To start, a confession: when I say sailing, I really mean sitting/lying on a sailboat. I, truthfully, did no such thing as sailing, although some of my friends took turns at the wheel of the Sun Odyssey 36i so I would suspect that they can and will use the term somewhat more freely than I can.
I was all too happy to spend my time on the back (stern) or front (bow) of the sailboat, eager to put as little as possible between me and the feeling of the hot, at times, piercing rays of the sun on my skin; the gentle but insistent presence of the salt-laced breeze; the hypnotic rise and fall of the impossibly blue waters.
It was my first time out on a sailboat and I could never have imagined a more breathtaking and bewitching introduction.
Our day started at 7am with a taxi ride to the port of Piraeus, the more popular departure and arrival point in Athens for the ferries and hydrofoils to various Greek islands. While we were still bleary-eyed and listless, the rest of Athens was up and moving with traffic already at a steady pace and drivers vacillating between a display of manic and dare-devilish lane changes on the one hand and of seemingly unconscious, unhindered drifting on the other, as you find yourself watching a car serenely continuing on its way, all the while straddling two lanes.
The residual scent of Greek cigarette smoke – darker, fuller and more biting than the North American version – suffused the interior of the taxi, forced out of its comfortable resting place in the upholstery by our settling bodies and bags. Our driver, Yannis, was incredibly friendly and informative, eager to impart his knowledge of Hellenic (not Greek, he points out) history, archaeological geography and mathematics and their sometimes surprising link and causal relationship to each other, but this early in the morning his eagerness was overwhelming and my cabmates nodded off leaving me to maintain the conversation alone for the 30-minute drive.
A one hour hydrofoil ride to Poros would follow, with half of our group nodding off in spite of the frigid air conditioned cabin. Whatever remnants of sleep that clung to us, however, disappeared immediately upon arrival where the blue skies, even bluer waters, bright sunshine and and colourful, traditionally constructed buildings greeted us.
As we set off out of the marina and pulled into open water, I found myself quickly taken over by the sensation of ecstatic disbelief. This was not real life. It couldn’t possibly be. The luxuriousness of it, the unimaginable yet undeniably perfect combination of sun, water & wind, the intensity of colour, the expanse of horizon and landscape…. With immense gratitude and joy, I tried my best to memorize every facet of the experience, while at the same time attempting to swallow the experience whole.
Our destination that day was the island of Hydra, a town built on a rise that occupied only a small portion of the island. Its inhabitation was a direct result of the island having nothing to offer the pirates that once roamed the region; even its drinking water continues to be shipped in on a daily basis.