Are we there yet?

No, we are most decidedly not there yet….but, we will be very soon! As we made our way home last November, it was our intention to return to Zoe at the end of March after our grandson’s first birthday. He’s our first grand baby, so there was no way we were missing that little guy’s first birthday! Before we move forward, I decided to give a little backstory as to how we ended up still in Arizona until June.
We returned from Zoe at the beginning of November last year (2020). It had been a very shortened, but very rewarding, sailing season despite Covid restrictions and being unable to go beyond Greece’s borders. Remaining in Greece was our choice due to the lockdowns in Europe, and our inability to return to Greece if we left. We spent a very brief week at home reconnecting with family and getting ready for our next adventure. 
Before long, we were jetting off to the island of Maui. My parents have been part of a partnership in a condo on the water for many decades. Since they no longer felt the desire to travel, Dan and I have assumed that ownership. Because of the lockdowns, no one had been to the condo since February, so we felt the need to get out there to check in on things and take care of some of the tasks that couldn’t get done during the lockdown. Of course, there would be adventure and fun while we were there!

The many charms of Maui
Blowhole on the north shore
Stop on the road to Hana
Sunset view from Ka’anapali

One of our dear friends came out to join us, and we spent our days exploring as much of Maui as we possibly could. I’ve included some pictures with captions to help share some of the beautiful sights of Maui. 
Our plan had been to stay in Maui until November 30th and then return to Arizona (seems like a lot of my sentences start this way). Life had other plans for us.

Loving Maui!
Headed down into the depths of a lava tube
Honu – the green turtle endemic to Hawaiian waters.

Ten days into our trip, I received a call from my sister that our mom had fallen and broken her femur. She was headed to the hospital to undergo surgery. At her age, this was not good. The 3 of us (remember, our friend was still with us) scrambled to get packed up and headed to the airport to catch the next flight home (this is definitely one of those times where we were very grateful to have airline employee benefits!). We landed at the crack of dawn the next morning and quickly joined my family. In the interest of keeping this brief….my sister and I ended up caring for our mom at home after she developed a MRSA infection post surgery. This took almost a month and took us into Christmas. On a positive note, my mom got to spend Christmas with family despite all the lockdowns (she lives in a care facility with my dad). She has since recovered and was back with my dad right after Christmas.

Christmas was a bit of a let down since Covid was surging out of control in Arizona, and everyone was being told to not get together with anyone outside of your own home. We followed this fairly well but not perfectly (it was Christmas after all….a time to be with family). We had a small Christmas Eve gathering with Dan’s family and then had Christmas dinner at our house with the addition of my daughter and her boyfriend and Dan’s son. My other son was living with us at the time with his girlfriend and their 9 month old baby. You know this is headed somewhere, don’t you? 2-3 days after our dinner, the 3 kids from outside our household all tested positive for Covid. One by one, we all fell. Soon the 5 of us living at our house all came down with Covid (yes, even that sweet baby). It was a miserable 2 weeks, but we all survived!

Christmas in the desert

Once recovered and feeling strong again, Dan and I decided to take a trip to the mountains to enjoy some time in the snow. We drove up to a town called Show Low for some time in this snowy haven. It did not disappoint! No sooner had we arrived, when they shut down the roads coming into Show Low due to heavy snow conditions and dangerous driving. No worries! We were happily settled into this great log cabin we had found online complete with roaring fire. We spent our days doing long walks in the snow and exploring the area. Again, I have attached some pictures with captions.

Cabin in the snow – a four hour drive from the warm desert of Phoenix
Not a bad place to be snowed in for awhile!
Snowshoeing in the National Forest outside of Show Low
Our dog, Sierra, loves the snow!

When we returned from this little trip, my son and his family decided it was time to move out. They had been living with us while their house was being built, but with both of them working from home and a baby on the move, they decided they needed more space and child proofing. We were heartbroken to see them go but totally understood. Since they were no longer living with us, we decided to roll the dice and put our house on the market. At this time, the housing market was going insane in Arizona! We had 3 offers the first day, and 2 were way over asking price. Like I said…..INSANE!. We ended up selling very quickly which meant packing up our entire life and putting it into storage. Did I mention that this was a sellers market, so we had no house to move into??? No worries! We were headed back to the boat until November! We didn’t need no stinking house! Oh, how wrong we were……

Sold in two days!

Our next tripus interruptus came with the announcement that our age group was going to be eligible for the vaccination way earlier than we had expected. Needless to say, we had to stay for that. This would make travel so much easier. At this point, we are bouncing between friends’ houses and my sister’s house, trying not to overstay our welcome at any one place. 
We have now reached mid-April, and we are still here. At this point, Greece is now closed to sailing until mid-May (maybe). We can still get to our boat, but we cannot put her in the water and sail her until the restrictions have lifted. Europe is once again locked down 🙁 We decide it’s time for a camping trip. We load up our little transformer trailer and head north to a town called Sedona. We are joined by our good friend Emil, Dan’s son, and Dan’s nephew and his girlfriend. Dan and I spend a week up in Sedona hiking and taking the Jeep out on some trails. Once everyone joins us, the party really starts. 

Heading out with our Turtleback off road trailer
A birthday camp trip with Jacob, who lives nearby in Flagstaff
It was great celebrating Jacob’s birthday in Sedona with family and friends.
Lots of 4×4 fun in the Red Rocks of Sedona. This is Broken Arrow Trail
Our rather large Gazelle tent that pops up in minutes
As you can tell, we don’t “rough it”
Sedona vistas
The top of Broken Arrow trail

After a dusty, hot and dirty trip up to red rock country (Sedona), we make our way back home. At this point, Dan talks to him mom and discovers she has been sick with pneumonia and is getting worse. Again, I will give you the reader’s digest version of the story. She continues to get worse over the course of the week, and we finally convince her she needs to go to the hospital because she is not improving (also what the doctor ordered after putting her on antibiotics). They end up admitting her, and it just goes down from there. It turns out she did not have pneumonia but Stage 4 lung cancer. After 5 days in the hospital, where she seemed to just get worse, she said she was done and just wanted to go home. Dan and his sister brought her home to his sister’s house so that she could be cared for and tended to by family. A week later, she passed away surrounded by her kids and grandkids.
I think it’s time to lighten the mood a little bit. We are now in early May. We have discovered an area in the northwest part of Phoenix that we have fallen in love with and decided this is where we want to live. There are several builders getting ready to build there, but their grand openings keep getting delayed. We participate in a few bid wars and lotteries which end in disappointment and heartbreak. I know, I said I was going to lighten the mood…’s coming….stay with me 🙂 The last builder to the table is one we were super excited about. They tell us that they don’t do lotteries or bid wars. It’s like home buying use to be….you pick your house and lot, and you buy it. Nah….it’s not that easy (we are still in an insane housing market remember?) Their catch is that you have to be one of 50 callers when they open up pre-sales. You can’t email, text or leave a message. You must speak to someone. Yep, kinda like those radio station prize giveaways.
Well, the announcement comes, and Dan gets on speed dial. Over and over again, we finally reach someone and get ourselves one of those coveted pre-sale slots. We are so excited and terrified all at the same time. Are we going to be crushed again? The downside it the appointments aren’t opening up until mid-May….another delay but well worth it. A little more good fortune came our way when the agent called to tell us there had been a cancellation for the first day of appointments and asked us if we would like it. Absolutely! Long story long….we got the lot we wanted and the house we wanted with a potential close in March (yeah, I know…..don’t count on it….but it’s a start!). This whole bit of excitement added some delays as well. We had to wait a week to sign the sales contract and then wait another two weeks to get both of our design center appointments in (you have to pick out ALL your design features, colors, styles, etc…..before they will ever start building). We were in a race against the clock between our desire to choose all our options in person, get our house started as soon as possible, and get back to our boat to start sailing!

Getting a home built in this crazy market is no easy task!

There are still a lot of Covid restrictions in place, and unfortunately, the countries of the EU are NOT all on the same page. We have had to jump through a ridiculous amount of hoops to make sure we meet the requirements not only for flying but for cruising.
So, now you are up to speed with our crazy off season. Despite all the ups and downs (including wearing a mask for almost 24 hours straight in airports and airplanes), we are now self isolating in a hotel room in London until our flight to Greece tomorrow. By tomorrow afternoon, we will be getting Zoe ready for sail. We will launch her on June 23rd, and the adventure begins. This year, we will be journeying beyond the borders of Greece and can’t wait to share the beauty of this part of the world with all of you!

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back In The Water

Clickable and zoomable map showing our 2020 tracks for this year’s cruising season in the Med.

No, we did not have a close encounter with “Jaws”…..sorry to disappoint 🙂  We did manage to encounter a few other mishaps and mayhem.  I guess that’s what I get for angering Poseidon with my post about how relatively uneventful this year’s sailing season has been.  Anyway, this will be my final entry with regards to life on a boat.  We are hoping to continue with some land based adventures until we can return to Zoe in the spring (fingers crossed this Covid crap is somewhat under control by then)!

When we last left you, we were departing Corfu Town and headed to an anchorage that we have frequented often, Petriti (also on the island of Corfu).  We were once again monitoring a potential weather system that was coming in with high winds on Tuesday and really high winds on Friday.  We still had time before Friday’s blow to wait and see if it collapsed over time.  The big question now was whether or not to ride it out here in Petriti or find a better hidey hole.  We decided to enjoy Petriti, top up our provisions, and then make a decision with the new morning forecast.  The next day, we took the dinghy into town to take a walk around the shoreline before restocking our provisions for the remainder of the trip.  As we were making our way back to the boat, dinghy at full speed, it suddenly spun uncontrollably in a tight circle.  The dinghy listed hard to the side, sent me spilling onto the floor in the front, and just about threw us and all our groceries into the water at a very high rate of speed.  After the panic subsided, I looked at Dan to see what had just happened, and he sheepishly explained that he had forgotten to turn off his workout on his watch.  How that simple action spiraled us into chaos will forever be unclear to me.  He was probably thankful for the whine of the dinghy motor since it drowned out the angry tirade spewing out of my mouth.

Our dinghy peacefully at the dock in Petriti…just before the out of control high speed 360s while headed back to Zoe

Once we were back on board, we pulled up the weather forecasts in order to decide our next step.  Unfortunately, nothing had changed.  At this point, we didn’t want to back track 3 hours to the marina on Corfu, and our only other option would’ve been to bomb it south 9 hours to the marina where we would be hauling out.  Since we still had about 12 days left on the water, neither option seemed ideal.  After some research, we discovered a coved area deep inland on the mainland of Greece that people referenced as a “hurricane hole.”  It seemed like this would be a good place to ride out the blow over the next few days without a lot of stress.  So, off we went.  We headed across the channel and deep up the entrance of the bay to furthest cove in.  The reviews for this anchorage basically said you would love or hate it.  Well, you can probably guess where I fell on this one.  First, let me paint a picture.  The water was a thick, brackish green.  At best, you maybe had a foot of visibility, and I’m being generous on that one.  Okay, while not my favorite, I have swam in lakes and ponds before….this was kind of the same, right?  The kicker was at the end of the bay where a bunch of cows were corralled (and yes, frolicking in the water).  Ewww.  I have now dubbed this Cow Poop Bay.  Swimming?  That’s a big hell no!  Now, it wasn’t all bad.  We did have the cow herd serenade us all day and night, and huge fish (2 feet and more) leaping full body out of the water and crashing back down with a huge splash.  There were also some cool birds, since we were right outside of an estuary.  We spent one very hot night and decided that this was not the place for us.  We were still having high heat warnings, so swimming was a necessity.  Off we went again.

