Category Archives: Greece

Sailing Family Video in the Med

It feels like a long time ago, and at the same time like yesterday. Before baby #3 pops out, closing a chapter, I had to put together our last sailing video from the three years we spent in the Mediterranean. Looking at it, it sometimes feels like the last summer before my life started falling apart… and here we are, slowly putting the pieces together again, trying to make sense of that big jig-saw puzzle that is life – to embrace whatever, whenever and wherever adventures the future has on hold for us. Namaste and love from Sydney.

 

Passage Notes: Crete to Malta, Day 1

The 20 knots plus wind gusting from behind the island canned our beach morning plans – as nice and uninhabited and uncluttered Gramvousa on Crete’s most Western point looked like. At 0820 we lifted the anchor one last time in Greek waters and were of ready to set our storm sail. Not only did we know that we’d get the tail end of a strong Meltemi, but we had actually planed on using it to give us a good sail for at least the first 24 hours. We didn’t wanna have another five day motoring run like when we came from Malta to Greece. And it did blow. 30 Knots and sometimes more which would have been fine had it not been for the ugly swell. Two to three metre waves consistent with the occasional five to six is definitely not my idea of fun sailing. The jib, while it was still up, regularly got soaked a third up and the boom end kissed the sea after every wave. Navionics noted close to 9 knots of boat speed when we surfed down the waves – with our supposed hull speed, ia max, speed being 8kts! The boom kissed the water after every surge and got regularly soaked in the cockpit by breakers that went over the boat – something never experienced before.  Happy Dancer was literally dancing and the only thing that could keep me from losing it was the thought of selling this boat before we hit Gibraltar and moving into a nice stable house with backyard and veggie patch instead… Contrary to what I might have believed before, I’m not made of the same material as Bernard Moitessier, John Kretschmer and the like. I’m a mum. I’ve gone through pregnancies and given birth naturally without any chemical anesthetics twice. I don’t need to force myself into situations which make me feel sick. I don’t need to prove myself that I have endurance. I don’t need to test how long I can hold my breath… Can I hear the winds of change blowing?

Several hours into this ordeal we changed course to take the waves from our stern quarter which made it much more bearable, never mind the distance we’d lost on a direct course West to Malta as we were doing our record day anyway: Over 150 nm in the first 24 hrs! We were glad to feel the swell slowly subside after this.

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If you could feel the 40 kts wind then you’d be able to imagine what the seas roughly looked like behind this protective island.

Bye Bye Crete, Malta here we come!

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Entrance to Heraklion’s Venetien Harbour

Without a doubt, Crete has been our favourite part of Greece. It’s people seem friendlier, most food local, ancient history omnipresent and you don’t have to fight for mooring space with clueless charter boats. In fact, there’s so little sailing boats around that in the past 20 days we kept on bumping into the same people! We found the best marina in Greece in Ay Nikolao with free bbq facilities, laundry AND working shower (!); loved the local markets and Italian style town squares; never got tired of exploring more ruins; fell in love with funky university town and Crete’s capital Heraklion; had un unforgettable dinner at our sailmaker’s gorgeous garden place (Thanks again Korina & Gregoris!), strolled through picturesque Rethimnon and Xania and couldn’t get enough of arty cafes, toy-filled bars (yes, we travel with kids) and innumerable other loved and loving places.

If you need a sailmaker, handyguy, boat expert, mast climber or cave enthusiast in Crete, Gregoris in Heraklion is one of the few professionals who’s not only friendly and on-time, but really knows his stuff.

Crete is one of few Greek islands which is completely self-sufficient. A well and running economy based a lot around tourism unfortunately often means that bays which could be stunningly beautiful, like Bali or Elounda, are littered with sunbeds, ice cream vendors, ugly skyscraper hotels along the beach and boom boom teen beach parties till 5am (water indeed is a fabulous carrier of sound waves, grrr!), but Pablo shuts me up when complaining. Somehow Greece needs to get its economy back running. I guess he’s right and regrettably there seems to be a massive demand for this kind of holiday paradise en masse.

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Ay Nikolao

It’s been about a month since we took Happy Dancer out of the water to repaint the bottom and tackle another few things. Amazing how it affects the speed and fuel consumption in a positive way and so happy that this year’s anti-foul, contrary to the first one from the yard in Kilada seems to be doing its job properly without coming off at the touch of a finger. As such, we still cruise at around 5 knots, even with headwinds of 20 knots and more, typical for Crete summer when heading Westwards against the Meltemi.

Crete to Malta

We’ll leave for Malta later today and should arrive there on the weekend – maybe Friday eve if we don’t stop over at Gramvousa island. 435 nautical miles and hopefully a bit of wind ahead. We are hoping to catch the tail end of a meltemi for the first 24 hours and maybe a blow from the Ionina half way through the 4-5 day journey.  The kids are so excited to go back to Malta for a couple of weeks, they’ve started painting pictures for each and everyone of their little and big friends!

