A Saronic Gulf cruise
On 1 July 2013, Amels delivered Project 464, an Amels 180, with a delay of 4 hours. The delivery was delayed by the Chief Stewardess forgetting to buy sufficient milk, the Captain’s wish to take a picture of all the Amels staff on board, and the difficulties the deck crew experienced in finding takers for their trusted bicycles they wanted to give away.
Length overall 55.00 metres
Gross tonnage 671 gt
Design exterior Tim Heywood
Naval architecture Amels
Range 4,500 nautical miles (13 knots)
Captain Christoph Schaefer shares the story of Kamalaya’s first season
When the doors of the building shed finally opened, everyone was excited to take our fine ship out to sea and out into the wide world. During the trip to Malta we encountered true wind speeds of 55 knots, and the associated seas, on the nose. This experience showed us just how good a boat we had. Our summer cruise took us all across the Mediterranean and after clocking some 8,000 miles we pulled into Athens in early October 2013 to a warm welcome from our agent Kostas Skiathitis of Oceania Yachting. Greece has always been one of my favorite cruising grounds in the Med and I was excited to be here already during our first season.
Escape the metropolis
At the end of our Aegean cruise we dropped anchor in Vouliagmeni, on the outskirts of Athens. While Athens certainly does not have any shortage of marinas that can handle large yachts, Vouliagmeni – lying halfway between the city and the airport – is the ideal staging ground to board your yacht to explore the Greek Islands. The small bay is calm and well protected. On its southern shores lies the Astir Palace Beach Resort, a five star resort and spa that offers first class facilities (and a heliport, for those that do not want to land a helicopter on their yachts). The resort is not open to visiting yachts, but Kostas arranged for us to get permission to anchor off the resort and use its facilities.
Unless drawn to the sights of Athens such as the Acropolis, most visitors will be glad to escape the throbbing metropolis, and will want to head straight out into the Aegean to visit the islands. I do believe there are only a few readers who would not instantly recognise the white-washed houses clinging to the sheer cliffs of Santorini, the windmills of Mykonos or the ancient ruins of Delios. These images appear to be engraved in our collective memory.
Across the Gulf
However, on a balmy October morning, we pointed the bow of Kamalaya west, across the Saronic Gulf and towards the islands of Aigina and Agkistri, lying just 20 miles from the city, in search of different destinations that lie off the beaten track. Certainly Greece offers plenty of just that. Over the next few days we slowly worked our way from there south along the shores of the Peloponnese and the off-lying islands of Hydra and Spetses, to Monemvasia and on to Elafonisis, one of the best Greek beaches located on the south eastern tip of the peninsula.
Surrounded by history and mythology, the cruise takes you to some of the most underrated destinations in Greece. While many of the Aegean islands are windswept and harsh we encountered flat seas with windless days and quiet, peaceful anchorages, the air heavy with the scent of pine trees and herbs.
Preserving integrity of place
Our first night we spent stern-to at Moni Island with a full moon rising behind the island. While there were a few day sailors
Not a breath of wind rippled the waters that night
at anchor off the island, by sunset we had the island to ourselves. Not a breath of wind rippled the waters that night. If it was not for the glow of the city lights of Athens giving the clouds in the distance an orange tint, you could have thought you were alone on the Earth. After an early morning swim we picked up anchor and, while breakfast was served, sailed down the coast towards the island of Hydra.
The statistics of the island are really quite exciting: not large at 52 square kilometres, 1,900 people live in the town of Hydra, other hamlets are Mandraki (population 11) and Vlychos (population 19). The statistics do not mention how many live in Kamini, Palamides, Episkopi and Molos. What really makes Hydra interesting though, is the fact that motor vehicles are not allowed by law. The only vehicles on the island are some rubbish trucks.You either walk, take a donkey or, of course, a boat. So Hydra has managed to maintain its integrity in this fast paced world. It was voted by National Geographic Traveler the highest ranking Greek island (11th out of 111 islands) as a “unique destination preserving its integrity of place”. From the numerous bays and coves, we chose to anchor at the south end of the island in a perfectly protected bay, again offering us an absolutely quiet night at anchor.
Gibraltar of the East
Just a short hop down the coast lies Spetses and, similar to Hydra, the absence of the automobile is striking. Private vehicles are not allowed within the city limits and only taxis, horse drawn carts and delivery vehicles are encountered. Spetses has developed into one of the favourite getaways for the Athens high society. Sailing even further south, our next stop was Monemvasia, nicknamed the Gibraltar of the East or The Rock, an island separated from the mainland by an earthquake in 375 AD. The island was an important port and trading town until the mid 18th century and was at one time or the other ruled by every power active in the Mediterranean. Much of the city has been restored and its medieval streets are too narrow for any kind of traffic.
Finally, at the very southern tip of the Peleponnes lies the island of Elafonisos, Where you will find some of the finest beaches of Greece. Another highlight of the island are its petrified forests.
As so often, when we finally pointed the bow of the fine ship Kamalaya towards new destinations, I felt that we had spent far too little time and seen far too few places, missing out on Navplion, for example and many of the historic sites along the coast. I am not sure just how long it would take to get to know the Greek islands properly and visit all the special places. I feel that even after half a lifetime cruising there you would still discover the one or the other hidden gem on every voyage.