At the time of writing we have been back at sea for over a month and have retraced some of our steps along the path of last year’s journey from the Ionian, through the Gulf of Patras to the Gulf of Corinth and into the Aegean Sea. Getting used to life at sea has not been quite such a shock to the system as last year, but has definitely been quite a contrast to the life we had as liveaboards in Sicily.
Tahnee Mara has been put through her paces since we left harbour with changeable weather and unforseen mechanical problems but with solar power upgrades and a fully functioning water maker, we are no longer reliant on alongside stops to take on water and top up the batteries and are better equipped for the season ahead.
After our arrival back in Greece we met up with five other MdR boats in Argostoli on Kefalonia and ended up staying there for a week, as we waited for the next weather window to continue our journey.
All the boats had exited the marina on different dates and it was interesting to swap stories and to hear the different accounts of the journey from Sicily to Greece, of forced stops along the way due to bad weather and of boat performance and dramas after seven long months of dormancy in the marina. On the second night alongside our friends on catamaran Felix hosted a shared supper on their boat, the perfect way to kick off the shared experience of the new season.
The weather during our time in Argostoli remained unsettled with a combination of warm sunshine, rain, wind and chilly evenings and after two nights on the town quay, we decided to move off into the bay with three other boats to go onto anchor. The wind was raging, tossing the boats around and sending an uncomfortable swell into the harbour and when moorings began to look compromised, we knew it was time to get off the harbour wall. This was our first night out at anchor for a long time, but with the anchor well dug-in, we survived the rough night and stayed well clear of the other boats around us. After one night the wind calmed again allowing us to move back onto the quay and we spent the next few days exploring the town, replenishing supplies and making plans for the next week.
During one of our walks along the waterfront we were fortunate enough to catch sight of some of Argostoli’s loggerhead sea turtles that reside in the harbour and witness some of the activities of the turtle volunteer protection programme, which studies the natural habitat of the turtles in Kefalonia.
It was good to be able to ease ourselves into being back at sea, with only a rough plan of where we wanted to go and with no wind, our next hop was a short one under motor up along the west coast of Kefalonia to Asos Bay. The sun made an appearance but after a lumpy night at anchor we motored northeast along the rugged coast of Kefalonia to the lively port of Fiskardo and another meet up with boats from MdR.
We had been to Fiskardo a couple of times during the busy summer holiday period last year and had spent time out at anchor with stern lines ashore, but this time we were lucky enough to spy a space on the quay. As we prepared to reverse back we realized that our anchor windlass (let-out and heave-up equipment) was not working properly, but thankfully we were able to safely moor up and the windlass went to the top of the list for the new season’s ‘boat job list’!
Fiskardo is a very attractive and popular tourist town, with pastel coloured buildings and a vast array of harbour cafés, shops and restaurants, the perfect setting for another group meal, organized to celebrate a special birthday of one of the collective crew. After another couple of nights, more socialising, some investigation work on the windlass and a hike up around the hills surrounding the bay, we set sail once again for the island of Levkas and the familiar Vlikho Bay on the east coast of the island.
With a steady 15 knots of wind behind us we had a pleasant sail up into the wide bay, where we were going to hang out for a few days to wait out the predicted feisty weather due to hit.
It turned out to be a good decision as the weather soon closed in later that day. We had been invited onto a neighbouring boat for drinks and we had just about made it onto catamaran Splice before the rain came lashing down. The wind howled around the boat and lightening lit up the early evening sky, such a contrast to the morning’s light winds and sunshine! After a couple of hours the wind and rain abated enough for us to brave the dinghy ride back to our own boat. Over the next few days the weather remained unsettled, but we were able to go ashore by dinghy to stretch our legs and pay a visit to the amazing yacht chandlery in Nidri.
Having figured out what was wrong with the windlass, Damian had hoped to pick up parts there but we came away disappointed and after some online research, our next destination was set for Levkas town to pick up what we needed.
Under a dull, grey sky we motored up through the Levkas canal and dropped our anchor on the outside of Levkas Marina. Damian took the dinghy ashore and returned with some of the required boat parts and a special chocolate treat, the day definitely became a little sweeter!
From Levkas we made our way back south to the island of Meganisi and our favourite Abelike Bay. We had visited the bay several times last summer and knew that we would find some calm shelter for a few days at anchor, with a couple of stern lines tied to trees ashore. Fortunately for me, Damian took the job of attaching the shore-lines by dinghy and saved me the job of getting into the water, at 15 degrees it was still a little chilly for my taste. Later that day we were joined by two other familiar boats and the next day, by three more. The bay turned out to be the perfect setting for a beach BBQ and a very pleasant evening was spent catching up until late into the evening.
The next day Damian donned his wetsuit and bravely fired up our ‘Hooker’ diving equipment to dive under the boat to scrape off the winter growth around the hull, keel and propeller.
Fortunately the winter in MdR with fresh water springs had been kind to our girl and the task was quicker and easier than expected. It did however take a while for Damian to warm up after his experience and he was the only person sat in the bay in a woolly hat and fleece in the sunshine! Gradually the other boats departed one by one and we stayed in Abelike a little longer, taking the dinghy ashore to hike up and over the cliffs to the picturesque harbour of Little Vathi, enjoying the stunning view down into the bay and the peacefulness of the beautiful day.
