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Greece, Oct 2017
Lagoon 380 Nefertiti
Flying to Greece on a sailing vacation was a last minute decision. After clearing both our work schedules, we booked our flights late September to depart for Athens in less than a month.
Our pre-trip research included finding climbing places to check out in Greece from routes listed in Mountain Project and 6 best places to rock climb in Greece. In reality, we never got around to do any of that until we explored the ruins in Corinth, and even then, it was just a scramble up some boulders near Acrocorinth.
On Oct 20th, we departed LA and took a few flights to Athens via Toronto. When we landed, I checked Facebook messenger before we boarded our next flight to Corfu. Slava had messaged earlier that our arrival will be around the same time as Alina, a friend he knew from previous sailing trips. She also happens to be a professional yacht photographer with One Star Life and World Yacht Photo.
Alina, Andrew and I shared a cab from the airport to Sunsail located in Marina Gouvia. When we arrived, we discovered that we would be sailing in a flotilla of 3-4 boats on this journey. I immediately noticed all the boats were berthed med mooring, a new for both of us. The flotilla consisted mostly of monohulls along with our Lagoon 38 catamaran. Theirs were mostly teaching expeditions for passengers learning to be certified while we were the happy-go-lucky cruising boat.
Our eclectic group was made up of those from the SF Bay area - James, Julie, Chanh, Rony - Alex from Ukraine, skipper Slava from Dubai as well as Andrew and I from So Cal. A few days into the passage, we also picked up additional crew (Alina and Tanya) for the remainder of the trip.
After Slava showed us the cabin assignments, we hopped into a couple cars to go provision for the trip.
Upon our return, James, Chanh, Andrew and I walked to dinner where I was delighted to see so many stray kitties. This would be the first of many sightings, that by the end of the trip, I had created a digital album made up entirely of “the cats of Greece.”
Day 1 (Sunday, Oct 22) depart Corfu 09:00 after breakfast. Head to Banaya in the afternoon for a quick swim and then med moor in Paxos at 17:30. (35 nm)
Day 2 (Monday, Oct 23) early start at 05:00 out of Paxos. Drop anchor at Levkas for lunch. Wait for channel to open and then motor to Nidri by late afternoon. Arrived 16:00 and started boat repairs. (45 nm)
Day 3 (Tuesday, Oct 24) depart Nidri at 05:00 for Kefalonia. Arrived 11:30. Bus excursion to caves and wineries. Reprovision and explore before dinner. (30 nm)
Day 4 (Wednesday, Oct 25) depart Kefalonia at 04:00. Rain expected until 05:15 with small to moderate chop until 09:00. Head to Navpaktos unless too crowded otherwise head 10 nm further south to a larger marina. 09:15 took over the helm and sailed for 2 hours! Arrived 20:10. (60 nm)
Day 5 (Thursday, Oct 26) sunrise hike to visit Nafpaktos Castle and then depart 10:30. Dock in Khiliadhou to pick up Alina & Tanya. Shipwreck sighted. Continue to motor to Kiaton and then raised the sail at 14:30 and sailed for 2 hours. Arrived in Corinth 23:50. (62 nm)
Day 6 (Friday, Oct 27) explore ancient Corinth in the morning. Cast off 12:00 and while waiting to cross Corinth Canal, have an impromptu photo shoot. Slow down for afternoon swim in the Saronic Sea. Arrive in Athens 21:30. (38 nm)
We arrived at the marina just in time for the sail briefing from Sunsail. A large, imposing Greek man stepped aboard with a large stack of papers and folders. He abbreviated his walk-through of the boat systems and only focused on a couple of known issues: starboard engine throttle alignment, fuel gauges, etc.
I (Andrew) was impressed with the level of detail and help he offered us towards a successful passage plan. Local knowledge of the various ports we had planned as stops, proved invaluable, notably when we arrived in Corrinth at almost 12 AM after nearly 14h and having lost the use of the port engine. The refresher on Med mooring was hugely helpful and employed for most of the trip.
Our first 2 days, like most of the trip, were light on sailing but the warm weather and calm seas helped everyone on-board get accustomed to each other and the relatively small space.
