Week 51 - First cruise to Kythnos

Adventures in Greece as we cruise the Mediterranean on our boat Matilda, an Adagio Sundeck 44 Trawler

Week 51 - First cruise to Kythnos
Matilda anchored stern to at Kolona Beach, Kythnos Island in the Cyclades.

Adventures in Greece as we cruise the Mediterranean on our boat Matilda, an Adagio Sundeck 44 Trawler

Monday August 2nd was a bit of a milestone — it’s exactly one year since we left our jobs (yes, it was a Monday, for those not from the US, it’s a quirk with health insurance, had we finished up on the 29th we would have been un-insured for our last couple of weeks in the US, you’re automatically insured to the end of the month you leave in).

We celebrated by heading to Glyfada to pick up our temporary captains certificates so we can now officially skipper Matilda and we also made a run to a diving shop to pick up some masks, snorkels and fins, essential gear for our first real trip away on Tuesday! The rest of Monday was spent buying up large amounts of water, food, cleaning the boat and generally getting ready to go.

Before and after for the guest cabin

Tuesday morning Camille and a new friend Yiòrgo (who has had his powerboat licence for a while and so was joining us to help out), came from Athens to step aboard Matilda for the first time. The plan — to fuel up, head out to Kythnos for a night or two, then back via Keas, Makronissos and then “home” to Lavrion Olympic.

We were ready to greet them in our new Matilda shirts… funny because we realised after ordering these that it’s pretty much only crew that wear branded shirts here (the owners wear Gucci instead). We’re going to have to up our game. It was really hot so they only lasted on for about 10 minutes before we switched back to something else!

I officially captained by myself for the first time, which went very smoothly, although the first trip was a mere 200 meters to the fuel dock! We put 400 litres of diesel on board (a bit over a quarter full, we can carry around 1,800 litres). From there we headed out for Kolona beach on Kythnos.

We all took a turn at the helm, getting a feel for the boat and “learning the ropes”, in some cases quite literally, practicing tying off the fenders and tidying the dock lines away.

The journey was very smooth with no complaints, but it was a strange feeling pulling into the bay with no “rules” about where or what we could do. No dock master saying “go here” — it was up to us to negotiate the other boats and find somewhere we could fit safely. We opted to go “stern to” which is very common here and involves dropping the anchor, then reversing in close to the shore. Someone then jumps off, swims to the shore and ties off two stern lines, holding you firmly in place with your nose pointing out.

We were ultimately successful, but we had a few false starts and all hands on deck as we tried to co-ordinate the various elements. The big learning for me was making sure that the anchor is set properly — I failed to do this first time and as we were tying off the stern, our bow was drifting sideways towards the boat “next door”. Generally people are fairly chill however and quite helpful — there was a polite call from the boat next door of “Captain, may I offer you some advice?” and I received a crash course in where I was going wrong from the very helpful and clearly more experienced Captain next door. Once we had the anchor set, it was fairly straight forward.

The biggest challenge in the process was that the bow thruster (which pushes the boat sideways) got a lot of work and eventually cut out — we figured out after that we’d probably drained the battery as we used it a lot over a long period of time before we realised the anchor wasn’t set properly and decided to try again. Fortunately once the batteries recharged on the generator later that day, it started working again without any issue.

Kythnos Island proved to be a wonderful first location. The cliffs off the stern of Matilda were suitably stunning with goats climbing over them and entertaining both us and Rosie, while it was a short ride on “Tilly” the tender to get to some sand to stretch our legs (and Rosie’s too), with a short climb up a hill to a church and great views.

That’s Matilda in the middle at the back against the cliffs, we’re next to a 35 meter yacht chartering out for 40,000 Euros a week!

Rosie has been very good on the boat in general, she has no complaints about wearing her lifejacket, which we have on her while we’re underway and most of the time at anchor too. She is very inquisitive, and not at all afraid of the motion — after we left the harbour we found her standing on the swim deck watching the wake go by (not the safest spot for her to be). Once we tied up at Kythnos and dropped the tender, the swim deck became fully accessible and we heard some splashing only to turn around and see her in the water (which we believe was a complete accident, she didn’t go in again)!

“OMG, Rosie is swimming…”

What’s great about the dog life jacket is a handle on the back — we frequently pick her up and move her around like baggage when she’s wearing it and gets in the way.

Camille, Karina and Yiòrgo swimming while Rosie supervises.

We enjoyed Kythnos so much that we decided to stay for two nights. It was so liberating just waking up in the morning, stepping off the back of the boat and swimming. There’s also a hand held deck shower down there too, so you climb the ladder and wash the salt off, feeling really refreshed. Although the temperature was around 35C, it just didn’t feel that hot because you could cool down whenever you liked.

As you may be aware there are some very large fires around Athens at the moment, the smoke carried out to the Cyclades and the sunset was quite stunning because of it.

On the Wednesday Camille taught a lesson which was a good test of the WiFi — you really can work from anywhere these days, she was doing a Zoom call with students in China from an island in Greece. After lunch, we had read in our pilots guide about a hot spring that was very close by, so we all decided to swim over there — we locked Rosie inside the boat and headed off. It was a really pleasant hour and a half excursion, slowly meandering along the coast and then finding this hot spring right on the edge of the sea. You’d think that 35C water was too warm, but it was delightful and interestingly fresh water too, despite the fact it surfaced on the beach. No photos, but a great memory and I think a real highlight of the trip.

