Teak Wonder: How to make the teak deck on your sailboat look amazing in 3 steps

With our old sailboat, Selene, a 35’ Moody I don’t think it ever crossed our mind that our teak deck needed a clean. Of course, we’d spray it down with fresh water and clean off any bird poop but we never thought of properly cleaning the teak.

With our Oyster 56′, we’ve felt a stronger desire to make the teak look amazing

Perhaps it’s because there’s more of it AND maybe it’s because the weather is nice enough to spend time cleaning?

Our Moody was in the English Solent and staying warm, even during the summer, was our main concern. Now that we’re sailing the warmer waters of the Mediterranean and have nothing better to do, we set out to learn the best way to clean and maintain our teak decks.

That being said, we didn’t learn the proper way of doing our teak until after we had one dud attempt. Back in April, when we were in Malta my husband, cousin and I spent the day cleaning the teak with fresh water and brushes. The gunk that came of the boat was disgusting! As we used our brushes, black sludge oozed out the wood and it smelled quite fishy. Yuck!

Furthermore, we noticed that the grey wood turned to wood colored wood

Unfortunately, however, the wood colored teak didn’t last very long. Within a few days it was back to the dull grey color. What a waste of time. We spent some very precious hours cleaning while my daughter was with friends and the end result didn’t last long.

While in Sicily, my husband asked our new contact, George Rizzo, what his thoughts were about cleaning teak. If you don’t know George, he’s a man that knows everything there is to know about boating and boats. Moreover, he knows who you need to know to get anything done.

George not only explained a proper way to clean the teak, he actually helped my husband to get the necessary solutions. I’m not a chandlery dawdler so I have no idea about marine brands. I assume there are a variety of brands, but we used a line of solutions from Teak Wonder.

Teak Wonder

Teak Wonder

The 3-step process of cleaning Teak is fairly easy but quite time consuming

Before starting, you’ll need teak cleaner, teak brightener and then a teak stain-sealant in addition to fresh water. This job cannot be done with salt-water so it somewhat restricts you to doing the job in a marina where a fresh water hose can be sourced.

How to make the teak deck on your sailboat look amazing

Step 1: Clean the teak

We used Teak Wonder Teak Cleaner. It’s a blue solution that we dabbed on our wet deck with a brush you’d use to clean dishes with. We poured the solution into a cut-open 1.5 ltr water bottle. And then we used a larger longer brush to do the scrubbing. Going with the grain of the wood we’d scrub the gunk out, wash away with fresh water and the repeat if necessary. The trick is to get the soap suds to remain white rather than turn dirty colored. Once they’re white, it’s a sign to move onto the next patch. We focused on small square patches. Below is a picture of my cousin scrubbing the deck clean.

Teak Wonder

Teak Wonder

Step 2: Brighten the teak

While the deck is wet, you can slop this stuff on with a 3” paint brush. There’s no need to be precise, you just want to soak the teak with it. To my amazement, the teak bighted up in a big way. It’s always so nice to see results so quickly. See pictures below.

Teak Wonder

Teak Wonder

Step 3: Dressing and Sealer

Once the deck has completely dried, you can then apply a light stain and sealant to really preserve the wood color. This takes quite a while as you can’t slop this stuff on. In fact, it’s really hard to keep it from spraying onto the GRP or the non-teak areas. And it likes to run so you have to keep an eye on it that it’s not draining off the teak and onto the white areas of the deck and hull. The results, however, seem to be worth it. It’s still early days, only a week since we finished, but thus far the deck looks fantastic. It’s still wood colored and not that dull gray!

Teak Wonder

Teak Wonder

Teak Wonder

Teak Wonder

Now…our next problem is to find out how to clean the GRP and get rid of all the stain that dribbled onto it!

Overall, it took us several stops at marinas to get the deck done. We needed to use fresh water and the only time we had that opportunity was when there was a fresh water supply. We did parts of our deck in Riposto, Sicily and then in Greece – Gouvia Marina, Lefkas Marina and one final push at Sami.

If you have any other tips, techniques or comments about cleaning and staining a teak deck, please let me know. Also – any tips on cleaning GPR would be appreciated too.

Visiting Delphi – We made it to the center of the ancient World

If you’ve never heard of Delphi before, it’s an ancient Greek religious sanctuary sacred to the god Apollo. It’s home to the famous oracles which gave cryptic prediction and guidance to politicians and individuals. Furthermore, it was home to the Pythian Games.

What’s very interesting is that the site was first settled in the 1500 to 1100 BC and considered the center of the world. In Greek mythology Zeus released two eagles – one to the east and one to the west – and they met in Delphi (see the picture of the naval of Earth below in the gallery).

The site was abandoned during the 7th century AD and rediscovered around 1880 by some French archaeologists. Lucky for us that they found it as it’s a remarkable place!

But how the heck did we come about visiting Delphi during our sailing travels?

Okay – after our stay in the commercial port of Patras, the 3rd largest city in Greece, we made our way under the Rio-Antirrio bridge. The bridge links the Peloponnese with central Greece and is the largest suspended bridge in the world.

When we went under the bridge we all went to the bow of the boat and enjoyed the view. A few days previously, when we entered the Corinth waters I noticed the bridge from afar but couldn’t figure out what it was. I yelled over to my cousin, Loryn – ‘hey, do you see those four pyramid shapes towards the end of they bay? What do you think they are?’

Loryn grabbed the binoculars and announced that it was a bridge. Little did we know that it was a famous bridge! The things we come across are amazing.

Patras Bridge near Delphi

Patras Bridge near Delphi

Patras Bridge near Delphi

Patras Bridge near Delphi

Patras Bridge near Delphi

Patras Bridge near Delphi

Anyway, we sailed under the bridge and then headed for a town called Itea

Interestingly, my husband, Simon, spent a couple weeks in Itea when he was 7 years old. His aunt took him for a 6-week tour of Greece and he remembers Itea vividly. Simon smiles and explains, ‘Itea is the place where I learned how to swim. My aunt popped my rubber ring and threw me in. It didn’t take long for me to figure out how to float!’

As we got closer to Itea our American friends on Nepenthe called us on the VHS and told us about the anchorage they settled on. We wanted to anchor but getting my father-in-law in the dingy to get to land proved to be difficult. We decided to check out the moorings along the town wall. Fortunately, there was loads of space. Stepping off the boat onto solid ground was easier for dad than the bouncing dingy.

Just as we were mooring, friends of Nepenthe moored up next to us

It was another boat of Americans. Unbeknown to us the sailboat, named Horizons, was carrying a group of future friends. It didn’t take long for us to get settled, introduce ourselves to the crew on Horizons and then head for the beach!

Three-year cruising experts, Vince and Barbie were joined by their niece Marie, her daughter Seaira and Marie’s best friend Cylinda. Cylinda was joining the crew for a couple weeks and Marie and her daughter for a month. We were all pleased to meet each other and it didn’t take long for all three boats to decide to visit Delphi together.

While discussions were going on, Loryn, my daughter Sienna and I went to the beach near Nepenthe and started to swim to their boat. None of us realized how far Nepenthe was so by the time we got to the boat we were all exhausted! We had to ask Jim and Carole, Nepenthe’s owners, to get their dingy in the water and drive us home. Hehehehe.

Before dinner, my husband and I went for a walk into the town to get the bus times for Delphi. We also snuck into a beautiful bar along the water for a beer and wine. Hubby and I don’t get quiet time too often so we took the opportunity to have a drink, enjoy the scenery and just enjoy each other’s company.

The night before our trip to Delphi we all slept well!

The sun came up, we ate our breakfast and then met the other two boatloads of people. All together, there were 12 of us heading for the bus station to Delphi. The ride took a short 20 minutes up the side of a mountain. We were all thankful at how close Delphi was.

I was very surprised at how lush the area was

There were loads of trees and greenery despite us being on the side of a mountain. While driving through the village of Delphi it was very quite and rather old fashion. It didn’t have a commercial or touristy feel to it. Of course, it was loaded with tourist shops but it was simple rather than ‘too much,’ if you know what I mean.

All three groups purchased their tickets and entered the museum. My daughter Sienna and Marie’s daughter, Seaira, hit it off immediately. They went around taking pictures of the statues while us adults kept our eye on them. The group split into two – there were those of us that found the end of the museum quickly and those that took another hour to make it through!

Normally, I’d be with the slow group as I like to get to grips with the archeological site findings in addition to the layout of what we’re about to see. On this occasion, however, I felt that I needed to keep and eye on my daughter so that came first. I did, however, take the opportunity to take a photo of the famous bronze Charioteer (see picture).

Delphi Chariotier

Delphi Chariotier

Delphi Chariotier

Delphi Chariotier

Eventually the split group came back together and we all proceeded on to the archeological site. After recently visiting Olympia (Read my article Running The Stadium Track at Olympia Greece, Where The Olympics First Started in the 10th Century BC), I thought that I’d be a bit tired of ruins, but I was wrong.

Delphi was a magical experience

While combining the history and the feel of the place, I couldn’t help but feel like I was somewhere special. The path led you up higher and higher proceeding through a multitude of amazing ruins. There were temples, columns, an amphitheater and eventually we came across a beautifully well preserved stadium.

Several of the building blocks were filled with ancient Greek words in addition to beautiful images. Around ever turn there was a new an exciting view to take in. And Delphi is set on the side of a mountain so the views from the ancient city were absolutely breathtaking. Pictures just don’t do it justice.

Previous to entering the ruins we tried to get a personal guide but the fee seemed a bit too high. In the end, we all took turns telling stories of what each building was for and why it was there. They were all made up – it was a great contest as to who could come up with the best story!

Eventually, we came upon the naval. Apparently, it was what the ancients called the center of the world. See my photo of the egg type sculpture below. I felt so privilege to see it…and the rest of the site, of course.

Imagine thousands of years ago all the things that were taking place in this very spot? If only I could go back in time and just be a fly on the wall.

Below I’ve added a gallery – you can click on the images to see them enlarged and then click an arrow to the right to carry on seeing the larger images…

After loads of photos, storytelling and laughs we all wondered back down to the museum exit

Then on to the town where we found a place that sold cold beer and soft drinks for the kids. The group members all found places in the shade where we waited ½ hour or so for the bus.

On the ride home, all the girlies sat together showing the photo’s they took in their cameras and phones. My cousin and I had a field day with taking selfies!

Our visit to Delphi was another successful and amazing experience

If you’re sailing around Greece, I’d definitely add Delphi to your list of things to do. There are loads, and I mean loads, of historical sites so you have to be choosey. Thus far, Olympia and Delphi are in my top 10 of all the ancient sites I’ve seen. Others on my list include Rome and Athens…

So…making it to the center of the ancient world definitely received a thumbs up from me and my family!

Journey update: Three months into our around-the-world adventure – will we carry on?

