Tuesday 1st June 2010

We had planned to leave Nisyros yesterday, but the wind wasn't on our side. Today looked a much better day than Monday, so we elected to stay an extra night in Nisyros. This morning we set sail and we really did sail. We headed out just after 7:00am and sailed into a southerly of 15knots. Perfect for a nice reach all the way to Astipālaia (Butterfly Island) which lies almost due west of Nisyros. This was to be our best sail yet, averaging 6 knots in 12 – 15knots of wind. When the wind picked up a little, 18 – 20 knots gusting to around 22knots, we put in a reef and still maintained our average 6 knots. Whoo Hoo – what a great sail.

We're now anchored in a little bay adjacent a town called Maltezana, Astapalaia with Jim and Michelle on “Wind Machine”. I think I'll dive on the anchor after lunch, just to make sure it's in well, then I'm hoping to get a long awaited hair cut from Cheryl, since I'm beginning to look like a Bee-Gees reject.

Wednesday 2nd June 2010

Today was a big day for Chelsea. After having the cast on her arm for 4 weeks, she was literally “itching” to get it off … and today was the day. Unfortunately Astipālaia doesn't have a hospital or any medical facilities so Chelsea was faced with the prospect of waiting another week or so to get the cast off in Thira (Santorini) or having it taken off by the Connect4 medical team. She quickly chose the latter option, so equipped with a Dremel, my trusty Leatherman and a pair of pliers the cast was duly removed. Chelsea's arm was a bit stiff, but she was very glad to get the use of it back again and was even more excited at the prospect of now being able to use her new snorkelling equipment that she bought back in Turkey. No sooner than the cast was off and Chelsea was begging to be allowed to go for a swim.

Tuesday 7th June 2010

The anchorage we were in last Tuesday and Wednesday night was very rough and fairly open to winds from the south. Both Michelle and I had pretty terrible nights sleep as we woke to check our anchors and holding throughout the night. Michelle had it worse than we did because their yacht rolled from side to side so much that she started feeling sea sick in her bunk, so moved up and slept the rest of the night in the cockpit. Thursday morning we decided to move to a more secure anchorage called Vathi which is around the northern point of Astipάlaia and is an almost totally land locked bay entered by a small and shallow entrance. This island used to be a haven for pirates until the Romans and later the English suppressed piracy in the Aegean. This island in particular was a natural, and well haunted, lair for pirates with good shelter

and a strategic position to pounce on merchant shipping passing through the area. Apparently the pirates did a very good trade in this area and from the anchorage we were in at Vathi, we were invisible to any ships sailing past the island. The entrance to Vathi bay is so small and well protected that it's almost invisible unless you know where to look for it. Saturday we climbed the hill on the seaward side of the bay to have a look around, almost expecting to find a pirate's look out and perhaps some pieces of eight lying around perhaps where a pirate of old may have been on lookout for passing merchant ships. Sadly we didn't find any gold that may have fallen from his pocket – but the view was spectacular.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned before, but we had a little problem with our wind generator on one of our earlier sails. I'm not sure who designed the wind generator mounting brackets, but when we let the boom out on a port reach, the boom can ride up into the blades of the wind generator. This isn't a good thing and a couple of weeks ago while sailing it happened and I was showered in pieces of generator blade. This necessitated the removal of the wind generator and taking the mounting pole away to be extended. While in Turkey I got the pole extended, but they mucked up the mounting plate in the process. For this reason I had to make up a base out of fibreglass resin to build up the deck about 1cm under the mounting plate. I did this the other day, then had to repair the wind generator blades as I couldn't find any replacement blades. In the end I found super glue held the broken bits of blade together pretty well, and I used two pack resin to fill in the missing bits. This done, I sanded then fitted the blades back on the wind generator and hooked the generator wires back up to the house batteries. The last few days and nights have been fairly windy in the anchorage, so the wind generator has been howling along. This is great for charging the house batteries, but alas poor Nick who has to contend with his bed vibrating every time we start the starboard engine, his bed grinding every time we turn on a water tap, now has to contend also with the hum of the wind generator which is fixed to the roof of his cabin. Now just as a bit of a foot note here: with the wind generator pole extended, it's no longer an easy reach to the wind generator. When it came time to fix the blades back onto the wind generator I was faced with the dilemma of how to get up that high. On a yacht, you can't exactly get out the step ladder and lean it up against a wall. I thought about putting on a harness and trying to get pulled up the mast on a halyard then some how swing out to the wind generator pole, but in the end I settled on moving the traveller for the boom over so that the boom was as close to the wind generator pole as I could get it. I then performed a balancing act on the boom as I precariously made my way along to the end trying hard not to fall off. All went well to the disappointment of the rest of the family, who have all taken turns falling into the water except for me.