Afterwards, Camille and I caught up on my French lesson, and then we headed to the local village Merihas in “Tilly” to explore and find a meal.

Heading into town on the tender.

It was a bit of an adventure! Yiòrgo said that the highlight of the trip for him was when we carried the Tilly across the sand bar. This shortcut saved around 20 minutes of travel going out and around the small island, but it was quite funny. Although as we carried her across, one of the handles fell off!

When we woke up on Thursday morning, the boat was covered in ash from the fires which really hit home as to how severe they were becoming.

Setting off back to Lavrion, it would have been be simple for me to take the captaining duties, but ultimately that’s not a good strategy, Karina also has to get her experience too. As we left Kolona, she took over the helm, starting the engines, raising the anchor and setting us on our way while I offered some guidance and navigated, then she anchored us at Keas for a swim on the way home.

Keas was interesting — we anchored well and had no issues with the anchor moving but the beach was a popular one and there was a lot of speedboats going up and down with wake tubes which meant that the boat was rocking a lot. We swum a couple of times, ate our lunch and got out of there!

Camille took over for the leg from Keas to Makronissos where we wanted to stop for a last dip in the sea. I chose where we would anchor, selecting a nice clear patch that looked like sand. Well, that was a mistake! After deciding that we were holding, we went in for a swim, and then I snorkelled out over the anchor and realised the anchor was actually laying flat on a big flat white rock. It was just the weight of the chain holding us in place. Given we were only going to stop for an hour or two before heading back to Lavrion, I figured we’d be OK and I kept a careful watch on our movement.

When we left, we hit a snag — literally. The anchor caught on a rock, which blew the fuse (as it’s designed to do to stop burning out the windlass) and we suddenly lost the anchor windlass. We were stuck. The worst case scenario which went through my head was that the anchor was permanently jammed and we’d have to try diving on it to release it, or failing that, cut it away. Fortunately, it quickly came loose and we were able to use the emergency winch to manually pull it in — a very hard and slow task, but ultimately successful. Friday morning I replaced the fuse and it became very clear why the surveyor suggested that we move it from it’s location under the guest bed up to the deck after I spent a half hour upside down beneath a mattress!

The burnt out fuse with a good one on the right. My view upside down under the guest bed in the bow of the boat.

Docking back at Lavrion was smooth enough — we can do better, but we also managed to get ourselves successfully tied up with no issues, so no real complaints there. It helped that our neighbours in the slip beside us were away so we had a little more room as well. We had a debrief together and all agreed it was a very successful trip, we made it out and back safely and we all learnt a lot, gathering really valuable experience.

On Friday morning Karina and I woke up to a really strong smell of smoke — Greece is experiencing some of the worst fires it’s had and while they aren’t close to us, the wind was blowing smoke and ash all over the boat again. After 8.5 years in California and growing up in Australia, we weren’t happy until we’d put a fire escape plan in place — we think we won’t need it, but we’re also much happier having spoken about it and planned out what we would do. Marinas and boats are in many ways a terrible place to be in a fire — lots of canvas canopies that go up fast, plastic boats which catch alight and contain a lot of fuel that then spreads on top of the water to other boats nearby. Our plan is simple — get out early. Take the boat and go, we can anchor somewhere and wait it out, but we’ve filled the water tanks again, and planned the departure so we know what we’ll do. It does feel quite apocalyptic at the moment — I think one of the neighbouring captains summed it up quite well when I told him where we’d been “Why did you come back!” he said.

Other than that Friday and Saturday consisted of a lot of maintenance type tasks — we cleaned the boat from top to bottom, did 5 loads of washing, replaced the anchor fuse and finally fixed the forward hatch (with a whole new hatch that was so clean Karina thought the glass was missing…). We also struggled with the refrigerator which had a terrible smell that we eventually figured out was some chicken which had gone off — we’re learning that DC battery powered fridges aren’t quite the same as your home refrigerator, they can’t be relied on to keep things quite as cold, especially in 40 degree weather.

You might notice in all the photos that I was getting a bit wooly on top, we recently purchased clippers as we’re not sure exactly when and where we’ll be next to good hairdressers and Karina was frankly quite excited to have a go at cutting my hair! So Saturday morning also included a new hair cut.

Before and after haircut, Karina’s first attempt.

Sunday we’re heading out again, this time with Thymios (my Greek friend I met sailing in San Francisco) and his fiancee Ioanna, for a day trip to a new beach for us at Makronissos again (it’s literally next door!). Tuesday or Wednesday we plan to head out again with Sotiris (our broker) and depending on the weather, we might do a trip with the Habibi Center teachers.

It’s getting close now until we desert our “home base” — we realised today we are technically only booked in for one more week and we’ll have to start roaming around. Scotland have eased their Covid restrictions for vaccinated travellers from Greece, so if we can extend our berth here for an extra week or so, we’re hoping we might get a quick visit to Ella and see her for the first time in well over 18 months now.

Want to see where we are now? Check us out on NoForeignLand https://www.noforeignland.com/boat/matilda

Until next time,

Tim & Karina