Our fresh water pump keeps running even when we’re not using water and it’s driving me nuts!

Imagine enjoying a nice book while curled up on the saloon sofa and having to hear brrrrrrrrrrrip every twenty minutes? Consider what it’s like when you finally start to drift off to sleep and the low murmur of brrrrrrrrrip echos through the boat?

For several months I’ve been enduring the annoying sound of brrrrrrrrrip throughout the day and night. When the problem first started we assumed that a tap was running or there was a small leak somewhere along our fresh water supply.

We spent hours looking for leaks and inspecting our water outlets

In the full spectrum of things, our intermittent fresh water pump was regarded as ‘annoying’ rather than ‘critical.’ We’ve had other fires to put out recently – mainly getting our Perkins engine and Westerbeake generator pulled apart, serviced and put back together.

The water pump was added to the long list of things we wanted to figure out or fix…eventually.

When the time finally came to discuss our epidemic brrrrrrrrrrip sound with a marine services chap can you believe that he discovered the solution in a matter of three minutes.

Yes – we lived with a massive annoyance that took one person three minutes to diagnose!

Now that the problem has been eradicated I can still hear echo’s of the brrrrrrrrrip in my mind. Our 56’ sailboat is too quiet now. (Yes…I am joking!)

Hopefully you’ll read this article and learn from our lessons rather than have to endure an annoying sound for days or even months.

Accumulator Tank

Accumulator Tank

The whole issue was created from a broken accumulator tank

A what?

That’s what I said when our lovely friend, Andy Willett, from Stella Maris services, announced our problem.

Fortunate for me, Andy has a lot of patience and took the time to show me the accumulator tank, and explain how to verify that, indeed, the tank was faulty.

A accumulator tank is a part of any pressurized water system that includes a pressure-controlled pump

Many boats have them. The tank acts as a pressure buffer ensuring a smooth flow of water from all the outlets.

Inside the tank is a rubber membrane that expands and contracts ensuring that pressure stays the same if you’re, say, taking a shower and someone runs a tap. The tank also keeps pressure up so that you can run the tap quickly and the pump doesn’t go on. In fact, if your pump does go on every time you use the tap, that’s another indication that the accumulator could be faulty.

If the membrane becomes damaged the result is a sporadic fresh water pump activation – the not-so-sweet sound of brrrrrrrrrip

To diagnose the fault, all you need to do is find the accumulator tank – it will be near the discharge port of the pressurized water pump. Ours is a big red tank. On top there is a large screw top. Once you unscrew the top you’ll find something that looks like the air intake on a bicycle tire.

Accumulator Tank

Accumulator Tank

Accumulator fault-finding process

Place your thumbnail on the intake allowing air to escape. If water comes out you know your rubber membrane is busted and it’s time to exchange your accumulator.

So…fast-forward two days after our diagnosis and Andy arranged for a new accumulator tank to be delivered to us. We’re a very ‘hands-on’ boat – we need to learn how to fix things ourselves considering that a world circumnavigation is on the cards.

That being said, hubby rose to the challenge and started swapping the accumulators while Andy was still in our area. If we had a problem, we could at least yell, ‘help.’

We’re currently in Marina di Ragusa in Sicily. Andy and his team are based in the UK, but fly to the marina often to help their club members. (I highly recommend becoming a club member – these guys are always a phone call away and have already offered us priceless phone and personal support).

The steps to swapping a broken accumulator tank for a new one

Skill level: Basic (If we can do it – anyone can)
Tools: Flathead screw driver, adjustable wrench and a tire pump

Accumulator Tank

Accumulator Tank

1. Turn off the fresh water pump on the circuit board.

2. Open a tap to run the water out.

(I’m sure you don’t need a picture for that task)

Accumulator Tank

Accumulator Tank

3. Remove the accumulator tank.

We had to remove two jubilee clips and then twist the tank off the pipe it was attached to. Also, I think that hubby took the accumulator off with a part of the pipework still attached to it. He removed that pipework and then attached it to the new accumulator. Note that it will be heavy as it’s full of water!

Accumulator Tank

Accumulator Tank

4. Grab the new accumulator tank and read the instructions!

Our instructions said that we had to let enough gas out to reduce the psi (whatever that is!) from 35 psi to 2 – 3 psi below the cut-in pressure. I think we worked it out that we needed to reduce to 7psi. We borrowed someone’s bicycle tire pump to do this.

Accumulator Tank

Accumulator Tank

5. Put some sealant tape around the connection

Accumulator Tank

Accumulator Tank

6. Screw the new accumulator tank into the pipework and secure using whatever was there before

In our case, we had two metal bands with jubilee clips holding the tank fastened.

Accumulator Tank

Accumulator Tank

7. Turn the pump back on and listen…

When we turned our pump back on we heard the sweet sound of…..nothing. Fantastic!

The crazy thing about being a boatie or a ‘live aboard’ is that we’ll probably never have to change another accumulator tank. My hope is that by sharing this information I’m leveraging our learning experiences to help more than just us! That’s the hope 🙂 Also – a big thanks to Andy from Willett Marine (being renamed Stella Maris) for teaching us to fish rather than fishing for us!!!

Living aboard a boat in the Mediterranean during the winter – what’s the scoop?

Previous to our decision to sell all our possessions, buy a 56’ sailboat and sail around the world I had no idea that there are thousands of people that winter their boat and themselves in the Mediterranean.

READ FIRST: For information about sailing in the Mediterranean rather than wintering, read this instead: Sailing in the Mediterranean. 

I assumed that people either sailed around the Mediterranean all winter or left their boats there and flew home

I’ve come to realize that there are those that live on land during the winter and only use their boat in the Mediterranean for holidays or during the summer. I’ve met quite a few consultants that work during the winter and save up so they can sail during the summer months.

And there are loads of retired couples that spend the full summer island hopping and then head back to land over the cooler months. These seasonal sailors almost always have their boat pulled out of the water and stored on the hard over the winter season.

And then there are the ‘live aboards’ or ‘liveaboards’

These people live on their boat full time. Most of the live aboards that I’ve met do not have homes in their native land. They’ve taken to the sea full time and live a somewhat nomadic life moving slowly or quickly from one destination to another. Some travel far – perhaps around the world and some have spent 15 years just sailing in the same area.

In the Mediterranean, most live aboards find a ‘home’ marina to live in over the winter months. The weather becomes treacherous with high winds, torrential rainfall, cold temperatures and turbulent seas. Furthermore all the areas that cater to sailors shut up for the winter. Even if you wanted to sail around there’d be a lack of facilities and services.

Living aboard a boat in the Mediterranean

Taking the boat out for a sail here and there is fine but overall, most live aboards in the Mediterranean dock up for the duration of the winter

Many marinas offer a special deal from October to April. Thus far Greece and Turkey seem to be the least expensive at around €2,500, Sicily comes in at €3,200, Spain is around the €5,000 and we were quoted €9,000 for Malta. These prices are for a 56’, include the full six months but do not include water and electricity. Smaller boats pay a lot less as the price is based on the length of the boat.

I have also met quite a few Americans that winter in Algeria or Tunisa because they EU won’t let them enjoy Europe for more than 3 – 6 months at a time

And during my recent stay in Rethymno Marina, Crete I discovered that our neighbors winter their boat and themselves in Egypt!

Every time I talk with live aboards the world seems to open up more and more. My first question is always, ‘is it safe to winter in Northern Africa?’ ‘Is it safe to winter in Egypt?’. The answers are always the same – ‘yes, it’s very safe.’

Apparently, in a marina you’re not really part of the country you’re in. Your surrounded by other Brits, Americans, Kiwi’s, etc and the host country want you there as you’re spending money to keep the local livelihoods going. It’s a win-win for everyone.

It’s s special situation when you think of it. Foreigners and locals mixing at the sea to live amongst each other for six months

Living aboard a boat in the Mediterranean

We’ve only been ‘wintering’ for one week but already I can feel an amazing vibe in our location. We’re calling Marina di Ragusa, Sicily, ‘home’ this winter and I think we made the right choice! Read my review: Marina di Ragusa Sicily Marina Review Winter Season. to find out the full scoop on the actual marina.

Every day we fall more and more in love with the people and our surroundings

There’s one live aboard that invites others to do Tai chi on the beach. Not only do other live aboards join in but so do the locals!

