“Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” —
Mark Twain

The Star Clipper's Fore Deck.

In Greek mythology the Gods of the Winds were the children of Astraeus, the god of the night sky and father of the stars and the goddess of the morning Eos.  The ruler over the winds, according to Homer, was the Greek king Aeolus. who either kept the winds locked up, or allowed them to unfurl with fury.

A Priestess of the Winds was named on an unearthed stone tablet from Mycenaean Knossos.  The wind gods were important to the ancient Greeks and chronicler Hesiod mentioned three of them: Boreas, the north wind, Zephyrus, the west wind, and Eurus, the east wind, also known as Argestus. The Greeks knew the south wind as Notus.   The gods of the winds were depicted by the Hellenic sailors as personifications of men with wings. 

Our seahorse — the Star Clipper — flew on 17 winged sails, with Zephyrus commanding which way the spring Zephyrs blew from Athens to Rhodes and the Asia Minor and back on our seven nights Odyssey of the southern Cyclades and Dodecanese Islands.

The Bow Sprit points to Rhodes.

The winds were so important to the ancient mariners that the black figured wind gods were often artistically portrayed and baked into Mediterranean pottery.  Zephyrus is known as the messenger of spring and of flowers and humidity.  The Romans knew Zephyrus as Favonius — the favored wind — the proper wind for our happy sailing on the world’s largest “tall ship” four-masted barkentine — The Star Clipper which can carry 170 passengers.

Piraeus, on the Aegean Sea’s Saronic Gulf, has been Athens’ port since 450 B.C. but it once was much closer to the walled city, but it silted in over the centuries.  The port was ransacked in 86 B.C. by the Romans.   Goods from around the world were exported or imported through Piraeus and sold at the marketplace or agora in ancient Athena; today al fresco fish restaurants surrounded the Mikrolimanon waterfront of the famous port town on the Athens Riviera.

Unfurling the sails.

We left Piraeus at night, motoring past the famous Lion’s Head promontory just as the ancient skippers maneuvered out of the harbor by oars. The Greek trireme was the sleek steed of the sea in ancient times, reaching speeds of 10 knots with sails used only for transportation, with the linen sheets struck during a battle when a three deck bank of oarsmen maneuvered close to ram and sink the enemy.  The lead sheet hulls of the mortise and tenon pine planked military ships were narrower than the wide bodied cargo vessels the Greeks relied upon to haul goods around the mountainous coastlines.  The 150 ton cargo ships only reached speeds of about five knots, with sails on two or three masts. Dock foundations dating to the 5th century B.C. are still visible at the modern Piraeus yacht harbor of Zea.

I spliced the main brace with welcome drinks and dipped into the finger food at the Tropical Bar while the captain and crew welcomed new ship mates aboard and they stowed their gear; meanwhile Charley pounded out the classics on the electric organ. The Star Clipper swiftly turned into a seven night party boat!

The sails are trimmed with king pins.

During the night we slipped silently past the island of Salamis, scene of an ancient sea battle where the Athenian general Themistocles defeated the Persian navy in 480 B.C., saving the country from pillage and plunder.

It was a nonstop sailing adventure to Rhodes, with Zephyrus billowing our sails with beneficense.  Guests were invited to raise the sails with a recording of the haunting music of “Conquest of Paradise”; only the multinational crew is allowed to strike the canvas. During the day climbing the rigging was a novel sport on board.

Zephyrus was kind to us.

From bow to stern the magnificence of the Star Clipper’s wings were on display: the Bow Sprit boasted the elegant Flying Jib, Outer Jib, Inner Jib, and Fore Staysail; on the Fore Mast were recognized the Fore Course, Lower Topsail, Upper Topsail, Lower Topgallant, and the Upper Topgallant; on the Main Mast flew the Main Fisherman, Main Staysail, and Upper Staysail; hoisted on the Mizzen Mast were the Mizzen Staysail and the Mizzen Fisherman; The Jigger Mast flew the Jigger Staysail with the Spanker bringing up the rear sail. 

The Bow Sprit is not considered a mast and the jibs are used mostly in very light winds. Most sailing ships carry a Genoa, the largest and lightest sail,  that wraps in conjunction with the jibs, but we had no need for it because Zephyrus was kind to us, racing us along past the coast of Syros the next morning.  We were up to eight knots when passing Delos; we added a knot or two between Paros and Naxos — and we weren’t yet at full furl. Yes, Zephyrus was benevolent.

Chart a course in the bridge.

What was great about sailing with the professional international crew were the opportunities for us land lubbers to sharpen our seafaring skills.  The crew scheduled chart reading and knot tying classes.  I thoroughly enjoyed the navigation instructions that detailed coastal, starlight, and sextant navigation, and how to use the GPS.  Later a quiz was held on the technical aspects of the gear and ship at the Tropical Bar, as we further spliced the main brace over drinks.

Before sailing on the Star Clipper I had met my Greek friend Yanis, who was the curator of the Antikythera Ship Wreck display at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.  The most significant discovery within the undated but certainly eons old wreckage was the Antikythera Mechanism, a sort of early computer that operated with precise grooved metal sprockets and brass knobs that the Greeks turned and twisted for calculations.  The Greeks were not only masters of the seas in antiquity, but also futuristic inquisitors of mechanics and technology and computations.

