Night time adventures and the end of the season… Adventures in Greece cruising the Mediterranean on our boat Matilda.
Well that was a surprise…
The plan was to haul out this coming Wednesday (1st of December), but the weather, as has been the trend all week, is refusing to cooperate. We arrived in Aegina Saturday morning (yesterday) to drop off Hannah and had intended to stay for a few days, winding down and prepping for the haul out. However our friend Markus rang to warn us that there were several boats damaged in Aegina on Friday evening with violent squalls coming through and more predicted for the next few days — it’s just not a safe port when the weather is behaving as it is.
Given it was midday when we arrived, we had some time to make a move, but options that offered great protection were limited and we had no desire to head back to Poros where we’d just come from. Even though it was safe there, it had been rough. Markus said they’d just been hauled out (at the same yard we were going to) and there appeared to be nothing scheduled, why not ring them and see if they would haul us out today too?
So we did. Two hours after that, Matilda was out of the water and this first season of boating (on the water at least) is done.
It was an emotional moment, it’s been a year of learning and adjusting for us both, but despite her quirks and minor faults, Matilda has become home and the suddenness of the transition had us both shedding a tear realising that this chapter is at an end for now. It was so sudden that we literally still had the washing hanging off the front of Matilda as she was hauled out!
Despite the sadness, we are genuinely excited about what’s to come and there’s no doubt that the haul out is the right thing to do as this last week really showed us.
When we collected Hannah on Monday we were still in Ermoupoli in Syros where we had just enough time to take her for a walk around the town and then all hustle aboard Matilda to move to Kythnos. We had little choice but to get underway immediately as the weather was grim all week and there was only a few windows where we could make our way back across the Aegean Sea to get back to Aegina.
It was a lot rougher on the crossing than we would normally do and it was also our first crossing in the dark with night falling while we were underway. It’s definitely a very different experience navigating at night, especially when it’s cloudy, I don’t think I’ve ever really experienced black like that, where we literally couldn’t see anything. There was a lot of swell and of course when you can’t see the horizon, you’re inside the boat because it’s night, then it’s a recipe for sea sickness. We did OK, but none of us loved it.
It was a relief to make Loutra on Kythnos to be greeted by bright lights on the harbour and a man who came out to meet us on the end of the pier and help us dock. With strong southerlies the next day (Tuesday), we needed to be tucked in safe.
Now at the end of November, Loutra is even quieter than last time we were here on Kythnos, but that was OK, we passed the day enjoying treats Hannah had bought for us (lots of German Christmas food) and soaking in the hot springs.
The big challenge was ahead of us — with the weather forecast we really only had one window left to cross from Kythnos to the coast of Athens, otherwise we’d be stuck out in the Cyclades for another 5 or 6 days. To make the window we’d have to leave after dark and cruise into the night.
We left a little after 7.30pm which was pitch black and headed to the north of Kythnos. At least here the seas were calm as the water was protected by the island from the south, but as we turned across the north of the island and started to head towards Athens, we were exposed to swell from the south which made for a very uncomfortable journey. As always Matilda handled it like a champ — there’s a big difference between unsafe and uncomfortable, she just charged on through the night, waves crashing onto the bow without missing a beat.
However we were miserable. It’s definitely our least favourite crossing, although also certainly our most adventurous. It was very cold outside, even rugged up, eventually both Hannah and Karina dozed off, which was good and I stayed on watch, bouncing between wanting to be outside in the air, but cold and wet or inside and warm, but sea sick! No regrets, but I wouldn’t rush to do it again — cruising without needing to be somewhere does make things easier and more enjoyable.
We arrived at Ag. Niklaus after midnight and dropped anchor in the dark. We holed up there all Wednesday while the north winds (it was the switch from southerlies to northerlies that gave us our weather window) blew strongly all day. Hannah and I took the tender to shore and caught a taxi down to Cape Sunion and the temple of Poseidon, while Karina read and relaxed aboard with Rosie.