Poros, Greece

Poros, Greece

My father-in-law asked me yesterday while anchored off a beautiful Greek island, ‘Could you live here?’ I looked around surveying the rocky mountains, green hills, deep blue waters and the picturesque village of Poros and responded with a ‘Nope.’

Thereafter, I followed up my thoughtful ‘nope’ with the explanation that I don’t want to live anywhere other than on my boat. I have lost all interests in owning an immovable home on land. Of course I followed my answer up with my ‘get out of jail’ card saying that, ‘that’s how I feel today…perhaps tomorrow will be different.’

Having the ability to pick up our anchor or slip lines, and move to another location, suits us perfectly right now

We find a place to stay for a few days where we explore, do our grocery shopping, spend time swimming, work on the boat and enjoy time with friends. When it feels that it’s time to move on, we just move on and do it all over again but with a different backdrop, new things to explore and often more friends to meet.

Before we left on our adventure I felt that we’d make friends easily, but I didn’t think it would be so easy and so much fun.

Every country we’ve been in, we’ve made friends that will most likely be life-long friends. In Italy, we spent time over the course of a month with 3 sailing couples. While in Greece we’ve recently joined up with two other boats and I’m sure the trend will continue.

And what I’m noticing from the other world cruisers is that the longer you’re out sailing, the more friends you accumulate. Eventually you get to a point where you know someone in most ports of call.

The world cruising environment has a very strong community regardless to the fact that it’s continuously moving all over the world

I’ve also discovered that when a boat with a child finds another boat with a child, the two boats work together to organize play dates. Just over two weeks ago, we met the sailboat Horizons owned by 3-year full time world cruisers Vince and Barbie. On board Horizons, for a month, the owners are entertaining their niece Lalita and her 9-year old daughter, Sierra.

Poros, Greece

Poros, Greece

The girls, Sienna and Sierra, have now played with each other most days since we met

And on our 7-hour sail down from the Corinthian Canal to the island of Poros, Sierra joined us on our boat where the girls played doctor, Playdough, Barbies and watched a couple movies. When we’re anchored up they’re out swimming or exploring our new location together.

Over 10 of us from three boats all organized a trip to Delphi together and it was great to see the girls climb to the top hand-in-hand.

Poros, Greece

Poros, Greece

Yes, the time will come when we move on or when Sierra has to go home, but it won’t take long for another boat to come along with a child or children on board!

Since leaving England back in April, my daughter’s social skills have gone through the roof

She’ll play with anyone speaking any language at any age! I’ve found her telling jokes to a table of old men and enjoying a nice swim with a 21-year-old girl. For the most part, however she’s running around with the local kids trying to catch fish, build sand castles or see who can run the fastest.

Before we left, my daughter would hide behind my leg when we met someone new. Now, she’s so far in front of me that I’m behind her legs! She’s happy to greet anyone and has definitely learned that it’s okay to be confident and go up to kids and say, ‘can we play?’

Thinking back…while in England, I took Sienna to an indoor play gym, crammed with children, and she was too afraid to befriend any of them. I had to crawl around the jungle gym with her for a few hours hoping I could convince her to make new friends. I was quite worried when we left for our adventure thinking how am I going to help her gain confidence but it really hasn’t been an issue.

But what about Sienna’s behavior?

Over a month ago, I wrote an article entitled, ‘Changing our lifestyle caused my daughters behavior to go into rapid decline’ that caught the eye of the UK media. For a couple weeks all the newspapers were really slating us and several commenters had quite negative things to say. Unfortunately, the media only took ½ my story and then they blew it out of proportion.

Anyway, to summarize the article, Sienna’s behavior went into a rapid tailspin 2 months into our journey. She started to freak out and we had a massive blow out one night where she lashed out, lost all control, smashed a plate and bit my arm drawing blood.

As you can imagine, I had a variety of thoughts running through my head. I wondered if our trip was messing her up. I thought that I must be a terrible parent. And then I thought long and hard about how the transition was affecting us all. Heck – we sold everything we owned, up’d sticks and left on a boat destine to sail around the world!

Of course there were going to be some growing pains

After the big blow out, I purchased some books on parenting from Amazon. Thank God for Kindle! Knowing my father-in-law was coming out in days, I also had some hard copy books shipped to him to bring down to the boat. The books all provided extremely helpful information and I was soon armed with several parenting techniques.

I’d love to say that Sienna’s behavior changed instantly, but it didn’t. I can, however, say that we never had a night as bad as the big blow out. Each day things got better and better. I started to listen more and she realized that I was always available to help. Our relationship grew stronger and we became closer.

As I write this article, things are amazing. We haven’t had a blow out in a week and she’s going to bed quickly now rather than having a 1-hour tantrum. My daughter, husband and I are communicating so much better.

Ironically, due to the media frenzy, I had several people read my article and send emails of encouragement. I couldn’t believe the amount of people that contacted to tell me that their child acted the same way and offered tips or comfort. I now feel that Sienna is a totally normal kid acting like several kids do…she would have had the same issues if we were on land.

Aside from all that, life on board it getting more ‘normal’ if that’s the right word to use!

Since the beginning, it’s been my husband, cousin, Sienna and I that have lived aboard Britican. We now have routines and roles that we’ve organically fit into. My cousin, Loryn, does most of the cooking and we both clean together. I’m CMO (Chief Mom Officer) – a new role for me as I use to work full time. Simon looks after the boat and navigating. Loryn and I do all the ropes, sails, anchoring and mooring up.

We don’t even have to talk anymore; we just go about our task knowing what everyone is doing

Let me give you a simple of example of anchoring the boat:

  • Turn on the anchor unit, called a windlass (whoever is nearest)
  • Open the anchor locker and secure it open. There’s often a hose or rope over the anchor so you need to make sure the chain can feed out without obstacles. (whoever gets to the locker first does this – Loryn or me)
  • Drop the anchor and ensure it’s going out correctly (Kim)
  • Watch the anchor feed out and communicate between the helmsperson (Simon) and the anchor dropper (Kim) about depth, direction and whether or not to hover or head in reverse (Loryn)
  • Once we’re all happy the anchor is set and enough chain is out, we relieve the anchor unit from pressure by hooking a rope to the chain and tying it off on a cleat. This creates slack between the rope and anchor unit (Loryn)
  • Raise the anchor ball – it’s a plastic ball that you attached to a line coming from the mast to hoist up. It notifies surrounding boats that we’re at anchor (Kim).
  • Close the anchor door and return the winch if used (whoever gets to it first).

When we first started, we had no clue about anchoring. We’d drop the anchor and hope it held! We certainly didn’t communicate and no one knew who was doing what.

We couldn’t really discuss our observations because we didn’t know what we were looking for. Now, our confidence has increased and we feel comfortable doing what we’re doing AND doing things with each other. And when I say all this, it goes for all our tasks – not just anchoring.

Even though things are normalizing, we’re still saying ‘pinch me, I think I’m dreaming’

At least once every couple weeks, my cousin and I go off-road and hike around to see what we can find. While in Sicily, we went for a run that turned into an hour-long rock-climb, during our stay on the island of Cephalonia we accidently went on a 10km hike (read this article The Magic of Fiscardo) and just yesterday we climbed to the top of the hill behind us and carried on until we circumnavigated the island we’re currently on.

If you were a fly on the wall, you’d hear us say over and over, ‘WOW – look at the view,’ or ‘Oh my gosh, how beautiful is that?’ And we always announce at some point, ‘I don’t think I could be any more grateful for being able to experience this!’

My cousin and I have agreed that no matter how often we walk in nature we’ll never get sick of it. We love the views, the smells and the feel of walking amongst the trees and rocks.

On our recent walking adventure, we navigated between narrow walkways, crowded by Greek homes, climbing higher and higher to find a clock tower, an ancient windmill, a few churches and some absolutely amazing views.

Poros Greece

Poros Greece

Poros Greece
Poros Greece

Poros Greece

Poros Greece

Poros Greece

Poros Greece

Poros

Poros

Every day is such a present!

We never know where we’re going to be, who we’re going to be with or what we’ll actually do. A few days before we visited Olympia, where the first Olympics were held during the 10th century BC, I didn’t even know the ancient site even existed! (Read my article Running The Stadium Track at Olympia Greece, Where The Olympics First Started in the 10th Century BC).

Even when we chill out for the day to clean up, do laundry and lounge around the boat, we sit around smiling and feeling absolute gratitude for our surroundings.

But life, by no means, is perfect!

We all still have good and bad days. Some days I just don’t feel very good. Some days Sienna doesn’t want to behave very well. On a few occasions I just want to be alone, but I can’t.

I still get headaches, have down days and want to lay in bed all day

So, although our dreams have come true and we are living life to fullest, it’s not all rosy. We argue, get annoyed with each other and get moody. My husband gets frustrated and feels that my cousin and I gang up on him. I get mad at my husband for playing a game on the iPad rather than washing up. Life’s annoyances carry on…but at least they carry on in an amazing setting. Furthermore, we do have good and bad days but our good days are AMAZING and our bad days aren’t that bad at all.

So – we’re now entering our 4th month of sailing around the world and I’m happy to report that our expectations have been surpassed. I wouldn’t want to be any other place doing any other thing. For the first time in my life, if you asked me ‘what would you do if you won the lottery,’ my response would be, ‘absolutely nothing other than what I’m doing right this very moment!’

I wonder if I can carry on living life to the fullest? We’ll have to see what comes next…

Woooo woooo.

Next up is this…Leaving the rat race to sail around the world…is enlightenment on the cards too?!

Travelling through the Corinth Canal during a Gale Force 8

Corinthian Canal

Corinthian Canal

The Corinthian Canal is a passage, created back in 1882 and 1883, that connects the Ionian Sea to the Aegean. Rather than travelling south around the Peloponnese, you can pay a handsome fee to cut through Greece and pop out near Athens. Around 12,000 boats pass through the narrow canal each year including small boats through to tankers and large cruise ships.

Previous to the canal being in place, the ancients used to drag ships across the land on a paved road

I’ve been told that on the north side you can still see remnants of the road. Throughout history the Greeks and Romans drew up plans to create a canal but the task was too difficult.

Corinthian Canal

Corinthian Canal

In the late 1800’s the French started on the Canal and the Greeks finished it

For as long as I can remember, my husband always wanted to voyage through the Corinthian Canal so the lead up to the event filled us all with anticipation.

The night before our planned canal transit, and knowing that gale force winds were predicted, we anchored in the northeast area of the Corinth Bay, about 1 mile north of the canal entrance.

We anchored with our friends, Jim and Carole on sailboat Nepenthe while our friends on Horizon went towards Corinth to see if they could get a spot on the quayside. Horizon radioed us to let us know they got the last spot so we had to make due with our anchorage.

Around 9pm the winds started and they were forecasted to increase to 7’s and 8’s (30 to 40 knots of wind or up to 50 mph) by 3am in the morning. When anchored in normal conditions the boat swings around the anchor chain usually swinging no more than 180 degrees with the bow facing the wind. If the wind changes, the boat may swing right around. When things are calm, it’s a very slow paced swing and it’s easy to ignore the movement. And at times, the boat barely swings at all!

