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The Gulf of Volos – Ancient Sea of the Golden Fleece, Centaurs, and Gods

When I was a little guy reading big fat Sci-fi and Fantasy books, I used to hide out in my Oregon tree fort and read for hours every day. The amount of time I spent reading must have doubled when I found A Spell for Chameleon by Piers Anthony.

fishing boats in the gulf of volosIn the Xanth series, Anthony introduced me to Centaurs and creatures of Greek myth and I was hooked, entranced, and spending far too much time in my teens reading Piers Anthony’s other books when I should have been out chasing girls.

That geeky kid never disappeared from within me so it was with a huge amount of excitement that I set out for the Gulf of Volos in Greece. You may be asking what the connection is – don’t worry, I’m about to tell you.

Jason didn’t have the option, but travel insurance is never a bad idea – check out the cheap travel insurance policies offered by World Nomads.

The Gulf of Volos is where the Greek Argonaut, Jason set out with his argonaut crew to recover the Golden Fleece and his crown. It was in this very body of water that Jason learned to sail the Argo.

Here is the legend in brief:

Pelias (Aeson’s half-brother) was very power-hungry, and he wished to gain dominion over all of Thessaly. Pelias was the product of a union between their shared mother, Tyro (“high born Tyro”) the daughter of Salmoneus, and allegedly the sea god Poseidon. In a bitter feud, he overthrew Aeson (the rightful king), killing all the descendants of Aeson that he could. He spared his half-brother for unknown reasons. Alcimede I (wife of Aeson) already had an infant son named Jason whom she saved from being killed by Pelias, by having women cluster around the newborn and cry as if he were still-born. Alcimede sent her son to the centaur Chiron for education, for fear that Pelias would kill him — she claimed that she had been having an affair with him all along. Pelias, still fearful that he would one day be overthrown, consulted an oracle which warned him to beware of a man with one sandal.

Many years later, Pelias was holding games in honor of the sea god and his alleged father, Poseidon, when Jason arrived in Iolcus and lost one of his sandals in the river Anauros (“wintry Anauros”), while helping an old woman to cross (the Goddess Hera in disguise). She blessed him for she knew, as goddesses do, what Pelias had up his sleeve. When Jason entered Iolcus (modern-day city of Volos), he was announced as a man wearing one sandal. Jason, knowing that he was the rightful king, told Pelias that and Pelias said, “To take my throne, which you shall, you must go on a quest to find the Golden Fleece.” Jason happily accepted the quest.

volos sailboatMt Pelias which sits above the Gulf of Volos was the home to the original centaurs, including Chiron who educated Jason and later Achilles in the arts of sailing and swordplay. I was going to be sailing and eating and drinking on the same body of water as the ancient heroes and centaurs.

The Gulf of Volos, it turns out, is a fantastic place for a novice sailor such as myself. With winds that usually stay below F3 and not a whole slew of hazards that can catch you by surprise. Called the Pagasitikos Gulf, this is a place that hasn’t been overrun with tourists, yachts, or development. While you can go to most of Greece and find thousands of people on holiday, the Gulf of Volos has just a few – some days we saw no other yachts and just a couple of fishing boats!

Greek MonasteryWe found crystal clear waters and a good wind provided by the ‘Meltemi’ blowing from the NE, quiet bays and fishing villages, history to investigate and many islands to explore. The whole area is known as Magnesia – which I might add has the same name as the region I lived in Turkey though the Turks have allowed the name to become Manisa!

Magnesia is one of four counties which make up the region of Thessaly. Magnesia is the coastal county with Mount Pelion and the Aegean Sea to the east, the Pagasitikos Gulf to the south and includes the islands of Skiathos, Skopelos and Alonnisos otherwise know as the Northern Sporades Islands.

Pelion is a hidden peninsula, an unexplored area of Greece, where life in the mountain villages and little fishing harbours remains as serene as in the distant past.

Fisherman in GreeceAs you can see from the pictures in this post – this was an awesome and beautiful place though I must admit – I din’t meet any centaurs, sirens, or heroes – except in my imagination.

What I did meet though was the beauty of the Greek culture, the kindness of the Greek people, and the joy of sailing for days on open water without being crowded, barraged with noisy jetskis or powerboats, or annoyed by blaring booze cruises. More to come later.

Further Reading:

Jason and the Argonauts
Jason and the Golden Fleece
Argonautica
Saturn, Chiron and the Centaurs
Fodor’s Greek Islands and Cruising
West Aegean Cruising Guide

Finally, if you want to have your own Greek Sailing adventures, here are a few options from G Adventures (just in case you don’t have a friend with a sailboat, which I’m very happy to say I do :) )

Greek Islands Sailing Adventure (Athens to Mykonos)

Greek Islands Sailing Adventure (Athens to Mykonos)

A yacht adventure is the ideal way to experience what many consider the worlds most beautiful islands: the Greek Islands. Sail for up to 8 days aboard our 50-foot yachts, with time for hiking, snorkelling and relaxing. Explore ancient archaeological sites and taverna-lined harbours, dine on fresh seafood and dont forget to try the Ouzo!






Greek Islands Sailing Adventure (Mykonos to Kos)

Greek Islands Sailing Adventure (Mykonos to Kos)

From Ancient Mykonos to the party island of Kos you can explore ancient archaeological sites and taverna-lined harbours, dine on fresh seafood and don’t forget to try the Ouzo!






Greek Islands Sailing Adventure Santorini to Santorini

Greek Islands Sailing Adventure Santorini to Santorini

Leave Santorini – sail around Greece and then return to Santorini. Any way you do it, a yacht adventure is the ideal way to experience what many consider the worlds most beautiful islandsthe Greek Islands. Sail aboard our 50-foot yachts, with time for hiking, snorkelling and relaxing. Explore ancient archaeological sites and taverna-lined harbours, dine on fresh seafood and dont forget to try the Ouzo! This 10-day round trip from Santorini will give you the chance to explore some of the treasures of the Greek Islands.






Greek Islands Sailing Adventure (Santorini to Athens)

Greek Islands Sailing Adventure (Santorini to Athens)

From Santorini to Athens you will explore the Greek Islands. Sail for up to 15 days aboard our 50-foot yachts, with time for hiking, snorkelling and relaxing. Explore ancient archaeological sites and taverna-lined harbours, dine on fresh seafood and don’t forget to try the Ouzo!






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Damitio  (@vagodamitio) is the Editor-in-Chief for Vagobond. Life is good. You can also find him on Google+ and at Facebook