The marina of Agios Kirikos – a good place to stay for winter
It is early morning on a sunny day in the marina of Agios Kirikos on Ikaria, beginning of January 2024. Steven opens the cabin door and carefully sticks his head out. Wow, what a different scenery! Just half an hour before, his sailing boat „Little Darling“ was tossed back and forth on the waves by the storm that ran through the marina with at least 7 Beaufort.
But he was lucky. The previous evening he had moored the boat even better and cast out more lines to protect the small sailing boat as well as possible from the impending storm. And he had done a good job! No damages on his boat, but nevertheless he checks the fenders carefully, the outside of the boat as well as on the solar panels, the sails and the barbecue, which had been exposed to the worst of the storm.
As Steven’s boat is tucked in a corner of the marina together with two other boats, which are also staying here for winter, he checks out on his neighbours, too. So far their boats seem to be OK, which is good news.
At the end of his little inspection tour, Steven sticks his head in the cabin and calls out to his wife Natalya: „I am going for a little walk to the town center; I will bring you a koulouri from the wood fired bakery. Anything else you need?“ As the „No, I am OK“-answer is fine for Steve, he shimmies light-footedly over the railing, jumps onto the footbridge and makes his way to the platia of Agios Kirikos.
He likes this early morning hour in the marina. The sky is a bit grey, but here and there the bright blue sky is already appearing. The wind is still blowing hard, whipping up a few more waves over the quay wall, but the weather forecast says that it will calm down again in the afternoon. „Perhaps, we will take a walk to Therma“, Steve mumbles into his white beard, but then he concentrates on his shopping in Agios Kirikos.
He likes the ease of these winter days on Ikaria. The temperatures are still very good, at least 12 degrees. OK, sometimes some rain and some wind, but since their arrival at the marina October 2023, there had been no difficulties and life had offered him a nice flow of different activities. As he and his wife Natalya are ‚early birds‘, he enjoys his first coffee on the boat, following the rhythm of the boat’s gentle rocking on the waves.
Later he likes to take a little tour in the marina – like today – exchanging a few words with Vangelis, the harbour master, or he may pass by the „Akti“-café to say „Hello“ to his friend Stefanos. The little „chit-chats“ are nice, and they make him feel right at home, but in general Steve dedicates the morning hours to the maintenance of his boat. And a sailing boat, that is getting on in years, simply needs special care. And a boat that has been travelling in Greece for many years and is sailing intensively for 6 months of the year, needs all the more.
So you may find Steve in the morning hours, searching in various shops for some spare parts that could complete his already well-stocked tool and spare parts box. Not that he‘s really in urgent need of some special parts, but Steve likes to be organized and prepared.
So after finalizing his tour – and of course he will not forget to pass by the bakery to buy the koulouri for Natalia – Steve heads back to the marina to get some things done on the boat … and there is always something he could do: filling up the water, checking the batteries, checking the weather forecast – at least 3 times a day – storing stuff, so that it‘s not in the way.
If you take a closer look at the boat and into the cabin, you don‘t get the impression that Steve and Natalya have already been living on this boat for the past 3 months: the boat looks as if it has just come from the shipyard in Leros, where it spends 6 months a year and is always thoroughly overhauled. Nothing is lying around, everything is neatly stowed away – be it in the compartments under and behind the benches, be it in the drawers or in the various containers in the kitchen. Even Steve’s slippers stand neatly under the small desk, which serves as a navigation board and toolbox.
When I point this out to them, Steven and Natalya have to laugh: yes, they like this frugal life, this reduction to the bare essentials. For them it feels so good. And it makes travelling on a sailing boat so easy. For them, travelling means freedom, easiness to go from A to B – and on that backdrop a sailing boat simply offers the ideal conditions for this, because you can just stop in places that are offering good anchoring conditions.
Even though Steven and Natalya have a different background in sailing, they are both on this boat for over 10 years now. For Steve it had been always pretty clear that, after retirement, he would like to spend time for travelling and sailing. As he had been at sea for his whole life, this was a fairly natural decision for him. Things were different for Natalya: she was a newcomer to sailing. Therefore they decided to try a charter boat first to test whether Natalya shared Steven’s love of sailing, too. And she did. So they developed a rhythm of spending 2 months a year in Greece on the boat, discovering the different islands and seas in spring time and in autumn. And after Steven’s retirement, they realised their plan and simply extended their stay in Greece.
Although they are both experienced sailors and Greece experts by now, they have been coming to Ikaria for the 4th year in a row now to spend a few weeks here in winter.
They just love it – even though the marina doesn‘t offer the best protection from rough winter weather for the smaller sailing boats. They got to know to Ikaria in 2019 and they liked the roughness of this rocky island. And then they were stuck in the marina during the Covid lockdown … but it had been a good time. As we said, Steven and Natalya enjoy a frugal lifestyle, so they were happy, being safe in the marina, having a chance to get around a bit (following the rules – of course). Since the Covid times they are coming back to the marina, staying for some weeks, catching up with friends, discovering the island.
As both are also dedicated hikers, they have got around to different places. But their favourite place is definitely Tsouredo (near Mavrato on the Southern side of Ikaria). Perhaps …. in the not too distant future, they might buy a piece of land there to settle down, growing their own vegetable garden … there are some dreams around, waiting for them to make them happen.
But for the moment they are just happy with their relaxed everyday rhythm on their boat down there in the marina. What a joy: no obligations – just free choice of activities.
On their arrival in October, they were coming from a different world and they had been very exhausted. They needed this rest, they needed to breathe.
Back in Norway, where they’ve been living together for nearly 20 years now, they had a tough time renovating a family house. As said before, Steven likes to organise things – especially building sites – by himself, so he did the job. He had been involved in many different entrepreneurial adventures for the last 50 years, so why shouldn’t he renovate that house by himself?
Because this time the circumstances are different. Steve is American; he grew up in the Silicon Valley in the 1960s. Already at a young age, he founded his own company and fished for sea urchins and sold them on a large scale to Japan, where they are a delicacy in sushi dishes. So for 40 years he had been in this business, running up and down the North and South American coast line, fishing to serve Japanese tables.
It had been a busy life; nevertheless he raised a family and had 3 daughters. Even though he was kind of an „absent father“, not really spending everyday life with his family, he loved them and spending ‚quality time‘ with them, doing many outdoor activities, was just a treasure for him.
In 1997 Steven was offered the chance to go to Norway and to build the same kind of company he had been running in the US. He accepted it, also on the background that he had got divorced in the meantime and was looking for a fresh start. He took his youngest daughter with him and headed off to a new destination. And it was for good. Nevertheless he changed jobs after a while, getting involved in building sites and other projects which challenged his technical skills. But Steven got along and he loves Norway. The people are easy going, a bit reserved, but gentle. It suits him.
And in 2004 Natalya joined him. She is from Ukraine, the Donezk region, where she had lived and worked all her life in different places. Coming from a little village, her life was not set up to learn different languages and to travel, but somehow she managed to learn English and to keep it going. She was married to a Russian, brought up 2 kids, got divorced. When she decided to live with Steven in Norway, she took her teenage kids with her. Today they are comfortable in Norway, raising families on their own.
As family life in Norway is running smoothly and the family house is well established now, Steve and Natalya enjoy the freedom to set up their own goals and dreams. At the moment the marina of Agios Kirikos on Ikaria is ‚the place to be‘ to enjoy winter time, but soon they may head off to the Peloponnese, to catch up with some friends … but Tsouredo might call them back, so that they may open a new chapter in their lives … for example growing a garden on Ikaria … who knows?
(Text and photographes: @Birgit_Urban)