I think this car sticker was designed for new parents. Ones with a three month old, who are suffering from sleepless nights and newborn baby anxieties, not ones who are visiting their gone 30 year old daughter. But I had some serious worries that we would need to get one of these stickers for the boat after my parents had experienced a night on board Hot Chocolate.
This wasn’t a joke for me, it came with some very serious worries. Firstly, I was desperate for my parents to have a good time. In fact, I wanted them to have an amazing time. It isn’t very often that you get a chance to pay back your Mum and Dad for the years of incredible experiences they have given you. I wanted the opportunity to share with them all of the good, and none of the bad.
Secondly, tired parents = grumpy parents. It’s one thing sharing a very small enclosed space with the one you love. It’s another thing sharing a very small space with your parents. But I don’t even think that making your boyfriend and your parents share a very small space is a thing. Adam gets on famously well with my Mum and Dad, and I’ve always been thankful that they all enjoy spending time together. But tired, grumpy, no escape time together-this I wasn’t so sure about. I could be about to ruin every Christmas to come!
Adam and I meticulously planned what we were going to do with my parents for their week long visit. We wanted a night in a remote anchorage, to give them a taste of adventure, we wanted to take them to a pretty Greek town or village so they could while away the hours in a cafe. We wanted some calm weather to sail in, just enough to get the sails out without the sea getting up. We would see stars, and sunsets and dolphins. We would obviously need to see some dolphins. It was going to be perfect.
Unfortunately though, nature doesn’t always work within our time frames. We sat out the Meltemi hours from the mainland, where they were flying into, and nervously waited for a weather window not knowing if we would even make it over to meet them.
We got lucky, and the weather window arrived. We had just enough time to make it to Porto Cheli, a bolthole near Athens, before the next wave of wind hit. The forecast was very favourable. We would have decent sailing wind on a beam to broad reach for the entire journey. We had a few possible stop overs planned as we wouldn’t make it there before dark, but we were going to be flying along at a consistent 5 knots, so we would definitely make it pretty far up the fork meaning Porto Cheli would be a quick hop away the following morning.
So obviously we ended up motoring the entire way, making less than 4 knots. We weren’t going to arrive at our first planned stop off before dark, and with the winds predicted to kick in the next afternoon we thought it was safer to just get there. We slowed down, and prepared for a night sail, planning to arrive at sunrise.
It was perfect. We had a little wind, enough to sail at points. We had calm seas and saw no other traffic. It reminded us how much we had loved the passage over to Greece and gave us a renewed thirst for some longer passages. We arrived as the sun was rising and motored into the large, sheltered bay. The weather was so calm that we could stop the boat in the middle of the channel to watch a monk seal as it dipped in and out of the water. Drops of rain started to fall and a rainbow appeared ahead of us before we dropped anchor for some much needed rest.
We had time to catch up on sleep before the familiar sound of thunder echoed around the bay. Blitzortung showed a storm heading our way, so we gave the boat a once over to check all was safe, and put out buckets in the hope of collecting some water to wash the boat down. I sat on deck listening to the rumblings and the clouds getting closer, but it looked to be a way off yet.
Suddenly we were blasted with the most forceful wind I have felt yet. I rushed to the wind speed gauge and as the wind was dropping the reading was 37 knots, out of no where. The boat flew back on her anchor and my heart lept as I tried to quickly work out if we were dragging, and soon after if anyone near us was dragging. As I watched the boats strain on their anchors, one by one they disappeared in a sheet of rain heading for us. We were soaked in seconds and running to move anything lying beneath our leaky hatches. Once the moment of panic was over it was exhilarating to watch the force of the storm. It was unlike anything we had ever seen before, and even more incredible to watch it from the boat.
There was no way we could leave the boat to get provisions, so we made an odd concoction of rice and tinned tomatoes for dinner and headed to town early the next day to stock up on essentials before my parents arrived.
Porto Cheli is not the prettiest of anchorages and we wanted to take my parents somewhere prettier for their first night on board. We motored a little out of the bay to one of the lovely little coves and spent half the day checking it wasn’t too rolly or unsettled there. It was great, we would sleep well.
I didn’t realise how pleased I would be to see them, and have a slice of home after the most time I have ever spent away from them in my life. We caught up over beer in a cafe and then loaded their suitcases (and them) into the dinghy. With the boat tour out the way we watched the sunset and ate way too much for dinner.
The next day we headed out for a little day trip to the opposite island of Spetses. After an incident with a speed boat and our fishing line (don’t worry, the tuna catching lure somehow survived!) we found a little bay and took lines to shore. Adam had to work, so my parents and I took the dinghy to shore and walked into the town, where we explored and ate lunch in a harbour cafe. It was a pretty, boutique kind of town. Very touristy but lovely all the same. We got a little lost on the walk home, discovering a cliff side church and some interesting backstreets.
