After a couple of lovely nights in one of our favorite marinas (Preveza Marina), we headed to the swing bridge in Lefkada to while away the rest of our season in the southern parts of the Ionian. Our first stop was Ormos Varko where we met some new American friends that Dan had been talking to in online sailing groups for close to a year. We joined Steve and Emily on their boat for happy hour and had a great time getting to know them. We spent several days anchored in the bay. It’s usually one of our favorite swimming spots, but unfortunately the outside temperatures had finally started to cool off making swimming not an overly appealing idea.
Our next stop was Vlicho Bay, a favorite hidey hole for storms. However, you might remember that we got hammered in this bay last year by strong winds and ended up losing our dinghy to a puncture wound. We opted to anchor here for a few days in order to explore the town of Nidri (another one of my favorites) and pick up a new guest. Dan’s friend and colleague from his civilian Navy days happened to be in Italy, so he flew over to Preveza to join us for some time on Zoe. We decided to rent a car and go pick him up at the airport so we could take him to some of our favorite spots (the olive oil museum, the Lefkada winery, and the town of Vassiliki). Before heading back to the boat, we stopped at our favorite spot (Tom’s Sea Side Restaurant) for lamb kleftiko on the beach at the water’s edge. Yum!
The next day, the 3 of us were under way to the island of Kastos. Mark enjoyed a swim in the beautiful bay that we had all to ourselves. Afterwards, we headed around the point to town and hoofed it up the hill to the windmill bar for some cocktails and a sunset view over the sea (and Zoe, of course). Since we wanted to show Mark as much as we could in the short time he was visiting, we headed out the next day to an anchorage we had never been to called Mytikas. Once we had Zoe securely anchored, we headed into town for a walk and some exploration. We wandered through the streets of this quaint little village before eventually stopping at a seaside taverna for an ice cold beer.
We had been enjoying a run of really nice days, so wouldn’t you know, it was time for some nasty weather to come through. We decided to try the ne in Lefkada to ride out the weather. At first, the owner of the pontoons tried to shoe us away. Then, for some reason, he had a change of heart. He and his helpers escorted us to a spot and told us to tie up side to. Nobody was tied like this, so we felt a little awkward (especially as boats came in looking for space, and we were piggishly taking up 40 feet/12 meters of dock). We wanted to hang a huge sign that said that we were told to tie this way! The guy had wanted us this way because in the last big storm that came through, his charter boats and the dock all dragged because of the windage on the sides of the catamarans. This way, our bow and stern were in the direction of the wind.
We showed Mark around Lefkada and that evening headed into town for Dan’s birthday dinner. While talking with the owner of the restaurant, she told us that the weather system coming through was forecasted to be really bad and included tornado warnings. Tornado warnings?!? You have got to be kidding me! I am glad we are not at anchor, but now I don’t want to be on a boat period! Not even a half hour later, everyone’s phone went off with that severe weather alert…..talk about scary. Well, it did get very windy, and there were thunderstorms…..but no tornadoes (whew)! The next day, we discovered that Steve and Emily were docked on a different pontoon down the way from us, so we invited them for happy hour on our boat. We had an awesome night of stories and laughter (and way too much wine…but hey, we are safely docked so that’s ok). Unfortunately, Mark would be leaving us soon, so we decided to stay on the pontoon since this was the closest point to the airport while staying south of the swing bridge.
We left Lefkada the day after Mark disembarked, and made our way to the island of Ithaca. Our time was rapidly winding down, so this was as far south as we would go this year. Unfortunately, another round of strong wind was headed our way, and we would not be protected in this particular bay. As a matter of fact, both the islands of Ithaca and Cephalonia were going to get blasted by this system. So, guess where we went? Yep, back to Vlicho. The wind came as predicted….gusting to 30 knots, but Zoe’s anchor held like a champ. Needless to say, it was a sleepless night between the howling wind and making sure Zoe stayed put. In the end, we spent 6 days here growing barnacles….but we had lots of fun. We spent hours walking, went to a Greek night at a taverna with dancing and plate throwing, and found a new favorite place for lamb kleftiko.
We were now a week away from hauling Zoe out of the water. We wanted to be somewhat close, so we headed back through the swing bridge and into the inland sea. We anchored outside of a seaside village called Vonitsa. We walked the town and then headed up the hill to the remains of a castle. It had great views and was fun to explore. At one point, we came upon a turtle on it’s back frantically paddling his legs in an attempt to flip over….not happening. Dan graciously gave the guy a helping hand and put him right side up.
We spent two nights in Vonitsa and decided it was time to move on. We headed back north to a series of little islands (more like rock formations jutting out of the water). There was no one anchored here. This was not surprising since the depth was only 1.5 – 2 meters….we draw 1.3 meters, a little unsettling to say the least. We got ourselves settled in and were treated to sea turtles and dolphins cruising by. That evening, we decided to do a BBQ on the beach. What a great way to end the season. The swell came in during the wee hours of the morning sending us bouncing all around. This made both of us a little nervous because we were anchored so shallow (we were worried that our rudders might ground out if the swell got any bigger). We pulled up anchor and headed for Preveza Marina. We spent 3 days here beginning the process of shutting Zoe down. A week of rain was in the forecast, so it was important to get the sails down so they could be stored dry.
Haul out day had arrived, and with it, pouring rain! Every single year we’ve hauled out, we’ve been plagued with pouring rain. This year was no different. Luckily, it came without wind. Last year, the wind was so fierce the marineros had to assist with their high powered dinghy to drag us off the dock. So, Zoe is now on land, and we are hard at work getting everything stripped, cleaned and put away until we return next season. We have come to the decision that we are ready to leave Greece behind and explore new horizons. Our plan next season is to do a deep exploration of Italy, Sicily and Malta. They say boats and plans are written in sand….haha, but that is our goal for next season. Stay tuned next season for some new sights and adventures (finally)! As always, we will be back in the off season to share some new land adventures. Thanks for following along with us!
As planned, we departed Licata and headed for Marina Ragusa. We don’t typically spend a lot of time in marinas, but we were very curious about this marina. We have seen a lot of debate on our sailing forums discussing whether the marina in Licata or the marina in Ragusa is better for living on the boat during the winter months. Sicily is the warmest spot in winter in Europe. We wanted to do our due diligence and visit them both to decide for ourselves (who knows, we might want to spend a winter out here). They were both very nice marinas, but Ragusa was our favorite. The marina sits on the edge of a very touristy beach town which meant we had miles of a lungomare (seafront boardwalk) that we could walk. This was lined with lots of restaurants and bars along with beach chairs and umbrellas. Definitely a beautiful and vibrant seaside town. We decided to rent a car and head to the actual town of Ragusa to check it out.
