In the Marina of Agios Kirikos – Let the world come in
In the Marina of Agios Kirikos – Let the world come in
(this text is dedicated to Ulysse and Chloé, who introduced me nicely to life on a sailing boat)
It is a grey and cold afternoon, beginning of April, and I need some fresh air to clear up my mind. So I head towards the marina of Agios Kirikos. Sitting there in a corner on a stone wall is a good place to breathe and to get familiar with the rhythm of a marina, with the lives of the sailing boats. Even though the place seems to be the same whenever I come here, the details are changing every day. Sitting there is like watching a theater play. You must take your time to watch and to listen, you must get lost in all the different settings, colors, the composition of the ships. You must observe the activities of the people coming and going into the marina. And only then, little by little, you may get an idea of the base lines that are directing the different actions happening in this place.
And so, I like to sit there during the four seasons, digging deeper into this unknown world, trying to understand its codes. I like to watch the grey sky and heavy waves during winter times, and I like to observe the boats bobbing in a gentle breeze on one of the first days of spring. But my favorite time is clearly summer, when it’s getting hectic because too many boats are trying to squeeze into this small place, people are shouting and yelling. It feels like being part of a big drama; so many things are happening at the same time, culminating in a lot of noise, in running, flapping sails and crashing anchors. And then: silence again … and people are sitting silently on their boats, enjoying drinks, cigarettes and evening meals. From my place in the corner of the wall, I like to read the flags on the boats, trying to discover the countries they are coming from. This is food for my imagination, stories about blue seas and heavy waves are developing before my own eyes – certainly a good mixture of stories I read and stories I heard from different seafarers around.
And sometimes I am even getting involved in this play, participating in a little chit-chat with the people on the boats, listening to their stories. And without me leaving the harbor, they make me discover the beauties of the Aegean Sea and sometimes even as far as the seven seas. It is impressive how many nations are gathering in this tiny little spot, hidden behind the walls so that nobody can see it from the platia. People from France, Canada, Australia, the UK, the Netherlands and even Brazil and South Africa end up in this place that doesn’t even offering the usual standards of a fully-fledged marina. But they are coming to this place …. and somehow, they are finding their way to the island. A multicultural group, bringing all their knowledge and experiences from different parts of the world to this tiny rocky island, ready to offer, ready to share. Some are staying for longer; others are just there to fill the water tanks and to get some fuel. So sitting there makes me a silent spectator, watching how the different acts are developing on the scene. And every day I can decide whether I want to be part of it or if I remain just an observer in this theater play.
On that April day, I decided to be among the actors. As I said, it was a grey and cold day, the marina was empty, and the wind was a bit chilly. But I spotted a new boat that had arrived the night before, now mooring at the mole. It was sailing under a French flag. It was by itself – it almost looked a bit lonely there – and I decided to pass by.
I was in the mood for a little talk. So I approached the boat, nothing impressive as far as I could see from the outside, but a well-maintained sailing boat, clean and organized. The door to the cabin was half open, but I couldn’t see anyone around. I was a bit intimidated, but I pulled myself together, raised my voice and shouted in all the languages I am capable of: “Hello, is there someone? Someone on board?” I was ready to give up when a young woman stuck her head through the hatch.
With a broad smile she welcomed me … and totally unexpectedly this was the beginning of many intense discussions, which lasted for days. I entered a new cosmos, a universe of people who decided to live on a sailing boat for a while to discover the world and who got stranded in the marina of Agios Kirikos just by coincidence. But let’s start again with the welcome scene. The young lady’s name was Chloé and as soon as we introduced each other, I found out that she and her boyfriend Ulysse started their sailing tour in August 2021 in France, keen to discover the Aegean. The name of the little port where they started – Sète – set me off, because it is a town, which I knew quite well once upon a time when I was learning French. So this was a good starting point and without further ado I found myself sitting in the cabin, drinking tea, listening to the stories of my two hosts.
They are both in their early thirties; Ulysse is a teacher of economics and Chloé is a child psychologist. They met 8 years earlier during an Erasmus stay in Athens. Already at that time they developed an interest in sailing and when they went back to France they got some sailing lessons. It was easy going and the courses while at university had been cheap. So in a short time they were able to get their sailing license with little effort … and this became the gateway to their great passion for sailing. While training they had bought a small sailing boat and when they felt ready, they bought a bigger one, the “Astrée” – the boat we are sitting on today.
This boat was perfect to make their first big dream come true: taking off for one full year to cross the Atlantic.