I managed to fit the blades back on without loosing my balance, however I came very close to a fall when Nick, without thinking, started swinging on the preventer line I'd rigged between the boom and a cleat on the deck. The idea of the preventer line was to stop the boom from swinging. With Nick swinging on the preventer line, my balancing act turned into a rodeo ride as the boom swung and bucked under my backside, my legs flailing wildly in mid air as I tried desperately to keep my balance. I grabbed the boom, wrapping my arms and legs around it while it continued to bounce and twist, threatening to throw me off at any second. I yelled for Nick to get off the preventer and once the motion settled, I was able to regain my composure and make my way back along the boom to the safety of the deck. Phew … Good try Nick, but you'll have to do better than that to make your dad fall off the boom!

Saturday night was Michelle's birthday, so we decided to go out to dinner to celebrate. We were told that Vathi had a little restaurant, so we made enquiries and realised that “little” was a very apt description of the place. The restaurant was owned by a husband and wife couple who would have to have been in their late 80's. We had to give them 8 hours notice of our intended dish so that they could go into town and procure the ingredients and when we got to the restaurant for the dinner, we discovered our meals sitting on the kitchen window awaiting our collection. Self service from the kitchen – now this was going to be different! We waited for the waiter to attend our table and after motioning for him to come from across the room, discovered by the time he arrived at our table that our dishes were nearly cold, such was the time it took him to hobble across the room. At this point we decided that rather than giving him our drinks order and then making him walk all the way back with 8 drinks it would be quicker to take ourselves to the drinks fridge and help ourselves. This we did, much to his visible relief. After his wife sorted through her glasses collection and managed to find us 8 sort of matching glasses, we selected our drinks but had a dilemma when we ordered two 0.5ltr carafes of wine from the cask. She found one 0.5ltr carafe, but couldn't find a second one, so the other couple had to be happy to serve their wine out of a 0.5ltr beer stein! The fish they served was kind of average, but the Octopus and the Calamari was divine. I'm not normally a great fan of Octopus, but the Octopus they served was amazing. It was so full of flavour and was so tender it was amazing. The Calamari was equally fantastic and obviously very fresh. After dinner, we collected all our dishes, cutlery and glasses and took them into the kitchen for the old couple, laughing as we went that they might also expect us to wash our dishes. This didn't happen, but Michelle did get shouted at because apparently she was unloading the glasses to the wrong place.

After dinner we went back to “Wind Machine” and enjoyed a birthday cherry cheesecake that Jim had made for Michelle's birthday.

Wednesday 9th June 2010

Today we departed Astipālaia en-route to Santorini, which is the jewel in the Cyclades. If you've a Mediterranean picture of a white washed building with a blue roof and a view out to a beautiful ocean, then chances are the photograph was taken in Santorini. Such is Santorini, a beautiful, picturesque volcanic island. Almost everyone has, or has seen a picture like this – I know,even my sister has a couple in her house on the kitchen wall.

Saturday 12th June 2010

We got up early and climbed to the top of the hill to catch the 8:30am bus into Fira, which is the main city of Santorini. Stella who runs the restaurant at the top of the hill came out and said her usual chirpy hello, then asked why we were waiting. We mentioned that we were catching the bus into Fira, and she said “but why so early, the bus isn't until 10:30am?” Now last Thursday we went for a quick trip into Fira for a couple of groceries and to enquire about a tour of the island, and we ran to the top of the hill to catch the 12:30pm bus that supposedly ran ever hour, only to be told by Stella that as it was shoulder season the bus wouldn't be along for another two hours. We wandered back down the hill and killed a couple of hours until we caught the bus at 2:30pm. When we finally got to town we'd planned to do some errands and look around then catch the 6pm bus back to Vlikadha, only to be told the last bus was at 4pm. We ended up with about 40 minutes in Fira. This fiasco with the irregular bus times is really starting to get us annoyed.

