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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continuing with our adventures in Two Rock Bay…..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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

773 nautical miles travelled

77 nights in the water

26 anchorages

66 nights at anchor

3 marinas for a total of 11 nights

Tied to 1 town wall for 1 night

Endured 2 thunderstorms with high winds and swell

1 gale warning while at anchor

6 Greek islands visited

34 miles of open water workout swims

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

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

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

One last Greek taverna meal at one of our favorites – Panos Taverna (near Cleopatra marina)
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Nora Espenshade
Nora Espenshade
1 month ago

So sorry to see this end for now; but, looking forward to your Croatia adventures. We still haven’t been out of the house since March. I live through you.

Karen
Karen
29 days ago

Wow! What an amazing adventure ! Time to write a book! Cannot wsit for the land stories. Safe teavels you two! 😊