Well, it sure is a long hot summer in Greece this year – no regular Meltemi winds to cool Attica and the islands, means that temperatures have topped 40 degrees Celsius on several occasions.
But if you want fresher airs and cooling breezes you go to the Northern Cycladic Islands, such as Tinos – home to the legendary cave of Aeolus, god of wind. And if you are on a Greek Islands sailing holiday, then everyone wants to go to Mykonos – the island where anything goes…
The trouble is, is that sailing around Mykonos and Tinos is not easy. Some superstitious Greek skippers won’t go to Tinos, because they don’t want to rattle Aeolus’ cage. Yet, all guests and bare boat charterers want to go to Mykonos – a decision many regret as they endure a bumpy ride to get to the island. Then after that, they are struggling to tie up in the marina in a Force 6 or 7, often 8, with anchors are getting tangled, boats being blown on to walls and each other. The rush hour around 6pm in the evening in high season at the marina in Mykonos is better than any TV soap opera, as small sail boats, big stink pots, ferries and fishing boats jostle for some kind of pecking order and a spot in the crowded port.
Once you are tied up, though, it is all worth it: the beach bars and restaurants on Mykonos might be expensive, but they are truly stunning in style. The island’s scenery has been preserved by not allowing non-Cycladic Island architecture to spring up in the name of development. Mykonos Town (the Chora) is a classic old Cycladic village of narrow streets separating white box Greek houses and tiny churches. Myth has it that the streets were made so narrow, so that the pirates and partiers who colonised the island centuries ago, could ricochet drunkenly along them to find their way home late at night. It’s amazing how pirates always find cool spots and turn them into hot spots.
There is plenty of pirate influence in contemporary Greek culture – anyone who works in boating in Athens lives in Paleo Faliro, the southern beach area, populated by yachties, skippers, captains, pirates, smugglers, gangsters, charmers and other louche livers. I live on the edge of the area in Kalamaki, which has a huge marina and is the place to get anything done to do with boats. But it is all myth – the area is very safe, I swim every day I can and it is friendly and as interconnected as Cowes on the Isle of Wight.
The interconnectedness of the area is a feature of all of Greece. Everyone knows everyone or is related to someone that they know. It is not considered rude in Greece to ask complete strangers how old they are, where they live and if they are married. When I queried this (after being utterly shocked as a British woman that I was being personally interrogated within seconds of being introduced to someone) to a friend, explaining that it is seen as very offensive to ask a woman her age in England, he laughed and reminded me that there are only 10 million people living in Greece and so people are always checking whether or not they are related to a potential new mate.
But this doesn’t make the dating game any easier… Not only have I learned that Athenian men generally have more than one girlfriend, I have also gleaned that the most important woman in a Greek man’s life is his mother. As many men live with their mothers when they are single, you are bound to cross the paths of these matriarchs. It is quite common for the older generation to speak less English that their children, as I found when I was trying to organise a date with a guy who lives in Pireaus with his mum. Whenever I phoned his house and asked to speak to him in English, his mother hung up on me.
To escape the heatwave, I went to Mykonos for work. It was a somewhat stressful experience, as we were doing corporate day and evening sails in up to 30 knots of wind, but somehow I managed to run the much moving bar efficiently enough to be offered a bar job in the gay Jackie O bar in the Little Venice area of the Chora. Then it was off to Santorini to pick up a yacht and deliver it back to the mainland.
Everything was going well, in spite of the fact that we were going upwind in a catamaran in a Force 7-8, until we lost an engine and sprung a leak off Cape Sounio. Unfazed, I started bailing and organised us a tow into Lavrio, where we then had a crazy moment hauling the boat out of the water in the dark and a howling gale. But we did it and the boat was saved and easily repaired. You have to hand it to the Greeks, they can get anything done in a flash if necessary – you have to pay cash and dispense with bureaucracy, but at least things happen when they need to.
To celebrate our safe return and to appreciate the beauty of summer, we did a trek of Cape Sounio under the last August full moon. The archeological site of the ancient Temple of Poseidon was open late and free for all, so we were not alone in our venture. But the sky was full of shooting stars big enough to show up beside a moon so bright that the Aegean Sea was lit up so we could see as far as the island of Kithnos to the East. And there is nothing more appropriate for yachties in Greece than to worship at the temple of Poseidon – it was a truly charming evening.