Slow and steady in Greece
If one person is going to know that slow and steady wins the race, it’s Michael Turtle. This engaging travel writer recently won an Intrepid trip that saw him gaining an appreciation of a different travel style…
“Sailing the Greek Islands is about more than just movement. The stopping is just as important. But it took a week on a boat in the Ionian Sea with Intrepid Travel to discover this. The ways of the island hoppers were a mystery to me before I joined the trip. From all across Europe, they come – Greek flags on the boats mixing with those from Italy, Germany, England and Norway, among others. And these waters to the west of mainland Greece become their summer playground.
The days are spent travelling between ports – not because the next one is any better or even particularly different, but because the wind in your hair is activity enough in these parts. It never gets boring to hear the sound of the sails flapping in the wind and ropes juddering before they can be pulled taut and catch the wind. There’s a tease in the salt water splashing up onto the boat and onto your skin while you’re on your way to the next swimming spot.
The nights fall late in Greece in the summer but most of the boats make for a mooring by late afternoon. It means there are still a few hours of daylight to enjoy a drink and an afternoon snack and wait to watch the sun set over the waters. It also guarantees a spot for the night. Some of the smaller harbours are quite popular and can get full well before night falls. Not that it’s ever a big problem – there’s always somewhere else to stay an hour or two away.
Some of the other sailors I met were clearly in this for the long-term – or at least a longer period than me. Although their yachts move quickly though the waters, when they hit land there’s a languid rhythm to the atmosphere. Activities are slow, everything is relaxed and the ports are a refuge from stress as much as they are protection for the boats.
A father fishes with his two young daughters, using a homemade rod by the water’s edge; a family sits outside on their deck and shares food and a bottle of wine; a woman lies in the shade and reads a book through her sunglasses. In some of the ports, tourist ferries arrive and hundreds of people will wander through the town for an hour before leaving again. The club of sailors, of which I had temporary membership it seemed, don’t consider themselves tourists and tolerate the brief crowds, knowing there’ll be peace again soon enough.
In some ways, this wasn’t a typical Intrepid tour. It had the key principles of independent travel in the sense that the group on board made its own decisions about what to buy as supplies, where to eat, when to stop and even – when we were forced to deviate from the original itinerary – where to go. But the emphasis was on relaxation rather than adventure.
The boat can hold eight people and the makeup of the group is different each week. Ultimately the trip is something that’s perfect for travellers who feel like sailing around the Greek islands but don’t (or can’t) go to the effort of organising all the little details involved in renting and looking after their own boat. If you’re worried about being on a boat for a week with a bunch of strangers, it would be worth signing up with someone you knew. However, if you’re an independent traveller who still likes the company of others, there’s no option but to fit in here. You’ll be well looked-after regardless.”
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* photo © Vasilis Spyrou