Our next stop was a very popular anchorage on Paxos Island.  We have tried to anchor at this island last year and this year, and it has always been jam packed.  I wasn’t holding my breath that today would be any different.  On the downside, since the last few days had been blowing pretty good, the channel was extremely choppy with 4-6 foot breaking waves.  What made it worse was that they were coming from every direction with very short periods (also known as washing machine seas), so we were tossed about pretty good for a few hours.  Fortunately, when we arrived in the anchorage, there was still a decent amount of space available.  We quickly selected a spot which would require us to stern tie to the rocks because we were close to shore and other boats.  This was the most protected part of the bay, and by stern tying, we figured we could ride out Friday’s wind here at anchor.  Over the next couple of days, the wind forecasts had escalated to gale force winds out in the channel.  We knew we’d get some high winds and pretty nasty gusts, but we should be okay here.  It was a beautiful bay with rock walls lined with trees and shrubbery.  The town of Lakka was at the end of the bay and was very quaint.  We wandered the town, bushwhacked our way to the to the top of the hill at the entrance of the bay, and enjoyed some swimming.  Once Friday rolled around, we would not be leaving the boat.

Zoe in Lakka Bay, Paxos Island
Long lines to shore to keep us well positioned in the popular anchorage.
Wandering Lakka town
Interviewing boat kitties
Robyn looking back at Zoe while climbing to some ruins on the point

Friday came roaring in just as expected.  We had sustained winds of about 25 knots with frequent gusts to 30.  It was a little unsettling, so we kept a careful watch on both our anchor and our stern lines.  Despite all the creaking and banging, the lines held strong.  It wasn’t long before the swell made it’s way into the bay, and 3 foot rollers were blasting the shoreline behind us.  Each time we swayed, the lines would go slack in the water and then forcefully snap back tight.  Unfortunately, during one big burst, our dinghy slid around under one of the lines so when it snapped back tight, it snapped the dinghy choke off with it.  The wind finally began to die down around 11 p.m.  I had no intention of going to bed until things got a little quieter.  It wasn’t until about 3 a.m. before the swell subsided.  We had successfully managed to ride out our first forecasted blow at anchor (notice I said forecasted)….yeah us!

Forecast screenshot of the fun coming our way
While the near gale raged in the channel, we were well protected from the large rollers moving south down the island

We had now been in this bay for 5 days, and we were getting antsy to move on.  Because of the week of wind and swell, this normally crystal clear bay was extremely cloudy which made swimming not so much fun.  We had really found our groove this year swimming 1-2 miles most days of the week, so we really wanted to find one last run of crystal, clear water.  We debated between two different anchorages on the mainland of Greece.  One was a very popular beach resort town and known for the constant traffic of speedboats, jet skis, windsurfers, etc.  We pretty much figured that our swimming here would be less than stellar.  So, we decided to take our chances with another notoriously popular anchorage known as Two Rock Bay.  Being that it was Saturday, we figured this was our best shot for getting a spot since charter boats turnover on Saturdays.  Sure enough, as we cruised into the bay, we found a spot that suited us just fine.  It was away from the clusters of boats that were already there which meant we had to be a little more careful in choosing our spot of sand to drop the anchor (it may have been called Two Rock Bay, but it should really be called “whole lotta rocks that can mess you up bay”).  As I stood at the front looking for the biggest swath of sand I could find (free of dense weed and many rocks).  I dropped the anchor.  As is our custom, we swam the anchor to make sure it was dug in properly and free of obstructions.  Everything looked great.  

Two Rock Bay, Mainland Greece
Maybe it should be called “Three Rock Bay” instead

This bay was definitely on the top of our list with regard to awesome swimming.  There were a variety of caves and caverns along the shoreline and an amazing rock reef in the center of the entrance.  Needless to say, we parked it here for a week and swam every single day.  Don’t relax just yet…..this journey came with a few adventures of its own!  Of all the anchorages we’ve been in this year, this one was the worst as far as pesky wasps.  They came in early in the morning, would not leave you alone, and stayed well past sunset.  We started out with the passive approach (as we always do)….ignoring them and eventually lighting a bug coil to drive them off.  Yes, we even tried burning coffee grounds (a popular technique in greek tavernas), but nothing worked.  I finally got so frustrated with their harassment, I grabbed my handy-dandy, electric zapping racket.  I smashed the little bugger hard!  When you hear the phrase “Karma is a bitch,”  I can now attest to that fact.  With the downward momentum of my swing, I managed to smash the wasp right onto the top of my foot……where he promptly stung me….twice! It’s been a long time since I felt that much pain.  So of course, my foot swelled up angry and red.  It itched profusely followed by horrible pain.  I tried ice packs, various ointments and sting gels….nothing gave me relief.  Since I am adding pieces to this entry post-facto, I can tell you that I still have the two puncture wounds, some swelling, itching and redness two weeks later!  Ugh!  Like I said, karma is a bitch.

Continuing with our adventures in Two Rock Bay… we watched boats come and go, we noticed several times that the boats anchored behind us (closer into shore) seemed to struggle bringing their anchors up.  Hmmmm…..we would need to watch out for this despite being in sand.  It was only after a couple of days that we began to notice that our boat was keeping a really tight radius on our anchor (we were observing this on our anchor app).  That seemed a little odd.  We knew our anchor was in sand and had not dragged at all, so we figured our chain may have wrapped a rock keeping us tethered like a mooring ball.  Not a bad deal….you can’t drag your anchor if there is not pressure on it 🙂 It wasn’t long before it began to bother us.  We needed to see what was going on and didn’t want to wait until it was time to leave to find out we had a problem.  Well, guess what?  We had a problem.  Somehow our chain had managed to find a narrow channel between two big rock gardens and slid it’s way down before wrapping around one of the rock areas.  Crap!  After a great deal of discussion, we decided to try and get it free now and shorten our scope (the amount of chain we had out for the depth of water we were in).  The chain was too deep for Dan to spend any time at the bottom once he swam down.  In the end, he stayed in the water while I took the wheel.  With him in the water, he would be able to watch the direction of the chain so that I could maneuver the boat to try and get us free.  Since we were due to haul the boat out in a couple of days, we needed to be sure we could get ourselves free otherwise we would need to find a diver…..and who knows how long that could take.

The “two rocks” of two rock bay. Zoe is centered in this drone shot and you can see all of the ways to wrap a chain in the rocks as the boat drifts if your not careful.

I let chain out, I took chain up, I pivoted our stern this way and that….all while making sure I didn’t put too much pressure on the chain and tear off the front of our boat.  In the end, I ended up pivoting the boat 180 degrees with minimal movement forward or back while taking up chain.  We finally came free!  It only took us over an hour!  We quickly shortened our scope, and this time swam our swing area to see if there were any other hazards we could get hung up on.  We didn’t see any that were overly concerning, so back to our regularly scheduled fun.  As I mentioned before, this was an awesome bay for swimming.  We swam the rocky shoreline enjoying the underwater rock formations and fish.  We even explored a couple of caves.  One cave in particular had a fairly small looking entrance (which of course we had to go explore).  It opened up inside with a variety of passages and went really deep into the rocks.  It also got very dark.  We did not explore the pitch black side passageways (that would’ve been irresponsible).  I know you’re probably wondering…..what did Dan do?  Of course he wanted to go into those passages!  That’s a big NO.  I may be a party pooper, but I will always bring him back alive.  Anyway, we stuck to exploring the main part of the cave which was already getting dark….and somewhat smelly (mind you, we are swimming…..god only knows what’s lurking in the water!)  Eventually, we rousted the source of the smell.  Pretty soon bats were swarming around overhead with a couple choosing to dive bomb us.  Okay, that was enough exploring for me!  Back out into the fresh air and bright sun I went.  It really was cool (and a little creepy).

Into the cave we go
Right before bats came from the right of the picture and started their dive bombing runs
This bay is noted for it’s rock formations. You can see why!
Amazing snorkeling in this bay

The day before we were planning to depart this amazing place, we noticed that same little problem on our anchor app.  We were not pulling tight on our anchor again but seemed to be swinging in a tight radius.  Come on!  Into the water we went to see what the situation was this time.  Luckily it was nothing more than a single wrap around a boulder.  No biggie.  We kept a close watch on how our boat pivoted with the shift in winds, so we would know exactly how to swing her if she didn’t correct herself overnight.  We also decided to leave in the morning before the wind shifted direction again.  We lucked out this time, and Zoe had freed herself when the wind shifted overnight.  By morning, we were pulled back on our anchor just like we should be, so we pulled up and got underway.  Our next stop would be our final stop, our marina to prepare Zoe for haul out.  It turned out to be a glorious day.  The wind picked up in the morning (not a very common occurrence), and we were able to sail more than 1/2 of our journey back to base.  What a great way to end our final sail in Greece.

Climbing down the high freeboard of our cat to the dock. It’s almost five feet down.
Zoe out of the water getting pressure washed. With such a short season in the water, there wasn’t much to clean
While Zoe sleeps, her papers are kept locked up in the Customs office until we return.

Our next 6 days would be a lot of blood, sweat and tears as we prepared Zoe for winter.  Our greatest hope is that next season we will make it out in the Spring and be able to spend 6-7 months sailing some different countries…..fingers crossed.  To sum up this season, here are the stats on our adventure over the last 2 1/2 months:

773 nautical miles travelled

77 nights in the water

26 anchorages

66 nights at anchor

3 marinas for a total of 11 nights

Tied to 1 town wall for 1 night

Endured 2 thunderstorms with high winds and swell

1 gale warning while at anchor

6 Greek islands visited

34 miles of open water workout swims

Not too bad for a shortened season!  Zoe is now safely on land in the marina, stripped and packed up for winter.  We are currently in Croatia where we will spend some time and hopefully provide you with some new adventures off the water.  On a side note, while it was sad for us to say goodbye to Zoe after such a short time, it wasn’t long before we were incredibly grateful to be out of the water.  Within a day or two of us leaving her behind, a Medicane popped up in the forecast (the name for a hurricane in the Med.)  As you can imagine, we are constantly watching the situation unfold and praying for our friends and the sailing community in general.  Some of our favorite places have taken a direct hit, boats have been lost, and it’s not over yet 🙁

Medicane forecast prior to it hitting the island of Cephalonia with hurricane force winds
Our hearts go out to the fellow mariners who lost their homes in the Medicane. Image from Facebook Med Sailing group
No words. Image courtesy from Facebook Med Sailing group.

As always, thank you for being a part of our sailing adventures and stay tuned for more exploration with Two Chasing Sunsets! 

One last Greek taverna meal at one of our favorites – Panos Taverna (near Cleopatra marina)

Sometimes It’s Just Life On A Boat….

Our GPS tracks since last blog update as we wander the treasures of the Ionian Sea

It’s been awhile since we last checked in, but we are still here in Greece living life on the hook. One of the main goals of our blog is to share our adventures along with the cool things and places we come across on our journeys. Unfortunately, with our season rapidly coming to an end, we have spent a fair amount of time revisiting places that we shared with you last year. We’ve even managed to escape the hair raising drama of surprise storms. I will do my best to try and make this worth the read.

We cut our stay in Nydri short. This part of Greece has been having a long spell of high heat warnings, and this anchorage does not lend itself to swimming. While the swarms of jellyfish have not yet materialized this year, the water is very brackish and unpleasant looking. Given the number of wrecked boats lying along the shore here and there, you can only imagine what grossness has leeched into the water. Needless to say, with the high heat and no wind, we decided to head over to one of more favorite anchorages known as Two Tree Bay (not the official name). We stopped here toward the beginning of our season, and it was blissfully empty. When we arrived, there were a few boats already anchored, but we carefully selected our spot nicely distanced from everyone else. Unfortunately, Greece had now opened up their borders to a number of other countries, so tourism was back in full swing. This meant that those beautiful, isolated spots we were in at the start of July were no longer peaceful and isolated 🙁 Before long, our beautiful little anchorage was packed full of boats…..and everyone was on top of everyone else…..yuck! In watching the ebb and flow, I quickly learned that it was best to avoid this anchorage on the weekends. Despite the crowds that came and went, we ended up spending almost a week here. The crystal clear water and abundant sea life made for some really great swims.

