36 20.1 N 25 26.1 E
THIRA / SANTORINI
VLIKADHA MARINA – Sunday 18th – Monday 19th September
We motor-sailed with the aid of the jib for the 40 odd miles to Thira at times with the engine just ticking over to keep the batteries topped up. We had winds from force 0 to force 6 en route and some quite lumpy, cross seas at the start of the journey. The islands of Thira and its off shoots are truly spectacular and as the dawn broke we had the highest point of the main island topped by the famous church of Profitis Ilias with the sun rising behind it. Once round the southern end of Thira we were able to sail very close in to the cliffs which again were magnificent with various colours and weird and wonderfully sculptured surfaces and shapes. We finally arrived off the so called marina and followed the instructions in the pilot book very carefully to get in. The entrance is silting and once through the outer hazards (the old sunken breakwaters) one has to negotiate a very narrow entrance and keep extremely close to the port hand break water without hitting the submerged rock that the pilot book mentions – JOY!! We registered a shallowest point at 2.00metres just as we came abreast of the inner breakwater. We were directed to raft up on another boat on the outer end of the first mole where we had 2.3 metres of water. Our neighbours were Russian on a charter boat out of Kos and they too had sailed overnight but a much longer journey all the way from Kos!
Once the boat was all fast we had a sleep and then went for a walk to explore around this marina. As usual there were no facilities but the little cafe had toilets! The electricity supply was a long way down the quay but by joining 3 cables we managed to reach it ok. This was fine until later on a fishing boat left in a great rush creating a big wash (they are so inconsiderate!) which caused one of the connections to part – fortunately the ends did not quite go in the water but it was a near thing! Once re-connected we taped up the offending join with gaffer tape to prevent this happening again. There was a small mini-market which had very basic provisions and above this was the port office where we had to give our boat details and pay the 15 Euros per night. The harbour officer was not interested in seeing our log and suggested if we wanted it stamped we should go to the main ferry port – so needless to say we didn’t bother. The lady in the cafe didn’t speak much English but was able to give Jacky a phone number for a car hire firm from which we booked a car for the following morning. Prices are high here – it was 35 Euros for one day as compared to 25 on Milos.
Monday saw us heading off just after 0900 and yet again we experienced the hair-pin bends and poor road conditions but added to that were the tour buses with very aggressive drivers who seemed to think they owned the roads!! Double JOY!
Our first stop was the glorious village of Oia or La which perches on the far north western end of Thira looking down over the Caldera (flooded crater). It was breathtakingly spectacular – all the old houses are painted white and are built on very steep hillsides – it is now the place to stay on the island with designer type boutique style hotels all made from joining together the original old traditional homes. Having found a car park on the outskirts we walked through the town the further west we went the more expensive and exclusive the accommodation, jewellery and souvenir shops and prices in the bars and tavernas! While sitting having a drink we watched a wedding party walk along the marbled pavement – the bride in bare feet – heading for the tiny church perched on the very end of the hill -top.
We next headed back towards the lower and less dramatic side of the island to the north east where we hoped to view the ancient ruins of Thira set on the hill above the beach resort of Kamari but unfortunately they were closed so we went to see the Wine Museum and had a wine tasting session afterwards which was all very interesting. One can’t fail to realize as you drive around that this island’s main agriculture is wine growing – the sprawling vines are grown on every patch of open land that you see! Unusually they are not staked up right but grow in a creeping fashion being trained on the ground in a circular shape. This is apparently to help the preservation of dew which provides the primary source of water for the vines to grow. We then found a place for a late snack lunch – Psistaria Kritikos - it was mentioned in the Rough Guide and proved to be excellent – Rob had a stew of snails and onions!! Jacky declined this dish of the day and had some dip made of a local dried pea which was a bit like Humus and some cheese and spinach mini pies. On the way back to the boat we drove up to the highest point of the island as mentioned at the beginning this has an ancient fort and a monastery plus numerous radio masts and communication aerials!! Then we dropped back down (compulsory hairpin bends of course but thankfully no tour buses!) and went to see the ancient ruins recently discovered of a bronze age settlement which had been obliterated by the volcanic eruptions in the period around 1600 – 1650 BC. The island had a flourishing community with trading links all across the Aegean and into the east. The ruins were covered and not discovered until an earth quake in the mid 1950s revealed some traces of buildings. Excavations are on-going with the aid of EU money but again unfortunately when we arrived at the site it was closed – due to technical problems! At this point we decided we had had enough and returned to the boat – Jacky was in need of a rest after doing all the driving!
Later we went out for a meal at one of the tavernas overlooking the marina and witnessed a spectacular sun set as we tucked into our starters! With the wind forecasted to be from the south we decided to leave the following morning early and head for Astipalia some 35 miles north east of Thira.