A Tale of Two Cats

A matching set of crewed "mini-charters" aboard a Lagoon 500 and a Nautitech 47 reveal two sides to Greece's alluring waters and the beguiling traits of a pair of new catamarans. A special feature from our July 2009 issue

June 18, 2009

368 Nautitech 47

The trampolines on Gorgias, a Nautitech 47, were the perfect swim platform from which to work off lunch. Bob Grieser

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.

Bob Grieser| |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 cafes 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.

The next day, a wander through the bustling market with Eva was nothing less than fascinating as she poked from shop to shop, gathering basketfuls of fresh produce, spices, cheeses, and other delicacies. By midmorning, Giorgos had extricated us from our Med mooring on the main thoroughfare and set a course for the deserted island of Rinia, where we again dove into the inviting sea and enjoyed yet another marvelous repast while priming ourselves for the over-the-top, 24/7 attractions of Mykonos.


“Here,” said Giorgos, as we tied up near the island’s new cruise-ship terminal, “time does not exist.”

True enough: Mykonos is Greece’s version of the island that never sleeps. We rented a car and had a good look at the beaches, resorts, shops, and scenery that make the place such a powerful magnet for tourists and partiers of all ages and nationalities. And while I’m glad I had the chance to see it again after a long hiatus-I know right were to go when I need my next Rolex and Louis Vuitton luggage-I wasn’t sad when we put it (and the six cruise ships and their passengers) in our distant wake.

After our night of wretched Mykonos excess, we were all in the mood for something entirely laid back, and the lovely island of Paros, a short sail to the south, was the perfect antidote. We spent the evening, our last aboard Gorgias, in the company of a truly international fleet of cruisers in the secluded harbor of Naoussa, a one-time pirates’ lair on the island’s northeast point.

Our Nautitech 47, built in France in 2007, had been an ideal vehicle for wandering about the archipelago. The four double cabins, each with its own separate head, are spread out nicely in the quarters of the rectangular accommodation plan. The focal point of the central saloon is the large oval table and a huge wraparound settee that could easily sit eight for dinner. Likewise, there’s another big table and dining area in the spacious aft cockpit, which is also great for drinks and socializing.

Under way, the 47-footer employs twin wheels stationed well aft and outboard in each of the respective hulls; each position offers clear sightlines to main and jib sail trim as well as a clear, unimpeded look at the horizon. The traveler, sheet winches, and mainsheet are also close at hand, making the boat surprisingly easy and efficient to sail. Our only regret was that we didn’t have enough breeze to really get a feel for the Nautitech’s performance, which one has to assume is considerable.

As we spent our last night together aboard Gorgias, with a full moon rising over Naoussa, the evening couldn’t have been stiller or mellower. But that was about to change.

Calm in the Canal
If our time aboard Gorgias was really all about the islands, our spell aboard the Lagoon 500, Lepanto, was all about the boat. We certainly got to see her under remarkable conditions.

When we first boarded the rangy 50-footer, in a small marina in the Gulf of Corinth near the entrance to the Corinth Canal-the nearly four-mile waterway to the Saronic Gulf that cuts through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth, which separates the Peloponnesus peninsula and the Greek mainland-it was blowing a solid 30 knots, the sun was low in the afternoon sky, and six-foot waves were stacking up outside the breakwater. I added it all up and reckoned we’d be staying put for the night.

But skipper Leo Siafias was ready for action. We’d barely said hello before he was instructing his first mate, Alexandra Kouri, to untie the dock lines and haul in the fenders. Before we knew it, we were headed out.

I joined Leo on the flybridge steering station as he hailed the canal authorities on the VHF asking for clearance to enter the canal. And I was absolutely blown away by Lepanto’s sure-handed ability to withstand, and even revel in, the horrendous seaway. As we watched a 40-foot monohull get pounded mercilessly, aboard Lepanto we endured a mere dollop of spray here and there when tacking through, or muscling head-on into, the seas. The twin 75-horsepower Volvo Penta diesels handled the fierce, breaking waves with aplomb, and before we knew it, we were coursing between the tall walls of the canal canyon in still waters with the engines in neutral and all sails furled, still making seven knots of boat speed before the fresh, funneling northerly breeze.

Once clear of the canal, we motorsailed down the coast to the small, confined harbor at Nea Epidhavros. The next morning, after we had coffee and a dip in the pretty anchorage, Alexandra gave me a tour of the impressive Lagoon.

The 500 is a yacht that happens also to be a three-story townhouse consisting of the upper-deck flybridge/penthouse, the central living/dining/social area, and the “subterranean” bedroom suites below. It makes for an incredible chartering platform and feels much, much bigger than 50 feet. In fact, after the several days we’d spent on the Nautitech 47, the Lagoon felt considerably larger and more substantial; it seemed surreal that it was a mere three feet longer.