We probably would’ve stayed longer, but a weather system was forecasted to come in, so we decided to head into a marina. At this point, we had been out at anchor for 35 days straight. That is a record for us! I actually like a little marina time because it means I get unlimited air conditioning. While we are able to run the A/C while at anchor, we really try not to. The primary reason is the huge drain it places on our batteries, but the other reason is safety. To run the A/C in our cabin requires us to close up all the hatches and the door. The unit itself is located under our bed and is much noisier than a home A/C. While this does not disturb our sleep, it does mean that we are no longer able to hear what is happening outside of the boat (such as changes in the wind)….not a good thing. Unfortunately, I cannot sleep when I am too hot (which happens to be every night). My newest invention….sleeping on hard, blue ice packs. Yes, I do this almost every night! Maybe next year we can buy the soft, blue gel packs…..haha. If I could only figure out how to build those blue gel packs into an ice vest, I’d be set!

Riding out a strong wind forecast in Gouvia Marina.
While in the marina, our new cushions from a local sewing shop were ready!
Specials of the day at a local Greek Taverna. You walk with the waiter to the kitchen and he explains what each dish is. Yum!

Well, the storm came and went with a lot less gusto than the forecast promised. It was time to get moving once again. We decided to head for a couple of islands to the north that we had to bypass last year because they were overcrowded with boats. Surprise, surprise…..they were overcrowded or taken over by super yachts, so we were skunked again. So off we headed to the island of Corfu, and one of our favorite anchorages (Petriti). Our 6 hour planned sail ended up being an 11 hour sail (this did include waiting for the swing bridge to open so we could transit north). We arrived in the anchorage at 9:00 p.m. Another fun first, anchoring after sunset…..we call that drop and pray because you can’t see the bottom to know whether you are in sand, weed, or rock. We got lucky.

The next evening, we spotted some very ominous looking clouds building up over mainland Greece. It did not look good. As we continued to watch the storm’s progress, it became very evident that we were about to be hit. Sure enough, in it rolled. We were surrounded by thick bolts of lightning, loud claps of thunder, pouring rain, and 25-28 knots of wind. The wind then kicked up the seas, and we were being hit with 3 foot waves. We fired up our engines when the wind clocked around putting us on a lee shore (translation: if our anchor broke free, we would be on the rocks of the shoreline). Fortunately our anchor held like a rockstar, and we stayed put. It wasn’t long before we heard a mayday being called on the VHF….that’s never a good sign. There was not a lick of English being spoken, so we really don’t know what the issue was or where exactly the emergency was taking place. As I am sure you have guessed, this storm was not on any of the 7-8 forecast models we check everyday.

Thunder and lightning in the anchorage. Not fun when you are a sailboat with stick of metal 60 feet high!
Enjoying home made Stifado – a specialty of Savvas Taverna in Notos, Corfu

Before long, we were itching to get moving again. Our plan was to make our way up the island of Corfu (it’s quite large) and then eventually get ourselves up to the island of Erikoussa, the northernmost island in Greece. This journey brought us to an anchorage right outside of Corfu Town. This particular anchorage was one of our more challenging anchorages. It is a big, beautiful bay with lots of room, but there is also lots of thick weed with few sand patches. Needless to say, we failed our first attempt as we began dragging our anchor. When I brought it back up, it was loaded with weed. We had slid out of our tiny little sand patch and into a big weed area. We moved along a little further until we found a bigger sand patch that we were happier with. This time the anchor set perfectly. The downside of our perfect little spot is that we were on the direct line to the dock for the water taxis and tenders for the mega yachts. This made our spot a little choppy at times as they zoomed right by us. It also meant no swimming far from the boat. Despite all of this, the water was crystal clear, and we somehow adopted an entourage of about 40 fish. They hung out under our boat, and would come out whenever I got in the water and follow me around as I swam. It was so funny! So of course I spent as much time in the water as I could with my little friends. I even had a few eating out of my hand! We loved this place! The entire bay was lined with little tavernas and the castle walls lit up the skyline at night. We had so much fun here we ended up spending almost a week. We became regulars at our favorite bakery, fish market, and baklava shop.

The aquarium under our boat. They followed Robyn everywhere she swam
That’s an old gravesite!
Corfu town and it’s Venetian castle by night
Our favorite fish market in town
Robyn hand feeding her new pets

It was hard leaving my little fish buddies behind, but it was time to go. Our next stop was a tiny little bay which required us to take lines to shore (translation: anchor is down and there is a line off each end of the back of the boat tied to a rock or tree so that you cannot swing around on your anchor). At the time, the weather was calm. If it had not been, this would not have been a safe place for us to be. Sadly, we only spent 2 days here because another big blow was forecasted. Once again, we headed into a marina for shelter. We managed to get in and tied up before it hit. We watched a number of boats struggle to come in once the winds kicked up. We were very thankful that we came in early. Before long, we had 25 knot winds IN the marina. The wind was shrieking and waves were crashing over the outermost docks. We were quite content to ride this out in the safety of the marina (plus I got air conditioning again!)

Psaromita point anchorage on Corfu
Mermaid Robyn swimming in front of Zoe at Psaromita point
We loved waking up to this view the next morning!

The weather cleared, and we were on the move again. Our destination was the island of Erikoussa. We enjoyed two days on this quaint little island. We walked a portion of the island which had some beautiful homes up on the hilltop, many of which had been newly remodeled or constructed. On our second night, we had an unexpected visitor. Dan and I were watching a movie inside when, all of a sudden, a small bird flew inside our boat. It startled both of us as he flew spastically around the boat banging into things. Something had definitely scared him. When he finally settled down, you could see he was breathing heavily. Now came the task of trying to get him OUT of the boat without scaring him even more. It took a fair amount of work before we finally got him outside where he rested on the pillows in our cockpit. He was still scared and in need of rest, so we brought out a pan of water and some bread crumbs and left him alone. By the time we went to bed, he was still bedded down in our cockpit, but by morning he had flown the “nest.”

Erikousa Island – northernmost island in Greece
Sunset over Erikousa anchorage. The next landfall in that direction is Italy…

There isn’t a lot on the island, so before long we were ready to move again. Believe it or not, we were watching another strong wind in the forecast specifically for this area, so we wanted to make sure we were out of the area by then. From the island, we headed to the windward side of Corfu. This side can get really nasty in high winds and the anchorages can become very uncomfortable. Since we still had a day or two more of good weather, we anchored in a big beautiful bay. We enjoyed some amazing snorkeling along the rocky shoreline but soon discovered that you needed to be done swimming in the morning. By late morning, the bay came to life with powerboats, jet skis, water skiers, and every other form of water fun you can imagine. This meant the bay became very pitchy with swell and chop…..not fun to try and swim in. Also not fun to hang out in, so we left. Our desire was hastened even further when a charter boat came in an anchored right beside us! Did I mention that the bay was huge and we were the only boat in it???? Literally, right beside us! See ya!

We began making our way back south with the intent of finding another little anchorage on the leeward side of Corfu island. The forecast showed that the leeward side would be relatively protected from this next high wind that was forecasted (the two places we had just been were about to be walloped). The wind had already started picking up, so we were able to sail almost the entire day. Sadly, every anchorage we passed was loaded up with boats. In the end, we opted for the anchorage just outside the marina we had been in the week before. Here the water was a little murky, so this would be another drop and pray scenario. We had watched some boats ride out the last storm in this anchorage, so we figured we could do the same. This was a one and done. It’s been so hot here that swimming is a necessity, and while you can swim here (we did) it’s just not fun to swim in water that is dark and murky….especially when you know how beautiful the water is everywhere else. So, off we went….back to our favorite bay in Corfu town. Last time we were here, there had been boats anchored right beneath the castle walls. It looked amazing, but a little too crowded and completely surrounded by hazards….not our cup of tea. However, when we rounded the point this time, there were no boats there! We were so excited. We carefully selected the biggest patch of sand we could find in the back part of the anchorage and made ourselves at home. On two sides of us were towering castle walls and on the third side of us were mega million dollar yachts tied to the quay (I’m sure they were thinking….there went the neighborhood….haha). Our spot was amazing! And wouldn’t you know, I ended up with another fish entourage! Once again, the snorkeling was incredible. Needless to say, we weren’t alone for long. Most of the time was good with people anchoring a respectful distance away. The weekend was another story. It got super busy Friday and Saturday with a couple of knuckleheads anchored waaaay to close! Luckily they didn’t stay long. I did give them my evil, stink eye….it didn’t seem to work. Maybe the Europeans don’t know what the evil, stink eye means? Just kidding.

Zoe anchored off of Corfu town and it’s fortress walls
When you realize out of wine onboard! Nah just kidding. Never happens!
Corfu town strolls always means finding random ruins from antiquity
Cannons overlooking the anchorage from the castle
We love wondering these places from antiquity!
We hiked this nature park daily while we did an extended anchor stop in Corfu town
When you have that fired calamari itch….
Grocery shopping in the Old town. Such colors.
Venetian castle grounds.
Kanoni and it’s picturesque island churches.
Returning to Zoe by dinghy from a shore visit.

That pretty much brings you up to speed. We spent 5 more days in Corfu Town making daily pilgrimages to an awesome archeological park where we could hike among the ruins and daily swims along the castle wall admiring the underwater scenery. Sadly, we are now 12 days from hauling out. This has been a weird year, as everyone knows. Thanks to Covid, our season started much later than normal, and thanks to Covid it will also end a lot sooner than normal. Our original plan had been to sail new areas of Greece before heading to Albania or Turkey and then on to either Italy or Croatia. Unfortunately, Greece has kept their borders closed with both Albania and Turkey. Those places would’ve allowed us to reset the tax clock on our boat, and going to Croatia would’ve allowed me to reset my time here in Europe. Because Americans are not allowed into Greece (remember, I came in as Dan’s wife on his Croatian passport), we did not feel that leaving Greek waters was a wise idea as we would probably not be allowed to bring out boat back into Greece (and this is where we have a contract for Zoe for the winter). Long story longer…..I am reaching the end of my visa time, so our sailing time is up 🙁

Our story is not quite over though. As we make our way back to the marina for haul out, we will hit a few more new places to share with you. Once Zoe is tucked away for the winter, we will be making our way to Croatia (sadly without our dear boat). We plan to do some work on the house and visit some friends and family. We hope to do some more land based adventures while we are there as well…, stay tuned!

Still chasing sunsets 🙂

New Adventures and Old Favorites

Every year, Dan and I try to expand and deepen our sailing skills. Last year, doing an overnight passage was high on his list (yes, I said his list). I had agreed since this was the only way we would be able to visit more far flung countries and break free from our coastal cruising up and down from Northern Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, and Greece…..and then back again. To be perfectly honest, I’m pretty sure I would be more than content to do this for many years to come 🙂 Somehow, I managed to drag my heels through the season (in my defense, we were now regularly making 10 hour passages….just not overnight and in the dark), and we closed the books on 2019 without sailing overnight.

Despite our very late start to the 2020 season, we got busy honing our anchoring skills beginning day 1 on the water. We were also making long passages further and further south. Our goal was to circumnavigate the Péloponnèse peninsula and come through the Corinth Canal. When we reached Navarino Bay(our furthest point south on the western side), it was time to make some decisions. We monitor 5 or 6 weather forecasts on a daily basis in order to determine our best time to sail as well as where our safest place to anchor will be. Unfortunately, the eastern side of the peninsula was frequently showing wicked wind conditions, and we were regularly picking up transmissions calling for gale force winds. We finally looked at each other and asked ourselves “why?” Why beat ourselves up trying to make this happen when we would be here again next season (and hopefully much earlier in the season), and we could make the circumnavigation then. We both agreed to finish out our exploration of Navarino bay and start making our way back north.

