Adventures in Greece as we cruise the Mediterranean on our boat Matilda, an Adagio Sundeck 44 Trawler
OK OK, I know why you’re here — it’s the one year anniversary, but first let’s get this weeks update out of the way. I’ll make it brief.
We had a wonderful day out on Sunday with Thymios and Ioanna exploring a beach at Makronissos — the first cruise where we didn’t break anything 🤣
There was a storm on Wednesday night, the first we’ve experienced and even though we were tucked up safe in our berth in our marina, it was still an eye opening experience. I was up at two AM checking the lines and watching all the lightening strikes while thinking “this is probably not the BEST place to be amongst a forest of tall metal masts”.
Aside from that, this week we’ve been focussing on three major things:
- Getting “cruise ready” — we are smashing down the list of things to fix, update, replace and service so we can start cruising the islands.
- Planning for a visit to Scotland next week — with changes in Scotland and our vaccinations complete, we can go and visit Ella to see her for the first time in over 18 months.
- Working on this update and the accompanying video… Yes, that’s right, we’ve decided to become YouTube stars. Internet fame here we come. Well, maybe not, but we did think it would be fun to create a walk through tour of Matilda for those interested.
So that’s this week, without further ado, here’s a bit of a reflection on the last 12 months in Greece!
I know a lot of people have been interested in our new life aboard and how it works, so in celebration of our year and finally moving aboard, here is a 20 minute video tour of Matilda, showing you all the spaces with explanations of how we use them! Hopefully you enjoy it — we’re not going to become regular YouTubers like all the cool kids, but it’s a fun way to give a bit more detail on how things work.
12 months ago we arrived in Athens, full of unrealistic expectations about what we would achieve. I’d said on several occasions “we’ll be living aboard by December, early January latest”. We really had no knowledge at all about the process, about what was involved or how it worked. We also didn’t realise how long it would take to navigate the various Greek bureaucracies.
Still, fast forward to today and we’ve achieved everything that we set out to do and while things didn’t go to plan all the time or on the anticipated timeframe, we have had some wonderful experiences, met some fantastic people and wouldn’t change it at all. Somehow things just have a way of working out “just so”. For both of us, it’s been a year of growth too — fair to say that we’ve probably changed and learned more in the last 12 months than in any 12 months previously, and this seems unlikely to slow down.
For all the planning and preparation, we also achieved several unplanned things too — I never thought I’d teach English to a refugee or volunteer with an NGO, we never thought we’d meet so many amazing people that we enjoyed spending our lockdown time with, that I’d perfect the margarita or that Karina would develop a strong online community of gaming friends. It all kind of just “worked”.
We debated back and forth about how to capture the year in summary. Do we grab a photo from each week or each month? Do we focus on boats? How do we build a narrative around what we achieved. There’s no one “perfect way”, but ultimately, month by month seems to track the best. So without further ado, here’s a recap of our twelve months in Greece!
We arrived in Greece, Rosie arrived unexpectedly a day early, we started to explore Athens and found our apartment in Psyrii. We had our first real exposure to Greek bureaucracy opening our bank accounts and then Karina applying for her residency.
On reflection, September really shaped our experiences to come — we met Erik, I met Camille, we met our broker Sotiris, we met Vasillis a skipper, we established ourselves in Psyrri and Karina got her residency card. We travelled to Samos and got a taste for what life could be! A short sailing trip at the end for me really hit home how much I wanted to get out there and start cruising around.
Our first sea trial, and rejection of a boat. More explorations of Samos, a trip to Nafplio and Corinth, sailing exams and Karina met Camille for the first time. Also my phone was pickpocketed on the metro! This month was probably the first time that we started to get a little bit of a sense of just how hard it was actually going to be to buy a boat. We also met Michael this month, a fellow traveller.
We didn’t realise it at the time, although I guess we’d noticed the COVID-19 cases starting to rise, but it was our last burst of freedom before lockdown.
We visited Kilada for what would be the first of MANY trips, to see a Sealine C48 which we liked and tried to negotiate an offer on, but eventually fell through. While there we also walked past a weird looking trawler with a “for sale” sign on it. Little did we know but that boat would eventually be the one. The lockdown started, initially “just for 3 weeks” — the fact it didn’t eventually lift until May would show that was a lie… We met Cosmo and Simon this month too, an ill-fated attempt to do a comedy show that turned into a boozy night out at a bar past curfew.
