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.

Changing our lifestyle caused my daughters behavior to go into rapid decline


Changing our lifestyle

When reflecting back about our decision about changing our lifestyle – to pack in the day job, sell all our possessions and sail around the world, I’d have to say that my largest fears revolved around my daughter. I’m sure most parents would be similar. There are safety issues, concerns over education and the whole sociability area.

With such a massive change of lifestyle it’s impossible to speculate how I was going to adjust let alone my 3-year-old daughter.

People always say that kids adjust to change quickly so I hoped for the best

You don’t know what you don’t know so my husband and I progressed with our plans to leave the rat-race, get a boat and sail around the world. We had to sell our house, learn everything we could about world cruising, make the necessary arrangements and set off. The plan was to keep our daughter in pre-school (3 days/week) until we left and then see how things went.

With so many things on my mind, I didn’t think about whether or not my daughter, Sienna, would be able to cope with the massive change in lifestyle. I didn’t think that the lack of routine, unpredictability of sailing and inability to have control over daily events would cause behavior issues.

I also failed to consider how she’d take to playing alone. Up until living on a boat, my daughter always had many friends to play with in addition to having granddad next door. She was never alone and she never had to play by herself.

By month three into our travels and after peeing on the floor, spitting, punching me, kicking me, biting my arm (drawing blood) and smashing a plate I was at my wits end

Things started off okay and over time progressively got worse.

Ever since Sienna was born, she required quite a bit of attention. As a baby it wasn’t uncommon for her to cry for 3 to 4 hours at a time. I read books, purchased DVD’s and sought medical advice. The prognosis was ‘Colic’ something that no one could help me with. It’s a situation where the baby cries uncontrollably for hours and doesn’t sleep but will eventually grow out of it.

As Sienna grew, she would go through stages. For months, her behavior would be fine and then it seemed that she’d suddenly have a lapse and become somewhat uncontrollable. She went through a biting stage, a scratching stage (and was aptly named Sienna Scissorhands) and a ‘I’m not going to bed!’ stage.

I thought she was a ‘difficult’ child but for the most part, managing her behavior progressed. With the help of friends and time, she seemed to grow out of her negative stages. From a parenting perspective, we used ‘The Step,’ counting to three, sticker charts, time-out, consequences of bad behavior and all the normal punishment approaches.

Sometimes they would work and sometimes they wouldn’t but overall I felt we had a handle on Sienna’s behavior. She seemed fine at home but when we went on vacation to visit family her behavior declined. I put it down to jetlag and being in a different environment.

Well, the first month of living our new lifestyle was overwhelming for all of us

We spent a week getting the sailboat ready, a week sailing from Gibraltar to Malta getting stormbound in Algeria, and a week enjoying the sites of Malta. Every day was different – for a week we sailed non-stop, for another week we were in one country and then we were in another.

None of us knew what time it was let alone what the day was. We were all walking around somewhat dazed. Most of the time, my husband, cousin (who has joined us from the beginning) and I couldn’t believe how amazing life was. We were seeing new sights, experiencing new experiences and life just seemed incredible. Sienna seemed to go along with the flow.

Life was too busy for her to have time to behave badly!

By the second month, when things started to slightly normalize, I noticed that Sienna’s behavior took a turn for the worse. She’d argue about going to bed, freak out if her cereal wasn’t just right or have a melt down because she didn’t get what she wanted.

As we neared the end of month two her behavior became even worse…

…she started kicking, scratching and hitting. And then when she freaked out, she’d spit all over the floor. When playing a game, it would seem as if she was working hard to start an ‘episode.’ She’d be bossy, play the game incorrectly or become difficult. After discussing things with my cousin, we decided that the best word for her behavior was ‘defiant.’

Every day we’d have more blow-outs, more tantrums and more tears – and Sienna wasn’t the only one crying. I spent several days up on deck crying while Sienna was down below screaming her lungs out.

No matter what we did, things got worse

I thought perhaps it was a food allergy causing her to malfunction but after eliminating certain foods the behavior still continued.

And taking away her toys didn’t work. Using a time-out didn’t work. Locking her in her room didn’t work. Using consequences didn’t work, ‘if you don’t go to bed now, I’m going to take your blanky from you.’ One night I emptied every toy out of her room – that didn’t work either!

At one point my husband grew so frustrated and yelled out, ‘she just needs a good smack!’ We discussed the idea of a slap on the wrist or a spanking but the whole concept never made sense to me. Teaching kids to inflict physical harm to control people seems illogical to me. Further, I didn’t want my daughter to fear us. Respect us and know we’re in charge, yes, but not to fear us.

The night of the big blow out, Sienna went crazy. I couldn’t control her. We tried to hold her down as I was afraid she was going to thrash about and hurt herself and then she bit me.

That’s when Sienna took a chunk out of my arm – there was blood seeping through my sweatshirt

I couldn’t help but think that I must be a terrible parent. I thought perhaps I’m not consistent enough. Maybe I’m to soft or perhaps too hard? Maybe I’m not applying punishments appropriately. Then I thought it’s not just me…it’s the situation we’re in.

That’s it – we’ll have to go home. Living on the boat and this new lifestyle isn’t working for our daughter

At first, and in dramatic fashion, I thought that life on the sea wasn’t going to work for Sienna. She just wasn’t handling the transition. I felt ‘woe is me,’ and wanted to cry out that my life is finally a dream come true ACCEPT for the fact that my daughter has turned into a hell child.

The day after our big blow-out I went in search of wifi to find help at Amazon

Being moored up in a marina in Corfu, Greece at the time I was limited as to where to find help. I talked to some friends but their suggestions wouldn’t work. I had already tried them or it didn’t feel right. Once on Amazon, I searched on ‘defiant child’ and ‘badly behaved children’ and then searched amongst the books that came up.

Eventually I found a book entitled, ‘The Explosive Child: A New Approach to Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children’ (by Ross W. Green, Ph.D) and wanted to read more. I read through the description and all the comments that parents wrote. Immediately, I felt a sense of relief. The comments from other parents sounded not only like they had a hell child but that the booked helped them to change their child for the better.

I went to buy the book and the wifi at the bar I was at dropped. WTH (What-the-heck?!) Fortunately, I was able to find another bar and download the book. Once I was back on the boat I told my husband and cousin to give me a bit of time so that I could quickly read how to prevent yet another explosion.

The worst was the bedtime explosion that last one to two hours – none of us could handle it anymore

After reading only a few chapters I immediately perceived the whole situation in a different light and went about changing MY behavior. Thankfully, since that major bust-up that ended with my arm bleeding and a smashed plate we haven’t had another explosion. Yes, we’ve had crying and upsets but we haven’t had any kicking, punching, biting, spitting or weeing again.

So what’s the secret formula?

It’s common sense actually. We were all focusing on the wrong thing. My husband, cousin and I were focusing on Sienna’s behavior rather than whatever was causing the behavior. This will all sound logical but I’m positive that there are many other desperate parents out there that need this small bit of advice…

Badly behaved kids aren’t necessarily behaving badly because they want to. In many cases, they are behaving badly because they lack the skills necessary to process the situation that they’re in.

With help from the book I was able to figure out the times where Sienna freaked out. It was often a case of transitioning from doing one thing to another. For example, the transition of playing to going to bed or being at the playground to leaving. She didn’t cause a problem every time there was a transition – just some of the time. However, bedtime was always an issue.

I then realized that Sienna had an issue with frustration

If she became too frustrated about something she switched from being rational to crazy. In fact, she went from a normal kid into an animal where she grunted, spit and scratched.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that Sienna lacked the skills necessary to handle a certain level of frustration. Further, I could see the signs that she was heading towards an explosion. My observations led me to see that she had a tipping point.

So, armed with the knowledge that my daughter isn’t being defiant just to piss me off I handled things in a totally different way. I realized that she needed help! She didn’t need a ‘time out’ or for me to take her dolls away…she needed me to first of all define the problem and then ask her how we could work together to solve it.

I’m not kidding when I say that the first time I tried my new tactics Sienna changed for the better!

Seconds after I finished chapter 3, I realized that Sienna didn’t need her toys to be taken off her. She didn’t need me to lock her in her room. She didn’t need a smack!