The town of Ragusa sits high up on a hill and is famous for it’s Baroque style of architecture (it is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site). Adorning the city is the Duomo di San Giorgio, a number of beautiful churches, and a large public park with a church, fountains and statues. The city is flanked on either side by two deep valleys which offer amazing views. I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
After thoroughly exploring the town of Ragusa, we headed to our next stop, the town of Modica (also a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Unlike our last stop, Modica rests at the bottom of a deep gorge. Just like Ragusa, Modica is known for it’s Baroque architecture as well. One of the most beautiful examples of this was the Cathedral of St. George. Modica is known for a 400 year old tradition of chocolate making, and the streets are lined with chocolate shops and tasting rooms. There is even a chocolate museum. Of course, we had to check out the museum! In the museum, it explains all about the chocolate making process, but the really interesting part is all the artwork and sculptures are made of…..you guessed it, chocolate! Since Sicily was once part of the Spanish kingdom, they were one of the first places in all of Europe to receive treasures brought back from South America (namely, Cacao). Their chocolate recipe, methods and flavorings are based on the Aztecs method of chocolate making. We wandered into one store and were overwhelmed by the number of flavors of chocolate you could buy. They had flavors of various alcohols and liqueurs, various kinds of herbs and spices, fruits, and more! It is a very different kind of chocolate in that it is mainly made with cocoa and sugar and mixed in a cold-working process. They add no fats. It contains only the cocoa butter that is naturally found in the cocoa beans. By using this cold process, the sugar crystals are kept whole which does give it a rather grainy kind of texture. So, Dan and I had a little bit of fun picking out a variety of flavors (did I mention there were 100’s to choose from).
We left Modica for our final stop in the town of Scicli. This was a lesser known town than the two we previously visited and also sits in a gorge. The town is overlooked by a towering rock where the Church of San Matteo sits. This town is also made up of Baroque style architecture. Unfortunately, we had reached mid afternoon and the temperatures were soaring. Plus after walking miles and miles, we were hot and tired. We wandered around a little bit, and then headed off to a little restaurant built into the stone hill where we enjoyed an authentic Sicilian appetizer and a glass of Prosecco. All in all, it was a very fun day! I am in love with this part of Sicily.
This was the end of our exploration of the south side of Sicily. There really wasn’t much else to see (by sea, anyway) on the southern side. It was time to start making our way back around toward mainland Italy. Our next destination was the town of Syracusa. Since it was a very long passage, we broke up the journey with an overnight anchorage along the way. We also felt a very strong need to scrub the hulls of Zoe. After sitting in the Licata Marina for 2 months, Zoe had grown a disgusting beard of algae, plant life and barnacles…..ewwww! Not to mention all this growth was slowing down our speed through the water. Let me tell you, scrubbing that crap off was hard and gross. The crystal clear water became clouded with debris, but Zoe looked a lot better.
The next day we pulled into the anchorage outside of Siracusa. We had a crackin’ good sail almost the whole way down. Unfortunately, it was blowing 25 knots in the anchorage when we pulled in. This made anchoring extremely challenging. It sets the anchor really fast, but trying to get the 5 meter bridle onto the chain and dropped before the anchor chain ripped our bowsprit off was not fun! It required Dan to motor full throttle forward just to hold us in place. With that done, we sat down and rode out the blow in very choppy water. Not fun. We made arrangements the next day to come into the marina. It was suppose to be blowy again, and it’s a long dinghy ride to get to the town if you are out at anchor. Given the waves and chop in the anchorage, there was no way we were going to dinghy to town. We had friends from Canada meeting us here. They had come sailing with us in Croatia last year, and they had picked up their new catamaran in April in France. Our paths finally crossed here in Sicily.
The next morning, we pulled into the marina and were somewhat disappointed to see that they were going to park us on the outside of the pontoon. At the time, there were 2 other boats here as well. The marinero helped us secure the boat all the while assuring us that it was perfectly fine. We ended up with 4 lines from the seabed to our bow (usually only two….that probably should have been alarm bell number 1). We then had 2 stern lines and 2 mid ship spring lines. If that sounds like a lot of lines, it is! We must’ve looked a little uneasy because he kept assuring us that everything was good, and the wind would be gone by 7 p.m. I’m sure you see where this is going. The winds came up fast and furious as the waves crashed into and over the dock. The anchorage would’ve been safer, but at this point we could not even get off of our boat to cast our lines and go. We were stuck riding out the most wicked wind and seas while tied to a dock. It was miserable, and we became the photo op for every boat safely tucked inside the marina. Did I forget to mention the two boats that were on the dock had left a long time ago? We were suppose to meet our friends for dinner at 8:30, but it was impossible to safely get off our boat because the wind did NOT die down at 7:00. As a matter of fact, we were not able to safely get off our boat until 9:30! So, we met up with our friends and enjoyed a wonderful dinner in the beautiful town of Syracusa. I think the marina felt sorry for us, so the next day they moved us to a very nice spot INSIDE the marina. Here we spent 2 glorious days safely tied up and free to come and go off of Zoe.
Syracusa is definitely one of my favorite spots on the eastern side of Sicily (Taormina being also a favorite). Not far from the town itself is an amazing archaeological park of both Greek and Roman ruins. It was about a 25 minute walk to the park where we explored miles of incredible sites. I will let the pictures do the talking for this bit.
Thanks to some new American friends we made in Albania, we learned about a local street market in town. We LOVED this market. Not only was there an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, but we found fresh fish mongers, cheese makers, sausage makers, a variety of local products, and huge stands of herbs, seasonings, olives, and sun-dried tomato spreads. We loaded up on lots of goodies and returned again 2 days later to load up some more! As most cities in Italy, Syracusa has a beautiful Duomo in the center of the city. We loved wandering the cobbled streets of this beautiful city. We also enjoyed a couple of nice dinners in town with our Canadian friends as well as a really fun night aboard their boat with snacks and wine…..lots and lots of amazing French wine.
After returning from the street market Monday morning, it was time to get underway. The weather was starting to take a turn for worse around mainland Italy and across the Adriatic (our route back to Greece). We said farewell to our friends and began our overnight journey from Sicily to Crotone. We were very much looking forward to seeing our Italian friends again and spending some time in Crotone. Along the journey, I spotted several young sea turtles (I say young because they were not very big) and some dolphins on the hunt. That always makes these long passages more fun. After 28 hours of beating into the wind and waves, we decided to drop anchor for the night and get some rest. We were still about 3 hours from Crotone, and we would’ve had to try and anchor in the dark.
That night, we reviewed several forecasts and discovered that the weather had worsened and wasn’t forecasted to change for a week. Since that is as far out as they forecast, it could’ve continued for longer. We were forced to make the painful decision that the next day was our best window of opportunity to get across the sea and back into Greece. This meant no visit to Crotone or Otranto which were high on our list of “must see again!” One minor problem…..we were required to turn in our Constituto upon leaving the country (this is a document that tracks where we have been in Italy). Closest port authority to turn in said document….Crotone….3 hours out of our way. We agonized over the idea of just leaving and not turning it In, but the fear of being banned from coming back to Italy or receiving a hefty fine weighed heavily on our mind. So much for a good night’s sleep.
