On 4th April Zilda, Elliott and Sophie came to stay with us again; their second visit. I got the train to the airport, picked up the hire car and brought them back to Roccella. Zilda was somewhat concerned that 8 days on the boat trying to keep Sophie and Elliott entertained and supervised might be too much of a challenge and so was researching Air B&B as a ‘Plan B’, but she needn’t have worried; Angelic Sophie and Saint Elliott were far too busy having fun exploring the castle, playing on the beach, hunting bears in the woods, enjoying ‘Movie Night’ in the Club House and playing in Windy to need much supervising. They were even suitably tired at bed time!
As ever it was fantastic to see them and we look forward to their visit next year !
Last time we were in Cephalonia was May, at the start of our trip around the Aegean, and had been made so welcome by Keith that we had to drop in again on our way passed to say hello.
Sami is a quaint place on the east coast of the island at the south end of the Kolpos Samis, the big bay opposite the south end of Ithica. Keith had taken us here for coffee on our last visit and we arranged for him to come up on Friday for the afternoon.
Keith and Tracey arrived at lunch time on Friday and we settled down to an afternoon and evening of BBQing, sunbathing and socialising. Great to see Keith again and to meet Tracey; all in all a very pleasant visit and we hope to to meet up again in the UK and next year when we stop off in Cephalonia on our way back to explore more of the Aegean.
We arrived as planned in Ágios Nikolaos marina on Friday afternoon, the 25th, and settled down to wait for Marco and Lu; they arrived some time after midnight and we had a glass or two of Champagne and Prosecco awaiting them. I was fantastic to welcome them on board.
Our idea had originally been to leave the marina for the weekend and return to Ormos Porou, anchor and spend Saturday and Sunday there, going to the Kanali Restaurant for Valeria’s birthday dinner and maybe going out for a sail on Sunday. However, the Meltami had other ideas. Getting into the marina had been easy as they put us on a berth against the harbour wall which the wind simply blew us onto. Getting out again would have been a challenge even if the wind was blowing half as strongly as it did from then on. For the entire weekend it was consistently blowing 20 knots, even peaking at 30 on Sunday. Being out at anchor, or trying to sail would have been far from relaxing and so we remained pinned to the wall, quite literally, for the entire weekend.
On Saturday afternoon we went for a wander around Agious Nikolaos. Although a holiday destination it didn’t seem as extreme as I had thought it might be, all 18-30 holiday makers and all day discos. We spent the afternoon chatting and enjoying the ‘breeze by the beach!
That evening we got a cab back to Kanali and enjoyed another great meal, then went for a walk into Elounda, about a mile away.
On Sunday we took another walk around town finding our way to the ‘lake’ which is rumoured to be bottomless. It is apparently just a very deep sink hole just inland from the harbour and connected to it by a short canal. It is quite quaint, is surrounded by a low quayside with lots of small boats tied up to it and wall to wall restaurants behind that. Even though it is almost totally enclosed the surrounding cliffs and buildings did nothing to protect from the wind, that gets everywhere!
On Monday we hired a car. It was half the price of a cab to the airport and meant that we could do a little sight seeing before dropping Lu and Marco off for their flight home. Valeria had found a small beach in Elounda and although it was pleasant, the wind made it a little less than idyllic. We had lunch then set off for Irakleon to visit the ruins of Minos at Knossos on our way to the airport.
Knossos is the home to the Minator of Greek Mythology. Supposedly the Greeks had to provide 7 boys and 7 girls as a sacrifice to the creature who was eventually slain by Theseus in the Labyrinth.
A more factual interpretation is based around the frescos found there which illustrated a sport which involved jumping over raging bulls. The youngsters were participating athletes and anything less than a perfect 10 was probably not good for their health. Add that to the labrinthine layout of the ruins at Knossos and the myth takes shape!
The ruins were heavily reconstructed during their excavation in the early 1900s and a lot of the areas are not open to the public. Our guide described to us a host of Minoan inventions usually credited to others, they had flushing toilets, and drainage for both rainwater run off and sewage. They also piped fresh water in via an aquaduct and used interlocking clay pipes to distribute it; all dating from between 2000 and 1100 BC. Interestingly, Minoan hyroglyphics and their Linear A script have yet to be deciphered.