Heading north meant we would be going against the prevailing winds which means a rough ride as you beat into the wind and waves. We decided (more like Dan convinced me) that doing a night passage would make for a much more pleasant cruise north as the winds tend to die off once the sun sets. The winds had been up the previous few days which meant the seas would likely be a little rougher than normal, at least in the beginning. The forecast was calling for little wind and fairly small swell, so we decided it was time. We decided to leave about an hour before sunset in order to leave the bay and get ourselves set on course with a little bit of light. This meant an 8:30 p.m. departure. We talked through our plan….up together for the first few hours, and then I would take the first 3 hour shift. From there, we would switch off every 3 hours while the other got some sleep and then do the last hour into the anchorage together. All in all, this was going to be about a 12 hour journey.

Our overnight passage from the Peloponnese to Zakinthos

Anchor was hoisted, and we were underway at 8:00 p.m…..excited and nervous at the same time. As we came around the point of Navarino Bay, we were slammed by big swells right on the nose. This meant that the bow of our boat plunged down deep into the trough of the wave, sending spray up over us, before we rocketed up the next crest of a wave. Some might find this fun….I found it utterly terrifying. I know this boat is capable of handling far worse conditions, but my brain refuses to accept it and couldn’t help envisioning us catapulting in a giant forward somersault. Dan, of course, was whooping like a little boy on a bucking bronco. Together we thrashed through this mess, watching the sun set on the horizon, before darkness finally enveloped us. At around 11:00 p.m., Dan headed below deck to catch some sleep while I took over. All alone, in the middle of the sea, in the pitch black, in the still pitching seas…..yep, not a happy camper. You might be asking….why did you choose to go out in such rough seas? Well, as is frequently the case out here, we were only suppose to have 1-2 foot seas…HA! Yeah right!

Rounding the peninsula at the entrance to Navarino as the sun is setting

I spent the next 3 1/2 hours doing my watch. Despite the bucking bronco ride, I did eventually settle into a groove, and my fear began to lessen. Unfortunately, moonrise was not until 2:45 a.m., so I didn’t have the light of the moon to help brighten my way. The other challenge was the navigation instruments (despite being turned to their lowest light setting) messed with my vision, so I had to stand up and over top of them to keep them out of my line of sight unless I needed to see something specific. It was really hard to tell the difference between a random light on land or an approaching boat (more unease). It wasn’t all horrible though. I did get to watch the Neowise comet for much of my watch, and the Milky Way was huge and bright overhead. At 2:30 a.m., Dan came up and relieved me of my watch. I tried to get some sleep down below, but the sea was still throwing up some occasional big swells. Down in the hull, the crashing sound is amplified and sounds like the boat is going to blow apart. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep (I expected as much since sleep seems to elude me these days).

At 5:30 a.m., I called it a night and got up to make us some coffee. The seas had finally calmed down and dawn was approaching. So, together we enjoyed the final few hours of our journey watching the sun come up over the horizon. As we pulled into the bay on the island of Zakinthos, we celebrated our first overnight passage. Once our anchor was securely set, we both collapsed below deck for a few hours of much needed sleep.

Blissful sunrise at sea!

We spent the next 5 nights anchored in the bay of Keri. The first spot we chose (in our sleep deprived haze) was off a popular beach resort area. We were fairly close to this awesome little island that had been turned into a beach bar. There was a foot bridge over the water to the island which had beach chairs, umbrellas, a bar and swimming. What caught your eye the most was the huge, white sheets strung out over the island that billowed in the wind. While it was beautiful to see, we soon discovered that we were in the middle of a constant flow of tour boats and rented motor boats buzzing around ALL day long….ugh. The next morning we moved to a quieter part of the bay (close to where we had anchored last time we were here). After swimming our anchor, I was very disappointed to only see the top third of it buried into the sand despite backing down on it fairly hard. We decided to enjoy our morning swim and then re-anchor. This bay has restricted areas for the protection of the sea turtle hatcheries. From time to time, we would be gifted with a sea turtle cruising by or popping his head up for a breath of air. We decided to move ourselves a little further down the anchorage to a beautiful area backdropped by sandstone cliffs. Here, we dug in nice and deep.

Beach bar island from our anchor spot.
Sandstone cliffs from our next anchor spot in a quieter part of the bay
Sea turtle ducking under our boat in the glow of our underwater lights

The next day, we dinghied over to the island of Marathonisi. It was a short ride to this uninhabited island that sits in the center of the entrance to the bay. Much of the island is roped off to protect the sea turtle eggs, but many tours and rental boats flock her to snorkel in the beautiful waters and explore the caves. We tried to arrive a little early in the hopes of beating the crowds. We beached our dinghy and immediately hit the water for a snorkel/swim workout around the island. While we did go into some really cool open caves, we were not graced with the presence of any sea turtles. By the time we returned to our dinghy, the beach was loaded with boats and people 🙁 Time to go! So back to Zoe, we went.

Marathonisi beach. The boat with the flags in the background is a floating beach bar
Protected turtle egg nests. There was national park ranger in the hut in the background keeping an eye on things.
Caves of Marathonisi
We enjoyed swimming and exploring the caves. It was a bonus we had them to ourselves before the tour boats showed up later

The next day, we rented a car to do a little inland exploration of the island of Zakinthos. I have to say, this has probably been one of my favorite islands in the Ionian Sea. Our first stop was to the cliffs overlooking Shipwreck Bay. As you will recall, we had sailed into the bay to get an upfront look, but this time our view was from up above……WAY up above. To get the best view, you needed to bushwhack down this little trail along this peninsula that sat way above the sea below. When I first saw the goat path leading the end of the point, I had pretty much determined that I would not be enjoying the stellar view from out there. Well, I managed to suck it up, pull up my big girl panties, and trek out to the end. It was definitely worth the view. The colors of the sea were amazing! The views were spectacular despite leaving me a little queasy with vertigo. There were many warnings about staying clear of the edge of the cliff (not a problem for me…..I went deeper into bushwhacking to make sure I was nowhere near the edge). I did however come closer and peer over the edge…..ack.

Hiking the cliffs of Shipwreck bay
Breathtaking views
Dan getting his shot!
There are no guardrails and the trails are a bit slippery. We’re a bit surprised this place isn’t in the news from a hapless tourist getting to close to the edge and falling. It would be easy to do and there are hundreds of visitors a day…

After that hairball fun, we drove to the town of Zakinthos to explore the city center. It was definitely bustling with people (and VERY windy). We stopped at a Taverna called Dimitris where the owner extolled the greatness of several of his dishes. While not the first time we’ve heard this hustle, he was not kidding. I am in love with a dish called Lamb Kleftiko and order it frequently when I can find it. I have to say, his was hands down one of the best I’ve had in all of Greece. After a fabulous and filling lunch, we drove through the countryside and stopped at a local winery for some tasting. The grounds were lovely, and we purchased a couple of bottles to enjoy back on the boat. After driving the whole of the island, it was time to get back to the boat for the evening. Getting off the boat for some land based excursions always brings us such great joy (and helps ground us from our sea legs). The island of Zakinthos and the anchorage in Keri has been another of our favorite spots for beautiful swimming and lovely, countryside walks. We could easily see getting “stuck” here for a long time….but, it was time to continue our journey.

Klima Grampsis winery in the interior of the island. Great wines to taste in a beautiful setting.

The next day, we sailed (yes, we actually got to sail!) out of the bay on our way to the island of Cephalonia. Our destination was the town of Spartia. As we rounded the corner to the lee side of Zakinthos, the wind collapsed, and we were back to motoring. Once we passed the tip of Zakinthos island, we were in the open channel between it and Cephalonia. Now, we had blustery wind right on our nose. As we slogged up the channel at a whopping 3.5-4.5 knots under motor, I looked at Dan and said, “why are we doing this? If we divert to the town of Poros, we will be able to sail.” That is all it took. Before long, we were flying along at 8 knots under sail (and a much smoother ride). In the end, we shortened our trip by an hour and half! Unfortunately, when we arrived in the Poros anchorage, our favorite spot was taken! Boo! So we anchored a little further down the coastline and closer to some rock reefs. On the plus side, we spotted a turtle nearby and the swimming was great. On the downside, as evening approached, we were hit by a huge, unexplained swell that seemed intent on hitting us on the side. This went on for hours and well into the middle of the night. We’ve been on rough passages before, but this is the first time that things actually fell and crashed. NOT FUN! Incredibly different from our last stay here. This was a one and done. The next day we were underway again.

Our next stop was the anchorage of Spartia on Cephalonia, 3 hours away. The winds were extremely light, so it was another day of motoring 🙁 We chose the bigger side of the anchorage and chose our spot in front of some beautiful, sandstone cliffs. Once again, we were off on the outer fringes away from the swim areas and tavernas….which usually means fewer neighbors. I’m not anti-social….I’m socially distancing! This was another great spot in our books. We had amazing swimming with lots of rocky reefs to explore. On one of our swim outings, I rousted a ray from his hiding spot and later, a turtle joined us for a bit. It was incredible.

Zoe at anchor in the bay
We love anchoring in bays with these cliffs….
A turtle we came across while snorkeling in the bay. So cute!

After 2 days, it was time to continue our journey north. Our next stop was back to Poros. This time we were able to claim our favorite spot from the first time, tucked up behind a reef. Well, it wasn’t any better this time. By the time the sun went down, we were pitching violently for most of the night 🙁 Needless to say, we headed out the next day. Destination….the island of Kastos….another one of our favorites from last year. It was another blustery day with the wind in the right direction, so we were able to sail again. It wasn’t long, however, before we were reefing (making our sail smaller). The winds really picked up and the seas were getting rough. By the time we arrived in Kastos, our hearts fell. Both of our very favorite anchorages were jammed full of boats. Finding a spot for our big girl was nearly impossible and the winds were howling which added to the challenge. After setting the anchor and both of us feeling incredibly uncomfortable with our proximity to a reef in high winds, we decided to abort. Off to Vlikho Bay we went. We spent a lot of time in this bay last year despite the multitude of jelly fish, so we were really familiar with the holding and availability of space. By the time we arrived and dropped anchor, we had gone 45 miles and been out for 8 hours. We decided to settle in for a few days here and spend some time revisiting the town of Nydri (another place we love) and driving to some of our other favorites around the island (olive oil mill, winery, etc). Once again, our biggest challenge is going to be leaving here 🙂

Heading back to Zoe after dinner ashore.

Castles, Antiquities and a Palace

We have fallen in love with Navarino Bay on the Péloponnèse, as evidenced by our week long stay here! This is our third anchorage within this huge bay, and it’s been great. There are a few other boats here at anchor with us, but everyone has done a great job with keeping a respectable distance from one another. This tends to be a real rarity in Greece for some reason, and many seem to feel the need to anchor nice and close to everyone else. We chose our spot right outside the town of Pilos which is basically the city center of this bay. We really wanted to explore some of the inland sights here which meant renting a car and leaving the boat behind at anchor. Our anchor was dug in nice and deep, so we waited for a somewhat calm wind day and headed to shore.

Zoe’s 3 anchorages in Navarino bay, and our base for exploration of this part of the Greek Peloponnesian peninsula

As mentioned in our previous post, we had spent a day hiking up to Nestor’s Castle. Nestor was the legendary King of Pilos described in Homer’s “Odyssey.” Bet you want to go read it now, don’t you? Having already explored Nestor’s Castle, our first stop today was Nestor’s Palace, at least what was left of it. It is believed that the palace was abandoned after a fire around 1200 BC and later covered over, so it is one of the best preserved sites of a Mycenean palace. This was one of the more interesting archaeological sites that I have seen because they have built a catwalk structure over top of the entire site which allows you to look down on the ruins from above rather than from behind a rope or fence. All the artifacts that had been excavated from the palace had been moved to a museum (our next stop), so what we were looking at was the basic footprint of the palace itself. There was a remarkably preserved bathtub still on site. Not far from the palace was one of several tholos tombs to be discovered. I have explored many tombs in a lot of places around the world, but none were quite like this. The tholos tomb is built as a round, bee-hive type structure with a very high domed ceiling. They were built by the late Bronze Age Mycenean people.

