We can smell the beginning of our salty life…
We can smell the end of our stay at the Alimos Marina… We got a message from our lawyer, that the exportation papers have been finalised and that she scheduled a meeting for the deletion of Polykandros from the Greek registry early this week. After that we still have to get our transit log, which is another appointment and then have to pay the cruising tax, check in with the port police to get our stamp and then we can FINALLY drop the lines and set sail for Turkey. 6 months after we purchased the boat and 3.5 months after we thought we would start sailing. If anyone thinks of buying a boat in Greece, please take into account that the offical paperwork takes several months longer than proposed… We were told approx. 30 days, which would have been way before Covid was a thing in Greece. Anyhow, its all part of the experience.
The estimated arrival time for our boxes with our belongings is now Thursday 24th of June, which is in a couple of days time. We were told it takes about a week to process them through customs. Armando offered that we could send them to his office and he will forward them on to one of the islands via ferry. Its again going to cost us additional funds to do this, but it will be nice to be finally reunited with our last belongings from home after a 4 month delay.
Armando said that Thursday next week the Mistral gusts are predicted to start, so crossing over to Turkey can be really challenging with wait periods for the right weather window. Not at all what I envisaged for the start of our journey as inexperienced ocean sailors. But the Greek Authorities have been immovable on their view that even under these extraordinary circumstances we have to leave the country.
The islands are empty and hanging out for tourists, but still they insist we have to leave – I just find it hard to digest the non-sensical part of this whole situation.
Having a rental car is a luxury for us, so once we got word that we most likely can leave next week we got a car for 2 days to do our final shopping. One of the good things of being stuck here, is that we really had a good chance to see how to store things, which things we need and want to make our living more comfortable, which repairs need to be done and what works and what doesn’t.
We had a quick trip to a few stores to get things that we still needed or wanted to make our set up comfortable.
– ice box to precool food, so the fridges don’t eat so much energy
– some foam mattresses to put under our bed to make it more comfortable. The squabs by themselves are quite thin.
– plastic storage boxes for the bilges, as they get water at times, this way we can keep our stores dryish
– wetsuits, watershoes and snorkel / google sets for all of us.
– fishing gear
– tools for Tim and some spares
We also did a massive grocery stock up, firstly because its cheaper here than on the islands for bulk stuff and also there is a possiblity that we might have to be in self isolation in Turkey for a couple of weeks or another lock down. And last of all its so much easier to provision with a car than carrying everything on your back, put in the dinghy and from the dinghy into the boat. It was so good to get that done and will be interesting to see how long those stores last.
Its a major undertaking to provision a boat for several weeks. I made a list of all the things we usually like to eat, divided them up by breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, staples, toiletries etc. Then we figured out what we still got and what we need. We guess how much we need of what per week and then multiply by however many weeks we want to provision for. Once back from the shop the whole boat gets undone, all the bilges and storage places get resorted and every square millimetre gets used. Then its a case of remembering what is where when you need it.
While I unpacked the groceries Tim went to another store to get the tools he needs on the boat. Once I started opening the bilges I saw that 2 had water in them. I grabbed the ex owner to ask if he knew where the water was coming from. He reckoned it might be the fridge defrosting. He said once we get moving if there is a little bit of water sitting somewhere it starts moving around the boat and it might show up in a completely different place to where it came it. He also said that as long as the water was dirty it was a good sign, as it means its old. If its fresh and clear and salty that’s a big problem.
So while the whole boat was piled high with groceries everywhere and bilge floor boards I started cleaning the bilges and then could finally get all the groceries stored away minus the 2 bilges that always seem to get a bit of water in. Armando said it would be a good habit to check bilges every week for water, so if we have a problem to deal with we know what the situation was a few days ago. There is so much to learn….
One day we got up really early to go and visit the Acropolis and Acropolis Museum. The days are really hot here now, and the Acropolis opens 8 am, so we went there first thing in the morning. There was barely anyone there. We met about 5 other people on our walk around the Acropolis and Parthenon. We talked to two of the guides there and they said on a “normal” day there are around 10,000 to 15,000 people per day visiting at this time of the year. They said the last time they remember the Acropolis being so empty was when president Obama visited 2 years ago. So one of the upsides of this situation is certainly that we got to enjoy one of the most amazing sites in the world with no tourists around. It is mind blowing to wander through history that old. I couldn’t help wishing to be able to spend only 1 day experiencing how they lived in those times and watching the building process. The structures are so immense and so beautiful, I can’t understand how they constructed them. Those structures have seen so many things go by, so much human history – the years we get to spend here in one lifetime seem quite insignificant.
When we finished our tour of the grounds we went to the Acropolis Museum just across the road, which we were told is one of the finest museums in Europe. In 1997 they started excavating an ancient village in that area. It took many years for the excavation site to be finished, battling the hot sun, torrential rain and even snow. It was decided to build the acropolis museum on top of the excavation site, to be part of the museum experience and at the same time providing protection to the ancient village. Concrete pillars where scattered across the excavation site to hold the museum on top. There are many glass floor panels in the museum where you can see down to the excavation site where archaeologists still chip away and work in parts of it. We where almost the only people there too. We saw 2-3 other tourists and about 20 staff. For us the most impressive part was the excavation site below. The sculptures on display are absolutely amazing. I can’t quite imagine how artists manage to turn a piece of stone into such an intricate piece of art. Even the bronze castings that were so old and so well preserved and so detailed – beautiful to see. We saw a treasure of amazingly restored gold coins that were on display as well.