When gales hit a boat on an anchor it’s a totally different experience – it’s somewhat scary!

Depending where the boat is on its swing and when the wind hits the boat you can experience different things. The worst is when the wind hits the side or beam of the boat and the boat gets slightly pushed over while it swings quite violently around the anchor chain. The background view spins around!

And it’s not the pushing and spinning motion that freaks me out the most

What keeps me up all night long is the possibility that our anchor may pull loose causing us to drift towards land or out to sea! If other boats are close by, that increases my anxiety. There’s a chance that their anchor may come lose and hit us!

Under normal conditions I sleep fine but during gale force winds I find it difficult to get real sleep. I catnap and whenever I hear the winds hit us, I pop up and look for spots on land that I’ve earmarked.

On the evening prior to our Corinthian Canal transit we had gale force winds and a boat anchored too close to us for comfort. My husband and I slept in the cockpit so that we could keep a constant anchor watch. Around 4am I went to bed while my husband stayed up.

At 5:30am we started our discussions with sailboat Nepenthe and sailboat Horizons about the weather and the necessary requirements to enter the canal. No one on Britcan or Nepenthe slept very well and more winds were forecasted. Horizons at least had the comfort of knowing they were tied down. Carole on Nepenthe suggested that an anchorage on the other side of the canal would provide us with a safer harbor. We chatted over channel 71 for a while and decided it was best for us anchored boats to make a move. The crew on Horizons chose to stay put and wait for the winds to die down.

We were exhausted but the idea of going through the canal gave us all the energy we needed to get going

When reading more about the canal I discovered that boats enter in one direction in convoy until they’re all through and then the authorities open up the other end. So, boats go from west to east and then the east boats go through to the west. Apparently, the canal is open 24 hours a day every day accept Tuesday. On Tuesdays necessary repairs are made to the canal.

After reading the Greece Pilot Book for sailors, we called the required VHS channel 11, using the callsign ‘Isthmia Pilot’ asking for permission to make the transit. My husband made the call on behalf of Britican and Nepenthe. The Corinthian Canal radio operator told us to, ‘leave your anchorage and call us when you’re ½ mile from the canal entrance.’

By 7am we were pulling up or anchors and pointing our boats towards the entrance of the canal. For some reasons I thought there would be locks or gates but upon arrival you could see straight through the canal to the other side!

Being only a few kilometres the trip wasn’t going to take too long

My husband entered between the red and green navigation lights and I noticed that a road was closed and a bridge reclined to prevent traffic from crossing the canal. Jim on Nepenthe (pictured below) radioed us to slow down a bit as the waters were rough. Upon entering the canal we were still experience gale force winds. Water was slashing up onto the deck and I kept having to work fast to protect my cameras.

Corinthian Canal

Corinthian Canal

We slowed down as we entered calm waters in the canal. Not long after, the authorities radioed us to speed up. For the amount we had to pay to transit the canal I think we all wanted to last for quite a while. While between the two high cliffs we felt absolutely no wind – it was blissful. The sun was coming up, the water was like glass, my daughter was enjoying breakfast and we all felt absolute awe as we motored down the beautiful Corinthian Canal.

Corinthian Canal

Corinthian Canal

I took around 200 photos – several of Nepenthe and several of the journey. I was surprised by how narrow the canal was. And I didn’t realize that the cliffs would be so high on either side.

Corinthian Canal

Corinthian Canal

Corinthian Canal

Corinthian Canal

Corinthian Canal

Corinthian Canal

Corinthian Canal

Corinthian Canal

Seeing the elation on my husbands face, I had to take a video!

But where are the steps the workers used to get out of the canal?

On my SailingBritican Facebook page a friend sent me a note saying to ‘make sure to take photos of the steps the workers used to get out.’ I wasn’t sure what he was talking about and after traveling for quite some distance I didn’t see any steps.

Eventually I discovered what I was looking for. See the pictures to show how the canal creators entered and exited the canal back in the 1800’s.

Corinthian Canal

Corinthian Canal

Corinthian Canal

Corinthian Canal

Aside from high cliffs on either side and calm waters in front of us, there wasn’t much to obstruct our view. I took some photo’s of the rock, shrubs, Britican’s shadow and all of the crew enjoying the passage. And we went under a railroad bridge and some car bridges.

Corinthian Canal

Corinthian Canal

When coming to the end of the Corinthian Canal we moored up on our starboard side (right side). I jumped off, got us tied down and then ran back to Nepenthe to take their bow line. Simon from Britican and Carole from Nepenthe jumped off with the boat papers and went to the office to pay our dues. Our bill came to 347 euros to go 3.2 miles.

The Corinthian Canal is one of the most expensive stretches of water!

My daughter, Sienna, and I took a walk around the area looking at the views. She found a twig from a palm tree that looked like a witches broom. When she got on it and tried her best to will it to fly, I had to explain that it must have dead batteries!

Corinthian Canal

Corinthian Canal

Being nosey, Sienna and I then wandered into the offices where Simon and Carole sat showing their documentation. As usual, the staff member saw Sienna and gave her a huge smile. He went to a drawer and pulled out a whole package of Oreo Cookies. We all enjoyed them back on the boat.

Corinthian Canal

Corinthian Canal

Feeling pressure to get off the wall within the exit of the canal, we slipped our lines and headed towards our new mooring in Kalamaki. Thankfully, the winds died down quite a bit and we felt more secure in the new bay. Although Kalamaki wasn’t very picturesque it was a more comfortable anchorage and we could watch all the boats entering and exiting the canal.

Around 1pm, Jim on Nepenthe radioed Vince on Horizons to tell them that the winds died down. He enquired if the crew might decided to come join us in Kalamaki for a 4th of July celebration.

After a bit of convincing, Horizons cast off, traveled through the Corinthian Canal and met us in the bay. We invited everyone over for a spaghetti meal, some wine and lots of good cheer.

Corinthian Canal

Corinthian Canal

Corinthian Canal

Corinthian Canal

Carole on Nepenthe brought one of her no-egg, stove-top upside-down cakes that we all love. Jim made some popcorn and Horizons brought a fruit salad. We gathered around the table trading stories, laughing and enjoying everyone’s company.

Many people often remark that ‘it must be so isolating living on a boat,’ and once again this story demonstrates that it’s anything but isolating. No matter where we’re sailing we run into someone we know or quickly meet new friends. Never in my life have I had such an active social life!

When the grown-ups got tired they took their dinghies back to their boats. Sierra, a 9 year old from Horizons, decided to stay longer to watch the movie ‘Flushed Away,’ with my daughter Sienna. The two girls have enjoyed playing together for several days now. As I type this, we’re sailing to Nicos Poros and Sierra and Sienna are downstairs playing Barbies. Perhaps tonight, Sienna will hang out with the Horizon crew.

So, our Corinthian Canal voyage was enjoyed with friends, combined with an American holiday and started off with force 8 gusts of wind – what an experience. One that my family, friends and I will hold in our hearts forever.

Next article: Journey update: Three months into our around-the-world adventure – will we carry on?

Running the stadium track at Olympia Greece, where the Olympics first started in the 10th century BC

A few days before our arrival to the Peloponnese in Greece, I had no knowledge of what we’d find nor did I expect anything of particular significance. As I’ve written before, for the first time in my life I seem to live each day as it comes. In the past month, the most I’ve speculated about the future is that, at some point, we’ll get to Athens and see the acropolis. And at some point, we’ll eventually head across the Atlantic and keep going around the world. Anything in between will be an interesting treat.

After an enjoyable month of island hopping in the Ionian Sea, and after spending a month in Sicily and after we started our adventure with a trip from Gibratlar to Malta… we decided it was time to make our way along mainland Greece, towards Athens and into the Aegean Sea. Our plan was to cut above the Peloponnese through the Corinthian Canal. Prior to our plan, I had no idea that there was a canal that separated mainland Greece from the Peloponnese!

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

On a Sunday evening, about one hour out of Patras, Greece’s 3rd largest city, we radioed the Patras Harbormaster looking for a berth. We were direct to a commercial quayside in front of a £20 million super yacht and a tugboat. Lucky for us, our new friends Jim and Carole were nearby and they walked over to help us dock. It’s always nice to enter a new place knowing that you have an extra pair of hands, if needed. (Read ‘Couple sets off for a 3 year around the world sailing trip – 15 years later they’re still going!’)

While heading towards Patras, my husband says ‘who wants to see where the Olympics started – in Olympia Greece?’

Of course, we all said ‘me, me, me, me.’ It wasn’t that long ago that my husband, daughter and I stood in front of the butchers on the Aylesbury town center high street to watch the Olympic torch make it’s way through England. And the picture of my daughter holding the Olympic torch is also fresh in my mind. One of the parents associated to her per-school had a connection and all the kids were able to hold one of the torches and get their photograph taken!

At the time of the Olympics in England we had no idea that we’d visit Olympia Greece nor did we have any inclination that we’d be living on a boat and traveling around the world.

Thanks to information from Jim and Carole, we choose to rent a car rather than take a 4 hour bus trip! With a crew of five, it was actually the same price as a bus and took 3 hours less. My husband rented a care and my daughter, cousin, father-in-law and I headed off to Olympia.

Not knowing what to expect, I was immediately blown away by what is called the ‘Sanctuary at Olympia.’ Dating back to the 10th century BC, the area flourished until 426 AD when the emperor Theodosius II closed all ancient sanctuaries.

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

My eye’s walked down a very lush road and entered into the archeological site to see descriptive plaques, columns, building outlines, Greek works, Roman works and the site of one of the ancient wonders of the world! Above is a photo of my husband and daughter standing next to the entrance plaque. We saw the spot where the great statue of Zeus was located! Bonus – I wasn’t expecting to see the spot of an ancient wonder of the world. Below, my cousin is modeling in front of where the ancient wonder once stood.

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

The highlight of the visit was having my whole family run across the stadium

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

Bar my father-in-law, we all ran the distance of the track that naked Greek men ran all those thousands of years ago. Yes – the first Olympic games were performed by men only and they were naked! Women were not allowed to watch let along partake in the events.

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

The area filled with trees, flowers and lush green countryside was littered with ruins – including mosaics. Most ruins had a plaque in English showing an image of what it looked like back in the day so it wasn’t difficult to imagine the spectacular beauty of the sanctuary.

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

At each plaque, Sienna would point out what the building looked like and we’d read out what it was for. One ruin was a Gymnasium where athletes trained for running events and the pentathlon. Another building was called the Palestra where the sportsmen trained for wrestling, boxing and jumping. There was a place for the priests of Olympia, Baths, a Council Chamber and a Temple of Hera along with the Alter of Zeus and the Temple of Zeus. The place is huge!

