Sailing in Greece: Kea

More than once on this trip, the Titanic has been mentioned. Maybe we’d all been channelling arriving on Kea because it was off the coast of this Greek island that its sister ship, the Britannic, sunk in 1916. Who knew, eh?

Ormos Koundouros (Kavia Kea) viewed from the sea

On our first night here, we anchored off Ormos Koundouros (Kavia Kea). We were quite far from shore, and it was windy. We’d met wind speeds of 27 knots an hour on the way over and it’d been a rough ride. The water was choppy and no one quite fancied the longish dinghy ride to the beach. So we ate on board. Cooking in a galley with a two-ring gas stove for nine people was quite the feat.

A review of the anchorage on a French site warned that ‘a little swell enters the bay and can make mooring uncomfortable’. Yup. They were right.

Traditional windmills at Koundouros, Kea-Tzia, Greece

Traditional windmills at Koundouros, Kea-Tzia, Greece

The traditional windmills were something different. Built years ago for grinding grain and to take advantage of the north winds that blow through, I’d imagine they’d be cool to renovate and live in. They seem to be unique to this island and no doubt are available to rent. More modern versions are on the go, too.

The following morning we left early as we wanted to be sure that we got a spot at the pier in Korissia, said to be one of the safest natural harbours in the Med. With high winds forecast and a rocky night the night before, we needed a safe harbour. The trip around the other side of the island was like going on the scariest of water rides at Splash Mountain. Wind speeds were as high as 30 knots and we were heading straight into it. We rode the waves, got soaking wet, and I know I saw at least one holy soul racing out of purgatory. A week into it, I can safely say that sailing ain’t for me.

View from the water of the church at Korissia is located in the bay of St Nikolaos

St Nikolaos lighthouse - Kea, Greece - built 1831

Korissia is located in the bay of St Nikolaos. It’s picture-postcard stuff, mainly because of the lighthouse and chapel called after St Nikolaos. It’s one of the two oldest lighthouses in Greece, dating back to 1831, and the first to be lit in the Cyclades. Sadly, Greece, like many other countries, has locked her church doors unless there’s a service. I figured it wasn’t worth hiking over to check.

The water in the Aegean Sea is a dark inky blue – it’s stunning. I’m used to greener waters but apparently, this is the colour it is because it has a very low nutrient content – sod all phosphates and nitrates. There’s not much happening down there and whatever is going on is happening close to the bottom. Given that it’s 3.544 km deep (11,627 feet), it’s little wonder that it’s as clear as it is. We did see some porpoises and a few shoals of fish but not much else. It’s handy though because shallower waters of different hues really stand out.

Stories abound about how the Aegean Sea got its name. The one I like is this:

According to Professor Christos Doumas, head of the archaeological excavations at Akrotiri, the name Aegean has its origin in the Homeric verb ‘aisso’ which means ‘to jump’. The derivative noun from this verb is ‘aix’ = the goat, in other words an animal that jumps. In ancient times the Greeks called large waves ‘aig(y)es’ (as jumping goats). Thus we arrive at “Aegeon” = Aegean. In modern day Greek it is called ‘Aig(y)aio’.

I’ve seen plenty of goat on menus, always listed with (local) in brackets behind it but I’ve yet to see a goat, goat.

Cars disembarking from a ferry in Kea

Korissia is a ferry port with various lines popping in from Athens and the like. The stream of cars disembarking regularly tells of its popularity or its proximity to the capital, or both. It reminds me of Valdez back in the day when the cruise ships would land and the population would double. When I was starting work way back when, island hopping in Greece was high on the list of things to do. I never did. I’d like to come back and do this trip again – but by ferry. This past week has been a good reconnaissance – I know where to avoid and where to revisit. I’d come back to Korissia.

Church of the Holy Trinity in Korissia, Kea, Greece

Church of the Holy Trinity in Korissia, Kea, Greece

The skyline is dominated by the Church of the Holy Trinity. Walking up the steps in the hope that the door might be open, we happened across the upper tier of the town. A lot is going on in the back streets. We checked out a family bakery that looked like it’s fired up a log or three in its day. Every place we’ve stopped has had a bakery, most open from 6 am. But this was the most traditional I’ve seen. Fresh cream pastries are sold frozen to make sure they last the journey home. And the bread is delicious.

Old family bakery in Korissia, Kea. Greece

Old family bakery in Korissia, Kea. Greece

The crafty souvenir shops sell upmarket stuff for a more discerning tourist. There is no tat here. Thankfully, with carry-on luggage, space is at a premium and temptation is easily resisted. It was good to see that new places are opening and there’s free public wifi. I can recommend Oikos on the seafront, a new venture that is paying attention to the little details. The ladies is well stocked with everything you might need. But if you haven’t eaten it or drank it, you don’t put it in the loo. It’s all about the pipe size. Greek sewage pipes are about 50 mm (2 inches) in diameter and are prone to clogging. US and UK plumbing is twice as large. It takes a conscious effort to remember to bag it. So much of what I do, I do without thinking.

Travel & Leisure did a piece on bathroom etiquette around the world if you’re interested. Did you know that a loo in Japan is known as a ben-jo?

Butcher shop in Korissia, Kea, Greece

Church on the cliff top in Kea, Greece

Greek flag flying in front of a church on Kea

Mooring in a harbour is a luxury and something I look forward to. I should have known better. There’s a clue in the description – sailing holiday. It’s all about sailing. And if you’re into it, it’s a great way to spend a week or two. Sadly, I’m not comfortable on the water. No amount of telling me that there’s no way the boat will capsize helps when we seem to be streaking along at a 60-degree angle. We’re completely at the mercy of the weather and the wind is high for the next few days.

And while it might be a tad blustery, I am enjoying the silhouettes and the sunsets.

Silhouette of a schooner against a setting sun in Greece




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