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June 24th 2012
Published: June 25th 2012
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Greece sailing adventure

I had decided on a Greece island adventure well before I even left Australia. Greece was a destination that seemed to offer sun, sea and adventure in one glorious package with stunning beauty as the backdrop. Both of my parents had separately visited the Greek Islands surrounding Mykonos some 27 years earlier – and although their stories were distinctly different, they both spoke of their own experiences with the same excited twinkle in their eyes.

Following extensive research into where, when, what and why, I booked a Sail Away Flotilla for myself, my sister and two close friends. I was sketchy on the details, I am sure the sales agent provided all the information at the time of booking, and I was sent copious Yacht, Harbour, Island manuals, maps and information over the coming weeks, regardless, nothing had sunk in. I was simply too excited to realise anything other than the simple fact that I had hired a Yacht to sail with friends, on our own, in Greece. Nothing else – including our combined 0 hours experience – seemed to matter.

We would spend 7 nights sailing our own boat along the Ionian coast, then around Paxos Island with 9 other flotillas and a lead boat. Upon arriving I declined the (expensive) half day lesson and accepted the (FREE!) 20 minute basic training. Surely sailing a boat could not be so difficult...? Two sails, two anchors, Tiller, ropes, lines....... sails..... Anchor... what did you just say?

Regardless of the snap shot information I had let pass between my ears, I was full on bravado. We motored out of the harbour and promptly pulled up our sails. We were cheering and dancing on the deck full of laughter and achievement, whilst our sails were full or nothing. We promptly came to a standstill and began to drift in circles. Right... we need wind to work the sails, lets motor out of the key first.

We were given instructions on what, and what not to do. All of these were taken half seriously and we tweaked the interpretations to benefit our sailing style.

1. Don’t leave the boat unattended whilst unanchored – interpretation: make sure at least one of you is hanging onto a rope whilst we all swim

2. Don’t forget to empty your sewage in open water – interpretation: wait for the overspill whilst moored to not only remind yourselves, but repulse all other moored boats in the process

3. Don’t let the depth gauge fall below 2 meters – interpretation: fall below 2 meters and react by screaming and freaking out

4. Tie your plank securely – interpretation: tie the plank, but fail to tie the boat so the plank falls into the harbour

5. Look after your boat – interpretation: rip your sails and canopy

6. Turn off your motor battery during the night – interpretation: drain the battery and request a jump start

7. Sail responsibility – interpretation: noon gin time, 1 o’clock gin time, 2 o’clock gin time, 3 o’clock gin time.....

8. Follow the map route – interpretation: get lost

9. Pay attention at all times whilst in open water – interpretation: read laying down whilst ‘driving’ using your foot to ‘steer’ and shout out ‘clear?’ every 15 minutes so that the other girls can look up from their deck sleeping/ reading/ writing/ nail painting to make sure we are not about to hit land

10. Don’t catch fire – interpretation: catch fire

Our first few days were spent catching up among ourselves, stopping throughout the day and even having a sneaky skinny dip, something that everyone should experience as often as possible in my books. The sun and seas does wonders for the mind and soul and we were all completely at ease and enjoying ourselves, regardless of the daily near misses and injuries which I unfortunately took the brunt of.

By the 3rd night we had began to socialise with the another flotillas and this quickly escalated until all other boats were familiar with the ‘White Knight’ team – due to our offers of hospitality whilst moored, or possibly the comical SOS calls we seems to entertain everyone with; either way I am confident when I say we were the favourites of the trip and the high majority enjoyed our company – we even received an applause when we would arrived for group dinners.

The Ionian coast was stunning, crystal blue waters, sun shine, weathered and smiling local faces, quality produce, and quaint harbour towns. We sailed from Plataria – Syvota – Parga, then across and around Paxos Island where we spent a night at Gaios, Mongonisi and Lakka. Each harbour offered different a beauty and boasted their own culture.

Parga would have been one of my favourites, the town was built on top on the harbour, each home and business balancing on top of one another as the cliffs inclined steeply, each row was separated by a narrow walkway shared by both pedestrians and scooters zipping in an out. Walking along, it was easy to become lost is the back streets which was surprising as the town looked so small.

At the peak we were able to explore the fort ruins which would have once protected to the harbour from unwanted guests, the ruins looked down into the harbour and offered stunning views, it is difficult to say whether the view was more magnificent during the day or night. During the day you could view the multi coloured buildings which almost seemed to be a drawings from a child’s story book, but by night with all the lights one could not help but wish for their respective loved one to be by their side. The view was incredibly romantic and gentle kiss from my own interest would have made for a perfect night.

Mongonisi was my close second – which was entirely different from Parga. Whilst Parga was on the main land and offered an array of restaurants, entertainment and shopping, Mongonisi had only olive groves and one restaurant, which has been family run for several generations. The meal was great, but it was the hospitality which made the experience truly memorable. The family mingled with their guest’s in the most relaxed fashion – it seemed we were all old friends; they also performed traditional Greek dancing and then pulled everyone onto the outside dance floor to join them, which we did of course. We girls had dressed up for the occasion in matching sailor outfits and posed for many pictures and were asked often for a dance by the cheeky older men who could not resist to show off their dancing skills – this night was one of the highlights of my week.

Sailing between locations was incredibly peaceful, at times we would talk nonstop and others we would simply enjoy the sound of the wind – I was able to reflect on myself quite a lot during the course of the week and I feel I unloaded much needed mental baggage. Taking a holiday with your close girlfriends in such a naturally stunning location really assists with your mental outlook – how can one think clearly when living in the city, with crowds, pollution and buildings crammed in impossibly small spaces, if a cluttered desk means a cluttered mind – what does a cluttered life mean? I was grateful to have such a diverse mix of friends with me to bounce my fears and ideas off, at times I wanted advice, at times I wanted confirmation, other times I just wanted someone to listen without judgement – I unloaded so much that I feel a sense of peace and happiness I doubt I have ever achieved before.

Of course the week was not all peace and tranquillity, there was also gin, skinny dipping and hilarious emergency calls – far too many to recall.

So although I may have left Greece with blood blisters, glass in my feet, split knuckles from jamming my fingers in door, puncture wounds in my skins, bruises and grazes, I left with a deeper connection with my friends, a few new friends and a whole new positive outlook on life.

All thanks to a glorious mixture of weather, location and of course, sensational company.

The country may be poor in regards to the enonomy, but the country is certainly rich in life.


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