We eventually caught the bus to Fira and spent the day walking around the town, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of a new island and all it had to offer. The view from the cliff tops of Fira out to the centre of the caldera and around the bay was spectacular.

We left Astipālaia early and were motoring through the narrow channel of our sheltered bay, into the big ocean just as the sun was thinking of waking up. Sadly we continued to motor all day as we covered the 50NM to Santorini. We put up our sails, since we're a sail boat, just so we could pretend we were sailing. We've been told numerous times that sailing in the Mediterranean is a case of motoring between gales. We're beginning to see what they mean. Now the meltami (a strong north summer wind) is beginning the winds are increasing in strength, and we're beginning to watch for a day when the winds are dying down a little to make a run between islands.

Once we leave Santorini, the next leg of sailing is an overnight passage – our first. This overnight sail is lurking in the back of our minds and both Cheryl and I are mentally preparing for this next step in our adventure. In some regards I'm looking forward to the peace and quiet, the stars and the romance of it all. On the other hand I'm filled with a bit of trepidation that we'll be sailing so far from land, and hoping we won't get caught in deteriorating, fast moving weather. I guess all we can do is watch the weather forecasts and take things easy. It's not that the prospect of an overnight sail is worrying us, crikey, in less than 6 months we'll be crossing the Atlantic and heading off to 17 – 25 days without seeing land; I guess it's just making sure that we're mentally and physically prepared for our first overnight passage.

Connect4” motored into the Vlikadha marina on the southern coast of Santorini around 5:30pm after an uneventful, but tiring day of motor sailing. The entrance to the marina is quite tricky because of a number of submerged reefs and a narrow, shallow entrance, neither of which is marked very well. Our pilot guide gave us some land marks and directions to help guide us in but we were still on heightened alert. Jim and Michelle on board “Wind Machine” were ahead of us by ½ hour, and Jim had previously given us his GPS way points from the last time he had entered the marina. After they'd made it in successfully, using their GPS way points, I elected to put Cheryl on the bow watching for any reefs, obstructions or shallow water and to motor in very slowly letting the auto pilot weave a course through the obstructions using the way points Jim had given us; taking over from the auto pilot only on the final approach to the marina.

We slowly followed another yacht into the marina, and all was going well until, with a 2m draft, they ran aground and quickly started trying to back out. Unfortunately this meant we had to quickly stop and reverse and somehow get out of their way in the narrow channel. After a few tense minutes, we finally managed to get around them without running aground ourselves - thankfully, being a catamaran, we manoeuvre backwards better than most monos, so managed to slide to the side a little and let them back out past us.

We once again started entering the marina and with Cheryl on the bow, Chelsea on the chartplotter and Jim on the radio giving us updates on which side of the channel to move to, we successfully negotiated the shallow and narrow entrance with no more than 30cm under our keel on a number of occasions. We tied up stern to next to “Wind Machine” and enjoyed a little walk around the marina before eating dinner and retiring for the night.

Today Santorini, or Thíra as it is also known, is still a giant active volcano. Legend has it that Thíra originated from a lump of earth presented to Jason and the Argonauts by Triton (a local African god) which was later dropped into the sea where Thíra (or Kalliste – the most beautiful – as it was known then) is now. The island was an important Minoan settlement until it blew itself to pieces in c.1440 – 1450 BC and destroyed the Minoan civilisation as well.

The most intriguing thing about Santorini is in relation to the Lost City of Atlantis. Plato first recorded the Atlantis legend and ever since it's baffled, and continues to baffle, historians even to the present. His description of an ancient advanced and prosperous island civilisation which vanished as the result of a great natural catastrophe has been variously fixed in the Antilles, America, an island somewhere on the continental shelf off the Mediterranean, and even near Malta. In the last 30 years the location of Atlantis has moved to Greece and many eminent authorities now believe that Thíra was in fact the fabled island.

