In the Spring of 2015 we cruised the eastern seaboard of the United States, from Florida to Washington, on board the yacht Sockeye Blue with our good friends John & Tina Philippson. Their 80-foot Nordhavn was a beautiful ship, and we enjoyed three fun-filled weeks exploring this coastline. They would eventually sell Sockeye Blue, but in 2021, eager to get another Nordhavn and this time to explore the Mediterranean and the rivers and canals of Europe, they bought Prosecco III, a 41-footer fresh off the production line in Turkey. Prosecco was purchased purposely smaller, so it could fit inside the locks and canals.
We joined up with them in late September of 2021 at the Olympic Marina just south of Athens. We arrived late in the morning, were provisioned up by mid’ afternoon, and sailing out of the marina by late afternoon, destined for the island of Kythos, our first stop for our cruise on Prosecco III of the Cyclades Islands.
The Cyclades consists of about 220 islands situated in the middle of the Aegean Sea, southeast of Athens and north of Crete, halfway between mainland Greece and Turkey. They are known for their barren landscapes, mostly void of trees, but delightfully highlighted with beautiful beaches of white, red and black sand, and their famous white-washed architecture accented with brilliant-blue doors, window shutters and railings. Of these 220 islands, most of the smaller ones are uninhabited while the larger, about twenty, are populated and have become very popular tourist destinations.
Prior to our arrival Prosecco had been port-tied for some time because of the strong Meltemi winds. These are dry and cool northerly winds that appear in the Aegean, most commonly during July and August, but sometimes as early as June and as late as September. And as we were to find out, sometimes even into October. They can get up to 40 knots, and for our trip, were often around 20-25 knots. A benefit is that they clear up the skies, but it can make for challenging boating.
Over three weeks we visited the islands of Kythos, Paros, Mykonos, Syros and Santorini.
On our first night we dropped anchor in the small protected cove of Apokrisi, just across from the photogenic sand spit Paralia Kolona on the island of Kythos. We enjoyed our first swim in the Med, something we hadn’t done in some time. Followed by a drink on the stern, dinner and yarning tales as we caught up with one another about our adventures over the past couple of years. Or, in the case of covid, our non-adventures. But Kythos was just a place to drop anchor, our true destination was the island of Paros further to the southeast.
As the wind calmed down the next day around noon we pulled anchor and headed south along the coast of Kythnos and then east to Paros, arriving around 5PM. We dropped anchor in a bay on the northern part of the island, in front of Monastiri beach and across from the town of Naousa. We’d left early so it was a long haul over with a good chop, so we all were ready for a swim to clear our heads. We put the dinghy and the paddle board in and I went for a paddle along the coast that was protected from the wind that was still providing strong gusts.
The next day we spent the morning paddling and swimming, and then took the dinghy over to the town of Naussa across the bay. Very Greek with its white walls, blue doors and shutters, narrow streets with bougainvillea somehow finding a crack in the concrete walkways to grow and provide shade and color. We wandered its streets (if they can be called streets) and then found a restaurant on the water where we ordered a number of plates to share: tzatziki, roasted eggplant, octopus, fava, and greek salad, washed down with Greek beer. For the afternoon we relaxed on the boat, broken up with swimming sessions to clear our heads and wake us up from the heat of the sun.
The Meltemi winds were still blowing hard, but we found a window after a few days and made a dash for Mykonos. We could see that the winds were not going to relent after that for at least 4-5 days, so we wanted a port on an interesting island that provided protection from these northerly winds and Mykonos fit the bill.
The highlight of Mykonos is walking the narrow streets of the old town, streets or pathways of all sizes, that meander beside the boardwalk and behind, up and down the hillside, often leaving you so disorientated you have no idea where you are. They are really not streets but paths of inlaid rock with white grout, lined with many high-end, name-brand boutiques, but also many local shops and boutiques, that all look exquisite and are fun exploring. Everything’s, again, white and accented with blue doors and stair railings, along with bright pink and red bougainvillea.
