Adventures in Greece as we cruise the Mediterranean on our boat Matilda, an Adagio Sundeck 44 Trawler
Things that surprise you about boat life:
- You can bust coconuts on our calves now. The boat is constantly moving and you’re constantly “micro-balancing” yourself with your legs. Even when you get used to it and you no longer feel the movement, your body is actively working to balance you. Even when we do “nothing” we sleep well at night because of the constant exercise.
- You stop noticing the boat move — but now the land moves instead. Yes, land sickness is a thing, most noticeable when in a small contained room (like a toilet cubicle). It’s not that nauseating, but it can feel a bit like being low grade tipsy all day. The longer we are on the boat and swapping back and forward to land, the easier it is to deal with.
- Every small thing becomes a big thing. There’s rarely just “one step” involved in any chore.
I’ll give you a good example of the last one. The solar panels really needed a clean, they were covered in red Sahara dust from dust storms a few months back and obviously this impacts the efficiency. This sounds like it would be a relatively straight forward task, but involved the following steps:
- Fetch the hose from the storage locker, connect up the tap on the dock and run the hose back on to the boat.
- To access the solar panels, the safest/easiest way is to remove the cockpit bimini (canvas cover) so you can stand on the back of the cockpit seat and clean them. Start removing the bimini.
- One of the zips was missing a pull on it, so search the boat for the right size rope to make up a zip pull. The first attempt failed, search for a better piece of rope. Finally successfully make a zip pull and can unzip the bimini.
- Decide that while I have the bimini removed, I should clean it, so take it down on to the dock.
- Clean the solar panels. Unfortunately can’t reach the back, so go and find the deck brush and assemble that so I can reach the rear of the solar panels.
- Solar panels are cleaned. Clean the deck where the water and dirt from solar panels has splashed around.
- Wet down the bimini with water and some ocean safe laundry detergent and start scrubbing down with the deck brush.
- Try to wash the bimini off but the water pressure is terrible, stop and go to get the Karcher pressure washer. Hook that up, which involves finding an extension lead and removing the water hose from the boat as I now need it on the deck.
- Pressure wash the bimini. Get distracted by how awesome the pressure washer is and also clean the wood along the side of the deck — it looks great now.
- Pack everything up. Clean the dock which is now covered in dirt from the bimini and soap suds.
- Fit the bimini back on to the boat, notice that as we zip it up, the stitching in one corner is tearing, so add a task to the list to remove the bimini again at a later stage and take it to a sailmaker to have it repaired.
That’s how you clean solar panels! It only took about 2.5 hours and generated one more task for the list.
Last Sunday we were still in Porto Heli, which really is a very picturesque little town with a lot of great places to eat. There’s a definite buzz at the moment as the movie “Knives Out 2” starring Kate Hudson and Daniel Craig is filming on Spetses Island, (about 2 miles off the coast) and the cast and crew are all living in villas around the Kranidi peninsula. The town is full of black Mercedes vans couriering people around and the crew fill the cafes. We overheard several crew members gossiping about the stars, who they liked to work with, what you’re allowed to call them, that sort of thing.
We’ve decided that (because boat maintenance is essentially endless) we need to keep aside one day for doing nothing. Given everything is shut on Sunday anyway, we’re trying to make this our day off. This meant a good excuse to break out the tender. The goal — a trip to the beach!
I managed to get the outboard working, unfortunately it was running a little rough after being laid up — specifically it doesn’t actually idle at the moment, you can basically “go” or stall. Never mind, all part of the adventure, we did successfully get to go to a local beach a 20 minute boat ride away and it was very beautiful.
We did find a captain, Dimitris, who was able to take us from Porto Heli to Lavrion on Tuesday. Because we needed to fill up with diesel (which can’t happen in the marina— you need to fill at the town quay) and also as we needed to head out early at 7AM to make it before the weather, he suggested that he come by Monday evening to move Matilda on to the town quay and we should spend the night there. So we did…
When you’re stern to, you are really tightly packed in with other boats. This is very common in the Mediterranean and is how we’ll spend a lot of nights as we travel around. A few things we noticed though, the guys on the boat next door stayed up late chatting and drinking and then of course, all the kids in the town wandering up and down the docks chatting at 2AM in the morning are right outside your window! It wasn’t our best nights sleep at all. One big win was that we’ve finally figured out the refrigerator and successfully kept everything cold at the dock without power.
