sailing with kids

“Life’s What Happens While You’re Busy Making Other Plans”- John Lennon

By September 3, 2018 3 Comments

Trizonia is a little island next to the mainland of Greece, on the northern coast of the Gulf of Corinth. When we arrived, we sailed under the Rio Antirrio bridge, where the wind filled our sails to the tune of 20-25 knots and we tucked the mainsail away and enjoyed a dead run with only our genoa out, briskly sailing at 7 or so knots the whole way to our destination. It’s what sailors refer to as a lovely sail. Tucking around the corner of the island, we expected the harbour to be more protected than it was, but even in the high winds Nick and I managed to dock quite handily all on our own. We were expecting more weather to come, in the form of heavy rain, lightning and the accompanying wind. Trizonia seemed a good harbour to wait out the storm, protected from all directions by surrounding hills to entice any lightning away from our mast. We stern tied so that the prevailing winds would blow us off the dock and we were comfortable having ample scope out on the anchor, 8:1. An underwater chain laid for future mooring lines is something the pilot guides warn of as a hazard that can foul an anchor (get it stuck). Having lots of scope out kept us well out of range of this and a tripping buoy added further security should the anchor need dislodging in the future.

Trizonia is small enough that it has no grocery store, and the four restaurants have a mostly seasonal clientele. According to locals, there are only 40 year-round residents here, giving it a quiet sleepy vibe. There are vacation rentals with little beaches or piers, and visitors from the mainland come via water taxi that is $1E each way. The small beach out in front of the restaurants is pebbly and good for swimming. During the day you can always find people there cooling off and enjoying the view. Upon docking, some of the restaurant owners biked up the dock to invite us for dinner at their restaurant. The longer we stay, we see that this is part of life here. When they see yachts pass through the channel they bike over to the marina and try to drum up business.

We arrived on a Sunday from Mesolongi, with the intent of waiting out the predicted storms and continuing on Tuesday morning for a little port just outside of the Corinth Canal. The canal has been on our bucket list and has been recommended over and over again by those that have been. Its construction was first attempted close to 2000 years ago, in 300-200 BC. There have been countless failed attempts to build it, with its final completion occurring in the late 1880s.

On our second night, as supper time neared, the rain and wind picked up. We had expected wind to come from the prevailing west but instead, it swung around and hit us from the east. As the anchor pulled tight on its chain, blowing us with 30-knot gusts (60 km) toward the dock, my immediate reaction was to fire up the engine. Not a moment too soon. Otoka’s large round bumpers were the only thing keeping her off the dock! Nick was right by my side and took the helm. At the same time, I called to Miss C to turn on the power for our instruments, anchor, and headsets. At the bow, I was attempting to tighten our anchor…. without success. It was coming in but not biting. Despite loads of chain being out (good scope), it was not holding. As if things could not get worse, suddenly our transmission suffered some sort of failure. Nick was using full forward throttle and yet it was providing zero assistance. Again, Miss C was there when needed, grabbing ordered bumpers and passing them to Nick as he shored up our stern. I had seen the 20 m marker come to the water surface and realized that our anchor was at this point useless. Via the headset, I communicated this to Nick. Turning to our German neighbour in the calmest manner I could muster, I explained slowly and clearly to bridge the language gap that we were in a bad situation. Our engine was running but not functional for propulsion, and our anchor was not holding. “No, my friend we cannot go reset the anchor, not possible”.  I welcomed any ideas he may have to help in this situation.

Thankfully, we now live at sea. Our neighbours, though different every day, abide by a code, to help other seafarers in need and they did.

Immediately, he understood and instructed me to pass him a line from our starboard bow to his port side. This would stabilize our bow that was being blown off in the gusts. Nick was between the helm and the engine attempting with everything he had to diagnose the engine problem and get the transmission to engage, pausing only when he was required to give assistance to us.

We performed situational triage. However, we could not remain tied to the German boat as it put him in jeopardy of dragging his anchor from the added weight of our boat. With the bowline fixed, the wind eased for about 5 mins giving us the opportunity to edge Otoka down the dock to port and alongside a very sturdy, large vessel. Then with the help of two fellow yachtsmen, we secured bow, mid, and stern lines to prevent further shifting, either towards or away from the dock. Now we had time to re-adjust our anchor. Preparations were made to launch the RIB, again Miss C was extremely helpful. The RIB was not in fact needed, because as we tried to bring in the anchor it bound fast on the underwater chain we had so carefully tried to avoid the previous day. The good news was it was now very secure. Thankfully we have a trip line attached to a buoy for retrieving, what is now essentially, a fouled anchor.