It was a big adventure, a journey into the unknown, but a journey into freedom and the rhythm of nature, too. It took them some time to get used to this new life. Living on just a few square meters, shaken about by heavy seas, you must be patient and inventive,
But they learned quickly and despite being together 24/7 they got along very well, because they succeeded to carve out their own space even in a small cabin on the boat. And they managed: on their trip they discovered the beauties of the other side of the Atlantic, got to know interesting people … and of course they discovered breathtaking places.
After returning to France, they went back to their jobs, but already with the idea in their minds to start off for another longer sailing trip. And in August 2021, they made it happen. This time they were heading to the Aegaen, where they wanted to discover Greece, Turkey, Egypt, and the Maghreb, but time was running out and sometimes money, too. So they decided to navigate deeper into the Greek Aegean Sea … and they discovered many islands in detail, like Chios, Rhodes, Skiatos, Skopelos … to name but a few.
It was not always easy, because the Aegean can be challenging, especially during winter times. Very often the two of them were travelling long distances at night, which is a bit tricky in the Aegean due to the heavy traffic of big container ships. But modern technology saved them in difficult situations.
As the winter had been pretty long and harsh in the Aegean, many marinas had been lonely and cold places. But Ulysse and Chloé managed to make the sailing boat comfortable, even cozy. That way they could defend themselves against the cold … and discovering the islands rewarded them for the many hardships they might have suffered from.
When it comes to the practical aspects of living on a sailing boat, like maintaining the boat, storing equipment, organizing a small place, the two have developed many skills. As Ulysse is very talented with craft work, he is able to maintain and repair nearly everything by himself on the boat. In many situations this has saved them from spending too much money on spare parts or searching for technicians on remote islands.
And as both are very deep into environmental issues and sustainability, they have experimented a lot with the materials and equipment on the boat. In that way they became real professionals in storing a surfboard, water canisters, canned goods, books and clothes in this tiny place. To be independent from external energy sources they have installed solar panels and a small wind turbine on the boat, which generate enough electricity to operate not only the navigation technologies day and night, but also their laptops, mobiles and the refrigerator. And for cooking and heating, the traditional gas cooker is still in use.
But one of their “master pieces” of clever ideas is their shower: Ulysse has invented a special showering system, based on empty plastic bottles and water canisters. The cap of the water bottle represents the shower head. On that background a “quick shower” is done with only one water bottle, whereas a ‘comfortable bath’ is provided by four water bottles. When you ask them if they’re missing something on this long journey, you can be assured that the answer is a resounding “no”. For Ulysse and Chloé, simple living has become their way of life. The boat has taught them many lessons about what they need in life and what they are aiming for.
The encounters with so many different people and different lifestyles are and have been a lot of food for thought for them. And slowly, as they are crossing the sea, watching the horizon for endless hours, different ideas have emerged as how they would like to develop their life once they are on dry land again. This time they would like to stay put for longer, settling down near a village, with good access to nature. For sure they will sell the boat to get some money out of it to make the re-start a bit easier. Perhaps they will buy a house, if possible, they would like to do it with some friends, who are sharing their ideas. Nothing definite has been agreed yet. But for sure the two would like to join associations that are working on topics such as environmental protection and sustainability. Ulysse would like to change jobs; based on his experiences on the boat, he is keen to become an electrician. Chloé would like to continue her work with kids.
After many hours of talking, my tea is already getting cold and outside the afternoon is coming to an end, I am a bit overwhelmed by all the ideas we shared. And I am extremely grateful for all the insights I got on how life on a small sailing boat can be. What a eye-opener to a different world! Without leaving the marina of Agios Kirikos, Ulysse and Chloé made me travel up and down the Aegean and a bit of the Atlantic, too; I got to know the different coasts, and I got seasick, while listening to stories about heavy rain and strong storms. I could follow the development of their ideas of a different life, and I was able to see that a life in simplicity and more related to nature is possible.
Can you imagine all the stories that are gathered in the Marina of Agios Kirikos, when it is fully packed during summertime, when so many boats from different countries are squeezed into this tiny little place?
I am ready to listen to more of them …. and I am also willing to take part again in this theater play that will develop in the marina every day. But one thing is for sure: next time, when I’m sitting in my corner of the stone wall, I will be checking the boats, searching for the French flag, hoping that “Astrée” might be back. But this will just be a dream because Ulysse and Chloé have already set sails a long time ago … heading for new destinations, heading for their hometown. Safe travels… thank you for the stories … until we meet again.
Note: You can follow the adventures of Chloé and Ulysse on their Facebook page:
L’Odyssée d’Astrée – https://www.facebook.com/LOdyss%C3%A9e-dAstr%C3%A9e-111841896819101/
and they have shared some of their videos on YouTube: https://youtube.com/c/lodyss%C3%A9edastr%C3%A9e