As I sit at home in the Hamble writing the final blog entry concluding our sailing adventures for 2016, looking out the window at a “crisp” sunny day, I miss the warm sunshine of Greece.
Hapatoni has been put to bed for the winter season, although we will be popping out to visit her and our friends early in 2017. Our adventures this year were fabulous, 2016 has been our favourite sailing year so far. We covered 1,850 miles, during which I “endured” 4 overnight sails (26 hours plus), and visited 4 countries, Italy (although briefly), Croatia, Montenegro and Greece (both the Ionian and Aegean side along the Peloponnesus). We moored up in more towns and villages than I can remember, which has included some old favourites such as Sivota, Paxos and Kioni and some new favourites like Kotor and Kastos. We re-united with old friends from the Arc Portugal trip, Tina and Tim on Shiraz, Alice from Spirit 3, Sisca and Roger on Waterfall and Sue and Mike, our Antipodean friends on Macnoon, then with family and friends visiting it was a wonderfully busy, interesting, exciting and hot five months.
Our final week in sunny Ayios Nikolaos flew by, with the boat winterisation tasks completed, and only a couple of last minute things to do, we were able to relax and chill out on the beach in the afternoons. We also made time to hire a car to do some sight seeing; top of our list was the Palace of Knossos, which is an ancient heritage site and the number one attraction on Crete. However, we forgot that every other tourist on the Island also wanted to see it and with over 50 coaches lined up plus cars, the queue to get in was long. Then problem number two …. Hudson ….. we had hoped to be able to either take him with us or leave him in the car under the shade in a quiet spot. Neither was possible so we headed to the capital city of Heraklion for a coffee and a re-think.Heraklion was a busy place, the traffic was non-stop and parking a nightmare, so the noise was loud and constant. There were flocks of tourists walking about the shops and visiting the marina area, so like lemmings we followed suit and walked down to the imposing fort guarding the marina entrance, taking it in turns to look after Hudson whilst the other snatched a few moments inside the fort. Surprisingly, considering this was the capital city of Crete, the space for yachts in the marina was tiny, had we stopped here on our sail across the top of the island, which was our original plan, I don’t think we would found a spot.
We decided to get away from the masses of tourists in Heraklion and headed up into the mountains, the roads were narrow and zigzagged up the steep sides of the mountains, although fortunately not as narrow or high as Montenegro. Mark did however moan about one of my short cuts, which he described as a goat track, I would have said “a local path with limited tarmac”.On our travels we came across a very pretty little village, with a central square surrounded by four tavernas, shaded by a cluster of trees and overlooked by the ever present church, which as always was in pristine condition. It was so nice and quiet we stopped for lunch thinking we had found a little off the beaten track gem, the owner of the restaurant was charming, they grew their own olives, so everyone had to taste his Olive Oil and the meal was “ok”, we had roast chicken cooked the “old fashion” way in a clay oven. However, as we relaxed, enjoying the ambience, several coach loads of German tourists arrived, changing the feel of our quaint little village, I guess it is hard to get off the tourist trail in the ever so popular island of Crete.We left Ayios Nikolaos for home on 15th September, the first leg was a hire car to the port, very kindly driven by Tim from Shiraz, followed by an overnight ferry to Athens and then a flight to Heathrow – Hudson can only enter the UK through Heathrow and Athens seemed to be the nearest airport with that connection.We finally arrived home a bit tired following 27 hours of travel, with my parents waiting to welcome us and dinner already prepared. The feeling as you walk in the door after being away for five months is wonderful, its was just so nice to be home, to sit down with family and sleep in a bed with more than 2ft headroom. The contrast between our winter life and summer is what makes it all work for us and so much fun.
NOTE: We have only been home 2 weeks and Mark has already filled a cupboard with stuff to take back to Hapatoni in the spring …. I need to confiscate his credit cards.