Tuesday morning Dimitris arrived back at Matilda and we set off on the journey to Athens. The early part of the trip was stunning — the water was calm and the islands of Dhokos and Hydra both dramatic in scenery. Once we left the coast near Poros and started crossing the Saronic Gulf, it was a bit more boring — just land in the distance and 3 hours of driving in a straight line! The waves and the wind picked up as well which made it a little less comfortable — Rosie wasn’t too sure about it, but we all coped OK.
Dimitris runs local fishing charters and has also been doing some work for “Knives Out 2”, including ferrying guests and he even has a brief appearance parking a boat which he’s hoping make the final cut!
The journey took around 6.5 hours, a little faster than Matilda would normally cruise at, but it was a lot of distance to cover in one day. A very successful “real” sea trial in some slightly more challenging seas with a few things discovered (specifically that the forward hatch leaks quite a lot when waves come over the bow — we need to fix that!).
All this and it’s only Tuesday. Phew.
Lavrion Olympic Marine is a very different marina from Porto Heli. Porto Heli is a bit more “upper crust”, very focussed on the tourist trade with the majority of guests coming and going after a day or two. Lavrion is a working marina— lots of permanent moorings, a big charter base so lots of charter yachts and people coming and going for that as well as a lot of people who are living on their boats like us.
A lot of the boats around us are managed on behalf of their owners, so during the week there are maintenance crew around polishing, cleaning, fixing, stocking and generally looking after the boats, then on Friday and Saturday morning there was a burst of activity as everyone hopped on board and left the marina.
So far we’ve identified five distinct different types of people around:
- Maintenance staff and boat crew — People who are paid to work on boats, almost always dressed in a uniform of some sort. The fancier the boat, the smarter the uniform, and the more monogrammed with the boat name each item of uniform is.
- Charter guests — The tourists here for a sailing holiday. They mill around in big groups, are loud and excited and have WAY too much stuff with them in huge hard case roller bags. Always dressed nicely when they arrive.
- Liveaboards — This is the group we fall into — generally people that are spending a lot of time on their boat and doing a lot of their own maintenance. Clothing is sparse (it’s hot when you’re on the boat the whole time). Spending all day in your bathers is entirely acceptable!
- Weekenders — Mostly families that arrive en masse on weekends and holidays to take their boat out for a couple of days. Your classic “boater” look — Dad probably wears a captains cap. There’s usually a young nanny in the group, carting the bags.
- Ultra wealthy — None of these at Lavrion, but in Porto Heli — the super yacht guests. Look more like they are dressed for Vegas than a boat. Gucci and Prada etc.
We’ve yet to really explore Lavrion, there’s a few things to see in the area and it has an interesting industrial history. The hills around here were full of silver and it’s where Athens wealth came from in classical times. It was revitalised in the 1850’s when miners realised they could rework the tailings from old mines profitably, and now it’s seeing a resurgence as a second port to Pireaus. The government has big plans for it as it’s only 20 minutes from the airport and sending tourist traffic here for the Cyclades not only makes sense, it relives a lot of pressure from the city too. Suffice to say there are plenty of restaurants and a surprisingly good foodie scene too.
We hired a car on Wednesday which we kept for several days to run errands into Athens, as well as further stocking up Matilda — a task which “finally” I think we’ve mostly completed now. We also continued our speedboat course — only a couple of weeks left on that now. Karina got her second COVID vaccination and we visited the local beach for a swim.
Vassilis is the captain I met on my sailing trip back in September and we’ve stayed in touch since. He was returning on a charter here in Lavrion so came by to visit on Friday evening. It was great to catch up, show him and his partner around Matilda and learn a few Greek traditions too (apparently you bless the new captain / boat as a guest by leaving coins in the captains chair).
Finally I tore down the outboard motor to try and fix the idle issue. Ultimately I figure that the worst that can happen is it needs a service, which it needs anyway, best that can happen I fix what I think is the likely issue (the idle jet in the carburettor is clogged). In preparation I watched a few videos on cleaning the carburettor on Yamaha 2.5hp outboard and it looked easy enough so never one to shy away from a challenge, I started on it.
It was strange — many of the parts in the motor were obviously familiar (choke, throttle cable, air intake etc.) but it didn’t seem quite the same as the video either. I put it down to the fact our outboard is a little more recent than the one in the video, so they’d probably tweaked the layout. Never mind, I got it apart, cleaned, poked and prodded and then put everything back together again, only to realise at that point that our outboard is actually Suzuki and all my “research” and learning had been watching videos on Yamaha’s 🤦♂️.
This week we continue the speedboat course, continue to clean and do maintenance on Matilda and hopefully find a captain who can take us out on a few day trips to enjoy the nearby beaches.
Until next time!
Tim & Karina