The next morning, we got up at 5:00 a.m. to do the right thing. We got to Crotone, anchored outside the harbor, and Dan went in to return our Constituto and pick up some Sardella and fresh fish. We were back on our way at 10:00 a.m. This leg of the journey would take us from Crotone, Italy to Preveza, Greece (a 30 hour passage)! The seas were calm (yeah!) but that meant so were the winds (boo), so we had no sailing….all motoring….hello big diesel bill 🙁 Dan and I followed our typical pattern of 4.5 hours on and 4.5 hours off. In my attempt to get better at not getting stuck with most of the night shifts, I managed to land myself the 11:00 to 3:30 a.m. shift. Unfortunately, the moon rise was really late on this day, so my shift was in pitch black. I hate pitch black! I could not see the horizon….could not see where the sea ended and the sky began….ugh. However, the stars were beautiful, and I did get to see a shooting star. I also got to see the moon rise which was spectacular! At 2/3 full and bright orange, I watched as it arose from the depths of the dark sea to cast a beautiful glow across the water to Zoe. Ahhh, much happier now. Well, sort of. I’m not sure if it was lack of sleep or not enough water (or both), but I ended up with a wicked bout of vertigo which lasted for 2 days. At one point, I thought one of the hulls must be taking on water because the boat was tipping to one side. Turns out, it was not the boat….it was me. Yikes. I suffered through my watch and was very grateful when Dan relieved me. Not to mention, the sweet man let me sleep a couple of hours past his shift in the hopes I would feel better. I did not 🙁
At 5:30 p.m., we arrived in Preveza, Greece. We are safely sitting at anchor and will head into the marina tomorrow to ride out some wicked weather due to start Saturday night and make for an all day, nasty Sunday. It feels good to be home, but I do miss Italy a lot!
It’s hard to believe that it has been over 7 months since we left Zoe behind in Greece. Despite being away for so long, those months did not go by quietly or uneventfully (would you have expected anything less?! Haha). Here is a quick recap of our off season. After spending a month and a half back in Phoenix, we headed to Maui for the months of December and January. Although it was extremely hard being away from family for the holidays, it was a good plan since we no longer had a house to return to in Phoenix (we sold it last April to build new). In February, we celebrated the marriage of my beautiful daughter Shawn to Mark. In March, we celebrated our grandson’s 2nd birthday on a wonderful, full family camping trip (family on both sides of the family were there). In the late hours of the last night, our kids burst into our tent to share the news that my son Ryan had proposed to Samantha (parents of our grandson). It truly was an exciting and eventful weekend! In April, Dan and I decided to do a 5 week trip to Australia (which had just opened up to tourists after 2 years of Covid lockdown). You can read about that amazing adventure in a previous blog post. When May arrived, we celebrated Dan’s son Jacob’s graduation from Northern Arizona University (woo hoo….all kids are through college)! We also had the pleasure of celebrating my beautiful niece Carolyn’s graduation, and her wedding to Nathan. This was a spectacular Romanian wedding, and like nothing we have ever experienced. It also gave us the opportunity to see friends and family that we haven’t seen in many years. And a final shout out to my son Richard (hired as a Delta pilot) and nephew Jason (hired as an Envoy/American pilot). Eventful, right???
On May 24th, we made it back to Zoe! We were thrilled to be back but dreading the amount of work that lay ahead of us. We weren’t scheduled to launch for a week, so we had plenty of time to get everything done but living on the hard is not a lot of fun (much more challenging than living in the water). We have definitely become more proficient at getting the boat in order as it only took us a few days to get her put back together and livable. One of our favorite tasks is a visit to this very large and colorful roadside farmer’s market. Here we loaded up with tons of delicious, locally grown vegetables and homemade products. We also made a trip to the hardware store for a few items including a fly swatter. I asked the clerk, but he had no clue what I was talking about. So, I put my fingers together, made a buzzing sound while fluttering my fingers and then took my other hand and went “WAP”! He busted up laughing but now understood what I was looking for! It’s always an adventure shopping in foreign places, and we always get a kick out trying to figure it all out and communicate effectively.
Unfortunately, despite having our boat for over 7 months, the yard did not do any of our service work until the day before and the day of launch. Of course, everyone showed up at the same time and chaos ensued! In the end, Zoe looked beautiful and went back into the water without a hitch. We spent two nights side tied to the marina quay trying to get our insurance sorted out. Apparently, Greece was now requiring a large liability policy in addition to our normal insurance, so Dan was sent scrambling trying to find coverage before we set sail (get caught without it and big fines are involved). We did end up finding coverage out of the UK. Unfortunately, they were closing for a 4 day weekend to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee, so we were stuck for at least another week.
Our second night on the dock, we were startled awake at 4:00 a.m. by this loud thumping on the boat. My immediate thought was that someone had climbed onto our boat. Dan got up and looked around, but there was no one. As we lay in bed, the sound got more intense. Dan said, “it’s probably just a fish slapping the hull”. In my head I said, “that’s gotta be a pretty big ass fish”! The sound continued to get louder and more frenetic, so we both jumped up and went out on deck. The sea was boiling with these 6 inch fish going absolutely crazy. They were leaping out of the water and on to the dock where they were flopping around helplessly. Dan jumped down off the boat and started flipping them back into the water. It was the craziest thing we’ve ever seen. We found out from the marinero the next morning that they were being hunted by some very large amberjack. They basically herd them creating this disorganized chaos. Apparently some of the seagulls got in on the action, plucking fish off the dock. What a crazy night!
After a week on the hard, 2 nights on the marina wall, and one night on anchor in the bay next to the marina, we decided to just take our chances with the insurance. Worst case, we had the emails showing that we would have the coverage just not the official paperwork until the Tuesday after the Queen’s Jubilee. So, we set sail for one of our favorite bays to while away a few days. We timed our arrival in Two Rock Bay for Friday knowing that charter boats (which usually swarm here) would need to be back to base, and the bay should be pretty wide open. It was, and we landed a gorgeous spot near the cliffs in pristine sand. We were quickly greeted by my little fish friends who love to hang out around the boat waiting for handouts. We also had our first swim of the season. It was a little chilly but well worth it.
After several days in the bay, it was time to get moving again (and no, still no insurance paperwork yet). We headed to another of our favorite bays, Petriti on the island of Corfu. This turned out to be a very good decision since it wasn’t more than a few days before the mother of all storms blew through (at least from our personal experiences). By the time the forecasts showed the magnitude, and the news stations actually gave the storm a name, it was too late for us to duck into a marina. Greece does not have a lot of marinas to begin with, and one of our two options is a charter base making it impossible to get a spot on Fridays since the charter boats are due back. This meant riding it out on the water and trusting our anchor (and my anchoring skills….which have come a long way, by the way!). Not to toot my own horn, but I have become eagle-eyed at picking out the sand spots and highly adept at landing the anchor and setting it in a small sand spot surrounded by weed and/or rock (weed and rock are not your friend when anchoring). Okay, I guess I tooted. Never mind I’ve probably pissed off the sea gods now! I take it back, I take it back!