This whole time, the rain was torrential and the wind blowing hard. Out in the passage, a couple we had yet to meet, was measuring the wind at over 70 knots. We were drenched but relieved that we had rescued Otoka from anything worse. I cannot describe the adrenaline associated with trying to secure your home. While all this was happening, Miss C was the epitome of able seaman (or a sea-gal, as I now lovingly call her and her sister). Ever ready, but out of the way. Followed every single command, and kept herself safe. She was so competent and resourceful. I could not be prouder. Miss T was talking to a friend on the phone and was unaware of the scene unfolding above thanks to her earbuds, this was just as well, as more people on deck would have been too many.

Despite Trizonia being the prettiest little island, we probably could not have found a less ideal place to have a transmission failure. The marina is bare bones, with no power, facilities, showers, or water aside from a facet about 150m from our boat. Piping water to fill our tanks requires a whole lot of organizing to borrow enough hose to reach. There is no store on the island, requiring a trip in the RIB to the mainland for very basic supplies. The closest ATM and fuel dock are miles away in opposing directions, as a result, RIB fuel must be conserved along with our battery power and water. Accepting that this breakdown comes with a significant cost, and also realizing that going through the Corinth canal is not possible due to time constraints has left our spirits and patience frayed. So when my laptop overheated and would not turn on, I admit, I had a complete emotional meltdown in paradise; wondering what else on earth could go wrong.

People can mistake this lifestyle as carefree, but it would be a lie to not admit that we too have terrible days when reality gets the better of us. We are the type of people that mould our futures. The hardest part for Nick and myself is the days of unknowing. We are people who make plans and solve things. Being a sitting duck, unsure if we will be here for a week or a month is something that we struggle with. Had this happened 2 days earlier we would have been at the marina in Lefkas with the Volvo Penta mechanics right there. It would have been simple. This is frustrating. This is also an opportunity, it is a beautiful island to be stranded.

With everything there is a silver lining, we have taken the opportunity to rearrange the boat. After 3 months of being aboard, we needed to reorganize how we use the space to make it work better. We also had a day of going up the mast, Nick to replace a navigation light and the girls for fun. I could tell by their faces that they found the experience to be amazing, thrilling and empowering.

Nick and the kids pulled out the D&D books, I’m blogging and reading. Talya and I did some beach cleanups, something that we agree we need to do more of. Adjusting to life aboard left too little energy for it, but we are creating space for it again. I love that she is leading the charge. It is driven by her love of the sea and it warms my heart.

Every day we continue to do math and practice our Italian in preparation for overwintering. The Memrise website has been excellent and I highly recommend it. The kids are thriving and learning at a tremendous rate. Every facet of them is benefiting from this adventure. Nick and I are growing too. We are experiencing different sides of each other, and appreciating it wholeheartedly. We are both more relaxed as we tackle things side by side.

As we look back on the last 3 months. We talk about our favourite things, our hardest days, most memorable moments, lessons learned, friends met, new foods, epic hikes, expectations met, and those that are different from what we expected. To think that we have lived so much in such a short time speaks volumes to the advantage of changing point of view, if even for a short while.


  • Wendy Richardson says:

    Ugh! Not going to comment on the scary moment the transmission failed! But… I’m so pleased to see the girls, not only in life jackets, but also tethered to the boat while you are at sea.

  • Mike Gall says:

    This blog speaks volumes to my last FB comment. The power of experiencial learning cannot be understated. The girls will never be the same. I am assuming the transmission has been repaired? I hope you are still doing the Corinth Canal. Great stuff

  • Barbara mindell says:

    Thank you for the adventure. It sounds like your all learning so much and growing together in a beautiful way. In the last three months here at your home on quadra island, B.C. Canada, everything is still beautiful, not much has changed and life has few major learning experiences but it is relaxing. Be happy to be on your adventure now though because our roads all over quadra are ripped up and driving anywhere is shit and is ruining our vehicles. I love the blog and photos. Always looking forward to the next.

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