When it came to bedtime, I said to her, ‘Sienna, you seem to have a difficulty with going to bed. Can we work together to figure out a solution?

Sienna: Mummy, I’m just not tired

Me: I can see that Sienna. Back home, you seemed okay to go to bed at bedtime. Why is it different now?

Sienna: I don’t know

Me: Why do you think you can’t sleep?

Sienna: I’m not tired mummy. I’m wide awake. Can we play?

Me: No, we can’t play. Do you know why it’s important to sleep?

Sienna: No

Me: When you sleep your body repairs itself and makes it energized again – ready for another day. It helps you to grow tall, grow strong and make you a fast runner (things that Sienna wants).

Sienna: really?

Me: Yes. So how can I help you to sleep?

Sienna: I don’t know. You can sleep next to me. That might work.

Me: I sleep in my bed. You know what Sienna – when I can’t sleep I have this trick where I use my mind to tell my body to relax the parts of my body. And once I’m relaxed I fall asleep. Should we try it on you?

Sienna: Yes please (in an excited voice)

Me: Okay…relax your big toe, relax your next toe… (I mentioned every body part as I massaged her all the way up to her head. At first she giggled but by the time I got to her thighs she started to yawn and her eyes grew tired.)

When I was done, Sienna wasn’t asleep but she was in the mood to sleep. You could see that she was able to reduce her level of awake-ness. I left the room before she fell asleep and she came out once or twice but she went to sleep on her own.

This was one day after the ‘child from hell’ explosion!

The next night, I again said that I wanted to help her with her difficulty to get to sleep. She once again said she wasn’t tired. I asked how I could help and she responded that she wanted me to do the ‘relaxation thing’. I started on her feet and she was asleep before I got to her ankles. Who knows if it will continue? Perhaps something else will trigger her but at least I have a new way of understanding her and a new way of dealing with things.

My thoughts on everything?

I think that our change in lifestyle was a bit too much for our daughter to deal with. She could handle so much but at a certain point she lost the ability to cope. She lacked the skill to deal with too much frustration. Sienna wasn’t premeditating her explosions. She wasn’t thinking, ‘hmmmm, I really want to throw a wobble before I go to bed tonight!’

Sienna simply didn’t have the skill to cope with the situation she was in

And no behavioral technique will help with a lack of skills. You wouldn’t punish someone because they didn’t know how to do something, would you? Yes – in the past, Sienna was able to go to sleep on her own. But right now with all this change the whole going to sleep thing was a problem…and it was a problem that caused her massive frustration. Not only did she find it impossible to fall asleep but she found it super frustrating when we took her toys away or locked her in her room!

The book really opened my eyes

It helped me to gain more patience and perhaps seek to understand rather than to be understood. All it took was a different approach and a deeper understanding as to why my daughter did what she did.

This journey I’m on – it’s not just about seeing the sights, eating foods from around the world or meeting fascinating new people. It’s also about gaining a deeper connection to my family and learning how to be the best mom I can be. It’s not always champagne and caviar. My life is not perfect but WOW is it fulfilling and WOW am I happy that my husband and I traded in our old lifestyle for this new one.

So, yes, changing our lifestyle caused my daughters behavior to go into rapid decline but we’ve found some solutions and things are getting better. Do I wish that we didn’t change our lifestyle – NO WAY! Do I think my daughter is suffering – NO WAY! If nothing else, we’ve all learned some valuable lessons that will help us better communicate and grow closer.

A lesson on using common sense rather than relying on a plotter

Relying on a plotter

Relying on a plotter

This story is somewhat embarrassing to admit but it demonstrates a very important lesson; with so much technology available today it’s easy to ignore the obvious! It also highlights that if a moron like me can set sail around the world, anyone can do it!

First let me set the scene in regards to relying on a plotter (GPS navigation system)

Our plan was to sail from Santa Maria de Lucia, Italy to Palaiokastrita, Corfu in Greece. The journey was estimated to take about 12 hours. We left our anchorage at 2am so to give us ample time to find a mooring in Corfu in the daylight. My husband and cousin got up while I stayed cozy in bed. Around 7am I took over and enjoyed a fantastic sail all by myself. It was bliss to be alone with the open sea all around me. It was also the first time I sailed our boat alone – yikes!

The weather was overcast, the seas were flat and the journey was quiet

Fortunately there was enough wind to have both sails out and achieve around 4 knots.

At one point I had two tankers lined up to eventually cross my bow. I couldn’t figure out how to work the plotter. There’s a way to look up ships and it will tell you if you’re on a collision course or not. It also tells you when the ship will pass and how many miles it will miss you by.

Well, I just couldn’t figure it out – perhaps because I was still waking up – so I diligently watched these two tankers that seemed miles away eventually pass in front of me about ½ mile away. If nothing else, it gave me something to do.

Suddenly, all the computer systems started beeping

From what I could make out, we lost GPS signal for a minute and then it came back. I just pushed buttons on the plotter and several of the other computers – things eventually stopped beeping. I then noticed that our estimated time of arrival (ETA) got longer or remained the same. When I took over my helming stint the ETA said we had around 5 hours left and an hour later of sailing it still said we had 5 hours to go.

I felt as if my efforts to get us to Corfu were useless

Looking at our speed, and relying on a plotter, we were doing 3.5 to 4 knots but our ETA wasn’t reducing. I started to panic slightly and thought, ‘OMG, we must be going backwards – perhaps there’s a tide or current pushing us?’

Being a naïve moron, I pulled in the headsail (it’s not hard – there’s a button to push!) and started the motor so to use our engine to reduce our ETA

I didn’t want to be floating around the Ionian Sea all day! A while later the ETA still remained around 5 hours.  My husband woke from his rest, joined me in the cockpit, pushed something, said, ‘Did you loose signal?’ and then the ETA dropped to 2 hours!

Apparently, when we lost signal the tracking system stopped

My husband then asked me, ‘why are we motoring – there seems to be enough wind.’ I had to tell him that I’m a goofball and didn’t realize that our ETA was incorrect – I thought the tide, or something, was pushing us further away. Ironically, I noticed an island next to us come and go so that should have proved to me that we were certainly progressing in a forward manner.

I learned a big lesson – if the equipment doesn’t seem to be giving you accurate information, check it out before using it to base your decisions on!

That reminds me of a funny video you can watch on YouTube. It’s about a US naval ship radioing what seems to be another ship telling them to divert course. The other vessel keeps coming back on the radio saying that they can’t move. It goes back and forth for a while with the naval officer becoming increasingly annoyed (and trying to throw his power about) and then the naval officer discovers that the other ship is a lighthouse! Hehehe.

My wifi isn’t good enough on the boat right now to play this video but I think this is the right one. Watch below:

Exploring Noto and Syracuse in Sicily

Here’s another entry from my cousin, crew member and our Britican chef, Loryn. If you haven’t read her last post, read it here: Never Could I Imagine This Would Happen On My Adventures.

So…Early this year I agreed to join my cousin, Kim, her husband, Simon and their daughter, Sienna on their boat Britican. Thus far, my adventures have taken me from Fredonia, New York, my hometown, to England, Gibraltar, Algeria, Tunisia, Malta and here I am now writing about getting to Sicily!

April 19th, 2014 we arrived in the southern tip of Sicily called Marzamemi

Italy has always been a dream of mine to visit so my heart was jumping in joy knowing I’ve finally made it. The marina we stayed at was very welcoming even though we did not speak the same language. Its quite amazing though how much you can communicate to each other without even knowing what each other are saying. I think once I leave Italy I’m going to make hand gestures for everything I’m trying to say. Kim and I find ourselves explaining stuff to each other but acting it out with our hands. We just start giggling and say what are we even doing?

Soon after we moored the boat, another sail boat moored up right next to us

A boat full of Sicilian people that would soon turn out to be some of the best friends and people we could of ever imagined to meet.

Noto Syracuse Sicily

Noto Syracuse Sicily

It’s Easter Sunday and I woke up to one happy little girl, Sienna. The Easter Bunny had visited in the night hiding Easter eggs and goodies for her to find. I sat and watched the excitement with a smile on my face just feeling like a kid again.