We had already prepped the boat earlier in the evening by letting out a lot more anchor chain and stowing everything that could blow away or come crashing down. It wasn’t long before the wind started kicking up, so from 2:30 a.m. to 5:00 a.m I stayed up in the salon keeping an eye on things. We had already been through 33 knots of gusts the day before, and nothing was approaching that, so I headed down to bed. At 9:00 a.m., I heard the wind kicking up yet again (another one of my superpowers 🤣)and told Dan that it was time to get up, the storm was here. Within a half hour, the wind was howling, rain pouring, hail, and thunder and lightning simultaneously. Every year, we get hit with a storm, and I foolishly think it’s the scariest storm I have ever been in on the boat. Every year, I am proven wrong! We managed to come through the storm completely unscathed (at least physically…..not so sure about mentally!). The rest of the day was calm but rainy. Just when we thought we were in for a nice, peaceful evening, the wind switched direction. Before we knew it, the boat was bucking like a bronco from a large swell. We watched the shoreline behind us soar up 4-5 feet and then disappear completely. Luckily, we don’t get seasick, but it was violent enough to make us both incredibly dizzy. Fortunately, it was over after a few hours. Ahh, the joys of sailing.
Since our plan is to head over to Italy and then Sicily, we decided it was time to get moving north again (and no, we STILL don’t have our insurance sorted out! Now, just to be clear, our umbrella policy in America covers the boat’s liability requirements but try explaining that to a Greek official). The winds in the channel between Greece and Italy can get very interesting, so we have been carefully watching the forecasts to find our best window (this will require an overnight passage….my favorite….not). We decided to spend a couple days anchored off the castle wall in Corfu town since this is where we will need to check out of the country and take care of formalities. If you followed our blog last year, then you know that we are in the same spot as last year where we witnessed two deaths in the same day (one a drowning and one a suicide by jumping from the castle wall). Needless to say, we still feel scarred from that experience and don’t find the same degree of joy in this spot anymore. We also found this spot incredibly crowded this year (after we anchored, of course). We had two boats that anchored way too close (one had to pull up chain to keep from hitting us when he swung around!) Yeah, definitely time to go!
We only spent 2 nights here which is unusual for us, but between playing bumper boats and the hordes of people in town (the cruise ships are back in full swing!), we were ready to go. Our last night, we spent a fun evening with some new friends from the UK who happened to be on a boat like ours before checking out of Greece the following morning. From there, we had a 3 hour sail (more like motor) to Sarande, Albania. Stay tuned for some new adventures (finally!) from this beautiful country!
They say better late than never, and I am definitely late with this one. It’s hard to believe that another sailing season has come and gone, but here we are. In a normal year, our sailing season will go 6-7 months. Unfortunately, between Covid restrictions, a home purchase, and parental health issues, our season has been a brief 3 1/2 months. So, here is how we wrapped things up.
When we left you last, we were hanging out near the city of Split in Croatia, and awaiting the arrival of my daughter and her fiancé. We anchored our boat in a bay very close to the airport, and walked to the terminal to meet them. It was exciting to watch their plane approach the airport, flying right over top of us. We soon had them gathered up, loaded into the dinghy, and on our way back to the boat. Since it was late in the evening, we stayed the night on anchor.
The next morning, we headed across to the other side of the bay and anchored closer to the city of Split. We headed into shore and straight into the old city. Our main point of interest here was Diocletian’s Palace. This was built for the Roman emperor, Diocletian, around the 4th century A.D. and makes up about half of the old city of Split. On a side note, the palace was used in filming Game of Thrones, season 4. See if you recognize any of the sites!
After spending a few hours in the old city, we headed back on board and set sail for the island of Šolta. This is home to one of our all time favorite bays with an amazing restaurant set high on the hilltop. We made sure we had a reservation and ordered the lamb peka (slow cooked lamb and vegetables under a metal dome, covered in coals). The marinero greeted us when we arrived and got us tied up on the mooring lines. Shawn and Mark took the kayak out to explore the beauty of the bay before heading into dinner. We had an amazing 3 course dinner overlooking the bay and the 2 other boats there with us (gotta love getting into late season).
We left early the next morning for Stari Grad on the island of Hvar. We tied up to the town quay and rented a car for the next two days of exploration. First stop, the town of Jelsa which is a fun little seaside village. We wandered around here until it was time for our visit to one of Dan’s favorite wineries on the island of Hvar (this island is very well known for producing excellent wines). The winery was in the midst of harvesting and production, so there was lots of activity. They took us into the cellar which was kept very dark and only lit by candles. We had a great time tasting their custom infused olive oils and a variety of wines. From there we headed back to the boat and spent some time exploring the town of Stari Grad (old city) Hvar. We found an interesting monastery which we explored and then hiked to the top of a hill with an outdoor area for church and great views of the island. They are in the process of gathering donations to create a stations of the cross that lines the hike up to the top of the hill.
The next day we explored the city of Hvar. We drove up to the Venetian fortress that overlooked the old city. Construction of the fortress began in 1282 and was completed in 1551. This multi-level fortification has been really well restored and easily takes you back in time. The entire population took shelter in the fortress in 1571 when the Turks attacked, plundered the town, and set it on fire. The fortress was composed of four circular bastions, a tower and walls with battlements, pieces of which are still present. There are cannons pointed out to the sea, and you can descend into the “prison” to check out the cells and their torture devices as well as visit the collection of amphorae collected from the surrounding sea.
Since it was Dan’s birthday, we had a reservation in the old town of Hvar at an amazing restaurant overlooking the waterfront. We enjoyed a 7 course tasting menu paired with wines, and it was out of this world. It was definitely a great way to celebrate Dan’s birthday.
Once again, we left bright and early to cover the most amount of miles. We made a quick overnight stop on the island of Scedro to help break up the very long journey. Here, we did some swimming and hanging out. Later in the evening a local boat came cruising by offering up homemade wines and brandies as well as assorted other items to purchase. After tasting a couple of the brandies, we settled on some fig brandy and ordered some fresh made bread and pastries to be delivered in the morning! How fun was that?!
We set off in the morning bound for the island of Korčula. We anchored off the island of Badija just like last time and were shocked at how few boats were here compared to our summer time visit. We headed into the island to walk around the grounds of the monastery and find the deer. This time we brought a bag full of carrots. It wasn’t long before my daughter had several deer following her around. I think this might’ve been her favorite part of the trip…..well, that and all the stray kitties. That evening we took the high speed water taxi to old town Korčula where we had dinner along the fortress wall overlooking the sea.
From Korčula, we headed to the island of Mlijet and the town of Polace. This time we tied to a restaurant’s dock that sat right under some Roman ruins. Talk about some great backyard scenery. We scurried off and jumped on some e-bikes for another exploration of the salt lake and monastery on the island in the middle. This was our second time doing this excursion this year, and we highly recommend it. We had such a good time yet again.
At this point, we were reaching the end of Shawn and Mark’s trip, so we were headed to their final stop and the holy grail of their visit. They are both huge Game of Thrones fans (as is Dan), so we were headed to Dubrovnik. Here we pulled into a really awesome marina to spend the next couple of days. The first day, we headed into the old city of Dubrovnik to walk around and explore the castle walls. We then took a tram straight up the face of the mountain to a fortress on the top of the hill. Here, you had amazing views of the entire city and the surrounding sea. In the evening, we went back to the boat and walked to Sunset Beach which is the largest beach in Dubrovnik. There is a beautiful boardwalk the runs along the coast, and you can find many restaurants, beach bars, and even a bar set into a cave.
