Sailing from Greece to Sicily
In the past seven months, we’ve sailed from Gibraltar to Malta. From Malta to Sicily and from Sicily to Greece hitting mainland Italy. We also made a few quiet stops in Turkey too – I say ‘quiet’ because we didn’t notify officials that we where there as our stay was so short.
Apart from our trips from one country to another, we usually make short journeys working our way around the various areas. For example, we spent a month going up the east side of Sicily before hitting mainland Italy and then once we were in Greece, we’d spent five months traveling around the Ionian Sea, through the Corinth Canal and all around the Aegean Sea.
Most of the sailing we do is from one anchorage or mooring to the next within a somewhat close proximity. Some days we’ll sail for a couple hours and other days we’ll sail all day long. And furthermore, we often find a spot we like and stay for a few days or even a week. While moored in Kos Marina on the island of Kos, we stayed a few days on a few occasions due to repairs we had done to the boat.
We also stayed in Rethymno Marina in Rethymno, Crete for nine days while touring Crete by car and waiting for a friend to arrive by airplane. Most recently, we stayed in Preveza, Greece for three weeks due to a completely unexpected engine and generator overhaul.
Our last voyage, which now brings us to our current position, took us from Preveza, Greece to Syracuse, Sicily and it was a two-day non-stop trip.
To date, we’ve sailed 3,283 nautical miles since setting sail on our around-the-world sailing adventure seven months ago
It’s been one heck of a first sailing season for us with our new 56’ sailboat.
We’ve made some incredible new friends, seen some absolutely amazing sights, enjoyed countless sunrises and sunsets, enjoyed fresh, local incredibly tasty food, gotten to know our boat and have essentially broken ourselves into our new lifestyle on the sea.
The time has now come, however, to find a cozy corner of the Mediterranean to ‘winter’ Britican (The boat is named Britican because hubby is British, I’m American and our daughter is both!)
The Mediterranean is not a nice place to sail during the winter
Furthermore, our boat needs to be hauled out of the water, dried out, antifouled (protects the haul), anodes changed and get a very nice clean and wax! There are quite a few other projects we also have lined up. For example, did you know that you’re suppose to change all the below-water level piping on your boat every 10 years?
Originally, we would have been preparing to cross the Atlantic Ocean next month with Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) crossing; however, early in the season we realized that the boat isn’t ready for such a long trip (3-4 weeks). Furthermore, it’s less expensive and easier to get our boat in shape here rather than in the Caribbean or remote areas of the Pacific.
So, we’ll live aboard our boat here in Sicily waiting for the summer to come when we’ll enjoy another season in the Mediterranean. Next November (2015), we’ll head across the Atlantic and keep on going.
Our recent journey from Greece to Sicily was very tranquil
The week before our departure, we endured massive thunderstorms, high winds and flash flooding so I was initially concerned about getting a window in the weather to make the crossing.
Moreover, our engine and generator were both completely pulled apart and put back together again. I feared making such a long passage with so many changes made to our systems. Yes, we did engine trials and made sure everything worked, but not at length. Read The trials of a new boat owner – a tale of coincidence, corruption and contempt for the marine industry to hear about our engine issues and the amazing people we met to help us out.
It’s astounding how close you become to people in such a short period of time
Eventually, however, the time came for us to leave our three-week mooring from Ionian Marine (located across from Preveza, Greece). We said our goodbye to our new friends we made – especially Andrea and his dog, Bonsai (above) – and with tears in our eye’s, we set sail. Poor Sienna cried for 1/2 hour as we sailed away.
Prior to leaving, I spent a day preparing meals for the journey. I made shepherds pie (a ground beef mixture on the bottom with carrots, celery, peppers, onions and Britican Galley Beef Blend covered with garlic filled mashed potatoes and cheese on the top), a hearty chicken soup (with the Britican Galley Chicken Blend – of course!) and chili with very little chili powder. Unfortunately, I purchased Paprika at the local Greek supermarket rather than chili powder – heck, it’s all in Greek…how was I to know.
In Greece the days are still quite hot but the evenings drop quickly in temperature
I thought some nice warm comfort food would make the transit even more enjoyable. Also, I still get slightly seasick so having the knowledge that a good meal is coming up makes me feel better. Essentially, I daydream about food all day long.
