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Captain's Log

The Captain's Log has be re-activated following a 10-month hiatus back home in Chicago. We re-boarded Helios in Sardinia, Italy on June 2, 2023 for our second round of sailing. This Log provides a summary of our original 12 months and 13,000+ miles of sailing from August 2021 through July 2022, as well as another 2,500 or so nautical miles this 2023 season. It is presented in reverse chronological order, and grouped by "major passages" which we typically define as a couple of weeks, or a few hundred sea-miles, or passages between major destinations.


2023 Sailing Log



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Passage #23: Santorini, Greece to Didim, Turkiye

Dates: September 4 - 21, 2023

Distance: 223 miles

Time: 18 days

Noteworthy: Spending our 25th wedding anniversary in the Santorini town of Oia was the highlight of this passage. So nostalgic since it is where Christine and I stayed during our honeymoon many years ago. We had planned this stay for months together with David and Kathleen - friends from Hong Kong who were celebrating their 6th wedding anniversary on the same day.


Photos from left to right below:

Helios moored in the Santorini caldera while we spent a night ashore; anniversary breakfast at our hotel in Oia; night view of Oia, Santorini


We also had a number of lowlights this passage, including:

a) jamming our genoa furling line that required 45 minutes to fix while at sea

b) ripping out a major electric winch due to a jammed main halyard

c) running aground in the dark during a predawn departure from the island of Amorgos, Greece (we somehow managed to motor our way off after 20 minutes of full-rpm attempts)

d) lifting Helios out of the water for dry land storage over the winter months (alas, the end of another sailing season for us)


Helios lift-out in Didim, Turkiye on Sept. 21, 2023




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Passage #22: Rhodes to Santorini

Dates: August 5 - September 3, 2023

Distance: 370 miles

Time: 30 days

Noteworthy: This was a passage with many stops as we wove in and out of over a dozen islands in the Greek Dodecanese and Cycladese island groups. We visited the islands of Kos, Kalymnos, Amorgos, Sikinos, Ios, Naxos, Paros, Antiparos, and many others. We hosted many friends and family who arrived and departed from various islands, each dealing successfully with the logistics of getting to and from Helios as we moved about. Some had fantastic sailing days with us, and some had rather rough days at sea (sorry Joey, sorry David).


Another worthy note is August 16, 2023. It's the day we lost our first mate Megan as she returned to university. It was the first time in more than 15 months of sailing Helios that Christine and I have had to double-hand the boat. We miss having Megan aboard, but at least we haven't sunk Helios without her. Yet.


Photos from left to right below:

Helios anchored below the Acropolis in Lindos on the island of Rhodes; Homer's tomb on the island of Ios; Helios in the marina on the island of Kos


Photos from left to right below:

Helios anchored in Lindos Bay; City port on the island of Kalymnos, Helios in the Naxos Marina


The photo below is our much anticipated arrival in Santorini. The town of Oia where we stayed during our honeymoon is on the top of the caldera in the background. We timed our arrival to coincide with our 25th wedding anniversary. More about Santorini is included in the Passage 23 entry.



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Passage #21: Rhodes to Bozburun Turkiye to Rhodes

Dates: July 29 - August 4, 2023

Distance: 82 miles

Time: 7 days

Noteworthy: Since the Old Town of Rhodes lies a mere 11 miles from the coast of Turkiye (formerly called Turkey), we decided to do a quick jaunt there before picking our other daughter Lindsey up back in Rhodes. We enjoyed the Turkish coastline and its plethora of charming and quiet little anchorages. But unfortunately, Captain Dale had to suffer hours of paperwork and lots of Euros to exit Greece, enter and then exit Turkiye, and then re-enter Greek waters. Just the return to Rhodes consumed 5 hours and over 8 miles of walking to/from various offices for Port Police, Customs, Immigrations, and Coast Guard. Good thing it was only 95 degrees out that day, rather than 100!!




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Passage #20: Chania, Crete to Rhodes (Greece)

Dates: July 23 - 27, 2023

Distance: 235 miles

Time: 5 days

Noteworthy: While we were completely charmed by everything in Chania, Crete (especially the food!), our remaining stops during this short passage were mostly underwhelming. Heraklion was a stop of convenience to pick up Megan and her friend from Italy, and the remainder of the passage was primarily a rush to get guests to Rhodes before their scheduled flights. We did have, however, some good sailing winds and calm seas for the duration.