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

Above is a picture of what the ancient wonder of the world looked like

And, of course, there was the Stadium. This is the bit that my family and I ran across as if we were competing in the running races. See my face below – that’s how happy I was to run the stadium! The stadium did not have seats but it easily held 45,000 spectators along the grassy upslope sides.

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

After taking several pictures and saying ‘wow,’ a thousand times, we all headed to a little café before proceeding to the museum. At this point, I was a bit tired and a museum didn’t sound all that appealing.

We had some snacks, and ice tea and a sweet and proceeded to the museum. Never in my life have I been so blown away by what I saw. When I visit museums I usually feel overwhelmed and overloaded. There’s stuff all over the place and I can’t concentrate on anything.

Well…the museum at Olympia is different

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

It’s small yet the impact is profound. After walking into the main doors and passing the small-scale 3-D model of the grounds, you walk into a hall that has the actual pediments from the temple of Zeus. The pediments are the triangular tops of the front façade of a building. The bit you look up to upon entering.

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

The actual pediments were reconstructed in the large hall and it was amazing to see what it really looked like! Yes, some heads were missing and various bits were not present but there was enough there to give you a first hand experience of what the building must have looked like in it’s hay day.

I had to pinch myself because I just couldn’t believe something like this existed

As I carried on through the museum, my eyes smiled at larger that life-size statues, metal objects, pottery and more. My daughter, Sienna, kept finding more and more goodies. She’d come up to me and say, ‘Mom – close your eyes…’ She’d then lead me to a statue or glass window and say, ‘Okay – open them now!’

Olympia Greece

Olympia Greece

Each time I opened my eye’s I felt this amazing gratitude to be able to see such wonders

The whole day was surreal. I suppose it’s a good thing that I don’t think ahead and don’t know what I’m going to see and do. Perhaps if I did know what I’d find at Olympia it might have been anticlimactic? I’m not sure…

The one tip I’d give, however, is that I would have preferred to have done the museum first and the archeological site second. That way I’d be better able to place the museum pieces to the appropriate buildings.

By 8pm, it was time to head back to the boat. I stopped off in the town to buy my daughter a sticker book and kids book on mythology and how the Olympics started. Secretly, I couldn’t wait to read it for my own benefit!

Seeing Olympia and running across the very first Olympic stadium, just as the Greeks did during the 10th Century BC was a definite top 100 highlight of my life. And I know my family also enjoyed the experience immensely. If you’re sailing around the Peloponnese, this is a must-do experience.

Corfu Town is not ‘nice’ and this is why – More about sailing around the Greek Ionian Islands

Corfu Town

Corfu Town

Our original visit to the main city of Corfu Town on the Greek Ionian Island of Corfu was by taxi rather than by boat. While our yacht was safely moored at Gouvia Marina, about 10 miles north, we packed our backpacks and headed into the city. Read my article entitled, ‘Sailing Around The Greek Ionian Islands’ to hear more about Gouvia Marina and our first thoughts of entering Greek waters.

Being new to the area, we didn’t know if we could moor at Corfu Town so we took a nice little taxi ride to the city center. It might sound surprising, but going in a car has become a novelty for us. We are almost always sailing or walking so having a car journey is fun.

My family and I have often discussed how we value things that we took for granted in the past. Read my article, ‘I can’t get anything I want anytime I want it,’ to read more about our greater appreciation for the simple things in life.

The one thing, however, that I am consistently grateful for is our ability to visit the most remarkable sights – Corfu Town being one of them!

Several people have told me that Corfu Town is ‘nice,’ but that just doesn’t do it justice

Corfu Town is beautiful, magical, colorful, enchanting and down-right special!

Corfu Town

Corfu Town

After the taxi driver dropped us off, my family and I started to wonder through the narrow streets lined with restaurants, bakeries, butchers and tourist shops. Corfu Town is most definitely a tourist destination so the shops all hold the same made-in-China goods you find at any other tourist place, however, the shop fronts are at least in keeping with the style of the old city feeling.

I did, however, discovered quite a few one-off shops selling clothing, art, jewelry and a variety of knick-knacks. Those are the shops I enjoy looking at!

Corfu Town

Corfu Town

Our first port of call was small little café for lunch – the picture above is me and hubby waiting for our food. While walking along the main street we peered up a side-street towards a square filled with restaurants, a church, official building and beautifully laid tables and chairs.

We stopped at the first café we found and pulled up a pew. The colors of the trees and shrubs drew me in – I immediately saw deep fuchsia, yellow and pinks amongst a beautifully laid out piazza. And there stood the most fantastic palm tree ever (pictured below)!

Corfu Town

Corfu Town

After a bit of discussion, we ordered a meat platter containing chicken & pork slouvaki, turkey burgers, and lamb in addition to a Greek salad and some fries. While waiting for our food, a wedding finished at the church next door and we were able to admire a beautiful bride and groom. Even though I had no clue who the newlyweds were my heart filled with loved and I silently wished them an incredible life together.

Our food came and went quickly. We devoured it with our usual moo’ing sounds. Mmmmmmmm. It was outstanding. How do we always get such amazing meals? Perhaps we’re easily pleased or…we’re so grateful for food that our gratitude creates more opportunities for more good food. Like attracts like – doesn’t it?

My family and I played around taking photo’s of each other. We were all smiles. Our next stop was the seafront and the old fort. We looked out over a beautifully blue bay and cast our eyes on several sailboats moored at the foot of the old fort. The old fort in Corfu town was built by the Venetians and used by the British as a military hospital when Britain ruled Corfu.

Corfu Town

Corfu Town

After seeing the sailboats anchored, I turned to my husband and said, ‘can we anchor there?! Can we? Can we?’ Of course, his response was a ‘yes.’

We took some photo’s and made our way to the fort. We had a ball walking along the walls, enjoying the views and absorbing the history. The breeze was nice and the walk up to the top wasn’t too difficult. Once we got to the end, we enjoyed a panoramic view over the Ionian Sea and Corfu Town.

Corfu Town

Corfu Town

My eye’s smiled with delight

Thereafter, we made our way through the town again thinking that we must spend another day or two taking a slower browse in the cute little shops. Back to the boat went and the next day we were anchored next to the Old Fort. It was great to be anchored – I no longer enjoy the marinas. They’re expensive, crowded, noisy and impersonal. The very top photo shows our boat, Britican, anchored next to the Old Fort but we’re also amongst all the others below.

Corfu Town

Corfu Town

We anchored next to Corfu Town for a couple days

And it’s a good thing we did! We met two of the most incredible people in the world – Jim and Carole. See my write up entitled, ‘Couple sets off for a 3 year around the world sailing trip – 15 years later they’re still going!’ for more about them!

Corfu Town

Corfu Town

While anchored, we took the tender out and pulled our daughter and my cousin around in a tube. All of us jumped off the back of the boat and enjoyed swimming over to our lovely neighbors.

I can’t explain how amazing it feels to wake up, open up our door at the top of our stairs and look up to a historical fort alongside the most bluest waters I’ve seen. Every morning I had to pinch myself and express my gratitude for being able to sleep under the stars next to the incredible Corfu Town.

Corfu Town

Corfu Town

Needing a SIM card, printer, USB stick and a wireless keyboard, my husband dropped my cousin and I off for a trip to the town by ourselves. We were like to little kids let out alone for the first time. We got our chores done – a quick visit to Vodafone to sort out our Wifi and then a visit to Publix, a computer store and we were done.

Corfu Town

Corfu Town

After we had our goods, we decided to get lost in the backstreets of Corfu Town

We walked down the backstreets enjoying the sites and smells of Corfu Town. And of course, we looked over the made-in-China stuff in addition to the handmade offerings.

Being without my daughter for the first time in months gave me the opportunity to dawdle, spend time looking at what I wanted to look at and stop off for a nice glass of wine! My cousin and I wandered around laughing and chatting about all sorts – it was a nice little girly break.

We tried to find a non-touristy place to eat lunch and settled on ‘Slouvaki King’

Hehehehehe. It was probably the most touristy place to go but the wine, food and service were great. It was another perfect day.

A few things to note about Corfu Town…

There’s a high street that has many British stores. I found an M&S in addition to other Brit stores. If you want to spend some time shopping, there’s quite a few boutique stores. The food seemed reasonable – we avoided the places that had the really nice table clothes, as the prices seemed higher.

We decided where to eat based on how well the tables were laid out!

One thing that was a bit bothersome where the cruise ships, but that can be said about any destination. When a cruise ship came in the town was flooded with people wearing stickers with numbers on them. I imagine it was their identification badge for the ship and wondered if it caused the locals to instantly add 30% to the price of things too! If you see a cruise ship, wait until it’s gone and then enjoy the city!

Corfu Town

Corfu Town

Overall, I loved Corfu Town

Visiting the city would make a great weekend break and if you holiday in Corfu for a week or two, it’s a must to see. We found the food, people, history and sights to be excellent!

So…Corfu Town is not ‘nice’ it’s far better than that. My family and I had a brilliant time and we all highly recommend a visit.

Keep reading…this is the next article in the Journey thread: Travelling through the Corinthian Canal during a Gale Force 8

Can you believe that I can’t get anything I want anytime I want it ?


Can you believe that I can’t get anything I want

Who would have thought that moving from a land based life to  living full time aboard a yacht would make me see the light? Already, only a few months into our around-the-world sailing adventure I’ve realised that I took cars, food and water for granted.

Read on and find out how living on a boat has given me a new appreciation for the simple things in life…

Travelling by car has become a novelty for us

While living on a boat, our main mode of transportation is sailing, motoring (getting places using our engine rather than sails) and when on land, it’s walking. If you’ve never been sailing before it’s important for me to point out that it’s a very, very slow mode of transportation. We average about 8 miles per hour when under sail or using our engine.

In very winding conditions, we might hit 12 miles per hour. People often think that when we use our engine we can go fast, but that’s not true. At top speed, using our engine, and depending on the tide, wind, etc. we go about 8 miles per hour.

When I get into a car now I get a somewhat giddy feeling

My stomach experiences little butterflies – it’s as if I’m on a rollercoaster and am experiencing the feeling you get when you go fast down that first hill. I think the feeling comes from the fact that I’m just not use to going fast anymore. Travelling at 60 miles per hour is no longer a daily activity…in fact, I’m lucky to hit the speed once a month now!

Not only does it feel amazing to travel at a speed faster than 8 miles per hour, but also a car offers different views. On the boat, we’re usually looking at wide-open blue expanses of water in addition to miles of coastline or quaint little harbors. On occasion we’ll moor up in a city but our view is one of the city rather than being in the city and looking out.

Can you believe

Can you believe

We’re currently in Patras, the third largest city in Greece. As I type this, I’m in our cockpit, moored up next to a 350’ cruise ship with a 100’ luxury motor yacht behind me and a gullet sailboat in front of me. I can see a bit of the city front – a few hotels and apartments – but 50% of my view is blue water, a break wall and mountains. No matter where we are, we’re surrounded by boats and water!