Looking back, I could have cooked on our voyage across. We had very little wind and it would have been nice to have something to do, but it’s better to prepare for the worst. By having meals ready, all we had to do is heat them up. In a storm or turbulent seas, it’s almost impossible to cook as my cousin Loryn discovered. She tried to cook fried eggs in a Force 8 and I wasn’t surprised when she got egg on her face. Hehehehe.
By mid afternoon, we motored out of the channel and into the Ionian Sea
There was enough wind to raise the main and genoa so we put our sails up as soon as we could. I sat in the cockpit, looking out at the deep blue sea, and quietly said, ‘Boy, have I missed you!’
My husband set the navigational instruments and like the dashboard on a car, we could see the estimated time of arrival (ETA) and distance to weigh point in Syracuse, Sicily. Our ETA read 48 hours and our distance was 281 nautical miles. It’s better than the 800+ nautical miles we had to do from Gibraltar to Malta!
That night we enjoyed the shepherds pie with some fresh bread at sea
We all said our good byes to Greece. We’d definitely miss the exceptional food, great new friends and overall feel of Greece. What an incredible country for sailors…It’s probably my number on destination for sailing in terms of variety, value for money, facilities and great people.
Although Greece doesn’t have the funds to maintain many of their marina’s at least they have many harbors, mooring buoys and anchorages dotted all over the place. Further – it often costs nothing to tie off on a town quay. That definitely can’t be said about Italy or the Balearics.
Anyway, around 6pm, we all gathered around the cockpit table and enjoyed the shepherd’s pie that I made. It was so amazingly tasty. I kept saying ‘mmmmmmmm’ over and over again. Usually when I make food myself I don’t enjoy it as much as other people’s cooking, but this night was different.
After dinner, my husband, Simon, went to the aft cabin to get a bit of rest and chilled out with our daughter, Sienna (age 4). The two of them watched the film, ‘The Croods.’ Our guest, Admiral Stefano, and I kept watch in the cockpit. We watched a massive moon come over the Greek mountains – it was definitely a sight to behold.
We chatted about the stars, constellations, the position of the moon and sun, navigating by the stars in addition to me practicing my Italian. Stefano must be so tired of me saying ‘come sei dichie __________’ or ‘how do you say ________’?
Stefano and I were meant to keep watch until midnight when Simon would take over for three hours. I was doing very well until 10:30 when I fell fast asleep! I’m definitely not good when it comes to lack of sleep. Stefano didn’t wake me up. Around midnight I jumped out of my sleeping position and yelled out, ‘we need to write down a log.’ A log is a record of where you are, where you’re going and general information about the sea state, cloud coverage, distance to weigh point and course!
With a grin, Stefano explained, ‘I did the log at 11pm.’ I then realized that I had been asleep for quite a while. Oppps.
Not long after, my husband, Simon, (pictured above) was in the cockpit until 3am and Stefano took over from 3am to 6am. Once again, Simon took over. After midnight I went to my bedroom and cuddled up with Sienna. We allow her sleep in our bed during night sails so she looks forward to them rather than not. She see’s it as a treat to sleep with her mom and it gets her focus away from nighttime rolling, noises and disturbances.
Saying that, Sienna could sleep through an air raid if it occurred
The following day, the wind started to die so we got our jennaker out. It’s a very thin sail that can be used with winds blowing between 10 and 15 knots. Using our heavy genoa, the sail would flap and fail to fill up with wind whereas our jennaker fills up perfectly and let’s us gracefully sail in light winds.
We have around five additional sails on board and that’s on top of our main and genoa (front sail). The jennaker is kept in our forward berth (bedroom). To get the jennaker out, we simply pull it up through the forward hatch and then attach it to the various points, unfurl (unroll) it and trim as appropriate.
Our jennaker is blue and white and adds a bit of color to our journey. With the jennaker and the light winds I felt as if we were in a fairytale. As far as the eye could see there was no one and no thing – no another boat and no land.
Unbelievably, however, 120 nautical miles out from Greece, with no land in sight a rather large bird started to swoon us
First of all, I was surprised to see a bird at all. Second, I darn near died when Simon yelled out, ‘It’s an owl!’