One of the “Tholos Tombs” dating back to antiquity.
Cruising the catwalks that overlook the ruins of Nestor’s Palace.
The massive throne room that dominates the palace.
How the throne room was believed to have looked back in its time.
There was a raised walkway to make touring the ruins easy and with a unique vantage point.
Several thousand year old bath tub with a step leading up into it! The surrounding area contained a variety of jars containing scented oils and herbs for the bathing experience.

Our next stop was the museum where the antiquities from the palace were on display. There were vast amounts of clay pottery, frescoes, tablets with script, weapons, arrowheads, amphorae, and jewelry. The very large jars and amphorae were often filled with wine or olive oil and given to the king as a tax payment. Many of the pieces had been painstakingly put back together like a 3 dimensional jigsaw puzzles. One can only imagine the endless hours that went into sorting through the thousands of pieces to figure out which pieces went where and to which object. It was all very impressive (but then I have always had an incredible fascination with archaeology….a missed calling, I think…..or maybe I was one in a past life! Haha). When we finished with the museum, we decided to head to Nestor’s Winery to do some wine tasting (and of course pick up some of Nestor’s wine). Unfortunately, we got skunked. They were not open to the public the day we arrived. Oh well.

Entrance to the museum just filled with mycaenean antiquities.
Several thousand year old pottery, in many cases painstakingly pieced together from pottery shards
Sightseeing in the age of Covid-19. These large clay jars were typically filled with olive oil or wine and given to the king as a form of tax payment.
Jewelry made of strings of stone beads. On the right, some of the smaller arrowheads made during ancient times.

Since we had the car and a calm wind day (we don’t like to be off the boat at anchor if the wind is going to be really strong or shifty), we decided to really wring the most out of this day and see as much as we possibly could. We headed further down the Péloponnèse Peninsula to the town of Methoni. Originally, we had planned to sail there as part of our circumnavigation of the peninsula. We ended up aborting our plan to circumnavigate this year due to our very late start to the sailing season. The Cyclades (the eastern side of the peninsula) is known for wicked winds called the Meltemi. These winds are the worst in July and August and can blow really hard for many days at a time. We have sailed in them before, and they were NOT fun. Given our shortened season, we decided that we will circumnavigate next season when we can hopefully get back in April. Anyway, our destination in Methoni was another castle. A beautiful Turkish tower graces the entrance to the harbor and is in amazing shape. The grounds were absolutely huge. It is said that this area has been a favored region since ancient times, and it is easy to see why. Homer mentioned that it is was ‘rich in vines’ and under the Venetians it was renowned for its wine and pork. The Venetian castle is on the headland and surrounded by the sea on 3 sides. The castle was built by the Venetians around the 13th century, and the harbor was considered important on trading routes to the Levant and Venice. I had never heard of Levant and therefore had to look it up. Apparently it was a large area in Southwest Asia. Around 1500 the castle was taken by Beyazid II (apparently he was considered infamous, and the inhabitants were massacred. The Turks lost it and then retook it again in 1715. This was by far my favorite castle ruins we have seen so far.

Now this is a moat! Heading into Methoni Castle.
The landward side of castle Methoni
The castle walls were fun to explore! Look ma, no safety rails! At least the walkway was wide, I guess.
The seaward side of the castle. It was strategically positioned to protect the entrance to the Ionian Sea
Elements of Turkish influence
Turkish tower view from the castle
Venetian trade passed here from the eastern Mediterranean on it’s way to Venice

Our final stop on our journey took us back to the town of Pilos, and the castle located on the headland as you enter Navarino Bay. We have read that the castle was built by the Franks and later the Venetians, but it was the Turks who built up the fort sometime after 1498) to the size it currently is. It was recently restored and houses a couple of museums including a museum of underwater archaeology. It also contains a beautiful little church which was once a mosque. Here too, the grounds were massive. We walked along the wall walk of the castle remains and explored the large, inside courtyard where a variety of artifacts were on display. We wandered through both of the museums which contained many more artifacts including a clay jar filled with sand and the skeletal remains of two infants. As with some other posts, I’ve tried to give you a brief introduction to the sites and then let the pictures and captions tell the whole story.

Fighting a serious case of vertigo! Dan: Get closer to the edge. Me: If I could run to the other side without worrying about tripping and falling over the edge, I would!
Beautiful examples of pottery from antiquity.
The Pilos Castle walls guarding the entrance to Navarino Bay…..spectaular views all around.
Safety barriers do not seem to exist anywhere in this country as evidenced by the high wall walk at Pilos Castle….it’s a very long way to the cobblestones below…..yikes!
Gilded funeral headdress for royalty.
Tomb of infants found nearby
Church on the castle grounds with a wonderful view
Interior of the church that had one time been a mosque.

Navarino Bay has definitely been one of our favorite stops on our journey through Greece, and we definitely hope to return here again. A few other highlights of our visit here….Dan and I went for a morning swim (we try to swim a mile a few times a week for fitness). On this particular morning, we were swimming from the boat towards shore when I spotted something below me (no, not a shark!) There on the seabed was a well intact amphora! I was stunned to see this artifact just laying there. Unfortunately we did not have a camera with us since we were only swimming for a workout. Needless to say, I left it untouched where it rested. It was beyond exciting to see though. Once we were back on board, excitement number 2 unfolded. The Coast Guard decided to do their rounds (we had been here almost a week and had never seen them). They came steaming out of the marina and sure enough, they bee-lined straight for us. They did a very slow cruise around our entire boat and then hovered at our stern. I quickly went inside to gather all our paperwork, figuring paperwork and questions would be next. In the end, we all waved at each other, and they went on their way. As I have said before, this is a bit like getting pulled over at home. You know you haven’t done anything wrong, but it makes you uneasy none the less (especially when you are a foreign guest and the rules/laws are often open to interpretation by those enforcing them). We have also noticed the islands tend to be behind in getting the updated changes in rules.

A stealth photo of the Coast Guard approaching us. I didn’t want to get in trouble for blatantly taking his picture as he pulled up behind us….haha.

Sadly, it was time for us to go. We had our weather window to make our way back north. The prevailing winds in this part of the world blow from the Northwest….the exact direction we were headed. Doing an overnight passage was on our list of new experiences this year, so we decided this would be the night. The wind had been pretty strong for several days and the seas were up. Since we would be sailing, or should I say motoring, directly into the oncoming wind, a night passage should be less uncomfortable. Stay tuned for our next post as we make our way back up north and into some new adventures.

Sunset from Navarino point as we head north on our first overnight passage.

Back On The Sea Again!

Captain’s log day 1 (July 1): We have finally cast off lines and set sail. We had to time our departure carefully since the swing bridge between the mainland and the island of Lefkada had been towed away for repair over the winter, and in it’s place was a large drive on/off ferry. This ferry allowed cars to drive through it and would then pivot away to allow boats to cross through the channel. Unlike the swing bridge which opened every hour, the ferry cleared the channel every two hours. We timed our arrival so that we would be in the basin, hovering, until the ferry motored itself in a pivot to allow boats to pass through on one side. It was quite a sight to see and felt like a bit of a squeeze! Luckily we had very little wind and current, so we passed through without any drama. Once we cleared the very long channel, we headed for Two Tree Bay….one of our favorites from the end of the season last year. When we arrived, there were only 2 other boats in this beautiful bay. We were a little disappointed that there was already another catamaran anchored in our favorite part of the bay. Oh well! We dropped anchor and went for a swim. It was good to be back!

Leaving Cleopatra marina behind…finally at Sea! The marina can house 2000 boats….and it looks like they still have 1999 of them after our departure.
The Lefkada swing bridge is being repaired and a ferry boat is being used as a temporary bridge. They swing this beast open every two hours to let boats through and into the canal.

Captain’s log day 2 (July 2): We decided to spend another night in this lovely bay. It wasn’t long before we were questioning our decision. On the horizon, we spotted 7 chartered catamarans heading straight for us! Before we knew it, they had anchored themselves in a large circle behind (and very close to) the catamaran that was in our favorite spot. I found myself feeling very grateful that we hadn’t been able to anchor there. By late afternoon, the bay had 15 boats anchored! Lucky for us, most only stayed a few hours for some swimming and fun. By early evening, only 5 of us remained. We decided it was probably time to start making our way south.

A catamaran regatta joined us for a few hours. Thankfully they left and took their party somewhere else for the night!

Captain’s log day 3-4 (July 3 and 4): Today we got underway earlier than normal since our sail would be about 6 hours….okay, so sail is a bit of a misnomer….we motored since their was not a lick of wind 🙁 This also meant it was blistering hot as well. As a result, we pulled into a small bay on the island of Ithaca to cool off with some swimming and snorkeling. We anchored fairly close to raised, rock reef and headed off to check out the underwater scene. The water was quite crisp and beautifully clear. Before long, we hoisted the anchor and were on our way once again. Destination: The town of Poros on the island of Kefalonia. About 45 minutes outside of our intended anchorage, we noticed a high speed, official looking boat rapidly approaching us. We had no doubt that we were about to be “pulled over.” Sure enough, he pulled up beside us after checking us out for a bit (in the meantime, Dan and I donned our mask….we didn’t know if they would want to board us or not). He finally put down his window and asked us where we were coming from and where we were headed (I’m pretty sure I saw them chuckling that we were wearing masks despite them being 30 feet from us). Anyway, we answered their questions and they told us to have a nice day as they zoomed off. It’s always VERY unsettling to get pulled over and/or boarded by officials even when you know you’ve done nothing wrong. Given that we were American, we were both pretty sure that this will not be the last time we are questioned by officials. Once again, we spent two nights in this lovely anchorage doing a lot of snorkeling in the crystal clear water. On the second day, we took our dinghy and explored the beaches and town. Like everywhere else, it was a virtual ghost town despite being the weekend. The locals have been very kind and gracious to us….even thanking us for coming to Greece. One local woman explained to Dan that they earn their wages for a year during the tourist months of summer. With very few tourists this year (and Americans being locked out), they are very fearful that they will starve this winter 🙁 There are some European tourists around, but we have heard that American tourists spend 40% more than Europeans when they come to visit. Our hearts break for Greece right now.

Undersail and underway!
Hope this large ferry boat understands we have right of way since he was overtaking us!
Beautiful Cephalonia and the beach resort of Poros
Poros Harbor
Dinghy ride back to Zoe from town
Poros town. Normally bustling with tourists but empty in mid july.

Captain’s log day 5-6 (July 5 and 6): We decided to leave even earlier this morning since today’s sail was going to be a long one. The hot, still weather has continued to plague us making sleeping at night almost impossible (at least for me….Dan seems to be able to sleep through anything!) Forecasts were starting to show some potential thunderstorms coming in the next few days, so we would need to keep our eye on that. They weren’t calling for any high winds, but experience has taught us that thunderstorms rarely come without nasty wind. Up to this point, the seas had been as flat as glass, so our plan was to stop at a very famous tourist spot known as Shipwreck Bay. Under normal circumstances, this bay is inundated with tourist boats so we figured this would be the best year for us to get in there and explore it. At the very least, we planned to do a lunch stop there before continuing on but if conditions were as favorable as they had been, we would anchor there overnight. Ahhh best laid plans. It wasn’t long before the seas were all churned up. We had 5-7 foot rollers with short periods which made for a very rough ride. As we motored into the narrow entrance, the views were incredible! Not only was the water the most beautiful blue you can imagine, the surrounding cliffs were a spectacular contrast of white limestone. Sadly, the chop and swell made it so that we only motored a little way into the bay, took some pictures and quickly exited. Neither of us felt like it would be a safe place for us to anchor today….even for just a little bit.

The rugged windward side of Zakinthos
Entering the bay
High cliff walls mean the only access to the beach is by boat
This bay is in all of the Greek tourist brochures and you can see why!