A larger group meet-up back in Vlikho was planned for the weekend and we made our way back to Levkas for our biggest get-together since leaving Sicily. Nineteen of us came together at Vlikho Yacht Club to share a delicious traditional English Sunday roast lunch – for most of us the first in a very long time! This was to be our last physical contact with the group for a while as we were due to head straight off next day to begin our journey south towards the Gulf of Patras and onward to the Corinth Canal. On 20 May, we pulled up our anchor and set off for Marathia, a little bay 23 nautical miles away. With a very pleasant 10 knots of wind we had a comfortable sail south and dropped our anchor early afternoon in a quiet little bay with pigs roaming the beach. Not a familiar sight for sure and I had to get the binoculars out to check, yes, definitely pigs!
With a 6.30am start the next day we watched the sun rise as we set off for the Gulf of Patras and Messolonghi, another of last year’s ports of call.
We motored along the narrow canal lined with old- fashioned fisherman’s houses standing on stilts in the shallow water, passed a huge dredger and this time managed to find a space alongside the harbour wall. Assisted in by some friendly Aussies who took our lines, we settled ourselves and decided to take a walk into town. Last year we had been at anchor and were pleasantly surprised by the sleepy, laid back little town, well set back from the waterfront. It was a sunny day and the pavement cafés were quiet, with very little sign of life…. That evening as the sun went down the whole waterfront came alive and Messolonghi rocked until the early hours, quite the contrast to what we had experienced on arrival.
Next day we set off once again for Trizónia via the Rion/Andirrion Suspension Bridge.
The familiar route meant we were well briefed for the bridge traversing procedure and after making our calls to the Bridge Pilot on our VHF, we were given instructions for where to position ourselves to travel under the bridge. We both looked up with breath held as we motored under the bridge, even though we knew we were perfectly safe – definitely a ‘Kodak moment’.
Once through the other side with sails up we flew along with 25 knots of wind behind us to the island of Trizónia and another overnight alongside in the ‘unfinished marina’, still following our route from last year.
A veritable graveyard for many abandoned and sad looking boats, the half finished marina is a safe alongside providing good shelter on the journey towards the canal. It sits behind a pretty little fishing hamlet and is home to a handful of family-run tavernas, which offer simple, home-cooked Greek cuisine and generous hospitality. Although there are no regular facilities for yachts or opportunities for provisioning, Trizónia continues to be a popular stop for boats travelling towards Corinth. A walk around the harbour and a climb up into the hills behind the hamlet afford beautiful views out to sea and into the gulf.
Another day with 20-25 knot winds behind us took us to Galaxhidi, our next stop. With just a couple of spaces free on the town quay we backed into our slot and were assisted by the crew of SV Creo, Youtube sailing video stars.
Having followed Matt and Emma’s Video BLOG of their sailing adventures, it was interesting to share a few drinks and compare sailing experiences and stories. Our sailing hopes and aspirations have been inspired by sailors like Creo, who put their lives on camera to give a taste of liveaboard life. This is an invaluable insight into the commitment of a sailing lifestyle and helpful when preparing to take that same leap into the unknown.
Having missed the opportunity last year, we rented a car and drove out to Delphi, deemed to be one of the most beautiful and classical sites in Greece and regarded by the ancients as the centre of the world. The hike up onto the slopes of Mount Parnassus was well worth the effort for the spectacular views afforded over the whole site, the heart of the classical Greek world.
After a couple of days, stores replenished and gas bottles refilled, we set our course for Kiato, which was to be our last stop before entering the Corinth Canal. Our journey south was accompanied by the largest pod of dolphins we had ever seen, who stayed with us for forty minutes of our journey. Although these amazing mammals have become a regular feature on our sailing travels, we are always entranced by their joyful play around the boat.
After mooring alongside the harbour wall, we took a long walk along the town’s beautiful beach front and prepared ourselves for an early start. By 7am the next morning we were on our way, travelling towards the canal with eight other boats, who had all been alongside in Kiato with the same journey in mind.
We had heard many disparaging comments about the cost of this ‘short cut’ trip through the canal to the Aegean, but for us, the journey through the Corinth Canal is worthwhile. The views en route are spectacular and our journey the next day was another memorable experience.
We tied up alongside at the south end of the canal, paid our dues and refuelled before slipping our lines and heading down into the Aegean towards Korfos.
With a couple of weeks to spare before a pre-planned trip to Athens, we had decided to make a steady journey south into the western Cyclades islands, taking advantage of the favourable predicted winds to explore some new territory. It already felt like we had travelled a long way, but we still had a lot of ground to cover in our ultimate journey to Turkey.
The contrast between our lives as they were before we left the UK last April and now is huge and we are so glad that we made the choice to grab this experience with both hands. We have met some amazing people during the course of our travels so far and it is such a wonderful experience to be able to sail with others who share a similar desire to pause the craziness of life for a while. Life has a new perspective and every day we remind ourselves of how lucky we are to have this opportunity.
The weather is warming up and the nights are less chilly, the sailing adventure is just getting started.
To continue to follow our journey hit the subscribe button below (if you haven’t already done so).
Details of my new South of France Yoga retreat planned for next June are now live, email me at email@example.com for more information or to book. This is a wonderful new venue and I am very excited to be branching out beyond my normal retreat experience.
Thanks for joining us on our sailing adventure, good to have you along!