They've proven that Thíra was populated before 2000BC and that in the period before the catastrophic eruption an advanced and inventive Minoan civilisation existed on Thíra. Excavations at Akrotíri, Santorini have revealed a prosperous city well preserved beneath pumice that dates to the Minoan civilisation and consists of three story houses, beautiful and intricate paintings and wall coverings and an advanced civilisation. Interestingly though, when they excavated Akrotíri on the south of Thíra, not a single inhabitant has been found buried beneath the ash and pumice.

The Minoan civilisation on Santorini ended abruptly around 1400BC and for some time it was hypothesised that a Mycenaean invasion had simply swept it away. Yet it's recently been determined that Thíra erupted at about the same time. The hypothesises of Professor Marinatos and others is that this mega explosion not only destroyed Atlantis but also caused a tsunami or seismic sea wave which destroyed the Cretan-based Minoans as well. Thíra is the largest known active caldera in the Mediterranean and one of the largest in the world. It's five times the size of Krakatoa near Java and the eruption of Thíra is estimated to have been about three times greater than that of Krakatoa in 1883. When Krakatoa erupted the explosion was heard in Alice Springs and to Martinique. The atmospheric shock wave from the explosion travelled around the world three and a half times. The blast caused serious damage to houses up to 160km's away. The tidal wave associated with the largest blast measured 17m high at Vlakke Hoek light house 88kms away. The waves destroyed 300 towns and killed over 36,000 people. Based on this, imagine the result of a blast three times as large as this!

Since the great eruption of around 1400BC the volcano of Thíra has remained active. In 236 BC it erupted again and separated Thirasia from the NW end of Thíra. In 196 BC Old Kameni (Hiera) appeared. In 1570 AD the south coast of Thíra collapsed into the sea. Three years later Small (Mikra) Kammeni appeared and in 1711-12 Nea Kammeni appeared. In 1866 a violent eruption began and lasted two years. At the end of 1868 an islet, Afotessa, appeared and then disappeared again. In 1925-26 another eruption joined Small Kammeni to Nea Kammeni. In July 1956 a massive earthquake caused much damage destroying many of the buildings at Finikia and Thíra. And now in June 2010 we'll be sailing our yacht right through the centre of the volcano's caldera!!!

We bought some delicious Gyros' for lunch. We call them Yiros in Adelaide but really the Greeks came up with the word “gyro” which means rotating (like gyroscope etc), as in from a rotating cooker. We spent a beautiful sunny day wandered up and down small streets and alleys and along the cliff top enjoying the majestic views out over the caldera. We met donkeys that, for a fee, will carry you down the myriad of steps to the port at the bottom of the cliffs and then back up again – for those that don't like the thought of walking back up the thousand or so stairs.

The beaches along the coast are beautiful, but in a different way to our Aussie beaches. Most noticeably is the fact that there are no “white beaches with soft sand”. Here every beach is filled with pebbles and if there's sand it's black and sticky. This is the same all the way from Turkey to here. Just a couple of hundred metres from our marina is a gorgeous beach that has black sand and pebbles and lots of topless sun worshippers! The first time we went to the beach, it was just Chelsea and I and it was late in the afternoon. It was only after we'd been there about 15minutes that we realised there was a lady sun baking topless a few places down from us. The next time we all went to the beach, being in the middle of the day, there were more topless women and also a few scantily clad “Greek Men” (scantily clad hairy Greek Men is a whole 'nother topic that almost defies description)

Luckily for us, Chelsea couldn't care less about the topless women and Nick isn't old enough yet to know, so we were safe. I enquired to a lady on the beach if this was a topless beach. She looked at me and just said in a thick Greek accent “No … This is just the beach” I guess this is just considered normal attire for beach going here in Santorini.