After all the commotion of the morning Simon went down to the yacht club to bring the rubbish to the bin and inquire about seeing if we could rent a car for a few days. Being it was Easter Sunday we were not thinking our chances were very good. To our amazement not only did he find out that one of the Italian people on the boat next to us spoke English, but there was one car left for us to rent.

We all just jumped around in excitement knowing our adventures into Sicily were about to get interesting

Stefano the English speaking gentlemen not only turned out to be a retired Admiral to the Italian Navy, but has become one of the dearest friends to all of us. He helped Simon set up all the plans for getting the car delivered and gave us good direction for places to visit. Seeing it was Easter Sunday he said the processions in Noto, a city about one hour away was a sight we shouldn’t miss. He explained how to get there, where to find the main center and places we should stop to eat at. He also discussed how every 25km in Sicily the food changes. It will all taste different even though its the same dish. With our love of food we were prepared to try everything.

Off we go driving through the hills of Sicily on our way to Noto

I just watched in amazement. All the hills and lowlands were filled with orange, lemon and olive trees that filled the air with this sweet fragrance of flowers. I can’t even describe the aromatics they are just so spectacular that I wished I could capture them in a jar, save them forever and make all my belongings smell like it.

There were so many greenhouses filled to the roof with tomatoes and other vegetables. Everything was so green and lush! Jasmine and lavender bushes cascaded the hill sides. I just felt as if we were driving in a dream world.

Driving on the other hand in Sicily is far from a dream land

Everyone drives so fast, they pass you with other vehicles coming, they drive so close to your bumper honking the horn, pull right out in front of you and never stay in their lane. It’s like driving in a video game. I often found my self convincing my eyes to just not pay any attention and hope for the best.

We rounded a corner to see Noto in the distance – and what a history!

Noto Syracuse Sicily

Noto Syracuse Sicily

What a beautiful city we were about to visit that is very proud of it’s ancient origins. In 452 BC the Sicilian leader Ducetius unified the Sicel people and led rebellions against the Greeks succeeding by fortifying positions and then redistributing land.

Most of the eastern side of Sicily was destroyed in 1693 from a massive earthquake and reconstructed in a Baroque style. Noto was rebuilt entirely in the Baroque style constructed mostly from soft locally quarried Tufa stone that has turned a golden shade after years of sun. The softness of the stone made it very capable to carve intricate designs in. The blueprints were made to specifically include vistas of the countryside.

We found the center of the city very quickly but parking was another issue

If you have any kind of a big car parking is almost impossible and of course the only car left that we rented was the biggest Mercedes ever. After driving around for a bit we finally parked and made our way to the center. Almost too late, we still caught the tail end of the processions. There was confetti flying, crosses with Jesus being paraded about and people everywhere just watching the festivities.

I looked around in awe

There where beautiful big churches, theaters, lush gardens, fountains, ruins, landmarks, quaint little side streets and so many places to eat. So of course that meant we should stop for a pizza.

Noto Syracuse Sicily

Noto Syracuse Sicily

The pizza’s in Sicily are so gigantic and delicious

I usually have no idea what i’m ordering since it’s all in Italian, so I just point to something and wish for the best. Good thing I haven’t ordered anything crazy on accident yet. Yikes!

We walked the streets of Noto taking in all the beautiful sights while working off the humongous pizza we just ate. What a wonderful and blessed day.

On our adventure back to the boat in Marzamemi, we stopped at an ancient Roman Villa that dated back 2000 plus years. Simon was so excited to see the ruins but when we got to the ticket window they only excepted cash. I was outside and thought maybe I’ll go in and see if they’ll except some American dollars. The women who couldn’t understand a word I was saying and vise versa, must have felt bad for me because she let the four of us in for free! OMG what a remarkable piece of history we got to examine first hand. The mosaics were absolutely fascinating as well as the remaining architecture. I had an overwhelming feeling of wishing I could be transported back in time to experience the Villa in it’s prime.

I just felt so fortunate and filled with happiness

On our walk back to the car I couldn’t resist myself from picking a couple lemons from one of the hundred lemon trees surrounding us. I thought do you think someone will catch me and be mad. They just looked so wonderful and delicious, and the aroma they emitted was euphoric. I just wanted some so bad.

It’s funny though I should be careful what I ask for because ever since that day we’ve had more lemons given to us as gifts then we could possibly imagine. I guess you know the saying if God gives you to many lemons make some lemonade.

The next day we decided while we still had our rental car we should drive up to Syracuse a City on the East coast of Sicily

Noto Syracuse Sicily

Noto Syracuse Sicily

The City was founded in 733 BC by Corinthian settlers that became one of the first Greek colonies in Sicily and rival to Athens. It’s considered the mighty powerhouse of the Magna Graecia due to the extension of territory through warfare. This resulted in the City becoming the strongest in the Mediterranean. It was divided into five zones Epipolae, Akradina, Tyche, Neapolis and Ortygia. Syracuse is about 1/3 of the size today then it was back then but still breathtaking and full of history.

We drove around the City finding our way to Neapolis where we explored the remains of a Greek Theatre (6th century BC), a Roman Amphitheater (3rd century AD), Latomia del Paradiso (stone quarry used to construct all of Syracuse), the Altar of Hieron II (225 BC) and the Catacombs of San Giovanni. Wow is all I have to say!

Just having the opportunity to visit all these sites has been mind blowing!

Noto Syracuse Sicily

Noto Syracuse Sicily

We then drove to Ortygia which is a tiny Island off of Syracuse that surprisingly we would later sail to and stay for the weekend. We finally found parking and made our way through the tiny tiny side streets. All of a sudden the street opened up and there stood the remains of the Temple of Apollo built in 575 BC. Two monolithic sandstone columns remain along with many of the exterior colonnade stone columns. Walking up the high street we found wonderful fountains, beautiful churches, a castle, places to eat and shop, and yes ice cream!

I just loved driving back to the boat

The country side is so romantic and amazing. The mountain ranges seem endless, and the aromatics are priceless. I’m one lucky girl with lots to be thankful for!

Read the next article, by Kim, under ‘The Journey’ thread of this website: Sailing around the Greek Ionian Islands – Corfu

Sailing from Sicily to Corfu hitting mainland Italy on the way


Sailing from Sicily to Corfu

After a month in Sicily we decided it was time to finally make our way to Greece. Originally, the plan was to leave Gibratlar, sail to Malta and then head to Crete and travel around Greece. Due to necessary repairs we found ourselves in Sicily and stayed for a full month!

Our time in Sicily will never be forgotten. We made some excellent friends, ate amazing food and saw some amazing sites. For me, seeing Stromboli erupt was one of the highlights of my life.

The time came, however, to make our way to Greece. The plan was to sail up to mainland Italy, hit the toe of the boot then the toe pads and then over to the heal. Once we made it to the heal, it would be a simple 12 hour sail across the Ionian Sea to Corfu. Below lays out our voyage from Riposto, Italy to the West side of Corfu.

Getting to Roccella, Italy

We left Riposto around 5am with an estimated time of arrival at Roccella for 5pm – it was going to be a full 12 hours sail. Unfortunately, there was no wind and we had to motor the whole way. On the positive side, we could go about life in a normal way – I was able to type in my journal, read my book, play games with Sienna and clean the boat. Having no wind meant that the boat simple motored along completely upright. In most cases, I didn’t even know we were moving.

When we’re sailing it’s a different state of affairs. I usually get a bit sea sick, so you won’t find me any other place than in the cockpit. And typing, reading and playing are out of the question. Furthermore, if I have to take a seasickness pill, it knocks me out and you’ll most likely find me sleeping on the aft double bed cushion or in the cockpit.

Because the sea was so placid, we saw 5 dolphins and then another 2 sets later on in the day. It’s so funny because a few people told my cousin that she’d never sea dolphins on our travels. Being in the Med on several occasions I’ve been fortunate enough to see dolphins here and there. I told my cousin, Loryn, that we’d definitely see them – little did I know that we’d see them every time we sail!

Sailing from Sicily to Corfu – Here are the dolphins!