I also finally received my new iPhone, so more, better quality photos! And then we amused ourselves during lockdown by making advent calendars for our friends.
I think December was the month that we finally realised lockdown was really going to drag on. Our ability to view boats was significantly hampered in Greece, and instead we’d started to cast a net further afield, looking at some online in Italy as well.
I finally received my (temporary) residents permit!
We walked the city from one end to the other, over and over. SO… MUCH… WALKING… in December. I think boredom was becoming a real issue and it was this month that I started taking French lessons with Camille which have been a lot of fun.
And of course in December, a lockdown Christmas lunch with Camille, Stevie and Simon.
While the year started with a bang, the boats were a fizzle. We made an offer on a boat in Italy, but ultimately it failed early Feb due to bad paperwork on the part of the owner. Again, another boat I’m ultimately glad we missed out on.
This month passed in a bit of blur — continuing to meet up with friends and walking through more and more “strange” places in Athens in desperation to experience something new.
We did get to meet Ester and Jake, teachers at the Habibi Center, who we enjoyed spending time with over the next few months. There was also a brief respite from lockdown when shops opened briefly for a few weeks.
6 months in Athens, three in lockdown… Even through lockdown, life is starting to creep back into the city with countless protests and an easing on some food services.
We continue to explore “random” places the average tourist would never go in our desperation to find something, anything new to see. Some of which are surprisingly good — the mostly abandoned Athens 2004 Olympics center proves to be very interesting. Others, well — new supermarket anyone?
Of course it’s hard to pass by the snow as one of the major highlights of this month — as Australians, it’s always exciting for us, so we enjoyed seeing a new perspective on some familiar sights. It was a break from the mundane.
We found an Azimut Magellano Trawler that we really liked and tried to make an offer on that, but ultimately again there were issues with the VAT. We were learning though, as soon as problems started we moved on quickly, found another one of the same model in Croatia and then walked from that as soon as the owner requested a 50% deposit in order to pay off the lease before he could promise it was VAT paid…
Finally at the end of the month we escaped to the hills and a getaway with our friends to celebrate my birthday a week early as Ester was heading home and we really wanted her to be able to join us.
At this point a sense of desperation has really begun to set in — we’ve been here for 8 months and STILL haven’t bought a boat. Will it happen? After recalibrating and reviewing, we go back to a boat we saw briefly in December and decide to get serious about it, writing up an offer on an Adagio Sundeck Trawler 44 that will soon be Matilda. Of course, things don’t go THAT smoothly — it’s well into April by the time the offer is formally signed off on and the sea trial scheduled.
Things slowly started to open up in Athens — archaeological sites opened for visits to our relief, flowers began blooming everywhere and kites were flying for festivals in preparation for lent and Easter.
Honestly I think our friends no longer believed us when we said we’re planning to buy a boat. I no longer believed us — the process with Matilda dragged on, but EVENTUALLY we get a signed contract and we can move to sea trial. Of course there are challenges and paperwork to be done as we’re still in lockdown, but we were very excited to get out of Athens for the first time in several months.
After a lot of last minute back and forward, we finally get to the sea trial and everything went well, we’ve finally found our boat! Now we just need to close the deal…
With the archeological sites open again, we went back to the Acropolis, where we met Hannah and had a lovely time getting to know her over a few weeks, including a delightful final meal before she flew back home to Germany.
The month finished with what has proven to be a typical boat buying experience, bad documentation. The sellers were unable to produce exactly what our lawyer was requesting, but in the end we push forward anyway as we have enough to prove the VAT. Then at the 11th hour and 59th minute, our lawyer noticed the engine serial numbers are wrong. This then sends things into a delay again while this is fixed.
The month started with Greek Easter celebrations and we enjoyed a few traditional activities like Egg Wars with Camille, Sarah and Simon.
We reached a point with Matilda that we were going to walk away — the documentation change had been lost en route, and there was no update coming, then all of sudden, bam. It had been completed. We moved quickly to completion and the following Wednesday were back in Kilada to conclude the sale with a glass of champagne!
We now owned a boat. Of course, this is where the waiting begins again. We can’t pop her into the water and set off because of two major issues:
- We need to get her reflagged, which involved a MUCH longer wait than anticipated. Around 6 weeks ultimately!
- We don’t have the right license and the powerboat schools have only just re-opened.
The lockdown finally lifted in Greece as well, so we were able to eat out at restaurants again and go tour some sights. All in all, a great month with things feeling like the are moving forward faster, finally!
