Friday, 15 September 2017

Back to Oz

15 September 2017
Yes we’re back. Our latest Mediterranean adventure leading a Charter Flotilla for Greek Sails flew by and was over before we knew it. We would have liked to have stayed longer but our visa only allowed us to be in the Euro zone for 90 days.
The whole experience still seems quite surreal. Since returning to Brisbane just in time for Christmas from spending the previous nine months cruising the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea, our focus had been on finding some employment for a while to replenish our badly depleted finances. (WARNING: Six years sailing around in various parts of the world can be damaging or even fatal to your bank account.)
Rafting boats together with lines to the shore was a new skill we learned.
We were applying for all sorts of full time positions while grabbing whatever casual work came along in the meantime. Rob had made it through the interview processes to the final two stage of a couple of great, reasonably well paid managerial roles but just missed out on both when the “Greek Option” arose.
It all happened in a bit of a blur as we responded to a Facebook post a friend sent us about a company that was looking for a couple to lead one of their charter flotilla groups around the Greek Isles during the northern summer. On a whim and having nothing better to do, we sent off some details about ourselves and our sailing experience and before we knew it we were booking tickets to fly to Europe. The salary was rubbish and we had to pay our own fares to get there but what the hell. Choosing between sitting around through the chilly Brisbane winter making nothing or sailing in the Greek sunshine earning peanuts didn’t take long.
The Jeanneau 37 Enigma became our home and lead boat for the summer.
Sunset over the Greek Sails charter fleet at the dock in Poros.
Based on the island of Poros, just south of Athens, our job was to lead a charter flotilla of supposedly up to ten charter yachts around cruising grounds in the Saronic and Argolic Gulfs, assist with berthing, deal with all port police details etc and generally make sure the clients have a safe and very enjoyable sailing holiday. Basically, we were to be tour guides afloat.
Greek Sails also operate bare boat charters and a popular RYA sailing school but the flotilla side of the business is certainly the biggest. Flotilla holidays are very popular in Europe for a variety of reasons. People new to chartering like the security of having an experienced lead crew available for guidance while even seasoned sailors appreciate how having someone else to arrange berthing, deal with the onerous Greek bureaucracy found in every port, arrange water and fuel, look after any boat maintenance issues and even make dinner bookings for them provides a much more stress free and relaxed holiday. Many also commented they like the flotilla option for the social side of things. This is especially so amongst families. The younger kids invariably make new holiday play friends while the teens flock together in port.
The social side of flotilla chartering is very popular.
The younger members of the flotillas all got on well
We will be doing a separate blog very soon with all the detail of what it’s like to lead a flotilla and experiences we had but what we will say now is WE HAD A GREAT TIME. The sailing was awesome, the places we visited were fantastic, the food was unbelievable and we met literally hundreds of really nice people from numerous countries who shared their holiday with us. They came from all walks of life and had very different levels of skill and experience on the water but all shared a passion for sailing and were there to enjoy themselves, as were we.
Greece's ancient history is amazing.

Karen playing tour guide at the ancient city of Mycenae

and at the fortress high above Navplion
 We arrived at Greek Sails in Poros late morning on a Thursday. After a day to recover from the long flight and lack of sleep, we were greeting and briefing our first charterers on the Saturday ahead of a Sunday morning departure. From then it was full on 24/7 as we sailed 1,422 nautical miles leading 11 flotilla groups of up to 13 boats and 62 people.  

The Greek locals were friendly and liked to play.
Vathi - one of the many delightful small harbours we sailed to.

Overall the weather was great but at times maybe even a little too warm. The wind is the wind and at different times was too light, too strong but mostly just fine thanks.  The beauty of our cruising area was that, even in extreme winds, the very deep water and lack of fetch in the northern Argolic Gulf resulted in us never seeing the sea state top a metre. We never knew reaching in 35 -40 knots could be so enjoyable. We only experienced a couple of wet days during our whole stay.
Apparently flotilla lead boats normally motor everywhere
but we sailed Enigma every chance we got.
We had no spinnaker pole so Rob put the boat hook to good use.
Click HERE to see a video of typical sailing day on Flotilla
The Greek weather was mostly fantastic

Second reef in at 30 plus knots but the sea state was amazingly mild
No wonder Karen was smiling so much
We did get caught in one strong thunderstorm though. Check out the VIDEO

Seventy-eight days later we farewelled our final charter clients and handed over Enigma to our replacement crew. The company generously let us stay on one of their docked boats and we were able to enjoy our first days off in almost three months getting to see a little more of Poros and taking a ferry trip to the island of Hydra.
Playing tourists on Hydra
Our last afternoon in Poros with Greek Sails

There were lots of farewell drinks and more fantastic food including a magic final dinner at Apagio, our favourite Taverna on Poros.
Thank you Spiro, Elizabeth, Jamie and team for making us so welcome at Taverna Apagio.
We are certainly going to miss Poros and  this view.
Reluctantly we flew out of Athens airport on September 7 with just four days remaining on our visas before we would become two more of the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of illegal immigrants currently in Europe.
We travelled home to Brisbane via Athens, Istanbul, Manila and Darwin with the cheapest we could find.
We were on the go for forty hours but saved $900 each on the high season fares.
What Now?  Well the bank account is still on life support so it’s back to the job hunting. We REALLY do need to put some money back in the tin so we can go cruising again. Rob has some motorsport commentary lined up and will be firing off some articles about our Greek adventures to a few magazines in the hope of seeing them published but we do need some more regular income for a while to get back on the water. Such is life.
In between we have plenty of work to do on Our Dreamtime as we pretty well stripped her before we went overseas. See the story of our prep HERE. Leaving her naked was not only the safer option but also now forces us into doing all the maintenance jobs, such as servicing the sails etc, we originally planned to do over the winter. We know ourselves well enough to realise that if she was sitting there ready to sail when we returned from being away for months we would have immediately thrown the lines off to take her out and those jobs may have never got done.
There’s also a mile of blogging to get onto. In addition to writing about leading the flotilla, we plan to do a series of blogs about the different places we visited in Greece and Karen has a feast of Greek food blogs in the pipeline for the Our Galley section.  You can see the first one HERE.
Keep an eye out for all of these new blogs tom come.


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