A Tale of Two Cats
You'd be hard-pressed to conjure up a more portentous escort than the dolphins that accompanied us on our sail from Syros to Mykonos, right in the center of the Greek archipelago known as the Cyclades. Sailing a Nautitech 47 called Gorgias, we were a couple of days into the first of two brief crewed charters early last fall in Greek waters. After what had been a wildly breezy summer across the Aegean, with day after day of staunch northerly winds, we'd arrived in the region at the outset of a period of light, steamy southerlies that delivered barely enough air to fill the sails.
As the distant outline of Mykonos materialized through the haze, our skipper, Giorgos Mourmouris, entertained us with stories of the famous neighboring island of Delos, the legendary birthplace of Apollo, and of the dolphins that symbolized his stature as the god of prophecy, music, healing, and, later, the sun. Even today, he said, the dolphin mosaics draw scores of visitors to the remarkable ruins of Delos. Shortly thereafter, almost on cue, a pod of dolphins was splashing in the bow wave, and Giorgos was laughing about how he almost always sees the creatures as he negotiates this particular stretch of water.
"My friends," he said, taking his own stab at prophecy, "I think this is a very good omen."
Half an hour later, we'd shut down the engines for the first time since we'd left Athens and were beam-reaching toward Mykonos at a quiet, gentle five knots in roughly twice as much wind. A good omen, indeed.
And so it went for the majority of our time in Greece, which I visited with photographer Bob Grieser and his wife, Georgia. The first part of our trip, through the Northern Cyclades, was spent aboard Gorgias with Captain Giorgos and mate/cook Eva Vagher, from whose galley emerged a never-ending stream of fresh salads and wonderful Greek cuisine. Then, after a ferry trip back to the mainland, we ventured onward to the Gulf of Corinth, where we boarded Lepanto, a Lagoon 500, for what turned into a wild transit of the Corinth Canal.
So this is a tale not only of two separate trips but also of two different catamarans and of the memorable experiences we encountered on each.
|Lepanto, a Lagoon 500 (below), was a powerhouse under way and offered sumptuous quarters once the sails were furled.|
South to the Cyclades
The galley on the Nautitech 47 is nothing grand, but you couldn't say the same about the platters of food pouring forth from it: potato salad with avocado, stuffed tomatoes with barley wheat, lightly fried zucchini accompanied by a marvelous sauce of yogurt and cucumber, fresh bread with an eggplant dip, a wild-greens salad, and, just for good measure, cubes of feta cheese bathed in olive oil and herbs.
"OK," said Eva, the master who'd conjured this feast in what seemed like no time flat, "let's eat."
Many of the ancient Greeks lived by a code that put equal emphasis on the training and refinement of both the mind and the body, with food an important element in both the physical and intellectual pursuit of excellence. And while I must say I tried every afternoon to take a long, steady swim-not exactly a hardship in the warm, crystalline waters where we dropped the hook at lunchtime each day-when all was said and done, my caloric output was certainly well shy of the input.
In any event, meals turned out to be a substantial and happy part of our days aboard Gorgias; lunchtime was Eva's time, and it seemed like she was on a never-ending quest to one-up her previous effort. (I had a hard time deciding on my favorite dish, though it was probably a toss-up between the succulent mushrooms baked slowly with garlic and fresh-picked parsley and the dazzling omelet concocted with zucchini, potato, parsley, and pumpkin seeds.) Then, each evening, we'd drift among the waterfront cafés of the port we happened to be in, finally settling on cozy tavernas specializing in fresh fish and other local delicacies.
We'd initially set out from the Lavrion Marina, a long stone's throw from the imposing Temple of Poseidon on Cape Sounion, a headland south of Athens, bound first for the nearby island of Kea, a busy place indeed on a Saturday evening. The next morning, we were up and moving early, en route to the interesting island of Syros, which we investigated in two stops: first, for lunch and a swim in a small harbor on the isle's western flank, and then, after motoring around the northern point, to the busy city of Ermoupolis, a place distinguished by the all-white architecture dotted by the spires of numerous Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches. There was no question about it-we were definitely in Greece.