When we made it to Roccella, we had to be directed on where to go upon entrance of marina due to sandbanks

As we entered there were people on both sides of the red and green harbor lights yelling at us to turn towards our port (left) side. It was a bit tense.

Once we entered the marina, we were flagged down. Simon easily backed us up. I grabbed the slime line while Loryn throw our aft lines to our helper. Within 15 minutes we had our passerel (gang plank) all set up and we were off the boat. I thought, ‘Boy, we’re getting good at this!’

My husband took our daughter out for a walk while our marina helper stopped by. He asked for our fees and then told me that we could grab some bicycles tomorrow and cycle into the town. I was so excited! Not only have I not been on a bicycle for years but I needed to exercise. After eating all the cannoli’s in Sicily, I needed some form of work out!

The next day, we went to the Bicycle shack and a little old man pulled out bicycles for all of us

We put my daughter in a little seat between my legs just behind the handle bars. Oh-my-gosh, we had a blast. My husband, cousin, daughter and I rode along the most beautiful beach in Italy – and it was an amazing bike path. We didn’t have to worry about cars. I kept shaking my head thinking, ‘Gosh – I never know what beautiful things I’m going to encounter each day.’

We cycled into the town and drank a beer looking at the castle high above. Thereafter we thought – let’s get to the beach! We cycled back to the boat, got some towels and then cycled back along the bike path to the beach. It was bliss! We all had a swim – the first time all of us got on the water. It was lovely.

Roccella

Roccella

That night, we enjoyed the marina restaurant specialty – meter long pizzas!

I couldn’t handle another pizza so I ordered fried squid thinking it was a meal with fries and salad… Well, it was a massive basket of calamari. Yes – it was delicious but who can eat a full basket of fried squid?! Luckily, I had to help my family eat their pizza too!

Roccella, Italy

Roccella, Italy

Overall, Roccella is a great place to stop. You have an amazing beach, loads of lidos and restaurants in addition to bicycles to get around. The town has everything you could need. I definitely recommend this stop-off!

Heading towards the heel of Italy, our next stop was Crotone

We set off around 5:15am from Roccella and watched the sun come up – it was so beautiful! I must have taken 50 photo’s of the sun…and then it dawned on me that there are probably more photo’s of sun rises and sun sets than anything else in the world. I love you sun!

Roccella

Roccella

Anyway, everything was fine until a sequence of events occurred that freaked us out. First, my cousin yells out, ‘Kim, Kim’ and ran around with a huge bumble bee on her back. I ran from the saloon up to the cockpit to help her out.

Then, out of the corner of her eye she saw some dolphins jump out next to our starboard (right) side and head for our bow. She started to walk up to the bow and noticed the dolphins crossed our bow and kept going. That’s a bad sign!

If dolphins cross your bow and keep going they’re trying tell you to divert course. Then, a fishing boat seems to be approaching us at full speed on a collision coarse. Just when it started to get scary, the boat stopped and then went in reverse just as fast as it came. WTH (what-the-heck?)

Then, our engine suddenly made a terrible vibration sound

I quickly went to the helm and reduced our revs and the sound stopped. Come to find out, a bolt that holds the position of one of our alternators sheered off! We decided to cut the engine and sail the rest of the way. I was fine with that. You don’t need an alternator of the engine to work, so it wasn’t a big deal.

Once again, in Crotone, we had to be directed on how to enter the marina due to sandbanks

There were a few people yelling at us to go this was way and that. And once again, we moored up easily. It’s great because I’m no longer the least bit nervous about entering marina’s anymore.

Cantone

Cantone

Catone is very distinctive as there are a few gas rigs in the sea outside and marina with windmills up above and behind the town. And once in the marina, the pier leading to the boats if filled with graffiti, loads of kids and some street dancers. If I was in NY, I’d think that I entered a ghetto but it definitely wasn’t one. I suppose it was just a city rather than a quaint town.

So, as I mentioned, Catone is a city so you can get anything you want. There’s a castle set behind the marina with a Greek museum. The road along the coast has loads of restaurants and I noticed a sushi bar.

A funny thing happened to my cousin when we ventured out…

Hubby and my daughter went to find the office and my cousin and I went to find a supermarkado. After walking a while, we found a tiny supermarket and purchased a few things – milk, break and some snacks. We then went in search of vegetables.

While standing in the middle of a road, a woman with two little girls yelled out, ‘do you guys need help?’ We said, ‘yes, we’re looking for a place to buy some veggies.’ Our new tour guide, named ‘Pinky’ – a lovely Thai woman that live in Catone for over 15 years, said, ‘follow me.’

After a long walk and hearing Pinky’s life story, we discovered vegetables and much more! Pinky married a British guy, had 2 beautiful girls but the couple were now divorced. We finally found a supermarket with more than 2 isles. This place had 4 floors! Loryn and I went around grabbing all the things we could find.

And this is the funny bit. The following day, hubby, Loryn my daughter and I were eating lunch at one of the seafront restaurants. Loryn started talking about how two children from the same parents can have totally different personalities. And then, a nearby voice with a British accent yells out, ‘I totally agree!’

Can you believe that it was Pinky’s ex-husband?

We’re in a city, not a small town. How is it possible that we meet the husband of our wonderful tour guide the following day? Loryn and I just couldn’t believe it. I mean, what are the chances?

Other than that, we worked on getting our alternator repaired. Simon went from one hardware store after another. In the end an owner from a small hardware store drove Sim to a large store out of town. Then they brought the part back and the hardware guy set it up to work for Simon. He had to create a piece to get a bolt out and fiddle with something for a while. Sim offered him money and he wouldn’t take it. His response was, ‘this is the way we are in Crotone’. The wonderful hardware guy then drove Simon back to the marina expecting nothing. Simon paid him 20 euros and said, ‘this is for a bottle of wine for you!’

So… ask ‘Pinky’ put it, Crotone is a place that people end up because they need to get something repaired, not a place to visit for sightseeing. She’s probably right, but I’m happy we stopped. The people were wonderful and we enjoyed the ambiance of the city. And of course, we love our story about Pink and her ex-husband.

Our next stop was Santa Maria de Lucia

We left Crotone around 6am with a fixed alternator bolt and loads of vegetables. On our way to Santa Maria, we had an amazing wildlife show! We saw one sleeping moon fish (a massive fish that sleeps during the day and the fin bobs back and forth), 2 dolphins, 8 turtles, several blue jellyfish and unfortunately, an incredible amount of rubbish.

Side note: The amount of rubbish in the sea is depressing. I wish there was something I could do about it. Apparently many countries still dump there sewage right into the ocean. I wish I could tell you that it was every hour or so that I see some trash but it’s more like every minute something floats by – maybe more. It breaks my heart. Okay, side note over.

The sea was so calm that we had to motor but that was okay. It made finding turtles really easy. Anytime I saw something bobbing out of the water I knew that it was a coke bottle or a turtle head. It was so strange to look out that this massive blue expanse and see a lone turtle just swimming by. I felt as if they must be lonely! I do love turtles. Below is my daughter, Sienna, doing some turtle spotting!

Santa Maria

Santa Maria

We easily entered Santa Maria and moored up

Ironically, a British couple came in at the same time and had been travelling the same amount of hours from Corfu! They were going our way and we were going their way. It was great to swap stories and get an idea as to what to expect when we made it to Corfu.

Santa Maria was a very quiet place. I think it must be an Italian holiday area. There were loads of little shops, cafes and restaurants but many were closed. It was a beautiful little town. I can’t imagine that more than 1000 people live there in the winter.

If you need provisions this is not the town to stop in. The grocery store had two isles and very limited stocks. Thankfully we were full of wine – otherwise, we would have had to pay a high price for a very limited choice. We got some bread, cold cuts, a few veggies and stocked up on our pasta. This would be our last port of call in Italy before we hit Greece!

I felt sad. We were leaving Italy

Part of me wanted to move on but the other part of me wanted to honor and stay where we met such lovely friends…and had made some amazing memories. My heart felt torn.

The day after we arrived in Santa Maria, we left the marina and anchored outside the marina walls. Our plan was to leave at 2am and head for Corfu. Obviously we didn’t want to pay for another night at a marina!

