At the beginning of the year 2020 we delved into boat projects aboard our sailboat Aina. At that point nobody knew that the world was about to turn upside down. Greece went into total lockdown in March, but we just kept on working. Read more about our time during the spring lockdown in Messolonghi!
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!
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.
We left the island of Kefalonia to sail to the Greek mainland. Along the way we anchored for one night on the island’s southeast corner, and continued in the morning towards the town of Mesolongi. We made landfall at dusk. Mesolongi is situated at the mouth of the Patras Bay, and surrounded by extensive salt marshes and lagoons. A narrow, dredged channel leads into the town bay, about a mile and a half inland. There are peculiar houses built on stilts on both sides of it, and many small wooden piers. Numerous bird species inhabit the wetlands, even pink flamingos, of which we saw a great big flock with our binoculars as we motored along the channel.
Our journey began in June this year. That means we have now sailed slowly, and not particularly surely, towards southerly latitudes for more than six months. Having reached such a milestone, many sailors like to draw a summary of the highlights, measure how well their expectations were met, publish statistics about their journey and so on. It’s a good idea, so why not give it a try.
After a strenuous spring filled with boat projects, emptying yet another land based home, getting stuff for the boat and getting rid of land life stuff while working to save every last penny for our cruising kitty we were finally ready to cast off! No, the boat was not perfectly polished and squeaky clean, but it was ready to sail.
A couple of days into May it was time to launch our boat, Aina. The time came sooner than we had really hoped for, as we were neck deep in boat projects. But the big crane had only been booked for one day, and the costs could be shared by several boats, so we had to be ready. We had the boat survey done, keel cooler units installed on the bottom, two layers of new antifouling applied and all the zincs replaced. Right on time!
Planning a great sailing voyage is hard work. And it’s almost all new to us. Budgeting and planning, refitting and kitting our boat, safety aspects, charts, cruising guides, navigation electronics and programs, weather, tides, insurance, permits and qualifications, vaccinations, prescriptions, cruising routes, interesting places to see along the way… Not to mention the mental preparation! It’s really hard to imagine what it will be like to give up a permanent home on solid ground and move your whole life onto a floating home on the water. What will it be like to swap your safe, familiar everyday life for an uncertain future, your regular income for living off savings or odd jobs – and your monotone, wearisome life for complete freedom!
The first step towards the Great Journey has been taken. Last time I wrote about how we decided to put our plan into action. The first phase has been completed – we have sold our house and most of our worldly belongings. There are a million steps to go before we get to stand on the deck of our sailboat, waving goodbye to the cheering crowds on the dock. Firstly, we’ll need a boat. Secondly, we’ll have to be nice to our friends so there might actually be someone there to see us off! This time I will concentrate on the boat search, which might prove to be the easier task of the two.
”We sold everything, bought a sailboat and went sailing around the world!”
If you read blogs or watch Youtube channels about people cruising around in sailboats, you may have come across these words a few times. They seem to be the cruisers’ favourite urban legend. But you seldom hear the story behind the words.
When we bought our little boat two summers ago, it was for a very specific purpose. As I’ve said before, it was not merely to enjoy the Baltic archipelago during weekends and summer holidays – all that just came as a bonus. We wanted to learn to sail on a small boat first, before making any hasty and espensive mistakes. More than anything we wanted to find out whether we would really like sailing and not just the idea of sailing and memories of long ago.