But then, sadly, it was time to make or way to the airport via a restaurant in Irakleon for a light dinner. And all too quickly we were dropping Marco and Lu at the airport.
Although the weather scuppered most of our plans for a ‘yachty’ weekend it was delightful to see them and were really happy they decided to come all this way to visit us; and thanks to Vania for baby sitting. Hopefully next time we’ll be able to do something slightly more adventurous.
There was no sign of liveliness in the water from the storms the night before, and it was crystal clear. The winds had dropped away completely so we motored out of the harbour that we’d sheltered in.
We were all a little groggy from the interrupted sleep of overnight watches — and welcomed the soft early sun, and the fresh breeze on our faces.
A pair of boats crossed our path in the distance, but fairly soon we were well away from the island, and the only vessel in sight.
The favourite moments of the trip for me were like these. Wide open sea, big blue sky, and the sound of the twin bows breaking the waters as we skimmed the surface.
I was on watch and spotted something in the water at twenty degrees port (as we’d been taught by Chris to say, rather than something like “at eleven o’clock”). I took the binoculars and found slick black backs breaking the surface.
“Dolphins!”, I gave the alarm, and the others rushed up to the bow.
A short while later we could see them with our own eyes, jumping and diving. Playing, or fishing? But then they seemed to spot us too, and the pod dived and swam together under the surface towards us.
One by one each dolphin burst from the surface in front of the boat, and we could watch through the clear water as they dived and rolled beneath us. They seemed to be playing with the boat, racing us.
It was both hypnotic and exhilarating to watch, and something we were lucky enough to see a few times in our week on board the Windependent.
And what a special week it was. We’re keen to learn to sail so Chris very kindly spent a lot of time coaching us through what we need to know to be good sailors, and to pass the RYA Day Skipper exam. We learned about the boat, navigation, the rules of the water for avoiding other craft, knots, man overboard, using the dinghy and much more.
As well as learning it, we got to try it out too. He would let us take time at the helm and on watch. We had some days where we had to motor because the winds didn’t favour us, but others where we’d have the mainsail and code zero up, and making over 5 knots. That was exhilarating. It was so lovely to switch the engines off and only hear the sound of the sea.
But even better, Chris and Valeria are fantastic hosts, so there was great food and good conversation on board too. How Valeria manages to cook full meals in the tiny galley as the boat rides their waves is a minor miracle, and that the food is so tasty just makes it more so.
Our journey took us to a few different islands (you’ll find Chris’s own blog documents the places and journey better than I can, so I’ll just share our experiences), but one of our favourites was the port of Linaria on Skyros. It was tended by a dedicated and kind harbourmaster called Sakis, who took great care of the water, the quayside, and the visitors.
We stayed a few days here, relaxing in the little port’s cafes and restaurants, and then hiring a car to explore the island.
The sailors on the neighbouring boats were also lovely and joined us on board Windependent for a barbecue one night, during which a lot of Greek wine was consumed. It was a great evening.
But the biggest adventure came near the end of our time on board. To boost our experience we decided to do a night sail. The forecast was good, there was an ideal route to take, and the plan was set.
We adopted watch shifts, so that we could take clear time to rest and sleep between being on shift — and then be very focused when we were on watch.
At some time after midnight, I was off shift in my bed below deck, dozing. I notice that it was getting really quite bumpy. The boat must be riding some higher seas than we’d seen so far, pitching and yawing. I could hear the waves smacking the bow.
But I knew that Chris and Zeynep were on shift, and the best thing a crew member can do when they’re not on watch is to stay out of the way, resting so they are fresh and ready to take over later. I dozed back to sleep.
I was woken a while later by Zeynep who asked me to come upstairs because there was a storm.
When I got on deck the view was scary and beautiful. There were separate local thunderstorms in different places on the horizon, their lightning intermittently illuminated the dark rolling sea beneath us. The winds had reached 30 knots, whipping up the water, and adding to the noise from the thunder.
We’d roll over the high swells, and back down.
I took a seasickness tablet, and put on a harness so I could clip onto the boat — to ensure I didn’t have to be one more thing for the skipper to worry about.