We had a blast while we were anchored

Our Italian SIM card wifi had quite a few gigs left to use up so I decided to drink my wine and Skype friends and family. It was so wonderful. I spoke to my mom and step-dad for a while and then got to talk to my friends Becks and Steve with their lovely daughter Megan. It was just so great to feel at home even though I was anchored a million miles away.

Santa Maria

Santa Maria

At the end of the night I ate a wonderful meal made by my cousin and managed to pass out at the kitchen table – opps.

Oh well…It’s okay to have a bit of fun every now and again

Right before we left Italian waters, I decided to download a song that everyone loved that we didn’t have. The below video shows my husband and daughter dancing to the song as we traveled to Greece.

As far as Italy is concerned, WE WILL BE BACK!

Are fears stopping you from living your dream?

fear-of-living-your-dreams

fear-of-living-your-dreams

For as long as I can remember, fear has been my largest issue in life. Until recently, I was afraid to do anything outside of my comfort zone. And when making the decision to sell all our possessions, buy a 56’ yacht and sail around the world I had serious fear issues.

I worried about our ability to handle the boat, the costs involved with owning such a boat, whether or not I’d enjoy living on a boat and what life on the sea would be like. I worried about sinking or failing to get moorings and being stuck sailing all night. I feared running the boat aground or crashing into something.

Furthermore, I worried endlessly about whether we were doing the right thing for our, at the time, 3 year old daughter. Would she like living on a boat? Would she make sure to wear a life vest at all times? Would she lose out on sociability? What about her education – would I be able to homeschool her until we decided to return to a ‘normal’ life back on land?

I could write at least 10 pages of all the fears that surrounded me before and at the start of our adventure

When I look back it’s easy to see that my fears almost stopped me from living my dream. Thankfully, I used the word ‘almost’. I almost stayed in our safe home, living our safe lives not actually feeling safe at all.

Now that we’re over 2 months into our journey, and have visited 5 countries (staying in at least 15 marinas), and have run into a variety of issues (getting stuck in Algeria Africa, having our main sail jammed up, breaking our generator, and on) I feel quite relaxed.

I’m not sure if all my fears will totally disappear but overall my baseline fear level, that I’ve lived with for years, has drastically reduced

In such as short space of time, I’ve gone from a fear level of 10 down to a fear level of 2. In normal day-to-day life I probably lived around an 8 and never had much of an opportunity to quickly face my fears. I was afraid of living, afraid of dying and everything in-between.

When you think about it, I went from one lifestyle to another over night. By doing so I had no other choice but to face a vast majority of my fears. I put myself on a rollercoaster and I couldn’t get off. I had to go up the first hill – tick, tick, tick, tick (fear, fear, fear, fear) and then I had to experience the exhilarating hill and in the end realized that I not only survived, but I enjoyed a thrilling ride. Now that I’ve come out the other side, I feel like another person.

I feel relaxed, free and in possession of a knowing

The ‘knowing’ that I speak of is this overall state of being that I’ve found myself in. It’s as if anything can happen and I KNOW that we’ll figure it out. Things break and I think, ‘we’ll figure it out.’ At times, when we’ve faced a few serious issues, I simply thought, ‘let’s get on with it and see where this takes us.’ I didn’t dwell in fear – I just thought of the next logical step and moved forward. Now, when we enter marinas, no one speaks English and we have no idea where to go, I just look around and remind myself that something will happen sooner or later…and it always does.

A few days ago, while we were moored up on mainland Italy, we met two Dutch guys that had engine failure on their way to the marina. They were about 25 miles out. After calling the coast guard, they were told that since they weren’t sinking, they had to make their way under sail. The guys also contacted a fisherman and he offered to tow them for 350 euros. Not wanting to dish out the cash, the duo spent 22 hours going 1 knot an hour and eventually sailed their way into the marina.

Upon hearing the engine failure story, I wondered what we would do if it was us?

I thought, ‘heck, if our engine fails we’ve got loads of food and water. We’d be fine to float around for a while’. And if we were blown near the coast, we could just drop an anchor until conditions changed.

Now, the old Kim would have heard the engine failure story and added it to the list of ongoing fears. The new Kim thought, ‘shit happens…we can deal with whatever comes up.’

Ironically, while making our way along the Italian coastline, and after meeting the Dutch guys, we had quite a fright. My husband was sleeping, my cousin was making something to eat galley and I was in the cockpit keeping watch. I had autopilot on as we were motoring along in very light winds.

Suddenly the engine made a massively load vibration sound

I jumped behind the wheel and slowly reduced our engine revs . The noise reduced and then stopped. When increasing the revs the noise came back. Initially I thought, ‘Geez, the Dutch guys planted a possibility in my head and now it’s happened!’ I then reminded myself that it’s silly to jump to conclusions and I became quite calm.

Knowing that I needed to switch the engine off, I unfurled the front sail and started sailing. Worst case scenario was that we had to sail in very light winds so I thought I mind as well get the sails ready while we still have momentum.

I turned off the engine and in the meantime my husband started investigating the engine

The issue was easy to spot. The positioning bolt on the alternator sheered off. The alternator was fine, the belts were fine…but the positioning was reduced to a point where the belts couldn’t work, hence the vibrational sound.

When hubby told me the problem, I instantly smiled and thought, ‘well, we don’t need an alternator for the engine to work!’ That being said, we slowly sailed along and only turned our engine on to moor up at the marina.

At this point, the old Kim would have worried about whether or not we could get the part quickly or not. Then I’d worry about how much it would cost, whether or not we could fix it and on and on.

Instead, I just let go and thought, ‘whatever happens happens.’ Fortunately, my husband was able to take the part to a hardware store, the owner couldn’t help him, but decided to drive him to another hardware store (out of town) and drop him off at the boat. My husband offered his new friend money but he wouldn’t take it! That’s how the Italians are – the kindest people ever.

It was another example in my now long list of outcomes that I didn’t have to worry about…and thankfully, I didn’t worry about.

So, what about you?

What fears are stopping you from living your dream? Are you going to be able to say that you ‘almost’ didn’t live your dream or are you going to turn 80 and regret that you didn’t do what wanted to do?

I’m obviously high on life right now and I probably come across as annoying. I just think that so many people fail to live fulfilling lives because they’re too afraid. They’re too afraid, just like I was.

Well, I did it and so can you! Go for it…

Visiting Sicily – it’s one door before you get to heaven

This article may be of interest to anyone planning a visit to Sicily – either by land, by sea or by both.

A bit of background on how we ended up in Sicily for a month

Setting off from Gibraltar at the end of March on our around the world sailing adventure, we next touched land in Algiers, Algeria due to storm. From there, we had to enter Tunisian waters to fix a jammed main and eventually we arrived in Malta after 7 days and over 850 miles. Read Our First Sailing Adventure

Originally, our plan was to sail to Crete from Malta – a 3-day non-stop sail. After experiencing terrible weather, engine problems and a serious leak we didn’t want to attempt another long sail. Furthermore, we had some substantial repairs needing attention.

Where can we get our generator repaired?

As fate would have it, a friend of a friend stopped by to see us in Malta and was able to recommend a contact, George Rizzo, in Sicily that could help us with our repair requirements. What we needed couldn’t be done in Malta nor would I suggest anyone with a boat gets repairs completed in Malta. Everything we did get done unfortunately needed to be re-done in Italy. (That aside, Malta is a brilliant place to visit! Read Our Expectations On Malta Were Minimal – Boy Were We In For A Surprise)

After a quick family meeting we all felt excited with the idea of seeing Sicily – Greece would have to wait! Personally, I wanted to save Italy for later in our trip as I feared I’d never want to leave…

With the good winds that we had, the trip only took a ½ day to Sicily

Leaving the capital city of Valetta behind us, we sailed North East to the town of Marzamemi. We couldn’t go to our repair destination of Catania as we were in the middle of the Easter holidays – everything was closed. Marzamemi was a nice place to lay-up before moving onto Catania.