Sunday 20th June 2010

After much deliberation we've finally decided it was time to leave Santorini (Thira). We've been watching the weather closely for the last few days and all the forecasts are for stronger and stronger westerly winds for the next 5 days, which is as far as we could look ahead. We've been wanting to get west by going under the Peloponnisos but that course is pretty much due west from Santorini – so that wasn't to work. Jim & Michelle onboard “Wind Machine” are heading south to Crete for a week or two, so we were faced with three options. 1) Join them in a run down to Crete. 2) Sit it out in Santorini for another 5+ days. 3) Make a run north towards the Corinth Canal and then visit Athens as well. After much deliberation, we settled on option 3. The weather was looking good for a run north, so we decided to make the most of the opportunity and get north so we could. This was to be our first overnight sail. Now I'm sure after we've crossed the Atlantic and had 15 – 20 days off shore, one overnight passage will look like a pretty lame thing to be getting excited over, but this was the first of our overnight passages.

We left the marina around 7:00pm and promptly picked up a mooring line with our starboard propeller. This wound itself amazingly tight around our propeller and stopped the engine dead. As if this was bad enough, we were now attached to the mooring line by our propeller! We managed to raft along side another moored yacht on the other side of the marina channel and tied off there. I wasted no time in grabbing my snorkelling gear and diving in to see the damage. Sadly after 30 seconds in the water I realised I needed to shave, as there was no way the mask was sealing on my stubble – so out I jumped, grabbed some pump soap, lathered the top lip and painfully shaved a 5 day growth from under my nose in 20 seconds flat. After that I spent the next 20minutes trying to cut and remove the twisted rope from the prop – hard and very unpleasant work. As I was catching my breath for the 67th time, a Dutch gentleman from a nearby yacht, who had come to assist with tying us up, offered me his dive tank. I gratefully accepted this offer and donned the SCUBA gear and proceeded to spend the next 20minutes hacking and pulling the mooring line from the propeller. Finally free, we were able to leave the marina without any damage all be it two hours later than we'd planned.

Our plan was to motor slowly through the caldera (the centre of the volcano) as the sun set, enjoying the breathtaking view from the best seats in the caldera, then set course for an overnight sail to Serifos. Well we ended glued to the radar dodging the small vessels in the caldera and following the auto pilot's route pretty much all the way through the caldera in the dark. It's not all bad because we saw some breathtaking views of Fira by night, but it wasn't quite the plan.

Now while I'm on the topic of a good grizzle, I have one more thing that happened to me as we were preparing to leave. I was hosing off the deck and the stern steps. This black sand is really nasty and really hard to get rid of. Anyway I'd just finished hosing off the mat Cheryl bought for cleaning dirty feet prior to entering our yacht. I was holding it in one hand, hose in the other when I discovered what I think is a fracture in the casing of our shore power lead; because next thing I felt was a strangely unique but memorable tingling sensation climbing up my arm. This tingling turned quite rapidly into an involuntary twitching motion which made my whole body jolt as I dance around in the puddle on the back step of the yacht. Sadly to say, and I had to apologise to Cheryl profusely on this one, but at some point between my twitching and my spasmodic spasaming, the mat I was conscientiously holding in my left hand got released and promptly fell overboard. I saw it go and immediately tried to rescue it, but it sank like a sting ray slowly to the bottom of the ocean. Another gift to Neptune. I hope he appreciates it!

Monday 21st June 2010

Reflecting back on our first overnight passage, as I sit here in anchorage at Serifos, I have some great memories. The over night sail was surprisingly relaxing and enjoyable in a soloist kind of way. The plan was 3 hour shifts, but since we didn't get away until much later, that kind of went out the window. After a hectic departure and being on high alert as we motored through the caldera of Santorini in near pitch black, I finally went down for a sleep around midnight, exhausted.