Getting in a car, we see land, countryside, towns, stores and everything that we used to see when we lived on land. Never did I expect to enjoy being in a car as much as I do now.

And being in a car isn’t the only think I took for granted…

Can you believe that I can’t get any food I want at any time I want it?

We discovered in Italy and now in Greece that you can only get seasonal vegetables. For the first time in my life, I can’t go out and get green beans and parsnips. I can’t get in the mood for a papaya and then simply stroll to the local supermarket and find one!

We have to settle for carrots, onions, celery (sometimes), tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, potatoes, eggplant and lettuce. And on the fruit front, we can only get one variety of apples, bananas, oranges, cherry’s, pears and a pineapple if we’re lucky. (I say this all tongue in cheek)

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining…I’m actually loving it

I come from a country where I can get anything I want anytime I want it. If I want an avocado in February at 3am in the morning, I can surely find and buy one in my hometown of Rochester, NY or in my most recent residence in the UK. Grocery stores are open 24 hours a day and they stock all fruit and vegetables – whether they’re in season or not.

Like the joy of riding in a car, now that I can’t get the variety of foods I’m use to I’m appreciating food in a totally different way.

First of all, it’s actually nice not having everything

It allows me to appreciate and miss things. For example, while in Sicily for over a month, it was impossible to find bacon. You just couldn’t get it. When we first arrived in Greece and saw bacon at the restaurants and at the butchers we were overjoyed.

For me, a breakfast without bacon just isn’t a breakfast at all. When we fried some bacon up, the smell permeated every cell of my body and I couldn’t wait to take a bite of the crispy slice of heaven. My family all sat around the table and we devoured a whole pack of bacon. It was absolute bliss.

Not having bacon made me appreciate it even more when I did get it.

Second, all the meat and vegetables that I am getting are in season, fresh and locally sourced

Everything we eat tastes incredible. The vegetables are full of flavor. Tomatoes have this deep, rich and slightly sweet taste – they don’t taste like slightly flavored pulpy water like the tomatoes you get in America or the UK.

The meat tastes natural. Now I’m not sure how to really explain what I mean by ‘natural,’ but when I eat it I feel as if it’s clean…it hasn’t been tampered with. I don’t think the animals are fed growth hormone feed nor do I think anything is done with the meat when it’s butchered to prolong its shelf life.

Just last week I went to a butcher on a Greek island and asked for 2 kilo’s of ground beef. The woman behind the counter went into a back room, pulled out a huge chunk of beef and then pushed it into a grinder. It’s the first time in my life that I saw my ground beef/mince being made right in front of me. Back in the UK, I remember a report coming out saying that the ground beef/mince that we eat has the DNA of 200 different cows. It was great to know that I was eating the mince from one cow! And the taste was outstanding. We made Greek Hamburgers (get the recipe in our using our Britican Galley Greek Blend) and a Shepards Pie type dish.

Aside from the limited supply and the amazing tastes, we’ve also had an issue finding supermarkets and when we do find them, we’ve had issues finding them open!

In the Mediterranean shops open around 9 am, close for a few hours around lunch when it gets hot and then are often open until 9 or 10pm at night. In some places, stores are all closed on a particular day like Wednesday and nothing is open on Sundays.

It often feels like when we finally get to know a place we move on. We’ve learned to prepare for all eventualities. On board, we always carry enough food to last several days and every time we see a place to get milk, we get it. The mere fact that we can’t get anything anytime we want it makes us appreciate what we can get when we get it. And that leads me to…

“What do you mean we’re already out of water?”

Living aboard a boat causes a massive appreciate for water. Never have I been in a situation where water wasn’t fresh and readily available 24 hours day/ 7 days a week!

Let me explain the water situation we have on the boat

We are very fortunate to have a 1000 litre tank. Furthermore, we have a water maker that takes salt water and turns it into fresh water.

That being said, maintaining our fresh water supply is always a daily topic of conversation. The water maker can make drinkable water, but you must draw seawater from a location far out to sea. In the Med, we don’t have that option so we simply make water for showering, doing dishes and so forth. We buy bottle water to drink.

While moored at a marina or on a quayside there’s often fresh water available and we’ll top up our tank. And when we’re sailing, we’ll run the water maker which is a necessary task to keep it clean. In other words, we must run the water maker every week – otherwise, bacteria grows and creates a problem. It takes about 1 hour to make 100 liters of fresh water and we must run our generator to power it.

With 5 people on board, we can use 1000 litres water in a couple days

If everyone takes a shower, we do some laundry and of course the dishes, it’s gone. Furthermore, our daughter won’t shower unless the water is tepid to warm (who can blame her) so we waste water waiting for the hot water to make it to the shower.

Some of the ‘fresh water’ supplies on the quaysides are not fresh so we can’t depend on them. Sometimes the water we’re traveling through isn’t clean enough for us to pick up for the water maker.

That being said, when we shower we get wet, turn the water off, lather up and rinse

And in a future article I’ll write about how veteran world cruising sailor, Carol, recently taught me how to bathe myself with 6 cups of water – coming soon! (For more on Carol, read my article: Couple sets off for a 3 year around the world sailing trip – 15 years later they’re still going!)

When we brush our teeth, we wouldn’t dare think of letting the water run. When we do the dishes we do so using the least amount of water. And when it comes to laundry, we all try to wear our clothes for as many days as possible. Back in England I used to wear a couple outfits in one day and they’d be put in the dirty clothes bag – nowadays I’ll wear one outfit for 3 days!

I wonder what would happen to our fresh water reserves if we all stopped taking water for granted

I think it’s a lesson that will change my water consumption habits for life.

So…can you believe that I can’t get anything I want anytime I want it? And you know what…it’s GREAT. It’s helped me to slow down a bit and to appreciate the simple things in life… and that can’t be bad.

Sailing around the Greek Ionian Islands – Corfu


Travels around Greece – The Greek Ionian Islands

After our month long sail around Sicily and the bottom side of the mainland Italy boot, we aimed our yacht, Britican, east to Greece. The plan was to start at the top of the Ionian Sea and work our way down before heading through the Corinthian Canal to Athens and the Aegean.

Greek Ionian Islands

Greek Ionian Islands

Our first stop in Greece – anchoring in a bay at Palaiokastrita, Corfu

I was super excited to see Corfu. Having been to some of the Greek Ionian Islands before I knew what I was in store for however Corfu was new to me.

To cross over to Greece it took us about 12 hours under sail. I had a little mishap during that journey – Read, ‘A lesson on using common sense rather than relying on a plotter.’ We left Italy early to ensure we had ample light to find a mooring in Corfu. I was a bit nervous leaving Italy and heading to a new country but as I mentioned before I knew the area. Furthermore I’ve spent loads of time in various Greek regions so the food, language and way of life was familiar.

Upon reaching land, my husband Simon decided to moor up in Palaiokastrita, Corfu

We easily anchored in the bay – it was absolutely amazingly beautiful. The sea floor was sand so the water was turquoise blue, there were high rocks around us, and we were surrounded by a little fishing/tourism boat port, several tavernas and a few large hotels.

Greek Ionian Islands

Greek Ionian Islands

We anchored between a massive rock that came out of the water and some cliffs (see above – Britican is the sailboat pictured). The boat rocked from side to side quite a lot even though it looked very calm. During the day it didn’t bother me but at night it was a bit much! My body just thought, ‘stop the rocking please – I’m trying to drift off!’ There were lots of little motorboat rentals, small sightseeing boats and couple small glass bottom boats.

One of the James Bond films was filmed in the bay next to us

And James Bond wasn’t the only attraction! It seemed that we became part of the tour while anchored in the bay for our two nights…the tour boats would slow down as they passed. People would take photos and we’d either hide or do our best to look pretty and smile. My cousin, Loryn, did some exercises on the aft deck and a group of 4 people on a pedlow passed by to complement her efforts.

‘Nice squats’ one of the passerby’s yelled out

Loryn then got to speaking with them and had a great chat.

For the first day we stayed on the boat, went swimming and chilled out

Greek Ionian Islands

Greek Ionian Islands

We took the tender out (shown above) for a quick tour around the harbor and cliffs. It was the first time I rode in it and wow was it fast. Every wave hubby hit I yelled out a scream. In between laughing at me, Sienna just kept yelling, ‘faster! Faster!’

Loryn cooked us a wonderful meal on board and we enjoyed our drinks as the beaches became quiet and the tourists all went to dress up for dinner.

Day two of being anchored in the bay, we got the tender out and motored ashore. We tied up where one of the small tourist sightseeing boats was missing. On shore, we got rid of our rubbish and found the first restaurant with Wifi. Luckily, we didn’t have far to go – it overlooked the little harbor and our beautiful boat on in the bay.

For the first time in months I connected to wifi that allowed me to upload and download larger files

I was so excited – my online storage backup queue was massive by now. On the boat, I backup my computer to an external hard drive but once on land I attempt to backup to Dropbox, an online storage facility. I want to ensure all the photo’s and video’s I’m taking are safe. In Italy, I struggled to upload a photo, let alone backup my computer.

While Loryn and I caught up with our emails and updated our families on Facebook that we made it to Greece, Simon took Sienna for a walk to find a grocery store. Not long after, they returned saying they had no luck. We were getting low on milk and had no bread left. It appeared that we landed ourselves in a very tourist town where the hotels and restaurants catered for everything.

Oh well, we’ll have to make due without bread – or will we?

After doing all our computer stuff, we went for a little ride on the tender and went back home to chill out. I was finishing some laundry and then decided to clean the outside hull on the back of the boat – it was disgusting. The back is usually covered by the tender so I don’t see it. When we all went swimming I realized it needed a good clean. After seeing it gleam I felt like I accomplished something.

That night, for the first time in months, I made an effort to put something nice on

I found some black ¾ length trousers and a nice top with some bling diamanté buttons. We all boarded the tender as gracefully as possible and motored over to the strip of tavernas. After a drink at one tavern and uploading a blog, we moved over to a recommended restaurant and sat at the table for our first Greek meal. The three of us adults ordered Kleftiko (stewed lamb) with a Greek salad and my daughter had fish and chips. Our meals were excellent.

Actually, our meals were more than excellent

In Italy we ate home cooked food using readily available foods – pasta, seasonal vegetables, rice, potatoes and some meat. When we went out we inevitably had either pizza or pasta. Most menus in Sicily had 2 pages of pizza, 1 page of pasta and then only 1 entre with pork, only 1 entre with chicken and only 1 entre of beef.

You don’t go to a pasta restaurant and order a steak! It’s like going to a Chinese restaurant and asking for a hamburger

The pizza and pasta in Sicily was amazing but the dishes were so large and stodgy that it was impossible to eat a salad or side dish. And in most cases, it was hard to find salads on the menu. The one time I did order a salad, it came with a whole pack of American streaky bacon on top of it – RAW. Yes, it was raw, not smoked or cured…it was RAW.