One last time we lift the anchor in Greece. Thanks for your beautiful islands, the history you’ve shared, all your winds have taught us, the friendships we made and souvlakis, fetta cheese and olive oil we devoured.

I’ve pre-scheduled a few recipe and yoga posts. You’ll here back from us life when we arrive in Valletta and can track our progress here until then. Unless our SSB miraculously decides to work, we won’t have internet access until our next landfall;) And here’s to the romance and uninterrupted  tranquility of the open sea!

Liveaboard Kayaker

One of the most amazing things about living on a boat – and one well worth paying the sacrifice of confined space, constant maintenance, unfavourable winds, expensive fuel and rolling bays for – is the things you see, mainly those you least expect.

During one of my morning runs I noticed an old guy living on his kayak. He had pulled it up under two palm trees on the beach and was sleeping snugly  in it as the sun only just creeped over the horizon after a windy night. The next night as I was lying there with the boys counting the stars on the night sky above us, I noticed this little thing anchored next to our boat – it was him, the live-aboard Kayaker! Had we not left the next morning, I would have invited him over for dinner. I won’t complain anymore about not having enough space on our 12 x 4 meter floatable home!

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Ruins and our own mortality

One of the things we love most visiting is local markets and ruins. The latter somehow has a magic spell on me as I trip over old carved and inscripted stones past rock tombs, my third eye sees the ghosts of the people who lived ordinary lives here thousands of years ago. Somehow visiting those places, whether it’s Lycian towns in Turkey, a former Lepper colony on Spinalonga Island or Myonian Palaces in Crete, are a tangible remainder of our own human mortality.

We take so many things too serious, yet almost everything will go the day our bodies disintegrate into dust and soil. I wonder what our descendants are going to say one day if they walk through the ruins of Mexico City, Shanghai and Cape Town, or observe the crumbling remainders of Sydney’s Harbour Bridge. This time round, however, it might be the end of humanity as it is hard to imagine that London would turn into ruins, while New York City would continue to build skyscrapers. Contrary to back then, it is a connected world. Unfortunately not a united – and this might be the very reason it goes down one day? Until then, remembering the lightness of our own transience, enjoy each moment of every day – and live a life that’s worth living. Carpe Diem.

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Refreshing cold feet and drinks IN the river by a massive gorge – tables semi-submerged. Kids loving it. Grown ups too.

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Updates from Crete

Arriving i Crete_317The biggest common trait I get from people new to yoga asking how to become a teacher, and lovely mails from wanna-be sailors is a huge distortion of reality. Thinking that a mere few months, or even years, of attending weekly asana classes give you the knowledge, understanding and experience necessary to pass on a thousand year old philosophy and life science is equally erroneous as thinking that by moving on a boat all your life’s problems will be solved.

Yes, our blog pics are beautiful and yes, all I write here is most true and honest, and yes, I do also write when the sun is not shining. But during the latter, writing often feels much harder and isn’t attacked as enthusiastically as when all goes well and our life is paradise on earth.

Living on a boat with your family can be the most fulfilling thing, but it can also be the hardest. There’s very little personal space and this is probably the challenge most dreamers (including us before we left) don’t give sufficient attention and thought to. There’s no friends to vent off, there’s no weekly schedule distracting from what’s going on… there’s just you, your family and your boat in a foreign country.

Add the fact that on the boat things break, ’cause that’s what stuff does when you put it in such a hostile environment as is saltwater. Whilst I have come to enjoy repairs and maintenance and especially the learning that comes with it (honestly, I think I learnt more in the past two years than if I had done a phd, and certainly more practical stuff!), it can all get too much when breakages come in a Murphy’s Law roll of three and more. On top of that, of course, the kids need their usual attention because this is how we’ve brought them up.

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Every day kids ask in a million different ways, am I important? What am I worth? Where is my place in this world? Generally our reactions are reflected in their actions.

In other words, the past few weeks, despite many highlights, namely friends left, right & centre, have been quite a journey and challenging on all sorts of levels. To start with, we were super sad to leave Turkey for Greece, but heading West towards the Atlantic there’s no other way. Thanks to all the readers who pointed out that our YellowBrick still had us in Turkey – we’ve now turned it on properly and once we sail again it will start showing our progress every 12 hours. We had another few nice one to two day passages with friends on board and friends expecting us in the harbour – a real treat as the lack of having friends around every day is for me THE biggest pay-off of this whole ‘Cruising the world with kids’ business. Whilst sailing to Crete, Pablo caught another massive tuna and the kids especially loved sushi for breakfast, lunch and dinner two days in a row while most of the rest of the crew fought with seasickness.

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After a couple of days at Marina of Ay Nikolao – by far the best, friendliest and most well thought-through marina in Greece (amazing bbq and stone-oven facilities, cheap laundry, big book exchange, working hot showers, a welcome pack for visiting yachts including a bottle of local wine, protected, responsive, smiling…) we are now anchored in Spinalonga Bay. The budget doesn’t allow for longer marina stays, yet the water-maker failure (new membrane has arrived in Malta waiting for us to get there) requests it.

