One of my favorite friends, Alison, celebrated a milestone birthday this year. To really put the “happy” into Happy Birthday, her and her husband, Mark, planned her dream vacation – a sailing trip through the Greek Isles. Amazing, huh? Wait, it gets better.
To heighten the party experience, they invited her friends to attend! Great friends, great food, great reason to celebrate all on a boat in Greece – I couldn’t refuse.
I know what you’re thinking, getting away for a week in September for anyone with a family is tough. Luckily, I am married to the greatest man on the planet. He couldn’t get away from work so agreed to take on the home front solo! Another friend, Christal, married to the second greatest man on the planet, was able to attend solo with me since her husband agreed to take on their home front for the week too! Rounding out the guest list were Alison’s cousin, Janet, and her husband, Bill.
We left Philadelphia at 4p on a Friday. We took a direct flight to Athens arriving at 8a on Saturday. The time difference is seven hours and not much sleep on the plane made for a scraggly bunch going through customs. Luckily, it was a breeze and we were off to find our driver and the ATMs. After a few minor incidents we were on our way to the marina.
Travel Tip: Banks charge a high service fee when withdrawing money internationally. Understand your banks charges and how much cash you may need throughout the trip so you can make the right number of withdrawls without racking up those fees. Also, banks may only allow a certain amount per day to be withdrawn from an ATM – double check if you have limits and if necessary, adjust them before you go.
Travel Tip: Be sure to have the local telephone number for the driver picking you up from the airport. Just in case he is not there when you arrive, you can contact him immediately. Let’s just say Alison is a prepared traveler.
We arrived at the marina in about 40 minutes. When Alison booked the boat the departure time was set for 4pm. They did tell her if the boat was ready we might be able to leave early. Unfortunately, the boat wasn’t ready until the original time.
Since we were so early, the marina staff suggested we tour Athens via the tram, which was only a short walk to the nearest station. Fantastic, we thought, and we were off. Side note: most of us thought this was a great idea. Mark, the birthday girl’s husband, just wanted to stop at the first beach bar and get a drink and bite to eat, however, we overruled him and were quickly at the station.
My generous friend, Christal, decided to purchase our tickets and after a bit of confusion trying to figure out the machine (there were no people to buy tickets from) she entered her 10 Euros into the money slot. The machine willing accepted the money but gave us nothing in return. Did I say we figured out the machine? What I meant to say was the machine figured us out!
After a fruitless attempt to get our money back or even find someone to help, Mark’s choice prevailed and we all headed to the beach bar! Enter, white wine and Greek salad. Exit, thoughts of the lost 10 Euros.
We stayed there a while, mainly because we were all so tired but also because the service was longer than expected. We found this to be true throughout our trip.
On the way back to the marina, we stopped to pick up some nonperishable provisions. It was a fun shopping trip trying to figure out if what we were buying was what we wanted considering everything was in Greek. Thus ensued a well-worn phrase throughout our trip, “It’s all Greek to me.” I’m sure you can imagine how often those words were uttered (thanks to Bill for starting it off).
Part of the sailing service was a motorized trip to the grocery store, which we were taking advantage of to purchase the perishable goods we still needed. When we returned to the marina, three of us were “allowed” to go to the store while three of us had to stay back. I was not elected to go to the grocery store. What’s a girl to do? Hhhmmm, how about spread out her beach towel and take a much-needed nap? Yes, I certainly missed going to that second grocery store.
Once the rest of the party got back, we were finally able to board the boat but only to put our things there since it still wasn’t quite ready yet. We lugged all of our stuff (including groceries) from the marina office to the boat. The sight of the boat was fantastic. It was beautiful. A large sailing catamaran ready to make our trip spectacular!
Wait, here’s a surprise, to get on the boat, we had to walk across a narrow board. Imagine a pirate gang plank then shave a few inches off the width and there you’ll have the tiny wood strip we had to navigate. Hello obstacle course! With our big duffle bags and filled grocery sacks, it was a daunting task. We all managed (meaning, nobody got wet)!
Once you walk the plank, you have to remove your shoes. No shoes worn on boats?? I honestly didn’t know. It seems shoes are dirty and don’t bode well on nice, clean, white, boat decks.
And here is another rule of thumb, no toilet paper in the toilets. Yuck, right? There’s a little bin by the toilet you put the “TP” in…I know many of you have just crossed sailing off your bucket list but it’s not that bad, really. Btw, this practice is rampant throughout Greece (and I’m certain many other countries) so get used to the idea!
Off for another drink before we could officially launch. You see it seems the last boaters didn’t follow the “no TP” rule and left a bit of a mess – I’ll leave out any details but it was an incentive to remember the rule!
Read More: Docking in Aegina and Day Two…
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