Chris consulted the chart and the horizon, and developed a plan. But the storms were moving around, and the effect between them made the wind and sea unpredictable. In the end he decided we should head for a harbour rather than continue on — but the harbour was still a few hours away.
Zeynep went to bed at this point so she could sleep and be fresh for taking an anchor-watch shift once we got to shelter. Chris was keen for us to keep watch as we’d have laid anchor in the dark. She slept well, despite the storm — probably because she was being rocked so much.
It’s wise to be wary of the sea and the weather, but a boat like this is built for much harsher conditions – and Chris is a very experienced sailor. So I just kept calm and enjoyed the view. There was a rare and raw beauty to it all. The power of the sea, the isolation of being so far from shore.
We’re keen to sail more in future, and will be sure to encounter storms — so I was actually really glad to have our first storm experience now while Chris was the skipper.
We eventually made harbour in the early hours of the morning and managed to get a few hours kip.
But then the sun was up, the water was smooth, and it was time to get out there again — and see the dolphins.
Thanks to Chris and Valeria for an amazing week, great hospitality, and delicious food. We can’t wait for a chance to get out on the water again.
It took me a while to get used to being on land after we left Windependent… I still remember the last time I saw her from the ferry… She was beautiful.
Time to time when I close my eyes I feel like I am rocking on a boat. I smell the sea when I take a deep breath in. I cannot help myself but smile when I think of the dolphins racing with Windependent. I keep having flashbacks of beautiful sunsets, waves, colourful skies, moonlights, delicious meals and great conversations.
One month passed and I clearly remember the delicious Martinis, Greek wines, Turkish song playing in the showers of Lineria port on Skyros, beautiful Greek coastline reminding me Turkey, colourful and beautiful cruising sail which became remedy for my sea sickness within seconds, Valeria’s deliciously cooked meals that made it even more like at home ( I did not know Brazilian and Turkish cooking have so many similarities), pretty Greek restaurants, fried feta cheeses, fried calamari, Greek salads, barbecue night with Paul, June, Claude, Sakis, his wife and daughter, blue lights of Lineria port, disco music keeping me awake from 3am to 5am while anchor watching in Limnos, narrow & pebble stoned streets of Greek islands, the view from the castle on top of the Skyros island, Valeria’s arrival location instructions (was very informative!), learning how NOT to start the engine of a tender, laundry compartment of Windependent where I could easily adapt to as a home, diving to see the hulls and engines of Windependent and swimming to see other boat’s engines and hulls to compare – something I never thought would be interesting.
I started to take a few photos of Windependent the first day and then I could not drop my camera. Every time I looked around, I found something else beautiful. I wish I had my other camera and underwater case for it to take the photos of the hulls, keel, rudder and the engines.
Being an advanced diver who is in love with the sea, I always wanted to learn sailing but could not find a chance for years. It was very special to learn sailing from Chris and I cannot imagine a better way of learning it. I cannot thank enough for the time he dedicated to show us almost everything. I still remember the knots and I can do them behind eyes closed :). I hope one day we will dock our own sailing boat next to Windependent and invite Chris and Valeria for a barbecue.
We left Rafti early on Saturday morning heading for Sounion to meet up with Solange, Luna and Mayara.
We set off south expecting northerly winds up to 25 knots by lunch time and had a fairly brisk passage through the Stenon Makronisou but by the time we were rounding the headland with the Temple of Poseidon on it to the east of the bay we were up to 30 knots again as we dropped the sails! And once in the bay and anchored the winds stayed at that speed most of the afternoon and evening. But we had arrived, almost exactly as planned.
Between the stronger gusts I took the tender ashore and met Solange and the girls on a beach a few hundred metres from their hotel beach which was all buoyed off, then it was back to the boat for a welcome Prosecco! We’ve not seen Solange since Brazil so she and Valeria had plenty to catch up on and after the boat tour we settled down to a BBQ and later Luna, Mayara and I played Uno until bed time.
We had 4 days in Sounion and spent most of them with Solange, either on board or by her hotel pool so the girls could go to the Kid’s Club. They spent a couple of nights on board and we did plenty of swimming and snorkeling around the boat. I also took the girls out in the tender and let them try driving it. Mayara could barely see where she was going but Luna got the hang of it and even drove us all the way to the beach on Tuesday!
