The first week back in Leros and seeing AFB for the first time in over 30 months!
After flying back into Athens on the 17th May, we spent the night in the usual cheap but cheerful hotel in Piraeus before hopping on the overnight ferry for Leros. There's a long distance between Athens airport and Piraeus and we'd arrived very early in the morning, so to be able to put your head down for a few hours and have a shower was a must. Having flown in from Mexico City, we had a pretty comfortable flight and arrived feeling excited to be one step closer to being back onboard. We had a few hours sleep and then got out exploring Piraeus. We were pleasantly surprised to see that Piraeus had had somewhat of a clean up in the couple of years since being here last, so we had a wander, hit the chandlery shops/Zara/H&M :) and made our way to a nice little spot for some lunch.
The overnight ferry to Leros with a sleeper cabin booked is a really comfortable way to go, if you can't get a direct flight from Athens or if you arrive in late. It also affords you a good nights sleep before the somewhat emotional reunion with your boat after 30 months! We'd decided to book a small apartment on Leros, away from the boatyard for the first 5 days, so that we had an offsite base to return to after working all day and we were glad we did. We stayed in a small apartment just behind a taverna, run by a lovely husband and wife in Vromolithos. It was nice to actually leave AFB at the end of a busy day, have a swim and relax overlooking beautiful Vromolithos bay. It also meant Gav could have his mid week Board meeting without too much hassle :)
Just over the hill from us was another adorable little bay called Panteli, with pretty tavernas serving delicious food right on the beach, for our first meal on Leros, it was so nice to have clear water lapping at our feet. We spent quite a bit of time here over the coming week and we even managed to catch up with Julie and Matt Kennedy from Maleficent, old friends we met back in Aegina in 2016 on their Fontaine Pajot. A great reunion with plenty of 🍷, good banter and catching up on all that's happened in the time since we saw them last.
So, the moment we'd been waiting for...the first sighting of AFB was pretty great, it felt slightly surreal as we climbed onboard and as expected, came to the full realisation that there was a LOT to do in the coming week and our motivation wasn't as peaked as it should have been!!
She was pretty dirty and there was a lot of disarray thanks to work being done whilst we were away. The dirt and dust of the Sirocco winds that brings the red dust up from north Africa meant that she needed a lot of TLC to get her back to a reasonable state and we both felt pretty overwhelmed to start with but slowly, as the day passed, we felt into the familiar rhythm of getting her organised and cleansed. These are the times you start to wish you had crew!
It's a mammoth undertaking, a bit like moving house really and I'm sure a lot of people think we just fly over and jump onboard and sail away but believe me, there is a lot of work that goes into getting the boat ready for the season, both mechanically and aesthetically. It's an expensive time for both the bank account and the energy levels and you certainly feel like you've done a hard days graft at the end of it, but that's what makes the G&T at the end of the day that much sweeter! Who needs one when you can have three? 🍸
Mechanically (for want of a better word), we had a bit to do, although a bit of forethought meant a lot was already done by the time we reached her. We did however have to replace all of our batteries and have a wifi receiver installed in the B&G plotter, we also had a motor valve changed (how can a tiny part cost so much?) and we had the halyards replaced, the list went on and on.
All whilst that was happening Gav was fixing and cleaning rust spots and deck marks and sorting the topsides whilst I tackled the interior. Tell me again why we don't have crew??
Whilst we'd left everything well covered and secured in our absence, you notice that every little crack and cranny had dust and dirt build up in it and the boat's interior was piled high with the various cushions, covers and sun shades etc., that help to make it comfortable during summer. These all take time to return to normal and clean the three cabins and three bathrooms, saloon and all the areas in between. It feels so good when it's all done though and when you are ready to go back into the water in a far better state than when you started it feels very satisfying!
So the day finally came and we launched her on May 27th, the Artemis crew using their new heavy lifting trailer. It's a pretty cool lifter and watching her going back into the water was awesome.
The first night out we went up to a lovely calm little back called Archangelos, along with two other Aussie cat's - Blonde Moment 2 (Ian & Lyndal Pitcher) and Reflexxion (Martin & Soni Beamish). We spent our first night peacefully on anchor with a swim and then dinner in the little taverna on the hill. Bliss!