Mykonos is known to be quite a bit more expensive than the other islands, and we found that out the first night when we sat down at Katrin restaurant, which had a very interesting menu posted outside but without prices. We were more than a little surprised when we did get a menu with prices. The food was good, but I find with many of these higher end restaurants that serving sizes are small so even after an appetizer and a main course you’re still hungry for something you just paid a lot for. I much prefer the smaller, mom-and-pop operations which can have a lot more character, you often meet and talk with the owners, and most importantly, you are full when you finish what is usually a good meal, and one that doesn’t drain the bank. Our next find fulfilled that for us when we discovered Kastro in Little Venice. We ended up eating there three times over our week stay.
Mykonos is also known for its night life, (especially the gay nightlife), which goes on into the early hours of the morning. We frequented the Paradise Beach Club for lunch a few times, and it was often made up of slow-moving people recovering from the previous night. The music would be quite subdued but as the afternoon went on the beat would get stronger, louder and quicker. For lunch there aren’t usually too many people, it really is more of a nighttime experience for a younger crowd. Prices were reasonable and food decent. We lounged on the beach drinking piña coladas, enjoyed a few dunks in the sea, and had a smorgasbord of appetizers for lunch. WiFi is readily available here and in many public places with 5G and good reception. They are open (no password) and there’s no charge.
We also visited the Tropicana next door and thought their lounge chairs and drinks were better, (and a little more expensive), but the food wasn’t as good. To get to these beach clubs you can take a bus from Fabrica, rent a car or scooter, or you can take their van transfer (30 euros per ride).
A few days later our friends Druanne and Ted arrived by plane from Canada and after lunch at Kastro’s again, we all caught a ferry to Ermoupolis on the island of Syros. They all stayed up the hillside at a small hotel (4 rooms) called Wind Tales, in the neighboring town of Ano Syros that overlooks Ermouplis, with another couple, Ranaia and Jeff (all from my hometown back in Canada).
We, however, wanted so be closer to downtown, so we rented a small studio that overlooks the bay and a protected beach area, beside the town’s landmark Agios Nikolaos Church. The studio is owned by the charming and charismatic Loanish (John in English) Raisis, who owns the jewelry store below the studio where he makes custom jewelry pieces. Through three bay windows the studio looks over the sea and the steps that descend to the swimming platform, the only place to swim in Ermoupolis. It is not large, more like a large hotel room, but it has a small kitchenette and the walls have been scraped back to show the original stone construction. It also is very charming, like its owner.
Each morning we went swimming below, joining a number of locals who make the swim a regular event. Some were quite old, in their 80s and they all seemed to know one another well. They put on the bathing suits and snorkels and swam back and forth in front of the homes built over the small bay protected from the Meltemi winds.
That night we went into town and met up with the group at Amvix, an Italian restaurant on the boardwalk. The food and drinks were good as were the prices. Pizzas probably are their best, and their spinach salad, but they also have many pasta dishes and appetizers. Another restaurant we tried and really enjoyed was just down from Amvix, called, (and it is a mouthful), To Tsipouradiko tis Mirsinis. The food was amazing and only cost us 30 euros per couple including drinks. Our best deal yet.
There are few streets for cars here, so most people have scooters. The narrow streets/walkways laid in marble, work into stairs as they climb up the hillside. For a couple of days we rented a scooter so we could explore the island and visit a few beaches. I feel that you haven’t experienced the Med or a Caribbean island until you’ve toured some of it by scooter. We went south to avoid the winds, to the towns of Vari and Finikas. At Vari we found a restaurant that also had lounge chairs, so swam, sunbathed and then a had a lunch of lamb and moussaka.
I found that Mykonos is a town to be discovered inside its narrow streets. The exterior of the city isn’t much to see or photograph, it’s the narrow pathways, stores and homes with the whitewashed walls and bright blue doors and wooden railings on their stairs and terraces that make Mykonos special. Ermoupolis is more externally photogenic, but mostly in the Vaporia area with the church of St. Nicholas and its blue dome prominently standing out above the town. Its pedestrian streets are wider and fun to walk, but not as photogenic as those in Mykonos. But then we discovered Santorini! (coming up in the next blog post).