That being said, the Greek salad that we ate was the best salad I’ve tasted in years. My body was craving lettuce and other vegies without the influence of some sort of bread. I moo’ed like a cow through the whole meal. And then we ate the lamb it just fell apart. The seasoning was so different from what we’ve been eating that we all just smiled both with our mouths and with our bellies. It could have been a mediocre meal but because it was so different from what we’d been eating, it tasted like heaven.

Before we left, we strategically put the basket of bread served to us in my backpack

No – not that actual basket, just the bread. Thankfully we now had bread for our toast and eggs in the morning. Never have I even thought of doing that before!

That evening we all slept well and woke up ready to move on. We pulled up our anchor and motored towards Gouvina Marina – Corfu Islands largest marina.

Tips about mooring in the bay at Palaiokastrita, Corfu

  • Upon entering the bay there is a small harbor on the right side. Yachts are welcome to moor up side-to however it holds around 3 yachts and the waters are very shallow.
  • We anchored in front of the main beach between a large rock and some cliffs. Our anchor held very well however it was a very rocky mooring! The pilot book mentions that certain winds cause the waters to be turbulent. Upon looking at the bay you’d think it was flat calm but our boat swayed from side to side all day and night long.
  • There are several tavernas and a very tiny grocery store. You can drop your rubbish off in dumpsters by the little fishing harbor.

Let me move onto Gouvia Marina next…

Entering Gouvia Marina, Corfu in the rain

We entered the marina in the rain. It was a bit cold but luckily just as I went out to help Simon, the rain reduced to a mist. We all had to imagine how beautiful the area was rather than see it first hand. It was gray, hazy and wet.

Greek Ionian Islands

Greek Ionian Islands

Wanting to check out the marina we went for a walk and found a cute little café bar. In fact, there were several to choose from right within the Marina. My American background came out when I saw a cheeseburger on the menu. In fact, my husband and cousin joined me. Not expecting anything spectacular we were all surprised by the amazing taste of the burger. Oh-my-gosh – it was outstanding. Once again, it’s probably because it’s been so long since we had a cheeseburger that anything would have tasted great.

One thing I’ve noticed about sailing is that food, any food, tastes amazing!

While out to dinner, Loryn and I started talking to the bar owners and Simon headed back to our boat with Sienna. We mentioned that we’re collecting recipes on our travels, trying them out in Britican’s Galley and doing videos.

The bar owners mother overheard us talking and went into the kitchen to handwrite a few recipes for us. Both Loryn and I were so excited to get an authentic Moussaka recipe.

Unbeknown to Loryn and I, Simon never made it back to the boat. Along with Sienna he was invited onto the boat next to us full of Polish people. There was a little boy for Sienna to play with and Simon spent time testing all sorts of Polish food and enjoying the company of those on the boat. No matter where you are, it always seems that there are new friends to be made.

Greek Ionian Islands

Greek Ionian Islands

The first full day we were in Gouvia Marina, we did some cleaning and general maintenace. In fact, the whole time we were at Gouvia Marina we took the opportunity to do various jobs. The weather wasn’t great and the boat really needed a scrub down. Sienna helped a lot (we cleaned all the floors, cleared out some cupboards, opened the grey water tanks and cleaned them, etc.) For a break, we went for lunch and had the best salads ever! Also ordered a grilled squid that was AMAZING. It was my cousins first taste of squid and she loved it.

Greek Ionian Islands

Greek Ionian Islands

At the supermarket I was shocked by the high prices

Not knowing what the cost of groceries were going to be, we made a novice mistake. We went to the supermarket at the marina and purchased very little – the total came to 116 euros. I fell onto the floor.

Later than day I found a huge grocery store on the main road – it was almost the same distance away. I was upset that I wasted so much money but also very happy – it was the best grocery store we’d seen since Morrisons in Gibraltar (two months ago). It had 2 floors…everything we could ever want. Furthermore, there were loads of familiar brands so we knew what we were buying. Also, there was bacon and sauerkraut something we’d been looking for months.

While ventureing outside the marina to the grocery store, I found a few local tavernas. I suggested to my family that we give on a go.

Greek Ionian Islands

Greek Ionian Islands

That evening, we went out to dinner and enjoyed another great meal. Sienna is pictured above with the owner. We all had local dishes – Stafado, mousaka, grilled steak and Sienna had Slovaki. There were lots of laughs and we all really had fun.

For dessert, we ordered Milk pie and it was amazing. If you ever see it on a menu, give it a go. My whole family thought it was excellent.

Sienna was in a particularly social mood

She spoke with the waiter, befriended another table of eaters and spoke to all the old boys sitting out near the outdoor grill. Sienna told one group of people that she was in Spanish school, that I speak Italian and that she has a sister and 2 brothers (Megan, Ethan and Mason – all friends of hers from back home). What an imagination! I guess her life isn’t that interesting – she needs to make things up. Hahahaha.

She had everyone eating out of her hands. The owner/waiter brought her ice cream, free of charge. And the guests all wanted to say hi to her. When we left I couldn’t believe it when all the old boys yelled out, ‘Bye Kim,’ to me. She must have told them all my name.

Sienna’s social skills have sky rocketed and I’m so pleased she’s able to approach anyone

Of course, we always have an eye on here – she can’t go out of our line of site, but she can go and have conversations like a big girl. I get the feeling that she enjoys meeting people on her own – she feels like a real person rather than just a little kid.

After a few days the weather finally broke. The warm weather came back and it was time to move on. Our next stop wasn’t far. We decided to anchor right next to the Old Fort in Corfu Town.

Greek Ionian Islands

Greek Ionian Islands

Tips about Gouvia Marina near Corfu Town on the island of Corfu

  • We cleared customs in Gouvia Maria. In the past, boaters would have to moor up at the marina and then take a bus to various places to clear customs and pay tax. Things have recently changed. Having a British registered boat, we found it very easy. I have, however, heard from others with American registered boats that clearance was an all-day event.
  • Do NOT buy anything at the marina supermarket. They’re a complete and utter rip off. To get to a large inexpensive supermarket, exit the marina down a path into the town. Turn left and then once you hit the main drag you’ll see the AB supermarket across the road at the lights.
  • While we stayed there (June 2014) all the facilities were being re-done so the bathrooms are most likely to be excellent by the time you visit! There’s everything within the marina – fuel water/electricity on the jetty, bathrooms, laundry, bars, restaurants (all with Wifi) and more.
  • Bring our bathing suit! I usually don’t like marinas for the fact that you can’t go swimming. Well…Gouvia Marina has a swimming pool for their guests! It’s a lovely huge pool with sun chairs that you can rent for 2 euros. There’s also a bar/restaurant serving patrons all around the pool.
  • Note: you can drop anchor right outside the marina and use your tender to get in and use the facilities if you want to avoid the ridiculous day charge. I think we paid 86 euros/night and we’re a 56’ yacht.

So…this blog marks the start of my Greek Ionian Islands journey. We were sad to leave Sicily behind but it’s nice to experience a different culture, foods and language. And the islands are amazingly beautiful. Stay tuned for more updates on our journey through Greece 🙂

Read the next article in my journey here: Corfu Town is not ‘nice’ and this is why – More about sailing around the Greek Ionian Islands

The magic of Fiscardo Cephalonia


Fiscardo Cephalonia

Fiscardo is a small town at the top of the Greek Island, Cephalonia; the largest of the Ionian Islands. Located to the west of mainland Greece, Cephalonia became quite popular after the book, Captain Correlli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières followed by the movie starting Penélope Cruz and Nic Cage. [Note: if you’re interested in reading the book do so before watching the movie. They’re both good but of course, the book is better and has a totally different ending than the Hollywood version!]

Just over 12 years ago, I visited Fiscardo, a beautiful harbor village, when my husband and I did our very first flotilla vacation. A flotilla vacation involves hiring a yacht for a week or two. You get a yacht, are helped by a crew to leave and arrive in moorings, are told where to go and when to arrive at the next destination and for the course of holiday you visit each destination with others doing the same thing.

During our flotilla vacation we had around 8 other boats in our group. We didn’t sail around with them – we just met them at the final destination each evening. It was a great opportunity to have fun sailing during the day and then tell tales in the evening over drinks. Every boat always has a story – someone inevitably picked up the anchor of someone else’s boat, another boat saw dolphins and someone learned something new. Fiscardo Cephalonia

Fiscardo Cephalonia

A flotilla vacation is absolutely brilliant for newbie sailors!

I remember arriving in Fiscardo with my husband, Simon, and another couple Tim and Sonia. Previous to our trip, Simon and Tim took a weekend sailing course – a precursor to chartering a yacht. When we arrived in Greece I looked at the 33’ yacht and thought, ‘Oh-my-God…are we really going to sail that for a week?’ The yacht seemed huge and there were so many unknowns for me. I sailed a bit in the past but I didn’t really know how to sail.

I was always a passenger – I sat up on top and looked pretty!

After collecting our yacht, named Emerald, we put away our clothes, poured a drink and I secretly said a prayer that we’d survive a week on the Ionian sea. I was half excited and in love with the surrounding area and half scared about getting out and actually sailing. The next day, with no time to investigate the town and surrounding area, we left the beautifully idyllic Fiscardo. We pushed off our mooring, motored out of the harbor and attempted to put the sail up. For some reason the guys couldn’t get it up (hehehehe). They struggled to winch up the mainsail. I looked at the other boats and said, ‘why are all the other boats going in the opposite direction?’ The boys quickly realized that they were going with the wind rather than going into the wind. Important note: to raise the main sail you must go into the wind!

Within seconds I lost all confidence in my husband and his friend!

We turned the boat into the wind, managed to get the mainsail up and thereafter we were hooked for life. Despite the fact that we had difficult start that very first flotilla vacation gave us the bug. Fiscardo Cephalonia

Fiscardo Cephalonia

Little did we know that we’d return to Fiscardo 12 years later with our own yacht!

So…here I am this evening listening to music piping through my outdoor speakers, down lighting from the boom helping me to see, while typing in my 56’ Oyster yacht cockpit. We’re moored up stern to the jetty in front of a fantastic restaurant called Captain’s Cabin. I actually think we’re in the same mooring we had when we first glared across at our flotilla yacht many years ago.

This time around, I’ve however, spent several days in Fiscardo and have found more of it’s magic!