After taking a few quick photos, we continued our way south to the town of Keri on the island of Zakinthos. We anchored in the bay and settled in. It had been close to a 45 mile journey and the first time we had actually been able to sail. By the next day, the thunderstorms had arrived. We had 30 knot winds, thunder, lightning, and rain. I am super grateful that this time the storm arrived at 8:30 a.m. instead of the usual 2:00 a.m. So, we spent the morning working on boat chores (which included working on our generator which had inexplicably stopped working). By the afternoon, the skies were clear so we headed into town for a nice long walk and a visit to the “pitch” lake. It is literally made of pitch (like a heavy liquid asphalt used to seal boats in the old days). This place is also known as Herodotus Springs since he (Herodotus: An ancient Greek historian) wrote about it in the 5th century B.C. We plan to return to this area soon. On our way out of the bay, we spotted 2 sea turtles in a different anchorage (this area is one of the Meds largest loggerheads turtle hatcheries), so I definitely plan to revisit!

Exploring the island on foot
A lake made of tar (some call it pitch)
Robyn trying out the local pitch well.
Passage from Poros to Shipwreck bay and onwards to Keri on the southern part of Zakinthos

Captain’s Log day 7 and 8 (July 7 and 8): Our next stop takes us to the town of Katakolon on the Péloponnèse Peninsula. We pulled up to a wall and got ready to side tie. The wind was blowing pretty strongly which made for quite a challenge tying up the boat. Not only did I have to leap across a two foot gap from boat to wall, but the wall was about 3 1/2-4 feet lower than the deck. Eesh….my poor knees. Then came the fun of tying our 16 ton boat to a bollard against the wind. By the time I got the bow tied, the port police were tying our stern line. Well, that’s not a good sign. Everywhere you go, you have to go find the port police to show your documents. The fact that they came to us as soon as we arrived was a little unnerving. They spent quite a bit of time studying all of our documents and asking us a lot of questions. This is the first time that we felt like someone was uneasy about our presence. They finally told us we were okay, but one of the officers told us we could not stay on the wall more than an hour or so. We decided to head out to the bay and anchor. Another awesome choice as we dug in well and were surrounded by an endless sand beach. It made for some great swims and walks along the beach.

High winds made this docking less than fun…and we got kicked off anyways.
Zoe resting at anchor off of the beach .
Seafood dinner on the beach overlooking Zoe anchored in the background
Passage from Zakinthos to Katakolon

The second day, we took a very small train into the town of Olympia (home to the first Olympic Games back in 776 B.C.) Dan and I boarded the little train with our masks on. We were working really hard to be responsible visitors. The conductor chuckled a little bit and told us we didn’t need them because there is no Covid here. Sheesh….this is the first time I’ve felt a little mask shamed (he was super nice about it). We also chose a spot toward the back of the train car (socially distancing and all), but he told us to move up to the front for the best view. At this point, there was only one other passenger on board. As we made our way to Olympia, other locals boarded at various stops, but the train was far from full. When we arrived at Olympia, the conductor smiled and reminded us that the return train was at 1:10 p.m. Since this was the only running time, it was important that we did not miss it! We headed off on foot to the ruins of Olympia. Along the way, several store owners greeted us in English, welcoming us and thanking us for coming (I felt like we were in a game of telephone….had somebody called ahead and told the villagers the American’s were coming?) Our first stop was the museum….masks required. We masked up, sanitized our hands, and explored the ancient artifacts. Once we left there, we continued our journey to the ruins. Despite being more pieces than actual structures, the grounds were huge. It was not hard to imagine this place in all it’s glory. I will let the pictures do the talking at this point. After our very hot exploration of the grounds, we had a nice lunch and bought a few local treasures. When we boarded the train, we went back to our original seats. The conductor told us no and to move back (his English was very broken, so we didn’t really understand). We moved to the back of the car and he told us no again. He pointed us through the corridor to the back car. At this point we were puzzled….until we entered the back car and realized that this would now be the front car! He told us to go to the same spot as before which was now the raised seats at the front of the train with awesome views. The car was nice and chilly with air conditioning as well. I love this guy! He took good care of us on our journey…..and, we were the only people on the train! What a great adventure.

Train to olympia. This train normally runs 5 times a day shuttling cruise ship visitors from port. We were all alone.
Last stop – Olympia!
It was a bit eerie to have these ruins to ourselves. It’s normally packed in high tourist season.
A walk back in time on the main street of Ancient Olympia
Wandering the museum alone but face masks required
Entrance to the fairgrounds where horse races where held.
One of the better preserved areas
Beautiful mosaic floor
This place must have been pure magic in it’s glory days
Wonderful day trip inland with Zoe safe in the anchorage.
The sounds of cicadas and the solitude of this weird tourist year.

Captain’s log day 9 (July 9): Today we left Katakolon for the town of Kiparissi (also on the Péloponnèse Peninsula). As we pulled into the bay, it was a lot smaller than we expected and really grungy looking. We had decided to side tie to the high wall we had read about and made our approach. Just as I was about to secure our line, a guy in a truck drove up and told us no. He said we needed to tie up across the way. I really wanted this wall despite how dirty and debris laden it was (not to mention the furthest point from town) because I actually would’ve had to step up to get off the boat! Sadly we moved over to the main wall where we basically had to parallel park our boat, in 17 knots of wind, between a very derelict boat and a tug boat. I once again jumped down from the deck and secured our lines (while the 3 guys from the tugboat stood and watched….thanks for the line help guys!) This area wasn’t a whole lot better. There was a lot of debris here as well and bags of trash (and some not so nice graffiti). I felt a little uncomfortable. A Spanish couple warned us that they had been chased from this very same spot by fishermen. At this point, we decided if they wanted to make us move, they would need to get the port police involved. We were NOT moving! I can honestly say this is the first place I’ve been here in Greece where I felt really uncomfortable with regard to people. We had a steady flow of cars, fishing locals, and people just hanging out on the pier. We felt a little bit like we were in a fishbowl. This hangout spot didn’t die down until sometime after 11:30 p.m. This was the first time we didn’t leave the boat wide open all night long. Anyway, nothing weird happened and everyone left us alone (maybe it was the fear of seeing the pariahs from America…haha). We decided this place was a one and done.

Zoe snugged up in front of a working tugboat
Katakolon to Kiparissia as we explore the Peloponnisian peninsula
Baklava heaven at a local bakery

We got up early the next morning and hoofed it to some castle ruins. It was a very long hot walk (especially since we got lost a few times) and all up a steep hill. Did you ever notice they put castles on the highest points? Unfortunately, these were probably the least preserved ruins we have seen. It took more time to get there than it did to see everything. From there we headed down the hill to an old flour mill that had been restored. It was small but cool to see how it functioned. We continued back down the hill, stopped at the market for a few provisions, and trekked back to the boat (5 miles and 3 hours later). We quickly got underway in time for the afternoon winds to kick up. Next stop: The town of Pylos on the Péloponnèse Peninsula. The wind wasn’t particularly strong at the start, but before long, we were actually sailing again! Woo hoo!

Ancient theater and castle keep
Castle overlook of Kiparissia harbor
Strategic view of the bay and the city

Captain’s log day 10 and 11 (July 10 and 11): We arrived in Navarino Bay. As we entered the bay, we were greeted by some spectacular rock formations (complete with awe inspiring caves….man, I want to go explore those caves!) and Pylos Castle. The bay is huge and has many attractive places to anchor, so we chose our spot and settled in for the night. The next morning, our adventure took us up a hilltop to some castle ruins known as Navarino Castle. It was a hot, steep trek along a very overgrown path. There is nothing quite like bushwhacking in shorts and a tank top. I can only imagine what creepy crawlies were hidden in the 4 foot high weeds. Some additional fun were the sticker bushes to the left and sharp thorned thistles to the right! But wait… gets better…..guess what other fun awaited us? Those of you that know me well have probably already figured out what I was about to encounter. Yep…..huge, ginormous spiders hanging across the path…..hundreds of them! Okay….probably more like A 100 of them and by ginormous I mean bodies the size of a dime…..but that is huge by my standards. Dan was kind enough to blaze the trail, so if he could fit under the web, then I certainly could as well. We spent most of our trek dodging these nasty things. However, in my absolute terror of one dropping on me, I ran the trail whenever we encountered the overhead webs. Needless to say, there was a large section of the trail that I spent running. I am sure to an outside observer, I looked like a nut.

We arrived at the castle after 30 minutes of hiking. Unfortunately, it has kind of been retaken by nature. It was definitely in a state of ruin, but the views were astounding (as you will see from the pictures). We wandered all around the grounds (as much as we could given all the overgrowth) and attempted to find the cave of King Nestor of Pylos, known as the wise king and grandson of Poseidon. We were not successful in finding the cave where mythology says Hermès successfully hid 50 cattle stolen from Apollo. I am grateful for my spidey-sense because the deeper into the trail we went, twice I just about walked face first into a huge spider but saw it at the last second….ack!! I even bushwhacked off trail to try and find a way, but no such luck. We explored as much of the ruins as we could (oh, I forgot to mention….the structure has been officially closed because it is considered dangerous). There was nothing barring entrance besides a worn and faded sign warning of the dangers. You are, however, allowed to access the castle from an entrance on the beach since it does not take you through the main entrance with stone overhead….oops. We kept to the pathways, stayed out from under areas that could collapse and stayed well away from the edges where one could easily slide down the cliff to their death if the land gave way. Since you are reading this, we obviously made it out alive. In hindsight, I have learned that I must make Dan give me the background details before exploring. Not only did I learn that the cave can be dangerous to access from where we were (glad we didn’t find it) but that it is also not for people afraid of heights (ummm, yep that’s me too). In addition, there were warnings about snakes….especially the little green ones which were dangerous! It’s probably a good thing that I didn’t know all this ahead of time!

Beautiful hike to the castle on the hill
Through the castle walls falling into ruin
Spiders were everywhere! Almost walked into one of the creepy crawlies several times
Robyn taking a break from spider watch
Castle battlements protecting one of the entries to the bay
This has to be one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. View from the castle
Zoe anchored in the distance off the beach
Very deep bay means we had to anchor quite to close to shore in order to find a suitable depth
Passage from Kiparissia to Navarino Bay

We were anchored very close to shore in a busy beach/camping area part of the bay, so we decided to move to a more remote part of the bay just off the town of Gialova. It is very quiet and peaceful here, we are much further from the shore, and there are a number of highly reviewed tavernas a short dinghy ride away. Our plan is to spend at least the next few days here enjoying the peace and solitude and checking out the little towns surrounding the bay. We also plan to do some inland exploration, so in the interest of a very long post so far, I am going to leave you here. We will be back again soon with some new stories to tell and sights to see! Thanks for sticking with us on our journey through Greece.

The Long Road Back

We arrived in Preveza, Greece in the early afternoon of June 20th.  We spent a couple of hours on the boat dropping off our bags of supplies and taking a look around to determine our next steps (oh, there were many….so many it threatened to overwhelm me!) Every season we bring several large duffles loaded with spare boat parts and various other items we find easier and cheaper to get at home and shuttle out with us.  All of these goodies would need to find a home…..I think we’re going to need a bigger boat 🙁

Having spent 5 hours driving from Athens, we didn’t spend a lot of time working on the boat the first day back.  We basically plotted out how our next week would go in order to be ready for our launch on Friday (it was currently Saturday).  We checked into our favorite little apartment that we had found at the end of the season last year.  It’s located right on the edge of the city center, so it is peaceful and quiet but an easy walk to downtown and all the shops and tavernas.  We were still jet lagged and rundown from our travels, so we got settled in and hit one of our favorite little restaurants down near the waterfront.  Tomorrow would be a big day.

The next few days, we worked from morning until early evening getting Zoe put back together and ready for sailing.  I will spare you the boring details of all that had to be done.  Needless to say, I was near tears several times by the sheer magnitude of the tasks I needed to complete.  On top of that, we went back to our apartment every evening completely exhausted with every inch of our bodies aching.  Keep in mind, our boat deck is 8 feet up in the air which requires climbing a ladder every time you get on and off the boat.  None of the systems are up and running since we are out of the water and there is no air conditioning.  As you can imagine, doing all this work in the heart of summer was a hot, sweaty endeavor.  