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Passage #19: Corfu to Chania, Crete (Greece)

Dates: July 2 - 19, 2023

Distance: 374 miles

Time: 18 days

Noteworthy: This first passage in Greece began in the Ionian Sea, transited the Gulf of Corinth and the Corinth Canal near Athens, and continued south to Greece's most southern island, Crete. The Corinth Canal was a major highlight (see Places of Interest post), as were some charming ports along the way such as Gaios and Poros. Our favorite, however, was the port of Chania on the western end of Crete.





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Passage #18: Bar, Montenegro to Corfu, Greece

Dates: June 28 - 30, 2023

Distance: 180 miles

Time: 2 nights

Noteworthy: We cleared out of Montenegro customs and immigrations in Bar, Montengro and sailed down the Albanian coast to Corfu, Greece. We tried timing our Montenegro departure to arrive in Corfu early Friday morning. Winds were so good, however, that we found ourselves in the unusual situation of trying to slow down. For 12 hours we just drifted at 3 knots with all sails down and the autopilot steering our course to avoid a 2 a.m. arrival.


Finally, after 2 years of anticipation, we have arrived in Greece!! We stayed in Mandraki Marina (photos below), tucked beneath an old, historic fort. It was one of the quaintest marinas we've ever stayed in, probably second only to Portofino, Italy.



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Passage #17: Olbia, Sardinia (Italy) to Tivat, Montenegro

Dates: June 7 - 12, 2023

Distance: 815 miles

Time: 6 days / 6 nights

Noteworthy: Christine, Megan and I spent 5 days in Olbia re-provisioning the boat and finalizing some maintenance and repairs from the winter punch list. On the eve of our departure from Sardinia we made a flash decision to beeline to Montenegro on the east coast of the Adriatic Sea rather than our originally-planned slow sail down the Amalfi Coast of Italy. See the June 13 blog post "Doing the Schengen Shuffle."


That meant jumping cold-turkey into a non-stop, 6-day passage with no warm-up after our long break from sailing. If our navigation skills were a bit rusty, no worries. Dophins guided us much of the way!


Our rhythm-at-sea came back to us easily though. We had a long but relaxing passage around the boot of Italy and up the Adriatic past Albania, stopping just short of Croatia in Tivat, Montenegro. We spent a little over 2 weeks cruising Montenegro. It's a beautiful country -- especially the Bay of Kotor (see photos) -- with an interesting history.





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2021 - 2022 Sailing Log


Passage #16: Barcelona, Spain to Olbia, Sardinia (Italy)

Dates: June 13 - July 30, 2022

Distance: 785 miles

Time: 48 days

Noteworthy: We slowed our pace tremendously during our final weeks aboard Helios to enjoy sight-seeing around many Spanish, French, and Italian cities and to relax in beautiful Mediterranean anchorages. Perhaps our favorite stop was Portofino, although the islands of Corsica and Sardinia were full of wonderfully scenic places.


And then came the end of our year at sea. We didn't make it to Greece as originally planned, but instead chose the Italian island of Sardinia as the place to pull Helios out of the water and store her for the winter. After 12 months and more than 13,000 nautical miles of sailing, she finally gets a rest.




The Captain's Log is closing down now. If we sell Helios, then this is the final entry. If we don't, then we may just find the log re-opened for a season of sailing in the Greek Isles next year!



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Passage #15: Gibraltar to Barcelona, Spain

Dates: June 8 - 12, 2022

Distance: 531 miles

Time: 5 days

Noteworthy: We sailed straight through to Barcelona, bypassing the Spanish coastline that we had already covered twice last year during our 2-month cruise in the Mediterranean. It was an uneventful passage, with the three highlights having nothing to do with the sailing. They were: 1) having Christine back on board since she had skipped the Atlantic crossing, 2) a two-day rental car tour to Ronda, Spain, and 3) our arrival in Barcelona which has been our favorite European stop thus far. It is a fascinating and wonderfully pedestrian-friendly city.




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Passage #14: Atlantic Crossing #2 (West to East)

Dates: April 24 - May 31, 2022

Distance: 4,184 miles

Time: 38 days

Noteworthy: We completed our 2nd Atlantic crossing, coming full-circle back to Gibraltar at the entrance to the Mediterranean where we began the circuit last October. It was more difficult than our initial west-to-east crossing last year due to the variety of weather conditions... more storms (one real doozy that we'll all remember), more no-air days, more headwinds... But that's what normal sailing is all about.


