Adventures in Greece as we pursue the dream of buying a boat and cruising the Mediterranean.
Last Sunday hit a first milestone for me since arriving in Greece. I was officially bored. Ok, it’s taken a while and I’m sure many others are struggling with various lockdowns etc, but after a week of sailing, meeting new people and general stimulation I found myself in the doldrums, plain old bored. We thought about going to a museum (boring, seen one ancient amphora, you’ve seen them all) and instead ended up heading to Piraeus to browse the super yacht marinas. Well out of our budget, but turned out to be fun regardless.
Sunday is rapidly turning into our least favorite day in Greece (this is a matter of degrees, all days in Greece are good days!), mostly because everything is closed except for the tavernas. We’re so used to the 24x7 nature of shopping in the US it’s hard to get used to things being unavailable. Obviously we don’t have work either so every day is essentially a day off, it’s just on Sunday we can’t get to the supermarket to buy milk!
Monday we had to sort out some upgrades to Karina’s health insurance and then in the afternoon we met friends for drinks in Kolonaki and strolled through the National Gardens with them.
Tuesday it was dropping the dog off to be looked after, then a flight as we headed back to Samos again to get ready for the survey of the boat we are looking at. We picked up a car at the airport and took the opportunity to explore a bit more broadly than last time, heading to Samos town for dinner. There were a couple of young boys sitting next to us on the sidewalk playing on an iPad and this caused the restaurant owner to come out and move them on for disturbing the guests!
It was fun driving a manual car again. I think it’s been almost 9 years since I last drove a manual, and of course that was back in Australia where you shift gears with your left hand, so for the first half hour or so I kept trying to change gears by grabbing at the door as the steering wheel is on the left here.
Samos has a very different feel from Pythagoreio. It’s dominated by the Vathy refugee camp which is very noticeable in terms of the significantly increased police presence in the town. Samos sits about 2 kms from Turkey, so it’s born the brunt of the refugee crisis here in Greece. Vathy was a former military camp that was set up to house around 600 people and now has over 6,000 crowded inside.
Wednesday we drove right around the island and visited Potami Waterfalls. These are a small series of falls that you need to wade through the water in a small canyon to see. We enjoyed making the effort although it was cold! A lot brisker than 28C Ocean water.
Another beach, this time at Tsabou where I practiced becoming an Instagram Influencer and then back to the hotel to sleep, ready to get up early on Thursday (7.30 is early here!) to meet the surveyors at the airport to take them to the marina. Sea trial day had finally arrived!
It was exciting to finally get back aboard the boat again for the first time since we saw it a few weeks back, especially now it was in the water, however it was immediately clear things weren’t going quite to plan.
It wasn’t ready for the sea trial and mechanics were working hard to change batteries, oil etc to make it work. Our surveyor was fine, he just got to work assessing the general condition while our engine mechanic started extracting data from the engines with his computer and helping the other mechanics get things ready.
By lunchtime it was clear things were definitely problematic — the mechanic had uncovered some questionable items in the engine logs, there were signs of repairs which suggested that the engines had been flooded while the general condition of the boat indicated generally poor maintenance. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get straight answers from the vendor on what exactly had happened in the past which would have been helpful.
After meeting with the surveyor, our broker and engine mechanic, we made the decision to walk away. Even with the discount they threw at us at the end, it was clear there was far more work than we’d anticipated and there was a lot more needing attention than the seller realized too. Essentially by lunchtime we’d reached over 33% of the sale price in additional maintenance required to make it good. They did eventually sea trial the boat that afternoon so we went along for the ride anyway — it wouldn’t get above 1,200 RPM so it couldn’t make cruising speed, there’s more work (20,000 Euros worth of more work at least) to be done on those engines for sure.
It was a good experience overall — everyone was very professional and enjoyable to work with. It’s very clear that the brokers and the seller didn’t have a good idea about what was required and were as surprised as we were about some things uncovered. This is the challenge when you own a boat and can’t get to it during COVID!
Although a somewhat costly exercise for us, we learnt a lot, we’ve built a team to help us now on the next one and we have a much better idea about the steps involved and have even further clarified our needs better. So no regrets, we’re ready to start searching again for the right yacht!
One amusing turn of phrase here in Greek English is “reverting” — we came across this a lot when dealing with lawyers and our broker. Whereas in Australia we’d say “I’ll get back to you” or “I’ll follow up”, here in Greece, they simply write “Reverting” as in, “I’ll find out and I revert back to you with the answer”. You might ask “Can you check with the vendor about X” and get simply “Reverting” as an answer.
With the survey called off, we had an extra day to enjoy Samos even more. This was a lot of fun, we made the most of the beaches and spent some good time reading and enjoying crystal clear water. The beaches are very varied, from soft white sand to large smooth pebbles and everything in between.
As you travel around the island, you do get that sense of just how close it is to Turkey — not only does the Turkish coast dominate on the horizon, but there’s also an increased military presence too. Lots of bases with “Don’t Photograph” signs and armed guards outside.
You also get a sense of the history! These streets were not designed for cars. Fortunately there’s not much traffic, but frequently inside towns you’re negotiating two way roads with only enough room for one car. The guys from Athens call it “Island Driving”. We also saw lots of small shrines alongside the edges of the roads, it turns out these are devotions to people who have either died in a car accident, or perhaps had a serious accident and survived. In Australia the equivalent would be the bunches of flowers tied to a tree by a highway. They are very frequent and definitely a good reminder to slow down (although the locals don’t seem to believe in this-we saw lots of overtaking on double lines).
On our final day, knowing that we weren’t going to get back to Samos again any time soon, we visited the few remaining sites. The Temple of Heralion was very interesting and another piece in the puzzle on the history of Samos which really is a fascinating place. As the local tour guide said, it’s not so much that you can’t see these things elsewhere, it’s that they did it in Samos first.
I’ve been told before that a great way to appreciate Greece is to tour all the ancient temples and the tour guide gave me an additional piece of that puzzle — “ask WHY they built the temple here. This place is not special because they built a temple, they built a temple because the place is special”. There’s evidence of worship at this location dating back 5,000 years BCE and it is a stunning location nestled between the mountains and the sea.
Another place we’ve been wanting to visit is the Tunnel of Eupalinos. This was built around 600BCE and it was a feat of both amazing mathematics and engineering. They dug this tunnel from both ends at the same time, 1km through limestone rock and managed to meet up almost exactly in the middle, even with detours where the rock was hard — try do that without a calculator! It was built to carry water from one side of the hill into the city for a permanent supply in case of siege. Part of the story which fascinated me is that it was “lost” until the 19C, when it was re-discovered by archaeologists searching based on historical accounts from people who had visited when it was still active! Perhaps in a 1000 years from now someone will read this and rediscover it again (hint, it’s 1km to the west of the monastery if that’s still there).
Finally we headed around to a few more small towns to see the last piece of the island we’d yet to visit, then back to the airport and off home to Athens.
Unfortunately the last leg of the journey (literally as we left the train at our metro station) was marred by me having my phone stolen by pick pockets. It was a slick operation — they were operating as 3 or 4 of them, one held Karina up with questions, the other jammed the train door in front of me and as everyone was trying to push it open (including me), another picked my pocket and passed it off. It was frustrating because I was suspicious and thought something was going on, I even double checked my pockets and then the door jammed, I reacted and literally 5–10 seconds later my phone was gone and no clue who took it. As I told a friend, another story to share in the future. The timing isn’t ideal, if only it was in 4 weeks when the new iPhones are out, so I’ll just have to muddle through for a bit — no point getting an iPhone 11 when the 12 is announced tomorrow!
Until next time!
Tim & Karina