Life on a boat comes with it’s own set of unique challenges, and living on a boat for an extended period of time might not be for everyone.  Not only are you living in a tiny space with limited storage, but everyday tasks can be quite challenging.  One task I hate above any other (and yes that includes cleaning bathrooms) is making the bed.  The beds on our boat are slightly odd shaped and one side butts up against the wall.  The other side is open but only about 1/2 way up and then it butts against the wall as well.  It is also about hip height for me.  Are you picturing this?  I’ve heard other women say that you needed to be a gymnast to make a boat bed.  I’ve determined it’s more like wrangling a cow (no, I have never actually wrangled a cow).  Here is how it goes.  I take the mattress pad and fitted sheet and climb up to the top of the bed.  Then I jump on the corner, straddling it, so I can pull the entire corner up off the base and wrestle the mattress cover and sheet over the corner.  Then I have to repeat this on the other side.  Next, I crawl down to the end of the bed and slide down to the floor to make the bottom of the bed.  Every so often, it is at this point I realize that I oriented the sheet the wrong way and have to start over again.  I’m usually spitting nails when this happens.  I try to get everything tucked down nice and tight around all 4 edges (remember the odd shape I mentioned?  Normal sheets don’t fit nicely).  Since I like my sheets military tight, this becomes a quick exercise in frustration as I crawl from one side to the other trying to make everything tight.  Then I get to do it all over again in the guest cabin!  Heaven forbid Dan needs to get under one of the beds to deal with the batteries or water heater, he’s likely to lose a limb after I’ve worked so hard to get a perfectly made bed.  As you can imagine, my perfectionism with bed making drives him crazy.

Hospital corners a drill sergeant would love…
Applying antifoul to our sail drives.

By Tuesday, we had made pretty good progress and hoped that we could get the marina to put us in the water earlier than Friday.  By doing this, we would be able to finish our work while living on the boat (and enjoying the strong breezes that come up every afternoon).  Sadly, they were too busy with other launches, and we would need to wait until Friday.

On Thursday, Dan huffed it over to customs to try and get our transit log back.  Once you’ve paid the cruising tax (a fun adventure in and of itself), you need to go to customs with all your documentation in order to get this log that allows you to sail around Greece if you are a non-EU boat.  When he arrived there with all our paperwork, the lady gave him the riot act for not self-quarantining.  He politely explained that we had followed all the protocols that we were expected to follow at the time of our arrival (and we did in fact stay in a hotel in Athens which was the required 1 day quarantine).  She also told him that we could not get our log back until we had the document from the marina showing that our boat was back in the water.  Hmmm?  Seemed a little ass backwards (the transit log allows you to be in the water), but who were we to argue.  She was very unpleasant in the beginning, but Dan said she seemed to soften up the more they talked (he seems to have that effect on people!)  We were then told that the office is closed due to Covid, so we needed to email all of our paperwork, and they would tell us when to come in to the office.  

Friday arrived and we were super grateful that the boatyard asked if we could launch several hours earlier than our 1:00 appointment.  The winds pick up quite forcefully around 1:00 and there is a nasty current inside the marina.  The thought of launching in the heart of all that, for our first time back on the boat, was less than appealing.  We were launched by 11:00 and sitting in our space in the marina… fuss, no muss.  Yeah!! 

On the tractor and sled and 16 tons (35,000 pounds) of boat tractored to the lifting slings.
Into the slings…
Getting lowered down into the water
In the tank and ready to go!
All moored up and in the water where she belongs!

Dan then sent all of our paperwork to customs, and we waited.  Nothing.  We knew once the weekend rolled in, there would be no contact from them.  We decided it was time for a small road trip.  We drove about an hour into the countryside to a place called Acheron Springs.  If you recall, last year we went to the Acheron River (also known as the River Styx….which is where it is believed that souls were ferried to Hades).  Acheron Springs was the gateway to Hades.  As we wandered up this beautiful slot canyon, thigh deep in ice cold water, we found this bubbling pool in front of a concave rock wall.  This was believed to be the actual gateway to Hades.  We continued trekking up the river (sometimes against some pretty rugged current), frequently passing areas where you could hear the water bubbling deep inside the cliffs.  It was a bit of an eery experience but incredibly beautiful.  I have to say, I truly love the mythical history that surrounds so many areas of Greece.

Acheron Springs. A wonderful slot canyon you can wade through in knee high water to Hades!
It was just gorgeous in here.
Hades Gate, where waters bubble up from the underworld.
Love exploring the wonders of Greek Mythology.
We love these roadside fresh vegetable stands.

Before we knew it….it was Monday.  We still had not heard from customs, so Dan called them.  Needless to say, they had not read the email with all the attachments and told us to call back in few hours later.  We called back later and the first question he asked was why our boat was in the water before we got our transit log.  Are you kidding me???  Dan very politely explained that the agent on Thursday said we could not do our paperwork until we had the paperwork showing our boat was in the water.  Welcome to Greece!  The rules change depending on who you talk to!  The agent then told us to call back tomorrow.  At this point, my very easy going husband was getting quite irritated.  Anyway, we called back the next day….had a few more issues (on their part) and were finally told to come in at 1:00.  It was almost comical when we arrived.  Dan and I masked up when we arrived at the door, and when the agent came to the door he told us to wait outside.  The paperwork exchanges all happened through a cracked door despite all 3 of us being masked up.  We were not allowed inside, and it was evident that he did not want to spend any time answering our questions.  With our transit log in hand, we hustled off to the port police to give them our crew list and get our transit log stamped.  We were finally free to sail!  Unfortunately, early in the day, we ran into a problem with our generator and had to have the mechanic out.  He told us that he would need to come back the next day to finish the work.  Noooooo.  Long story short, he arrived in the morning and got us fixed up.  We were finally on our way!

Preveza customs office during a Covid19 lockdown. They have our boat papers while Zoe was stored on land for winter…no papers, no cruising these waters.
Preveza port police to get some stamps on our documents. and set us free!
Joys of boat ownership. Our generator heat exchanger was salted up and needed an acid dip. Luckily we had professional mechanics right next door.

We hope you will stay tuned.  We are a couple of Americans, on an American flagged boat, in a country that has shut down their borders to all Americans!  What could possibly go wrong?!

Sunset beach walks….life is good.

Traveling Internationally During A Pandemic

We knew it was going to be difficult.

We knew it was going to be stressful.

We knew at any given point on our long itinerary, we could be turned back and told to go home…..but we finally made it back to Greece!

We returned home to Phoenix, Arizona at the end of October last year.  We were happy and excited to reunite with family and friends after being gone for 7 months.  There were many exciting events unfolding like college graduation and the impending arrival of our first grandson.  As is life, the good times also brought about some painful family events that had to be worked through.  And then, Covid hit.  We watched in horror as Northern Italy was decimated by this awful virus….and it spread.  Before long, we were monitoring the daily reports as Covid ripped through New York City.  In Arizona, we were looking pretty good with very few cases.  Well, you know how that story goes.  No one and nowhere was safe from Covid.

Our plan was to return to Zoe at the end of April.  Before we knew it, we were fearful that there would be no return to Zoe at all in 2020.  We did everything in our power to keep ourselves and those we loved safe and healthy.  Before our state locked down, we were already sheltering in place.  When we had to go out, we wore masks and washed frequently.  When the restrictions were lifted, we still stayed home and limited our circle of contact to family.  Then we watched and waited.  As Europe began to emerge from the worst of the pandemic, we began to have hope once again.  We followed the government releases that outlined how and when they would re-open for tourism.  Each time we saw a window of opportunity, it was quickly pushed out to a later date.  We watched as many of our sailing friends made the hard decision to not return to their boats in 2020.  Would we need to do this too?

We made frequent inquiries to both the Croatian and Greek Consulates in an effort to understand whether or not they would let us into their countries.  Ironically, right before Covid took off, Dan received his Croatian passport making him now a dual citizen.  This turned out to be a blessing in disguise (never mind the fact that it took almost 10 years to get it all sorted out).  So Europe finally began to re-open but only to select countries.  Since the US was now in full blown outbreak, we were most definitely not on the list (we still aren’t).  Because Dan was now free to travel to Europe, we had to scramble to ensure we had all the necessary paperwork to allow me to travel with him.  We were excited and nervous all at the same time.  Talk about feeling a barrage of emotions!

7140 miles…three flights….18 hours in the air all with a face mask. Then a five hour drive!
Dual citizenship for Dan to the travel rescue!

So that brings us back to where our story started.  Our date was set, and we were ready to go.  We flew into Dallas a day early in order to see some friends and ensure that we would be able to make our flight to Frankfurt, Germany.  At this point in time,  the airports and airlines were now requiring people to wear masks.  Since Dan and I had already been doing this, we had no problem with this rule (of course enforcement was less than desirable…..if you are going to require it, then you damn well need to enforce it!  Otherwise, what is the point?)  Anyway, we showed up at the check in counter in Dallas nice and early.  It turned out to be a good thing.  We spent a good 20  minutes being grilled on our purpose for travel.  There were many questions, us pulling out a multitude of documents supporting our travel, and lots of phone calls (which I assume were to get overrides to allow us to check in).  Eventually, we were checked in and cleared to head to our gate.  Whew! Hurdle number one complete.

Airport terminal was eerily empty
Luckily we were able to get an upgrade for the long DFW-FRA flight!
Face mask not optional.

As you might expect, our flight was pretty empty (usually summer flights to Europe are absolutely packed to the gills!)  We landed in Frankfurt 9 1/2 hours later with minimal sleep.  Stressor number 2:  Clearing in with Frankfurt immigration.  Once again, we were asked a number of questions which we managed to answer in our sleep deprived state.  We presented all our extra documents allowing us to travel to Greece despite being those “toxic Americans.”  Hurdle number 2 accomplished.  We then headed to our final flight (this one was going to be stand-by….my all time favorite way to fly!  NOT!)  I’m sure you can guess how that went.  We were peppered with questions and used our paperwork to show that we were approved to travel.  You would never know there was a pandemic looking at this flight.  We were squashed in 3 to a row, and the flight was quite full.  I was very uncomfortable with the closeness of this flight, but we were wearing masks 🙂

Our understanding when we left was that when we landed in Athens, we would be given a Covid test and then be required to quarantine in a hotel designated by the officials.  If our test came back negative, we would be free to leave but asked to self quarantine for a week.  If it came back positive, we would be required to quarantine at our expense for 2 weeks.  We knew this expectation ahead of time and were perfectly fine with following the rules.  On the flight, everyone was expected to fill out a “Covid” form.  This form gave all your contact information, the flight you came in on, and where your trip originated.  I noticed that the top of the form did not list the US as a valid place of travel….uh oh.  We filled them out and handed them to the flight attendant.  It wasn’t much later when the flight attendant returned and told us we needed to fill out a different form.  This one had an orange banner at the top and listed the countries that were not openly welcome (yep, that was us!)  Once again, I filled out the forms and handed them in.  I figured this was going to be the big scarlet letter that marked us for quarantining.  3 1/2 hours later, we landed in Athens.  It had been an incredibly long and sleepless journey, all while wearing a mask (I think my mask now smelled like bad breath).

Contact tracing form in case the authorities need to get a hold of us
Finally made it to Athens!!!

Well, wouldn’t you know…..we landed, collected our bags, and went to get our rental car (I won’t mention that this took almost another hour and a half!)  No one stopped us, no one questioned us…..nothing.  Crazy.  It wasn’t too long after this process that I received a text letting me know that I might be randomly chosen for a Covid screening….hmmmm….a little late, I think.  Dan never got the same message despite the fact that we came from the same place.  We booked a hotel about a half hour outside of the airport and headed there for some much needed sleep.  Since Zoe was a 5 hour drive from Athens, we decided to get some sleep and then finish our journey in the morning.

