Adventures in Greece as we pursue the dream of buying a boat and cruising the Mediterranean.
Wow, a half a year goes fast! This week marks the passing of exactly 6 months since we first landed in Athens, quite a milestone. In many ways we really had no idea what to expect yet some things were really quite predictable too with hindsight.
- We’d read that buying a boat is hard. Honestly we expected we’d have something with a few months, yet here we are, still looking!
- Obviously the pandemic was never going to go away. Our first months felt like freedom but actually we’ve now been in some form of a never ending lockdown for about 4 out of the 6 months we’ve been here.
- We always expected the residency process would be involved and it was! We were always a little sceptical we’d have it completed within the first three months, and in the end were pleasantly surprised it took no more than four to sort out.
- We’ve made a lot more friends than we expected. It’s one of the lovely things about being part of a real expat community, you meet like minded souls and create great shared memories and adventures.
- We saw fewer museums than we expected — we had planned to see most of them in November, but then lockdown happened.
By the numbers:
- Reviewed 33 boats seriously on paper. Inspected about 20 in person. Offers on 3. Purchased 0.
- 4 trips out of Athens (3 for Karina) — twice to Samos (boat related, but also holiday) and once to Meteora and Delphi. I did a week sailing some islands.
- Countless hours (well in excess of 50 between us), spent queueing and waiting for some government or administrative function.
- 1.5 hours listening to 6 pages of T&C being read out loud and translated live to English.
- 6 vet visits for Rosie — initially getting paperwork and vaccines set up and then 3 times related to a bite on her ear from another dog.
- 10 doctors and specialist visits for Karina getting established in the system here.
- Less than €300 for the cost of all those visits and medication privately!!!
- 6 weeks and counting of teaching English for me.
- 0 stops by police to check our papers wondering around in lockdown. The trick is to be white foreigners.
I think this all deserves an update on the boat in Italy. In the end, we’ve had to walk away. The problem wasn’t the boat itself, or the condition — we wanted to buy it, but the owner wasn’t able to prove to our lawyers satisfaction the VAT status. This is significant because if we are audited bringing the boat to Greece and they aren’t happy the VAT was paid, then they can charge us 24% of the value of the boat. It was frustrating because there’s no doubt the VAT has been paid, it can’t be listed on the Italian Ship Registry as a private boat if it hasn’t, but the paperwork to back this up just wasn’t available. It felt like a headache, both now and potentially in the future when we sell the boat so we decided it was time to walk away.
All this then meant a major rethink of what we’re looking for. Buying a boat is always a compromise, we needed to think further about what we are willing to give up or change in our requirements. The reality is that under the existing set of criteria we had, there’s only about 10 boats in Greece that come close and we’d investigated all of them. So we re-thought things a bit, changed the budget and now we have a new list of 10 boats (including a few we’ve seen before) to investigate and make a decision on.
Earlier this week we went out to meet our new accountant. Not THAT exciting, but it’s a good milestone for us as we now have a “permanent” address here — she’s going to collect all official mail etc for us so that means we’re free to live anywhere on our (eventual) boat and not need to update addresses. There are a few interesting things about the Greek Tax system if you’re into that sort of thing, let’s just say I’m not surprised they are struggling with revenue here, there’s a LOT of holes, most of which work in favour of people like ourselves who are asset rich but income poor.
There’s been a lot of protest in Athens this week. Not that unusual, it’s a national pastime I think, but we finally got to wander over and see what was going on. This particular protest relates to a change in the law to allow police onto University grounds. Those against the change (students), say it’s limiting freedom of thought and allows the police to oppress those that have opposing views to the government (which is apparently part of the reason the ban on them entering the grounds was made in the first place). Those in favour of the change say that the students basically grow, manufacture and deal drugs with impunity on University grounds with no fear of police interference. Also probably true. I read a rumour that there are “professional” students, that have been attending University for 12+ years literally because they have a substantial illegal income.
Karina spent some Christmas money on a new necklace which needed to have the chain lengthened. She was excited to finally pick it up this week.
With Ester we went to the main site of the 2004 Athens Olympics, it’s a really interesting complex with a lot of dramatic architecture and quite fun to walk around. Most of the buildings are still in use, but are also in various states of dereliction and disrepair as well — it’s yet another reminder of how hard the economic crisis has been on Greece. We enjoyed seeing the various buildings and getting out for another urban exploration.
One thing that we all enjoyed was the sense of space. It’s actually rare in Athens to find somewhere that you get a real sense of openness, either there are buildings or people pressing in on you everywhere that you go.
Amongst all this, the regular French lessons and English teaching continued as well. The English teaching is a lot of fun, but also has its challenges. My student missed his lesson during the week because a friend borrowed his tablet, switched the language to Chinese and then didn’t switch it back. Remember that this student can’t even read English well yet, so this was a challenge too far and he wasn’t able to get back on until he found someone who could read Chinese to change it for him again!
Until next time!
Tim & Karina