In 2019 we sailed 2 countries, visited 3 town quays, 6 fuel docks, 49 anchorages and traveled 954 nautical miles which is (1,766 km - 1,097 ml) and it took us a total of 6 months and 4 days.
On paper it looks a lot, but when you look at a map of the world it's really just a tiny fraction of the globe. We're going to have to step up our game if we want to sail A B Sea back to Australia.
After wintering 2018/19 in Kaş harbour in Turkey I was very eager to get moving again and when we left the harbour for a week long shakedown cruise to the Kekova area I was both nervous and excited. I was looking forward to testing out the pre-loved autopilot that we'd had installed, replacing the ancient one that had come to the end of its time. The 'new' one worked well for the first 3 hours of the trip and then it suddenly blinked off never to come back. That was the beginning of the Auto pilot saga which, even as I write this blog in January 2020, has still not been resolved. I'll let you know in a future blog what the outcome is when we get to that particular task on the jobs list.
Being without the aid of the autopilot to steer the boat for us during 2019 wasn't really a big deal because most of our hops were short, averaging 5 hours with the longest being 10 hours. Along the Turkish coast there's always an anchorage to pull into and the Greek islands of the Aegean Sea are generally within sight of each other. When we get back into the water for 2020 things will be different with longer hops and even overnight passages as we travel from country to country. That's when we will definitely need the assistance of a fully functioning autopilot.
The Turkish coastline and waters are stunning and there are many great memories of the places we dropped anchor, but if I had to pick just one that stands out the most, it would have to be the small but perfectly formed bay at Karacaoeren (Karajowren) as the hands down winner. Crystal clear water, plenty of places close by to explore that can be reached by dinghy and the rustic restaurant which can only be accessed by boat.
We also met many new friends who enriched our lives along the way. Not just other boat owners but also people who live in houses and even some people that as a group are called overlanders. They fulfill their urge to travel by doing it in converted cars, trucks and buses. Everyone we met was truly welcoming and helpful in their own unique way. Then there are the countless people who have helped us through the Internet. People are just amazingly generous.
Leaving Turkey was gut wrenchingly hard, we could've easily stayed there and explored for a few more years but getting too attached to one location is not what our journey is about. For me it's the endless opportunities that lay just over the horizon which is the driving force. I know it's a little different for Aannsha and you can get her thoughts on the subject by clicking here to read her blog this week.
Leaving the mainland of Turkey behind at Didim and sailing west into the Greek islands felt like cutting an umbilical cord. We'd heard many stories of the infamous Meltemi northerly wind which stalks the Aegean Sea all through the summer. Some said it was a force that ripped sails and broke boats, others said it could trap you in isolated hiding places as it blew 30+ knots for weeks on end. Some sailors even told of how they'd been blown far south and unable to get back north again.
Sobering anecdotes for a couple of sailing novices like us and I will admit to being somewhat anxious about what our personal experience of the Meltemi would be. As it turned out the reality included a little bit of the above, but mostly it was very manageable. Certainly at the island of Fourni the 30+ knot Metemi wind made anchoring impossible for us and forced us to go south earlier than we'd planned. We did get stuck at anchor a couple of times waiting for the wind to drop below 30 knots, but each time we were always in a safe anchorage with provisions close by. And we were wary enough that we never put out too much sail and we never suffered any damage to A B Sea or ourselves.
The many Greek Aegean islands we encountered are somehow similar and different at the same time. Piracy in decades gone by was a big thing in these waters so most of the original old town's (Chora) were built inland, hidden from prying pirates eyes sailing the coast. It's great fun to anchor the boat and explore to find these hidden Gems. The stand out Chora for me was on the island of Amorgos where we wandered the narrow alleyways and found the smallest church in Greece. The Chora of Ios comes a very close second.
The stand out Greek anchorage for me was at the uninhabited island of Polyaigos. Amazing crystal clear water, excellent holding and good protection from the prevailing wind. And it's another spot we would've like to have stayed at longer, but when we were there the wind gods had other plans and ditched the prevailing northern wind in favour of a westerly wind. And an exposed anchorage becomes rolly very quickly and that's no fun.
Two stand out ancient Greek sites we visited were both on main land Greece. The first is the temple to Poseidon perched atop the cliffs in the bay of Sounion. What a sight it must have been for sailors of the old days.
The second and most spectacular is the Parthenon at the Acropolis in Athens. Not only are the ancient structures breathtaking to behold and admire but the views in all directions across the rooftops of Athens are wonderful too. We spent quite a few hours exploring around there.
Worries and concerns
I am the first to admit that I worry too much about getting A B Sea and ourselves safely to the next anchorage. I know that proper planning and being aware of the weather are important and I think we manage to do that quite well, but inside my head I always seem to take the worrying to the next level and with hindsight I know that it is completely unfounded worry. Every anchorage we've been to (except our planned Fourni ones and even then we had a plan B) has turned out to be as expected or even better than expected. I'm hoping that given enough time and experience I will be able to stress less.
The last few hops that we did during October before we hauled out for the winter included the usual anchorage stressing and an additional concern for the engine of A B Sea. Again with hindsight she performed very well under the circumstances, which were that she had a hole in her exhaust elbow which was blowing diesel soot and exhaust fumes into the engine compartment. Both of which could've caused the engine to stop running at any moment. I was truly relieved and thankful that she managed to get us to the boat yard without fault.
I have vowed that I'll never spend another winter at these latitudes. I simply don't like the cold; as Aannsha puts it, the cold is my kryptonite. Combine that vow with the implementation of Brexit and us then being subject to the 90 days in 180 days Schengen rules, we plan on exiting the Mediterranean by late November-ish.
There are many places in the Med that we've had on our wish list that we'll probably not get to visit and that's a shame. But here's a rough plan of places we will try and visit once we are back in the water.
The Greek Peloponnese and Ionian areas, across to Italy, down to Sicily and Malta, Maybe Tunisia to see Luke Skywalker's house. Then up to Sardinia, Corsica, the South of France, down to the Balearic Islands, across to Spain and south to Gibraltar. It's a bold plan but it can be done if the weather favours us and we are prepared to do some longer overnight passages.