Then there was knot tying. Luna said she wanted to learn to sail, and although we did go out for an afternoon there wasn’t enough wind to sail, so they started learning their knots and some fancy ropework; by the time we left Luna was tying bowlines one minute and making friendship bracelets in sail twine the next!
With only a short trip from Rafti, after 5 days at anchor, we were low on water and with 3 guests, lower still and so we went out for a couple of hours to make some more. We motored west to Nisos Gaidouroniso, anchored for lunch before returning to Sounion. Both girls had a go at steering the boat even if there was no sailing!
My big concern in leaving Sounion was not being able to find room on our return. Over the weekend there had been almost 50 yachts shoe horned into the bay each evening. However; I needn’t have worried. We found a spot easily and by the time we left on Wednesday morning we were one of only two yachts there!
On Wednesday we were set to leave but weren’t sure if Solange and the girls were joining us for the 90 minute trip back round the coast; but happily they did and we were all tied up at Olympic Marine by just after 12. After booking in we had a visit to the Chandlery so Luna could get some sail twine for her macrame bracelets then we went into Lavrio for lunch.
And that was where we went out separate ways, although ‘So and Va‘ are off for a girly day out on Friday and, hopefully, we’ll see them before we really go our separate ways. It was fantastic to see them and having Luna tie bowlines in our mooring ropes as we arrived at Olympic was almost like being Senior Crew Guy again!!
Ivan and Lu had effectively arranged their holidays around us so we were looking forward to reciprocating.
We anchored in the bay close to their hotel on Thursday, and then again on Saturday and I went into the beach in the tender to collect them. We took them to Argostoli on Thursday and had a BBQ moored on the Town Quay but on Saturday we spent the day on the boat and wet for a sail around Rabbit Island; we almost made it before the wind died!!
By the time we dropped them all off on the beach on Saturday evening Rebecca and Bianca were both driving the Tender. The Jury is still out on who was better, Rebecca did have rather short arms which made steering a little one sided. Both girls and Lu even had a go at steering and Rebecca was a wizard on the electric winch when we were sailing.
It was fantastic to see them and we would like to think they enjoyed their time with us. Having dropped them off on Saturday we set off on our travels again, heading for Galaxidi.
Valeria came to Alghero 10 years ago and loved it so much she wanted to come back, so when Ana and Charlie said they’d be able to spend Easter here with us we were over the moon. They arrived on Thursday 13th, bringing Ana’s nephew Mateus with them, and we met them at the airport.
Once settled in and following a glass of Prosecco in welcome, we spent the evening wandering around Alghero. It is an old walled town and a the streets are a delightful maze of narrow cobbled lanes between 3 and 4 storey buildings. Being Easter the place was quite busy, and got busier, giving the place a fantastic atmosphere. In fact, apart from a visit to the Neptune Caves we spent most of our days either relaxing on the boat or strolling around the town.
Valeria found us a great little family run restaurant called La Cullera; great food but they also served such fantastic ‘seadas’ (a Sardinian cheese pastry with honey and lemon) that we booked to return just for the Seadas. They even made two lactose free ones for Valeria and Ana, their first ever, and it will now become a part of their menu.
Ice cream parlours were everywhere, which pleased Charlie. I was just happy we didn’t have go searching for Haagen Dazs for Valeria. Basically we had such a good time in each other’s company I didn’t even have the time to find out much about the history of the place ! It is pretty much the same as the rest of the island but there is a strong Catalan influence left over from the Spanish period, so much so that the town flag is the Catalan flag.
Our one excursion was by boat to the Neptune Caves at the foot of Capo Caccia. These are limestone caves with magnificent stalagmite and stalagtite formations. You can get there by bus and a steep stair way down the cliff or by boat; we chose the latter. It was interesting watching how the boatmen actually got their quite large boats into the narrow cleft in the rocks without smashing them to pieces.
But once inside the caves were quite magnificent. A path has been built through the caverns and unfortunately everything within reach of the walk way has been damaged by souvenir hunters but the rest of the formations are fantastic. The caves are flooded with sea water making still pools which reflect the formations above.
