And That's a Wrap - Again
Final thoughts from Dale, Christine, and Megan on September 21, 2023 as we pull Helios out of the water for dry-land storage again. Here we summarize our second year's sailing adventure, although it was actually just 4 months this time around.
Round 2 on the boat was as equally fantastic as our full 12-month maiden voyage in 2021/22, but it differed in many ways. Sentiments that ran high in our first year of sailing that were largely absent this year included:
the intensity and stress of herculean preparations,
the ultra-steep learning curve figuring out how to sail and maintain the boat,
the “let-me-pinch-myself-in-case-I’m-dreaming” feel one gets when fulfilling a life dream, and
the hassles of global travel during COVID.
Replacing those experiences and emotions this time around were sentiments of:
a sense of “coming home” when we moved back onto Helios at the start of the season,
a more relaxed pace focused as much on the destinations as on the process of getting to them,
a sense of routine (rather than a challenging learning curve) as we went about daily life aboard Helios, and
a greater focus on sharing the experience with friends and family.
Here are some of the highlights and lowlights that stood out for me this year:
Visiting 22 different Greek Isles (although admittedly I have already forgotten a few of them).
Christine and me celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary in Santorini, where we stayed during our honeymoon two-and-a-half decades ago.
To top off that Santorini anniversary celebration, we were celebrating together with friends David and Kathleen who were celebrating their 6th anniversary on the same day.
Sailing in Montenegro.
Visiting Homer’s tomb on the Greek island of Ios.
Making passage through the Corinth Canal.
Having Megan aboard Helios again for more quality time together.
Proving that Christine and I can double-hand Helios with just the two of us (following the lowlight of Megan leaving us as she returned to school).
Sharing the live-aboard experiences with so many friends and family.
Running aground in the dark at 6am on the way out of an anchorage in Amorgos, Greece (followed by the emotional highlight of getting ourselves unstuck 30 minutes later with no damage to the boat).
The intense heat and wickedly strong sun of the Greek summer (although I’ll miss that heat and sun during the Chicago winter back home).
The terrible services we received over the winter from the shipyard in Olbia, Sardinia.
The annoying administrative paperwork (and expense) of the Greek and Turkish cruising regulations.
The on-going running costs of operating a boat.
In a repeat of last year, Christine and I are again debating whether we should sell Helios, or keep the boat for another year (or more) of sailing. Such a difficult decision over which we both vacillate. So I will conclude here with the same words used at the end of my equivalent post last year: “Perhaps we’ll be back next year to do it again!”
Sailing the Greek Islands was nothing short of spectacular! The summer flew by and I can’t believe despite our rigid schedule, we still managed to visit over 22 Greek Islands after our time in Italy and Montenegro. We were also thrilled to have Megan back on board for most of the summer.
How was sailing different this year?
This year, our experience took on a very different mindset from last year. The biggest difference being that this time, we were much more familiar and comfortable with how Helios operates and more confident handling our boat in a variety of situations. We also had minimal interruptions with critical and/or time-consuming repairs that had to be done to maintain Helios’ sea-worthiness versus last year, as I think we worked out all of the new boat kinks.
In fact, we were almost too comfortable with our sailing life, that we were all crazy enough to take online courses at the beginning of our summer, which became a bit of a distraction from sailing. We experienced less of the “Wow” factor that we had last year, when sailing was a novelty and when we didn’t want to miss one bit of our constantly changing scenery. I’m so relieved we scrapped our coursework at the beginning of August so we could maximize our enjoyment of the Greek Islands with our guests! (See my Greek Islands Photo Tour blog).
Personally, the saddest difference for me this year was losing our indispensable first mate, Megan, who returned to college to start her sophomore year mid-August. We had very big shoes to fill…Megan’s calmness under fire, physical strength, quick reaction time, dependability, efficiency and sailing wisdom. After she left, I really missed seeing her poke her head out of her captain’s cabin every morning.
As apprehensive as I was to fill Megan’s shoes after she left, I am heartened by the fact that Dale and I were able to double-hand the boat, even without guests on board. I won’t say everything went perfectly, but with a few modifications, we managed to sail Helios into Turkiye together without sinking the boat!
Returning to Santorini (where we spent part of our honeymoon) for our 25th wedding anniversary. It was extra special reuniting with our friends, Kathleen and David, who were celebrating their 6th anniversary on the same day.
Arriving the Chania (Crete) city port and getting a prime berth right in the city after a rather rough sail from our anchorage 3 hours away. We really wanted to stay in the city, so we took the risk, knowing we might have to sail another 3 hours back to the anchorage if we couldn’t get a berth in the city without a reservation. Chania city port ended up being one of our favorite places to stay.
Renting our red hot dune buggy in Ios and cruising all over the island.
Exploring the Acropolis in Lindos, Rhodes before the crowds arrived.
Seeing hundreds of bioluminescent jellyfish and dolphins during one of my night watches.
Visiting the spectacular caves and arch formations in Zakinthos and the blue caves in Montenegro.
Roaming the tangled alleyways that wound through the Greek towns.
Sailing to Turkiye on a whim with Gail and Kevin. The water is every bit as beautiful as Greece.
Having guests on board - I enjoyed sharing our life aboard Helios and exploring new areas with our guests.
The heat was almost unbearable this summer with record heat in the Mediterranean (deemed, the “pizza oven”). Temperatures inside our boat reached as high as 101 degrees on some days. We had to run the air conditioning more than usual, increasing our fuel expenses.
We motored more than usual, as we had many days with no wind and some unusual days where the wind was blowing in the opposite direction of where we needed to be with no wiggle room in our schedule.
Walking the 45 degree plank up to the bow of our boat in Corfu (see photo in Greek Islands Photo Tour blog). My heart still palpitates thinking about it!
Megan and Dale falling ill with some stomach issues in Montenegro.
Cutting short our sailing trip due to Shengen limitations.
Shoddy work by technicians in Sardinia, including hooking up our deck pump backwards and forgetting to install 4 out of the 5 necessary water filters for our water maker.
Another successful summer on Helios in the books! Although I was only on board for a few months, it was so easy to fall back into the sailing-life routine. There was definitely a lot less preparation and stress involved in the moving-back on board process, vs last year when everything was new to us. We had run out of time during my gap year to visit Greece, so I was so excited to get there this summer, along with unexpected visits to Montenegro and Türkiye.
Here are a few things that surprised me about Greece:
How desolate and barren the landscape was
The heat!! There were many days where the temperature read “Feels like 104 degrees”
How good the food was!
The friendliness of the locals
2 weeks of illness in Montenegro, and walking to multiple clinics
The unbearable heat, especially when there was no wind
Not seeing as much sea life as I had hoped
Getting to visit my friend at her home near Portofino
Spending time with my parents (of course!)
The Greek cuisine
Having more time to get on shore and look around
Sailing through the Corinth Canal