It still feels a little unreal that we are finally back in Greece. We had a very busy and exciting off season home (well, more like 2 actual seasons)! As you may remember, we closed on our new build last August. We flew home long enough to attend my son’s wedding, close on the house, and move all our stuff into the new house before jetting back to the boat. When we arrived back home at the end of our sailing season, there was much to do. We spent a big chunk of our winter getting settled into the house, getting our backyard landscaped, meeting new neighbors, and enjoying reuniting with family and friends. We also spent a great deal of time exploring the miles and miles of amazing trails that lie just outside our front door. Thanks to a very mild winter and spring, we were gifted with the opportunity to hike well into June! Needless to say, we LOVE where we live!
We had several other exciting life events during our time home this year. We were on baby watch for two new grandchildren. We were blessed with our first granddaughter the end of May (and boy is she a cutie)! We are still awaiting the arrival of our second grandson….unfortunately, he is not due to arrive until late July, and we are here. It’s getting harder and harder to be away from our littles. We did get to spend a lot of time bonding with our first grandson, Owen, and it’s been very hard to be away from him. Nothing is more heartbreaking than that little face looking up at you with the words, “Why do you have to go back to the boat? I want to go to the boat with you.” Ouch…..cue tears. Other exciting news….my son, Richard, is now engaged and will be getting married next spring. And lastly, Dan’s son Jacob landed his first “real” job working for Intel in the state of Oregon (which necessitated Dan taking a week to drive a moving truck to help Jacob get moved settled into his new life).
Needless to say, all of these exciting events meant a much later start for Zoe’s season (and possibly a future restructuring of what our sailing season will look like moving forward). Most years, we spend the night in London before moving on to Greece the next day. This year, we decided to fly all the way through. When I say that, I mean several layovers and no overnight stay anywhere. Unfortunately, between the layovers and a very delayed flight from Gatwick, UK to Preveza, Greece meant our trip took us over 30 hours with little to no sleep. Yep, it was painful. Lesson: Overnighting in the UK had many benefits.
By the time we got settled into our rental apartment and took some time to relax, it was 2:00 a.m. before we got to bed. Ughh….gonna be a rough day getting Zoe ready. As expected, we were up quite early (4-5 hours of sleep) and aboard Zoe ready to work. Oh boy, she was in a sorry state. The 8 months had not been kind to her. Between the layers of dirt/staining and the gazillion cobwebs (yes, complete with horrid spiders), we felt very overwhelmed. We dug in and began to put her back together and get her cleaned up. We had 2 days to get her ready before she was scheduled to go back in the water….the shortest time we had ever given ourselves to get her ready. By the second day, we were both having a panic attack. We figured that as long as we did all the below water line stuff on land, it would be no big deal to do all the above water line stuff while on the water in the marina. Yeeeahhhh….scrubbing the stains and dirt on the hulls and deck took 2 days alone! We ended up pushing our launch day by one more day in the hopes of getting more done. The night before launch I started to feel uneasy about putting the mainsail up while we were in the water (we had already put the genoa up). At 9:30 p.m, Dan and I started putting up the mainsail. This is our biggest sail, clumsiest to work with, requires hardware/tools/goop for the screws(tef-gel), and insertion of battons. To add to the fun, we were both being brutally attacked by mosquitoes! Oh, and let’s not forget that it is now dark out. All I can say is that I am very grateful that we did this on land! Between juggling all the pieces and incessantly smacking mosquitoes, I dropped a few pins and screws several times. Had we been on the water, they would have been gone forever. We finally got it done despite some serious sailor potty mouth (okay, that was me)…..but you gotta understand, I am wrestling with the sail and hardware while jumping and dancing around as I am being devoured by mosquitoes.
They say the word boat stands for “break out another thousand.” I’m starting to believe that! We sent our life raft in for inspection at the end of last season. When we called to arrange to pick it up, we were informed it was not serviceable (pictures pretty much confirmed that it was a disaster). New life raft, check. Then, we discovered one of our refrigerators was not cooling. This was our main food fridge. Can you say food poisoning? Yeah, no thanks. We got someone out to look at it….nope, can’t be fixed…..new fridge on order from Athens. Arrrghhh. Boats can be a lot of fun….but they are also a royal pain in the ass!
Let’s talk about something more lighthearted and amusing. Before we get underway, we do a big provisioning in order to allow us to be off the grid and not need to go to shore unless we want to. Large grocery store runs are common among boaters and typical for Americans but highly unusual for Europeans. In any grocery store, you will see them with a small cart or basket with supplies for only the next day or two. Dan and I roll through with a grocery cart filled to the brim, since we freeze or vacuum seal most of our stuff (and we may be nowhere near any sort of market for weeks). I’m not sure the locals appreciate the amount of time we take at the deli counter and checkout. We also make a special trip to our favorite roadside produce market. This is the most amazing place I have ever found. Again, we have only seen locals here picking up a few things. This produce and their products are straight from the local farms and actually keep for weeks! We stock up on tomatoes, onions, English cucumbers, every color of pepper, garlic, cabbage, and potatoes. In addition, they have the most amazing locally produced olive oil and dips. Once again, we leave with our trunk filled with all this fresh goodness for very little money (and it is beyond delicious)!
My next bit of fun was a haircut. I had not had one in a very long time, and I felt kind of ratty. I found I highly reviewed place on Google, and they were able to get me in the next day. When I got there, the guy who does everyone’s hair didn’t speak a lick of English (and sadly, I do not speak Greek). He and I had a lot of laughs trying to communicate what I wanted done and how to style my hair. In the end, it worked all worked out (and I’m sure it was a memorable experience for both of us)!
Since we have to be back in Preveza when the refrigerator arrives, we decided to stay relatively close and cruise the landlocked Gulf of Amvrakia. Very few boats venture into this gulf making it a very peaceful place to hang out during the height of cruising season where it’s tough to find a good spot to anchor, and you are at risk of playing bumper boats with those who choose to anchor to close to you. The gulf is surrounded by wetlands and marshes which make it an amazing breeding ground for many fish, shellfish and birds. Thanks to the richness of this environment, you can also find dolphins and sea turtles here as well. Unfortunately, the green, murky water makes it less than desirable for swimming.
We have anchored in this gulf a number of times but always stayed fairly close to the entrance near the town of Vonitsa. This time we decided to venture all the way in to the easternmost point. So far, we have explored two different anchorages with very tiny villages on land. In our second anchorage, Ormos Koprainis, we decided to try the one and only taverna on shore. It had really good reviews on the local seafood. It is run by a 94 year old woman who we later discovered is deaf. She also doesn’t speak a word of English (and there was no menu) which made our attempt at ordering dinner almost comical. She pulled Dan into the kitchen where he discovered the only seafood today was anchovies and sardines. Hmmmm…..neither are a big favorite, but why not? Well, not quite sure what went wrong, but we ended up with a few beers, a plate of french fries, and a salad. I guess the rest of the dinner will be happening back on the boat.
We’ve been away for quite some time, so I wanted to catch you up and welcome you back to Zoe. While I know this is not our most exciting post, the real adventures are coming…..I promise. Once we have the new fridge installed (hopefully in the next few days), we will be making our way out of Greece to Albania and onward to Italy. It is our plan to do a deep dive of Italy and Sicily this year and say farewell to Greece (at least for the foreseeable future). Stick with us for some new and exciting adventures…..and of course, the inevitable misadventures!