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On board the Mama Maria, Milos, Greece

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Maria is, of course, the mother of brothers Giovanni and Stelios Farinola, owners of the Mama Maria. The sleek white 50-foot yacht is one of many pleasure and commercial fishing craft being readied for a day at sea. The sailing vessel slips quietly out of the port of Adamas with a dozen on board for a day of exploring Milos' unique geology, snorkeling, swimming, exploring caves or just relaxing while sipping ouzo.

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Giovanni and Stelios are no strangers to yachting. The Ferinola family owns Excellent Yachting, one of the Greek Aegean's leading sales and charter companies. Speaking French, English as well as Greek, the brothers' enthusiasm for their work is obvious in their animated interaction with guests, the detailed information presented and their agility in maneuvering the Mama Maria.

The geodynamic convergence of the African and Aegean plates is responsible for the multitude of geologic variations in the island landscape. The collision and subduction of the African plate created Milos into an important island since antiquity for mining such minerals as baryte, silver and perlite. Studies show the presence of a high-temperature hydrothermal system reaching temperatures up to 600°F below the island, responsible for an abundance of active fumaroles – volcanic steam vents. Fortunately for Milos the last eruption occurred over 92,000 years ago.

The abundance of valuable minerals as well as a wealth of sea life made Milos a prized and fought over island for over 6,000 years. Numerous caves, inlets and areas accessible only by ship, such as Kleftiko on the southwest tip of the island, gave sanctuary to both residents and pirates. Peaceful today, many areas are still accessible only by boat.

It's easy to understand the popularity of sailing the Greek islands. On Milos the beautiful multicolored doors of traditional fishing communities, the syrmata, are best appreciated from the sea. Klima is the most famous.

By the 19th century the endless conflicts that had forced islanders to live in protected hilltop towns for over a millennium had subsided. Fishermen built shacks at the water's edge, many carved into the sandstone cliffs. In inclement weather they stored their boats in a first floor garage while living in the second floor above. It became customary to paint the doors in bright primary colors in contrast to the blue of the sea and whitewashed houses. The half dozen syrmata villages enliven the scenery and are an iconic symbol of the island.

The twin towns of Trypiti and the island capital of Plaka sit perched high above Klima like nests built by some giant prehistoric birds. Cloud shrouded mountains are visible from the sea yet the clouds are in reality volcanic steam continually venting from the bowels of the earth. The coast is surrounded by fancifully shaped rock formations jutting out of the sea. Many have imaginative creation stories dating back to antiquity.

An abundance of wildlife favors the islands such as the protected Mediterranean monk seal and falcon population. Several small surrounding islands are unpopulated and off limits for environmental reasons. Some are closed to visitors due to the presence of the deadly Milos viper snake. Only certified scientists enter these islands to extract venom for pharmaceutical applications.

Anchoring off Kleftiko gives guests a couple of hours to explore the beautiful hidden caves and the beach surrounded by cliffs of sandstone and pumice striated in colors ranging from white, yellow, purple lavender, black and red created after super heated mineral laden lava cooled to rock.

Stelios Farinola studied culinary arts in Athens and prepared lunch on board the Mama Maria. While wild goats peered down from cliff ledges, guests enjoyed Greek salad and pasta with a fresh tomato sauce along with wine, beer and ouzo. No wonder countless legions throughout time have escaped to the serenity of the Greek islands.

Disclosure: the author was a guest of the Municipality of Milos and Excellent Yachting.

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