What the heck is an owl doing during the middle of the day circling us – a boat in the middle of nowhere? In my usual moron fashion, I started to yell out ‘whoooo, whoooo,’ to let the owl know that he or she was welcome to rest on our boat. We often get birds stopping on Britican for a while to regain their strength to carry on.
On our trip from Malta to Sicily a homing pigeon actually landed on the boat and then got on top of my back while I was trying to take a nap on the aft deck! Read Sailing from Malta to Sicily including an amazing sunrise, two stow-aways, seasickness starting with Force 2 winds rising to Force 8!
Needless to say, the owl didn’t stop, however we did have two finches rest on our safety lines and one robin stopped by a few times to say hello
We put out breadcrumbs and a little dish of water. Either the birds were migrating or they, perhaps, were on a tanker or cruise ship and found themselves stuck out at sea? I’m not sure. We’re always happy to accommodate new guests – as long as it’s not a giant squid – the one that my mother warned me about after watching a National Geographic special.
Aside from our flying friends, we also watched three pods of dolphins go by
They all seemed to be feeding so they didn’t sail along the bow like the usual do. One pod did come over to say ‘hi’ but quickly carried on. I tried my best to get a picture but they all seemed to be swimming very fast!
We also spotted a couple massive turtles just floating along. Every time I see them I feel as if they’re just ‘going with the flow.’ It doesn’t look like they have the ability to navigate very well – they just flow by looking unconcerned about anything. Furthermore, I always see them alone. I wonder if turtles get lonely?
Half way through our trip the wind died completely
The Ionian Sea was a millpond. Admiral Stefano said that in the 40 years of being on this sea he’s never seen it so calm. The forecast called for very little wind, but there was nothing. Not even a breathe of air coming from any direction.
Sadly, the decision was made to turn the engine on after 23 hours of sailing. We all discussed that it would be a good thing to give the engine a good running-in and ensure that all the fixes were, in deed, fixed.
The engine went on and we motored along across the flat calm Ionian Sea
For lunch we had a lovely potato salad that I pre-prepared and a tossed salad. When I made the shepherds pie, I just added more potatoes than needed and used the extra for a potato salad. And of course, we had bread with olive oil and salt. Stefano has turned us all into Italians!
During the course of the day we chatted, read books, watched some cartoons or did some watercolor paintings (with my daughter) and I gave myself a pedicure. I also decided to do my daily audio meditation on the forward deck – I listen to these great meditations on ‘going with the flow,’ ‘being a playful parent,’ or ‘radiating unconditional love’ – I love a dose of woo woo stuff every day.
Heck, it was flat calm – I could have done one-legged yoga balancing poses if I wanted to but that would have been far to ambitious!
When dinner approached I heated up the chicken soup and made some garlic bread cubes – I suppose they’re homemade crotons. You toast bread and then rub fresh garlic across both sides and then cut into cubes. Another excellent addition to my culinary skills from Stefano.
I was exhausted from doing nothing all day so around 9ish Sienna and I cuddled into bed and drifted off to sleep. Simon and Stefano did their three hours on and three hours off. Throughout the night I’d wake up and go check to see if the person on watch wanted a coffee or something to eat.
Around 4pm the following day and after two failed attempts to reel in a big fish, we made it safely to Syracuse, Sicily
Just as we anchored the wind started to blow and would you believe that it was too windy to leave the boat? We had over 24 hours of no wind and then the time when you want it to be calm, the wind decides to blow!
Our intention was to get off the boat and go to a birthday party for Stefano’s 4-year-old nephew
Further, we wanted to get off and get ourselves a big bowl of pasta and a cannoli or two. Instead, the three adults enjoyed some cheese and crackers along with a beer/wine. Stefano and I went to bed at 8pm and Simon put Sienna to bed later. Sailing definitely makes me sleepy.
In the end, we were all pleased to see that the engine ran like new
I was also impressed with my food preparations. Up until this trip, my cousin cooked and prepared meals for long-ish journeys. I felt proud of myself for cooking – in my previous land-based life, the kitchen was not a room I frequented.
The plan is to now head to Marina diRagusa along the southeast cost of Sicily where we’ll stay put for the winter amongst several other live-aboards. I’ve been told that there’s quite a nice community there and I look forward to discovering yet another new chapter of our amazing around the world adventure.