Ay Ermioni, Khios, Eastern Sporades

Vasco da Gama
Ian Strathcarron
Sun 31 May 2009 15:26
Just said goodbye to Sophie and Lanky with a heavy heart - missing family and friends is the saddest part of our sailing life, but every other aspect of it is glorious now that summer has arrived in the Mediterranean.  During their seven day visit we have spent six of them sailing or motor sailing from island to island, and now find ourselves on Khios, just ten miles from the Turkish coast.  Lanky sailed for the British sailing team while at school and has been a great help to Ian, while Sophie has brought her elegance and beauty and innovative culinary skills to enliven our cruise. 
We sailed east from Piraeus into the Cyclades or, in Greek, Kyklos {circle} Islands, so called because they encircle the sacred island of Delos.  Delos was believed by the ancient Greeks to have been the birthplace of the twin gods, Apollo and Artemis and was studded with shrines and temples, majestic houses and sanctuaries, the ruins of which can be visited today.  The islands are mainly rocky and barren, but here and there they are dotted with pine forests or olive groves and at this time of the year the mountain slopes are covered with herbs and wild flowers. Sailing around them this week has been a joy, as the sky and sea are permanently blue and a warm sun has been beating down on us.
The only rough sea we encountered was sailing from Kea to Mykonos, when a strong northerly wind suddenly turned the sea into a churning mass and winds of up to 26 knots drove us to our destination.  It took us more than an hour to tie up to the quay in the new port, one mile from Mykonos town.  Sophie stepped ashore and was helped from there by two Italian yachtsmen.  The three of us left on board pulled on ropes tied around winches and slowly inched the boat towards the quay as the wind surge occasionally died down.   We stayed there for the next 48 hours until the wind stopped howling. 
Our first impression of Mykonos town was of a place of dazzling beauty.  All the houses in the Cyclades are white cubes, with their doors and shutters painted in different shades of blue.  In Mykonos town the houses are built along a maze of winding streets, each balcony covered with bouganvillea or vines.  Sadly on our second day Mykonos turned into hell.  Two huge cruise ships, looking like floating blocks of flats, tied up at the quay, two sailing schooners and another cruise liner anchored in the bay  and by the afternoon we estimated that 6000 tourists crammed themselves into the narrow streets or walked in a slow crocodile from the quay to the town, or were ferried in a traffic jam of tour buses along the main road.  Early the next morning all the cruise ships had gone, no doubt sailing to the next 'famous' destination, such as Santorini or Crete, leaving the little town to catch its breath before the next cruise ship invasion.  The great thing about sailing on our own in a small sailing boat is that we can visit the unspoilt unknown islands of quiet charm where Greek families spend their summer holidays.
Our longest day's sailing was yesterday when we left our anchorage on the sleepy island of Tinos at 4 am under a sky bright with stars and arrived here in Khios where we are tied up in a delightful fishing port.  This morning we listened to the Greek Orthodox service being sung and chanted in the church opposite.  Sophie and Lanky are flying back to Athens and London and tomorrow we head east towards Turkey.  We aim to arrive in Istanbul by the middle of June.