Our other ‘excursion’ was a walk along the coast towards Fertillia to the beach area which is bounded by a pine forest. Ana had said she’d like fried squid for lunch, so we set off on our ‘Squid Hunt’. The beach is very picturesque and is backed by hundreds of holiday flats; in the summer it wil, be heaving! We failed to find anywhere we fancied for lunch and so walked back to Alghero to a place we’d had squid before. We had worked up a good appetite covering about 9 km on our ‘Squid Hunt’ and really enjoyed our rewards, beer, squid and pizza!
But it wasn’t all rest and relaxation. Charlie helped with some of my routine maintenance; truth be told I was saving them up for him! The main halyard and main sheet needed untwisting again, I had bought some markers for the anchor chain as a visual check of my chain counter and he and Mateus helped mark and stow the anchor cable. Most importantly he helped trace a fresh water leak which was setting off the bilge pump under the deck in their cabin. I’d been searching for this for ages and a fresh set of eyes found the trail of water I’d missed. I’ve now tightened up the jubilee clip on the hot water pipe at the water heater.
When we first met Mateus in the UK we decided he should have a cool nickname. His surname is Aranha which means Spider, so it was a no brainer really! He is staying with Aunty Ana and Uncle Charlie for a year studying English and to his credit he spent a lot of time studying. He’s only been in the UK a few weeks and just managed to master ‘up, down, left and right’ and suddenly finds it is now ‘aloft, below, port and starboard’, not to mention galley, heads etc etc, all whilst visiting Italy!
By the end of their time with us Ana and Charlie were making themselves far too comfortable for my liking …… !
All joking aside, their visit with us was over far too soon and before we knew it we were saying good bye as they headed for the airport. We set off for the shops as they left but once we got back on board it did seem very quiet without them. We’re really looking forward to them coming to sail with us later in the year.
Chanon deValois (Summerton) – 15th to 20th October – Genoa to Pisa
Flying into Genoa after the traumatic experience only known by Ryan Air passengers I was delighted to see sun and the marina conveniently located near the airport. Thus saving me from the fun of negotiating with the local taxi drivers to take the most direct route.
Retirement has clearly got a different schedule for Chris and Valeria as my arrival seemed to be much sooner after my scheduled landing than they had expected or perhaps they had forgotten my penchant for being punctual.
However, all was forgotten after the obligatory Windependant (“Agnes bored now”) tour and safety demo and a glass of Italy’s finest Prosecco.
The following day we spent discovering the sights of Genova and looking for the Hard Rock Cafe, which apparently no longer exists! I have shared some of my photographs that hopefully show the winner parts of the local area, marina and locals.
A few photographs of the hosting ship and the ‘crew guy’ as well as the views from deck including the neighbours and the evening light. I was most disappointed that the very posh ‘Vicky’ that took up half the harbour and had 16 crew did not invite me to join their ‘jetty party’ as I walked past but felt vindicated when I was treated to a feast created by Valeria while it rained!
We also allowed Chris, the crew guy, the option of choosing the evenings film and he chose a B&W George Clooney film called The Good German. We all agreed that it was rubbish and that the best part was Paul’s well timed text message in the middle of it.
I was really looking forward to getting out on the Med and doing some sailing as it has been a long while since I was in Australia sailing around the Whitsunday Islands but it seems despite out initial optimism in the harbour area, once out on the open road as it were it was tantamount to a mill pond with little wind.
We had a little look at the beautiful Portifino on our way to La Spezia for our evening stop over. You can see how calm the sea is, however poor it was for sailing it was very good for photography!
As we predicted the beautiful sunset we had hoped for previous nights was block on this night by land but we did get a peak at the day old super moon which was pretty nice.
You may notice the absence of photographs the next day and that would be due to the confused sea as Chris called it. I missed my calm sea from the previous day, and spent most of the day hanging on to the table, my breakfast, you name it!
However, once we arrived in Pisa I was pleased to see land and a beautiful sunset to boot. As you will see I did get a few photographs of Chris faffing with his boat once I firmly had my feet planted on the ground.
