Well I’m going to admit it. I’ve found our sailing adventure more stressful than expected.
The learning curve of handling our big boat and sails, finding safe and comfortable anchorages for sleeping every night during the peak of tourist season, breakdowns and repairs on the boat, and making sure my family are all having fun, has actually been quite stressful.
This has surprised me, as I’ve written about before the difference between a dream and reality can be stark.
When imagining tranquil anchorages, I never thought that I would pull into them only to find it so crammed with other boats there is no room for us; or to have someone else anchor too close after we’ve gone to bed so we wake up in the morning with them rubbing up against us.
I never expected to have the boat hauled for repairs 3 times in 6 weeks, including twice for the same damn sail drive seals because the first mechanics rushed it and didn’t bother cleaning the crud and corrosion off the propeller shaft.
Cruising on a sailboat is not all swimming and sunsets, though we do have our fair share of those.
Despite it being more difficult than expected, it has also been more rewarding!
The quality time I’ve been spending with my children is something I’ve yearned for much more than tranquile anchorages. There is more time and opportunity to connect over daily moments. The skills our kids are learning, both socially and physically will be a benefit to them their entire life, and as they rapidly grow I realize how soon they will be off and living their own life.
We’ve spent the last few weeks in the vicinity of Kerkira Island (Corfu). The Syvota Islands I mentioned in my last post are definitely a favorite and we’ve been there a few times. It is a useful halfway stop when trying to go further afield or a backup anchorage when everything else is full.
Last week we explored the old town of Corfu. Very beautiful with 2 fortresses, one “old” and one “new”. The new one is still 500 years old and the old one is 1500. Both have been heavily damaged by war but quite amazing to see. Only the old one is open to the public to explore so we spent some time there and climbed to the top.
The following day we surprised the kids with an outing to “Aqualand”, a massive water park 30 minutes by city bus from Corfu. It took us a lot longer to get there though because the stop was not apparent from the bus. Eventually when everything began to look familiar again we realized we had gone right around the whole bus loop and back to the beginning! On our second try we got it right and helped some other tourists to get off at the right stop.
I’m not ashamed to say, we had so much fun! There were water slides for all levels, some with tubes both single and tandem. A giant wave pool, lazy river, rows of slides for racing, spirals and tunnels, and some vertical drops that rejected Miss C for being too young. (and yes she did beg us to let her try!) My favorite was the tandem tubes so I could go down with the kids, in part because the tube stops the joins in the fiberglass slides from “shaving” my back like a french mandolin. I saw a few young men who were literally bleeding from their shoulder blades after the kamikaze drops. We stayed all day until the park closed at 6pm, leaving exhausted and happy. The following day we had a chill out day on the boat to recover. They should rename that place the “stairmaster” park!
This week we sailed further south down to Paxoi Island. It is renowned for its “blue caves” on the exposed western side. They were truly amazing! Carved into the cliff face by the powerful winter storms they are huge, and glow blue from the sunlight shining in underwater. Soon after we arrived a surge of large day tripper boats arrived for lunch and again disgorged countless swimmers. The caves are large enough for these 100’+ boats to go right inside playing loud music that echoes off the walls (“I feel good” by James Brown seems to be mandatory on each boat). An hour later though we had the place mostly to ourselves again. It was beautiful to paddle board and snorkel around for an hour or two, before having lunch aboard and setting off again.
We circumnavigated the island looking for space to anchor but alas, there was no room, everything was taken up with other boats by 4pm. We dropped our anchor in an area that appeared to have enough space but the current shifted and we began to drift towards another boat. We tried to pull up the anchor to move to another location but in doing so the chain got caught on something underwater and pulled us even closer to the other boat. The irate Italian owner came out and shouted “What are you doing, there is no room, get out of here”. We fended off, managed to get the anchor free and back on board. With a lack of better options we decided to sail back to our favorite anchorage at Syvoti and with the brisk afternoon winds we sailed pleasantly along at 7.5 knots and got there in no time soon after 6.
The next morning, feeling rested we moved up the coast to a secluded spot we discovered last week. It doesn’t look like much upon approach but we’re really enjoying it. Hiking up the gravel road we discovered some of the most beautiful views to date over the bay of Levitatsa and Igoumenitsas. After a turn in the road we encountered a huge herd of goats, who seemed unsure of what to make of this group of humans standing in their midst. Also intriguing, was the amount of flora that seemed so similar and recognizable to us; blackberries, broom, melon, oregano, sage, and many others. At the entrance to the channel, on the edge of a low marsh land used for fish ranching, is a long sandy beach perfect for sand castles and wiggling one’s toes. This provided much joy as this was the softest beach we had yet to encounter.
Hope you enjoy the photos and videos!