Marzamemi

Marzamemi

The marina of Marzamemi was recommended to us by our new contact, George. He sent us a lovely email telling us where to go and what to do once we got there. I felt as if we were being guided rather than doing things blind – it was nice to feel as if someone was looking after us.

As per George’s suggestion, once we moored up in Marzamemi, we hired a car and drove to the beautiful city of Noto. We timed our visit perfectly. Just as we hit the city’s main church we witnessed an Easter procession that was fascinating. A statue of the Mother Mary came from one church and another statue of Jesus came from another and eventually the two statues met. There were thousands of people dressed in their Sunday best to watch the procession. We found ourselves amongst the locals walking down the main street just as you would for a parade.

I couldn’t help but ask myself, ‘is this really happening?’

My family and I were parading down a main street with all the others. The energy in the crowd was amazing. As usual, I had a perma-grin and just went with the flow.

Noto, Sicily

Noto, Sicily

Amazingly, however, after the procession ended, everyone disappeared and we had the city all to ourselves. We enjoyed our first pizza in Sicily – we had to get that out of the way! And then my husband, cousin and 3-year-old daughter and I walked around in awe looking at the amazing architecture.

Let me take a step back

Upon our drive into Noto, you could see and feel that the city was special. Easily missed, the whole city melted into the surrounding area. If you look across the countryside the city doesn’t jump out at you – it almost looks as if it’s part of the land. Using locally quarried stone, the buildings are a beautiful tan earthy color.

From what I learned about Noto and most of the Eastern side of Sicily, an earthquake destroyed most of the buildings in 1693. Therefore, you’ll find most buildings done in a Baroque style – full of curves, ovoid shapes, intricate designs, beautiful columns and perfect symmetry.

Noto is a great place to stop, enjoy a pizza and admire some excellent Baroque style buildings

With the sun getting high in the sky, we all decided to get out of the city, however, and find a beach!

We hopped back in the car and drove East towards the Golf of Noto. It didn’t take long to find a small beautiful beach to enjoy. I put our daughter in a bathing suit and enjoyed watching her dip her toes into the sea.

Beach

Beach

The great thing about Sicily is that the beach is never far away!

Thereafter, and on our way back to the marina, we stopped off at a Roman Ruin. We parked up, walked to the ruin and upon entering were told that they don’t take credit cards. Bummer! My husband and I turned around and broke the news to my cousin and daughter. My cousin, Loryn, said ‘well… I have some American dollars – maybe they’ll take them!’

With a positive attitude, she walked into the entrance while hubby and I started to make our way to the car. And then we heard Loryn shout, ‘come on in guys!’ Apparently, the woman at the entrance told her that we could all go in free of charge. She didn’t take the dollars! Loryn does a very good puppy dog face – the woman must have felt sorry for her. Yippie!

Actually, we’ve discovered that Italians are the kindest, most generous, loving people that we’ve ever met so it’s not really a surprise that we were let in.

goats

goats

Anyway, the ruin is an old Roman villa and it wasn’t a tiny one at that! The Romans lived far better than a huge percentage of the current population. We enjoyed some excellent mosaics and walked through the villa wondering who actually lived in it. Unfortunately, none of the information at the ruin was in English so we had to do our best to figure out what was presented before us. In fact, most of the ruins we’ve visited thus far haven’t had any explanation other than in Italian.

By the time we finished, we all felt exhausted so we headed back to our base. Just before getting in the car, Loryn hopped a fence and grabbed a few lemons. They looked so juicy that we had to grab a couple. The smell in the car was amazing and we were more thankful than usual! Hubby decided to pet a goat and boy did that stink! Thankfully the lemon smell covered the goat smell.

During our drive we saw thousands of lemons, oranges and rows of greenhouses holding tomatoes. Such lovely sights.

Syracuse

Syracuse

The next day, we drove to Syracuse. Having a car was good as the ruins and various sites to see were quite spread out. Later during our adventures we moored up by boat in Syracuse and I was pleased to simply hang out on Ortygia, the little island attached to Syracuse, rather than figure out how to get to the archeological sites.

Furthermore, our boating stay in Syracuse was not long by choice – the facilities at the marina are appalling. While we were there, the woman’s bathroom didn’t have any toilet seats or hand soap. None of us attempted to use the disgusting looking showers. Furthermore it was very expensive to moor at the marina. So – a word of advice, visit Syracuse by car and not by boat!

That being said, Syracuse is well worth visiting if you’re into ruins!

Wow – there’s some amazing things to find. We sat in a Roman amphitheater, looked over a Greek amphitheater (pictured above), saw a massive sacrifice alter, walked through an ancient quarry and enjoyed looking at catacombs and a variety of ruins dotted all over the place. There are also some amazing ruins and a great castle on Ortygia.

If you visit the city, just make sure you buy a ticket to get into the ruins before you get to them. We made the mistake of walking quite a distance only to be told to head back up to the main street to get our tickets. Not fun with a 3 year old in tow.

Syracuse

Syracuse

Another potentially helpful tip about Syracuse is that they have a whole street of grocery stores. If you have a car and want to stock up on water and other provisions, it’s a good place to do so. Furthermore, on the island of Ortygia there is an absolutely amazing market selling fresh fish, beautiful vegetables and amazingly tasty cheeses and meats. The market is well worth a visit.

On our way out of town my husband also stopped off at the WWII war graves to pay his respects. The cemetery was extremely well kept and seemed to attract several visitors. In the very full visitor book my husband was the 3rd that day.

After a long day of sightseeing, we drove back to Marzamemi

As soon as we hit the town, we found ourselves surrounded by thousands of people and massive traffic jams due to Easter Monday. It took us quite a while to get past the town and into the marina but we were all enlightened to the busyness of Marzamemi!

When we first arrived we walked along a road and thought the area was abandoned. We wondered why George told us to moor up at this particular marina. Everything was closed up but little did we know, we didn’t walk far enough to hit the actual town!

The town of Marzamemi is small but beautiful. It’s a great place to stop off and enjoy and excellent lunch or dinner. Most of the restaurants are quite pricey but the ancient buildings and exquisite food are worth the price. I enjoyed the best stuffed squid and pistachio pasta I’ve ever had. I imagine that it would be a great place to go for a romantic dinner – you’ll have the sea, the historical buildings, candlelight and the most amazing food ever.

Great food wasn’t the highlight of our stay in Marzamemi…

While in Marzamemi we were fortunate enough to meet a boatload of 6 Italians. If you want to make friends easily while sailing, bring a 3 year old with you! We now call Sienna our little ambassador. She freely goes up to anyone and says ‘hi’ and that then allows us adults to join in.

Marzamemi

Marzamemi

Sienna made friends with a lovely gentleman on the boat next to us (pictured to the left above). His name is Stefano. Luckily, Stefano spoke excellent English and helped us rent a car, find a supermarket and gave us great tips about the local area. He told us what to see, what to avoid and gave us the heads up on a variety of things.

Furthermore, ever time we return to our boat, he left us little surprises. One day we got tomatoes and another day it was beans and a bottle of wine. We felt so honored!

Little did we know that our meeting with Stefano and the other friends would lead to friendships that I’m sure will now last forever

Throughout our entire time in Sicily no more than 2 days went without seeing our new friends.

Marzamemi

Marzamemi

The night before we left Marzamemi, we enjoyed a special spaghetti meal prepared by Stefano called ‘Midnight Spaghetti.’ The dish was very simple but ever so perfect. Stefano was the only one of his group to speak Italian so we spoke mostly to him or asked if he could translate to the others. The meal was excellent and it was so wonderful to have a bunch of people enjoying great food in our saloon. My cousin and I would smile at the others, wave ‘hi’ and say ‘Salute’ when it was time to cheers to a drink.

It also came to our attention that Stefano was an Admiral in the Italian Navy. He spent most of his time flying helicopters. Furthermore, he worked in London for several years on an Italian-British collaboration to create the Merlin helicopter. And since retiring from the Navy, Stefano transitioned right into sailing. He’s currently a sailing teacher and examiner.

Our next stop was Catania

Needing to get our leak repaired before heading to Greece, we were told by our great contact, George, that Franco Catania is the best in the region. As per Georges instructions we headed North up the coast to the commercial port of Catania.