Our second day was the highlight. Dan had booked a private Game of Thrones tour. We spent 3 hours wandering the grounds while our guide pointed out the various sites that were used in the show. While he pointed out the sites, he held up a photo book with the actual scenes as they were portrayed in the show. This allowed us to see where CGI was used to enhance the backdrop for the scene. It was a great tour, and we really enjoyed our guide and his humor.
We had reached the end of Shawn and Mark’s visit and were approaching our window to make our way back to Greece before some really nasty weather was due to arrive. We decided it would be fun to tick off one more country for them, while getting us a little further south. Off we went to Montenegro!
The next morning, Dan and I pulled out of the Marina before the sun was even up. We went across the channel to the customs dock and took care of the formalities of checking all of us and Zoe out of Croatia. Before long, we were underway and headed south. Dan and I were somewhat on edge since we checked out a little further north than Croatia wants you to, but we hate trying to check out in the town of Cavtat. We had asked the officials of both locations and were told it was okay provided we stayed to the outside of the islands and did not meander through the islands on our departure. We had heard numerous stories about people getting fined for doing what we just did (but we don’t know if they may have broken the rules and cruised around the islands and walls on their way out).
The seas were up a bit, so the ride was bumpy. We were a little worried about Shawn and Mark since they were fast asleep in their cabin which is one of the worst places to be when it comes to feeling the movement of the boat. If you are prone to seasickness (they were not), this is NOT the place you want to be. As we passed the last town on the Croatian coast, we saw a large police boat cruising down the coastline. In the end, they left us alone, and we left Croatia without any issues.
We arrived at a marina in Montenegro by early afternoon and took care of formalities before picking up a rental car and driving the coast of Montenegro to the Bay of Kotor. This area has been inhabited since the times of antiquity. The bay is surrounded by towering mountains and surrounded by some of the most well preserved medieval towns.
Before we knew it, Shawn and Mark’s visit had come to an end. We hopped in the car and drove them from Montenegro back to Dubrovnik, Croatia to catch their flight home (it’s only a 40 minute drive). Once we were back to the boat, we cast lines to fill up with duty free fuel and then make our way back to Greece. This would involve our longest passage yet…..44 hours non-stop. Our weather window was now, and it was only 2 days long before things got really dicey. We NEEDED to go! We were on our way at 3:00 p.m.
By the time darkness surrounded us, the seas had picked up and we were pounding into the swell. Dan and I took 4 hour shifts, so while one is at the helm on watch, the other is sleeping….well, in theory. I seem to struggle with being able to sleep when I am off shift. This first night was even tougher as the seas slammed into the bridge deck making a great deal of noise. As I came running up the steps from below deck, I slammed my bare foot into the stool which was then followed by 3 distinct cracks. Three toes went in a direction that was different from the others. Yep, pretty sure we’re looking at 3 broken toes. Ahhhh boat life! It is definitely not for the fragile.
We cruised down the coast of Montenegro and Albania without incident. By the second night, we had entered Greek waters and were coming in to the northern part of Corfu. Here the island is widest and creates a rather narrow channel between itself and mainland Greece. Between the lights on land, the lights on boats, and the known hazards in the water, I felt very uneasy navigating this in the pitch black. I called Dan up to take over this more visually challenging area. I then took the 1 a.m to 5 a.m. shift down the coast of the island. The first big ferry I spotted was over 600 feet long. I adjusted course a little more to the starboard side (right side). Soon came another big ferry…..eesh. He was over 800 feet long. I slid a little more to the right. Distances are deceiving in the dark (even when your radar shows that you have plenty of room!). Then came the behemoth…..a 1000 foot cruise ship in a blaze of lights. Yes, I moved further right yet again!
As the sun peeked over the horizon, the seas and wind began to build. Once again, none of the weather forecasts had called for this. By the time we got to Preveza boats were circling outside of the marinas. Well, this was interesting. We radioed the Preveza marina where we had planned to tie up for a few days while getting Zoe ready to be hauled out. They were full! Everyone was ducking for cover for the impending storm that would arrive later this evening. We asked if we could come in for fuel. There was an hour wait! All those boats out circling in the bay were waiting for their turn to come in. We headed across the bay to Cleopatra marina where Zoe is stored for the winter. After a long, stressful wait, they radioed back that they could make room for us. Whew! We had a safe home until haul out.
The storm came in, as predicted. We had one good day of weather which we used to get the sails down and stored and filled up the fuel tanks. The last couple of days we worked in the pouring rain and howling wind. Wouldn’t you know, the day we hauled out was the day the weather was at it’s worst. According to the marineros, the current in the marina was the worst they had ever seen it. Between that and the wind, getting off the dock and into the haul out bay was extremely stressful. At one point, the marinero in the large rib, rammed us super hard (harder than necessary) which just about sent me overboard (I was at the front of the boat waiting to toss the line). The current swiftly carried us to the entrance of the haul out bay and we were in. Oh, and soaking wet from the pouring rain. Not fun!
So, that marked the end our 2021 sailing season. We had the opportunity to have one last dinner with our Swiss and Kiwi friends before saying good-bye until next season. Other than the brutal 36 hour trip home, sleeping in the airport and having to wear a mask the entire time, we are now home safe and sound. This will be our last blog post for a little while as we reconnect with family and friends. However, when December rolls around, we will be on the move again, and you are welcome to join our travels! As always, thanks for being a part of our adventures!
Some stats for the season:
Total miles sailed: 1585 Nautical miles Total nights onboard: 107 Nights at anchor: 49 Nights on mooring ball: 30 Nights in a marina: 25 Nights at sea: 3 Countries visited: 3 (Greece, Montenegro, Croatia) Ports, marinas and anchorages visited: 51 Total guests: 8
After spending 5 days at the fortress wall and saying good-bye to our guests, we decided it was time for some new scenery. As I went to pull up the anchor, I was puzzling over why the bridle was taking so long to come up. That’s when I noticed the 2 lines of the bridle laying straight down along the sides of the hulls. The shackle had broken free and was gone. I quickly dropped more chain while Dan took the dinghy through the moat of the fortress to find a new shackle. I stayed watch at the anchor. Without the bridle, wind will put strain on the anchor chain, roller and windlass. All of which can lead to very bad things if the wind gusts are strong enough. Getting our bridle back in working order was a must.
Once Dan returned, we headed back south to one of our favorite anchorages, Petriti. It was just as we had hoped…..silent, except for the song of the cicadas. We found a spot all to ourselves, away from all the mayhem near the town where 95% of the boats like to anchor. It was bliss….until it wasn’t. On our second night, the swell came in and we pitched violently all night long. It was time to go.
