This post marks the end of our first summer season aboard Otoka.
We have travelled 4 countries, 1220 nautical miles, 23 islands, and 2 seas.
We have explored thousand-year-old ruins, UNESCO world heritage sites, caves big and small, reefs filled with fish, and slept in private anchorages. We basked in aquamarine water so clear you can see the bottom like a picture, and so salty you can float without any effort.
We have consumed 7 bottles of sunscreen, more of gin, multiple Canadian flags, glorious local food and sunsets.
For entertainment, we watch people anchor, go on rib rides, stargaze, read books, and play guitar. We have endured midnight mosquito hunts and savage slayings, stifling heat even at 3 am, deluges, 3 haul outs in one season, and too many repairs. Through it all, we have gained a lifelong appreciation for the diversity of all the places we have been; a rediscovery of ourselves, and gratitude for the opportunity to experience it all.
Our sail across from Greece to Italy went well. It was the perfect weather to cross in a predicted 10-15 knots, that ended up being an average of 15-18 knots on our beam, for the majority of the crossing. It was perfect because it was fully within our capability but also challenging enough for us to learn a lot about ourselves and our boat. We are still in the process of familiarizing ourselves with how Otoka performs in various weather conditions. With that in mind, we often reefed but still maintained close to 7 knots for most of the trip. A good speed for her. By the end of the crossing, I was feeling more confident in my ability; to correctly judge when and how to make sail adjustments, when I required extra hands to do so, and when I could manage on my own. I also figured out an effective strategy for my seasickness that kept me comfortable but at the same time a useful crew member (a single tablet of Gravol every 5 hrs or so to prevent the start of seasickness). Nick felt challenged by the sensation of night sailing and travelling into the darkness. A feeling I know well from my time on Exxpedition, it was I that confidently reassured Nick that the feeling was normal. He also felt the weight and responsibility of being Captain, responsible for the ultimate safety of his crew. A feeling that differs considerably from being crew. On the second night, I had the 2 am to morning watch as we approached the Italian coast. A few times I was joined by dolphins, and Talya was there to experience the magic of that. In the early morning hours, I killed the engine and drifted in the glassy calm waters to await morning light and make our final approach into the Port of Syracuse, the famous port where many conquests have been fought. Syracuse is a cornucopia of history, art and culture. We spent one week there and I could have easily spent another or rented a flat and moved in. Instead, we continued south.
On the southern tip of Sicily is a place called Marina Di Ragusa. This is where we have chosen to live aboard during the winter. Marina Di Ragusa is about 28 km from the city of Ragusa. Long golden sandy beaches stretch along the coast, with wide promenades making biking, walking, and exploring them very easy. The town itself is quiet but has all the major necessities, a butcher, chandlery, baker, grocery stores, and services like medical clinic and dentist.
We arrived from Siracusa in time to miss some serious weather systems that battered all coasts of the Mediterranean but seemed to have miraculously missed us. The first few days were spent cleaning and re-sorting the boat. After a summer onboard it was a task that we welcomed as it made it feel fresh and new. A top priority was acquiring bikes to make getting around town easier. Downtown is less than five minutes by bike, however, it is more like a 20 min walk. There are days when I go downtown 3 or 4 times so having a bike is a game changer. It is the first time I have had an upright cruiser and I love it. Instead of being hunched over in “race mode” it feels way more laid back and fun loving. It sports a basket on the front and back, it is an errand machine as I can pack so many things into them.
There is a wonderful liveaboard community here that is very active and friendly. Every morning “the cruiser net” is broadcast over the VHF radio, it helps everyone connect and share must know information, activities, and announcements.
In our short time here we have already made many new friends, and the familiar feeling of being part of a community is taking root.
We have been told of the many amazing sites and things to see on the Island of Sicily but truth be told we are in no hurry to see it.
It sounds odd, even to me, to be somewhere so worthy of being travelled and yet being content on staying put. None of us are nomadic by nature and as such we found this summer exhausting; gloriously fun, amazing, exciting, educational, invigorating and… exhausting. We are used to our little island and its familiarity, community and rhythm. In many ways, I am just as excited to settle down here as I am to travel the world, at least for a time. When travelling to ever-changing and new destinations you are constantly solving the same set of questions “Where is the grocery store/ ice/ gas refill/ bakery/ cell store/ laundry” and so on. Adventure tends to happen as a side dish to these items. Staying in a place long term gives the opportunity to slowly explore deeper into that place.
I am hoping this winter to practice my Italian, paint more, write more, and find a nice Sicilian who shares my passion for slow food, to teach us how to cook traditional dishes, infused with their own passion and stories of the land. The girls are doing daily school, and have made friends with the other liveaboard children, many of whom have been here previous winters and are familiar with all the local spots.
Reflecting on our first season, it seems impossible to list the infinite ways that we have all grown and the things we have learned and will forever carry with us. An increased closeness, respect and joy for being together, stands out as one of the biggest takeaways. Gaining perspective on our life by stepping out of the rat race will probably not only help us make better decisions in the future, but also give our children the courage to live boldly. Nick and I often consider how the adventurous spirit of his grandparents had such a trickle-down effect on the whole family. People often wax poetically about “taking chances”, “living for today”, and “you only get one life”, but how many actually put those words into action and take that leap. I will always look back on the year preceding our departure from the rat race in awe. The rat race sucks you in and makes you believe that you need it. It makes you question yourself at every turn, for suggesting that it may not be the “be-all-and-end-all”. That year was a process that consumed Nick and I. There were no guarantees and no way to anticipate what was to come.
We had to rely solely on our faith in each other and our ability to weather the storms of life, and hope for the best.
For those that have followed our blog, we have been quite candid that even in paradise there can be bad days, but we are certain that it was worth every single struggle to get to here. Where we go now is currently being pondered, thankfully we have time, each other and a boat load of inspiration to figure it out. We have learned the only things that we can’t live without are; things that can’t be bought, some groceries, and a dry place to sleep. We stepped out of our comfort zone, into the world and discovered that our options are greater than what capitalism would have you believe.