We can’t quite believe we are still here, but hoping our days in this marina are counted now.
Our “stuck” situation has attracted a bit of media attention. One Sunday we had dinner at our friends Dot and Jon’s catamaran “Sunday” and I was taking Lucy for a toilet brake. At the end of the jetty was this man on a bike looking at me intently and asking “Are you Silke?”. It gave me such a huge fright, because we don’t really know anyone here. I thought Immigration has finally caught up with us and was taking Tim ;-). He introduced himself as Thomas, a colleague of Katrin’s, which is a friend of ours. They work for the same Radio Network in Germany and Thomas is stationed in Athens. Katrin told him about us being here and Thomas read our blog and thought he would come and see if he can find us. So we all had a fun evening together exchanging stories. Thomas hadn’t seen his family in 3 months, since he has been locked down in Athens. He booked flights to have a holiday with them in Germany the following week. He said he would come back next week before he left for Germany to interview us on our predicament with the visa and boat papers, which he did.
Meanwhile the news site Stuff also contacted Tim for an interview on our situation. The article wasn’t very good at all, as they made it sound like we had run out of money and Tim needed to come back to New Zealand. Even our little local Hawke’s Bay Today paper caught up on our news and wrote a much better article without even interviewing us. Makes you realise that there are good and not so good journalists. The article in Stuff then attracted the attention of a Greek TV channel, which also came to interview us. We hope that all that media attention might help to bring the situation of us and the other cruisers in the same situations to the attention of the authorities.
Although right now, our focus is just to get the deletion papers off the Greek registry. We were told nobody can tell us how long it will be, as there is a backlog due to Covid19. We know Sunday’s process took 8 months and another boat owner told us theirs took 5 months – we are now into month 5. We were told that a bit of money under the table might speed things up significantly. A regular and accepted practice in Greece. So at the moment this possibility is being explored and we are having all our fingers crossed that we can move on soon.
We would much prefer to stay in Greece, but are so over dealing with the authorities by now, that we can’t be bothered to waste any more of our precious time and energy on the matter. Even the Immigration lawyers are frustrating. The lawyers are really big on the “Golden Visa” here. If you invest in property for around 250,000 Euro you are entitled to a legal visa in Greece. The lawyers make around 3,000 Euros on each one of those visa’s. The lawyer we contacted wanted over 600 Euros up front even before giving us any indication if he could help with a positive outcome within a time frame that is useful in our situation. We were told the immigration lawyers don’t really want to deal with mini cases like ours – they much rather process another golden visa that guarantees them 3,000 Euros of fee.
We might just sail around on the islands for a bit until our boxes arrive and then sail over to Turkey to renew Tim’s Schengen Visa cycle. We have exhausted all our possibilites by now.
Meanwhile pretty much all the boat work we can afford for now has been done. The Water maker is working after a lot of back and forth and fiddling and figuring things out along the way. We were told not to use it much in the Marina, as the water is so dirty here and it will wreck the filters right away. A new solar panel and a new battery have been installed too to boost our power a bit.
The front water tank under our V-berth was also checked and repaired. We had kept the bilges relatively empty, because when Tim tried to fill it last time it leaked into all the bilges. He suspected there might be a crack and in the worst case scenario need replacing. We now know it doesn’t have a crack and has to be filled very carefully and slowly as it can bulge up and leak. Armando got an additional hose installed on top of it to allow it to “breathe”.
Now with the bilges being fairly safe and dry with the front tank sorted I started to tidy up our bunk / spare room, which has been just more or less a storage unit for our suitcases and sheets and towels and Tim’s camera gear etc. I stored everything away, that we didn’t need on a daily basis. Once it looked all tidy and clean one bunk was free and I made it a nice cosy spare bed for us if someone needed a break or just some quiet space. Once Nina saw the room, she asked if she can swap rooms and have the bunk room now. What are the chances, after a day of slogging away to get it into that state… She had a trial for a night and was still fixed on the idea, so the next day we swapped all the things over and now Nina’s room is the bunk room and our guest / spare room is one of the aft cabins. She is a happy girl in her new cosy room. So we have already played musical rooms and haven’t even untied the lines.
Tim organised a spare water pump, some spare filters, spare toner for our printer, better life jackets for us all and we put netting on all the accessible places around Polly, so Lucy is hopefully safe once we get underway.
I researched washing machine options. Dot and Jon had been so kind to do our washing during lock-down with their domestic washing machine, since we were on shore power and water. That was such a huge help. And seeing the amounts of washing needing to be done on a regular basis with 4 people and a dog the hand washing option was all of a sudden not all that appealing anymore. We found a washing machine that we would have loved but its not readily available in Greece – the Daewoo Mini. So I ordered another smaller camping type washing machine that hopefully will work alright to make the washing a bit easier until we find a Daewoo.
Also on the wish list was a Paddle board. I had fancied one of these for some time and thought it will be a good alternative way to go to shore and exercise and have a bit of fun on the water. Tim ordered one of these and we have trialed it on the local beach. Actually I haven’t, but Tim and the kids did. It was too windy and cold for me. Its an inflatable board, that can be packed up when we don’t use it. Tim was concerned about windage when we sail with a solid board. It can hold up to 140 kg, so means one of us and one of the kids could go together for a paddle. I can’t wait to have a paddle at one of the islands in the turquoise water with Polly anchored off by a nice beach. That is what keeps us going at the moment.