When we first arrived to the area our initial intention was to moor on the island of Lefkas, an island above Cephalonia. The winds were too strong for the mooring so we diverted to Fiscardo. Around 7pm we entered the harbor, did a quick spin around and quickly realized that there was no room at the Inn! We left the port and sailed down the island finding an empty harbor where we moored for the night. We were surrounded by goats and that’s it! The next day we woke and prepared to get into Fiscardo. Around 10:30 we entered the harbor and noticed a couple spaces free along the hard. I went to the anchor, Simon backed us up and my cousin, Loryn, prepared to throw someone our warps (back ropes). Fiscardo Cephalonia

Fiscardo Cephalonia

Mooring in Fiscardo is a high-pressure situation

There are loads of people eating, walking around and having a look around. When we entered the harbor people stopped to look. When we started to back up, and our bow thrusters sounded, people dropped what they were doing and stared. I felt as if we were the center of attention and I didn’t like it! What if we mess up?! Fortunately, I managed the anchor well, Simon back up perfectly and Loryn threw the warps to someone who helped us out. For at least a half hour we had to work on getting our gangplank out, backing up a bit more and fiddly stuff. Meanwhile there were loads of people sipping their coffee’s and eating food a few feet next to us! We had a captive audience. Once we turned off the engine, Simon said, ‘I didn’t want to tell you this, but I was so nervous about mooring up! But once I started to back up, my nerves left and I felt fine.’

When all is said and done, we got into Fiscardo and once we were there I didn’t want to leave for a few days!

The plan was to venture to the south of Cephalonia to get near the airport. My father-in-law was scheduled to fly into the island within 5 days. Once we were docked at Fiscardo I asked hubby if we could stay for a while and hire a car to pick up my father-in-law instead. He thought it was a great idea and when we found out that it’s free to moor on the hard the decision was easy! The money saved in mooring fees could pay for a rental car. The magic of Fiscardo is all about the people, food and scenery

The people you find in Fiscardo

As we moored up several people lined up to take our lines. Being private sailors, rather than chartering a boat, made me think we’d be all on our own. I was wrong. As we neared the jetty there were people on the jetty and along the boats next to us that all offered to take lines. Even the waiters at the restaurant were prepared to help in any way that they could. One guy got low on the stern of an adjacent boat to keep and eye on our rudder to make sure that it didn’t hit the back ledge. He yelled out, ‘You’re okay – you’ve got another foot!’

Within 5 minutes of turning off our engine we already made a handful of new friends

The yacht next to us held two couples on a flotilla holiday in addition to a skipper that later introduced us to the seasonal flotilla staff. The waiters brought us nice cold beers and joined in on our discussions about our history in Fiscardo. And passers-by were quick to ask questions and find out who we were and how we came to sailing Britican.

Footballer John Terry befriended us!

Even footballer John Terry, who happened to be watching the World Cup at the bar behind our boat, struck up a conversation with hubby. John then joined Simon for a tour on Britican – now that kind of magic doesn’t happen every day! Throughout our stay we were blessed to meet so many great people. One evening our daughter, Sienna, fell asleep at the dinner table. It was a very late evening and she was exhausted. One of the waiters pulled over a sofa chair and had us pick Sienna up and lay her down. Next thing I notice is that Sienna has a coat over her body! The waiter covered her up to make sure she was warm.

That type of kind gesture didn’t happen once – it happened day after day

Sienna became friends with the son of the Bakery. It didn’t take long for Sienna to start coming home with different cookies throughout the day. She joined the local kids to catch a variety of marine life. Every hour or so we’d be graced with a small fish, a starfish and weird snake like fish with hundreds of legs. Fiscardo Cephalonia

Fiscardo Cephalonia

Yes it’s true that most people are happy when on vacation and it’s easy to strike up conversations. But I’ve been to many locations where the locals are not so happy to spend time with tourists. Fiscardo is one of those magical places where everyone – whether they’re a tourist, seasonal staff or a born and bread Cephalonian – seem open to join in conversation and extend kindness.

The food of Fiscardo

The harbor is graced with around 30 eateries – all of them unique in character. Some offer traditional Greek food with a bright white and blue facade whereas others provide elegant French food amidst dainty tables, lace menus, white lanterns and freshly picked flowers. While discussing food with one of the flotilla staff members they announced, ‘You can get the best Thai food here – would you like to join us for dinner?’ Throughout our stay, we tested out various venues for breakfast, lunch and dinner and each time we moo’d like cows. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. We ate everything from a fresh fish platter to mousaka through to great salads. It would be unfair of me to recommend one place over another as they all offered excellent food and a unique ambiance. And there’s certainly something for everyone. You can get a burger and fries, pizza or a kebob through to a gourmet four-course meal. As far as children are concerned there was often a child’s menu or I simply asked for a small portion of something and every restaurant was accommodating. Fiscardo Cephalonia

Fiscardo Cephalonia

The one place worth mentioning, however, is the Captain’s Cabin (photo taken there above). We were fortunate to moor the stern of our boat right up to this restaurant. Not only has the food been excellent but the staff are amazing. If I needed help getting on or off the boat, they were there. They always said ‘hi’ to my daughter while patting her on the head. We’d even get served our beers on our boat rather than having to walk off it!

The sites of Fiscardo

The harbor of Fiscardo is lined with yachts on every side. Some yachts moor up to the hard whereas others drop an anchor and then tie long ropes from their stern to a tree or hard standing. Looking out at the view, I can see sailboats, catamerans and a few powerboats. There are also several small Greek fishing boats. Behind the yachts on two sides of the port are beautiful restaurants, boutique shops, super markets and bars. Cars are not allowed making the whole village a pedestrian’s paradise. Fiscardo Cephalonia

Fiscardo Cephalonia

Rising up above the town are a few small bed and breakfasts, homes and more restaurants. Of course there’s a lovely little church too. Unlike other popular towns there’s no huge hotel or large establishment taking precedence over the views. In fact, aside from the town, the majority of the view consists of a variety of green trees, green mountainside and deep blue water. I love those long thin evergreen trees that rise up like long fingers – they’re dotted all over the place. While sitting on my boat, I can see the harbor and neighboring island, Ithica. Considering that we had several days in Fiscardo, my cousin and I decided to do one of the circular hikes promoted on signs throughout the town. After surveying the trail map, we decided to do a 4.7 km /2.5 hour hike leaving and returning to Fiscardo. The trail had amazing markings – we never wondered which way to go. As we walked along, we enjoyed seeing stone walls on either side of the path, abandoned buildings and loads of greenery and flowers. We went up and and we went down. We saw the sea from the top of the hills and we saw the sea from a couple amazing beaches. One of the beaches we discovered was accessible by foot only and the whole beach had white stones only. Loryn and I stood on the beach and had to use all our willpower not to run into the sea and swim! Fiscardo Cephalonia

Fiscardo Cephalonia

After a couple hours, however, we realized that we indadvertedly got ourselves onto a 10 km walk!

Instead of being close to the ending point we realized we were only ½ way. By the end of the walk neither my cousin or me could barely walk anymore. I think it was about 5 hours when we made it back to the boat. Walking 10 km is not big deal but when you’re going up and down mountains it’s not easy! Furthermore, there were all these spider webs and massive spiders above our heads. On occasion, however, there were a few that were lower than head level. At one point I was walking along and my forehead hit a web…I instantly rebounded backwards, took my hands to my head shaking the web out and yelling, ‘Loryn make sure there’s no spiders in my hair!!!’

Of course Loryn found my rebound to be hilarious and had to work hard to prevent herself from peeing her pants

Fiscardo Cephalonia

Fiscardo Cephalonia

By the end of the walk we started getting delirious however I wouldn’t have taken back the experience for anything. We transversed Northern Cephalonia and saw goats, flowers, grasshoppers, snakes, trees, beaches and the sea. It was wonderful.

So…overall Fiscardo Cephalonia is amazing

Perhaps this article will inspire you to pay a visit to the amazing town? Just a few tips. All the charter companies seem to visit Fiscardo (SailingHolidays.com, SunSail, Neilsen) so you need to get in rather early to find a spot on certain days. I found Sunday to be the quietest day but who knows if it’s like that every week. It seems that 10:30 to 11:00 everyone leaves so get in around that time to secure a spot. Mooring in Fiscardo is FREE – yes…it’s free. And if you get in near Captains Cabin there’s water there. We filled up our 1000 litre tank for 5 euros. No electricity or facilities but it’s nice to get some water. For children there’s a playground up near the church. The food prices and grocery store are tourist prices. DON’T buy water in Fiscardo – for 6 large bottles it’s 13 euros and in other places it’s 2 euros for the same amount. There are 3 grocery stores and you can get most things but don’t stock up there – if you know what I mean. If you’re sailing the Ionian check out Fiscardo!

Couple sets off for a 3 year around the world sailing trip – 15 years later they’re still going!

World sailing trip

World sailing trip

Who better to run into as we start our around the world sailing trip than world cruising veterans, Jim and Carole aboard sailboat Nepenthe? After setting off on a early Oyster (late 80’s) for a 3 year around the world sailing trip in 1999, the inspirational pair are still gracing the sea due to their love of the lifestyle.

When asking Carole how their adventure started I was interested to hear that the duo didn’t originally set off to make Nepenthe their permanent long-term home.

Jim and Carole met each other at their local marina. Carole, a beautifully strong independent woman, was the first woman to captain a boat of her own within the marina. And Jim moored his boat nearby.

Not long after dating for a couple years, Jim was offered an early retirement package from his company, General Motors

Eager to start enjoying his love of sailing and newfound free time, Jim approached Carole and asked if she’d join him for a trip to the Caribbean. Carole’s response was, ‘I don’t want to go to the Caribbean! What if we go to the Caribbean, turn towards the Pacific and keep going?’ Jim’s response was, ‘If you’re happy to plan the route I’ll go wherever you want to go.’

world sailing trip

world sailing trip

They both sold their sailboats, purchased an Oyster together and set off for their around the world sailing trip

Fifteen years later, the amazing couple shows no signs of returning to land and I’m starting to understand why. We’ve only been sailing for a few months and I can’t imagine doing anything else. The sense of freedom, the connection with nature, the incredible sites, amazing new friends and the ability to move your home whenever you choose are just some of the benefits we’re already appreciating.

As you can imagine, Jim and Carole are a walking information desk for anything and everything to do with world cruising. If they haven’t experienced something they know someone who has. After 15 years, they’ve really learned the ropes but as Jim comments, ‘We’re still learning all the time and that’s what’s great about this lifestyle.’

Bumping into Jim and Carole while anchored outside of Corfu, Town

So, how did we find Jim and Carole? My husband and daughter were in our dingy motoring back to our boat after dropping my cousin and I off in town. Jim happen to be in his dingy too when the two dingys met in crossing. Jim asked if we owned the Oyster and when my husband replied yes, Jim responded that they owned the other Oyster. There was an immediate connection when Jim explained that the boat was the same make as ours. Both Nepenthe and Britican were built in the same reputable Landamores Yacht Builders in Norfolk, England however there are several years between them.

My husband was desperate for male company!

With a crew of three girls Simon wanted a bit of manly company and knowing about Jim’s experience he was eager to hear everything Jim could impart. A time was set for drinks that evening aboard Britican.

At 6pm Jim and Carole came over bringing a bag of popcorn. Very quickly the boys separated to leave us girls alone in the saloon. After 5 minutes of talking to Carole, I felt I knew her all my life. No – actually, I felt as if she was a part of the family. With her beautiful smile, eagerness to listen, share and enormous energy for life I wanted to sit by her and soak her up!

