|Enki in Mandraki port on Oinoussa island|
This is more like it. Our first "Greek" Greek island, the kind they sell in the brochures, where the blues of the sea and sky are just right, the hillsides steep and barren, the fishing fleet cheerful and toy-sized, and nothing is in a hurry except the north-west wind.
|View from the deck, with Chios in the distance|
We pulled into Mandraki harbour on Oinoussa island just after breakfast. Three yachts were alongside the quay, and by evening we were five. Full-up. The water's so clear under our rudder that I can watch schools of tiny fish swimming by. We're only 10 nautical miles from the dirty, abandoned municipal "marina" where we spent the previous two nights in Chios, but it feels much further. We're on our way north again. That's what counts most.
On shore, no-one took any notice of our arrival. Oinoussa, a chip off the north-eastern side of Chios, doesn't do tourism per se. Boy racers on 2-stroke motorbikes were tearing up the flat straight next to the quay. In counterpoint to their frenzy, a man sat on the stone steps next to his tiny boat, whacking his morning catch of calamari. A woman in black leggings worked her way down a very broad set of front steps with a broom. I admired her industry until I realised she was probably staff. There are quite a few large houses overlooking Mandraki harbour and now that I've got a better idea of who lives on this island I don't expect their mistresses do much sweeping of steps.
|Mr Leon Lemos, shipping magnate, sir|
Oinoussa is where Greek families with names like Pateras and Lemos, originally come from - families which own a huge chunk of Europe's shipping tonnage. The shipping magnates run their operations from Athens, New York and London and it's only in summer time that they come "home". The village has a locked up feel at the moment - almost that of a gated community. Nobody was looking for our business. We simply weren't of interest. Not family.
There's a smart nautical museum in town which gives you a picture of how the Oinoussan shipping families built their fortunes . It wasn't easy to get inside, mind you. We had to rustle up the man with the key who'd taken an early mark (to find a Greek museum with its door open during "opening hours" is something of a miracle). The museum contains models and paintings of the ships which have belonged to, or still belong, to Oinoussian shipping companies. They started with sail, were quick to pick the shift to steam, and still seem to be ahead of the game. They've built a lot of ships (mostly in the US), and lost a lot too. Apparently they are risk-takers, the men from Oinoussa.
|Like racehorses - but better earners|
|Models built by French POWs in late 18th cent|
|Vodia machine (right), rare specimen in Greece|
The fault is in the turbo. We need a new charge air pressure sensor. We'll order that from the UK, and pick it up where we can. Meanwhile, we can use the engine., albeit not at full capacity. To my mind, the diagnosis hardly warranted the kind of anxiety we threw at the situation, but then we weren't to know that, were we?
|This beach near Emboreios will be covered in bodies soon|
|Forest fires destroyed a lot of the mastic trees on Chios in August 2012|
|Young mastic trees|
|Mastic (front left) and olives cover south Chios|
The tourist draw is in the south where mastic shrubs grow wild amongst the olives. Mastic is a chewy substance with medicinal properties which I've managed to live in total ignorance of until now - though I recognise it as the origin of the word masticate. It's made from resin which weeps from the mastic shrub when its bark is cut. "Tears of Chios" is another name for it (kind of proprietary). It's been in use for 2500 years for a variety of ailments (Google it) but the Ottoman sultans prized it as a breath freshener for the girls in the harem, and were prepared to pay over the odds for it. So the mastic-producing villages of Chios - a kind of cartel - were heavily fortified to keep their chewy gold out of the hands of robbers. From a distance places like Mesta and Olympic are almost indistinguishable from the rocky, scrubby landscape. Inside the villages, people must have lived in almost complete darkness. Their houses let in only a smidgeon of light because the laneways were so narrow and interconnected at both street and roof level. Prosperity at a price.
|Wide street in Mesta|
|Getting a bit tight in Mesta|
|This isn't a set-up - Olympi resident|
|Everything to scale - a tiny church in Olympi|
|Decorative plasterwork in Pyrgi|
We were almost on our own as we wandered through these curious medieval villages. We remembered being in Provence in early summer, and almost drowning in the torrent of tourists rushing through similar cobbled streets. The trickle of visitors to the eastern Sporades islands in mid-June is something to both be grateful for, and to puzzle over.