Anyway, the bay is perfect and just what we needed to re-gather our energies: Beach in swimming distance, cute village inviting for the occasional stroll, playground near by, no swell whatsoever, nice promenade to run in the morning before my yoga practice and only one other yacht. Contrary to the Ionian, in Crete you don’t meet the clueless charter boats which make for after-noon entertainment and annoyance. To get here, you need to sail either a long or a tricky stretch of Sea, so those who make it generally know a good bit of their boats and sailing. Tomorrow we’ll rent a car for an excursion to some Myonian ruins, a gorge, a supposedly beautiful plateau and maybe a few traditional mountain villages. Then we’ll sail on 30 miles to Heraklion to hopefully get our main sail fixed (CANNOT recommend the UK Sailmaker guys in Fethiye whatsoever – they gave us the heads up on our sail in Turkey and less than ten days later, with a mere 25 knots of wind the clew ripped out!).

Bueno, finally the blog is up to date again and we are loving the first rain in months. Gentle welcomingly cooling drops amidst Crete’s humid summer heat.

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The truth about sailing Greece and Turkey

How do you know you are back in Greece?

  • No one smiles at you in the streets.
  • The guy giving you the mooring screams at you frantically when you are trying to make sense of the knotted bunch of two combined mooring lines he just threw at you, while your boat drifts with a nice 30 knots right onto your new neighbours.
  • The marina staff (Rhodes Marina – but honestly, could have been any other…) is so welcoming, service-oriented and friendly that they cannot even arrange for the fuel tanker to arrive on the day of your departure, instead ruining half of the one day you have to explore Rhodes, forcing you into tight and dangerous marina manoeuvres (yes, of course, with kids on board) at a lovely increasing 30 knots of meltemi kisses. Am I not supposed to be the customer if I’m ridding myself of 300 Euros for a service?
  • Before receiving any service in the new marina which hasn’t even installed its showers yet, you are asked to pay RIGHT NOW and UPFRONT!!!
  • Rubbish greeting you in tons in every bay you sail in.
  • The taxi driver is about the grumpiest person you’ve ever met on the planet and almost starts a fight when you want to pay him and don’t have the exact change.
  • Being the only ones in a restaurant, it still takes them half an hour to take your order (with eyes rolled) and another half hour to serve some nibbles, a few drinks and a (admittedly very nice!) nagile.
  • The waiter starts cursing at you (of course with more eye rolling and ‘tss’ and ‘ouff’ and ‘all too much’ kind of noises) when your two year old breaks an ash tray.
  • Food, drinks, buses, rental cars and a heap of other prices quadrupled.
  • The ticket guy on the bus almost kicks you out because your toddler is crying.
  • Supposedly fresh food from the markets goes bad the next day.
  • No matter where there’s zero effort made to increase economic activity, make the customer feel welcome and provide a fair and welcoming service.
  • In the average chandlery they shake their head ‘no’ at you before you’ve even finished your sentence as to what you are after.
  • You go for a run and all you can see for twenty minutes along a dirt road is three metres of rubbish on either side of the road. You can literally hear the earth crying out: Why are you doing this to me? I’m treating you so well; delicious olives, unique island paradise, incredible ruins… and this is how you treat me in return?
  • All the glory seems to lie in long past history.
  • You barely make it back from a run with a twisted ankle, obviously in pain, yet no one on the road would even bother asking if you need help.
  • … I could go on, but someone told me once if you don’t have anything positive to say, then better don’t say anything at all. The above, though, I just couldn’t hold back. Excuse my honesty.

Yes, we are back in Greece, and yes, I do miss Turkey where

  • You are received with a friendly smile everywhere you go.
  • People go out of their way to help you out and make provide an excellent service.
  • Life is hustling and buzzling at every corner.
  • The past is cherished, while the present embraced and the future welcomed.
  • The food is diverse, delicious and cheap and eating out can sometimes be cheaper than cooking on the boat.
  • Breath-taking markets are a living prove of aliveness.

Dalyan Markets_141 Dalyan Markets_143 Dalyan Markets_144 Dalyan Markets_145 Dalyan Markets_146 Dalyan Markets_148 Dalyan Markets_149 Dalyan Markets_150 Dalyan Markets_151 Dalyan Markets_153And finally a disclaimer, yes, we’ve seen a lot of Greece (the Ionian, the Peloponnese, the Cyclades, the Dodecanese and now Crete) and yes, there are also good sides to it, like the occasional friendly person, Rhodes being an exceptionally beautiful city, Crete seeming a fraction more friendly and switched on than the rest of the country, our journey west bringing us closer to Malta, Marocco, Spain and Gibraltar and, last but not least, we’ve been able to catch up with our cruising family friends on Maya which has easily been another highlight of the past two years in the Med.

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Both countries have exceptional sailing grounds from a purely geographical point of view, but if I had to chose between one of them, I wouldn’t have to think for a second! Maya, enjoy Turkey! We’ll be waiting for you over the pond.