Our stops in Bermuda and the Azores Islands added nice respites during the crossing for sightseeing, re-provisioning, and regaining our land legs. It also enabled crew swaps for those joining for only a short segment.


The blog post titled "Back Across the Atlantic (Play-by-Play)" has much more detail for this passage.



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Passage #13: Leeward Islands, Lesser Antilles

Dates: February 21 - April 9, 2022

Distance: 680 miles

Time: 48 days

Noteworthy: Continuing north from the Windward Islands, the Leeward Islands provided the variety of another half-dozen island nations / territories, including Guadeloupe, Antigua, St. Kitts / Nevis, St. Barts, and St. Martin. Barbuda was a favorite island during this passage, although St. Barts was pretty awesome - especially the fleet of 2 dozen 150+ foot sailboats competing in the Buckets Regatta the weekend we were there. One of the best aspects of our Caribbean cruising this year was hosting the many friends and family who all managed to coordinate their travel logistics with ours.


Our final stop for this passage (and for the Caribbean this season) was St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands where we are now preparing for our upcoming Atlantic crossing #2 to move the boat back to the Mediterranean before the hurricane season arrives in the Atlantic.



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Passage #12: Windward Islands, Lesser Antilles

Dates: January 1 - February 20, 2022

Distance: 770 miles

Time: 51 days

Noteworthy: The Caribbean brought a pace and style of sailing radically different from our Mediterranean and trans-Atlantic experiences. The leisurely island-hopping, quiet turquoise-water anchorages, and relaxed Caribbean vibe all made for a wonderful way to spend our winter. The Lesser Antilles is a string of several island nations including Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, and Martinique. Some of our favorite spots included Bequia, Sandy Island, and the Tobago Cays.



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Passage #11: St. George's, Grenada to Marigot Bay, St. Lucia

Dates: December 10 - December 11, 2021

Distance: 150 miles

Time: 2 days

Noteworthy: Our trans-Atlantic crew parted ways in Grenada and Megan and I double-handed the boat for the first time, making it safely to the marina in St. Lucia where we will leave Helios for a few weeks while we return home to Chicago for the holidays. It was the toughest 2 days of sailing since our first 2 days on the Bay of Biscay off the coast of France back in August (see Passage #3 entry below). We were pounding into the wind with big and mixed seas the entire time, making sleep a challenge. But it was a rewarding passage in many ways. We're looking forward to the visit home.



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Passage #10: Mindelo, Cabo Verde to St. George's, Grenada (Leg 2 ARC+ Atlantic Crossing)

Dates: November 19 - December 3, 2021

Distance: 2,280 miles

Time: 15 days

Noteworthy: This was the biggie all 5 of us onboard had been dreaming of - sailing straight across the Atlantic. Winds were frustratingly light in the first week, and sometimes worryingly strong in the second. We were the 3rd boat of over 60 to cross the finish line, having covered nearly 600 miles in the last three days alone. See the two separate post ("Atlantic Crossing Leg 2 - Play by Play" and "Atlantic Crossing - In Conclusion") for details. The photo captures the elated Helios crew moments after arriving in Grenada.



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Passage #9: Las Palmas, Canary Islands to Mindelo, Cabo Verde (Leg 1 ARC+ Atlantic Crossing)

Dates: November 7-13, 2021

Distance: 888 miles

Time: 6 days

Noteworthy: It was a great start to our Atlantic crossing. Brisk winds, large but following seas, and an energizing swarm of boats jockeying for position at the Las Palomas starting line kept us jazzed. The chart plotter lit up with boats everywhere. (The little black boat in the photo below is Helios)

Chart Plotter Shortly After the Start

The first 2 days produced some of our fastest, most intense sailing thus far. Even with a double-reef in the mainsail, we averaged 8 knots. The video below gives a sense of the wake and waves off our stern. The sound below deck in the cabins when trying to sleep was much crazier.

Our Helios crew of 5 quickly fell into a rhythm of cooking, cleaning, and maintaining watch, with plenty of time for basically lounging around with books, naps, guitars, and card games. The highlight of the passage was that, without really trying, we came in 3rd place among the 22 multi-hull boats and 8th place overall in the fleet of 70+ boats.