Thursday morning we crossed the Saronic Gulf back to Poros. After two rough crossings, we were desperate for Hannah to have a good experience and we took a slightly longer route to find the calmest winds and seas which paid off. It was so calm and warm in the sun we even took our jackets off for the first time!
Unlike the first time we crossed the shipping lanes in the Saronic Gulf — the big “traffic separation zones” that all the ferries and cargo ships have to follow as they come in and out of Piraeus, we crossed easily. The new electronics make a big difference and we have a much better idea about what all the other boats are doing, how fast they are going, how close we’ll get and so forth. Playing chicken with container ships is stressful, anything that helps is much welcomed!
Poros was fun to visit again — it’s a more year around island being closer to Athens, and although some things were closed, probably 60% was still open. We enjoyed eating out and and walking around the town.
Friday morning the mechanics arrived and finally one of the first tasks required by our insurance from way back in May was completed! We now have a functioning AIS Class B Transponder! AIS (Automated Information for Ships) lets you see other boats electronically — tracking their position and speed on the sea. We’ve always been able to see other AIS equipped boats, but until Friday, we weren’t broadcasting our own position. Now we do! It’s very useful for other vessels to be able to not only easily see us, but also to know exactly where and how fast we are heading.
Now that we have the MMSI (our “electronic serial number” needed for the AIS) we can also add some other equipment and we’ve fitted an EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) to Matilda as well. Basically the EPIRB is fixed to the boat and if something catastrophic was to happen (we capsize or sink — such that the beacon ends up underwater), then it self deploys and alerts search and rescue to our position. It’s one of those systems you never want to use, but if nothing else, it will either help Search and Rescue locate our bodies… or find us clinging to the hull.
The storms that damaged boats in Aegina on Friday night, also ripped through Poros, but at the time we didn’t think too much of them other than they put on a bit of a lightning show for us. Although it made the water a little choppy for sleeping (which usually means lots of water slapping on the hull), we were otherwise fine. Saturday morning we crossed to Aegina.
Hannah and I toured the temple of Apollo and then she headed off in a taxi to the Temple of Aphaia while we caught up on some chores. Of course 30 minutes after she’d left, we’d changed plans and decided to haul out which made for a bit of coordinating for her to be able to find us again so she could get her bags back for the ferry.
And so here we are! We slept on Matilda “on the hard” last night, which was amusing because although the boat isn’t moving, we are now experiencing land sickness (where you feel like the land is moving when it isn’t after being at sea), so it still seems like she’s bouncing up and down! We can’t use all the systems (like the toilets) and it’s generally a lot more inconvenient. Still, we’re happy that Matilda is safely ashore and now we can move on to the next things! There is several major pieces of work scheduled, including on the engines which will be good to get completed ready for next year.
Here’s the season in summary
- 1024 nautical miles covered!
- 158 hours at sea
- 2,250 litres of diesel
- 13 running repairs
- 4 major upgrades (Windless, Electronics, Tender, EPIRB)
- 7 guests
- 24 ports (towns) visited
- 17 islands
- 11 ancient ruins
What happens now? We’ve rented an apartment in Athens for three months as a “home base”. We’re going to do a lot of deep cleaning and winter prep on Matilda for the next few days, then head to that apartment and enjoy living ashore in a city again for a bit. Eating food that’s not just Greek for example, catching up on some movies etc.
Mid December we are heading to Egypt (new Covid variants allowing) for two weeks and we’ll have Christmas Day there, then back to Athens to spend time with Ella and her boyfriend Inge for New Years Eve and a week in January.
Mid January it’s off to Berlin and Dusseldorf for “Das Boot” the largest European Boat Show where we’ll check things out there and then on to February where we don’t yet have specific plans, but are toying with the idea of Spain and then obviously back to prepping Matilda for a relaunch in early March.
The blog doesn’t stop here — the travel adventures continue — but for the next few months, back on land again!
Until next time,
(A landlocked) Tim & Karina
Want to see where we are now? Check us out on NoForeignLand https://www.noforeignland.com/boat/matilda