculpted landforms that could hold their own in any museum of antiquities, we tack back and forth back up the Gulf of Hydra and take waves on the beam that decorate the Aegean like a collection of fine lace. We skirt the coast of Peloponnese, passing the occasional palace, temple ruins, olive groves, and vineyards on our close-hauled course north.

Landfall tonight is Epidavros, a winding path leading to a deserted beach one way, an ancient amphitheatre the other. Before casting off next morning, we take a taxi to Epidaurus, a whole city of ruins high in the mountains, considered one of the most celebrated healing centres in the Classical world, first built in 4th century B.C.

Here, between sunset and dinner, I crash a mass at the Orthodox church dominating a hill overlooking the pier where ‘Windsprite’ waits impatiently, listening to exotic chants, inhaling the aroma of incense, invoking the gods of the winds.

Then next morning we sail again, we arrive at last at the Sunsail Zea base at Piraeus, meeting the skippers and crew of other boats for a final seaside meal.

We’ll do moussaka, souvlaki, maybe catch of the day. Finish with baklava.

It’s the perfect finish to our Big Fat Greek Dinner – and our Big Fat Greek Charter.

Washed down deliciously with one more ouzo.

SHIP’S LOG

• For more information on booking a Sunsail charter in Greece, log on to http://www.sunsail.com/destinations/mediterranean/greece
• Sunsail Greek bases include Zea, just outside Athens, Lefkas, and Corfu
• Greek charter options range from skippered and bareboat adventures to flotillas with four distinct itineraries

 

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