Just upon arrival, our main sail jammed and we had to send my husband up the mast to release the sail. Thankfully, our new friends we met in Marzamemi lived in Catania and they took a rib out to help us. Read Sailing To Catania in Sicily – Dolphins and Disasters Included

Catania

Catania

Stefano got on board once the sail was released and helped us into the port. I was thankful he was there as we moored up along a cement wall in a commercial area. If he wasn’t with us I’m not sure anyone would have been around to tell us where to go as it was a Sunday evening.

Catania port is not one that I would recommend as it’s busy with massive ships loading and unloading. Furthermore, the cruise liners stop in Catania so loads of tourists are unleashed on the city for a few hours.

I do, however, recommend seeing Catania and it’s surrounding areas

The city is full of churches, Italy’s second oldest University, fountains, markets and an amazing castle. In Catania, the food is excellent, the buildings are impressive and the people are pleasant. We had the best cannoli’s, rice volcanoes thingies (arrenchino’s), pizza and believe it or not, we all ate horse.

In Catania, there’s a very traditional recipe for horse cooked on a grill. Our new friends invited us over so that we could try the horse. I was a bit skeptical but as they say ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans,’ so I took a bite and then I kept eating it. The whole family, including my daughter, enjoyed it. I don’t think it’s something you’ll find on a menu in Italy so I felt quite privileged.

Arinchino

Arinchino

While based in Catania for a week, our friend Stefano stopped by every morning bringing us a different sweet each time. We got cannoli’s, cakes, croissants and on and on. It wasn’t just sweet stuff – he had us try all of Sicily’s delights (see picture of an Arinchino above) And then he’d offer to either help us with something on the boat, to run errands or to take us for a sightseeing trip! In the course of the week, we enjoyed a private tour of Catania, went up Mt Etna, and then to Randazzo, Taormina, Girdina Naxo and a few villages in-between.

My family and I were blown away by Stefano’s kindness

After our stay in Catania, we invited Stefano to sail with us to Riposto and then he and his girlfriend’s daughter joined us again from Taormina and took us to Reggio di Calabria to see the famous Bronze Statues. After that, Stefano helped us navigate through to the Aeolian Islands where we saw Stromboli erupt with lava, enjoyed an aperitif on Salina Island and a wonderful dinner on Lipari Island.

How many people are fortunate enough to not only see Sicily but to see it by land and sea being led by an ex-Admiral and a current sailing teacher/instructor? We all felt as if all our Christmas’s had come at once.

So let me get back to describing the places we went to…

Mt Etna

Mt Etna

Mount Etna was a trip worth taking (pictured above). From Catania it took about 1 ½ hrs by car to get as far up as allowed. We could have taken a gondola a bit higher but it cost something like 60 euros each and in the end you just got higher rather than to the top. We spent time walking around a crater and taking loads of pictures. In Catania we were in shorts and t-shirts. At the top of Mt Etna, we were all in our heavy sailing coats with hats and gloves. What’s impressive is the drive up to Mt Etna – the lava flow from the last eruption is very apparent. You can see how it went next to or over houses.

Randazzo

Randazzo

The town of Randazzo wasn’t highlighted on my book of top 10 things to see in Sicily so I wasn’t sure what we’d find

I was delighted when we arrived. Everything was built from lava stone so there was a black street, black sidewalks and the churches and buildings had the lava stone (pictured above). On one side of the village you’d see Mt Etna and the other side was beautiful green countryside. The roads were so narrow that only one car could drive down them in-between the houses at a time. We enjoyed walking around the streets, looking at the churches and having a stop off at café for more sweets and a beer. If you’re in the area, check out Randazzo – it’s not touristy which is wonderful.

Toarmina

Toarmina

Speaking of touristy, that’s what Toarmina is

It’s has a beautiful long street filled with loads of tourist crap. Most things on offer were made in China and I often wonder who buys that stuff.

That aside, Toarmina is a must-see destination

The town is on top of a mountain offering amazing views of the sea. The buildings and architecture are beautiful and there’s an amazing Greek/Roman amphitheater (pictured above). By far, the amphitheater is the best one, with the best view, that I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen quite a few)!

So Toarmina is definitely worth a visit but don’t go there for the food or the tourist stuff. Check out the beauty of the town and definitely visit the amphitheater. Also – walk through the town weaving along the side streets – you’ll avoid the crowds and see some spectacular views.

Above Toarmina is a tiny village housing a castle – Castle in the Sky!

From this village you look down on Toarmina and experience even more spectacular views. We enjoyed a cannoli at the main restaurant on the square. Unfortunately, however, the castle was closed so we couldn’t climb up to it.

In Girdina Naxo we enjoyed a drink and a play on the clean and beautiful beach. By far, the beaches were the cleanest I saw in Sicily. And there were ample places to get a bit to eat. Sitting out on the beach and looking at the coast made everything in my body smile. The views are breathtaking. Little did we know that a few days after our visit, we’d be anchoring in the bay with our boat.

While anchored we had all our Italian friends motor out to the boat where we enjoyed an excellent meal. Stefano and his girlfriends daughter, Silvia, then joined us for one of the most memorable trips of my life.

Sailing-Around-Stromboli

Sailing-Around-Stromboli

Time to stop off and see the Riace Bronze Statues?

We sailed from Girdina Naxo up to Reggio de Calbria and stopped off in a commercial port just so that we could hop off the boat, take a taxi to the museum and see the most amazing bronze statues ever discovered. The Riace Bronze Statues are definitely worth viewing. When we walked in to see them I had goose bumps. I just stood in front of the 2300 year old figures in awe.

Stromboli

Stromboli

We then hopped back on the boat and made our way towards Stromboli Island (pictured above) while passing some beautiful villages on mainland Italy. Around 3am we made it to the Stromboli volcano and boy, did we get a show! We saw several lava explosions and heard the most incredible rumbling sound. I just couldn’t believe how fortunate we were to see a real volcano erupting. Apparently, it erupts every 20 minutes or so. We anchored at the volcano and the next day headed towards Salina Island. Read Sailing Around Stromboli Needs To Be On Every Sailors Bucket List

We only stayed on Salina Island for a 6 hours so I can’t comment too much. What we did see, however, was amazingly beautiful. Read my review on the Marina here: Marina Review: Salina Island, Aeolian Islands, Italy

Lipari

Lipari

And then we went to Lipari Island

If you’re taking your own boat, you simply need to sail into the harbor and approach each jetty asking ‘how much?’ You can then bargain the price down. When we arrived the attendant wanted to charge us 80 euros but in the end we paid 60 euros. There were no facilities on the pontoons or on land but it looked like they were running electric on one of them.

On Lipari Island there’s a fantastic ruin, castle and museum. The museum houses all the finds from ships that became wrecked upon the Aeolian Islands. The food was good, the views outstanding and everyone was very kind. The only issue with Lipari, aside from no facilities, was that all the ferry boats came in and out of the harbor making it a bit bump and loud.

Overall, the Aeolian Islands are well worth a visit – especially Stromboli by night. Things are expensive and it’s everything is catered to tourists but the views are worth it.

Back to Riposto

After our trip to the islands, we went back to Riposto for some more repairs. Read my review on Riposto Marina.  Our generator kept cutting out. Luckily we simply made a call to George and he arranged for some excellent engineers to help get it sorted. George also helped us with many other things. He drove my husband to Vodafone to get a wireless router, introduced him to a local place for inexpensive, but excellent wine and helped teach us about cleaning the boat, lifting the outboard and much more.

If you’re on a boat in or near the East side of Sicily, it makes sense to get in touch with George! We’re so thankful for all of his help.

So what do I think about Sicily as a whole?

We’ve only seen the East and North East side so I can’t comment on the whole of Sicily but we did spend a full month on the Island. We will, however, return towards the end of the season and visit the other areas.

