It has now been over a year since we left the UK to embark upon our long dreamed about sailing adventure and we have set sail once again. After seven very busy, sociable, action packed months as liveaboards in Marina Di Ragusa in Sicily, we slipped our lines as the sun was rising on 30 April 2019 and waved off by friends on our dock, were piloted out of the entrance of the marina.
During the last two months since returning from our backpacking adventure in Thailand and Indonesia, we had been working hard to prepare the boat for the summer’s sailing.
The list of boat jobs is forever endless and we had made a large number of changes to the boat over winter, so we wanted to make sure our girl was properly ‘ship shape’ and ready for sea. With a new solar arch, upgraded VHF Radio, installation of a gennaker furler, new bimini and connecting windshield, fitted cockpit shades, reinforced guardrails, installation of media server and copious other minor upgrades, Tahnee Mara was ready to face the new sailing season!
After the hectic and fast moving summer we experienced last year, we had decided to retrace some of our steps and take a more leisurely sail to the Ionian, transit the Corinth Canal once again and take a steadier route north through the Aegean Islands to make our way to the sailing grounds of the Turkish coastline. With a dozen or so other boats heading east from MdR, we are looking forward to a very different experience this summer, sailing within range of some of the new friends we have made over winter.
Since the weekend we had waved off several boats and the marina was slowly emptying as our MdR family began to depart for the summer. Some would be returning for winter, but others were heading off to pastures new, with a strong contingent heading west, preparing to cross the Atlantic.
There had been a slowly increasing sense of excitement in the marina as we all prepared to leave, watching the weather closely for the all important passage window. We needed a three day window of favourable winds and calm sea swell, to take us from Sicily up into Greece to Kefalonia in the Southern Ionian. The big three day sand storm we had experienced in the lead up to our departure had left behind an excitable sea state and we needed things to calm down before we could leave. With a long passage ahead we didn’t want our first sail in 7 months to be an exercise in feeding the fishes!
Our exit from the marina was a little lumpy and we both felt the initial unsettled stomach of our first sail since October. The sun was climbing up into the sky but the wind was chilly and we were both layered up to deal with the cold feel of the open sea.
Our excitement at being properly back on the water had us both smiling widely as we breathed in the fresh salty air and we settled ourselves in for the journey.
There’s always a period of adjustment as we settle into the first sail of the season and getting our ‘sailing heads on’ is easier if we are able to enjoy a steady first couple of hours. Luckily the wind was in our favour and as the sea state calmed, we settled ourselves in for the day. We were both a little restless at first but it is amazing how quickly the sea calms us, it’s like coming home!
During our first day we had sightings of jumping tuna being chased by a pod of dolphins, a sun fish and a sea turtle. I have long given up on trying to take photos of our excited sightings and instead allow myself to enjoy those precious moments. The sea is home to so much wonderful sea-life and I have my breath taken away every day at sea.
We watched the sun go down behind us, leaving the sky bathed in the most amazing colours. Every time we do a long passage, I am blown away by the beauty of the sky and sea as day moves to night. I am in awe of the millions of stars that appear above us and the glittering of the night-darkened sea beneath us and the calmness of it all is un-rivalled.
After supper we moved into our watch keeping routine and I took the first three hour shift. When I am on watch I often listen to music, have a little bop around the cockpit (helps to keep warm), do little bits of Yoga (yes, even in full foulies!) and enjoy the peacefulness of the night sky and sea. With a flask of yummy Italian fresh coffee and a newly replenished supply of Cadbury’s (thanks to my Yoga retreat girlies), the night passed extremely quickly.
Our second day of passage was spent motoring as the predicted wind failed to make an appearance. The sea swell rose, but the sun was warm and we were able to take off a few layers and enjoy the warmth on our skin as we motored along.
We had radio contact from some friends from MdR – they had sighted us on their AIS (Automatic Identification System) and even though we couldn’t see them, it was good to know they were out there.
The rest of the day passed peacefully, with very little boat traffic around and not much to do but relax back in the cockpit and enjoy the journey. We exchanged our Italian courtesy flag for the Greek flag, had a couple of exhausted birds hitch a ride for a while and with very little wind we motored on.
Day turned to night and we watched another beautiful sunset before beginning our evening watches. We settle into our companionable routine easily and with calm conditions, we are both able to get some decent rest. The idea of the Atlantic crossing, spending 21 or more days at sea used to fill me with concern, but as we get used to longer passages I feel less anxious about our ability to tackle that amount of continuous sea time in one stretch.
At 2.30am I saw the faint lights of land ahead, the island of Kefalonia was in sight in the darkness. The sun rose and the island of Kefalonia properly came into view.
A little later we made VHF radio contact with our friends on Catamaran Felix, who were picking up pace under sail and were getting closer, then around midday they came into view!
It was so lovely to see Felix after almost three days at sea with only tankers and cruise ships for company….
As we sailed into the harbour of Argostoli we saw our other friends on SV ‘Dream On’ already alongside in the harbour and by 1.30pm we too were safely tied up and ready for some lunch.
By evening we were joined by more friends on their boat ‘Quench’ and our first evening back in port was spent in the company of MdR family
After 55 hours at sea and with 277 nautical miles logged we were officially ‘back to sea’ and looking forward to the sailing adventures ahead.