From an aesthetic standpoint, the coachroof on the 500 is styled in the distinctive Lagoon profile, which is a bit reminiscent of a gun turret in a military embankment. To my eye, it’s somewhat squarish, though it certainly does establish the brand. And to give credit where it’s due, the builders have done a good job incorporating the upstairs tier into the overall design, which flows nicely with the overall lines and is quite unobtrusive-rather amazing, given the entire package. With electric Harken winches for the main halyard, the reefing lines, and the mainsheet, a remote windlass control, easy access to headsail sheets, and a full suite of Raymarine instruments, including a chart plotter and a VHF, the boat can be fully operated from the flybridge. It’s push-button sailing at its finest, with an epic view, as well.

The aft cockpit has an expansive wraparound settee and a large table around which at least eight could be seated for dinner. A wet bar with its own sink is to port, and a nifty set of sliding glass windows can open up to merge the central saloon with the outdoor area, thereby optimizing the floor plan for parties and for entertaining.

The main cabin has another large dining table and matching settee just aft of the navigation station, work desk, and home-entertainment center, which includes a full set of Raymarine repeaters (and a joystick for the autopilot, allowing inside steering), a laptop computer, and an LG flat-screen television. The turret, looks aside, is very functional, permitting plenty of natural light to flow through the interior. The full gourmet galley, which includes a four-burner stove and oven, is to port.

The list of other features, along with the four lavish staterooms, goes on and on: three fridges, a combination washer/dryer, full air-conditioning, a dishwasher and watermaker, a deep freezer, half a dozen electric heads, and a 15-kilowatt Onan generator to power it all.

Alas, our time aboard Lepanto was brief, and after our tour of the boat, we spent a long day motoring back to the marina in Lavrion, where our travels began. We only wished we could’ve made our way back toward the islands.
After all, on this compact voyage, we barely scratched the surface of what Greece, surely one of the world’s great cruising grounds, has to offer. But that left us with plenty of incentive to return sometime soon. Besides, we already know where the dolphins frolic-and of the good omens that always follow.

Greece: The Olympic Way

Our travels through Greece were arranged and hosted by Olympic Yacht Charters USA (www.olympicyacht
), a full-service travel company that provides bareboat and crewed charters through the Saronic, Cyclades, Dodecanese, and Ionian island groups as well as flotilla-charter opportunities and private land tours. For more information, contact New York-based charter specialist Alex Mazarakis via phone (718-392-7992 or toll-free at 1-877-2GREECE) or e-mail ([email protected]).

A Worthwhile Sidetrip

Do you remember the movie Shallow Hal? With regard to museums, antiquities, packaged tours, and the like, I might as well be Shallow Herb. When I’m going sailing, I generally like to keep things simple, as in Let’s go sailing.
So when I learned that we’d spend the first days of our charter in Greece wandering by car in the countryside, I was less than excited. But a day later, sitting atop the remarkable, 2,500-year-old amphitheater of Epidhavros and taking in the commanding view, my perspective was forever altered. Down below, on the floor of the theater, a woman with a majestic voice broke into a stirring rendition of “Ave Maria” that reduced the crowd to stunned silence until the final note, when everyone responded with thunderous applause. It turned out to be a lasting memory of the trip.
In fact, our entire two-day drive over the bridge at the Corinth Canal and through the Peloponnesus peninsula was a highlight of our adventures. From the delightful waterfront cafes in Navplion to the mountainous terrain of Delphi, where the Delphic oracle held court alongside the Temple of Apollo, the side trip was a visual sensation in its own right, but it also put into clear perspective the history and culture we’d soak up once we were under way.
Our guide, Peter Mazarakis-his brother, Alex, runs Olympic Yacht Charters (see above) was a fount of knowledge and stories, and his love of his country was infectious. The land tour also allowed some decompression after the transatlantic flight; by the time we shoved off for the islands, we were rested and ready to go. Needless to say, I’m now a convert. If you’re headed to the Caribbean, by all means bolt for the water. But if you’re taking in Greece, consult with your charter operator and take the time to see the wonders of Athens or some of the nation’s other rich venues and destinations. This shallow one highly recommends it.

Specs: Nautitech 47
Gorgias, a Nautitech 47
LOA 47′ 5″ (14.50 m.)
LWL 46′ 0″ (14.00 m.)
Beam 25′ 9″ (7.60 m.)
Draft 3′ 9″ (1.20 m.)
Sail Area 1,244 sq. ft. (115 sq. m.)
Displacement 24,441 lb. (11,086 kg.)
Water 234 gal. (885 l.)
Fuel 116 gal. (440 l.)
Mast Height 59′ 0″ (17.98 m.)
Engines Twin Yanmar 53-hp. diesels
Designer Mortain/Mavrikios/Poncin
Nautitech Catamarans

Specs: Lagoon 500
Lepanto, a Lagoon 500
LOA 51′ 0″ (15.54 m.)
LWL 49′ 0″ (14.93 m.)
Beam 28′ 0″ (8.53 m.)
Draft 4′ 6″ (1.40 m.)
Sail Area 1,722 sq. ft. (160 sq. m.)
Displacement 37,639 lb. (17,073 kg.)
Water 252 gal. (960 l.)
Fuel 252 gal. (960 l.)
Mast Height 78′ 5″ (23.90 m.)
Engines Twin Volvo Penta 75-hp. diesels
Designers Van Peteghem/Lauriot Prevost

Herb McCormick is a CW editor at large.

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