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Vathi Kalymnos - 'Don't blink, you'll miss it' - Aegean Yacht Rally

by Trevor Joyce on 25 Jun 2013
Kalymnos Trevor Joyce http://marinerboating.com.au
Currently a group of mostly Australians are enjoying sailing the Aegean Sea with a yacht rally led by by Trevor and Maggie Joyce, those very experienced rally organisers from Mariner Boating. This year, again, they visited the tiny island of Kalymnia. Here Trevor reports on their progress:

In 2011, the Kalymnian population stood at 11,000, but that’s after 15,000 had migrated to Darwin. In 1968 there were less than 20 Kalymnians in Darwin so the exodus has been quite recent. The demise of the Greek economy over recent years has seen an even more dramatic acceleration in departures so clearly the migration is not yet over.

The spirit of those who remain is defiant, however, and the quality of their lives is still very much in-tact, even if somewhat depleted in a material sense. Families, villages and communities hang together, home gardens produce much of the food on the table and life goes on. The Greeks tell us they have been through worse before.

At the dinner prepared for the participants in the recent Aegean Yacht Rally, which called into Vathi on the south eastern corner of this craggy mecca for rock climbers, Sylvia prepared a sumptuous Greek feast; with stuffed vine leaves, tzatziki, beetroot and yoghurt salad, potato salad, stuffed tomatoes, stuffed peppers, pastitsia and of course mousaka .

Preparation had begun at four in the morning on the day of the race to Vathi from Lipso, during which a rare south easterly breeze tested the up-wind sailing skills of the mostly Ozzie crews. All but one of the all Jeanneau fleet finished within a few minutes of each other but all of the crews were ready for a feed by the time they had tied up to the quay at the head of the steep sided fjord.

But the best was still to come when Kalymnian musicians, Mikali and Sakis arrived and opened their repertoire with a stirring Armenian lament of which there are in fact Greek and Turkish versions, as we had previously discovered when our Turkish engineer sang his version of it to the accompaniment of the Greek bouzouki and guitar – stirring stuff.

Soon afterwards, Sylvia, human dynamo and chef, demonstrated her Greek dancing prowess and stirred the now replete yachties into their versions of the intricate traditional twirls, all be it without much intricacy. Of course this indulgence is not unique in the Greek tourism scheme of things but on this night there was sincerity and authenticity not usually seen. Even the owners of one of the neighbouring tavernas, usually a competitor, stopped by to join in this fleeting escape from the daunting economic realities of Greece’s economic plight. The boys played without a break until three the next morning by which time a troupe of locals had joined in. The boys played without a break until three the next morning by which time a troupe of locals had joined in.

Meanwhile the goats continued to forage the precipitous slopes of this most spectacular inlet of the sea, which the Aegean Yacht Rally has visited every year for the past 10 years or so; no-one is really sure of how many years it is, but each encounter is unique in one way or another.

Mariner Boating Holidays will return to Greece in 2014 for the Greek Island Odyssey Yacht Rally and all are welcome to join. For more information, contact Trevor Joyce on 02 9966 1244 if you are inside Australia, or, if not, check out the website and Greek Island Odyssey.

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