It was a lovely day on the Saturday, swimming, pottering and reacquainting ourselves with the boat, her different sounds, alarms and nuances. We then set off for Lakki Bay (the main town) on Sunday to anchor off the town in readiness for the check out (of Greece) process - an expected ball ache. Luckily, our mate Jon Call's ex son-in-law is a clearance agent in Leros, so he helped us on the Sunday arvo, brilliant! Sunday turned out to be windy AF and Lakki Bay's holding was terrible, we dragged our anchor twice over the course of a few hours and the wind continued to build. After we dragged a third time in a very crowded bay, we decided to go into the small marina and tie off on the lifting bay and wait out the bluster, it was getting late. Best decision ever, we managed to have a lovely diner and a good sleep before exiting Leros bound for Didim, Turkey.
The sail across was magic, full sails and reasonably consistent winds keeping us at around 6-7knots for the entire crossing. It was a great way to settle back into sailing after quite a long time away. AFB handled it beautifully and we all blew away a few cobwebs after a long time apart.
We arrived early afternoon and settled into a lovely bay with a good holding sandy bottom = good holding, just outside of the D-Marin Marina. The water was turquoise blue and warmer than the last couple of swims, so we lolled about and enjoyed the rest of the day before checking into Turkey using our customs agent in the marina. With all elements that could either fail or provide for a very nice day going pretty smoothly, we were well anchored and had a day of not so much to do, so we decided to go into Didim and find the fresh produce market. We'd invited Lyndal and Ian from Blonde Moment as Soni and Martin from Reflexxion had headed to Ephesus for the day site seeing. The bazaar didn't disappoint with beautiful fruit, veggies, spices and exotic goodies piled high and miles of stalls, all with their own presentation. We bought loads of delicious goodies and found a fantastic butcher, so we all stocked up and spent the morning wandering before heading back to boat for a bbq on Blonde Moment 2.
It was great, for everyone except for Lyndal & Ian, who found out that last time they were in Turkey in 2019 their agent hadn't checked them out of Turkey, so they were told to either leave Turkish waters or potentially pay a fine for overstaying the past 3 years! It was pretty bitter news for them as they'd planing on cruising the Turkish coast for a large part of the summer, so the next morning they left for Leros to check back into Greece. That night though, we had a great send off bbq on their boat, with everyone joining us after their various days activities (as an addendum, they've managed to come back to Turkey via Cesme, which is great!).
We were going to leave ourselves the next day but found ourselves in a spot of electrical trouble when we discovered the ice-creams had melted in the freezer, quelle horreure!! Nothing worse than melty ice-creams and fridge/freezers not working, so we decided to go into the marina to have our waste water tanks emptied (Turkey has a blue water policy) and asked after an electrical engineer, this is where you realised you are now in ever efficient Turkey!
A quick call to Atilla the agent around midday and he advised us to come back to the marina at 2pm as an engineer would come and assess. There they were at 2pm and by 4pm they had diagnosed that. number of our sad, dead batteries were in need of replacement and they would order them for delivery that evening. We decided to upgrade them all in the one go, to save any future hassles. So, we booked a marina berth (ouch said the wallet) and the next morning early, the engineers were onboard installing 6 new house batteries and fixing other little niggles that we needed sorting, so efficient!
If we were in Greece, I hate to say it but we'd probably still be there waiting now, 3 days later!
Off we sailed that afternoon (after meeting our French neighbours Benoit, Jessica & their son Clyde on a Lagoon52) back out into the bay and spent the night before heading off south towards Turkbuku, where I sit now writing this log post. It's blowing up again this afternoon, so we are staying tight right here til tomorrow and then we will be heading off for a sheltered bay to await the arrival of the Pappas'. It will be a lovely week with them sailing the Bodrum peninsula.
We had a lovely dinner at Garo's last night with our new French friends, it was a gorgeous evening here in Turkbuku! We will be back :)
So that's it for now, hope everyone is well and happy wherever you are in the world!
Until next time...