I couldn’t help but wonder how the journey has changed Carole

Being an ex-Type A workaholic, like me, I immediately felt an infinity. Carole traded in her job as a Nurse Practitioner and explained that it took her a good two years to start relaxing after she left the workplace. I thought, ‘so there’s hope for me yet!’

While transitioning from a workhorse to a full time sea goer, Carole related a story about finding her artistic side. She created something from textiles and a friend said, ‘Now that’s art.’ Carole replied, ‘What are you talking about? I don’t have a creative bone in my body.’ The friend then took a few moments to enlighten Carole to the fact that yes, she was creative and yes she had an artistic ability. Since then Carole seems to have relaxed her Type A behaviors and increased her more intuitive, artsy-side.

Are those scorpion body parts you’re wearing?

As Carole related her captivating stories, she mentioned the earrings she was wearing – one of her creations. Until she mentioned them I didn’t look close enough to notice that they were different from standard earrings. But when I did inspect them, I thought, ‘is that a bolt and is the other one a washer? And what’s that hanging off the bottom?’ Within seconds, Carole went on to tell the story of how she made her earrings out left over parts. The bottom component on each side was parts of a scorpion body she discovered during her travels.

When Carole spoke I just wanted her to carry on forever

I loved to hear about her journey and her transformation to a life on the sea. My daughter asked if we could visit Carole on her boat so the following morning we are able to take a tour on Nepenthe. What an experience! The boat is so homey – Carole has various creations around the boat – a seat cover here and a wall handing there. We noticed a skull and Carole picked it up explaining, ‘Now this is a turtle head. We found the skull and other bones just like you see it here.’ She then pointed out Jim’s didgeridoo, secured from Australia, and various other artifacts from their travels. There was also quite a large bookshelf. Compared to our boat that doesn’t have a personality (yet) it was great to see a real homey home on the sea.

And Jim – what a great person

At 71 he’s way to young to be my grandfather but his personality and amazing attitude to life reminded me of my grandpa. With a kind face, genuine smile and witty remarks I felt so happy to be in his presence. He’s the type of guy that you just can’t help but love.

When asking Jim about his experiences, he remarks, ‘The one consistent thing in all our travels is that everywhere we’ve been we’ve found incredibly nice people.’

My heart smiled when I heard him say that!

And it’s not like Jim and Carole have only sailed the Mediterranean! The couple have anchored off islands with no electricity where they had to make an offering to the local chief. They’ve sailed for 6 months without stopping at a marina. They’ve learned how to barter for items, receive gifts and the best way to give gifts. The two have even had encounters with possible robbers.

Lucky for us, we were able to see Jim and Carole for several days as both Nepenthe and Britican made their way south along the west side of Greece.

world sailing trip

world sailing trip

We were graced with Carole’s no-egg cake twice! The first time it had guava on the top and the second one was made with chocolate. (NOTE: I will add a link to Carole’s recipe here once I publish it!). And several times throughout the day we’d swim over to visit or they’d come see us. Every time we met I felt so honored to listen to their stories and feel the kinship that had been formed.

world sailing trip

world sailing trip

There’s such an amazing kinship that’s formed with other sailors

When anchored in a bay we wouldn’t think of going ashore without offering to take someone else’s trash or offering to collect milk or bread. Once you meet others you immediately have this strong feeling to look after them. Jim and Carole would stop by our boat and offer to pick us up something and we’d do the same. The picture above shows my cousin Loryn bringing a plate back to our boat – Carole sent a slice of her no-egg chocolate cake back for me to try out!

You just don’t have that kinship and kindness in a neighborhood

Well…you do, but you don’t. When your living in a house you might have one or two neighbors that you look out for but those two neighbors stay the same. With sailing, your neighbors change every day. Either someone is coming in or you’re leaving to a new destination. At every anchorage, however, a new kinship is possible to create and that’s so awesome.

Back to Jim and Carole… Over the course of several little conversations I made a list of all the things I learned or changed the way I thought. Things that I thought other newbie sailors would benefit from hearing, so here’s my list of the top 8 things I learned from world cruising veterans Jim and Carole aboard Nepenthe:

  1. When cruising for a long time in rocky weather if you get tired, just take a vacation. How? As long as you’re far away from land and not in a shipping lane, heave-to. Heaving-to is a way to keep your sails up but place them in a way where they become ineffective. By heaving to, the boat will essentially stop and so will the turbulent conditions. When in this position the boat will simply go up and down on the waves. You can chill out, take a nap and re-energize yourself. Once refreshed, sail back into the wind and progress on your journey. I’ve sailed in some terrible conditions and never once did I realize that I could take a break from them! This is such a top tip.
  2. You don’t have to go to a marina if you don’t want to. Okay, now this is my naivety coming out here. When sailing in America, England and doing our weekly Sun Sail flotilla holidays we always went from one marina to another. With our boat in England we never anchored – I was always too scared that the anchor wouldn’t hold. The day we met Jim and Carole, it was perhaps the 4th or 5th time we anchored so I was getting more comfortable with it. I didn’t, however, think of anchoring as the main way to moor. You don’t know what you don’t know. Both hubby and I were programmed to moor up in marinas – I just didn’t think that you could go around and rarely enter a marina. Anchoring full time wasn’t an option we even considered. After talking with Jim and Carole, who rarely visit a marina, my whole attitude to mooring has changed. (See number 8 for more on anchoring).
  3. Sailing is more relaxing if you don’t have to get anywhere. My husband and I had this mentality that we needed to get to our next destination quickly. If we weren’t going around 3 knots or higher we’d turn our engine on and motor-sail. We just had this need to get to somewhere – anywhere – as quickly as possible. Furthermore, if the wind died on us, instead of waiting for it to come back, we’d pull the headsail in and motor for a while. What we learned from Jim and Carole is that they rarely use their engine. They use it mainly to leave an anchor and approach a mooring. Overnight, my husband and I had a change in attitude regarding the use of our engine. We now plan on getting somewhere considering the conditions and if we don’t make it, we have another option lined up. We no longer feel this need to get anywhere quickly. Why hurry anyway? As Carole often says, ’there are no schedules on the sea!’ What’s wrong with drifting along waiting for wind? Perhaps you can start to see a theme going on here – hubby and I are learning how to relax a bit!
  4. When circumnavigating the world it’s very possible to go for several months without gaining access to food and water. I’m embarrassed to admit that I didn’t know it would be difficult to get provisions (food/water) for months at a time. I knew that crossing the Atlantic would take up to a month but I didn’t realize that there are far longer stretches! When cruising various parts of the world, Carole makes sure to stock 6 months worth of food and water. She buys things like beans dried and in bulk. And her system for eggs sounds crazy but drastically increases their use by date. Carole coats all the eggs in Vaseline, tapes the cartons together by stacking them and then every three days she flips them. When explaining how to handle eggs, Carole explains with a serious voice that ‘it’s imperative to get the eggs fresh and to make sure they have not been refrigerated.’ Once they’re chilled the system won’t work. Carole also discovered that it was too hot and took too much energy to use the oven. She’s learned how to cook everything on the stovetop – even bread!
  5. Laundry doesn’t have to be an issue if you create a system. After our weeklong maiden voyage on Britican it took about two weeks to do all our laundry and we have a washer! Thankfully, Carole told me about her system and now I’ve changed my thoughts about handling laundry. Carole keeps two buckets in the cockpit – one is the ‘Agitator’ and the other is the ‘Spin Cycle’. Every time she has enough for a load, she pops in the agitator with soap for a day or night. After then it goes in the spin cycle, fresh water, for a while. She repeats and then hangs the clothes out to dry. It’s an ongoing routine and the laundry never adds up. After meeting Carole, we’ve decided to do a load every day, or every other day, rather than store our dirty clothes up. It’s so much easier! It’s just a part of our new routine.
  6. Save plastic bottles for rubbish. It doesn’t take long to realize that trash is a big issue – especially on long voyages. It adds up quickly and it needs to be stored somewhere. Carole explained that the pair cut up everything into small pieces and put it into plastic bottles – large empty water bottles work well. Ideally, you want to use something with a large opening as it’s easier to cram stuff into it. Every time you add something you take a spoon and push it down. I suppose it’s a do-it-yourself compactor. I was amazed the first time I tried this trick. The amount that can fit into a bottle is mind-blowing! Carole also mentioned that they throw anything biodegradable overboard once they’re far out to sea.
  7. Cruising around the world gets easier with defined roles. Carole mentioned that it took quite a while for the pair to figure out exactly who’s doing what. Now that they’ve been on the seas for 15 years, they’re both very comfortable with their individual roles. Carole does all the planning, helming and customs clearing. Jim does all the maintenance and cooking. For us, a few months into our voyage, I can see that it makes sense to have very clear roles. At first hubby and I were going to trade on and off doing the engine checks but now it just works that hubby does it. You get to know the levels of oil and coolant, etcetera and when checking things you know what’s right and what isn’t. In fact, hubby does all the boat stuff and I do all the traditional woman stuff, which is quite a change from our old life. Back when we lived on land, hubby stayed home to look after our daughter and I went to work! Now I look after our daughter and the ‘home’ while Simon goes to ‘work.’
  8. General tips on anchoring and anchorages. While anchored in a bay on an island called Paxos, off the west side of Greece, we encountered our first anchoring scare. Surrounded by 20 to 30 other sailboats huge amounts of gusting wind quickly came upon us. It blew our whole boat sideways and it didn’t take long to realize that many boats lost their anchor holding. There were boats floating around unmanned, and we were getting closer to other boats. Several people were panicking (including me). It was a very scary experience. After the ordeal, I asked Carole what her tips were in regards to anchoring. She explained that they always anchor towards the outside of the bay allowing for an easy escape if things get too crazy. That tip alone seemed to make a lot of sense. When the wind hit we were close to shore and surrounded by loads of other boats. I felt trapped whereas if we were further out I wouldn’t have freaked out so much. Next Carole explained that before anchoring she always has an escape route. In other words, she has other places that she can sail to if the bay becomes too dangerous. And finally, Carole explained that if you’re afraid your anchor won’t hold or worried about the other boats around you, just leave. You can always sail out for several miles and heave-to if need be.

What are my overall thoughts on all these great tips?

In my old life I think that I became somewhat of a know-it-all. After spending 20+ years doing my craft I did know a thing or two. The problem with that is you get to a point where you fail to learn. You become rigid in your ways and closed to new concepts. In this new life of living on the sea, however, I’m not embarrassed to admit that I know nothing and by doing so I’ve opened myself up to learning from others.

After meeting Jim and Carole, my family and I felt so grateful to have made new friends. Life on the sea is a totally new experience for us and I’m often worried or concerned about the lack of things we know or the very little experience that we have. However, what I’m realizing is that there are Jim and Carole’s all over the world…and perhaps one day we’ll be a Jim and Carole to others.