Skyros is the largest of the Sporades islands and has been inhabited since Mycenaean times. The houses and architecture are more reminiscent of the Cyclades with their square white houses than other islands in the Sporades group but that may have more to do with the fact that they are the most southerly of the Northern Sporades chain and hence nearer the Cyclades. Skyros seems to draw the artistic crowd and has developed a tourism trade linked to alternative therapies. Some say that the creative nature of the Skyrians comes from the fact that they used to hide art plundered by pirates.
As we had hired scooters for 24 hours from 6pm on the day we arrived , we decided to go out and explore by having a sundowner at a windmill bar called Anemomilos on the opposite side of the island followed by a meal at a fish restaurant called Istories, on the beach. Both were recommendations from George, our harbour master and scooter rental guy. The windmill was wonderfully quirky, which sums up the island itself. The fish restaurant, whilst open, clearly wasn’t expecting any customers this late in the day as we were the only ones. We had fresh red fish (no idea of the name) and also part of a ray. The red fish was delicious but the same can’t be said for the ray. We got back to the harbour around 11pm having negotiated the somewhat varying road quality on scooters with not great lights!
We woke up relatively early and had a leisurely breakfast before leaving the boat to continue our exploration. The previous evening we had passed a sculpture park by the side of the road so we wanted to return in daylight. A truly lovely gesture by the islanders in a lovely setting by the sea.
Onwards to a couple of museums in the old chora (original village up in the hills so it could be defended easily). The first one was the Monas and Anastasia Faltaits folk museum. The family were very respected and prominent on Skyros and started collecting cultural artefacts to ensure the unique heritage of these people was preserved. The house, where Anatasia still lives aged 83, is filled to the brim with his paintings, cultural archives including the Proclamation of the Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Empire. Fascinating stuff. The archeological museum nearby wasn’t quite as interesting! There was a square close to both museums that was dedicated to the eternal poet in memory of Rupert Brooke, the WWI poet.
On then to the chora which seemed to consist of a church on every corner. Given how small the town would have been, it is extraordinary how many churches there were! Right on the top of the hill was a monastery and a castle. Sadly, the monastery shut at midday so we were only able to visit the castle which must have been quite intimidating in its time.
By now it was time for lunch so we wandered down to the beach where we found a lovely beach bar/restaurant called Asterias and had a delicious crab salad. We also ordered Skyrian cheese. It was a cross between feta and a creamy goats cheese but was too vinegary for us. An acquired taste, methinks. The restaurant had sun loungers on the beach so we availed ourselves a couple of them to while away an hour or two. Very relaxing.
It was then time to make our way home via Mouries Farm. The Farm is a charity that looks after the endangered Skyrian miniature horse. They were originally used as work horses but they have fragile backs so couldn’t really be used in that context. They are only found on Skyros and there are less than a hundred left. Volunteers from all over Europe spend the summer helping to look after these lovely creatures.
Our final stop before returning the scooters was up to the church of Agios Fokes where we saw the shallow channel we negotiated coming into Linaria.
As we needed to return the scooters by 1830, we decided to have a sundowner at a bar overlooking the harbour. They made very good passion fruit caipirinhas with a view to die for.
We decided to continue to splash out and eat at one of the harbour restaurants. It was good, staple Greek fare and as always the house wine was cheap and perfectly quaffable. Just before we went to bed, we heard a commotion outside and saw the ferry coming in to the strains of 2001 Space Odyssey. The music was blaring across the harbour. Fabulous. We had a relatively early night as we wanted to get away before 0800 as we had around 70nm to cover to get within spitting distance of Lavrion.
We awoke early and got away before the ferry left. We knew the journey would be lively as 30 plus winds were forecast but with them behind us, we figured we would be ok. Typically, the wind got up but after a couple of hours it was dead behind us and the swell was coming from the NE so it meant we either had to gybe a lot or motor for a few hours until the wind backed to the NW. As we had a long journey ahead of us we put the engine on so we could make good time. After a few hours the wind moved round so we could sail and we started to make stonking progress. It also meant we could deploy our Hydrovane which is an autopilot that harnesses the wind so doesn’t use any power.
We were blessed with a small pod of dolphins who played in our bow waves for over an hour.
As we got closer to the channel between Evia and Andros, the wind started to really pick up and it was touching 40 knots which meant we were making 10 knots. As we came through the channel (reputedly one of the windiest places in the Aegean), we came to the conclusion that it would be less than an extra two hours to continue to Lavrion and our home berth rather than try and negotiate turning north towards an anchorage with such big seas. So, we continued south towards Lavrion with the expectation that the sea and wind would calm down. Of course that didn’t happen and we continued to race along at 8 knots. By the time we arrived at Olympic Marine, Lavrion it was still very windy but the berthing lads helped us get into our berth so we could finally relax knowing we had an extra day to get Nimmie ready to be lifted out. In the end, we covered nearly 90nm in just over 13 hours – quite an achievement.