Stefano

Stefano

What made Sicily special for me was the people we met and the kindness offered. If we simply saw the various sights of Sicily I would have been extremely happy, but we managed to make new friends along that way and that made things magical. We’re all so honoured to have met Stefano (pictured above) and read about some of our other friends in this post: Are You Looking For A Deeper Connection With Others: This Is What My Italian Friends Have Taught Me

My advice – visit Sicily and don’t be afraid to meet others and mix in with the local people. Even if you can’t speak Italian you’ll find that you can still make some amazing connections. The people that we’ve met have changed my definition of kindness forever. I thought I was a kind person but our new friends have taken it to another level. I’m positive that they’ve influenced me to extend more of my kindness – pay it forward!

Also – try to learn a few Italian phrases and use them! The delight Italians show when you try to speak their language is infectious. I went around saying bonjurno and ciao to everyone I made eye contact with and the smiles I got back are priceless. My two favourite phrases where:

“Yo sona felichie” (I am happy)…and “Yo sona sachia” (I am full!) – hopefully when you visit Sicily you’ll want to use them too! Arrivederci

Admiral’s Bruschetta

Admirals Bruchetta

Admirals Bruchetta

While moored up in Marzamemi, Sicily, we met an amazing gentleman named Stefano. We later discovered that he’s an ex-Admiral of the Italian Navy – he was a helicopter pilot!

He was born in Rome but has lived in Catania, a large city near the base of the beautiful but deadly Mt. Etna, for 40 plus years. We’ve learned so much from him about cooking, sailing, and life in general. He always seems to surprise us with another interesting fact for the day.

Stefano picked us up at the Catania marina one morning to drive us up to see Mt. Etna! We couldn’t believe we were getting a grand tour of this massive and absolutely beautiful volcano. While driving towards Mt Etna, Stefano quickly pulled over to the side of the road behind a truck that had bundles and bundles of garlic hanging all over it.

Admirals Bruschetta

Admirals Bruschetta

I thought you have to be kidding me! I LOVE garlic!

He placed the garlic in the car and off we drove. Kim and I kept saying wow it smells so so good. Stefano said the smell is good but to strong, we will all have a headache in no time. So what’s the Italian way to fix the problem? Tie the garlic to the wing mirrors outside your vehicle.

I just kept giggling thinking we are driving all the way to Mt. Etna with two large bundles of garlic flapping in the wind

Admirals Bruschetta

Admirals Bruschetta

Boy was I glad he purchased that garlic! On our way home the topic of bruschetta came up and Stefano said, “I will show you the right way to make a true bruschetta.” I thought fantastic! A quick stop at a local bakery for fresh bread and we were in the galley in no time cooking up a storm.

Wow is all I have to say! With all the fresh tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, herbs and love we put into making it, it was the best bruschetta I have ever tasted. It’s so simple and easy your bellies will be thanking you!

Admiral’s Bruschetta Video staring Salvo, Loryn and Admiral Stefano!

[gmc_recipe 1550]

Never could I imagine this would happen on my adventures…

Loryn Bennett

Loryn Bennett

The following post is by crew member, Loryn Bennet…my amazing cousin. It will give you an idea as to what she’s experiencing while joining us on Britican. Most of the pictures were taken by my great friend and amazing photographer, Ene Stewart. Enjoy reading:

What a great adventure we are on!

Even though I was a bit scared to say ‘yes – I’ll join the crew of Britican,’ my fears have all but disappeared. If I didn’t take a leap of faith and put myself out there, I would have missed out on all the wonderful experiences and people I have encountered thus far. Everywhere we go we are greeted with amazing generosity, love, encouragment and happiness.

I often just sit back in amazement reflecting on what our reality has become and think is this really real?

Are we going to wake up from a dream soon? What else could happen to top this moment? I’m just forever grateful for all that comes into my life.

With that being said I will start to explain why I say all these wonderful things

When we were in Gibraltar Kim (my cousin) had met a lady Stefanie on twitter who turned out to be the main meteorologist in the area. Her and her husband Steve came out and met us for a drink and a tour of the boat one evening, and extended an offer to help us with anything we needed. We were very appreciative and grateful for the welcoming and open offer. When it came closer to the beginning of the week Stef offered to take a day off to take us for a tour of Gibraltar.

We all waited with anticipation early Monday morning knowing we were finally going up the cable car to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar

Gibraltar

Gibraltar

Something we had been looking forward to since the day we arrived there. Stef picked us up and said, “Ok then, whats first?” We all yelled out Cable Car, Cable Car! Here we go we are finally doing it!

Stef went up to talk to the teller since she was a local – it’s apparently cheaper if you are one. We then asked can we do the cable car and the St. Michael’s caves? She replied, “Of course, you can’t do one without doing the other. We are here to explore Gibraltar, and I have all day.”

Could this be happening? The excitement I was feeling was just overwhelming

To top all that, she then payed for all five of us to do all these wonderful things. I thought how nice is she. She barely knows us, has taken the day off to give us a tour of where she lives, picked us up and is driving us all over. I was just amazed at her generosity.

Up to the top we go, all staring out the windows in awe of the beautiful scenery that was all around us

Gibraltar

Gibraltar

We were so high we could see the Straights of Gibraltar, Spain and Africa. Absolutely breathtaking! Amongst all the beautiful sights we had monkeys running all around us. One actually jumped on Kim’s backpack to steal whatever food she had in there. I have never been that close to a monkey in my life. I could of pet many of them at any point. In fact, there were so many monkeys that we often forget they were there (see picture of Stef and I above)!

Next stop St. Micheal’s caves. The Rock of Gibraltar where the St. Micheal’s caves are, has something like 20km of trails/roads inside the rock that were man made and used for many different purposes. A hospital was actually constructed in one of the caves to aid soldiers during the war. These caves that Stef took us to were just spectacular. They housed concerts, weddings and other events.

Gibraltar
Gibraltar

I can’t even express how cool and beautiful these were, and how thankful I felt to be experiencing it all

Afterwards we just drove around getting a first hand tour of Gibraltar. The old town and the new town. Different views from different angles. More monkeys. Who knew that a place that is only 3 miles by 3 miles could have so many streets and so much to see, still has me baffled. The main road into the place actually gets closed in order to allow planes to take off and land. Yes you actually have to drive across the runway to get into Gibraltar. To cool.

A beautiful place with wonderful people. A big thanks to Stef!

Our next stop was Malta. I must admit before this trip I never even knew Malta existed let alone thought I’d be sailing there. Its such a wonderful, cute, fun island with lots of history and beautiful sights to see. The Island in the terms of history has always been a sought after place to conquer since it acts as a strategic stronghold between Africa and Europe.

We buy a book of each place we are visiting to offer guidance to sights to see, history, main attractions, foods that are popular, maps of the area and interesting facts. It’s our go to source.

With our book at hand and guidance from the locals we ventured out to visit new areas of Malta

We ended up visiting , Silema, Valletta (old town), L’Imidina (old capital called the silent city) and Spinola Bay Area. All areas just took my breathe away. If it wasn’t the beautiful bay windows, doors, architecture and tiny side streets, it was the views of the Mediterranean. To read Kim’s ‘Destination Review’ on Malta read, Our Expectations of Malta Were Minimal – Boy Were We In For A Surprise.

Malta

Malta

In each area we visited we were greeted with so much kindness and generosity

Our friend and Skipper, Mike mentioned us to a wonderful lady Lilia who has been friends with Mike for years and lives there in Malta. She extended an offer to stop by and take Sienna (Kim and Simon’s daughter) out to play and to meet new friends.

We thought really? People don’t just offer that without even meeting anyone

Sure enough Lilia showed up and what a wonderful person she turned out to be. Kim, Lilia and I sat and talked for a bit understanding that our energies were on the same level, we could talk about anything so easily. She offered to stop by the next day and take Sienna out for some adventures. We thought ok sure, what a nice offer. Lilia showed up and took Sienna for about 5 hours on wonderful adventures all around Malta. How cool is that? And how wonderful can people be? With our late night wine chats and visits to the boat, she became a great friend to all of us during our stay in Malta.

Malta

Malta

We left Malta with a happy heart and a new sense of freedom. We sailed on to see what new adventures and wonderful people we would meet. The beautiful Sicily is next! I wonder who we’ll meet there?!?

To read my first post, visit I Still Can’t Believe This Is Happening

To read the next post, that’s by me too, read Exploring Noto and Syracuse in Sicily