Beautiful day today; with a nearly cloudless sky and a gentle breeze to keep the temperature pleasant. As the tours did not leave that early, I arrived somewhat later as well and sailed in, on slow speed, around the centre volcano cone just after sunrise. The pattern of the call was first stopping at Oâ€™Athinios where we disembarked everybody who was on the morning tours and then we moved slowly towards the anchorage at Fira. Today the Veendam was the largest ship in town and thus we where assigned the anchorage. The Grand Voyager (800 guests) and the Insignia (750 guests) had to float for the day. Oâ€™Athinios is also the ferry port for the island. A steep road leads down from the mountain top to this little village and 4 to 5 ferries call in each day to take care of the motorized inter island traffic.
However with a maximum of 3000 guests visiting it was a lot better than last time, when we had over 5000 going ashore and when there were long lines for the cable car. This time it was a smooth and no line operation. Most of the ladies are not early risers and that helped to reduce the congestion as well. We saw that the sunken Sea Diamond was still there, with the oil boom still in position. According to the agent the authorities were still deliberating about how to deal with the issue and not much had happened since the disaster. The Anti Pollution Boat (A boat that skims oil slicks from the water) was around and we called it upon arriving at the anchorage. From the bridge high above the water (83 feet), we had a good view and saw several oil sheens around the ship. In the course of the morning these were all “skimmed away”. The the oil boom around the wreck area (the wreck itself lays approx. 550 feet below water) is there to contain the oil that comes to the surface but the wind pushes the oil sometimes over the boom into the bay.
Anchoring is a special trick here. Basically we are sailing in a volcano with high walls, a deep crater and in the middle of the crater a cone. Depths are up to a 1000 feet. Between the centre cone, which sticks approx. 100 feet above water and the Fira side is another small cone, located about 75 feet under water. That is where we anchor. I position the Veendam exactly above the cone top and then watch the echo sounder. The moment the depth after getting less, increases again, we let go the anchor and then drape the chain as much as possible over the shallow area. The bottom here is volcanic rubble that provides a real good holding ground and makes it a very safe anchorage. As there is only one such spot available, only one ship can anchor and that right is given to the ship that carries the most guests.
Smaller ships (less then 400 feet) can also dock on mooring buoys. Right under the cliff there are a number of heavy buoys that can be used to hook up bow and stern lines omitting the need for an anchor. These buoys are most of the time reserved for small cruise ships, cargo ships and big yachts.
We stayed until 10 pm. and as the night was cloudless, it was a beautiful moonlit departure. The lights of the little villages were twinkling on the top and the pale moon illuminated the cliffs towering high above us