We headed back to Corfu town since this was where we would need to check out of Greece. We tried to anchor near the fortress wall again….but we ended up moving. Several boats came in and anchored fairly close, but we had anchored somewhat close to a small French boat. I swam the anchor several times, and it was dug in nicely. As the wind and swell came in, they ended up extremely close to us (I’m pretty sure their anchor was dragging). It was time to go. We picked up our anchor and headed over to the bigger bay, away from the fortress wall. The next day we headed into town to check out of Greece formally (THAT is an experience in and of itself!).
We had waited several days to time our departure to catch a south wind (not overly common here) in the hopes of sailing north and not beating into the swell. Since Greece allows you 24 hours to leave the country, we headed to the northernmost island of Erikoussa to stage ourselves for a morning departure to Montenegro. This would be our longest passage yet, 25 hours.
We got underway a little before 9 a.m. riding a south wind to head north. About 4 hours into our journey, we were treated to a pod of dolphins playing in our bow spray. Dan and I both ran to the front of the boat to enjoy their antics for the brief time they joined us. We managed to eek out a little more than 5 hours of sailing on this long journey before the wind died and we were back to motoring. As night fell, we settled into our shifts with me at the helm first. I am still not a huge fan of night sailing mostly because I struggle to know what the big fishing boats are doing. Some are brightly lit with white lights making it impossible to see if they are anchored or moving. After a 3 hour watch, Dan and I traded off. As expected, I struggled to sleep as the noise of the rudder squeaked behind my head (never mind all the bad thoughts running through my head of Dan falling overboard and me not knowing until hours later).
It wasn’t long before my final night shift came (wait, what? How did I end up with two of the three night shifts…..grrrr). At 8:15, I got coffee going and woke Dan up. We were getting close to Bar, Montenegro and the customs dock to check in. As we approached the bay, I was treated to a very large Marlin breaching the water, not once but twice. It was quite a sight to see. After completing the formalities of checking into the country, we headed into the Bar marina for the next few nights.
After a one night stop in a bay heading north, we made our way into the Bay of Kotor. The scenery in this anchorage was magical with the castle walls looming, running high up into the cliffs. A small church was perched 1/2 way up the hill. It was an amazing place to be, but the water was a little rough with the constant traffic of speedboats, large power yachts and day trippers racing in and out of the harbor.
The following day we had a reservation at a very highly reviewed restaurant on the opposite side of the bay. We were told that they had 4 mooring balls here which were free to use if you ate at the restaurant…..sounded good to me! This bay was much, much quieter, which I loved. Unfortunately, there appeared to only be one mooring ball not four. Since we arrived somewhat early, we easily snatched it up. There was a fresh water river not far away that empties into the bay bringing with it extremely cold water. This made for interesting swimming. You’d be swimming along and all of a sudden you’d be blasted with icy cold water that took your breath away.
We watched as boats came in circling around our area, likely looking for the elusive mooring balls. At one point, a boat anchored quite close to us. We explained to him given the depth of where he was in relation to us and the amount of chain he would need to put out was going to cause a problem because we were on a ball and would not swing at the same ratio as him. He said her understood and anchored further away. Later, as I was sitting on deck waiting to leave for dinner. He drove his dinghy, out of their way, to cruise along side us. The next thing I know, I hear the guy that’s with him telling him he should cut Zoe’s lines and he would help him. He said this twice, quite clearly! What the hell?!? Well, that was just great…..now I was on edge the rest of the night.
The restaurant sent their tender down to pick us up for dinner, and we headed up this beautiful little river that was thickly lined with foliage. It was magical. Before long, we arrived at this beautiful restaurant situated on the river with lush, green surroundings. We had a great time, and the seafood was outstanding. After an enchanting evening we headed back to Zoe (I was thankful to see she was still tied up) and settled in for the night. I did not have a restful night, as I fretted over every sound I heard, worried that those two clowns were serious. I loved Montenegro last time we were here…..this time I felt a little soured 🙁
Our final stop in Montenegro was to the Marina Porto Montenegro. This is a world renowned marina loaded with some of the most expensive super yachts you’ve ever seen. We were excited to check it out. Imagine Rodeo Drive meets Monaco. The shops and restaurants that lined the 1/2 mile long marina were all very high end and ritzy. The people strolling the promenade were all dressed in their finest apparel (yeah, we kind of looked like a couple of vagabonds in comparison). It was a very nice marina, and we really enjoyed our stay….until it was time to leave. We had made an appointment to get duty free fuel (a huge savings and our tanks were nearing empty), but when we handed over our papers for checkout, we were told we did not have the receipt for the tourist tax. No one told us anything about this tourist tax when we checked into the country….we had only paid the vignette tax. The police were called and Dan had to go meet with them to sort it out. The officer asked Dan how much he thought the fine should be…..seriously???? Dan said he really didn’t know because he was unaware of the tax or how much it was to begin with. In the end, a 20 euro note to cover “coffee” for them allowed us to be on our way. All right, that is now strike number 2 in my book, and I am beyond angry. Yes, I know, there is corruption everywhere…..but this infuriates me. I work very hard to follow all the rules and expectations of the countries we visit, and this did not sit well with me.
About two hours later, we were finally on our way to Croatia and another fun port of entry (NOT!) If you followed our blog a couple of years ago, we were headed to the town of Cavtat and the ever challenging Q dock, which still gives me nightmares to this day. Dan said we needed to slay the dragon. I said dragons burn you and best to stay far away! For some reason, Croatia has been pretty quiet this year with boat traffic. As we approached the dock in a stiff crosswind (our least favorite direction of course), we asked the line handler if we could come in side to. He said no, drop the anchor and back in. Just as I rigged the lines to do that, he changed his mind and said come side to. OH, THANK GOD! Luckily for us, the mega yacht that was coming in had an agent who said they were fine if came in side to. Of course now Dan says we still have not slayed the dragon. I told him….baby steps. Once we finished formalities, we headed across the bay to the town of Srebreno. Friends had told us that the small wall there had lazy lines that you could tie up to with access to water and electricity. Perfect!
We came into the bay, and the harbormaster gave us a line to tie to our bow. Unfortunately, he only had one which does not work well for a catamaran. We got our stern lines tied but were pitching all around, uncomfortably close to the wall. The was a large, crewed, motor yacht next to us, and the deckhand asked to come aboard to help. We gladly accepted. It took Dan and him an hour to figure out how to make the one mooring line work on a boat with two hulls. In the end, he jumped off the bow, rigged a loop in the mooring line, and we tied a bridle through it to each side of the hulls. The next thing I knew, this young man climbed back on board our boat…..FROM THE BOW!! There are no steps, no ladder, nothing. He used sheer, brute strength and amazing acrobatics to climb from the water to our bow. We spent two nights here since he had gone to so much trouble to help secure us. We also really enjoyed walking the town. We will definitely be back to this spot.
The winds were forecasted to start coming up, so we decided to get underway. The captain of our neighbor was kind enough to help us untie from a very tight loop on shore. We were on our way to our next anchorage despite knowing the winds were going to get a little blustery. Just as we were coming up the channel, the VHF barked out a gale force warning for our area. We decided trying out a new anchorage in gale force winds just didn’t sound like a lot of fun. Instead, we headed into a brand new marina outside of Dubrovnik. It was awesome! We spent the next two days there (as did many others who came streaming in after us). Which brings us to today. We are once again quietly anchored in a beautiful bay (despite some very gusty winds which are suppose to die tonight) and our next set of guests will arrive tomorrow. Stayed tuned for more adventures as we make our way further north in the Adriatic!