And when I took my 4 year old daughter to see if I could get her into a pre-school I found success. Although I couldn’t speak Italian, I sputtered out ‘Barca’ (boat) and did my six fingers for months added with a ‘Auito’ (help). I was received with a welcome smile, a bit of English and an iPhone translation app where the teacher and I discussed options.

Welcoming children into local schools from the marina is a normal occurrence

As a side note, and to describe the amazing people we’re surrounded by, after hubby and I dropped off my daughter on her first day we stopped by the marina office. Everyone around the marina speaks perfect English so we asked a staff member to call the pre-school.  We wanted to ensure our daughter was okay and that we understood everything correctly.

Not only did the staff member give us a great report but the marina office offered to become a point of contact if there were any issues.

Later that day the marina rang me to request my email address. A few minutes later, I received photos that the pre-school sent to the marina and then the marina forwarded to me! The photos were of my daughter, Sienna, having fun, smiling and laughing.

Let me get back to the world of live aboards

Generally, live aboards keep their boat in the water for the majority of the winter only to have it hauled out for necessary out-of-water work. On a yearly basis the haul needs new antifouling painted on, anodes need to be changed and a good check of the shaft, rudder and prop areas needs to be actioned. During out-of-water work a boater might fly off to see relatives, find a hotel or remain on the boat using a ladder to get aboard.

Living aboard a boat in the Mediterranean

Within the first couple weeks of arriving in their designated marina, live aboards prepare their boat for the winter

Instead of winterizing, or shutting down the boat, they shut down bits of it and do a variety of tasks to ensure the winter is as comfortable as possible. For example, most boats remove their sails, halyards and sheets (all the ropes). By removing your sails, you reduce the amount of resistance to wind that you get so the boat won’t blow around as much. You also protect the sails from the damaging UV rays.

Furthermore, the ropes all need a very good wash with fresh water and to be stowed away for next season. Small ropes, called mousing lines, are used to replace the ropes that go up the mast and through all the fittings. When the next season starts, you simple tie the halyard or sheet (ropes) onto the mousing lines and pull them back into place.

As far as winterizing goes, we ‘wintered’ our water maker as we’ll have no use for it for the six months. With a nice supply of water from the jetty we’ll fill up our tanks with a hose whenever we need it.

We have also tackled our biggest issues – repairing leaks, changing faulty pumps/switches and starting to plan the long list of to-do’s that we have

Fortunately for us, we were introduced to an amazing boating services company called Willett Marine, soon to be renamed Stella Maris – latin for ‘Star of the Sea.’ Back when our boiler broke outside the Corinth Canal, the owner Andy talked us through re-plumbing our water supply, sourced a new boiler and found someone reputable to install it for us – all from England. Because of our great experience (and testimonials from other yacht owners), we decided to winter in the marina where Stella Maris service their Mediterranean clients. Both my husband and I cannot recommend the Stella Maris team enough. I’ll write more about them later and include some of the amazing new skills that they’ve taught us.

If you’ve read my blog for a while you’ll know that hubby and I have been through hell with BAD marine industry service people

When you find a company as professional, dedicated, kind, knowledgeable, efficient and fair on prices us boaties need to spread the word and therefore that’s what I’m doing now. I definitely know bad service when I get it and now I know the opposite. Stella Maris is top-notch.

Moving on…after all the preparation tasks are taken care of, it’s then time to create a weekly/bi-weekly/monthly routine to ensure that the boat stays in good condition. For example, every pump needs to run on a weekly basis. That means that it’s important to run your air conditioning and freezer even if you’re not using it. Pumps cease up if they’re not used regularly.

Living aboard a boat in the Mediterranean

Furthermore, it’s absolutely imperative to run the engine. You need to do this in neutral. Also have the engine tick over in forward to make sure the shaft moves. This moves the salt water through the engine and gets the oil to splash around a bit. It also moves the grease along the shaft and propulsion unit. The generator also needs to be turned on and loaded up (turn lots of things on) for a few minutes.

So…we’re paying around €533/month to live in paradise

That’s how I feel thus far about ‘wintering’ in the Mediterranean. We have our home with us, access to excellent facilities and much more. There’s a beach to the east that stretches as far as the eye can see. It’s October and still in the 90’s F/High 30’s C. We’re spoiled for choice with a range of excellent restaurants. We have three grocery stores, a butcher, a few bakeries and quite a few little shops.

My daughter has a pre-school to go to and there’s even a child drop-off indoor play gym! We’re surrounded by a group of about 50 other boaties that are likeminded and spending the winter here too. Furthermore, the locals are amazingly kind and eager to get to know us.

Living aboard a boat in the Mediterranean

There are boats with other children too!

As we walk to and from the boat, we’re always met with smiles and something to discuss. This morning I had a lovely conversation with a Dutch couple about the best brand of slow cooker. They even invited me over to their berth to enjoy a demonstration!

Additionally, in this particular marina, every morning at 9am there are announcements about excursions. Additionally, they talk about goods for sale or wanted items, any medical issues, lost and found and upcoming social events. Every Tuesday and Friday the boaties meet at one of two bar/restaurants for a drink and nibbles. And today I received an email from a boatie working on a once a month dinner event.

I almost feel like I did when I went to summer camp!

There’s loads to do, many great new people to meet. I honestly couldn’t imagine ever going back to the way I use to live my life. I’m truly a nomad and loving it.

If you want the full scoop about what it was like to live in Marina di Ragusa, Sicily for the winter, read my review next.

Sailing pre-passage checklist

Checklist

Checklist

Below is a sailing pre-passage checklist you can use before you go for a sailing journey. On Britican we live by checklists! Everywhere I look there’s a checklist for one thing or another but by having them in place it really helps to remember important things that can often be forgotten. To see all the checklists I’ve added to this website, go the Checklist archive.

  • Provisions, fuel, water and gas – make up food for the journey (if it’s day trip I always make carrot and cucumber sticks along with preparing salads or sandwiches. For longer trips, I make several main meals and freeze them)
  • Engine checks – See Marine Engine Pre start Checklist
  • Generator checks – Same as Marine Engine Pre start Checklist
  • Safety gear – allocate lifejackets (and harnesses if needed). It’s helpful to label the lifejackets with different numbers so when the crew take them off and they’re piled up, they can easily identify the correct one later.
  • Crew safety briefing (see ‘Sailboat Briefing Checklist’)
  • Crew passage briefing – explain the ‘Passage Plan’
  • Crew deck briefing
    • Head sail – bending on, sheet leads, changing
    • Mast – halyards, topping lifts, etc.
    • Mainsail – reefing arrangements, clew outhaul
    • Winches – operation, safety, security of handles
    • Ropes and fenders – how to tie on and store
  • Watch keeping duties (keeping a look out, reporting other vessels, logs)
  • Nominate Log keeper
  • Get crew to put on the appropriate clothes
  • Prepare yacht for sea: tidy, towed, batten down, secure, shut sea cocks-heads/ sinks
  • Sails to be made ready. Reefing?
  • Allocate crew mooring duties
  • Set mooring warps to slip
  • Disconnect the shore electrics
  • Prepare to cast off
  • Cast off and monitor using fenders
  • Once clear of all hazards stow warps and fenders
  • Other?

Can you think of any other sailing pre-passage checklist items that I should add? Let me know in the comments below.

If you like checklists check out my book entitled, ‘Checklists for Sailors – Passage Planning, Sailboat Maintenance, Cleaning, Medical and More. Making it easier to enjoy sailing your sailboat.’ To get more information on all my books and details how on how you can purchase them, please visit my Sailing Books Page.

Must have books for sailors

Must have books for sailors

The Greek Island of Symi is worth a visit but get there early to get a berth!


Greek Island of Symi

The Greek Island of Symi was named after Poseidon’s wife, Symi and has a history spanning a millennia

After a stay in Kos Marina and before heading west back to Sicily for the winter, my husband, Simon, and I sailed our 56’ sailboat to Symi Island. Aside from our 4-year-old daughter, we also had an 11-year-old guest with us (Tanna pictured below)!

Symi

Symi

Two weeks previously we ran into sailboat, ‘Why Knot?!’ and cruised around with owners Garth and Elaine, there two lovely girls and their three additional guests. For the full two weeks either our daughter sailed with ‘Why Knot?!’ or the one or both of the two girls sailed with us.

On two occasions Simon and I sailed our boat alone – no child on board!

What an experience. We sat back, soaked up the sun, enjoyed the quiet waves hitting the hull and listened to the wind fill the sails. There was an absence of, ‘Mom, can you get me something to eat,’ ‘Mom, can you play with me,’ ‘Mom, mom, mom!’

Our quiet voyages felt like mini-vacations and we were so thankful to have alone time

Most couples can get a family member or babysitter to look after the children but when you’re living on the sea the chances for alone time don’t come often!

That being said, I missed our daughter and couldn’t wait to hug her when we all finally moored up. Not surprisingly, my daughter didn’t even raise her head when we went by – she was way too busy having fun with the girls.

Sausage Pasta Bake

Sausage Pasta Bake

There were sleepovers and when possible we moored next to each other so the girls could jump back and forth between the boats

Every evening we all met up and enjoyed dinner together. We either went to a restaurant or took turns cooking dishes.

On our lovely sail to Symi, we had Tanna with us. Aside from taking in the amazing sights, Simon decided to race Garth. His excitement over passing ‘Why Knot?!’ was so funny.

What is it about men having to race any other boat in sight?

After our little race (that Garth knew nothing about!) we couldn’t believe our eyes when ‘Why Knot?!’ pulled a tuna out of the water from their fishing line. It was huge! Excitedly we all started to envision tasting sushi and tuna steaks and tuna kebobs.

Eventually, we entered Symi habor

Mooring up in Symi is stressful and you’ll need to arrive around 10 – 11 am to get a place along the hard.

We called the harbormaster who told us to proceed into the harbor. There were boats already in the harbor waiting for instructions and many behind us coming in. Furthermore, there were large and small ferries and pleasure cruisers surrounding us. Top that off with a bunch of charter boats and it makes for an interesting time.

Symi

Symi

The harbormaster seemed nowhere to be found and people were just coming in and going stern-to to the hard

We eventually dropped our anchor and started to back up to the hard. We felt that if we didn’t grab a spot there wouldn’t be one for long.

As we backed up a local shop attendant took our lines and it didn’t take long to secure the boat. The town was heaving with people. There was a massive ferry along the side and day-trippers by the hundreds were getting off.

We got ourselves settled and then quickly went a couple boats down to see the tuna fish aboard ‘Why Knot?!’

Kos Marina

Kos Marina

After we all got a glimpse Garth and Elaine said that they were going to go around and ask some local restaurants if they’d prepare the fish for us – to gut, clean and cook it.

The girls all went to the end of the road to look at the horse-pulled wagon and Simon and I took our paperwork to the port authority.

Note: if you moor up on the right side of the habor, where we did, you have a good 15-minute walk to the other side to visit the port authority. Let it be known that it’s quite a hike!

In the late afternoon we all met up to discuss dinner plans

Apparently, the restaurants wanted to charge 200 euros to prepare the fish for us. I made the comment that we should just do it ourselves. None of us knew how to clean and gut a tuna but that’s what YouTube is for – isn’t it?

Greek Island of Symi

Greek Island of Symi

Garth watched a YouTube video, I grabbed our massive cutting board and Elaine bought a newspaper to put over the table before we started cleaning the tuna. There were nine of us all huddled around the table on the aft deck of ‘Why Knot?!’ and passers by stopped to take a look.

I must say that Garth did a brilliant job – he cut up the tuna and later that evening we all enjoyed plate after plate of tuna

In the end, the tuna was large enough to provide three meals!

Greek Island of Symi

Greek Island of Symi

The following day, the girls played together and Simon and I walked around a bit

Symi is like no other Greek Island. The town is build on the side of a mountain that meets the sea. There are windmills and a monastery at the top and very colorful homes dotted around the harbor.

There are loads or restaurants, bars, coffee shops, bakeries, grocery stores and tourist shops

There’s a little beach that has a restaurant next to it and of course, there’s a little tourist train to show you the whole area if you’re not up for walking around.

Greek Island of Symi

Greek Island of Symi

Greek Island of Symi

Greek Island of Symi

Greek Island of Symi

Greek Island of Symi

Greek Island of Symi

Greek Island of Symi

During the day the town gets extremely busy. There are loads of day trippers from Rhodes and there’s never an empty space along the hard after noon. Symi fills up quickly.

Being famous for sponges, I asked Simon to grab me a sponge for the shower before we left

I don’t think I ever had a real sponge before. Well, I’m very pleased with Simon’s selection as it’s the best sponge I’ve ever had.

Greek Island of Symi

Greek Island of Symi

Furthermore, the purchase sparked my daughters interest in sponges. We later spent half the day learning about sponges. We both wondered how they ate, if they moved around and Sienna wanted to know where their eye’s were!

I went online and found some early learning materials on sponges and we had a great time coloring them in and labeling the various parts of the sponge.

Sadly, Symi is where Britican had to say goodbye to ‘Why Knot?!’

Symi

Symi

We all felt teary-eye’d as our friends left Symi to reach their final destination for the summer. ‘Why Knot?!’ was scheduled to get pulled out in Turkey for winter and the family had to go back home to South Africa. (I think Sienna wanted to go with them rather than stay with us!)

Sim, Sienna and I stayed an extra day in Symi waiting for good winds

We went for a walk, got some groceries, went out the eat and soaked up as much of Symi as we could. After spending two weeks with ‘Why Knot?!’ we all felt a bit lost without them. Essentially, we moped around for the day.

So…Symi is a great destination

I highly recommend a visit but make sure to get into the harbor early. I’ve been told that weekdays are not as busy as weekends and if you want a quieter night, try to moor on the right side rather than the left.

Authentic Tiramisu aboard Britican

While being laid up in Preveza, Greece with engine, generator and rigging problems our dynamic life on the sea changed to a slow life on the hard. With no car, only two restaurants and a massive out of water storage marina surrounding us, we didn’t have our usual dose of ancient archeological sites, tourist attractions, or ‘fun days out.’ The picture below is the nice view we had to the right of the boat.

To the left, however, there was a boat crane operating Monday through Saturday all day long

When you watch the Tiramisu video below you’ll hear the ‘beep, beep, beep…’ that I listened to for three weeks!

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

Thankfully…there was a silver lining as we did have Andrea – the best engineer I’ve ever meet (and I’ve met loads this year)

And not only is he an engineer. Andrea has become our dear friend. After spending all day with my husband in our sailboat bilges and engine rooms, he spent the evenings with us enjoying AMAZING food and drink. Andrea took us to a variety of authentic Greek restaurants, cooked for us (Andrea has owned a couple restaurants in the past too!) and even endured my cooking.

Although the days were tough having to step over engine pieces and parts and be surrounded by a mess, the evenings with Andrea made up for the dust-filled, loud, annoying days of engine reconstruction. And just a note on our engine and generator. Andrea and his team helped us to take apart both of our engines, send away the pieces that needed servicing, put the engines back together and then clean and repaint them.

I am now very PROUD of my engines – take a look at how amazing our generator looks…

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

Being born on a boat, owning almost 20 boats himself AND having a background in engineering makes Andrea a very special person

Not only does he know his stuff, but he also knows what life on a boat is like. He knows the extreme importance of maintaining good reliable engines! Andrea also is an ex-helicopter pilot too – he’s one of those amazingly talented people that make me feel as if I know nothing – but not in a bad way. If you’re ever in the Ionian near Lefkas Island or Preveza you’d be nuts not to have him look at your engines.

That aside, this is indeed a Britican Galley post, so without any further ado, let me get on with the show

When Andrea offered to teach me how to make Tirimisu, an Italian classic, I cheekily asked him if I could video the preparation in Britican’s Galley. To my delight, Andrea said yes! Below is my husband, Simon and our good friend, Andrea…

When I edited the Tiramisu video I cut out about 10 minutes of footage

The time it takes to use the blender/mixer is cut short in the video so make sure to spend more time blending. Otherwise, all the ingredients are listed in addition to the steps. Andrea is from Rome, Italy and I think he did a great job speaking English and making an all-time authentic Italian tirimisu…

When we finally sat down to enjoy the Tiramisu, after Andrea made us homemade gnocchi’s, I was once again moooooing like a cow. The flavors were excellent. Next step is for me to give the recipe a go!

Sailing from Greece to Sicily – here’s what happened on our 49-hour journey to do 281 miles


Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

In the past seven months, we’ve sailed from Gibraltar to Malta. From Malta to Sicily and from Sicily to Greece hitting mainland Italy. We also made a few quiet stops in Turkey too – I say ‘quiet’ because we didn’t notify officials that we where there as our stay was so short.

Apart from our trips from one country to another, we usually make short journeys working our way around the various areas. For example, we spent a month going up the east side of Sicily before hitting mainland Italy and then once we were in Greece, we’d spent five months traveling around the Ionian Sea, through the Corinth Canal and all around the Aegean Sea.

Most of the sailing we do is from one anchorage or mooring to the next within a somewhat close proximity. Some days we’ll sail for a couple hours and other days we’ll sail all day long. And furthermore, we often find a spot we like and stay for a few days or even a week. While moored in Kos Marina on the island of Kos, we stayed a few days on a few occasions due to repairs we had done to the boat.

We also stayed in Rethymno Marina in Rethymno, Crete for nine days while touring Crete by car and waiting for a friend to arrive by airplane. Most recently, we stayed in Preveza, Greece for three weeks due to a completely unexpected engine and generator overhaul.

Our last voyage, which now brings us to our current position, took us from Preveza, Greece to Syracuse, Sicily and it was a two-day non-stop trip.

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

To date, we’ve sailed 3,283 nautical miles since setting sail on our around-the-world sailing adventure seven months ago

It’s been one heck of a first sailing season for us with our new 56’ sailboat.

We’ve made some incredible new friends, seen some absolutely amazing sights, enjoyed countless sunrises and sunsets, enjoyed fresh, local incredibly tasty food, gotten to know our boat and have essentially broken ourselves into our new lifestyle on the sea.

The time has now come, however, to find a cozy corner of the Mediterranean to ‘winter’ Britican (The boat is named Britican because hubby is British, I’m American and our daughter is both!)

The Mediterranean is not a nice place to sail during the winter

Furthermore, our boat needs to be hauled out of the water, dried out, antifouled (protects the haul), anodes changed and get a very nice clean and wax! There are quite a few other projects we also have lined up. For example, did you know that you’re suppose to change all the below-water level piping on your boat every 10 years?

Originally, we would have been preparing to cross the Atlantic Ocean next month with Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) crossing; however, early in the season we realized that the boat isn’t ready for such a long trip (3-4 weeks). Furthermore, it’s less expensive and easier to get our boat in shape here rather than in the Caribbean or remote areas of the Pacific.

So, we’ll live aboard our boat here in Sicily waiting for the summer to come when we’ll enjoy another season in the Mediterranean. Next November (2015), we’ll head across the Atlantic and keep on going.

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Our recent journey from Greece to Sicily was very tranquil

The week before our departure, we endured massive thunderstorms, high winds and flash flooding so I was initially concerned about getting a window in the weather to make the crossing.

Moreover, our engine and generator were both completely pulled apart and put back together again. I feared making such a long passage with so many changes made to our systems. Yes, we did engine trials and made sure everything worked, but not at length. Read The trials of a new boat owner – a tale of coincidence, corruption and contempt for the marine industry to hear about our engine issues and the amazing people we met to help us out.

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

It’s astounding how close you become to people in such a short period of time

Eventually, however, the time came for us to leave our three-week mooring from Ionian Marine (located across from Preveza, Greece). We said our goodbye to our new friends we made – especially Andrea and his dog, Bonsai (above) – and with tears in our eye’s, we set sail. Poor Sienna cried for 1/2 hour as we sailed away.

Prior to leaving, I spent a day preparing meals for the journey. I made shepherds pie (a ground beef mixture on the bottom with carrots, celery, peppers, onions and Britican Galley Beef Blend covered with garlic filled mashed potatoes and cheese on the top), a hearty chicken soup (with the Britican Galley Chicken Blend – of course!) and chili with very little chili powder. Unfortunately, I purchased Paprika at the local Greek supermarket rather than chili powder – heck, it’s all in Greek…how was I to know.

In Greece the days are still quite hot but the evenings drop quickly in temperature

I thought some nice warm comfort food would make the transit even more enjoyable. Also, I still get slightly seasick so having the knowledge that a good meal is coming up makes me feel better. Essentially, I daydream about food all day long.

Looking back, I could have cooked on our voyage across. We had very little wind and it would have been nice to have something to do, but it’s better to prepare for the worst. By having meals ready, all we had to do is heat them up. In a storm or turbulent seas, it’s almost impossible to cook as my cousin Loryn discovered. She tried to cook fried eggs in a Force 8 and I wasn’t surprised when she got egg on her face. Hehehehe.

By mid afternoon, we motored out of the channel and into the Ionian Sea

There was enough wind to raise the main and genoa so we put our sails up as soon as we could. I sat in the cockpit, looking out at the deep blue sea, and quietly said, ‘Boy, have I missed you!’

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

My husband set the navigational instruments and like the dashboard on a car, we could see the estimated time of arrival (ETA) and distance to weigh point in Syracuse, Sicily. Our ETA read 48 hours and our distance was 281 nautical miles. It’s better than the 800+ nautical miles we had to do from Gibraltar to Malta!

That night we enjoyed the shepherds pie with some fresh bread at sea

We all said our good byes to Greece. We’d definitely miss the exceptional food, great new friends and overall feel of Greece. What an incredible country for sailors…It’s probably my number on destination for sailing in terms of variety, value for money, facilities and great people.

Although Greece doesn’t have the funds to maintain many of their marina’s at least they have many harbors, mooring buoys and anchorages dotted all over the place. Further – it often costs nothing to tie off on a town quay. That definitely can’t be said about Italy or the Balearics.

Anyway, around 6pm, we all gathered around the cockpit table and enjoyed the shepherd’s pie that I made. It was so amazingly tasty. I kept saying ‘mmmmmmmm’ over and over again. Usually when I make food myself I don’t enjoy it as much as other people’s cooking, but this night was different.

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

After dinner, my husband, Simon, went to the aft cabin to get a bit of rest and chilled out with our daughter, Sienna (age 4). The two of them watched the film, ‘The Croods.’ Our guest, Admiral Stefano, and I kept watch in the cockpit. We watched a massive moon come over the Greek mountains – it was definitely a sight to behold.

We chatted about the stars, constellations, the position of the moon and sun, navigating by the stars in addition to me practicing my Italian. Stefano must be so tired of me saying ‘come sei dichie __________’ or ‘how do you say ________’?

Stefano and I were meant to keep watch until midnight when Simon would take over for three hours. I was doing very well until 10:30 when I fell fast asleep! I’m definitely not good when it comes to lack of sleep. Stefano didn’t wake me up. Around midnight I jumped out of my sleeping position and yelled out, ‘we need to write down a log.’ A log is a record of where you are, where you’re going and general information about the sea state, cloud coverage, distance to weigh point and course!

With a grin, Stefano explained, ‘I did the log at 11pm.’ I then realized that I had been asleep for quite a while. Oppps.

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Not long after, my husband, Simon, (pictured above) was in the cockpit until 3am and Stefano took over from 3am to 6am. Once again, Simon took over. After midnight I went to my bedroom and cuddled up with Sienna. We allow her sleep in our bed during night sails so she looks forward to them rather than not. She see’s it as a treat to sleep with her mom and it gets her focus away from nighttime rolling, noises and disturbances.

Saying that, Sienna could sleep through an air raid if it occurred

The following day, the wind started to die so we got our jennaker out. It’s a very thin sail that can be used with winds blowing between 10 and 15 knots. Using our heavy genoa, the sail would flap and fail to fill up with wind whereas our jennaker fills up perfectly and let’s us gracefully sail in light winds.

We have around five additional sails on board and that’s on top of our main and genoa (front sail). The jennaker is kept in our forward berth (bedroom). To get the jennaker out, we simply pull it up through the forward hatch and then attach it to the various points, unfurl (unroll) it and trim as appropriate.

Our jennaker is blue and white and adds a bit of color to our journey. With the jennaker and the light winds I felt as if we were in a fairytale. As far as the eye could see there was no one and no thing – no another boat and no land.

Unbelievably, however, 120 nautical miles out from Greece, with no land in sight a rather large bird started to swoon us

First of all, I was surprised to see a bird at all. Second, I darn near died when Simon yelled out, ‘It’s an owl!’

What the heck is an owl doing during the middle of the day circling us – a boat in the middle of nowhere? In my usual moron fashion, I started to yell out ‘whoooo, whoooo,’ to let the owl know that he or she was welcome to rest on our boat. We often get birds stopping on Britican for a while to regain their strength to carry on.

On our trip from Malta to Sicily a homing pigeon actually landed on the boat and then got on top of my back while I was trying to take a nap on the aft deck! Read Sailing from Malta to Sicily including an amazing sunrise, two stow-aways, seasickness starting with Force 2 winds rising to Force 8!

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Needless to say, the owl didn’t stop, however we did have two finches rest on our safety lines and one robin stopped by a few times to say hello

We put out breadcrumbs and a little dish of water. Either the birds were migrating or they, perhaps, were on a tanker or cruise ship and found themselves stuck out at sea? I’m not sure. We’re always happy to accommodate new guests – as long as it’s not a giant squid – the one that my mother warned me about after watching a National Geographic special.

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Aside from our flying friends, we also watched three pods of dolphins go by

They all seemed to be feeding so they didn’t sail along the bow like the usual do. One pod did come over to say ‘hi’ but quickly carried on. I tried my best to get a picture but they all seemed to be swimming very fast!

We also spotted a couple massive turtles just floating along. Every time I see them I feel as if they’re just ‘going with the flow.’ It doesn’t look like they have the ability to navigate very well – they just flow by looking unconcerned about anything. Furthermore, I always see them alone. I wonder if turtles get lonely?

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Half way through our trip the wind died completely

The Ionian Sea was a millpond. Admiral Stefano said that in the 40 years of being on this sea he’s never seen it so calm. The forecast called for very little wind, but there was nothing. Not even a breathe of air coming from any direction.

Sadly, the decision was made to turn the engine on after 23 hours of sailing. We all discussed that it would be a good thing to give the engine a good running-in and ensure that all the fixes were, in deed, fixed.

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

The engine went on and we motored along across the flat calm Ionian Sea

For lunch we had a lovely potato salad that I pre-prepared and a tossed salad. When I made the shepherds pie, I just added more potatoes than needed and used the extra for a potato salad. And of course, we had bread with olive oil and salt. Stefano has turned us all into Italians!

During the course of the day we chatted, read books, watched some cartoons or did some watercolor paintings (with my daughter) and I gave myself a pedicure. I also decided to do my daily audio meditation on the forward deck – I listen to these great meditations on ‘going with the flow,’ ‘being a playful parent,’ or ‘radiating unconditional love’ – I love a dose of woo woo stuff every day.

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Sailing-Greece-Sicily-k
Sailing-Greece-Sicily-k

Heck, it was flat calm – I could have done one-legged yoga balancing poses if I wanted to but that would have been far to ambitious!

When dinner approached I heated up the chicken soup and made some garlic bread cubes – I suppose they’re homemade crotons. You toast bread and then rub fresh garlic across both sides and then cut into cubes. Another excellent addition to my culinary skills from Stefano.

I was exhausted from doing nothing all day so around 9ish Sienna and I cuddled into bed and drifted off to sleep. Simon and Stefano did their three hours on and three hours off. Throughout the night I’d wake up and go check to see if the person on watch wanted a coffee or something to eat.

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Around 4pm the following day and after two failed attempts to reel in a big fish, we made it safely to Syracuse, Sicily

Just as we anchored the wind started to blow and would you believe that it was too windy to leave the boat? We had over 24 hours of no wind and then the time when you want it to be calm, the wind decides to blow!

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Our intention was to get off the boat and go to a birthday party for Stefano’s 4-year-old nephew

Further, we wanted to get off and get ourselves a big bowl of pasta and a cannoli or two. Instead, the three adults enjoyed some cheese and crackers along with a beer/wine. Stefano and I went to bed at 8pm and Simon put Sienna to bed later. Sailing definitely makes me sleepy.

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

Sailing from Greece to Sicily

In the end, we were all pleased to see that the engine ran like new

I was also impressed with my food preparations. Up until this trip, my cousin cooked and prepared meals for long-ish journeys. I felt proud of myself for cooking – in my previous land-based life, the kitchen was not a room I frequented.

The plan is to now head to Marina diRagusa along the southeast cost of Sicily where we’ll stay put for the winter amongst several other live-aboards. I’ve been told that there’s quite a nice community there and I look forward to discovering yet another new chapter of our amazing around the world adventure.

Go to Santorini Island in Greece but leave your sailboat somewhere else!

Santorini Island Greece

Santorini Island Greece

I’ve lost track of how many Greek Islands I’ve been to this year – maybe 25 or 30. Earlier this year my husband, Simon, daughter, Sienna (age 4) and I sailed around the Ionian Islands, through the Corinth Canal to Athens and then all around the Aegean Sea on our 56’ sailboat.

Sailing through Greece over the summer was a dream come true

In the Aegean we hit the Sporades, Northeast Aegean, Cyclades, Dodecanese, Crete and Argo-Saronic Islands. We were also fortunate to visit several places along the Peloponnese and mainland Greece.

Santorini Island Greece

Santorini Island Greece

That being said, the most beautiful Greek destination I laid eye’s on was Santorini

Unfortunately, however, anchoring or finding a mooring in Santorini is near impossible. If you have a skipper or crew able to take command of your boat, you can take a dinghy to the small fishing port below the town.

There are four large mooring pillars outside the fishing port, as noted in the pilot book, however they’re for very large vessels. You have to tie yourself to the pillar and then run a very, very long line to the shore ensuring that you don’t spin. More than one vessel can use the mooring pillars and it’s not advised that you leave the vessel once tied on.

Our 56’ sailboat was too small to even consider tying onto the mooring pillar

Santorini Island Greece

Santorini Island Greece

On a few occasions Simon and I discussed sailing to Santorini in the hopes that we’d be able to find a place to anchor. One day we actually set sail for the island but diverted to Crete due to more favorable winds and the guarantee of a place to stay for the night!

Once we were in Crete I thought all hope was lost

I was never going to visit the famous Greek island of Santorini. I thought, ‘oh well – perhaps next year!’

As fate would have it, a friend of ours, Admiral Stefano (shown below), flew into Crete to join us for a while. We started to discuss our passage back towards Italy and I just happened to mention that I was disappointed to miss Santorini.

Santorini Island Greece

Santorini Island Greece

And that’s when Stefano said, ‘let’s go to Santorini and then we’ll make our way west towards the Peloponnese and then over to Italy. The winds are perfect for us to go North and then West.’

The smile on my face was massive

We set sail from Crete in the afternoon estimating that we’d arrive in Santorini the following day. Fortunately, Stefano and Simon took the night shift and Sienna and I slept most of the way to our destination.

When I awoke we were on the South side of Santorini heading to the North side to find a place to drop us off. Stefano offered to drive the boat around for a few hours while Sim, Sienna and I explored the town. Stefano made a visit to the island several years ago so he was happy to let us experience the island for ourselves.

Santorini Island Greece

Santorini Island Greece

We lowered our dinghy, motored over the extremely small fishing port and climbed up onto land

A big sign said, ‘Donkeys,’ so we followed the signs. Above us was a massive cliff with a winding path to the top.

When we arrived at the donkey station there were a bunch of old Greek men that looked as if they’ve lived outdoors their entire lives. We motioned to the donkeys and it didn’t take long for all three of us to be sitting on one. Simon took Sienna and I had a donkey all to myself.

Santorini Island Greece

Santorini Island Greece

I assumed that someone would lead the donkey up the hill but we were left to our own devices!

There wasn’t even a rein. You just sat on the donkey and hoped it went forward. We made it a few steps around the first turn and Simon’s donkey stopped. We both tried to lightly kick the donkey, like you do with a horse, but nothing worked.

After a few minutes some other people with donkeys came up behind us and ours started to move again.

A snail could have climbed the hill faster than we did!

That being said, it was the best 5 euros we’ve ever spent. Trying to get the donkeys to go forward and then ‘racing’ others was hysterical. I had a smile the entire time. And the view…Oh-my-gosh…the view as we climbed the hill was breathtaking.

We could see the gorgeous blue sea, the crater of the volcano, cruise ships, and loads of sailboats. I was in heaven.

Santorini Island Greece

Santorini Island Greece

Once at the top, I felt the pressure to see everything quickly as we only had a few hours

I also felt tired, hungry and thirsty. None of us slept very well – I never sleep good when we sail overnight. And I needed a hit of caffeine.

We stopped at the first restaurant overlooking the sea and ordered a few crepes and coffees. My eye’s were smiling just as much as my stomach was. The views were out of this world. I kept thinking, ‘I’m so freaking grateful to have had the opportunity to see such lovely sights.’

We then walked around looking at the shops, exploring the views from different vantage points and soaking up the atmosphere.

Santorini is such a remarkable place

Santorini Island Greece

Santorini Island Greece

Yes, it’s massively touristy

Yes, it’s expensive – our 3 crepes 2 coffees and a juice cost 40 euros. And yes, it’s full of foreigners. HOWEVER, it’s like no other Greek island. It’s like no other place that I’ve ever been to. Santorini truly is a special place.

While enjoying our meal we watched our boat motoring around the central volcanic crater

Santorini Island Greece

Santorini Island Greece

My husband and I reflected back to where we were the same time last year. If someone told us that we’d be in Santorini while a retired Admiral circled around waiting for us in our own 56’ Oyster yacht, we would have said, ‘no freaking way!’

This time last year we hadn’t yet sold our house and possessions nor had we purchased our around-the-world-sailing vessel.

In fact, we had no idea that we’d be signing up to such an adventure

Santorini Island Greece

Santorini Island Greece

Anyway, after walking around and seeing all that we could see, we found a bakery so to get Stefano bread. He’s Italian and feels out of place if there isn’t at least one loaf of bread laying around!

Santorini Island Greece

Santorini Island Greece

We grabbed some lovely fresh bread and then took the gondola from the top of the cliff to the bottom

The ride down was just as exciting as the donkey ride up however much quicker.

Santorini Island Greece

Santorini Island Greece

Our whirlwind viewing of Santorini was for 4 hours only but it was an exceptional four hours

My family and I are so grateful that Stefano motored the boat around while we took in the sights. And I’m over the moon that I was able to see the most spectacular Greek island ever.

Santorini Island Greece

Santorini Island Greece

Do I recommend that you visit Santorini – YES!

As a side note, Simon and I sailed to Crete with the intention of taking a ferry to Santorini. We assumed it wouldn’t cost much as the islands aren’t that far away. To our surprise, for a day trip it cost over 120 euros each person and that included four hours on a ferry. Knowing we could sail there for free caused us to decline the day trip option.

There might be other islands with secure anchorages that have a ferry service to Santorini – perhaps Kos? If you want to see the island, make sure to plan ahead as it is definitely worth sorting something out.

The trials of a new boat owner – a tale of coincidence, corruption and contempt for the marine industry

My mind feels all jumbled up. There’s so much I want to say but I’m not sure if I can take the jumble and detangle it. The events of my life over the past few months as a new boat owner seem to be guided. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think that there’s an angel looking out for my family and I. Something has somehow prevented us from serious engine failure. More on that to come…

Every day we wake up not knowing what the day will bring us and to our on-going surprise, the most bemusing situations befall us.

A coincidence here and there is one thing – coincidences every day is another

If our recent plan came to fruition, we’d be sailing up the east coast of Italy on our Oyster 56′ sailboat for a visit to Venice. And after a quick tour of mainland Italy, hubby, my 4 year old daughter and I planned to lay the boat up in Sicily to get necessary repairs done over the winter.

Generally speaking, however, our plans never play out the way we think they will – I’m begining to realize that that’s the sailors way

In my short 6 months of being a new boat owner live-aboard sailor I’ve quickly learned the skill of flexibility and flow. To be a happy sailor, you must drop your need for achievement. And in this context, I mean getting to a destination or having a plan come to fruition.

Try as you might to get to destination A – if the winds, weather or engine gremlins get in your way, you’ll surely end up in destination B – if you get to any destination at all!

Furthermore, things change all the time

We often think we’ll stay in once place for 2 days and it extends to 9 days. Once we stayed 2 weeks longer in a particular area because we ran into good friends and couldn’t pull ourselves away from them.

On another occasion, hubby and I tried several times to sail to Santorini, the one ‘must do’ island on my Aegean bucket list, but the winds wouldn’t allow us to go. Incidentally, however, we did eventually get the island when the weather was perfect AND we had a crewmember on board to man the ship while we toured the island. Everything worked out perfect and had I become upset that we missed Santorini it would have been wasted energy.

I no longer even speculate about where we might be in 2 days time – thinking about it is futile

So instead of sailing up the coast of Italy, I’m now moored up along a hard in mainland Preveza, Greece watching all sorts of engine and generator pieces and parts leave our sailboat. An example is below…

New Boat Owner

New Boat Owner

Totally unexpected, we’re having a complete overhaul of our engines in addition to serious fixes made to our rigging

To put things bluntly, our generator and engine have not been property serviced since the boat was built 11 years ago. The injectors have never been taken out and looked at. The heat exchangers have never been cleaned. Some of the anodes have never been changed. The diesel pump has never been opened. And that’s just naming a few of the issues.

When taking the heat exchanger off the generator, our engineers found almost a kilo of salt in the tubes and 2 impeller blades

The whole unit was completely clogged up and the anode crumbled like a cookie.

Furthermore, all the safety components to shut the engines down were decommissioned

For example, instead of our generator turning off if it overheats, the sensor was disabled so it would carry on running.

Previous to buying the boat, we were given the receipts for the services and a log of previous maintenance.

Either the receipts were fake or the previous owner paid a lot of money for nothing

The receipts we have are from a marine servicing shop in Palma de Mallorca and one of the listed items is: “Drain cooling water, dismantle heat exchanger, pressure test in workshop, clean, assemble and fit to generator.” That was clearly not done last year.

We did the right things – or at least we thought we did. We had a marine surveyor spend around 12 hours looking over our boat with a fine toothcomb. He told us there were issues but nothing out of the ordinary.

Is it only me that thinks it’s strange that a marine surveyor didn’t realize the engines were in such a bad state?

When taking various bolts off the engine/generator (holding the injectors, water cooling system, etc.) the paint chipped off indicating that the bolts have never been loosened!

In the course of 6 months, we’ve had over ten ‘engineers’ look at our engines due to leaks, failures or malfunctions.  A few of them suggested we simply needed new engines…that “they are worn out”. If any of the engineers took the time to look deeper into the engines they would have realized why there were issues.

The whole reason we purchased an Oyster was due to the quality, craftsmanship and reputation of the boat

Having a child with us, safety is number one on our priority list and an Oyster is known to be one of the safest (and heaviest) boats there is. And a Perkins engine is one of the best engines there is – if maintained correctly, it will go forever.

I find it so hard to believe that someone (the previous owner) would have paid so much for a boat and then failed to take care of it. Then again, we’ve been sailing around for 6 months assuming everything was up-to-date but it was far from it. Ultimately, we are like the previous owner – ignorant to the state of our equipment.

To say that I feel stupid, vulnerable and inexperienced is an understatement

How could this happen? How could we get so far without knowing/realizing that our home was cracking underneath us? How could such an expensive sailboat be mishandled so badly and for so long? How could so many engineers look at our engines and fail to express the dangerous state it was in?

Perhaps the majority of the marine world is full of sharks?

Engineers can create a quick fix; send you one your way and they know that the next time it breaks you’ll be far, far away. I’d really hate to believe that the bulk of the industry is that disingenuous.

But our current engineer that we serendipitously met, took ten minutes looking at our engines and riffled off all the problems immediately

He explained that the reason the others didn’t mention various things could have been because the jobs are very time-consuming, dirty and there is very little space to work. He said it’s easier to tell you to get a new engine – they make more money and don’t have to do any of the messy stuff.

In fact, I’ve discovered that it’s common practice for marine engineers to tell you that you need a new engine, pull it out, fix and sell it on and then sell you a new engine. The engineer makes profit on the old engine and the new.

Before meeting our new engineer hubby and I were trying to figure out how we could afford new engines

Heck, we’re going to sail around the world! We need engines that are going to work for us. The cost of what we needed would reduce our travel budget by at least one year. In other words, we’d have to come home one year earlier to pay for the new engines.

But something in me kept thinking, ‘that can’t be right.’ Our engines cannot be that bad. Diesel engines are supposed to last forever.

We naively thought that we’d get a boat, learn how to sail it and maintain it – we’d make sure everything was working well and then once we were confident, we’d leave our backyard (the Mediterranean) and head out around the world.

Through all our various minor problems, the confidence in our engines reduced by the day

We’ve always been willing to stop for a while, sort out the problems properly and then get going again, but until now every engineer failed to come up with a solution or take the time to actually look at the engines properly.

In Palma we had engineers look at the engine to make sure we’d be good to go for our trip to Gibraltar. From Girbraltar we paid engineers to look at our engines before our trip to Malta (850 miles). How is it that neither of these places looked at the fuel and water-cooling systems? HOW?!?! I’ve learned that it’s not even hard to look. Yes, it’s hard to repair/fix but to look is relatively easy.

Be forewarned about Palma and Gibraltar marine engineers

When taking our Diesel Marine Engine course our teacher told us that we needed to watch engineers work. He showed us how long it takes to clean a water cooler/heat exchanger unit and stressed that we needed to make sure they do it properly. He mentioned that most engineers run pipe cleaners down the tubes (if that!) pushing the gunk to the end rather than taking the unit off, soaking in acid and removing the gunk from the circuit.

Now I realize that our teacher wasn’t kidding

When our generator water cooler was taken off today, it was filled with a solid mass of gunk. Our injectors are all covered in carbon. The list goes on.

New Boat Owner

New Boat Owner

To keep myself from crying, I mentioned to our current engineer that we must have one hell of an engine and generator for them both to still be going! He agreed with me and confirmed that we do, indeed, have angels looking after us.

What was the sequence of events that brought us to this new engineer in Preveza, Greece?

In June, our hot water heater developed a small leak and then turned into Niagara Falls. A reader of my blog, and a 56’ Oyster owner also, gave me the name of a contact in England that helps Oyster owners source parts – a great guy named Andy Willett from Willett Marine.

After emailing Andy in a panic over the weekend, not only did he help us find a replacement but he talked us through rerouting our fresh water supplies so we could use our taps.

Furthermore, Andy helped us to find someone in Greece that could help us install the new boiler

After a couple months, we eventually arrived in Kos Marina, Greece where Andy’s contact, Pierre, was waiting for us with our new boiler. Pierre not only helped to install our new boiler, but he changed a broken areal, installed new waterproof speakers, taught us how to grout the teak, changed a water tap, put a new water pump in, demonstrated how to clean the chrome and what supplies to use. The list goes on…

Throughout our time with Pierre he was so helpful and genuine. In his French accent he would say, ‘That is shit,’ if he thought so. I painted the windows as there was a rust issue and hubby got the wrong paint – gloss. Pierre let me know that he didn’t think it was good and told me what to do instead. I liked his attitude about things – he told us how he saw things. Furthermore never did we feel like we were paying too much. His prices were reasonable – they were normal.

Keep in mind I’m still talking about a sequence of events here

So fast-forward to September when we pick up a friend in Crete – Stefano Luezzi, a retired Italian Naval Admiral and ex helicopter pilot. We met Stefano while sailing in Sicily in April where he became our Italian angel. He helped us with so many things I can’t even list them on one page. If he wasn’t helping us with translations, he was teaching us to sail or cook spaghetti. He took us on road tours (Mount Etna for one) and sailing through the Aeolian Islands, north of Sicily. Stefano helped us sail to Stromboli volcano at 3am so we could see an eruption!

We’ve adopted Admiral Stefano as part of our family, so having him on board was a real honor

We sailed to Santorini, along the Peloponnese and eventually to the Ionian Islands. While sailing to Leftkas Island our main halyard broke and my husband, Simon, spots oil in the bilge.

WTF is all we can say

WTF, WTF, WTF!?!?! (Grandma, if you’re reading this, WTF means ‘what the freak’”) Why are these things happening to us?!

Simon thinks about whom he can call and tries Pierre in Kos first. Perhaps he knows someone in the area? Wouldn’t you know it – Pierre has a great contact near Leftkas. Simon makes the phone call and within a couple hours, a new engineer is on board while we’re moored up in the middle of Spinola bay.

Interestingly, the new engineer is Italian and an ex-helicoptor pilot, amongst many other talents

As you can imagine, Stefano was happy to meet up with someone with so many things in common.

Simon explained our issues to the engineer, Andrea, who inspected the engine and made a phone call about our rigging. All the while, I was down below making videos with my daughter. She was a Hello Kitty newscaster reading the news.

New Boat Owner

New Boat Owner

Next thing I know, there’s three new Italian people on our boat

Two going up the mast, one looking at the engine. I thought, ‘where did all these people come from – we’re in the middle of a bay!’ I also thought, ‘keep speaking Italian, it sounds so amazingly lovely!’

New Boat Owner

New Boat Owner

What happened was Andrea called a rigging specialist – no, he’s not a rigging specialist…he’s a world famous sailor, who happened to be sailing by teaching a group of 8 people about advanced skippering. Have you heard of Vittorio Malingri? If you haven’t, he’s one of the most respected sailors in the world. One of his accolades is sailing single handed around the world in the Vendèe Globe race. (The above picture is Vittorio and his amazing son, Nico)

My husband later relayed to me that Vittorio came into the busy harbor under sail and actually anchored without turning the engine on. I think when he left, he did so under the same conditions.

The guy is amazing

Anyway, Vittorio is friends with Andrea and even though he was teaching a course, he took a detour as we needed serious help. After a couple hours of going up and down the mast, a temporary solution was created HOWEVER, the work we had done on the mast in Malta and later in Catania, Sicily was inadequate.

It seems like we had ‘experts’ repair something that works for aluminum masts rather than carbon fiber masts…apparently, there’s a big difference. Carbon fiber is a rather new material in the sailing world so let this be a lesson if you have it – you need to find someone that knows about carbon fiber.

After Vittorio looked at the problem, he could see an easy solution and it wasn’t expensive

Vittorio explained however that the small thing could cause massive issues and even damage the rigging beyond repair. Apparently, we were very lucky to catch the issue now.

As you can imagine, I was now thinking WTF, WTF, WTF in a different manor

I was thinking, how the heck did we end up in this particular bay at this particular time to get access to the people we need that will help us most?!

Later, I discovered that Andrea is quite a busy person. He has seven boats lined up to do now, manages 70+ boats already and took us on simply because we knew Pierre. Apparently, Andrea gets flown all over the world by his clients because he actually does the right thing!

So, we’re now moored up next to Andrea in Preveza, Greece

New Boat Owner

New Boat Owner

For the past couple days another engineer comes and helps him take pieces and parts off

From what I’ve been told bits of our engine are in Athens now – I think our turbo is there being looked over. Other bits are being cleaned in some kind of solution. For all I know, our engine and generator are all over Greece.

And each day, Andrea teaches us how to take things off, what to do to service various items

He says, ‘Engines are very easy to look after. The main things to maintain are the fuel and water systems. If you keep on top of maintenance, engines will run forever.’ The picture below is Andrea teaching my husband how to solder some lose wires.

New Boat Owner

New Boat Owner

Yesterday, after a ½ hour of our Andrea ‘yelling’ at me for allowing our engines to be in such a bad state, he explained that he’s cleaned the generator – the outside. And that he’s going to clean the engine and repaint them. He then explained, ‘I will only clean your engines once. If you come back to me and they’re dirty, I will not help you!’ YIKES…

I swore up and down that hubby and I wouldn’t let him down.

What have I learned from all this and what advice can I pass to you?

  1. If you haven’t purchased a boat yet, find a marine engineer, above and beyond a surveyor, and pay them to tell you what condition the engine is. Get one through recommendations and let them know that they won’t be the engineer fixing the engine. Perhaps by saying so, they’ll have no ulterior motive. (Look how cynical I am?) Better yet, if you can find a marine engineer that lives on a boat (like Andrea), get them to look at your engine or engines!
  2. If you have a boat now and you’re not sure about the state of your engine, I urge you to pay for a recommended engineer to spend a week taking things off the engine (or engines) and looking at them. Learn how to check the water-cooling system. Know where the anodes are and how often to check/replace them. Learn how to take the injectors out and determine if they’re okay or not. All of these things are very simple now that I’ve been shown how to do it.
  3. If you pay for servicing, I recommend that you watch everything the engineers do. If the water-cooling/heat exchanger system does not come off the engine, there is a problem – it cannot be serviced while still attached! When I’m more knowledgeable about all the things that should be covered I’ll write a more comprehensive list for you. As it stands now, I’m only part way through my training.
  4. Above and beyond all the stuff about the engine, I think the largest lesson I’ve learned is to trust in the flow of life. I know that probably sounds corny, but by not having set plans, everything seems to sort itself out. My husband and I knew that we needed to sort our engines out but we didn’t know how. Amazingly, life had a way of bringing us to the best place at the best time!

Every day we wake up and have no idea what will unfold…and by doing so the most amazing experiences take place

I’m 100% confident that we’re getting the best job for our engines for the most amazing price possible. The universe seemed to deliver us here and we didn’t put obstacles in its way.

When we leave our mooring hubby and I will know the exact state our engines. We’ll have a calendar of all the maintenance checks and we’ll have confidence that our engines will see us around the world.

I have so much more to say about the amazing service that we’ve received thus far but I’ll dedicate that to another article. If you’re ever anywhere near the Ionian Islands and need amazing help with your rigging and/or engines, I cannot recommend enough Andrea, Vittorio and their team of engineers.

Methoni in the Greek Peloponnese is a spectacular anchorage


Methoni Greece

Methoni Greece was a last-minute recommendation by my friend, Michalis, and I’m so pleased he gave me the heads-up. Let me back up a bit…

After we enjoyed the sights of the Greek Island, Santorini, our intention was to sail towards the southern Peloponnese, go around the bottom and head towards the Greek Ionian islands. Time permitting, the plan is to head up the Adriatic and hit Venice along with several other stops along the east coast of mainland Italy.

Eventually, we’ll return to Sicily where our boat will be placed in a marina over the winter for necessary repairs. We have a variety of problems with our generator and main engine, so before we even think of crossing the Atlantic they need to be looked at.

Anyway, my husband, our esteemed friend, Admiral Stefano, and I discussed places we could visit on our way along the Peloponnese. Fortunate for us, my friend Michalis sent an email telling us to check out Elefonisis and Methoni, so after a couple days in Monemvasia we headed for Elefonisis where we stopped for dinner in a lovely picturesque bay. I wanted to get out and explore but the boys explained that the winds were good for a night sail.

As Stefano says with his thick Italian accent, ‘when the winds blow we sail and when it doesn’t, we smoke a cigarette.’

The funny thing is that he doesn’t smoke! Perhaps it’s one of those ancient sayings that salty sea dogs like to give voice to? I find myself saying it to people now and they probably think I’m a moron.

Not long after eating the sausage pasta bake (click to get recipe) I created, the anchor was pulled up and we sailed through the night to Methoni. During most night sails, I go to bed with our daughter, Sienna, so that I can make sure she feels safe.

She loves night sails as it’s the only time she’s allowed to sleep in bed with me

I suppose it get’s her excited about sailing at night rather than annoyed. Lucky for her, she sleeps through the winch noises and the engine going on and off. For me, even the tiny noise of the auto helm can keep me awake!

Methoni Greece

Methoni Greece

Methoni Greece was a sight for tired eyes

My eye’s were delighted with the views of an ancient Venetian castle, a beautiful sandy beach and a very small quiet town. There were various patches of sand throughout the water making the sea look magical with varying degrees of blue’s and greens. Like so many places we visit, it was a little slice of paradise.

My husband lowered the dinghy and we all got on board to find a jetty to tie onto and go exploring

The plan was to check out the fortress and then find a place to enjoy lunch.

As we walked towards the Venetian ruin and rounded a corner I was in awe by the sight of such a grand structure. The walls were incredibly tall and the entrance was intimidating.

Methoni Greece

Methoni Greece

Methoni Greece

Methoni Greece

Once we entered the fortress, there was a very wide walkway taking us towards the sea

We entered the old market area and found an interesting column made from granite – a stone that is very foreign to the area. Apparently, the column was taken from a shipwreck! The history of the column itself must have been quite dynamic.

Methoni Greece

Methoni Greece

We walked toward the sea to find the structure that could seen from the boat

It is thought that it might be an old Turkish prison. As my husband is and ex prison officer, his curiosity was high.

Methoni Greece

Methoni Greece

Methoni Greece

Methoni Greece

Methoni Greece

Methoni Greece

2014-09-12 13.03.30 copy

2014-09-12 13.03.30 copy

The picture directly above was taken by Stefano – he managed to get our boat, Britican, in with me, Sienna and Simon. I think it’s a great shot!

The four of us walked through an entrance that had a portcullis – you could see where the gate would have been

We curved around a corner to see a walkway out onto a tiny island holding the prison. The stone work was incredible. I think back to the time when it’s inhabitants had no electricity, no machinery – just manual labor and it astounds me.

Methoni Greece

Methoni Greece

The views from the prison castle took my breath away

From every direction there was something beautiful to behold.

After taking in the sights from every corner possible, we started to make our way back to the little town. Everyone, including me, was getting very thirsty and hungry. The sun was hot and the air was dry.

Methoni Greece

Methoni Greece

Avoiding the more tourist looking restaurants, we settled on a Greek Taverna called ‘Rex’

The food was outstanding. It was simple, yet so fresh. I ordered cannelloni as I thought my daughter would share with me. Additionally, Stefano ordered a green and potato salad to share. And of course, there was loads of bread to share about. We all moo’d like cows with delight. Stefano ordered stuffed tomatoes for his main and after finishing, tried to order one more as he couldn’t get enough. Unfortunately, they didn’t have another one.

I couldn’t understand why everything tasted so amazing

At first I thought perhaps I just needed food to recover from the night sail, but later when I went in search of the bathrooms I discovered a large garden. I think many of the ingredients used were from the garden! Nothing is better than fresh vegetables.

When leaving, we asked the restaurant owner to direct us to the Bakery

Unfortunately, it didn’t open until 5pm and we were going to leave the area. The owner went into the kitchen and grabbed a loaf of bread for us. He wouldn’t take any money for it. We did, however, hear his wife yelling that he wasn’t allowed to give out any more.

This type of kindness has been shown to us everywhere we go!

Methoni Greece

Methoni Greece

On our way back we took a tour of the area in the dingy and Stefano jumped off part way to swim back to the boat. I wonder if he would have started swimming sooner had he eaten another stuffed tomato?

Overall, Methoni is a wonderful stop if your travelling along the southern Peloponnese

We enjoyed the sights, the food and getting a bit of exercise after such a long sail.

Victor’s Green Bean Salad Recipe

Victor Tranello

Victor Tranello

Both my mom and step-father (pictured above), Victor, are great cooks. Whenever I visit home there are a few family specialities that I always ask for.

One of those special dishes is Victor’s green bean salad recipe

For the past 25 years I’ve relied on Victor to make the salad. Never did I consider doing it myself…that is until today! We’ve been in Greece for 5 months and I’ve had my share of tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and green pepper! The selection of vegetables is very limited in Greece, however whatever you can get tastes amazing.

While shopping yesterday I noticed some good looking beans

Usually I don’t buy the long wide beans as I prefer string beans…but beggars can’t be choosers. I grabbed the beans and thought, ‘I’m going to have a go at Victor’s green bean salad!’

Below is the video where I explain how to make the amazing dish and following that is the recipe. If I only knew how easy it was to make all these years I would have made it all the time! Victor always seemed to spend so long on it but I think it’s because he had to make sure the garlic was cut in perfect microscopic squares.

Further, the Britican Galley Italian Blend (a link to my online shop will open if you want to buy the blend) really shines in this recipe. It’s a perfect mix of herbs!

Email me at Kim@SailingBritican.com for the recipe 🙂

If you try this green bean salad recipe out, please remember to come back and let me know what you think!