11 September 2008

Thera (Santorini) Island

On Mooring Ball at Fainikia
Thera (aka: Thira, or Santorini) Island
The Cyclades
(click on photo to see Sandpiper)

We had another great passage from our last stop, being able to sail all the way here with 20-30 knots of wind just forward of the bow.

Thera Island is 6 miles long from north to south and is the remains of a huge volcano that exploded so violently in 1400BC that is was estimated to be three times larger then the explosion of Krakatoa in 1883. Thera Island has remained an active volcano since 1400BC with many smaller eruptions lasting for years in length. The last major earthquake in 1956 produced a tsunami over 17 meters high. As result of the major eruptions the whole island has been blown away leaving a large area in the center, kind of shaped like a doughnut with a bite taken out of its left side.

When we arrived at the south end of Thera we circled around the west side of the island and through this open area that used to be the center of the volcano. Right where the center of the volcano used to be is a small island (Palaia Kameni) made of lava that is still active with many tour boats going there daily to visit the hot springs. Thera Island goes straight up from the shoreline for hundreds of feet with all its towns on the cliff tops of the caldera. This gives very few spots for boats to stop as the water is hundreds of feet deep right up to the shoreline.

But when we got to the north side of the bay we found a free mooring buoy right next to a set of stairs that go straight up the cliff to the town of Oia. There is a small concrete dock at the bottom of the steps for tour boats to drop their passengers off where we can tie up our dingy. Our first night here we decided to visit a tiny restaurant (The Sunset Taverna) that is there as well. Not many people come down here to visit this restaurant because the walk down and back up the stairs is so steep. So we had the place to ourselves and a few other visiting boats. The owner come over and started pouring us complimentary shots of Raki which is some kind of Greek moonshine. We are not sure what happened later that night other than everyone, even the kitchen help, were dancing around to Greek music till everything got very blurry. The man that owns the restaurant has a small fishing boat that he takes out every afternoon and catches all the fish he serves that night for dinner.

We did climb the stairs the next day up to the town of Oia that we quickly named the 'Trail of Tears' as is over 280 steps long with long stretches of incline. There are donkeys at the bottom that you can hop a ride up on. But its $20 dollars a trip each way for both us. So its leg power for us. By the time we reach the top we are sweat covered and quite a contrast from the many tourists here on vacation all dressed up. From the top the Sandpiper looks quite tiny hundreds of feet straight below. There are many small hotels all perched along the cliff sides and some even built inside small caves, with many small restaurants and tourist shops. Its quite fun walking around all the tiny sidewalks and steps trying not to get lost.

Yesterday Amy and I got an early start to battle the steps to the top before the sun got too blazing hot. We rented an ATV to drive around the island. The roads here are a bit crazy as they go straight up and down with lots of huge buses full of tourists racing around. One of our missions was to find a welder to repair our generator's exhaust elbow that had cracked in half (If you are ever in the market for a DC Gen Set, make sure that you never never never ever buy any products from Ample Power!) We found the only welder on the whole island at an auto body shop that was filled with crashed rental cars. He had us back on the road in 5 minutes.

We toured around to the south side of the island to Perissa, a town that actually levels off to sea level and has a nice black sand beach that stretch's for quite a ways with many beach bars and restaurants. This end of the island is a bit more laid back then the rest and a good spot to stay for backpackers.

We then decided to go on our own ATV wine tour of the island. Thera is famous for its wines and some of the wineries are hundreds of years old. We visited 3 different wineries finishing off at Koutsogiannopoulos Winery that has been making wine since 1660!!

Sandpipers current plans are to pull into the small pier here tomorrow morning to fill up on water, then head out for an overnight passage of 120 miles to the island of Kythera which will be out last stop in the Greek Islands before pressing on across the Med.

More later
Tom and Amy

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