From the Sea Cloud in Greece
Sep 29, 2012 - Sea Cloud
Sailing and Skyros
The crew was aloft before breakfast, loosening the sails so we could take full advantage of the stiffing northeast winds off the island of Skyros. With the yards of the mizzen, main and foremasts braced hard to the starboard, all the canvas, save the skysail on the main and the aft Spanker, were set. With the engines off, the ship raced along at 8.7 knots. As the wind continued to freshen through the morning the boson kept the crew busy sending them aloft first to clew in all the royals, then the topgallants and finally shortening the mainsails when the wind reached 40 knots. Not quite an “A-Number One Storm” - just a perfect blow for our first morning at sea! Wow! Heeled over 8-10 degrees to the port, racing along on a starboard tack, the Sea Cloud fairly sliced through the mounting seas in a motion so smooth, had it not been for the fact that our hats and hair were being whipped back and forth on the exposed deck, you would not have credited there had been a breeze at all!
Once in the lee of the south coast of Skyros, the largest of the Northern Sporades islands, the decks settled back to a horizontal position in time for a scrumptious lunch buffet, featuring a huge fresh grouper, served up on the Lido deck.
Skyros has been renowned thought the ages as the ancestral home of two of ancient Greek mythology’s greatest heroes: Theseus and later Achilles. We came ashore in the little bay of Linaria and on our way up to the Chora in the center of Meroi (the northern half of the island), we were fortunate enough to see a farmer leading one of the rare Skyros horses. This “Pikermic” breed of small horses is endemic only to Skyros and they have roamed wild across the island since the Paleolithic Age. Once in the Chora we followed our guides up through the narrow, winding, cobbled alleyways of the village, stopping to take photos of cats and arbors heavy with purple bougainvillea. An elderly couple welcomed us into their home to admire their “Aloni” – the part of the house where they display all their decorative pottery, and gleaming copper. The panoramic view from the square with a monument dedicated to the British World War I poet, Rupert Brookes, and the small ethnographic museum with exquisite embroideries and folkloric costumes was well worth the climb. After the museum we continued our exploration of the upper reaches of the Chora where some of the local women had laid out a tasting table of fresh, soft goat cheese, local thyme honey, home-made bread and ouzo for us to sample and gifts of small bouquets of fresh herbs to take home with us. This truly was a way to experience the Greek islands with all our senses.
As though our day had not been full enough, the Captain’s “welcome” dinner began almost as soon as we returned to the ship. But one of the highlights of our day still remained – watching the full harvest moon rise as we pulled away from Skyros. With the topsails and lower gallants set, we set our course “by silvery light of the moon…”