ATHENS – It will cost you $220 a day and you’ll have to work but if you want a different kind of adventure as a tourist in Greece you can find it through Aegean Cargo Sailing, which carries locally-produced foods and goods between islands
Bettina Trittman tried it in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, islands needing supplies, especially to smaller and more remote spots and the 57-year-old German signed on for the trips, reported The National Geographic.
The voyages are also designed to have a smaller carbon footprint during a time of growing climate change worry and very much unlike luxuriating on a cruise ship and landing at ports for day trips.
During summer, travelers can join Loucas Gourtsoyannis, the 77-year-old captain, on his deliveries around the Greek archipelago to meet producers and sample goat cheese, aromatic island honey, or freshly picked herbs.
In between errands, guests visit museums, trek ancient walking trails, and enjoy dips in clear waters far from the madding crowds. “I found the trip to be a very personal experience in every regard,” Trittmann said, doing it again in 2021.
Aegean Cargo Sailing is part of a growing, zero-emission cargo sailing movement that includes projects such as Blue Schooner, Tres Hombres, and Avontuur that use traditional sailing methods (wind, tides) and modern (electric or solar powered motors) instead of fuel-powered shipping, the report said.
Cargo ships move around 90 percent of the world’s trade, contributing to about 3 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions and the small-scale trips around Greek islands are designed in an environmentally-friendly way.
Gourtsoyannis said preserving the work of small-scale farmers helps to safeguard Greek biodiversity and culture. “By supporting them, we improve their quality of life and encourage (farmers and visitors) to return to these lands,” he said. “They will be better, and society will be better,” he added.
Farther Greek islands saw a big decline in population as people moved to urban areas in search of work and better economic opportunities, leaving fewer young people to help work fields and agriculture, including bigger spots like Santorini.
And as faster passenger ferries were used, direct routes to lesser known islands were severed, making trade and travel more difficult, but the support of Aegean Cargo Sailing and similar ventures means small-scale farmers can get their products to restaurants and suppliers across 22 islands, helped by tourists.
Dimitra Pappa, Aegean Cargo Sailing’s coordinator, said that when somebody joins Gourtsoyannis’ 15-foot-long schooner, they essentially become crew members, assisting with anything from pulling rope to dropping the anchor.
“You have to be a bit crazy to do this,” said Antonis Psaltis, chef of Mikro Karavi restaurant on the island of Tinos, who often orders products through Aegean Cargo Sailing. “Living your life at sea is not easy.”
During a week-long trip, visitors might sample wine from Syros, yellow flour from Limnos, preserved white albacore tuna from Alonnisos, or assist in making authentic wine and cheese.
In between deliveries, travelers can soak in the sun on one of Paros’ many golden-sand beaches, learn about olive oil production at the Cyclades Olive Museum in Andros, or discover the folk traditions of Syros at the Ermoupoleia Cultural Festival, among dozens of other excursions, the report said.
Gourtsoyannis said he imagines other captains joining him in his venture, using cargo sailing boats, slow travel, and thriving small-scale farmers. “We live in a very fast-paced world that lives on fast transportation methods,” he said. “In my way of thinking, we need to slow down.”