We spent the next day trekking into Pisa on the local bus which is notoriously unreliable we were told and wandering the streets to find that silly tower that someone never put proper foundations on.
It has been about 21 years since I was last in Pisa and I would say a few things have changed they still haven’t fixed the tower, and the price of admission has certainly gone up. We agreed that paying admission to a church is not ideal and as you can see below I used Chris for scale.
A fine excursion down the Northern Italian coast on the Windependant with the Thorne’s, their hospitality and facilities are truly worth a visit. My top tip for the trip is pack your travel sickness medication and do not let the the crew guy pick the movie.
Leaving Genoa on the Tuesday 18th October with Chanon on board we set off for Pisa, two day sails down the coast. The weather on Tuesday was pleasant but with little wind so we motored again. On the way we were to pass Portofino and decided to take a detour into the port.
Portofino was a fishing village which has become famous for its picturesque harbour and the colourful houses clustered along the shore, and its famous visitors. The anchorage was very crowded and without a lot of time to sightsee we motored in, took some photos, turned and motored out again resuming our course for Le Grazie in the bay of La Spezia.
La Spezia is a large sheltered bay midway between Genoa and Pisa accessed through the narrow passage between the mainland and the island of Palmaria, passing the town of Portovenere. We arrived as the sun was going down, and got to Le Grazie with the last of the light. Le Grazie is a quiet, picturesque place with a good sized marina which was pretty crowded, and included some quite large sailing boats; not an issue for us as we planned to anchor for the night. Le Grazie is well protected and as it turned out the night was flat calm throughout and we barely even swung to the anchor.
The following morning the weather started out fine but deteriorated as the day progressed and throughout we encountered a somewhat confused sea. The main swell was from the west and south west but the wind waves had set up an opposing pattern from the east. Poor Chanon succumbed to sea sickness, despite the tablets.
As the afternoon progressed the sky clouded over and we could see rain on the horizon and out to sea we could see water spouts forming. Waterspouts are relatively common ‘mini tornados’, although there are tornadic and non-tornadic versions. The ones over the sea are apparently non-tornadic and although they are not associated with big winds you wouldn’t really want to be sailing very close to one. Apparently the water in a water spout is not sea water but fresh water droplets from the cloud above. We missed most of the heavier showers but not all of them, and although the rain is a real downer the lighting effects produced are quite impressive, otherwise grey seas are suddenly turned emerald green when sun breaks through the clouds briefly.
With the rain came a complete 180 degree wind shift, the wind moving right round to blow from the west which accounted for the persistent westerly swell we had had all morning.
We arrived off Marina di Pisa and the River Arno in a stiff breeze with a rainbow and hung around off the northern side of the mouth of the river to drop the sails and rig all our fenders. We have had too many ‘close encounters’ with pontoons and jetties now to risk leaving the fenders until we get into the marina.
The entrance to Porto di Pisa was quite tricky to spot. A small gap in a grey rock outer wall against a grey sea and grey sky. I knew where it was from the chart but actually seeing it is a great help and we had to sail passed it before I could turn to make the approach. Outside the sea was a bit lumpy with a brisk wind but once inside the marina entrance the sea was flat calm and all I had to contend with was the wind. As Sod’s Law dictates that was from the most disadvantageous direction possible and the approach to the berth they wanted us to take was a bit tight. It took two attempts to get in. With the wind blowing from the side of the boat it is impossible to control the bows. The stern can be controlled with the engines but once on the final approach, reversing slowly the bows, in fact the whole boat will blow sideways and all you can do is try to land on the neighbouring yacht gently – hence the fenders. Once the lines at the back are out you have to pick up the bow lines. These are heavy ropes and chains resting on the marina floor with small lines attaching them to the jetty. As the marina floor is generally mud covered picking these up is a messy business, and when windy, tightening them sufficiently is a real chore.
Anyway, we made it without breaking anything and once all the lines were in place and adjusted the berth was sheltered and Chanon recovered fairly rapidly.
Pisa was to be our ‘home’ for the next week or so. Chanon was due to leave on the following afternoon, Team Brackenbury was due to come and visit for a few days and Valeria had to return home for a short while before returning on the 31st, then we would then be off again towards Sardinia.