Santorini - I said I would never go there! N36:20.199 E 025:26.061

Charles & Maggie Bevis
Sat 6 May 2017 06:25
Welcome all from Santorini!!

Actually, the place is not as bad as Charlie had at first feared although the ‘Crater’ and the surrounding waters edge are indeed unfriendly for visiting yachts, deep water right up to shear cliffs and few places to anchor or moor in safety.  

We sailed south from Ios last Wednesday, well I say sailed, actually we motor sailed over a glassy sea with blue skies assisted by the genoa set to provide a little power.  We approached the ‘crater’ after 3 hours gentle motor sailing in calm seas and with clear blue skies.  

The wind headed us as we entered to the west of the main island with the shear cliffs of Thira island rising steeply from the sea in 300m of water. High above us was the vividly white painted houses of Oia town, one of the original Chora settlements - now an intense tourist spot complete with traffic jams and wall to wall restaurants, bars and shops.  There were a number of yacht moorings under the shear cliffs here and I would recommend anyone following our footsteps to check these out as a possible stopping place athough that would entail a steep climb to the town above.

The crater forms the heart of the island complex known as Santorini, with the largest island, the crescent shaped Thira Island, lying to the East with two other smaller islands to the west.  These islands are all that is left of the rim of a huge volcano that erupted just a few years before Charlie was born (1600 BC or thereabouts).  The explosion was vast and destroyed civilisation on Crete and much of the surrounding area.  In the centre of the crater is a plug of lava and cinder comprising two islands, Palaia Kammeni and Nea Kammeni - the latter was the site of the latest eruption in this area in the 1950’s. 

Our AIS indicated there were no less than three mega cruise liners already in port with a further two approaching from the West - Thira island is very commercial and the presence of these ships meant there were something like an additional 4000+ tourists ashore, joining the tourists who had flown in to stay on the island. However, it has to be said, the islanders certainly have got their marketing right and it’s certainly a most attractive island, and well worth visiting, in spite of the numbers of tourists and cruise ships calling in.  

The township of Ola 300m above the water at Finikia at the northern end of Thira.

We motored on, through the 6 miles of the crater and past the passenger liners lying stopped below the main town of Fira.  The ships were surrounded by a flotilla of tenders carrying passengers ashore to the landing point below the cable car which then whisked them up to the centre of Fira town for the princely sum of 6 Euros per person (each way).  Donkeys were also on hand to cater for the more adventurous.  

We continued through to the southern entrance to the ‘crater’ with the skipper becoming more and more anxious as he had failed to find anywhere safe to park!  
Eventually Charlie decided that there was only one reasonable option which was to make for the Marina at Vlichada on the south coast.  We had failed to raise the harbour master on the phone to enquire about berthing so we carried on in the hope of finding a suitable spot.   

We passed close to the southern end of the Nea Kammeni in the centre of the crater where the scenery was truly bleak and foreboding; this was the scene of the most recent eruption here 1956.  As we saw at Etna in Sicily, the landscape of this island comprised piles of black lava rock rising steeply out of the deep water.   

We continued to the southern exit from the crater at point Akrotiri and then motor sailed eastward along the south coast of Thira, passing a number of potential anchorages which could have provided shelter from NW wind before arriving at 15:00 off the port at Vlikhada.  

The scenery on the south coast was dramatic

We crept in through the shallows with the echo sounder reading zero and indicating that we might touch the bottom at any moment, and we were well into the inner basin before Nickolas, the very affable and friendly harbour master, responded to our call on Ch10.  We were then directed to berth alongside a Sunsail catamaran crewed by a cheerful crowd from Berlin.  In our turn we later ended up with two other yachts berthed alongside us. found the marina is a busy little place with upwards of 12 large catamarans operating day trips around the island  

Alkira rafted up and ‘sandwiched' between Russians to port and Germans to Starboard.
It is shallow here, The sounder read zero all the way in and when we left there a slight swell in the entrance which caused us to bump briefly on our way out!

On day two we hired a car and joined the traffic jams and the throngs.  The tourist season for Santorini starts in mid March and runs through to November, something that other islands can only dream about, but it means that there's a healthy economy here and plenty of work for many of the 17,000 residents.  The cave houses look very interesting and the hotels have made an excellent job of landscaping and showing them off to a very high standard, most being 4 or 5 star, so not cheap.  All in all, its an extremely photogenic place to visit and we were all very happy to have visited Santorini.

The only other island in Greece we can think of that comes close to Santorini, is Corfu.  However, we love the smaller less commercial islands so, for us, we'd like things to stay that way.  The cable car looks exciting as it moves up/down the cliff face at quite a speed. Another mode of transport up the hill is by donkey or mule - We tried neither...

We drove back along the one primary road to another of the hillltop towns and for another wander, also taking in a light lunch.  We didn’t stay for too long though, as it quickly becomes apparent how very geared up to the tourists the towns are at this end of the island and we’re not interested in shopping for high fashion or souvenirs, and yes, there are some extremely expensive high fashion shops here, all very much geared to the very wealthy tourists that come here in their droves.  Walking around you hear languages from all over the world.  Presently we’re aware of huge numbers of Chinese and Russian visitors at almost every island we’ve visited over this past week or so.  

Hiring a car to get around was a good idea and so now we can truly say that we’ve seen the island from top to bottom.