We hired a car immediately things opened and headed off for a four day tour of the Peloponnese — Mycanea, Kalamata, Sparta and Mystras, Messene and Ancient Olympia.
We ended the month continuing to wait on the de-registration in France and deciding that it was time to move out of Psyri and experience some other parts of Athens and Greece while we waited for Matilda to be ready for us to move on to.
It wasn’t until the very last week in June that we received notice on the French deletion and the Polish registration could then start. In the meantime we explored now that we could get out and about.
In many ways the theme of this month was shopping, prepping for moving aboard while getting out to see a few places too. We also started to focus on wrapping up the last few documentation things while still around Athens, including us both getting our first round of COVID vaccines.
We also started our speedboat course and began lessons, preparing for an exam which was locked in at the end of July.
Vouliagmeni lake was a highlight this month — one of those “why didn’t we come here sooner” moments. After two weeks in Vouliagmeni, we spent a week in Varkiza.
We also popped down to Kilada a couple of times and spent a few nights aboard in the yard while we gradually lightened the load and moved our possessions on to Matilda, allowing us to move around with a lot fewer suitcases (and bags of pillows, manuals, bedding, coffee machines etc.).
The first of the big heat waves started while we were visiting Ioannina, a fascinating Greek city with an amazing history, we enjoyed our stay but then decided to cut it short and head for Lefkada where we could find a place with a swimming pool and beaches in order to cool down!
The month ended on a high when the Polish registration came through, we were almost cleared to launch and move aboard!
It’s all about the boat this month — planning, chasing the insurance, working out our one way trip… but we made it happen, we finally moved aboard Matilda.
There was a small hitch as we found space at a marina, but with that sorted, all systems were go! We travelled down to Kilada for the last time and boarded Matilda for a last night ashore on the hard before she launched.
Splashdown was a fairly emotional moment to be honest — we’ve been waiting for this point in time for what feels like a year. OK it has been a year! And finally we’ve made it.
Shortly to be followed by moments of frustration as the first thing went “wrong” two minutes into the voyage. Even now, that wouldn’t faze us — it’s just boats, but at the time it was a bit heart breaking. Still some creative french translation to work out the error and a touch of coolant and we were good to go again.
We settled into learning about boat life. Breaking things, fixing things, breaking them again while we fixed them and of course gearing up for the big all important exams for our captains licence at the end of the month.
Well it’s taken a year, but we’ve finally made it! I feel like we’re now ready to actually live and experience the dream that we had way back in those early days planning to move here and starting to feel things out in September.
We’ve continued to work on fixing, repairing and upgrading a few things, but more importantly, we’ve managed to actually get out on the boat. After all, boats aren’t meant to be in the marina all day, they are meant to be out there exploring the oceans.
We’ve only just started this part of the journey, but already it’s been amazing. This is what we wanted — freedom, fresh air and stunning waters to explore with great friends. Twelve months in it didn’t go quite the way we planned, but it’s certainly been a worthwhile experience.
It’s very special!
Now we’re off to Scotland for a week to catch up with Ella and then when we return, we really set out — we cast off from the Marina, no plans and start exploring the Greek Islands for real.
My servants left me alone for 2 days and I went into a crate and a noisy machine for ages. People let me out briefly and I went back into another noisy machine and was dropped off at a warehouse. My servants later let me out of the crate and I showed them how much I missed them.
They took me to a new home that smelled different, I had to do a lot of reconnaissance to work out all the smells, and leave my scent everywhere. My walks were longer than normal, and the servants did not sit in front of their screens and talk to them anymore. They paid a lot more attention to me.
I went on three walks every day, unheard of, and our home near the restaurants meant I could pick up food on the ground as we walked. I met lots of new people who gave me pats. There were also more cats than I’ve ever seen before EVERYWHERE. You have to be careful — usually they run, but I’ve also taken a scratch or two on my nose when they decide to swipe back.
My servants live in a different place now that wobbles a lot, sometimes I can’t walk straight. When we go fast I like to lean over the edge and feel the wind in my face. They dress me in an awful orange puffy coat and I get picked up by a handle on my back a lot. I can reach all the tables and even walk on the kitchen benches, so all food I see is mine for the taking.
I am happy with all the attention I get nowadays, and I like this new place. I’ve even learnt how to get on and off all by myself, which is great — it means I can go say hi to the tourists and their noisy wheely bags, even though my servants don’t seem to like it when I do.