Peter details the islands.

Activities Director, Peter, from Bavaria, held insightful sessions on the sundeck extolling the features and virtues of the passing Cyclades Islands, using maps and illustrations. Passengers could also take tours of the bridge and engine room of the Malta flagged adventure boat.

During the summer months the Star Clipper sails the ancient ports of the Mediterranean, either on a northern Cyclades Islands route from Athens to Istanbul and back, or the southern Cyclades Islands from Athens to Rhodes (capital of the Dodecanese Islands group), and Asia Minor ports. But it also has itineraries of Croatia and Italy and other ports.

Zephyrus pushed us effortlessly along the southern route through waters so indigo blue, the color so vibrant because of the lack of plankton in the sea.

Cecelia prepares the water sports activities.

Our voyage was no ten year survival Odyssey; we were pampered by the water sports crew, a trio of Vikings from Sweden, and Clare, from England, the director of the dive certification program.  Alberto, the bar manager from the Philippines, presented a daily cocktail class — with the Bushwacker agreed upon by the maties as the most popular drink.

Charley provides the music.

Arial has talent.

Cuztomize your omelets.

In the evening, prior to dining, Charley tinkled away on the white baby grand on the stairwell half deck. Herman, our Indonesian Maitre ‘d assured that all guests were offered different dining companions throughout the voyage to enjoy the diverse company that was as far flung as the crew. 

Herman always provided dining humor and I once saw him teaching an origami class during the doldrums. One evening the crew dressed up in hilarious costumes for the fashion show. Another evening the talent show lineup was provided by the crew and guests.  It is amazing how great they sounded after a few Bushwackers!  Crew member Cecelia, from Sweden, was our four person team leader during the wooden frog races and we would have won the contest except Peter cut our line, the wharf rat — ha ha.

Throughout the voyage land excursions were organized at the various port pit stops, with guests signing up in the library for mud baths, walking tours, historical sightseeing, kayaking, diving, and other interesting side trips.

Sailors have many myths and superstitions, but the quality of the dining experience on board was no fable of the table. In the mornings Maya kept the coffee kiosk percolating for the early bird continental breakfast, with a full breakfast buffet served later in the a.m. with an egg station for customized omelets. And of course lunch was always anticipated by the hungry galley gang who never had to wait for desserts to show up. Star Clipper must have had a bottomless wine amphora — the libations were kept flowing by the Tropical Bar staff.   Guests could purchase wine by the bottle from the wine steward who re-corked your vintage for the next evening.

Every evening we were presented a new taste treat, from lamb kabobs, grilled chicken, roast beef, sea bream, sea bass, or Atlantic salmon on the carving board. The piping hot lobster bisque and fresh organic lentil soups were favorites. A wide assortment of fresh baked breads and rolls, including banana bread, were accompanied with organic fruit preserves. Succulent fruits were pared for the palate; cheeses burst with smokey flavors.  Lobster Thermador was my pick for the Captain’s Table Thursday night feast.

Passengers climb the rigging.

My cabin steward kept my spartan quarters in immaculate ship-shape; yes there were turn down chocolates each evening on the pillow.  First it was a hot shower, then some satellite TV from my comfy bed, then a peaceful rocking slumber by the movement of the ship, with the bright Mediterranean daylight streaming through the port hole in the morning.  I love the creaking sounds of a sailing ship, it makes me feel like I am on a real voyage, not a sanitized version on a monster ship.

The Cyclades Islands glide by from cushy chaises.

Sign up for tours in the library.

During the day the spring weather held out for napping, reading, and tanning on the toasted aft and sundeck, with plenty of comfy chaises to go around. Cecelia organized a round of disc golf with a hockey puck substituting for golf balls and hockey sticks for golf clubs.  Holes were chalked circles on the hardwood teak deck.  I was on top of the leaderboard all the way around the fairway and swimming pool, but in the end I was aced by a string of hole in ones by David, from England. Hey, where was the prize?

That afternoon our first port call was the medieval walled seaport city of Rhodes; the pilot boat arrived on time to escort us to the quay.   The Colossus of Rhodes crumbled in an ancient earth quake long ago and the bronze melted down and carried off.  The tiny ancient port has grown into several harbors to accommodate cruise ships, cargo ships, and yachts.  One of the largest private yachts in the world, the Corinthian VII, stood as a sentinel of wealth, over shadowing our bare mast spindles.

The ancient city of Rhodes is our first port call.

The Star Clipper had seamlessly organized a large-windowed motorcoach for a tour of the Acropolis and medieval monastery, with a private walking tour of the walled city penciled in. Return back to Jetsetters Magazine for a complete feature story with photos about Rhodes and our voyage on the Star Clipper to Turkey.

I must award the Star Clipper and its crew my highest recommendations for service, aptitude, and attitude of fun loving spirit. After seven nights at sea I was never prodded to walk the gang plank.   Visit Star Clippers (the cruise line) at www.starclippers.com because they have adventures on three tall ships all over the world awaiting your boarding call. Meanwhile I must once again splice the main brace! In the meantime, please read more Jetsetters Magazine features about The Star Clipper.

— Feature and photos by Kriss Hammond, Editor, Jetsetters Magazine.