By day 3, we had experienced a bit of heavy weather sailing. We sat down with Slava and he gave us a briefing of the mishaps to the other boats in the flotilla due to the storm conditions. These include:
- broken jib sheet
- fouled anchor; can’t be dropped
- lightning strike; all electrical fried; boat switched out by charter company
- leaking valve in bilge
- boomvang broke
- anchor fouled while lowering; later fixed
- port side engine died (possibly due to fuel leak)
We had rain, thunderstorms and lightning on Day 2, occasional showers and small to moderate chop on Day 3, and more rain on Day 4. By day 5 when we arrived in Corinth, three of our crew abandoned ship and decided to take a bus the rest of the way to Athens rather than sail the rest of the way. As it turns out, we had a glorious sunny day in Corinth and throughout the rest of the slow passage into Athens.
We met up later in an Athens restaurant to catch up on their side excursion. They chose wisely given they had not planned on a Gilligan’s Island passage.
- setting up a finance tracking spreadsheet (learned my lesson from tallying expenses manually during BVI trip)
- bus tour of Kefalonia spoken completely in Russian
- sundowners that began at 22:00 aboard Nefertiti
- blasting Havana by Camila Cabello every night (Alina’s favorite)
- sitting around in cafes drinking coffee and enjoying frozen Greek yogurt
- early morning walk around the scenic Navpaktos marina
- impromptu photoshoot in Corinth canal
- in the company of kitties throughout the islands of Greece
- freshest seafood
- delicious table wine and coffees
- pistachio frozen yogurt
- greek salad
- pasta rigatoni & sausage
- congee with soft boiled eggs
- carved meat from roasting on a long spit
As you can read from this post and the 3rd part of this series, I had the pleasure of crewing aboard catamarans skippered by Vyacheslav Byelyayev (or Slava for short).
On board his boat, you can expect a completely relaxed and chill environment. He instills confidence and he’s happy to share his knowledge, considerate of everyone’s needs, flexible, and an all around good guy. One of the great aspects of crewing with many captains and skippers is getting a read on how they handle crises, and there were no shortages of them on the Greece trip.
I looked to him as a role model on how we can run our ship. So I am deeply grateful having had this experience with him twice. He was among the first to ask about our plans and to see s/v Rachel J Slocum. Hoping in the next few years, we’ll be able to meet up with him somewhere in a protected anchorage and share a cocktail or two.
When is the right time?
Recently, a question came up among the Women Who Sail group:
This may be one of those taboo questions, but how old were you when you started sailing full time?
This question yielded a huge response in the span of 4 days, and it breaks down as follows:
Granted, some of the respondents didn’t read the question properly and merely indicated when they first learned to sail and not when they first began to saill full time. Some commented on their stats even though they had not yet begun to sail full time. They were weekend sailors or seasonal cruisers.
Regardless, I was struck by the decades of experience from some, and the fact that many started later in life. It takes quite a deal of courage at any age to jump into this lifestyle. I loved some of the responses that accompanied these stats:
Learned to sail at 40…now 45…own a boat, sail-part time…hoping to be full-time on the boat before 50. Need to launch some teenagers who hate sailing first.
I moved aboard my first sailboat and solo trip at 22…43 now, still cruising, bigger boat, couple of ex husbands that hated it…wouldn’t change a minute.
74 now, I sailed for several months a year since I was 50. The last 7 years single handed.
65 years old. Left South Africa after one week instruction.
35, introduced by boyfriend that didn’t last long, never looked back. Been racing ever since, turning 70 this year.
72 now. Started sailing when I was about 40 (after I divorced my first husband). Bought my first boat at 52, second boat at 56, cruising boat at 58, went cruising at 60.
First sail aboard a half decker on the Norfolk Broads at six weeks old, 91 years ago. Seriously sailing at 14 as the war interrupted everything. Crewed my future husband’s racing dinghy at 16. Cruised the world between 1976 and 2011. Miss it.
62 - started as a baby.
All of these women inspire me! So in looking at the chart, our decision to begin a voyaging life falls in the middle of the bell-shaped curve. We have both more experience than some and far less than others. In the end, there is no formula or rule to follow when making this decision. Andrew and I did an inventory of what we wanted to get out of life and decided this was the right time.
To borrow a family motto from Steve Audette,
Never say “No” to adventure.
More from this series:
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