After our two long, nasty wind days hiding out in Vlikho Bay, we were treated to a glorious calm. We later learned that our hurricane hidey hole was THE one place that was hit the worst by the winds. After talking with one of the charter operators in the bay, he told us they had clocked 60 knot gusts. We were happy to once again be on our way.
We had a wonderful sail to the island of Ithaca, anchoring in Ormos Pera Pigadi. This is a tight little bay with a number of boats, but we found a nice spot near a beach and stern tied to the shore (anchoring the front of the boat and tying 2 lines to big rocks on the shore from each back corner of the boat).
Ithaca is an island steeped in mythological tales of Odysseus from Homer. After a little beach exploration, our friend Emil discovered a trail leading to Arethousa Krini, a fresh water spring high on the slope of a steep cliff. Of course we had to explore it! We headed into the beach to start the hike up the steep cliffs. As has been our experience, there was a lot of bushwhacking involved (and let’s not skip the very narrow sections of trail along a sheer drop off to certain death….yes, that is the way my mind works….but it is true). When I say the trail was basically a goat path, it’s no lie. The truth was soon revealed as we stumbled upon several goats. They quickly scampered up the sheer rock face of the cliff to avoid our presence. To say they are impressive climbers in an understatement. We made it up to the cliff face and found a small opening into the cliff that dropped deep into the rock. There were two very old buckets outside the hole, but after lowering one in, we discovered the well was dry (at least for now).
According to Homer, Arethousa Krini was a source of fresh water at the time of Ulysses’ reign. The story says that Korax, who lived on Ithaca, fell off the cliff to his death while hunting. His mother, Arethousa, was said to have hung herself out of grief next to the spring. The spring was then named after her, and the steep rock was named after her son, Korakos Petra, which means Crow’s Rock. We marveled at the views and chatted with the goats (Emil speaks fluent goat, and they happily bleated back to him). It was time to head back down to the boat and cool off with a swim. As usual, we were hiking in the heat of the day.
Soon we were on our way to the island of Zakinthos (one of our favorites). Before we got underway, we noticed that 2 of the 3 pontoons on the dinghy were very low on air. It was very apparent that we had a serious leak. We spend the next hour pumping up the dinghy and spraying it down with soapy water in the hopes of finding and patching the leak. We could not find a leak anywhere. By the time we reached our first stop, Agios Nikolaos, our dinghy was once again flat. Now this, was a big problem. Since we are strictly in anchorages, this is the only means we have for venturing off the boat. It was very evident that this was not just a leak. We were tied up to a mooring ball by one of the local tavernas (you get the ball free if you eat at their restaurant) and the marinero was nice enough to give us a ride to and from the restaurant. This was one of my least favorite spots given how tight we were to all the other boats tied up as well. I will say that the taverna, La Storia, was fantastic!
At this point, we have determined that it’s time to get a new dinghy. Dan began researching, but our choices were a bit limited because of the summer season rush. He was not able to acquire his “dream dinghy,” but he found one in stock that he felt really good about, and it would arrive in Cleopatra marina in the next few days. Perfect! We had to return to the marina anyway to pick up our newest guest.
We spent two blissful days anchored in the bay at Spartia on the island of Cephalonia. Here we had beautiful sandstone cliffs, crystal waters and the occasional sea turtle. Unfortunately, we were completely boat bound.
As we continued our way north, we were greeted on two different occasions by pods of dolphins jumping and spinning in the air. We spent one night in Vassiliki bay before moving on to the island of Kastos. On our way, we encountered two big schools of tuna jumping out of the water. We quickly threw out a line and immediately hooked a big one….but we lost him….and our awesome squid lure 🙁
We anchored in a tiny bay on Kastos with a windmill bar up on the hill. That evening we took the kayak and SUP into a small rocky cove and climbed the hill to Milos bar for a great evening and amazing views.
It was time for our new dinghy to arrive, so we made our way back through the swing bridge and up to the marina. Since we were there a day early for our next guest, we decided to do some more land explorations. We loaded into the car and drove an hour up into the mountains to Acheron Springs. This river winds through a narrow canyon and was believed to serve as the gates to Hades (the underworld). The myth says that you pay Charon to ferry the souls of the dead up the river to the entrance of the underworld. At one point, I discovered a big, red cross painted on the rocks above one of the springs. Someone might be a little spooked by the mythology surrounding the Gates of Hades.
The hike starts out along a picturesque path through a variety of vegetation as it follows a rapidly flowing river. Soon you exit the trail, and now the fun really begins. You spend most of your time trekking through the river, sometimes against very strong currents, surrounded by steep canyon walls. The water is extremely cold, but eventually you get used to it (because you have become numb). There are several areas where the water bubbles up from the springs deep inside the canyon, and other areas where you can hear the roaring of the water behind the canyon walls. It creates a very eerie experience. The trek is 11.5 km, but we have not made it that far as of yet. As you get further up, there is some swimming involved in this very cold water. It is one of the most stunning hikes we have done in Greece, and definitely one of our all time favorites. One of these days, we will do the entire hike.
After re-provisioning the boat, we picked up our newest guest, Tim. When Dan’s job moved to Dallas, the three guys lived together for 5 years. I joined them all for one year of adventures in Dallas. The three musketeers were happy to be reunited, and we set sail the next day. We took the guys to a few of our favorite hangouts. In Two Rock Bay, Emil entertained us with more of his acrobatic antics off the boat, and Dan decided he needed to race his new dinghy against our new friends from “Sailbattical.” He was beaten quite thoroughly, but I should mention that our friend has a 20hp motor and ours is a measly 8hp. It’s safe to say that Dan now has motor envy 🙂 We also spent a great night in Lakka Bay riding out another big blow and then headed to Corfu town the following day. We are spending two nights here since Tim leaves today, and Emil leaves tomorrow (plus we had to get them in for Covid tests before their flights). We have reached our northern most island for adventure before we head to Montenegro in about a week. Right now we are watching for a weather window that might provide us with a southern wind (not very common here) so that we can sail our way north.
My finger is no longer black and blue, but I still have swelling, pain and limited mobility….but there is progress. I never realized how much strength the middle finger provides for the use of you hand!
We are down to 1 SUP since mine blew up in the heat 🙁 I am very sad as this was my first and very favorite SUP.
We are down one old, crappy, ugly dinghy. However, we are up one beautiful and more stable brand new dinghy!
