What have we been up to?
11 November 2013 | Marina di Ragusa, Sicily, Italy
Well, we made it to Marina di Ragusa in the South of Sicily for the winter. What have we been up to until now and since our last blog? In a nutshell, we spent most of our time visiting old ruins in Greece before coming back to Sicily via Malta. I was a bit worried about dragging the kids into visiting Greek ruins, but, as it turns out, they enjoyed them as much as I did.
We left the Ionian Islands and sailed to Navpaktos at the East mouth of the Gulf of Corinth. Alec gave us a detailed account of the Battle of Lepanto as we were sailing the same waters - just about 440 years later. In fact, Navpaktos was Lepanto (I have no idea when, who or for what reason the name was changed), the port where the Ottoman fleet refitted before the battle. The medieval port is so tiny that we did not fit inside so we anchored outside the port. Next morning we dinghied to the tiny old port and walked up to the Venetian castle for a quick visit. What a lovely spot! It was clearly the end of the season, as we were alone except for some wild goats grazing on top of the castle walls. The anchorage was not very protected and as the wind started to blow we decided to continue East. We did three day hops with mostly deserted anchorages before reaching the Corinth Canal.
The Corinth Canal is so narrow that boats can only transit in one direction. The direction gets reversed depending on the needs of the boats. We got to the west entrance as a big cruise ship was existing into the Corinth Gulf. We got the "go ahead at full speed" from the Canal authorities. It is only 3 miles, so it took Por Dos about 20 or 25 min to get across.
We got to Athens and tied up at Zea Marina. In Athens we met with Mark's mum and sister. During their three-week stay, we visited the Acropolis and the main sites in Athens, drove to Delphi (to get a reading from the Oracle :-), and into the Peloponnese to visit Ancient Mycenae and Agamemnon's Palace; Epidavros and the Sanctuary of Asclepios. After leaving Athens, we hopped from island to island with Thera (Santorini) and Crete and the ruins of the Minoan civilization as our main goals. We stopped in the islands of Kithnos, Sifnos, Ios and finally Thera. Sailing into the the submerged crater of Thera is truly spectacular, and words need a better writer than I am to make it justice. The Minoan ruins were also fantastic because they were covered with the volcano ashes, and, after few initial mistakes at the end of last century, now, they are being carefully protected from environmental and touristic erosion. We got a couple of really windy days while in Thera, but nothing dampened our spirits and we visited ruins, museums, shops and restaurants until we were ready to move on.
From Thera, it was a one long day hope to Crete. We reached the port of Rethymnon, which we used as base for our car trips to the Minoan ruins of Agia Triada, Phaestos Palace, and, of course, the famous, Knossos Palace. Rethymnon, itself was a cute place, with another tiny Venetian port (we were tied to the new marina, where we could actually fit), and a nice old quarter. Now, both are full of restaurants and tourist shops, but still worth a visit - specially in low season. After Cathie and Jenny left on October 12, we stayed in Crete for another week waiting for the appropriate weather to sail to Malta and closer to our winter home in Sicily. While we were waiting, we hiked the 16 km of the Samaria Gorge, allegedly the longest gorge in Europe. During summer, there can be up to 1,000 people per day hiking the gorge but of course in October, it could not have been more than 50.
We had a gorgeous hot and sunny day, and we were tired and hungry when we got to the South end at Agia Roumeli. We were enjoying a late lunch on the high terrace of a local restaurant when the floor shook from side to side few times. As we were all starting to head towards the street, the shaking stopped. It was our first earthquake experience, a mere 6.5 with the epicenter off the west coast of Crete. After a few minutes, we all settled back down to eat.
We left Crete and sailed to Malta, where we spent a week touring Valetta and surroundings. Mark and Roan went for a dive (Roan's first wreck - he was so excited!) while Alec and I visited prehistoric ruins. We sailed from Valetta to one of the most famous anchorages in Malta, the Blue Lagoon. The waters were still warm and so clear and inviting that we all went swimming. During the day, it was so crowded with tourists, even at the end of October that as soon as the winds were favorable, we sailed to Marina di Ragusa.
The last couple of weeks we have been preparing the boat for winter and our departure to see our Spanish and Australian families. We are flying to Barcelona on November 14 for a quick hello before our five week trip to Australia. We will spend Christmas down under and New Years back in Barcelona, before returning to Sicily at the end of January.