I slept fitfully and was awoken by Cheryl around 2am. As the wind was beginning to fill in, we hoisted some sails and Cheryl finally crawled into bed around 3am. Truthfully, I enjoyed the 3am until morning watch much more than I thought I would. It was peaceful and I felt that I slipped into the 10minute watch routine quite easily The “watch” consisted of scanning the horizon for lights, checking the chartplotter, the VHF radio and the AIS. The rest of the time (approximately 9 minutes in every 10 minutes) I relaxed, enjoyed my thoughts and my company and just chilled as I sat in the cockpit. I saw the moon rise and move across the sky and even saw a few satellites as they made their way between the stars from one horizon to the other. The wind came and went a couple of times, but the sails needed little adjustment. The highlight of my night was when the AIS alarm went off advising me that I had a vessel approaching me that would come within the 1NM guard zone I'd set up. For those not familiar with AIS, it stands for Automatic Identification System and it's a fantastic safety device. All commercial ships and all vessels over a certain weight must carry the transmitters which broadcast to AIS receivers details about the ship's MMSI, lat & long, heading and speed, as well as details of their destination, size etc. We have an AIS receiver built into our VHF radio which in turn is linked to the chartplotter, so the particulars of these

vessels show up on both the VHF radio and the chartplotter. Both the VHF radio and the chartplotter calculate our course and the course of the AIS equipped vessels and if we are to get within a predetermined radius of each other, an alarm goes off and gives us the CPA (closest point of approach) and the TCPA (time to closest point of approach). A couple of times through out the night the AIS CPA alarm went off and I called the approaching vessel to ensure they could see me. One of the most beautiful things about my new AIS integrated VHF radio that once the CPA alarm has gone off, at the press of a button I can place a DSC call to the ship that triggered the alarm. This makes their radio ring like a telephone and I can communicate directly with the ship's pilot. Most times they answered immediately and the conversation would go something like:

Ring Ring … Ring Ring … “Connected”

Vessel heading 187 degrees in the vicinity of 36o 38 N, 27o 44E this is Sailing Yacht Connect4 … over”

Connect4 this is vessel Orions Mercy, what can I do for you … over”

I am approximately 2.5NM off your port bow heading 276 degrees, could you please confirm you can see me … over”

slight pause

I see you … over”

What is your intention … over”

I will alter course and pass on your starboard side … green to green ... over”

Thank you … enjoy your night … Connect4 back to one six”

When I fitted out the new electronics on our yacht, I was on a pretty tight budget. It would have been very easy to spend 2x or even 3x what I spent on electronics and still not have all the toys. When I was selecting equipment I wanted units that were functional, able to be integrated, light on power usage and most of all reliable. After my first overnight passage, I have to say I'm very happy with the performance and the way the equipment worked. The radar ran all night and only draws mA's of power, the VHF radio with the integrated AIS is invaluable and the auto pilot and chartplotter all communicate well. But I digress …

About 4:30am as I was relaxing in the cockpit between watches, looking at the stars, the AIS alarm goes off warning of a close pass in less than 9 minutes. I quickly noted his bearing to me from the AIS screen, then jumped up to see if I could get a visual on him. I figured I must have missed sighting him on the last look around, so was keen to locate him, since he was to pass within 0.3NM (a little less than 600m). I scanned the horizon and peered into the dark, but couldn't see a thing. I looked on the radar screen which was set to 3NM radius, but still couldn't locate him. I was beginning to worry at this stage, so zoomed out on the radar, looking for anything in the vicinity of the bearing the AIS had given me. Eventually I spotted a vessel almost 5NM away that appeared to be moving toward me at a fair pace. At this point I climbed back up on deck to see if I could see him visually. After another minute or so I managed to see his faint lights far off in the distance. Figuring there was something wrong with the AIS, I went back to the radio and called up additional information on this vessel. I was shocked when I noted that his speed over ground was no less than 32knots! I went back on deck and this time I could make out his lights clearly. In what seemed like only another