We arrived at our hotel which turned out to be some very hipster, new age place.  What does that mean, you might be asking!  Everything was very geometrically interesting from a high walled, swirly pool to color coded floors.  Oh, and they didn’t use room numbers!  Each room had a shape and your floor was tied to your color.  Needless to say, this was a whole lot of fun after 2 days of no sleep!  Dan is a pretty level headed and calm guy, but trying to match the symbol on the key card with the symbol on the door and the color code of the floor just about pushed him over the edge.  I can honestly say, I have not seen him get so verbally aggravated as I did watching him trying to find our room (sorry, my eyes are tearing up with laughter as I recall the experience!)  We did finally find the room which was a visual nightmare in it’s own right.  I guess if you are young and hip, it would be considered pretty cool, but the assault of color coordinations was abominable…..pinks, greens, and yellows….all in acrylic with twists and turns.  It was bizarre!

This was a hotel from Willy Wonka
Why rooms and floors did not have numbers was very confusing to me. Go to the orange floor and look for the symbol. Well guess what they all had symbols….
Color scheme was very tacky! This was supposed to be trendy. Maybe we’re getting old
Floor mounted “do not disturb”….who looks at their feet before knocking?.
Very european bathroom…barely enough room to turn around. And again with the colors! My poor eyes…

As you might imagine, jet lag was still plaguing us, and we were awake at a ridiculous hour of the morning.  We decided to just get started and make our way back to Zoe (of course we were super excited to see our boat once again).  Despite being a long drive, it took us through some beautiful countryside as well as the Corinth Canal.  This provided us a unique opportunity to see it from above knowing that in a matter of weeks, we would be sailing through that very narrow channel.  Eventually, we made it back to Cleopatra Marina in Preveza, Greece.  On the outside, our boat looked beautiful!  The marina had polished our hulls, cleaning up all the scuffs, scrapes, and sun damage.  She looked amazing.  The inside was another story 🙁 I had a great deal of work ahead of me.  When you put a boat up for the winter, you completely dismantle your living environment.  I would now have to put it all back together.  All of this did not matter…..we were home!

Corinth Canal…we crossed it on our way to Preveza Greece. We will hopefully be taking Zoe back through here later this season.
Amazing engineering feat to dig this canal out of sheer rock in the 19th century

Stay tuned:  Taking Zoe from her winter storage to being ready to sail!

Reunited with Zoe!!!!

Spoiler alert!  For the first time ever, we hope to bring you some video blogs to share our experience.  As always, we appreciate you following us and would love your feedback so that we can improve our blog.

Overland exploration of Death Valley

While Zoe sleeps for the long, cold winter in the Med, we are here in the States. After a number of family events and holiday gatherings, we decided we were much overdue for an adventure. Next stop….head out and explore Death Valley by Jeep and Turtleback trailer.   This combo is perfect for the rugged 4×4 trails that the largest National Park in the lower 48 states is known for.  It’s a great park to explore in a 4 x 4 vehicle because of the dramatic changes in scenery within the park. The landscape goes from the mountain peaks towering up over 10,000 feet to the lowest point in North America, Badwater basin at 282 feet below sea level.

We enjoyed the trip, but we were quite surprised to find ourselves camping in the 20’s (-4 C) at night.  One morning we woke up to a frost covered tent…..INSIDE! Unfortunately, the high mountain passes were snowed in and icy.  We ended up aborting Dan’s goal of driving Lippincott pass to Saline Valley after talking to the rangers at the visitor center.  They said it was very icy at the pass and to drive it alone, like we were planning on doing, was extremely ill-advised.  Good to know 🙂   We ended up skipping the pass to Saline Valley in the hopes of returning one Spring to try again. So much for the “hottest place on earth”.

This coyote is a long, long way from any water. What a treat to come across him randomly in the wilds of Badwater
You can see why this stretch of Death Valley is called Artist’s Palette. What amazing colors…
The transformer toy of trailer campers about to expand out into a base camp with a week’s worth of fresh water, hot water heater, solar power, shower, propane heater, bathroom, kitchen and queen size bed
Titus Canyon Jeep trail
Through Titus Canyon
Inyo Ghost mine, high in the mountains in Death Valley
Inyo mine entrance. This mine must have been built by dwarves for dwarves. It was about five feet tall in there.
The mine was bored straight into the mountain
Inyo Mine abandoned cabin
Inyo Mine processing equipment
At the top of Inyo mine. Great Death Valley views.
Descent from Inyo mine…it was pretty steep!
Echo Canyon Jeep trail
Exploring Twenty Mule team canyon
Twenty mue team canyon
Shadow boxing in the canyon 🙂
Zabriskie Point
Headed to next campsite at Racetrack Playa
Teakettle Junction
Mysterious sliding rocks of Racetrack Playa. They leave a path dozens of feet long in their wake as they slide across the flats of the Playa.
We were treated to an impromptu airshow of F-18s engaged in low altitude simulated dog fighting (like something out of Top Gun). When it was finished, they topped up from a KC-135 tanker and left. Fun to watch!

Winter is coming…

Well, as the saying goes, better late than never.  I’ve definitely drug my feet in completing our final post of the sailing season.  I guess you could say I am in mourning 🙂  So, here is the rest of the story…..

As the close of our season was rapidly coming to an end, we decided to make our way to the town of Preveza.  The thunderstorms had  gone away, and we were left with sunny skies and moderate breezes.  We had been watching the weather and our remaining days very closely after finding out that the swing bridge between the island of Lefkada and mainland Greece had broken.  This is a car bridge from the island to the mainland that opens once on the hour to allow boats to pass through.  When it broke down, it would no longer swing away which meant the only boats that would be able to pass through the channel had to have a beam (the width at the farthest part of your boat) no more than 5 meters.  Zoe is 7.25 meters wide!  We would not be able to fit.  If the bridge did not get repaired in a timely manner, we would be forced to sail all the way around the island, adding significant time to our journey (an hour and a half trip would turn into an 8-9 hour trip).  We had a slot booked at the Marina to have Zoe hauled out on Wednesday the 16th of October.  We anxiously watched the bridge from our berth in the marina.  You can imagine our excitement when we saw a couple of catamarans head up the channel, and the bridge fully opened.  Woo hoo!  We decided it was best not to wait until haul out time in case the bridge broke again.  We scrambled to get underway and make the next bridge opening.  At this point, we would have about a week to cruise around if the weather permitted.  

Last sunset in Lefkas Marina before heading north.
Lots of boat traffic in the Lefkas canal headed to the bridge opening
The canal has a swing bridge that opens once an hour to let boats pass through, saving a long trip around the island to head north from Lefkas

We headed out of the marina and up channel to get in the line up of boats waiting for the bridge to be opened.  Once it cleared, we all zoomed through the gap out into the open sea.  It would be about an hour and a half to motor to Preveza.  The forecasts were still all over the map, so we opted to head to a brand new marina in Preveza and spend some time digging deeper into this town since this was the area where Zoe would be wintering, and where we will prepare her for re-launching next spring.  Anyway, we had tried to book with Preveza Marina before the last big storm, but they had been full.  This time, they were able to accommodate us.  Once we arrived, the marinero directed us to our spot and helped us to tie up.  We were in an awesome spot close to all the marina facilities and an easy walk to the town center.  It was a beautiful marina and definitely one of our favorites.  

Preveza Town
Enjoying the cobblestoned alleys of Preveza town

We spent the next few days getting to know our new stomping ground, eventually riding our bikes to the ruins of a castle nearby.  As we rode down into the center “courtyard” of the ruins, we were quickly enveloped by a very creepy feeling.  Surrounding us on all sides were high stone walls with rotting rooms behind them.  As you walked by the dark, gaping openings, the roosting pigeons made their unhappiness very clear.  If you’ve ever seen the movie “The Birds,” this would be a scene out of that.  The unease was further magnified by the graffiti and evidence of human misbehavior within the hidden sanctuaries of the castle.  As we continued our exploration, we found our way up a decrepit, stone staircase that led up to the ramparts and an amazing view of the Ionian Sea.  Despite the overcast skies, you could still see the varying hues of blue, green, and black across the water.  Unlike sites you see in America (and even other parts of the world) which are fenced off for safety, the ramparts had an abrupt edge where one misstep would send you plummeting to the rocks or sea below… fence, no barrier, nothing…..just crumbling rock being retaken by nature.  By this point, I had gotten a little bit braver and ventured into some of the abandoned halls…..yep, still super creepy.  They were very, very dark, and I had no interest in encountering whatever might be hiding or lurking in there.  After Dan managed to flush out a barrage of pigeons, we decided it was time to go.

Our bikes in the ancient castle courtyard.
Enjoying a quiet day of exploration in the ruins
Strategic view south to Lefkas from the castle

At this point, we had paid for 3 days in this awesome marina, but decided that we could really have a lot of fun here.  There were beautiful beaches not far away and great places to ride our bikes.  We had just come to the decision that we would stay put in this lovely marina when Dan received an email telling us there was an issue with the large travel lift that would lift Zoe out of the water.  They told us that they needed to move our winter haul out from Wednesday of the following week to Sunday!  Are you kidding me???  We had less than 2 days to play around in the heart of Preveza before Zoe would be out of the water and stored on land.  Then comes the real fun….prepping her to be shutdown for the next 5-6 months 🙁

Zoe lifted out of the water and headed to her winter storage home.
Zoe getting settled into “catamaran row”
Three diesels onboard Zoe, and each one needs annual maintenance before winter shutdown. Dan is working on our generator in this picture
We stripped the topsides of all canvas, sails and rigging for storage out of the elements
Some new cruising friends we met at the marina. Great Greek dinner and conversation had by all!
Looking back on Zoe as we are about to close the door for 5 months of storage.

Unfortunately, we had already purchased our tickets to fly out of Preveza which meant we could not head home earlier despite the boat being put away for winter.  We decided we’d take our time getting her shut down and head inland by car for a bit of exploration off the water.  We rented a car and headed to Meteora which is a rock formation consisting of one of the largest and most steeply built complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries. The six monasteries are built on immense natural pillars and hill-like rounded boulders that dominate the local area.   The sight of these very old monasteries perched high in the sky are absolutely breathtaking.  We arrived in the town of Kalabaka, at the base of these towering rocks.  Dan found us a great little AirBnb that looked out at the cliff face.  We wandered the town that evening taking in the beauty and getting the scoop on where to go and the best things to see.

View from the Airbnb in Kalabaka
Dinner under the rocks of Meteora

The following day, we drove up into rocky formations to take a closer look at these famous monasteries.  Given the somewhat extreme locations of these monasteries, each had it’s own set of unique challenges for accessing them.  Only one of the six had an easy entrance where you just walked straight in over the roadway.  The remaining 5 required an incredible amount of stair climbing to reach the entrance (and of course lots more steps once you got inside).  This day definitely provided a strenuous workout, but you could not beat the views.  Check out the pictures, and you’ll see what I mean.

One of the several monasteries perched precariously on a rock spire
Breathtaking views
Cable car to get supplies to the monastery
Robyn enjoying the views
Beautiful Meteora
Meteora views. Just amazing
Walking the exquisite grounds
Grand Meteoron Monastery
Monk’s kitchen
Looking for wine in all of the wrong places

We spent a great 3 days driving through the inner parts of Greece before heading back to the boat to finalize her shut down.  Once complete, we said a very sad farewell to Zoe.  It was time to head home.  We had a 3 hour flight from Preveza, Greece to London where we spent our 15th wedding anniversary.  The next day was an 11 hour flight to from London to Phoenix.   There you have it.  We had another wonderful cruising season in the Med. and met so many great people.  While we are happy to be home with family and friends, we are also very excited for the adventures ahead in our next cruising season.  We wanted to thank all of you who have followed along on our journey.  As I’ve mentioned before, our purpose of our blog is to document our travel adventures.  We may go quiet for a period of time until we get our winter adventures figured out.  We hope you’ll stick around to see what kind of trouble we can get into in the near future.

Courtesy flags of five countries we sailed to this season – From left – Italy, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania and Greece. As a visiting US flagged yacht, it’s required to fly these when in that country’s waters.