If you choose to cruise around on a sailboat, your life will be full of surprises. Often positive – apparently more positive than negative, if you still feel enthusiastic about the lifestyle two years on. But eventually something bad will hit you, something that will make you weigh your motives.
After leaving our winter base, Messolonghi, we rounded the southwestern corner of mainland Greece. Next to a small but very high, rugged island called Oxia we hoisted the sails for the first time. Our destination was a boatyard on the island of Lefkas, to the northwest, where our boat would be lifted out and we would spend a month or so doing boat projects “on the hard”. But before that, we would have a little mini holiday of at least a couple of days, and we planned to use it anchoring in pretty coves and getting a little first glimpse of the Ionian archipelago.
Everything must come to an end, and that fortunately includes the corona lockdown. Our winter home, the town of Messolongi, emerged from its long slumber, and more and more people could be seen around town. The shops and services opened up one by one, and our small world: the marina, Lidl and AB supermarkets – the triangle our daily life had pretty much evolved around – was growing bigger. Finally pleasure boats were given the green light to sail from one port to another, that is those boats that already happened to be in Greek waters. Boats coming from abroad will have to wait for their turn a little while longer.
Finnish people who have spent a long time away from their homeland tend to miss the same things: sauna, salmiak and rye bread. There are many other things besides, but these three can’t be replaced by anything else. Sure, many traditional dishes can be made in a foreign place, using local produce and spices creatively, or by making a pilgrimage to the nearest Ikea for Scandinavian products that are close enough to our own. But you can’t bathe in the sauna, if there’s no sauna. Nothing tastes like salmiak, except salmiak – the strong, bitter and slightly salty black candy you can only find in Finland. And Finnish rye bread, well, it just has to have that real sourdough taste with 100% rye flour and no yeast or added flavours.
Last time I wrote about our boat plumbing project. Our freshwater system was now ready and working, and the next phase was to rebuild the saloon that had been pulled apart. The old cushions were also ready for the dumpster (one was good enough for Anouk the marina dog’s bed in the cockpit) – we would buy new ones and upholster them ourselves. The settees would be rebuilt with only minor changes to the measurements. The starboard settee would slide out to make a wider sea berth, and the port settee would be a little deeper than before. The new water tanks had found their place under the settees, and we could add some storage on both sides as well.
Now that most of the world is in lockdown mode, some of us have time to write about boat projects – and maybe some have time to read about them! In January, when we began our boat’s freshwater system refit, no one had heard of the Coronavirus. We were enjoying a nice Greek winter with sunny, warm days and cool, sometimes cold nights, and occasional rainy spells. The perfect time to work on the boat, especially if it happens to be of an older vintage with plenty of things needing improvement.
In January we began the first boat project we had scheduled for the winter. In March we meant to sail the boat to a boatyard and commence further projects on dry land. Those plans have now been delayed, postponed to a “more suitable time”, or perhaps they might turn into something a bit different. Who knows, unexpected things happen, as we well know. When we first started our journey, we had ambitious route plans and schedules, which soon turned topsy-turvy. Since then we have only sailed (or stayed put, like we now have for the winter) one day at a time. It used to sound a bit cliché to say that to people who asked about our plans. But then came the Coronavirus, and the world has rapidly changed. I bet living one day at a time is much more common now than it was a few weeks or months ago!
After a leisurely Christmas and New Year it was time for some much needed boat refit – plumbing, to be precise. We’re still in the middle of it, and that’s why I won’t go into any detail at this moment. I will write about the project later, when it’s finished. There hasn’t been much time for anything else besides drilling, screwing, demolishing and building during the last few weeks.
During the first days of our mountain holiday in Zagori we visited the mountains and the spectacular gorge that I wrote about in previous post. In an earlier brief history I mentioned that there are also 46 old villages built of stone – now it’s time to visit some of them! These days there are less than 4000 inhabitants in the area. In the heyday the number was many times that. Fortunately, travellers interested in nature, hiking, biking, horse riding, canoeing, climbing and other outdoor activities are beginning to find their way here, as well as those who are into history, architecture and stone construction. And for people who just love rocks – we happen to have those among our friends – it’s an endless goldmine.
Just like the previous New Year, I decided to write a little summary of this past year, along with some scientific statistics at the end. It feels incredible to have made it this far, and to be travelling still, when it’s been a year and a half since we left! Both of us and our boat still in one piece, the money not quite run out, and various plans for next year already springing up. And the places we’ve seen! In May we crossed the Bay of Biscay, sailed along the Atlantic coast of Spain’s Galicia and then Portugal. There we decided to turn towards the Straits of Gibraltar. We made it to the Mediterranean in July, and in August we were hopping along the coast of Sicily. In September we crossed over to Greece, and there we found our next winter base.