|“Why don’t we go sailing in Greece,”
someone said, and nobody objected. I never thought it would be that easy.
After all there were sixteen of us and everyone had the power of veto. It
was part of the rules we set down when our discussion first began. Eight
couples would put $100 per month in a special bank account and we would
take a two-week holiday together. We all knew each other for many years
but I never thought we’d agree on a place for our holiday so easily. It
wasn’t only a question of where to go but also ‘when’ and for how
long. The major decision having been made, we now discussed the ‘when’
and ‘for how long’. Since at least one person in each couple would
have their fiftieth birthday in 1999, the year became academic. We decided
to sail through the Cyclades (the Greek islands of the Aegean) for no more
than one week.
We set up a ‘club’. We chose a treasurer who would
bank the money so that we would earn interest. The trip was planned three
years in advance and we calculated about $3800 per couple would be put
aside, thus making the out of pocket costs that much less. I was selected
to find the boat. We would meet periodically, see videos, go to Greek
restaurants, and talk about Greece. None of us had been there before. By
1999 we would become experts. My wife even decided to take Greek lessons.
She became our interpreter.
Being a novice at planning at this level, I bought a
magazine about sailing and started reading the ads. There were boat
dealers from each of the seven seas and a broker who specialized in crewed
boats in the Mediterranean. I called him. Dick Gimigliano, then working
out of Pennsylvania, of all places, came to our aid. He took the
information about our needs and agreed to get back to me, I waited only
two weeks. He said a broker in Athens would get in touch with me, “She
has exactly what you are looking for.”
A few weeks went by, The first deposits were made and
one morning the phone rang. It was a lady named Cristina representing
Isola Cruises in
Piraeus. She said she had an 85-foot boat that had eight
identical air-conditioned staterooms with WC & shower. It had a crew
of five, including the captain and chef for the all inclusive price of
$17,500 US. That included all food and an open bar and all taxes. For
seven days it would be less than $3,000 per couple for our room, board and
tour. I accepted in principle and she said she’d send pictures. She
reported that contracts were guaranteed by The National Tourist
Organization of Greece. Half of he money would be placed in escrow until
after the tour was over. We had recourse if not satisfied. I reported to
the group. A week later we sent a deposit by wire transfer.
Now the excitement really kicked in. Knowing that we
would be limited to Greek waters, we began to research the islands we
wanted to visit. We met frequently, even though we didn’t all live in
the same city. We had weekends in Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. We
planned, read and drank too much. It was a high I’ll never forget. We
learned that the Cyclades was once home to an important civilization
(3000-1000 BC). Some believe that this is the region of the lost continent
of Atlantis. The name is derived from an imaginary circle around the
sacred island of Delos. The mild average temperatures in the region are
attributed to the prevailing winds I’ll discuss later.
Over the next year or so we realized that the cost of
the boat plus the air fare was too much for just a week in the area so we
broke up into twos or fours and planned trips in the area before or after
the cruise. I decided to tour Turkey beforehand as did others and two
couples stayed on to tour the Peloponnese after the cruise. (Story to
As arranged, we arrived from various destinations the
day before we were to meet the boat. From the airport we found our way to
The Athens Gate Hotel. Our room had an unrestricted view of the Acropolis.
Our friends arrived by mid afternoon. We found a cantina, drank and
exchanged stories. That night we entered the historical placca and sought
out a typical restaurant. We argued over the best selection and settled on
one with a roof garden and a typical Greek show. It was worth the effort.
I slept on a full stomach that night but I was happy to be in Greece, with
close friends and at the beginning of a Greek odyssey. We would sail in
After a copious breakfast our bus took us to Zea Marina
in Piraeus. It was Monday, July 18th, supposedly a perfect time for
sailing. The boat lived up to our expectations. We examined our choice
while the crew loaded our luggage. I can’t say our stateroom was roomy
but it was functional, well equipped and air-conditioned. We settled on
deck for a drink when the captain arrived. I knew it was the captain
immediately. He walked towards us briskly, with a broad smile and his wavy
whitening hair neatly coifed.
Stratis Mytilineos was the proud owner-captain of m/y
Meltemi, a rebuilt and redesigned Gullet, known to Greeks as a Caique
(pronounced ky-eekey). The name Meltemi is the same as the summer
winds that race across the Aegean and bring joy or misery to some sailors.
They can be quite frightening to the novice.
I’m one of the few of the group who became ill when
the winds whipped up the water to thirty-foot swells. I soon learned that
Gravol is a sailor’s best friend. Munching on crackers helps too. The
second time the winds kicked in, I was an old accustomed salt with my new
sea legs. Luckily for us the Meltemi was a motor-sailboat. We would travel
without sails if the wind was too strong. But let’s not get bogged down
on high seas, illness and spraying waters. For the most part the trip was
calm and totally pleasurable.
That first day we sailed across the Saronikos Kolpos to
the lovely island of Poros close to the main body of Greece’s
Peloponesse. I had spent over an hour in the wheelhouse getting to know
our host who had spent 20 years as a navigation officer for large cruise
liners. His brief lesson in navigation was a welcome and calming
experience. He was ever-cautious and good-humored. We talked easily about
Greece, Canada, families and work.
Just before we entered Poros harbor, Derek, one of the
group called a meeting on deck. He distributed white baseball caps to each
traveler and said there would be a special showing , judging and
significant prizes for those who could best decorate their hats on the
theme of Greece-Canada Friendship. So for the next two hours we discovered
Poros by scouring the island for items to use as decorations. The results
were astounding and after dinner we set up a fashion ramp and each person
trotted out wearing his/her decorative hat. The crew were the amused
judges and the prize was a magnum of Champagne. I came second to Darlene
whose bikini-clad movements along the ramp won her extra points from our
all-male crew. But never mind.