Well it had to happen sooner or later. I'm sure that after we've sailed across the Atlantic and across the Pacific, sailing overnight will be a small thing, but when you've never done it before it can be quite a daunting prospect. But … we're proud to say that we're no longer overnight virgins!!! On the 20th June we set off on our first overnight sail from Santorini north to Serifos, It should have been a pleasant sunset cruise through the caldera, then a relaxing cruise north. As it happened, we snagged a mooring line leaving the shallow harbour – one of our own that we'd just dropped. It wrapped tightly around our starboard propeller and brought us to a quick halt, much like a dog with his hind leg tied. The relaxing overnight sail wasn't off to a good start, as I spent the next couple of hours removing the tangled line from the propeller. It's amazing how tight a small line can entangle itself around a turning propeller! The short of it was that we departed that night, but a couple of hours late. The pleasant cruise at sunset the Santorini's caldera turned into a nervous, high tension motor, Cheryl at the helm with me glued alternately to the radar and chartplotter scanning for anything we might not have seen in the almost moonless night. Our autopilot worked well, taking along the predefined route I'd programmed several hours earlier. We finally emerged out the other side of the caldera, and settled into a routine watch. I'm not going to repeat myself here, suffice to say that the sail was interesting at times, but also very rewarding personally. I think I speak for both of us when I say we enjoyed it immensely and found it hugely satisfying. The solitude and peace of just having time to yourself, to watch the stars or to ponder is such a gift. In our world it's so easy to keep so busy that you never stop to reflect. When you sail overnight, there's nothing to do but watch and enjoy the feeling of now. Everyone else is asleep and you have time to yourself – to do whatever you want (so long as you keep the 10 minute watch happening). For me, it's a great time to just chill and reflect on my life and my world, to reflect on what brought us here and how privileged we really are to have the opportunity to do something like this. Yes – life is such a privilege.

minute or two before this behemoth of a fast ferry roared past me. In the dark it looked like I could have reached out and touched him. His bow cut a wall of water that sprayed almost 20m out from his bow and his wake was a turbulent foaming mass of white froth. No sooner had he passed me than he appeared to be disappearing from sight over the horizon again. How anybody can go to sleep on watch, or get lax in their watch keeping is beyond me.

Friday 25th June 2010

We've just had a day sail, well, a day motor for about 4 hours. It was a good job I filled up with diesel yesterday before leaving Serifos; I'm hoping that now I'll be able to make it all the way to Tunisia on these fuel tanks (Yeah … I'm an optimist). We knew there wouldn't be much wind today, but we left anyway. At this time of year with the meltami beginning, and needing to go north to get to Athens, we're making the most of any weather window offered. We left Serifos just after lunch and now are sitting at anchor in a pretty little bay in Kythnos.

Looking back, Serifos was a beautiful, traditional Greek island that seems to be mostly unspoiled by tourism. When we arrived we dropped an anchor and backed up to the town wharf, where we spent the next three nights. A couple of yachties advised me to dive on the anchor as the holding here isn't all that good. Serifos lives up to its name sake - translated it means something like slippery fine sand. This is true and half the reason why anchors sometimes don't hold so well. I heeded advice and grabbed my snorkelling gear and dove on the anchor. I ensured it was bedded in, then got Cheryl to pull back on it with the windlass to ensure it was taught. The anchor bedded in well and so we went into town for a look around. Unfortunately all didn't go so well, because our anchor didn't hold particularly well. When we arrived back at the boat a few hours later we were advised by the boat opposite us that our anchor had dragged and so to stop us grazing our transom on the wharf they'd climbed aboard and moved a couple of fenders to protect us on the wharf. We tried re-tensioning the anchor to see if perhaps it had just moved and bedded in a little closer allowing us to move back a half meter or so. Alas, the anchor didn't bite, so I grabbed my snorkelling gear and dived back into the water again. When I got above the anchor I could see a beautifully carved trench behind where the anchor lay. This spot really did have slippery sand. I didn't want to lose any sleep over my anchor, so decided that instead of kedging the 60lb CQR anchor back out another 20m or so, I took our 45lb Bruce anchor with 20m of chain and set this anchor by hand, then attached it to the base of the CQR, so I had two anchors in series. Perhaps this was overkill, but the water was shallow and we were expecting some stronger winds. Sad to say, this great plan failed miserably even though Jimmy Cornell swears by it. Both anchors pulled right through the slippery sandy bottom. About this time a fellow yachtie jumped into the water and helped me detach the Bruce and associated chain, then we launched our dingy and raised the CQR anchor by hand into the dingy. I motored backwards another 30m while Cheryl paid out chain from the bow of Connect4. We dropped the anchor and then dove on it to help bed it in. John, my new found anchor friend, found a hole that looked like it had held a previous anchor, so we placed my anchor into this hole then got Cheryl to tension the chain to ensure it held. This time the anchor bit in very well – so well in fact that upon closer inspection it was possible to almost walk a tight rope on the chain. We put on the snubber line and then released a little tension. Glad to say the anchor held without any issues.