One final sombering note: As I was on deck this morning finishing up this blog entry, our boat neighbor appeared to be struggling to get his boat underway. Because he anchored very close to the castle wall, he had deployed a stern anchor which seemed to be stuck. It looked like someone was in the water watching as he maneuvered the boat. Eventually he got free and moved on. When he motored away, what I thought was his anchor spotter was still in the water. By now, all four of us were on deck trying to figure out what exactly was floating in the water. It looked like it could be a rock, but the coloring was all wrong, and none of us recalled seeing a rock in that area. It wasn’t long before we determined that it was not a rock but a floating body. Needless to say, we were all horrified and called the police. It was over an hour, and two different authorities came by to verify the scene while the body washed around at the wall of the fortress. Eventually the Coast Guard came and placed him in a body bag. To make matters even worse, a few hours later, we witnessed a woman plunge to her death over the fortress wall. At this time we don’t know whether she fell or jumped, but it was a gruesome scene that left us all traumatized. Needless to say, it has been a very sombering day for us all.
It was 1:00 a.m. and Emil and I were sitting on anchor watch. He was at the helm outside, and I was at the nav station inside. Why were we on anchor watch, you might be wondering? Boy, do I have a story for you!
We had come into Vlicho bay (a well known hurricane hole) because some of the forecasts were showing some rather blowy conditions Friday and Saturday. Since we love the nearby towns on this island, we enjoy spending some time on land exploring. Oops, I’m getting a little ahead of myself, so let me back up a bit.
We successfully launched on June 23rd, as planned. We spent two days in the water at our marina finishing up some work on the boat before getting underway.
We decided to head north to “Two Rock Bay” to do a shakedown of the boat without being too far from the marina. We fell in love with this bay last year due to the awesome snorkeling and cool caves to explore. Since boat traffic still seemed a bit light this year, we were able to find an ideal spot with very few boats around. We enjoyed a lot of swimming, floating and snorkeling while the area was under an extreme heat advisory. A Swiss boat anchored behind us and before we knew it a young couple was headed to our boat in their dinghy. It turned out that they had connected with a young German couple that we had met two years ago in Montenegro. Since we all pretty much follow each other via Facebook and/or blogs, the couple we had met knew that the four of us were in the same bay and had told them to keep and eye out for us and come say hello. It turns out our new friends were on a 6 month sabbatical to sail the Med. We spent the next few days hanging out in the water and had a great evening at the bar at the top of the anchorage. Sailing is a very social community and some of our greatest times are the many friends we make along the way from all over the world. Hopefully, we will cross paths with them again soon in our adventures around the Med.
After picking up our friend Emil from the airport, we joined some Kiwi friends we met last year for some beers, stories and laughs. It was a great night and midnight came before we knew it. The next morning, we headed south through the swing bridge to another favorite bay, Ormos Varko. Our luck continued and the bay was wide open, so we set our anchor for a few days of fun. The boys found some new adventures by creating a rope swing off the mast. The bay did not stay quiet for long as more and more boats streamed in.
After a few days, it was time to make our way to our hidey hole for the upcoming winds. The morning was cloudy with a few sprinkles of rain and a pretty brisk breeze already happening. Of course, this was nowhere in any forecasts. As I raised the anchor up, the shackle that attaches that anchor to the chain firmly wedged itself in the anchor roller. I tried to let it back down a bit to free it up, but it was firmly wedged. I was getting ready to grab onto it to try and help it when I realized that I had a lot of extra anchor chain laying on the deck by the windlass. I knew that once that 70 pound anchor let loose, all the chain was going to add to the downward momentum…..a very dangerous situation for any body part in it’s path. Unfortunately, there was just enough play in the chain that when I freed the shackle the anchor slammed down on my middle finger. The pain was excruciating! It immediately began to swell and turn black 🙁 I had no idea if it was broken since it hit between the first and second knuckle. I immediately began to ice it while continuing to help get us underway.
As I mentioned before, we were headed to a bay to wait out the high winds so this would be a good place to see a doctor. I splinted my finger until we could get in to see someone. Since we needed to make water, we spent an extra hour sailing to our destination, but eventually we got in and settled. We all hopped in the dinghy and headed to Nidri town to visit the clinic. I must’ve done a good job on my self splinting since the nurse asked me if I had been to the pharmacy to have it done before arriving. Needless to say, they did not like the look of it and told me I would need to go to the main town of Lefkada to see a radiologist who would be waiting for me. Now that’s service! The downside was that this town was about 20 minutes away which meant a 40 euro cab ride (round trip) or a 40 euro rental car. We opted for the rental car since we had planned to do some sightseeing anyway. In the end, it turned out that there was no break (woo hoo). In the meantime, I have to keep it splinted which is not working well for life on a boat 🙁
The next day, we rented a car again to run around the island and revisit some of our favorite places. We are starting to become regulars at some of these places as we bring guests every time we are here. Not to mention, it gave us the opportunity to stock up on our favorite olive products and large amounts of wine (hey, we are here for 4 more months…..no judgement!)
We returned to the boat in the late afternoon in order to be on board for the afternoon winds. Around 7:30 p.m. we decided conditions were good to head into the town of Nidri to one of my favorite beachside restaurants for some lamb kleftiko. They gave us an amazing table at the water’s edge, and we enjoyed a fantastic dinner (and I got a night off cooking!) After dinner, we strolled the heart of town where it was bustling with Friday night activity. At about 9:30, we decided we were ready to head back to the boat. As we pulled into the parking lot near where we left our dinghy, we were horrified to see it bashing on the stone dock. The wind was shrieking, spraying off of the two foot whitecaps rolling across the bay. This was bad….really, really bad. We had only been a 10 minute drive away and it was night and day between the two waterfronts. We scrambled to get into the dinghy while keeping it off the wall and potentially popping. In the meantime, we were being doused with water. It only went downhill from there. The 1/2 mile ride back to the boat was terrifying as waves crashed over our little dinghy dousing us in smelly, bay water. I was genuinely terrified that we might capsize in the waves or take on too much water. Obviously, we made it back and got everything and everyone secured on Zoe. We also fired up the engines and made preparations in the event our anchor broke free in these 30 knot gusts (20-25 knots sustained).
So, that brings us to where this story began. Dan and Emil had been up on deck monitoring the weather and the boats around us. Dan came below deck around midnight to get some sleep while Emil stayed up at the helm watching things. I came up and joined him in keeping an eye on things in case we needed to fire up the engines and get moving. At about 1:30 a.m. the gusts had tamped down to something a little less frightening, and sustained winds were a little bit calmer. We decided it was probably ok to head down and get some sleep. Needless to say, I did not sleep and was up again at 4:30 a.m when the gusts started up for another round. Unfortunately, it was dark and terrifying as all this was transpiring, so I have no pictures or video to share. However, the fun hit again the following day! Luckily (if you want to call it that), we were onboard, and it was during daylight hours. The winds were even nastier, leaving us with a pit in our stomach for about 9 hours. This time our gusts were over 35 knots and unrelenting. We were fortunate that things settled down to a less frightening blow by about 10:30 that night. Let’s just say it was a VERY long day and evening. I did manage to capture some video footage, but it does not do the ferocity of the wind any justice. Fingers crossed that fair weather lies ahead!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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……
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.
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…..it’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!
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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…..as 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.
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).
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.
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
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 🙁
As always, thank you for being a part of our sailing adventures and stay tuned for more exploration with Two Chasing Sunsets!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!)
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.”
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.
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…..so, stay tuned!