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Captains for a few days

06 June 2013 / 16:06:41  GRReporter
5085 reads

Anastasia Balezdrova

Although the continental part of Greece has several high mountains, with its coastal area of 13,676 km, the country can be defined only as a sea country. The Aegean, Ionian and Mediterranean seas wash its shores and as a result of the collision between the European and African tectonic plates, 6,000 tiny, small and large islands have formed, only 117 of which are inhabited.

You can always go to the islands by the ferries that cross the sea but how would you feel if you could get to them by your own vessel? To organize some short cruises to several neighbouring islands, to get to places that can be accessed only by goat trails, to enjoy some small picturesque bays?

Riding on the waves

The answer is - by inflatable boat. There is no greater feeling than the roaring of the engine shortly after the boat has been launched into the water. Just a few minutes later, the speed is increasing, the wind is starting to disarrange your hair and the blue sea is right in front of your eyes.

Camera: Vasilis Vafidis

GRReporter crossed more than 110 nautical miles or a little over 200 km by such a motorboat to reach the most remote of the Cycladic Islands, which is Donoussa. We spent five hours on the open sea and a moderately strong south wind was blowing in the direction opposite to that of the boat.

Our voyage was possible due to the inflatable boats association of Greece (OFSE), which has been criss-crossing the Aegean Sea for 25 years already. From 1999 onwards, in late spring, its members set off to some of the most inaccessible islands in order to encourage their residents, to help them by supplying them with various items, medicines and equipment they need and to promote the islands by taking media representatives to them. This year, the mission is called "Life on the Aegean rocks - Donoussa 2013".

The voyage

The boats depart from various marinas - in Lavrio and Anavissos, where they stay and where they are guarded. At the beginning of the voyage, the "captains" are talking on the radio, wishing their counterparts ‘bon voyage’ and then, the boats are scattering like a flock, riding on the blue waves.

The GPS screen is displaying the route: the motorboats will sail south of the island of Kea and along the northern part of Kythnos and then they will stop for a short break at Finikas port on the island of Syros and will continue to Donoussa. While sailing, you will see the south part of Mykonos in the distance and will pass very close to the northern part of Naxos.

The picture of the blue expanse of the sea is filling the eyes and minds with harmony and a sense of immensity. The motorboats are drifting over the waves, easily ploughing through the larger of them. However, despite the idyllic picture and bright sun, the passengers are wearing waterproof clothing and neoprene jackets under it as well as hats. The winds in the open sea are cold and it is possible that water could enter the boat when the weather is bad and waves are big. Sailing with wet clothes is not the funniest part of the adventure. Another optional item is the sunscreen that protects your skin not only from the burning sun, but also from the blowing winds.

The sea is calm until you get to Syros and offers ideal conditions for a voyage. After the break, however, the "insidious" south wind is quite strong, but the main problem is that it is a contrary wind. However, if adrenaline-pumping activities are among your favourite, you will definitely be very happy if you are sitting in the front part of an open type boat. Small water sprays will only refresh your face and jumping over the waves will not allow you be bored for even a moment.
 
If you are lucky enough, you may see during the voyage one of the turtles which swim freely in the Aegean sea and even dolphins.

Arriving in Donoussa

Shortly before the end of the voyage, the boats, which are about 30 in number, gather together, preparing themselves to triumphantly enter the port of Donoussa. Their arrival is always like a parade. It is also very noisy and exciting – sounds of horns and clouds of smoke are filling the air and light rockets are illuminating the sky.

All the 110 inhabitants of the island are awaiting them at the pier. Small children dressed in traditional costumes are welcoming the early visitors, as the tourist season has not yet started.  Then, they start dancing some of the popular island dances with the ease that only the people whose inevitable companion is the wind and whose gaze wanders to the sea every day can feel. At the marina, the guests are trying local sweets - pasteli and xerotigana, and drinking rakomelo (brandy brewed with honey), prepared by the local housewives.


The donation of the association

The small ship "Skopelitis" is arriving too, bringing the presents prepared by the members of the association: medicines and medical supplies, school supplies and, of course, toys for the children. Despite the crisis, the owners of inflatable boats have not abandoned their tradition and collected money to make this voyage. It was also supported by the State lottery OPAP and Alpha Bank.

Tags: TravelogueVoyageInflatable boatsOFSEIslandsDonoussaDonation
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