We were so happy for the Sunday crew to be able to leave. Their paperwork came through and they were able to pick up their transit log, stock up and get ready for the big seas. At the same time we were really sad to see them go, since we spent a lot of time together during the past 2.5 months.
Lucy, our salty dog, managed to create a bit of excitement in the 2 days before they left. We invited them around for a last dinner on our boat. Dot came first and as usual Lucy jumped out of the boat and greeted her on the jetty. She jumped up and knocked Dot’s I-Phone out of her hand, which bounced off the jetty and into the water. Tim went to Armando right away and asked if we could get a diver in to retrieve it to at least save the sim card. The diver came within 15 minutes and found the phone right away, although he was not very optimistic to start with. Next day Dot went to the phone shop and got herself a new phone thanks to Lucy and luckily most of the data from her old phone could be saved.
On the morning they left we were going to tie off the lines for them and say goodbye. Tim went first and Nina and I were a bit behind. When we came along I saw Tim just throwing the line onto Sunday. I shouted to him “watch Lucy”, because she was in the habit of running ahead and leaping on the Passerelle (the bridge from the Jetty to the boat that the boats have attached in the Med for Med Mooring). Tim didn’t hear me and didn’t see Lucy coming and she promptly jumped aboard Sunday, who was just going out. Jon was already nervous about navigating his 17 ton cat out of the tight spot for the first time, so having a dog that didn’t belong to them jump aboard in the last second while dot was already pulling the Passerelle in was not ideal. A bit of a panic later the Passerelle came out again and Lucy was ejected back on the jetty rather befuddled that her 2nd home could actually move. Dot and Jon got away alright and are now enjoying the island Poros. They sent us some pictures and we can’t wait to see the islands ourselves.
Armando agreed to give Tim some “driving lessons” so we can be more confident to park in and out and get a feeling for the boat, the motor and the bow thruster. Tim looked really nervous going out for the first time, but he did so well. I am so proud of him. We went around the Marina a few times parking in and out of different spots. It was so kind of Armando to do that. It gave us all a lot more confidence and it was the first time that me and the kids actually experienced Polly moving around.
We just had a long weekend here in Greece and for the first time we experienced the busyness that usually happens in full swing of the charter season. People coming and going, boats leaving and arriving, suitcases and trolleys coming past, divers checking hulls, caterers, laundry services, cleaners, diesel trucks coming and going. Bow thrusters roaring and masts going by.
We were advised that it probably wouldn’t hurt anyone if we just went out for a few hours to sail without stopping anywhere in a port if we come back to the same spot on the jetty – lets just call it a second sea trial, shall we? So we did. We quietly slipped out for our first, slightly “illegal” sail. It was so exciting and it was a beautiful sunny and relatively calm day. It was so nice to feel the wind in our faces, to pull up the sails for the first time and get a feel for how it will be once we can leave legally. It was great to test all the systems, how to get the boat ready for sailing, figure out who needs to be doing what. We anchored off a beach packed with people not all that far from Athens.
Even the anchoring went well and it was good for all of us to feel into the process of who does what when the anchor goes down. Unfortunately I felt a bit queezy and so did the kids. Can’t wait for those boxes from New Zealand to arrive as our whole medical kit is in there with the various sea sickness remedies and medications we had organised already. The kids felt better after the swim and my tummy settled after eating a bit of fresh apple. Going down is definitely not so good for me while underway. I felt best standing up and steering the boat.
Once we anchored the kids and Tim went for a swim off the sugar scoop (the back end of the boat, that is very close to the water). The water was clear and pleasant. Tim said the hull looks pretty good and he gave the propeller a scrape to get the barnacles off. Then Luca wanted to go around in the dinghy for a bit. So the dinghy went in and the motor on and Tim, Nina and Luca took Lucy for her toilet business to the shore. Once they were back Luca had a go in the dinghy all by himself, roaring around Polly with the biggest smile on his face. I had bit of the rest in the sun on deck trying to calm my queezy stomach. We left the marina later in the day, so soon pulled the anchor up again and made our way back to be able to park in good light. The whole trip went smoothly and it was so nice to experience Polly out at sea. That was the first time for me and the kids out on Polly on the big, beautiful ocean. It felt slightly surreal and gave us a little taste of how it will be once we untie those lines. We all went to bed a bit happier and bit saltier.
The next day Ina came over for dinner. Kath, a friend from Hawke’s Bay, had done couch surfing in Greece once and spend a few nights with Ina in Athens. When Kath heard in December that Tim was in Athens she put Ina and Tim in touch and they met. Since we all have been here in Athens Ina had been helping us via messenger and phone, from translating baking recipes to trying to help with our visas. It was so nice to meet her personally and spend some time together. The beautiful, kind and caring people we have already met on our journey so far in this strange time make up for all the discomfort with the bureaucracy here. We hope that once we are underway we can take Ina out on the boat sometime.
Thank you for your support and encouragement and for being here.