The sea had picked up a bit and we could see that Adam was having a rolly time on board so we grabbed the dinghy to get back to him quickly. Try as I might I could not get the outboard to start. We’ve had problems with that outboard from the beginning. It often just cuts out, and I find it impossible to start. We had no choice but to row into the wind for 15 minutes. We were pretty exhausted by the time we reached HC.
Typically by the time we’d recovered the lines and picked up the anchor there was only a breath of wind left. We sailed at 3 knots for a bit, until the wind died completely and we were forced to motor back to the safety of Porto Cheli for the night. There were forecast thunderstorms for the next day and after seeing how quickly and forcefully they can hit here we weren’t taking any risks!
We woke up to cloud and the odd rumble of thunder. We lazed around on the boat drinking endless cups of coffee, playing scrabble and trying to catch fish. The storm never came but there was rain and general grey. If my parents had been missing England they certainly weren’t now! In the afternoon we made it into town to use their car to stock up on food and top up our diesel supply.
Alarms went off early the next day, and we motored out of the anchorage just after sunrise for an anchorage on the other side of the island where we planned to stop for breakfast. With no wind we motored the whole way, but were hopeful that it would pick up in the afternoon to help us on our way over to Kyprissi, a 5 hour sail away.
The bay we stopped in was deep but beautiful, we were the only sailboat there, surrounded by hills and a small beach with a monastery. My Dad made his famed scrambled eggs for breakfast and we sat and ate in the sunshine.
The wind started to pick up as predicted. It was light but there was enough to sail, and it was perfectly positioned for us to sail off our anchor. We had watched jealously all summer as others had sailed in and out of anchorages but had never been brave enough to try it. We were in a wide bay with plenty of room to manoeuvre and no other boats to damage if things went wrong. We put the motor on just in case, hoisted the main, pulled up the anchor and sailed smoothly away. It was such an incredible feeling and felt like a huge achievement for us! Hopefully there will be a lot more of that in the future!
Unfortunately as we got further out to sea the wind direction shifted and we were forced a little off course. We were hopeful that the predicted south easterlies would start to kick in and so were happy to keep sailing off course. About half way across we were joined by the biggest pod of dolphins we have ever seen. We watched them from the bow as they showed off in front of the boat, arching and diving in the waves we were creating. All too quickly they were gone, and we gave sailing our full attention again!
Sadly the wind was picking up strength in the opposite direction. We could either change course completely and head to somewhere up the coast, which we weren’t keen on after reading they were unprotected with bad holding or expensive! Instead we tacked into wind for several hours and reached our destination just before sunset.
As we motored into the bay the sun was behind the clouds, making huge golden rays fall on the towering mountains surrounding the little town. It took us several attempts to anchor, as we tried to decide on whether to take lines to shore or not. We decided to free swing, and motored back extra hard to make sure our anchor was set, as it was too deep to dive.
That evening we went into town for dinner, enjoying drinks in a pretty taverna with the locals. We lay in the cockpit in the pitch black, watching for shooting stars, pondering life beyond Earth and giggling about absolutely nothing. It’s a day I will never forget.
We walked into town the next day, along a coastal path through the woods. We wandered the white washed streets and mused about living there, after speaking to a Scottish lady who had given up her high powered career in London and moved to this sleepy little village several years ago. She spent her days drinking coffee in cute cafes and making jewellery.
That evening we took a pesto pasta dinner to shore. We drank wine and watched the sunset behind the mountains and walked through the woods to a little bay we had discovered earlier that day. We ate dinner, played in the bio-luminescence and watched Adam spin fire. The walk back in the dark was interesting, but we all still have full use of our ankles, so we considered it a success!
We left a little later than we normally would the next day, in the hope of catching the afternoon winds. We stopped for lunch at a bay with a beach and when the wind picked up we left, getting the sails up asap. Finally the winds were on our side and we managed a fast sail all the way back to Porto Cheli, making 6 knots most of the way in 12 knots of wind! Perhaps Hot Chocolate will make sailors of us yet! Or perhaps our wind speed monitor is broken!
As we entered the mouth of the bay we were treated to the most incredible sunset. We ate dinner in a taverna in town and reminisced about the trip and how quickly it had passed. My parents left after breakfast the next day, and Adam and I were left feeling a little flat.
We had an incredible few days, and it had been over way too quickly. My parents had soaked up life on board, embracing the lack of showers, washing up with the least water possible, knowing when to stay out of the way while Adam and I talked through difficult decisions tensely and lying about the amount of sleep they were getting to make us feel better! They were becoming pros at getting in and out of the dinghy, and my concerned instructions about which lines to avoid when walking around the boat were completely unnecessary.
Now that they have left we have no one to remind us to ungang the batteries, help us row the dinghy, or to sew up the rips in our cushion covers, or make us scrambled eggs on toast. Adam has found it particularly difficult to lose the only person that ever joins in his boring conversations about electrics, or politics, or physics.
Thank you Mum and Dad, for the amazing memories, for joining in with our lives so wholeheartedly, and for your valiant efforts not to act like sleep deprived parents on board. You really are the best.