Before I get too far into my saga, let me tell you of
that meal the first night in the harbor at Poros. The chef whipped up a
Greek salad of fresh tomatoes, oils from Calamata and Feta cheese to be
remembered. The heavy Greek bread made it memorable. The menu had said
And when the roasted chicken in basil was served with
potatoes hot from the oven, I thought it a great choice. I was thinking of
my new dress clothes and wondering if they would fit at the end of a trip
of feasts. Imagine my shock when the dishes were cleared and they began to
bring out huge dishes of freshly caught fish. And there was still the
promise of desert. We argued politely that we couldn’t eat that way and
that one main course was enough. It was laughable later but not when we
had to at least eat what was prepared that memorable first night. Yet,
sleeping wasn’t difficult in the comfortable bed in that quiet Greek
harbor, especially after all the wine we consumed.
Things were to change the next day. We were heading
south into the western Cyclades. While our final destination would
be the large island of Milos, today we headed into the rougher waters of
the unprotected Aegean
Sea. I wasn’t ready for the winds and waves. After a
while I found myself leaning over the rail feeling like the world would
end. But as we finally approached Kythnos, I was feeling better. The
oldest indications of Man’s presence in the Cyclades were discovered
here. The terrain was mainly mountainous and harsh except for the
occasional vines or fig trees. We were only 52 nautical miles from Athens
but it looked more like a coast of Norwegian fjords. But the secluded
beaches were inviting and there was a happy holiday spirit as we walked
around the port village of Merihas.
That night we had a costume party at dinnertime. Local
fishermen gathered to watch the crazy Canadians dress in the oddest
costumes they could find. One couple, dressed in white togas, stole the
The next morning after a pancake breakfast in the busy
harbor, we headed south on calm seas to the island of Serifos. Our captain
had a special interest in this 73-sq. Km. Island. His son was there. So he
dropped us at Livadi on the eastern side and went visiting. Later he
returned and invited whoever wanted to go to a taverna for a drink. Some
joined him in a line of mopeds. They returned while the rest of us slept.
We would return to Serifos but the next destination was the greedy
landscape of Sifnos. We had no idea how beautiful the islands were until
that day. First we moored offshore in a protected cove and started our
days of Olympic competition. We swam, skipped stones, dove into the
pristine waters and competed until mid afternoon. People did swan dives
from the top cabin for points. I am not the world’s best diver so I
removed my bathing suit and dove in bareback and all. I received extra
points for originality but not for form.
Once in port, we rented eight or all available mopeds
and headed into the hills that once yielded gold and silver for the
treasures of Delphi. We looked down from the highest peak at windmills and
the countless pure white churches with their special Grecian blue roofs.
After dinner we joined
the other merrymakers at the tavernas. Greek
nightlife on this peaceful island was a welcome surprise.
Our final destination was Milos, by far the largest
place we visited. We arrived there on Saturday night, had a lively
singsong on the boat while the locals came to watch us. The next morning
we started our last major activity. One of the couples organized a
scavenger hunt. Imagine our surprise when the rules were given to us in
Greek. When I asked the lady in the post office what a word meant, she
replied ‘fruit’. I bought an apple but the word meant ‘plum’. It
cost us points. We were paired off in couples but each was with someone
else’s spouse. We got bogged down trying to find a live squid. The
fishermen were home on Sunday. But the biggest trial was finding a condom.
We all found ourselves in the same general store arguing over which couple
would get the last box in the store. The locals kept looking out the
window to see what flag our boat flew. They will long remember the visit
by a zany group of Canadians.
Sunday was the day we returned to the mainland via
Sifnos. It was like coming home. But the most breathtaking place we
visited was ahead of us back on the mainland. As we reached the
southern most tip of the mainland (Atiki) we moored offshore and took a
small jetty to the where the great temple of Sounian sitting in the
setting sun. Filled with mythology and history we felt the full impact of
our insignificant place in history. It was one of the most romantic places
I ever visited. We lay out on the open deck under the stars as we
returned, late that night to our mooring place in Piraeus.
Monday’s pancake breakfast was our farewell meal. We
made short farewell speeches to our most congenial crew and were awarded
the distinction of being the group that consumed the most beer in Captain
He can’t be blamed, though. He never played host to
A perfect holiday in a romantic and historical setting.
But now we would move on to the next phase.
To reach Captain Mytilineos contact: ISOLA CRUISES LTD.
Akti Themistokleus 196
185 39 Piraeus Greece
Phone: 41 22 539
Fax: 42 80 167 - 41 21 703
Tell him Professor Greenberg from Canada told you about
The Athens Gate Hotel is at:
10, Syngrou Avenue (A short walk to Syntagma Square)
117 42 Athens
Phone: 9238 302
For reservations, call: 9238 781.
Dick Gimigliano can be reached at:
Phone: 800-877 9313
For those of you who would prefer to tour the Turkish
coast in a Gullet, get in touch with Star Zuckerman in New York City.
NEXT TIME WE TRAVEL AROUND THE PELOPONNESE from ATHENS
TO KALAMATA AND BACK.
# # #
You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at:
Over the past few years, Professor
Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece,
Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of
Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the
globe including Italy and most of
China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters
from St.Petersburg to Moscow.
"He took a group to Greece and another to northern
Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour
groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They
winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico. His newly found spare time
is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His
current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders.. "So
You Want To Be A Tour Leader."
Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing
Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel
writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.
Keep reading his web for travel ideas. His next
novel HELLSTORM'S Folly,
will be available this fall. He now
lives in British Columbia.
www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at
(More about the writer.)