Our 3rd Place Award for Leg 1



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Passage #8: Exploring the Canary Islands

Dates: October 14 - November 6, 2021

Distance: 325 miles

Time: 24 days

Noteworthy: Lots of days. Not a lot of distance. We dropped off our Swedish guests in Las Palmas on October 13 and the three of us proceeded to circumnavigate the island of Gran Canaria, anchoring overnight in 5 different locations, including the sand dunes of Maspalomas and by the hilltop lookout of Anti del Mar. It was the single most relaxing time we've had thus far on Helios, with no deadlines or plans. We then returned to Las Palmas to pick up our 3 new crew members for the Atlantic crossing (see the Atlantic Cross Introduction post) with the intention of a 1-week break-in cruise around other islands in the Canaries. Unfortunately the block for our mainsail sheet blew out on day 3, rendering our mainsail unusable. It sounded like a rifle shot, exploding with enough force to bend a 1/2-inch metal rail. Fortunately, no one was in the way and we had enough time during our final week of prep in Las Palmas to repair it before the start of the Atlantic crossing.



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Passage #7: Gibraltar to Las Palmas, Canary Islands

Dates: October 5-12, 2021

Distance: 650 miles

Time: 8 days

Noteworthy: This was our longest offshore passage away from land thus far: 4 days / 4 nights and 600 miles of this passage was far out at sea. We made landfall at the northern-most volcanic island of Isla Graciosa where we anchored the first night (photo). The passage was not without challenges, the most entertaining but costly being the accidental deployment of our life raft at 4am in heavy seas one night. At least we know it works (worked). Our two Swedish guests (relatives of Dale's) were a fantastic addition to the passage, pulling their own night watches, cooking wonderful meals and providing great conversation.


Anchorage at Isla Graciosa, Canary Islands


Life Raft Incident (video)


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Passage #6: Ibiza Spain (Balearic Islands) to Gibraltar

Dates: September 20 - October 1, 2021

Distance: 420 miles

Time: 12 days

Noteworthy: This was essentially the previous passage in reverse. We would like to have progressed further east in the Mediterranean, but have to start making our way to the Canary Islands for the November start of our Atlantic crossing. After several days of boat repair work in Torrevieja, Spain we backtracked along the Spanish coast to Gibraltar, stopping in Malaga and a few other towns and anchorages that we skipped on the earlier passage. The photo is of the Rock of Gibraltar as we approached from the east.



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Passage #5: Gibraltar to Ibiza, Spain

Dates: September 5-19, 2021

Distance: 420 miles

Time: 14 days

Noteworthy: Hosted our friends the Woodlands for a week (photo). Managed to chafe through several important lines during a windy and fast overnight passage to Ibiza Island that will cost a lot to repair.



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Passage #4: Lisbon Portugal to Gibraltar

Dates: August 29 - September 2, 2021

Distance: 362 nm

Time: 5 days

Noteworthy: Encountered mast height restrictions when passing the Gibraltar airport runway threshold, but subsequently had a beautiful view of "The Rock" (photo) from our marina slip.



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Passage #3: La Rochelle France to Lisbon Portugal

Dates: August 7-12, 2021

Distance: 852 nm

Time: 6 days / 5 nights

Noteworthy: 3-meter seas on the Bay of Biscay for the first two days tested our stomachs. Let's just say the bucket at the helm (photo) came in useful for Dale on many occasions. The non-stop passage also tested our stamina with 3-hour solo watches throughout the nights.



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Passage #2: Lagoon docks in Bordeau to the La Rochelle marina on the Atlantic coast of France

Dates: July 25, 2021

Distance: approx. 80 nm

Time: 16 hours

Noteworthy: The jib halyard broke and we discovered the mainsail halyard was not rigged. The seas were too heavy to fix them so we motored the entire way. We arrived in La Rochelle at 1 a.m., which was fortunate because my inexperienced docking resulted in a little bump with the boat next to us. (Shhhh, don't tell the owners of the 77-foot catamaran). It would have been more embarrassing in the daylight.


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Passage #1: Sea Trial

Dates: July 23, 2021 (our very first "passage")

Our very brief "sea trial" on Helios in the Garonne River with the Lagoon technician to ensure the twin 80 h.p. Yanmar engines were working.




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4 Comments


gail.m.keirn
Jan 01, 2022

What a fantastic adventure and wonderful memories. You inspire us!

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Tojo Johnson
Tojo Johnson
Oct 16, 2021

you all are inspiring me !!

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Ram Gollakota
Ram Gollakota
Oct 16, 2021

3 hour solo watches must be fun.

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Kristine Simonson
Kristine Simonson
Sep 26, 2021

Sounds like I would have needed the bucket, too.

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