Castles, Antiquities and a Palace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back On The Sea Again!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Long Road Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunset beach walks….life is good.