Week 83 - Birthdays and Athens

Birthdays, apartments and trips to Athens while we wait to start cruising the Mediterranean on our boat Matilda.

Week 83 - Birthdays and Athens
Tulips and a view over the chilly harbour.

Birthdays, apartments and trips to Athens while we wait to start cruising the Mediterranean on our boat Matilda.

Where better to start than Happy 50th birthday to Karina! It was a much quieter affair than my party last year, but that’s by design. She didn’t want any fuss, so we had a relaxed day together, rented a car to drive and explore the island, had a truly disgusting lunch then ate far too much chocolate and drank champagne.

It’s been a busy week overall with lots accomplished. Sunday we had a visit from someone I knew from working on startups back in Melbourne. He and his fiancee are working remotely here in Greece — they escaped the Australian lockdown on a business visa and have been working remotely around the world since. It was fun chatting to them both and sharing Aegina with them for the afternoon.

Ivan and Lindsey took this rare photo of us actually together!

On Monday, it was coffee with a local expat we’ve met here called Joanne, then into Athens on Tuesday. The major reason was to go to the bank to arrange the transfer of our permanent address — an involved and overly bureaucratic process, then interview a friend, Maya, for the podcast and catch up on some shopping ready for food supplies for the boat.

Podcast with Maya

After thinking we weren’t going to find anyone, Joanne arranged a local lady to make the curtains for the boat, so we also bought the materials on Monday and then Tuesday night handed everything over — they are hopefully being made right now. In typical Greek fashion we have no idea how much this will cost. It seems distasteful here to talk about money before the job is completed so we are just going to have to wait and see!

We were then back in Athens again on Wednesday to visit the apartment with Maya and the contractor, Thomas. Since I snuck a peek last week, they’ve made great progress with the framing complete, most of the plumbing roughed in and now we were needed to plan out the light switch locations and other electrical on site. It’s very exciting to actually stand inside the new layout and get a better feel for what it’s really going to be like. We’re happy with the progress and it was fun to make some contributions and even start to talk about some of the decoration options in more detail.

Thursday was back at the ship yard to paint the anchor chain. To anchor successfully, you need to know three things — what’s the bottom like, how deep is it where you are dropping anchor and how much chain do you have out. We have a chain counter, but as a back up, the anchor chain itself is marked at 5 meter intervals, but the current scheme is complex and impossible to know what a red — blue — yellow marker is without referring to a chart written in French. The current colour marks are also inserts inside the links so very small to see.

We decided that we’d paint it every 5 meters in combinations of red and yellow — a red stripe for each 10 meters and a yellow for 5. So Red — Red — Yellow is 25 meters, no need to refer to a chart. Ultimately it’s a backup system, so if the chain counter fails (or resets as it does occasionally on a power spike), we can quickly double check how much we have out.

It was a lot more physically demanding than we expected! The chain is long and heavy, so moving it around really works the muscles, and then the painting process involved long periods of squatting down which has left us both feeling stiff and sore! Roll on the season proper, we need to get back in boating shape again.

On Friday we spoke with the kids and Karina’s parents for her birthday which we really enjoyed. It’s good to catch up with family and hear what everyone is up to. Then we hired a car and drove around the island.

Wildflowers and looking across the Saronic gulf towards Methana and the Peloponnesse in the hazy distance.

Aegina is a reasonable size, although it’s not huge. After all the time we’ve spent here it was interesting to see the other towns a bit. We visited Perdika on the south, where there’s a brand new breakwater and pier gone in ready for the sailing season, then around back to the ship yard (to drop some refilled gas bottles on the boat). Afterwards, we headed to Souvala which is on the northern side of the island, in the bitterly cold wind looking towards Athens. Here we stopped for lunch and unfortunately for Karina’s birthday had what’s possibly the worst meal we’ve eaten in Greece — cold peas, cold mashed potatoes and a VERY unappetising meatloaf (which was described as beef wrapped with cheese, tomato and bacon and sounded MUCH nicer on the menu).

More wildflowers

It was fun exploring all the little villages in between the main towns and we really enjoyed the view from the south over Moni Island, all the wildflowers are blooming at the moment and the islands are very special at this time of year. The second place that was new to us is the Paleochora — the old main town.

Paleochora and several of the abandoned churches strewn around the mountain top.

The story is that for almost 1,000 years, Paleochora was the main city on Aegina (up high to avoid pirates) and it wasn’t until around the war of independence that the town moved to the current location on the port of Aegina. What’s fascinating about the old town is that it’s fully abandoned and all the stone materials taken away — probably for building other houses, but they left all the churches. So now it’s a very scenic hill in the middle of the island with the ruins of 35 churches dotted around. Quite interesting!

Unfortunately the weather continues very cold here. Karina met some tourists in Athens from Germany who sounded very put out that “It’s colder here than at home!” There were snow flurries in Athens again yesterday although it didn’t stick to the ground. Spring seems a long way away, although the forecast is for the weather to start improving from Wednesday and we are all hoping that this time, it stays around.

The days may be cold, but the view is still spectacular.

As for the boat, we’re still waiting on the air conditioner and parts. We are all very frustrated by the delays and there are many theories as to exactly what’s causing the problems, but the bottom line is that the supplier isn’t communicating and the parts aren’t arriving. So we have to continue to wait. It feels like waiting is a constant theme on the boat. With the weather the way it has been, it doesn’t seem so bad, but as it warms up, it will get tougher and tougher being delayed. It’s looking increasingly like I’ll go on a delivery/repositioning run with a sailboat as they start to get ready for the season, just to pass the time.

Until next time,

Tim & Karina