Sailing Charter in Greece - Part 2: Athens and meeting our boat and skipper
This is part 2 of my Sailing in Greece series. You can find part 1 here.
We had converged in NYC at JFK airport and after a mad dash to the duty free shop to buy some whiskey (both Makers and Jameson) we all boarded. Dave and Lisa in first class (dual income empty nest doctors? You bet, but no I'm not bitter or jealous), Adrienne and Andrew in the back of the bus for their first trans-continental flight, and my family comfortably seated just behind business class in two pairs of window/aisle seats. Sleep is always a struggle on these flights, but my wrap-around inflatable pillow did help me grab a few hours.
Athens: It was hot, we were tired, but we all knew we needed to make it through the day to get on a reasonable sleep schedule. We quickly made our way through passport control and customs (like most countries I visit, customs was empty) and found our way to the light rail station after buying 8 one-way tickets to the city center (about 8€ each, though we were able to buy some group tickets and saved a bit). The airport is way outside the city and reminds me of the Denver airport relative to the city. In fact the terrain is similar with desert-like scrub and olive trees with surrounding lightly wooded mountains surrounding a valley and the vast city of Athens. Our destination was the city center near the Acropolis for some tourism before our designate check-in time with our boat at about 5pm.
We can carry everything in our backs but that doesn't mean we want to sightsee with our luggage. Julie had done her homework and we made our way to a hostel with public lockers (Athens Studios. 3A Veikou St, Athens) available for rent. For 3€ per locker we were able to squeeze our bags in 3 or 4 lockers. Big mistake on my part was not getting my hat out of my luggage for mid-day touring in sunny Athens with 90+ degree weather.
I won't go into the details of our touring that afternoon, but here is a quick summary of what we saw:
- The Stadium
- The National Garden near Syntagma Square
- Greek Parliament House
- Roman Agora
We were all seriously dragging by this point, but it was necessary as we kept telling ourselves. Stay awake, no afternoon naps, then get a good night's sleep. After a late lunch (and Andrew's first foray into the wild world of international menu selection) we walked to the tram to take us to Alimos marina to meet our boat and skipper.
Seafarer Charters was on their game. Our host Alice is someone Julie felt like she already knew well after the multitude of email exchanges they had going back to January. One reason we chose Seafarer was because of Alice's thoughtful and timely responses. My understanding is that Seafarer is really just the booking agency for boat owners trying to rent charters. They can do both bare boat (no skipper needed) or skippered (and possibly crewed) charters and in our case they also found our skipper based on our demanding specifications. We wanted someone that would be fun and allow us to help crew as much as possible.
At Alimos marina there are a series of small shacks along the piers where these charter companies hang their shingle. We had no problem finding Seafarer and were welcomed by Alice and Vassillis, our skipper. They had drinks, fruit, and cookies ready for us as we began our check-in process.
These charters can be complex four-legged transactions: the tourists, the charter company, the boat owner, and the skipper. I think it is important that the skipper be the tourist-advocate and Vassillis certainly was. We needed him to be engaged in the check-out and inspection process to ensure the safety of our lives and credit cards.
And with this safety briefing began our delightful interaction with Vassilis and his three priorities under consideration:
- Our safety
- Out comfort
- Finally, our wishes
The meaning here being that skipper knows best, and when we are considering itinerary and what island to approach next he will always ensure that we are safe and comfortable (I.e. avoid rough seas) before accommodating our often fleeting and misguided wishes. This would lead to some difficult choices and probably the only discontent we experienced on the trip.
Seafarer arranged for a small car and driver for us to use for grocery shopping - we are solely responsible for feeding our group and the skipper throughout the trip! Julie, Andrew, and I climbed in a tiny compact and drove a few blocks over to a tiny grocer. We were warned to stock up heavily on water and I think we bought about 40 one liter bottles. We did our best to find good choices for breakfast (cereal and yoghurt), lunch (sandwich fixings) and snacks with a plan to eat dinner out the next few nights. Oh, and beer. Our brands of choice were Mythos and Fix, with Fix being the favorite of the two. It reminds me of Genesee Cream Ale, which is a good thing. This provisioning routine would turn out to be one of the mini-adventures we would face in every port.
After a sort-of-dinner at a night club near the marina we crashed and spent our first night (moored in the marina of course) on the Lagoon 400. I'll describe our final day of touring in Athens as well as describe the particulars of the boat in my next post.