On the previous evening the owners of the Kastro hotel had persuaded us to book a trip for a full day boating adventure and a trip around the island with Captain Ben. They had promised that it would be great fun and that the weather would be perfect and after a couple of glasses of red wine we were easily talked into handing over our money.
So, the next day, after breakfast, we packed our bags and walked along to the harbour in time for the ten o’clock departure. By the time we arrived the boat was beginning to fill up and on the top deck passengers were staking their claims to the sun beds and claiming their preferred spot on the seats and we sat and waited while the last few passengers made their way along the quay side to board the boat. We were outnumbered by Scandanavians but there were some French and Germans as well but I am fairly certain that we were the only English on board.
At ten o’clock the boat set off and it just about now that we began to ask ourselves the question that why, for two people who get bored on a beach after fifteen minutes or so we had agreed to take part in this seven hour trip around the island. First the boat went to Paros to collect some more Scandanavians and then it headed out to sea and Captain Ben apologised for the wind and gentle swell that to be quite honest was barely noticable.
We headed north until we reached some islands, just rocks really, but one of them large enoughto have a small white church on it and the captain manoeuvred the boat into a small bay, dropped anchor and invited us to go over the side for a first swim. Once back on board I realised that we had only been going for about an hour and it looked like a very long day ahead.
Having gone around the north of the island we now started to head south and there were some famous people’s holiday houses to look out for. Apparently Antiparos is becoming a favourite with Hollywood ‘A’ listers and Captain Ben pointed out the favourite homes of Tom Hanks, Madonna and Angelina Jolie and this reminded me of my boat trip around the island of Capri in 1976 where there were more famous people’s houses than I could ever remember (except for Roger Moore and Sophia Loren).
We stopped at a beach for another swim and we took the opportunity to do a spot of beachcombing and came across some more driftwood additions for our model boat project and after that we sailed for about an hour before reaching an empty beach on the tiny island of Despotiko where we were set ashore to wait for lunch.
Uninhabited apart from dozens of wild and disobedient goats that roam its scrubland, Despotiko, was in ancient times a destination for pilgrims and its strategic importance as a beacon of the Aegean has been confirmed by a number of significant archaeological finds. Despotiko is thought to have been a sanctuary throughout the Geometric era which rose to prominence in ancient times after the inhabitants of Paros established it as a place of worship in order to confirm the larger neighbouring island as a dominant force in the Aegean. It continued to serve as a religious site up until the beginning of the 2nd century BC, when it suffered extensive destruction at the hands of the Athenians as a punishment to Paros for siding with the Persians. Later, in Roman times and the post-Byzantine era, the islet was frequently targeted by pirates.
After a while Captain Ben and the crew came back with some appetizers of grilled squid and spicy Syros sausage and some local ouzo to wash it down. The food was excellent and far surpassed our modest expectations but back on board it got even better with a barbequed meat kebabs and salad, plenty of red wine and beer and finally delicious grilled sardines.
After the crew had tidied up after lunch the journey continued along the coastline and past some white gnarled cliffs that reminded me of Milos and I watched Captain Ben plot a safe course and thought how wonderful it would be to be a sailor in the Aegean and then there was another invitation to go swimming and snorkelling into and through the caves that punctuated the coastline.
The alcohol was flowing freely now and people were beginning to lose their inhibitions. There was some wild partying at the front of the boat and a group of Swedish women came to life when the captain played an ABBA tape and they started the top deck dancing. If there had been a slight swell before the boat was really rocking now and Kim was quick to join in.
There was one final swimming stop in between the islands of Paros and Antiparos and then Captain Ben made for home, stopping first in Paros and then returning to Antiparos to finally moor up. It had been a fabulous trip and a great cruise and despite my earlier misgivings the seven hours had simply flown by and it had been a wonderful day.
Back on dry land we dropped off at a bar on the way back to the hotel but after all those hours on the water we couldn’t get our land legs back straight away and both of us were continuing to sway in motion with the boat that we had spent the day getting used to. Later we spent some time around the pool bar and then walked back into the village. We would have found somewhere to eat but we were still quite full after all the food on board the boat so we skipped evening meal but had a quiet drink down by the harbour and reflected on our holiday. This was our final night on the islands and tomorrow we would be heading back to Athens for a night in the city before flying home in two day’s time.
Some more of my boat journeys recorded in the journal: