Sailing around Crete – Anchored off of Spinalonga Island Crete


Anchoring off of Spinalonga Island, Crete

Thus far, during our time traveling around Crete, I’ve written the following: Sailing around Crete – Agios Nikolaos, Gournia, Mochlos and Vai Beach and Sailing around Crete – Knosos, a Aqua Park and Elounda. Our plan for today was to leave Agios Nikolaos and head to Rethymno avoiding Heraklion as someone told us the marina wasn’t very nice.

After leaving the Agios Nikolaos Marina, and once we entered to open waters, my husband, Simon, announced:

“I’m not happy about this weather”

Feeling a bit stir crazy and wanting to carry on, I responded, ‘Well, let’s get around this point and see if the wind calms down a bit. Perhaps it’s coming off the top of the island?’

We had only our genoa (front sail) out and kept having to reef it back more and more

The winds were forecasted to be in the low 20’s but we were getting hit with 30 to 35 knots of wind…and again, it was on our nose!

The weather failed to improve so Simon pulled out the pilot book and asked, ‘How do you feel about anchoring off Spindalonga Island?’ Vising the area of Elounda just last night for dinner, I was happy with his decision. The town of Elounda looks out at Spindalong Island. At least we could get a closer look at the ex-Leper colony!

Spinalonga Island Crete

Spinalonga Island Crete

We furled our genoa and headed for Spindalonga. Upon close examination, the island was filled with buildings. I went to Wikipedia to find out more and this is what I found:

“Originally, Spinalonga was not an island, it was part of the island of Crete. During Venetian occupation the island was carved out of the coast for defense purposes and a fort was built there.

During Venetian rule, salt was harvested from salt pans around the island. The island has also been used as a leper colony. Spinalonga has appeared in novels (The Island by Victoria Hislop), television series (Who Pays the Ferryman?), and a short film (Last Words).” Source: Wikipedia

Spinalonga Island Crete

Spinalonga Island Crete

What an awesome place to anchor for the day!

Due to strong winds, and occasional gusts, Simon and I wanted to stay on the boat. Being surrounded by land makes me nervous – If the anchor does get unearthed and we’re on land watching the boat drift towards land I think I’d die of a heart attach.

At least while we’re on the boat we can put the anchor alarm on and rest comfortably knowing that we’re not drifting. For more on anchoring read, How to anchor a sailboat – what I’ve learned about anchoring thus far

Spinalonga Island Crete

Spinalonga Island Crete

So what does a family of 3 do while anchored in a bay for the afternoon and evening?

Sienna played with her dolls house, watched a couple movies and we did some educational workbook exercises together. I also read here a few stories that I was able to download on my Kindle. Impressively she sat through, ‘The Ugly Duckling,’ by Hans Christen Andersen. I often download the Kindle freebies to save money and several of the classics are free.

Spinalonga Island Crete

Spinalonga Island Crete

What’s great about Sienna is she’s happy to have a story read to her in full animation on the Ipad and she’s just as happy to have me read a story with a few static pictures. Some people comment that the new technology is replacing our old ways but I disagree. I think that it’s just giving all of us more choice.

While Sienna was playing on her own, Simon read a book about sailboat maintenance and I typed the article, How to anchor a sailboat – what I’ve learned about anchoring thus far. Fortunately, we were close enough to land to pick up a mobile internet connection so I could write and post my blog.

Aside from that, Simon made our favorite dish of all times – Spaghetti Carbonara

Watch our Britican Galley video and grab the recipe here: Spaghetti Carbonara – the easiest and tastiest Carbonara you can make on a boat!

We all went to be relatively early – ready to get up and battle forward towards the west coast of Crete.

Spinalonga Island Cret

Spinalonga Island Cret

A visitor on deck – is that a plant or is it alive?

In the morning, we quickly stowed everything and got read to lift the anchor and push forward. I went to the bow and direct Simon on which direction to put the bow as I pushed the botton that lifts the chain. It’s best to get right above the chain rather than have the winch pull the boat towards it. Putting unnecessary strain on the winch can cause it to malfunction or break.

After I pulled up around 20 meters of the 60 meters of chain I was met by and unexpected guest

At first I thought it was two clams or mollosks that attached themselves to either side of the chain. I then realize that it was one object stuck between one of the chain links.

Looking very closely for eye’s or a mouth, I searched for something to identify whether it was a plant or a being. I finally touched it very quickly and it was rock hard. I then pulled up my bravery pants and started pulling and pushing the object. Whatever it was, it wouldn’t budge. Next step, call hubby…

Spinalonga Island Crete

Spinalonga Island Crete

“Simon – can you come here please, I have an issue.’

Simon ran to the front of the bow and then he had a go and pushing and pulling the object. We couldn’t leave it in there – the chain goes through a winch and the object would cause a bottleneck. We had to get it off there and then.

Simon ran down to the galley to grab a knife. He announced that ,’we’ll have to cut it off.’ At this point I seriously thought that it must be a plant as it’s rock hard. Simon then took the knife near the object and the chain to try and jimmy it out. The object was punctured and like a popped balloon, it deflated instantly, slithered out of the chain and I watched it’s entrails hit the water and then the rest of the body follow it.

I felt ill

All day I wondered if there was a way that we could have done things differently. Apparently, it was a sea cucumber or sea slug. Poor thing. Well…at least we created lunch for another sea creature nearby. At least that thought gives me a bit of solace.

The rest of the anchor was pulled up. We set our sails and had a great run along the North coast. Our aim was Rethymno but as the sun was starting to set, hubby decided to pull into a beautiful bay in Bali, Crete.

In Bali we were greeted by a sea creature 100x the size of the sea cucumber. Read, Sailing around Crete – anchoring off the town of Bali to find out what it was.

Here are all my articles on Crete:

– Sailing around Crete – Agios Nikolaos, Gournia, Mochlos and Vai Beach

– Sailing around Crete – Knosos, Aqua Park and Elounda

– Sailing around Crete – anchoring off the town of Bali

I hope you enjoy !

Comradeship amongst sailors – the day our 56’ yacht was almost smashed to pieces


Comradeship amongst smokers

When I was younger, I was convinced that being a smoker had benefits aside from the well-known chemical high. I haven’t officially smoked for years and I think it’s been over 3 years now since I’ve had a social smoke but I miss a particular aspect of smoking. I miss the friendships there were created or deepened while hanging out around the smoke pit.

It seems that us humans need something in common, to hook onto, before we initiate a conversation followed by a friendship. Smoking was one of those things. No matter who you were, you could huddle in the cold outside a door or in the old days, join fellow smokers in a smoking section and feel a bond. Perhaps it’s because you often needed a light so asking for a favor got the conversation started? Sometimes the bond lasted a few minutes and other times it was the beginning of a new relationship.

Comradeship amongst Harley Bike riders

I felt the same when I joined my friend, Lionel, on a Harley bike tour across the island of Cyprus. There were people from all over the world grouped together – some were young, several in their working years and others were retired. There were people from Cyprus, Greece, American, France, Italy and Israel. Overall there were 35+ people riding Harleys that all had a common interest and thus a common bond.

Perhaps that’s why it’s suggested that when you move to a new neighborhood that you join a gym or find a hobby. By doing so, you can create ways to strike up new friendships.

But what’s comradeship amongst sailors like?

Now that we’ve lived aboard our boat for over 5 months, I’ve witnessed over and over again, a bond that exists with sailors and makes my heart smile. Instead of saying, ‘hey can I bum a light,’ it’s usually, ‘hey – nice boat,’ or in our case, ‘Hey – can you please help us out?’ and then the conversation begins.

As an aside, I keep telling my daughter that people, in general, are kind, giving and are eager to help others out in a time of need. In contrast to my upbringing where my mom told me to never talk to strangers and to fear the world, I want my daughter to know about dangers but not to her detriment. As I witness the friendship amongst sailors I know my daughter is learning that the world is full of great people everywhere we go.

In the sailing community the almost instant comradeship couldn’t be more pronounced

Of course there are times you enter a bay and someone yells at you to drop your anchor further away or there are people you wave to and they don’t wave back, but overall 99.9% of sailors I’ve come across have been incredibly kind, welcoming and very helpful. Let me give you a recent example…

How Lily and Richard helped prevent our boat from smashing to a thousand pieces

Just last week, we sailed from Bali to Rethymno, Crete. It was quite rough but we were able to sail rather than motor into the wind. After several hours, we entered the commercial port of Rethymno to pass through into the “marina”. I put the word marina in quotes as it’s not quite a marina – you’ll see why as you read through the story.

I was thankful to be in the calm waters of the port yet nervous as we couldn’t figure out who to call on the VHF to request a berth. The pilot book had no information nor did any of the websites detailing Rethymno marina. Usually, someone on a tender will come out to greet you or someone will be around waving their hands to show you were to go.

We tried calling on channel 16 and heard nothing

My husband, Simon, circled in the commercial harbor while I rang the only number I could find – the Rethymno port authority. Fortunately, a lovely woman told us to ring 67 on the VHF. Incidentally, we noticed the VHF call sign being displayed as you exit the marina rather than enter it! How frustrating.

Anyway, Simon called up, requested a berth and was told that no one could help us moor up until 7pm at night – 5 hours later. Apparently, the attendants were busy with a commercial vessel. Looking around, there was one tanker and one ferry in the port and no people for as far as the eye could see. Ho-hum…

Needless to say, we prepared the boat and I got ready to do all the warps (ropes) myself

The marina told us where to go, so we slowly started to back our stern into a spot. The wind was blowing very strong and it was hard to determine if mooring lines were available. Mooring lines are used to tie onto the bow of the boat and act as an anchor. Getting these in place is what keeps the boat from swaying or moving backwards onto the jetty.

Thankfully, there was a sailboat next to our mooring spot. Simon yelled over asking for help, and a woman and man jumped off – Lily and Richard. Sim had to back in several times as the wind was pushing the boat. Further, we had to back into a specific spot to get the only remaining mooring line. I managed to get a line to shore and secure the front mooring line but I couldn’t get the massive rope around our winch to tighten it.

The mooring line started off as a tiny little rope, that was tied to a larger rope and that large rope was then tied to a very large rope. I couldn’t get the very large rope onto the boat and around the winch…and I couldn’t winch the smaller rope as the knot wouldn’t go around it. It’s as if I pulled up a knotted mess and wasn’t strong enough to get into a position to help attach the rope to our boat.

Our boat was moving from side to side and Simon had to continuously push forward to prevent us from crashing on the jetty

Richard, yelled over to me, ‘do you mind if I get on so I can help you?’ I replied, ‘Yes, yes, yes!!!’ and was thankful that the couple, who were flying a Belgium flat, not only wanted to help us, but they also spoke English.

Richard jumped on and struggled for at least 10 minutes with the mooring line to pull it tight

I thought, if Richard struggled I’d have no chance at getting it tight. Lily worked hard along the stern to fend the boat off from hitting the jetty and hold the lines. I helped Richard and then helped Lily and could feel my stress rising. It must have taken us around 45 minutes to get our boat secure.

Never had we experienced such difficulties, but these were just the start!

Later, Richard and Lily explained that it’s a very difficult mooring. The wind blows you into and along the jetty – and it doesn’t help that most of the mooring lines are broken or missing. After taking time to get settled, Simon took Richard and Lily a beer and enjoyed chatting with them and discussion sailing stories. We were fortunate to have them over for an evening to hear about their background. They live on their boat in Egypt during the winter and sail around the Mediterranean during the summer. Richard, who is originally French, is a kite surfing instructor by day and a musician by night – we were honoured to be serenaded by him with his electric guitar! And Lily, from Belgium, is a lovely woman that has had quite a difficult few years. Her husband of 25 years passed away not too long ago so I hope that her travels are helping her to work through things.

After a nice evening of drinks, and a good sleep and a walk around the town the following morning, we returned to the boat as the wind started to blow.

The wind changed completely and was blowing off the shore in gusts

Everyone’s boat was moving from side to side and we all had to put fenders along the stern of the boat. I tied three fenders onto the ladder railing and then tied the bottoms together with a bucket that I sunk with water to keep them from floating up.

Comradeship amongst sailors

Comradeship amongst sailors

My main concern was the integrity of our mooring line!

If it broke, our boat would go smashing to the right, hit another boat and possible smash into the jetty. With wind blowing a 33 ton boat, nothing’s going to stop it!

Considering that there were so few mooring lines, and the fact that the marina was not maintained, I feared the worst

Our first idea was to take our anchor out and drop it. The issue with that was the ocean floor was full of old mooring lines, concrete blocks and who knows what. The risk of losing our anchor was high. And the depth was too far for us to swim down to check things out.

To my amazement, Richard yells over to us, I’ll go down and see if I can find another mooring line for you guys. At first Simon thought he was going to swim down but then realized he had tanks. Within a half hour, Richard had his tanks on and was scouring the ocean floor to find a line for us.

Comradeship amongst sailors

All the lines are knotted up and all over the place. He then suggested that we run one of our warps from the boat to the master chain and back. Fortunately, we have a very long yellow ship to land line that made it from our boat to the master chain block and back again!

Thank God – I can sleep tonight!

Comradeship amongst sailors

Comradeship amongst sailors

Once we secured the second line to the boat, Britican stopped flying about so much and we could all breathe again

We were then able to return the favour and help our new friends affix another bow line onto their boat. Seen below are Lily and Simon waiting for Richard to come back with a line.

Sailors

Sailors

I say this all the time – you don’t know what you don’t know. Every day is such a learning experience for us. For five months we’ve had absolutely no problems mooring up stern-to. We’ve never had an issue with winching the mooring line up. We’ve never had a situation where the wind blew strongly from one direction one day and the totally opposite the next day. We’ve never entered a marina and had no one there to help.

However, the one thing that has been consistent has been the assistance we’ve received from other sailors!

When we got storm-bound in Algiers, Algeria, a few engineers heard of our issues with our generator and spent hours trying to help us fix it (at no cost). Read: Our first sailing adventure

When sailing into Catana, Sicily, our sailed got stuck ¾ of the way up. We had to anchor and my cousin and I had to hoist my husband, Simon, up the 85’ mast. While sending him up, friends we met a few weeks earlier (on a boat next to us) heard of our troubles, got a motorboat and came up to help us! For that story read, Sailing to Catania in Sicily – dolphins and disasters included!

Several times along the cost of Sicily, we had a variety of issues. No matter what happened, someone was there to give us hand. When our boiler broke and turned into Niagara Falls, we freaked out. But a reader of this blog sent me the contact details of another sailor who works in the industry and within an hour, he talked us through rerouting our hot and cold water systems to isolate the problem.

So I’m delighted to have found a way to make new friends without smoking! Comradeship amongst sailors truly is an amazing thing – I highly suggest that everyone finds out what I’m experiencing.

Right…I’m in an anchorage right now where the boat is rocking back and forth quite violently… If I carry on typing, I’ll probably be ill very soon. So, usually I’d edit this a bit more, but in an effort to publish something today, here it is.

Shrimp Saganaki – Britican’s way


Shrimp Saganaki

I think the world ‘Saganaki’ means cheese, in general, but Feta is often used. I’ve had shrimp saganaki, mussels saganaki and just plain old saganaki. When ordering plain old saganaki, the cheese comes breaded and fried. YUM! Seriously – it is amazing!

The Food Network has a great recipe for the shrimp saganaki dish which is somewhat complicated, but if you’re in a hurry OR live on a boat, the following are instructions are for you:

  1. Get some shrimp (cooked or cook them) or you can use mussels or anything. To make it real easy make sure there is no shell or tail. And also get some pasta sauce and a slab of Feta cheese.
  2. Grab a crock, throw in the shrimp, chop or crumble up the Feta cheese and add to the shrimp. Cover in pasta sauce and bake in the oven for 20 – 30 minutes. Serve with fresh bread to dip, soak and scoop up the loveliness of shrimp, cheese and sauce.

I’m not kidding when I say this simple dish will make anyone happy

Shrimp saganaki truly is one of the best and easiest meals to make and consume. You can serve it in individual crocks as an appetiser or make enough for a main meal. I’ve had it over 10 times in 4 months and every time I say the same thing…’I must remember to cook this when I return back to living on the land!’

Shrimp Saganaki

Shrimp Saganaki

The photo of the shrimp saganaki was taken from a restaurant in Chania, Crete in Greece…and the view directly above, was our view while I enjoyed the lovely tastes.

Sailing around Crete – Knosos, Aqua Park and Elounda


Sailing around Crete – Knosos

After a very sound sleep, my family and I woke ready for day 2 of our Crete explorations by car. Our first adventure included: Sailing around Crete – Agios Nikolaos, Gournia, Mochlos and Vai Beach where the highlights of our trip were seeing the best preserved Minoan town, enjoying a traditional Cretan dish in a traditional fishing village and then watching our daughter swim unassisted for the very first time (see video – follow link above) on the most amazing beach ever.

Originally, our plans were to sail to Heraklion and moor the boat in the marina so that we could visit the city and Knosos. However, as with most of our plans, we’ve had to change them due to weather. The winds are gusting over 40 knots and they’d be on our nose, so we’re staying put for the time being.

Furthermore, a nice lady at the Agios Nikolaos Marina told us to avoid Heraklion marina as it’s not a nice place

So…once again, we woke up, grabbed our bathing suits, towels, maps, water and of course, my camera. Our rental car was parked right off the back of our boat, so we didn’t have far to go to get going. My husband, Simon, my daughter, Sienna, and I jumped into the car ready for more explorations.

Knosos Crete

Knosos Crete

Our first stop was the ancient Minoan Palace of Knosos

From what I was told, the archeological site is very busy and very hot so it’s best to arrive as early as possible to avoid crowds and the heat. We entered the town around 10am and by then it was already heaving and hot. Oh well. At least, I knew what to expect.

We grabbed some cold waters, entered the site and walked along the palace grounds avoiding the herds of people as much as possible.

Overall, I was seriously impressed with Knosos. Out of all the ruins I’ve seen over the past few months (Olympia, Delos, Delphi), this one was very different from the traditional Greek archeological sites. Knosos has whole structures, vibrant colors, and meatier buildings. In other words, the site doesn’t look like a pile of rubble with a few columns sticking up.

Knosos Crete

Knosos Crete

I probably sound a bit brash about the traditional Greek ruins, but after seeing over 25 ruin sites, they do start to look the same. As my grandfather use to say to me, ‘If you’ve seen one castle, you’ve seen them all.’

I never wanted to be so blasé about something as amazing as archeological sites, but seriously, the smaller, less notable sites do all look similar.

Knosos Crete

Knosos Crete

Back, to Knosos…you can see three floors of one building. There’s a full house on display. There are staircases, alters, columns with rooftops. The mind didn’t have to stretch too much to envision what the palace looked like during its heyday. And the restoration, although it’s controversial as the architects used modern materials, helps you to really envision the colors. I love the fact that some of the columns have been painted – it gives me a feel for what the place really looked like.

Knosos Crete

Knosos Crete

Incidentally, when I was at the museum in Athens I discovered that the whole acropolis was colored. I’ve always pictured the buildings to be white marble and that’s it. Well…even the Parthenon was very colorful. All the buildings were painted.

A few interesting tid-bits about Knosos

I’m not a massive history buff. Often dates and important historical figures go in one ear and out the other. Usually, however, there are a few things that I pick out to remember.

Very little was known about the Minoan civilization before excavations on Knosos and another palace called, Phaestos. Everything known previous to finding the palaces was passed down through Greek tradition and mythology. When the English archaeologist, Arthur Evans, discovered Knosos around 1900 he opened the floodgates of the Minoan past. They found loads of artifacts, texts (which they still haven’t deciphered), and clues as to who the Minoans were and how they lived.

Based on what archeologist have discovered, Crete appears to have been first inhabited around the 6th millennium BC – that’s considered the Neolithic period. The Minoans lived from 2600 – 1100 BC and this is when the palaces were built.

Here are all my photos from Knosos

Click on the images and the’ll get larger. I hope you enjoy them – it was a bit tricky trying to get photo’s without loads of crowds in them!

Time for cooling down after Knosos!

After sweating from every pore of our bodies, Simon, Sienna and I then put our focus on cooling down at a water park. Within an hour, we were in our bathing suits and all fighting for the next water slide to test out.

Crete Water Park

Crete Water Park

There are two water parks in Greece, both within few miles from each other. We decided on Aqua Park simply because we spoke to a local woman with children and her 4 year old preferred Aqua Park.

We arrived around mid-day, found a parking spot right by the entrance and discovered ample beach beds to create our base. Sim and I enjoyed a hamburger that didn’t come remotely close to our Greek Burger recipe.

The food was disappointing but we weren’t expecting much

Aqua Park Crete

Aqua Park Crete

The slides, however, were brilliant

Simon did every slide and I did almost all of them. There’s one that drops vertically and then goes up the other side and you slowly make your way down to the exit – it’s a big long ‘U’ shaped slide (see above). I took one look at it, listened to the screams and decided against it.

As for Sienna…well, she didn’t have a confident day

Someday she’s open to try anything and other days she’s quiet and a bit closed down. On this particular day, she did make an effort, but she was put off by water splashing in her face.

I’ll give her credit as she did go down an adult slide once with Simon holding her and once with me holding her. Both times she loved the ride but at the end when you went splash into the water, she became distressed.

Aqua Park Crete

Aqua Park Crete

That being said, we went to the water park for Sienna’s amusement and I think Simon and I had more fun than we’ve had for ages.

By 5pm we were ready to peel off our bathing suits, hop back into the car and head home

Elounda Crete

Elounda Crete

Just before Agios Nikolaos I noticed a sign for Elounda and quickly said, ‘Turn here Sim.’ On my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/SailingBritican) a few people told me to check out Elounda so it made sense to give it a look.

Just 10km from the main road, we entered Elounda, found a parking spot near the fishing harbor and got out to go for a walk. We found the harbor, main street and a beautiful row of tavernas along the coast. Being dinner time, we decided to grab some grub.

Elounda Crete

Elounda Crete

‘There’s snails on the menu!’ I shouted out

In our tourist book on Crete it mentions that there’s a local dish of snails but it’s hard to find them at the tourist restaurants. The book instructed us to find a more traditional taverna. Based on my observations, every restaurant in Crete is for tourists, but some are less blatant. Not once have we found a place that doesn’t have 5 sets of menus (English, German, French, Italian, Russian…).

Anyway, we sat down at a lovely taverna looking out at bay containing the island of Spinalonga. Victoria Hislop wrote a fiction-based-on-fact book about this island. Apparently it was a leper colony up until the 1900’s! Again, on my Facebook page, I had over 10 people recommend that I read that book…so if you’re looking for a good read, I suggest giving that book a go.

Elounda Crete

Elounda Crete

Back to the snails

I’ve had escargot several times before and I quite enjoy it. Heck, if you put enough garlic on anything it tastes good. The snails I got in Elounda, however were different. First of all, when you order escargot you usually get 6 to 12 snails. Second, as mentioned before, it’s loaded with garlic. Third, escargot looks foreign – the snails don’t seem to look like the one’s in your back yard.

So what did the snails taste like?

Well, they were cooked in a rosemary infused olive oil and covered with a 2mm layer of sea salt. They were chewy and when I pulled them out of the shell, there was a bit of a slime spring-back as the snail became unattached to the shell. Overall, they tasted really good but I felt there were too many. As an appetizer that would have been far too much. Luckily the snails were the only thing I ordered. After 20 of them the flavor and consistency just got to be a bit too much. I could have eaten more, but I needed something else.

Would I order them again? Yes – as long as I could share them with someone

My husband was daring and had one. Sienna, said to me, ‘Are you crazy – that’s disgusting!’

My family and I enjoyed our food, enjoyed the scenery and were very grateful for the full day of adventures we had. After two full days of land-based exploration, we all were ready to take to the seas again. Hopefully the winds will be in our favor and we’ll be able to leave Agios Nikolaos?

Read my other articles about Crete here:

Hey…if you’re on Facebook, and you haven’t ‘Liked’ my SailingBritican page yet, please do so if you want to know when a new article has been published. Also, I update Facebook most days so to really follow our journey, join my family and I on FB too! Go to the Sailing Britican Facebook Page. And if you’re not on Facebook, enter your email in to the line at the top right of the website and you’ll get my newsletter. After every 3 articles I’ll let you know they’re there…

Sailing around Crete – Agios Nikolaos, Gournia, Mochlos and Vai Beach

Agios Nikolaos Crete

Agios Nikolaos Crete

After leaving the Greek island of Astipalia, our intention was to sail west to the picturesque island of Santorini. As fate would have it, the winds were not in our favor. Blowing directly on our nose there was no chance of getting our sails out. The thought of an 8 hour motor ride into wind and waves did not sound appealing. Furthermore, hubby and I were a bit concerned about finding a spot to tie onto or anchor. Apparently, there are very limited spaces for sailboats around Santorini.

The island is a volcano so it gets very deep very quickly making it difficult to anchor

It didn’t take more than 5 minutes for hubby and I to agree to a 10-hour sail down south to the island of Crete instead. Once on the island of Crete, we could find a safe place to put the boat and take a ferry to Santorini for a day or two. Or, at least, that was the plan!

Our ground track from Astipalia to Crete was a straight line down! For the first half we did a steady 6 knots and the second have we were well over 8 knots, hitting 9 from time to time. It was our best sail to date!

Agios Nikolaos Crete

Agios Nikolaos Crete

Hubby and I thought that we’d have to enter our destination marina in the dark, but arrived several hours before our original estimates.

On the sail towards Crete we passed only one other vessel – a cargo ship that crossed our path within ¾ of a mile from us. Other than the ship, we saw a few barren islands and the rest was open sea.

I kept wondering, ‘where are all the other sailboats?’

I asked my husband, Simon, where we were headed and his response was, ‘we’re going to a fishing village called Agios Nikolaos. I was there 36 years ago and all I remember is a lake with restaurants around it and a little fishing harbor.’

Unbeknown to Simon, Agios Nikolaos was no longer a small fishing village

Rather, it is now quite a loud and booming city. As we travelled closer to the marina, I could see houses, hotels, restaurants and buildings, set against a mountainous backdrop, going east and west as far as the eye could see.

Agios Nikolaos Crete

Agios Nikolaos Crete

We easily entered the marina, were helped onto a berth, cleaned up a bit and I earlier prepared Eggplant Parmesan, so we gobbled it down and then jumped off the boat to go for our first exploratory look. After hanging out in small bays and visiting quiet islands I felt as if my eyes couldn’t handle all the hustle and bustle. There were so many people, cars, bikes and moving things – my head felt as if it was spinning.

While moored up in a bay I didn’t consider myself to be sensory deprived but I think I was! It took a good few hours for me, and my hubby, to relax into the commotion. From the marina, we walked down the main strip to the fishing port, found a café overlooking the ferries and tour boats and enjoyed a glass of wine while our daughter, Sienna, slurped down some strawberry ice cream.

And then a miracle happened – Sienna fell asleep on the sofa beside me and Simon and I were able to enjoy the evening by ourselves!

Only one other time has Sienna fallen asleep while we were out and when it happens we take full advantage of the situation. She’s 4 now and getting too grown up to carry home, so we have a limited time to enjoy moments like these. It’s funny to discover the things that make you happy when sailing full time with your family…

Simon and I chatted for a while and then took turns carrying Sienna back to the boat – back home. We all slept well and woke up early to adventure back into the city to find the legendary bottomless lake and look at all the shops.

Agios Nikolaos

Agios Nikolaos

Fortunately, the marina is very close to the city center – our walk to the famous lake and fishing port took 10 minutes at most

We enjoyed looking in the shops, being a part of the commotion and spending time on land.

Eventually we all got tired and hungry and stopped at a taverna on the lake. A lovely Scottish guy was welcoming people in and his charm did the trick on us. We pulled up a table, had a meal and took the opportunity to open our tourist book on what to see and do in Crete.

The ancient site of Knossos was high on the list and of course we’d have to visit one of the two huge water parks. We scanned the various options and realized that Crete is massive! We decided to hire a car for the following day and drive to Gournia, the best preserved Minoan town ruin, Mochlos, a little fishing village for lunch, and Vai, a beach on the east coast having it’s own palm tree forest. We also wanted to stop in Sitia, time permitting.

The next day, we collected the car and packed it with water, bathing suits, towels, maps and my camera. By 9am we were off on our first Crecian adventure.

Our first stop was Gournia

Gournia Crete

Gournia Crete

Considering it’s Crete’s best preserved Minoan town ruin, you’d think there’d be more visitors

During our hour-long stay there was only one other family walking around. Failing to have a parking lot or any concessions, the archeological site doesn’t look like one that’s visited by the tour busses. Seriously, there was nothing there other than the ruin which was actually a welcome surprise. No crowds, no ‘made-in-China’ tourist crap and no distractions.

Gournia Crete

Gournia Crete

Simon and I were very impressed with the remnants of the Minoan town – we were walking on roads/paths where people walked 1800 BC and they were in impeccable condition. Further, the houses and buildings were rather high – some were above my head. In most of the Greek archeological sites we’ve visited only a few feet of building remnants remain. In Gournia you really got a feel for the size of the rooms, the layout of the houses and the way that the town was constructed.

Gournia Crete

Gournia is still being excavated and all the tools to preform the archeological dig were there to see. Simon was able to put some dirt in the sifter and demonstrate to our daughter, Sienna, how the scientists look for artefacts.

Sienna is currently into pirates right now, so she became very excited to find out that there might be buried treasure in the archeological site! Finally, we stumbled onto a reason for Sienna to enjoy ruins. Joking aside, she’s been brilliant at all the sites we’ve visited (Olympia, Delphi, Delos, Knosos and on and on) but she doesn’t really understand just how old ‘old’ is. For Sienna, the biggest number in existence is 100 and she’s not even sure what that means.

At least the link with finding treasure sparked more of an interest regarding ruins for her!

Now, if you’re pushed for time or don’t want to necessarily visit the ruin, it can be seen from the highway along the Sitia road. You can see almost all of it as you drive by.

Gournia Crete

Gournia Crete

The cost to enter Gournia was €2 each with children going free. I think it was well worth the fee. And knowing that they’re still uncovering the ruin, I’m happy to contribute to its development. Who knows what’s still there left to be unearthed!

Next stop – Mochlos, Crete

Sitia-Road-Crete

Sitia-Road-Crete

We turned left off the main road and went winding our way down to this tiny little village. Based on our sights from the car, the town didn’t look very impressive. As we parked up along the back of the village, I was wondering if we were wasting valuable time. Simon, Sienna and I got out of the car and decided to look for a place to get a Fanta Lemon (similar to 7-Up or Sprite).

As we wound our way through a couple backstreets, we eventually arrived at the waters edge and the view was breathtaking. What a result!

Mochlos Crete

Mochlos Crete

A cove lined with traditional tavernas all uniquely styled in Crete tradition faced a once-connected island and miles of beautiful coast. I’ve always loved contrast – just looking at the sea can be boring. But when looking at the sea with islands, desolate beaches and through the windowless tavernas your eye’s are spoiled with color, texture and contrasting patterns.

Mochlos Crete

Mochlos Crete

We walked the length of the row of tavernas and then settled on a tavern where the women were sitting outside preparing vegetables for their lunch and dinner guests.

Mochlos-Crete

Mochlos-Crete

Our lovely waiter gave us the history of the area and explained that the island across was a Minoan ruin. Depending on which way the wind blew, the ships would moor off one side or the other. Over time the land eroded but during Minoan times there were two great harbors offering shelter from prevailing winds.

Mochlos Crete

Mochlos Crete

I ordered a traditional Cretian dish – I try my best to always experience as much localness as I can!

The dish was a brown rusk/roll, soaked in olive oil and then layered with stewed tomatoes topped with a dollop of lovely fresh soft cheese. The rusk was partially crunchy, where the olive oil didn’t penetrate, and partially soggy. The combination of flavors and textures was perfect!

Sienna enjoyed her Fanta Lemon and after an hour of observing the amazing views and soaking up the traditional Cretian feel, we decided to move on.

Off to Via Beach for some well deserved time in the sea

Originally we intended to stop in Sitia as the tour book described a nice Venician port housing a fortress but Sienna fell asleep and rather than wake her, we decided to drive on to Via.

As we twisted and turned along the motorway, we eventually made it to the east coast of Crete. We parked up, grabbed our sea-side bags and went in search of a couple sun beds.

While scanning the beach, we were elated to find two beach beds with an umbrella right at the front. Another result! Being on the beach front would allow Sienna to swim right in front of us without having to either be with her or constantly look through obstructions to make sure she’s safe.

Vai Beach Crete

The beach is sandy and then it turns to flat slippery rock. Overall, it’s a very clean beach with a nice ocean floor. Sienna wanted to play ‘Angry Shark,’ so she’d swim around chasing me while gnashing her jaws. I then would play ‘Kissing Shark,’ and I’m sure you can guess how that played out.

We purchased some hot dogs and soft drinks from the snack bar and enjoyed the sun, sea and stunning views of sea and palm trees! It was great to be surrounded by so many palm trees – what a unique experience for us.

Vai Beach Crete

Sienna decided to take off her floatation device that she’s been wearing faithfully all summer and have a go at swimming unassisted. After a few attempts, she made it a couple meters and then more and then more! I videoed her attempts and was so proud to see my little baby-cakes showing the first signs of swimming. The below video was number 6…and by then I think she was really grasping the concept!

Being surrounded by water, our biggest fear is Sienna falling overboard

Teaching her to swim has been our number one priority all summer. We’ve tried and tried but as with most children, they’ll do things when they are ready to do them. Thankfully, at Vai beach Sienna was ready to give it a concerted effort.

Vai Beach Crete

Vai Beach Crete

After Sienna’s swimming milestone she was full of energy

She asked if we could go climb up a nearby mountain. Sienna and I followed the path, walked up the stairs to the ‘Look Out’ point and then Sienna wanted to keep going! We climbed up and up – it was amazing to see a desolate quiet beach one cove over. It felt as if we could see forever and every way we turned, the views were of beautiful blue waters.

Vai Beach Crete

We were ready to head back to the boat, grab a chicken gyros and hit the sack. When we returned to Britican and looked at the weather forecast, we realized the winds would be too strong to leave the following morning. We took a family vote and decided to keep the car for an extra day so that we could explore some more on the amazing island of Crete.

Read my other articles about Crete here:

Before you go…if you’re on Facebook, and you haven’t ‘Liked’ my SailingBritican page yet, please do so if you want to know when a new article has been published. Also, I update Facebook most days so to really follow our journey, join my family and I on FB too!

Greek Burgers – what makes these the best in the world?

Yesterday I wrote a destination review on Bali, Crete ending my piece with a picture of the best ‘Greek Plate,’ I’ve had thus far during my 4 months of travelling through Greece. The plate included 2 meatballs, a stuffed eggplant and tomato in addition to some lovely roasted potatoes. After hundreds of ‘Greek Plates,’ this one was the best. Read ‘Sailing around Crete – Anchoring off the town of Bali.’

During my article mentioned above, I also mentioned that it must be the American in me that loves meatballs as they’re so similar to hamburgers. I’d like to consider myself to have quite diverse tastes, but no matter where I am in the world, I can’t help but to crave a good burger.

That being said, while we were in the Ionian Sea anchored off a bay on Meganisi Island, my cousin Loryn made the most delicious Greek Burgers EVER. The recipe is super easy and the flavors are out of this world.

Greek Burgers

Greek Burgers

Well…Loryn put a surprise in the middle of the burger! She makes two thin paddies, adds a slice of Feta cheese to the middle and then closes them up. In the above picture the Greek burgers, the top right hasn’t been closed up yet. You can see the pieces of Feta that are there waiting to be hidden.

Check out this video to discover the few ingredients needed to make exceptionally amazing Greek Burgers. And also note that this burger is gluten free… The video also shows my daughter displaying a case of verbal diarrhea and a panorama of the bay we stayed in.  As my daughter would say, “Bye, bye sweet potato!”

Check out all the recipes we make on Britican using Britican Galley’s Greek Blend (a window will open to my online shop) and also have a look at all the Britican Galley Greek Blend recipes too!

Sailing around Crete – anchoring off the town of Bali


Sailing around Crete, Bali

Sailing around Crete – Bali

I’m rocking back and forth in a nice sized bay on the North coast of Crete, outside of a town called Bali. To look out to the sea, it’s flat calm however there’s a bit of a sea swell that makes the boat rock side to side. As I type, I have to slouch and then sit upright and repeat…over and over again. Perhaps it’s doing some good for my abs? (Hubby took the picture above as I typed this article).

Yesterday we left the our anchorage near the island of Spindalonga, near Agios Nikolaos, and headed for the city Rethymno. At first we were going to go to Irakleio, the capital, but a few people told us that the city and the marina are places to avoid.

Sailing around Crete, Bali

Sailing around Crete, Bali

The wind, as it has been so often, was on our nose. All we could do is motor into the 20 – 30 knot wind and settle into the choppy, turbulent oncoming waves. Luckily, I had a good book to read on my Kindle and that kept my mind of off the potential for seasickness. It’s the first time I’ve lasted so long and felt so good in a rough sea state.

Perhaps I am finally putting my motion sickness demons to rest?

Seeing the bay of Bali and knowing we’d be able to anchor in the sunlight, we headed towards land and I’m thankful that we did. By 7pm my husband Simon, my daughter Sienna and I were all getting a bit stir-crazy. Following 10 hours of what felt like fighting the elements, we all wanted a break.

After two attempts at anchoring and an in person inspection (Simon dove off the boat and looked with a mask to make sure the anchor was set) we went for a swim, took showers, dropped the dinghy and headed into the small little fishing port. Britican is pictured below with the fishing inlet behind.

Sailing Around Crete, Bali

Sailing Around Crete, Bali

The guidebook explains that Bali is a purpose built vacation spot that only comes to life during the summer and as I look around, the book isn’t far off. I can see hotel after hotel and beaches lined with sunbeds, boats for hire, wind surfboards and tavernas dotted all over.

There is however an original village that must date back for quite some time. Surrounding the fishing boat pier the homes look quite old. So in Bali, there’s 75% resorts with lovely beaches, pastel holiday flats on low cliffs and a neon lit clubs and some tavernas and then there’s 25% old village nestled into a small side cove.

The backdrop of the nice bay is a selection of brown dusty and green covered mountains that hug half of the bay. On the other half there are olive orchards, cliffs with caves and beautiful property or hotel atop a hill that’s lit up by night. Surely there’s a lot of swimming, snorkeling, hiking and general exploring that can be done in and around Bali.

Sailing around Crete, Bali

Sailing around Crete, Bali

Any negatives? Well, there is a highway or road that I can see and hear. If, however, you’re not listening out for it, you probably wouldn’t notice it. I only hear it because I’m accustomed to perfectly quiet bays with goat bells and waves lapping on the land as my only sounds.

There is a nightclub in the southeast corner of the bay and it’s a bit annoying. As guests staying in the various hotels, I’m not sure if the sound carries as much as it does on water. We’re equidistance from all the hotels and the village – actually right in the middle of the bay, so we can hear everything. That being said, I woke up in the middle of the night and the club was still booming.

But I’m on a boat, so I can take my home and move it!

Sailing around Crete, Bali

Sailing around Crete, Bali

Oddly, we’re the only people anchored in this bay (Britican pictured above)… If Crete was closer to more islands or along the Ionian Islands this bay would be packed! Not only does it have good holding, great protection from most winds but there’s a wind range of offerings on land. Dotted around I see loads of lovely looking restaurants, shops and cafes.

If you’re sailing to the bay, however, it’s important to note that it’s not a good spot if you want to anchor in a north/north east wind. The pilot books mentions that you can perhaps tie off to the small fishing jetty but you’d have to quite a small boat. If we went stern-to in our 56’ we’d block most of the inlet!

Sailing around Crete, Bali

Sailing around Crete, Bali

While staying in the bay of Bali, we took our dingy ashore a few times. The first was to enjoy a lovely meal at the Panorama restaurant after our long sail. Situated above the fishing harbor we had a great view of fishing boats and a quiet beach. The food and service were both great.

The following day, we went to the town to explore further

Once you exit the fishing quay into the inlet you’ll find a small beach with beach beds and water sport rentals, a snack bar, a few restaurants a couple mini-markets, two jewelry shops, a travel excursions shop and a fish pedicure spa. All this located at what seems like the bottom of a valley with cliffs or higher ground surrounding it.

Sailing around Crete, Bali

Sailing around Crete, Bali

To get to higher ground, you can walk up a windy road or take a set of stairs to the higher road. In a rather quirky fashion, you have to walk through a restaurant to get to the stairs. After my family and I walked through one restaurant to go up we felt a bit awkward – as if we should have stopped and had a drink. On our way back, we took a different set of stairs, thinking we’d go straight to the beach, but once again ended up having to walk through a restaurant to get out.

Sailing around Crete, Bali

Sailing around Crete, Bali

Once on the higher ground, you’ll find some more minimarkets, tavernas, and various shops. There’s also a Crete foods store offering olives, chesses and local sausages. Next-door is a bakery/restaurant. Follow the road further and you’ll end up in another cove offering more beach beds, tavernas and so forth. After that, there’s yet another cove and at the end, you’ll hit the nightclub with it’s neon blue lights.

I’m sure Bail isn’t for everyone as it a full-on tourist town but it’s great for anyone that loves the sand, sun, sea and picturesque views. I lost count on all the water sport activities available. While sitting on the back of the boat, I eyed someone rising 20’ – 30’ into the air with water shooting out of their feet. I’m not sure what the device is called, but it looked like a lot of fun.

Sailing around Crete, Bali

Sailing around Crete, Bali

We were fortunate to have several visitors come out to the boat and greet us – and one French couple swimming nearby saw us and yelled out ‘look at the turtle’! The largest turtle I’ve seen yet, came up for air a few times right next to the boat. My husband estimates it was 3 1/2’ long.

Sailing around Crete, Bali

Sailing around Crete, Bali

I’m also happy to announce that I had my best ‘Greek Plate’ to date. After eating Greek food for 4 months now, I’m starting to crave other cuisines. If I see Chinese, Thai or any other ethnic restaurant, I’ll be booking myself in. That being said, it’s an amazing testimony for me to rate a dish so good after trying so many others. This particular ‘Greek Plate,’ had meatballs, stuffed eggplant, stuffed tomato and roasted potatoes.

Sailing around Crete, Bali

I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of meatballs. Perhaps it’s because it’s similar to a beef burger and it’s the American in me coming out? Hehehehe.

Final verdict on sailing around Crete – Bali?!?

If you’re sailing along the north coast of Crete this is an excellent bay to stop in. It’s not quiet and the sea is a bit rocky, but it’s absolutely picturesque and filled with great eateries. My eye’s smiled at the views and my stomach smiled at the excellent Greek foods. And considering it’s still high season right now, I find it amazing to have the whole bay to ourselves. It’s not necessarily a bay I’d leave my boat in and go for day trips – it’s very busy with water sports and if the wind changed, I’d be a bit worried, but if you want to hang around, close by, it’s a fantastic stop-over.

Just a final note…have you ‘Liked’ my SailingBritican Facebook page yet? If you like it, you’ll be notified through my posts about every article I publish. Furthermore, I’m often posting more pictures of things I find along the journey. In fact, there’s a video of the whole panorama of Bali on the page, so go take a look! Please ‘Like’ our page here: https://www.facebook.com/SailingBritican?ref=hl

Sausage Pasta Bake – A tale of a potluck meal amongst boaters

Sausage Pasta Bake

Sausage Pasta Bake

Based on the questions that people often ask me, I feel as if many think we sail around isolated being ‘cooped-up’ in a tiny space. Readers write to me and ask, ‘How do you and your family managed to live in such small quarters?’ ‘How does your daughter get social interaction?’ ‘How can you cope with being with your family 24 hours/day 7 days a week?’

What many readers don’t understand is that, so far, our lives are not very different from when we lived on land. In fact, if I had to comment on our overall quality of life, I’d say that it’s improved drastically. Not once have any of us felt ‘cooped-up’ as our space isn’t tiny – we’re constantly looking at a massive expanse of sea. Our living room is the world, not a room with 4 walls and a TV.

As far as social interaction for my daughter (and me and my husband – we need it too!), we have more of a social life than ever before! We’ve made more friends this year than we have in our previous 16 years of being married – combined. We’ve had more parties (dinner parties, guests over for a drink, kid sleep over parties) than I’ve ever had in my life. Pictured below is Tanna and Sienna from sailboat ‘Why Knot’ and our Sienna – the girls were inseparable for 2 weeks when our boats sailed around together.

Sausage Pasta Bake

Sausage Pasta Bake

AND…we’re not all together 24 hours a day 7 days a week. In the past few weeks, my husband Simon and I spent a couple days sailing alone – Sienna sailed aboard another boat. And on the flip side, we had at least one other little person sleep over with Sienna – sometimes three! There are times when Simon and Sienna go out for the morning or afternoon leaving me to have ‘me time’ and vice versa. And we certainly don’t hang out on the boat all day every day – we’re often sightseeing, exploring or enjoying a park or dinner meal at a restaurant.

On very few occasions, while sailing, I felt I needed a break, so I simply went to the forward deck and sat with my back against the mast watching the water go by. Sienna isn’t allowed on the forward deck while sailing for safety reasons – unless accompanied by an adult.

That being said, what we’ve found in the sailing community in the Med is that it’s easy to make new friends and those new friendships turn into good friendships quickly. While in Marzamemi, Sicily, we met a boatload of 6 Italians and within a few days of meeting them, we had an ‘Italian’ night – My cousin Loryn cooked Pasta Sauce in Sicily to put on the top of Stuffed Pasta Shells and an Italian Admiral showed us how to make Admirals Bruschetta.

Stuffed Pasta Shells

Stuffed Pasta Shells

When we made it to Greece, we met the crew aboard Sailboat Nepenthe, Jim and Carole. After a little discussion, Simon asked them over for a drink and Carole brought her ‘Sailboat Nepenthe Eggless Cake‘ – we were fortunate to have different versions of Carole’s cake all summer long!

Sailboat Nepenthe Eggless Cake

Sailboat Nepenthe Eggless Cake

And while sailing in the Dodecanese (group of Greek islands off the southwest side of Turkey) we hooked up with sailboat ‘Why Knot’ (friends we made a few weeks previously) and traded cooking every other night while peppering a few taverna visits into our travels. We were fortunate to be sailing into Symi as the captain of ‘Why Knot’ caught a tuna, so one evening we all enjoyed the freshest tuna you could ever taste.

Sausage Pasta Bake Article

Sausage Pasta Bake Article

The recipe below, is one such night when ‘Why Knot’s,’ lovely First Mate, Elaine invited us over for a fratata and salad. We were anchored on in a bay off the Turkish coast and since the wind was nonexistent, ‘Why Knot’ simply tied onto us. By doing so, our daughter could quickly visit her new best friends Sienna (older Sienna) and Tanna. The kids could run back and forth and us adults didn’t have to get in a dingy to visit. When it came to ‘happy hour,’ we simply step over onto the next boat.

Sausage Pasta Bake

Sausage Pasta Bake

Not being to a store recently, we had to come up with our contribution to dinner so my husband, Simon, had some helpers help him a cook Sausage Pasta Bake. This is such a simple recipe. It’s even easier than the Spaghetti Carbonara recipe that Simon demonstrated in the post, ‘Spaghetti Carbonara – the easiest and tastiest Carbonara you can make on a boat!’

And while sailing, it’s a staple to have long lasting items in the fridge and cupboard such as sausages, cheese and pasta. Without any further ado, please enjoy the Sausage Pasta Bake video and then scroll down to view and use the print-friendly button to print the recipe for yourself.

Go here to view all the videos and recipes for the Britican Galley Italian Blend.

How to anchor a sailboat – what I’ve learned about anchoring thus far

How to anchor a sailboat

How to anchor a sailboat

Back in England, when we had our 35’ Moody sailboat (pictured above), I never considered using the anchor. In fact, I never looked at it nor did I know the location of the windless (anchor) controls. I didn’t even want to know how to anchor a sailboat.

When our engine cut out in the middle of Portsmouth Harbor – one the busiest harbors in the world – not once did it dawn on me to drop our anchor. It wasn’t even in my mind as an option and looking back, it should have been. (Read Experiencing engine failure and living to tell the tale)

What’s wrong with using an anchor?

Well…you don’t know what you don’t know. And I just didn’t know anything about anchors. When we purchased our first boat, Selene (pictured above) ,we’d take her out for a 3 – 5 hour sail and head to another marina. Over the course of 2 years, we spent time in 5 other marinas – never considering finding a quiet bay or an inlet to drop a hook.

Looking back, we could have anchored in a bay for lunch but the old, mostly land-based Kim, always wanted to get to the final destination. Perhaps I was nervous about tying off and I just wanted to get it over with? Or maybe it was due to my reoccurring issues with seasickness? Or – could it have been the glass of wine that I was anticipating after what felt like a long sail?

At least the new, totally sea-based Kim, is now happy to sail for the sake of sailing

Upon the mention of anchoring overnight, however, I’d shiver and say, ‘There’s no way I’d be able to sleep while anchored! What happens if it comes unearthed?’ I honestly couldn’t understand how anyone could get a good night’s sleep when open sea, or worse, rocks and land could gobble up the boat.

Fast-forward to our new boat and our new life

How to anchor a sailboat

How to anchor a sailboat

When we first started on our around the world adventure aboard 56′ Britcan (pictured above) in April 2014, we went from Marina to Marina. In fact, up until the second month of our around-the-world sailing adventure I never even looked at our anchor. There was so much to learn and from my perspective I still couldn’t fathom the concept of anchoring.

There was one evening, however, very early in our trip when we first arrived in Malta that an anchor was needed. Even though we could see the slip we were destined to tie off to, the marina was closed and we had to anchor literally in the middle of the marina.

How to anchor a sailboat

How to anchor a sailboat

Imagine sailing over 850 nautical miles and having to anchor rather than tie off to land? Fortunately, we had a hired skipper (pictured above between my cousin and I) with us for our first trip and he set the anchor. Skipper Mike also tied a floating buoy to the top of the anchor so others would know where it was sitting. I thought, ‘wow – how professional’.

Looking around I questioned our spinning radius

I looked at Skipper Mike and said, ‘But if the wind blows from a different direction, will we spin and hit something?’ I think I then asked several other questions and by the time I said, ‘But what if it doesn’t hold us,’ Skipper Mike barked out at me, “Kim – THE ANCHOR IS FINE. WE ARE FINE.’

His bellows seemed so convincing that I thought, ‘Okay, so I guess we’re going to be FINE.’ As you can imagine, I could see the jetty that we would soon be tied to. It was like putting candy in front of a kid and telling her that she couldn’t have it. Furthermore, we sailed over 850 miles – I wanted to get off.

Despite it being my first overnight anchoring experience on Britican, I slept very well

But I didn’t sleep well because we were anchored and I felt secure in Skipper Mikes decision. I slept well because I was exhausted. Fortunately, we survived the night, pulled up the anchor and tied onto a jetty by 9am the following morning. As you can see in the picture above, we didn’t have any anchor issues. Skipper Mike helped me pull up the anchor, tie lines to the bow and hubby drove us into the slip that was next to us all night long.

After Malta, we went to Sicily. Fast-forward a few weeks in Sicily and we were fortunate to have an Italian Admiral sailing with us. Knowing the waters very well, the Admiral helped us anchor in a few spots. My husband kept telling me that I’m going to have to get used to anchoring so I tried my best to go with the flow.

How to anchor a sailboat

How to anchor a sailboat

When I woke up and found us anchored 20 feet off of Stromboli Volcano I thought I’d die

Fortunately for me and probably everyone else on the boat, I went to bed before we anchored, but that was after seeing lava spew 300 meters into the sky at 3am.   (Read Sailing around Stromboli Volcano needs to be on every sailors bucket list! ). Our stern was facing the island and I could have almost jumped from the back of the boat to land (see the above picture – includes my hubby). From all that I’ve read, I didn’t think you should ever anchor along a lee shore (shore facing the oncoming wind and waves).

Heck, if we even dragged a little our keel would surely hit bottom!

How to anchor a sailboat

How to anchor a sailboat

The admiral slept on the aft deck – he always sleeps outside (pictured above). Perhaps he also sleeps with one eye open?! Of course, I couldn’t question his decision to anchor on the lee shore – not only is he an admiral but he’s a local! I just thought in my head, ‘Simon better not try this kind of anchoring when I’m awake.’

In Sicily, I got a little more comfortable about anchoring. Every ½ hour, I’d pop my head out and check our bearings. I kept telling myself, ‘Kim, you have got to get comfortable with anchoring. This is your life now.’

After Sicily, we sailed along the boot of Italy to the heel and then over to Corfu. Our first port of call was the little bay of Palaiokastrita, on the west side. We anchored in front of a hotel and between a rock and a cliff. There was ample room to swing and after several hours, I decided the boat wasn’t going to move. However, there was a surge and we rocked back and forth in the most uncomfortable way!

I didn’t sleep that night

After anchoring a few more times, I started to relax a bit. And then I became cocky about things. I started calling myself the master anchor woman and acted like I actually knew what I was doing. In my past, whenever I get cocky, I usually get pushed off my pedestal.

And here comes my disastrous anchoring story…

How to anchor a sailboat

How to anchor a sailboat

We, and 30 other boats, were anchored in the lovely bay of Lakka on the island Paxos, Greece – notice all the boats in the background pictured above. The picture is my daughter, Sienna, and my cousin, Loryn. We stayed for 2 days. On our first day, we anchored quite far out as we didn’t know the bay very well. By day two, we decided to lift our anchor and get closer to the town. The hope was that we’d be close enough to get some wifi from one of the bars.

And I have a sneaky suspicion that hubby wanted to show off our new boat

Knowing now what I didn’t then, we should have never anchored so close to so many other boats. But then I wouldn’t be able to tell this story…

Due to the amount of boats, we couldn’t let out very much chain. The best we could do was go into wind, motor up to the very back of another boat, drop anchor and go back as far as we could considering that we have very little room to swing. We’re a 56’ boat – it’s just too big to get in amongst a bunch of other boats. We couldn’t let out enough chain to make our holding secure.

If the wind was steady everything would have been okay

But that’s not what always happens when you’re at anchor. In fact, too little wind is bad and too much wind is bad.

A little digression: Recently, while on a mooring buoy in no wind, I herd a “clank, clank.” I looked up and our davits (the things that hold our tender up at the back of the boat) were locked into a neighboring catamarans bow. Because there was no wind, we swung one way and they swung our way! Luckily, we knew our neighbors and I simply slept in the cockpit all night to push them off when needed. But I digress. Let me get back to the crowded bay.

So…we’re in a bay with people swimming off the back of their boats. Some boat decks are empty – either the occupants are down below sleeping or on shore enjoying lunch. My husband is just leaving me, my cousin and my daughter on board while he goes to take the trash ashore with the dinghy.

And out of nowhere, a 60 mph gust of wind hits all the boats

We were broadside to the gust, so our boat took the full brunt of the wind. I could feel us tipping over and saw the strain on the anchor. I quickly yelled for Simon to get back to the boat, started the engine and before I took another breath I was running to the bow to fend off an unoccupied drifting boat.

I wouldn’t be exaggerating when I say that at least 75% of the boats dragged their anchor. It was like were all pieces on a chess board that got blown to one corner.

After fending off one boat, I then had to detach our ladder from another boats anchor chain

It was absolute chaos. At first, we didn’t want to admit that we might have dragged but we just didn’t know if our anchor was still set or not.

My husband motored us out to the entrance of the bay and we anchored away from everyone else. The wind was blowing strong, so Simon stayed up on deck all night making sure that we stayed put. Unfortunately for him, it was his birthday! No beers for him, but we celebrated a couple days later.

After that experience, I started to take anchoring more seriously

I read some books, talked to Jim and Carole (Read: Couple sets off for a 3 year around the world sailing trip – 15 years later they’re still going!) and actually applied my mind to anchoring a bit more than before.

As fate would have it, we met people that owned the same boat as us – a 56’ Oyster. We were invited on board for a drink and I asked the captain what advice he had to offer.

His number one comment was, ‘no matter where you are, let out as much chain as you possible can when you anchor.’

The boat we have is very heavy – I think it’s around 33 tons. When wind blows a boat of our size and weight, she starts moving and doesn’t want to stop!

And this brings me to my last anchoring story…

What do you mean we have an anchor alarm?!!??!

A few weeks ago I was on our friends catamaran named, ‘Why Knot.’ We were talking about anchoring and the lovely first mate, Elaine, said that she sleeps easier knowing the anchor alarm is on.

I immediately respond with, ‘There’s a such thing as an anchor alarm? How does it work?’ Both Elaine and I put down our glass of wine and she walked me over to the navigation station. She then pushed a couple buttons and explained, ‘Okay, I’ve just sent the alarm to go off if we move 0.01 nautical miles from our position.’

Not long after setting the alarm it went off. Elaine then explained that she’ll keep upping the nautical mile distance until it stops going off. If you’re swinging you can easily move 0.04 nautical miles. Elaine explained that she initially sets the alarm to 0.01 and keeps upping it until it stops getting triggered while swinging naturally.

As you can imagine, the first thing I did when I returned to our boat was to find out where our anchor alarm was!

How to anchor a sailboat

How to anchor a sailboat

Unbelievably, I found it on one of our 14 computer display units. We have so many things to look at! Right on the front of a navigation station unit I noticed a button that was labeled, ‘Alarms.’ I hit the button and it allowed me to set an alarm for track and the anchor. I thought, “OMG – all this time it was right in front of me.” (I forgive you if you’re thinking, ‘This girl really doesn’t have a clue – does she?!”)

Since finding the anchor alarm, we’ve never gone a night without using it

So, to date, those are my anchoring stories. I’m sure I’ll have more. But what have I learned? What tips can I offer? What wisdom have I gleaned so early in our travels?

How to anchor a sailboat

How to anchor a sailboat

The Sailing Britican Guide on How to Anchor

Since writing this article my husband and I went on to anchor over and over again. We learned what to do and not do. The result?! I created an easy to digest Boat Basics: How to Anchor guide. I can’t promise that the guide will 100% prevent you from dragging but I can assure you that it will allow you to follow the right steps to anchoring properly. Avoid getting laughed at when entering a bay… Grab a copy of this guide now…

Stuffed Pasta Shells in Italy

Stuffed Pasta Shells

Stuffed Pasta Shells

On our boat, Britican, it seems that our favourite thing to talk about is food.

We anxiously look forward to our next meal and discuss a variety of possibilities. While in Marzamemi, Sicily we thought what better than to have some stuffed pasta shells. We always see cheese everywhere we go so the chances of having fresh ricotta, mozzarella and parmesan seemed like a logical choice.

Simon and I set off for the market that proved to be a little more difficult than we thought. Read my Britican Galley article/recipe on Pasta Sauce – Britican Style, for the full story. We either could not understand directions, or there was no market where they said it would be. Not sure what to do, we decided to drive to a new town to better our chances.

While in the supermarket a worker walked past me with a whole tray of fresh ricotta cheese

I thought now thats what I’m talking about! I followed the worker like a bear to honey. Not being able to speak Italian I just pointed and put up one finger indicating one of those lovely ricotta tubs please. As she passed the goods along to me the feeling of warmth passed through my fingers. Omg… the cheese was that fresh, they had just made it.

Next items were mozzarella and parmesan

I thought if someone walks past me again with fresh cheese I’m gonna just play the lottery. Well my little dream didn’t come true but they did have a large assortment of different kinds of cheese to choose from. I just felt so happy and carefree knowing our bellies would be filled with all the happiness this fresh food would bring to us.

As we left the market I asked Simon to stop at a road side stand to purchase a few onions, garlic and zucchini to be added to the cheese mixture. It didn’t take long to find what i was looking for!! We scored! We got so many fresh veggies for not only the stuffed shells but also the homemade sauce I was making to accompany it.

I freaking LOVE Sicily….. and the stuffed shells

Stuffed Pasta Shells

Above is are all the ingredients I used to make the Pasta Sauce and the Stuffed Pasta Shells and below is a video on how to make the stuffed shells. Everyone in our family loves these shells. If you want to impress someone or a whole family, give these a go. I assure you that no one will be disappointed. Also – check out my Pasta Sauce Recipe – Britican Style as it makes a perfect sauce to put over the shells.

[gmc_recipe 1281]

Go here to see all the recipes we use the Britican Galley Italian Blend with!