The second night we decided that we needed a date night, so we fed the kids, put them to bed, turned on the VHF to channel 72 and raced out the door to enjoy a dinner at a quaint little restaurant just up the quay. The meal was a package deal and for 10 euro each, we got a loaf of bread and some dips for entré, followed by a fresh greek salad, a glass of wine and a main course. I took the pork (still having cravings after my time in Turkey) and Cheryl elected to have the veal and cream sauce. For desert we had a selection of sliced oranges with a dusting of sugar and nutmeg. While it wasn't fine dining by any stretch of the imagination, for the price it was a great night out.

The following day we caught a bus up to the top of the mountain to visit the island's main town. The town is perched atop a large steep mountain, and the views from atop the mountain are amazing. The town was quaint in every way imaginable and we enjoyed a couple of hours wandering around, just soaking in the sights and atmosphere. We boarded the bus again and descended back down to Connect4 to enjoy a quiet night.

Monday 28th June 2010

Today was a very special day. Today was Nick's 9th birthday. Normally when we're home, living a “normal” life, we'd arrange a party and have some friends and family over. This wasn't going to happen today, but there's always something you can do to make a birthday special. When Nick woke up, he was given the choice of anything he wanted for the day. First choice was to have pancakes for breakfast – what a great choice. After breakfast his second call was to be allowed to go out in the dingy for a blast around. This was accomplished with dad hanging on for dear life, up the bow, and with Nick gunning the little outboard for all it is worth.

One blast around the bay and we were back to the boat for a couple of movies. We ended up all curling up in Nick's room and watched a double feature of “Chicken Run” and “Storm Boy”. After this Daddy took Nick and Chelsea into town for a swim in the hot spring water that feeds into the ocean. When we got back to the boat it had miraculously transformed itself into a brilliantly bright and festive “Party Boat”. There were balloons hung from the cockpit bimini, there was a bright “Birthday”

table cloth laid out on the table but best of all, there was a brilliant spread of chips, dips, jelly slices party franks. Not to mention a myriad of other party foods perfect for a little boy's birthday party. We sang happy birthday, cut the cake and enjoyed a feast fit for … well fit for a 9yr old boy. After we filled ourselves on cholesterol, sugar and all things nice, we curled up to watch … yes … another movie. Finally the children and the parents made their way to bed thoroughly exhausted, and slept with happy dreams of cake, parties, racing dingies and the likes. Yes … today was a great day.

Wednesday 30th June 2010

I'm sitting in the cockpit of “Connect4“ after a day sail from Kythnos to the Greek mainland town of Fokaia. Ok .. so again it was a motor sail, but it doesn't matter because we got here. We had troubles anchoring; everywhere we tried to set anchor was either rock or knee deep grass. I managed to get the anchor set in once, after dragging it about 100m, however after diving on it, I realised it was actually hooked under a loop of wire or something and although it was holding us, I was concerned that we might not hold, or if we did we wouldn't be able to get off again in the morning. Thankfully, we circled around and managed to pull ourselves off the wire loop. We tried a couple more places to anchor without much success, but it doesn't matter because eventually we set anchor out the front of town. Our anchor is set in a small patch of sand that I directed Cheryl over after I jumped overboard and snorkelled looking for a clear patch to anchor in. We went into town and bought a couple of pizzas, sat on the grass out the front of the main street an enjoyed them, then came back to the boat and now I'm here sitting in the cockpit, with Cheryl cuddled up against me, reading a book while I type. The point is, I'm realising, I'm so blessed, lucky, fortunate, or whatever you might call me to be here right now. To be alive. To be enjoying time with my family. To be living a dream some people never attempt, To … well you get the point. My HF radio still needs to be fitted, we're on the tightest budget we've ever been on, my anchor windlass is starting to play up and will likely take me a day or two, and more money than I'd like to fork out to repair, but the bottom line is, I'm here, I'm living life, I'm having an adventure and I'm loving every minute of it. Life is so good!