Reading about the Greek history and all the different gods makes me realise what immensely big holes I have in my education. Lots to catch up. Luckily the kids could enlighten us on most of the facts, which is quite amusing to them. The funniest fact I learned in the Acropolis Museum is that the god Dionysos (according to Luca the god of wine and merriment) was the god of vegetation, wine, inebriation and ecstatic dance. Who knew they had gods for all of that – I didn’t. I have been to ecstatic dance sessions, but I wasn’t aware that was actually a godly activity. I had to inquire with Tim was inebriation means – never heard that word before. For those of you who are as illiterate as me it means intoxication. If I ever have to be god I think I would like to be Dionysos – it sounds like a fun job.
In the ancient village we read about private bath houses, the first drainage systems, the first public latrines and descriptions of a well preserved private house with a symposium room, where they welcomed guests and had feasts. The beautiful mosaic floor was still very well preserved and it said that they did the mosaic floor, so it was easily cleaned after the feast. Sounds like they were under the influence of Dionysos’ teachings.
After that mammoth tour we were all really tired and hungry and dropped in to one of the many cafe’s next door to have a bite and drink. Such a special experience that we are really grateful for.
Yesterday we decided to sneak out for another sail to an island Armando told us about that isn’t far away. On our first sail we didn’t go to it entirely, because it said its a military base and anchoring wasn’t allowed on our instruments and navigation. Armando waved our concerns off and said that was long ago, so this time we went to Fleaves and anchored up in a little bay. Before we knew it, the kids had the snorkel gear on and where exploring the seascape like professionals. All those days snorkeling in Rotoiti looking at rocks certainly paid off. Tim put the dinghy in the water and we both put our brand new wet-suits and snorkel gear on too. I wanted to be a bit closer to shore, as I hadn’t snorkeled in 20 years and never owned a wet-suit or used flippers. Lucy came along for a dingy ride too and jumped joyfully into the water, once close enough to the beach. She really is a little seal. I must have looked like the dorkiest snorkeler on earth with the kids laughing their heads off. Nina was trying to teach me how to go under, but I was still to busy to regulate my breath and co-ordinate breathing, flippering and floating. The beach was really badly littered, a sight unfortunately not unfamiliar here, like in so many other parts of the world. Our beaches in New Zealand are pristine pearls compared. I wonder if it is only around Athens or if we find so much litter in other parts of Greece too. This island is uninhabited, so I guess it doesn’t get cleaned up very often. I thought that we could come back later with a big rubbish bag and take some back to the marina. We were hoping to anchor up somewhere for the night and have a “sleepover” away from the marina.
We all got cold and went back to shower off and have some lunch. Tim prepped some things in the kitchen because it was so rolly in our spot and I hung out all our togs and towels. When all the lunch was arranged on the upstairs table and we had taken our first bite off our crackers we saw 6-7 motor boats come from around the corner. We thought this was rather weird – looked almost like a race. And then a few minutes later a bigger motor boat, which Tim identified correctly as the coastguard. Needless to say we got a little fright, since our paperwork is not complete yet. However, luckily they just signed to us to go away. So with dinghy and lunch still out and the washing flapping in the wind we had to make a hurried exit with the other 5-6 boats that were in the little bay. Once we were out of sight we got the dinghy back aboard, tidied lunch away, got the washing back in and swallowed our disappointment that our sleepover was not going to happen – so back to the marina we went. So this is our first lesson, that listening to the locals is not always a good thing :-). We had a good day out anyhow and it was nice to smell the salty air, feel the wind in our faces and get a taste of whats to come. Luca and me where only feeling queezy for a short while this time, during the panic of getting going and rushing around on the wobbly boat.
In among all of this the emotions are high and low for all of us. We are all totally over being stuck in this marina. The kids miss their friends terribly and due to covid other kid boats with children with similar ages seem to be rare and nowhere near us. I go between being grateful to be here on the boat to feeling guilty to have taken the kids out of their known environment to knowing and hoping that good things are waiting for us just around the corner. I am certainly grateful for the time we could spend together already. While its been a huge adjustment for us to move from a house, running two business, working full-time and barely seeing each-other to being together 24/7 – I am so grateful for every minute of it. I know we are never going to get that time back and while its tough for the kids at the moment in this uncertainty with holdups due to a global pandemic panic I know they will learn so much from this experience and I do really hope that the experiences will knit us closer together as family. One thing I noticed we really need to upscale is our communication, unlearning old habits and implementing new ones. The highs as a family have certainly been our 2 short sails that we sneaked in and the visits to the Acropolis, the temple of Poseidon, discovering our neighborhood and making new friends. That keeps me going – because next week surely we will finally untie those lines.