So, what is it really like living on a boat?  It’s not chartering for a week which is a little like glamorous camping. Not like living in a house or an RV.  It really is different to all of them but also shares traits in common.

As we slow down we find we are motivated and moved by more elemental issues.  What is the wind doing? Which leads directly to where can we visit and how will we stay there?  Will we be able to anchor or pick up a mooring ball or will we go to a town quay? Which anchorage looks best in this wind direction and where should we avoid?   How much water do we have left? What is our fuel and gas situation? And in the islands in particular do we have enough fresh food?

Arki: where we headed as a stretch of strong wind was due

Since we left Turkey and entered Greece we have been only sailing in the Dodecanese Islands which are a jewel-like string of islands scattered along the Turkish coastline.  They are further away from Athens so a little more isolated.  This means they are not as well travelled as the Cyclades and the hot spots of Mykonos, Santorini and Ios (with the exception of Rhodes) and they are filled less with white villages and blue-domed churches than they are with Italian style terracotta rooves and pastel coloured buildings or just plain stonework. There seems to be a simplicity about the life here and a lack of pretentiousness that I find myself both loving and embracing. You can read this to mean that I may be wearing the same clothes every single day, never putting on earrings and rarely washing my hair….well it is in the salt water all the time!

Little dot that is Arki
Arki town Quay

We are currently in Arki which is one of a few tiny dots in an island group.  Arki itself is only 4 kilometres long with a year-round population of 44.  The industry here is tourism, fishing and goat farming. They welcome yachts who moor on the town quay for free meaning there are no services apart from a shower for 3 euros should you want it. We came well supplied with fresh veggies although I am still getting used to exactly what we need and how much I can fit into our odd shaped and awkward fridge and how long things will last in there.  But there are 3 tavernas that make all their money in summer.  The day tripper boats arrive from the larger islands of Patmos and Lipsi after taking people to swim in what is the most extraordinarily clear turquoise water I have seen anywhere in the Mediterranean and then bring them for a late lunch or early dinner to the Tavernas. While we could eat on board all the time we feel it is our civic duty to try out the food at the tavernas or drink a cappuccino freddo occasionally.  No tongue in cheek here.  The islanders have 3 months in which to make their yearly money and they don’t charge us to stay here when its blowing 30 knots outside (like it is right now).  The benefit is that sometimes we get to eat something truly awesome and something that I haven’t cooked.  I discovered yesterday that at Taverna Nicholas they gather and pickle their own caper leaves from 2 of the tiny islets of this group, use the local soft goats cheese supplied from the guy up the hill, have their own kitchen garden and source their dry bread from a family run bakery several islands away.  The dry bread is called dakos (although I could be wrong here as that may be the name only for the Crete version of this bread) and they put this rich dark rye rusk in the bottom of the deep salad bowl where it slowly takes up the juice of the tomato and soaks up the olive oil and olive juice which soften and flavour it by the time you eat to the bottom of the bowl.  It is seriously addictive and well beyond what I had expected to find here in terms of originality and flavour.

Arki salad and calamari
And the best spot to eat it is under the trees

Given it is so small there is no need to hire a bike (even if there were one to hire!) as there are only a few kilometres of road so we have walked all of them making sure we shut the big gates that keep the goats out of town!  We can walk to a swimming beach in about 10 minutes or swim off the boat in the harbour or walk to the amazing clear waters about 30-40 minutes away on a rough goat track of a road. Yesterday in the late afternoon we walked to the church at the top of the hill to check out the view of all the islands we have visited or plan to, and of course assess the breeze against the various wind forecasts.  Yesterday no tripper boats came as it was too windy which is also the reason we came here now.  We knew this blow was coming and we arrived a few days earlier to hopefully get a place on the pier as there is only room for about 8 boats.  We timed it to arrive about 10.30am…just the time the people who are leaving go and before all the others arriving get here.  It worked perfectly and we watched at least 8 boats after us turned away that same day as there was no room for them.

Top of the island checking the breeze
3 anchorages
Incredible clear water here although we were far from alone even before 9am

There is no shore power to connect to here. The island has a diesel generator and a large solar array to meet their needs but there is none left over for the yachties. Hence we have to run our generator daily to top up our batteries.  We have both been bemoaning the lack of solar on the boat and Rick has been researching how to get this sorted asap so we don’t have to burn fuel and make a noise each day. He is getting quotes as I write and we are hoping to at the very least get the solar panels and install them in the next few weeks.  I use the time when the generator is running to use the stick blender  (totally annoying and mostly unsuccessful after having a thermomix!) and we charge the laptops with it or I do a quick vacuum as the boat runs on 12 volts the rest of the time.

On every island the octopus dries in the sun before grilling

In larger places we do hire a motorbike to get around the island and see it from a different perspective.  We have also found ourselves using it to check out anchorages and make decisions about whether to go there or not! It is a great thing to do although it does feel super-fast after the slow pace of sailing life even when puttering along at slow speed. We also use a bike to get supplies.  On Patmos we bought a new gas cylinder and on Kalymnos we had to go to the giant gas facility to get it filled up which was not a place that could be walked to.  There is always a bit of forward planning when sailing and lots of routine maintenance. Rick spent yesterday cataloguing all the engine spares which he decided was needed after he ordered something from Sweden only to find the same thing in a drawer unexpectedly.  We changed the water filters yesterday and they were both brown – it looked like we had put muddy water into our tanks…actually we clearly had. So, given we are low on water now we have been onto a sailing forum to check if the water in Lispi, the island next door is drinkable.  Fortunately, it is so when we leave here that will be where we head to first. And when we find a decent chandlery we will pick up a new water filter as we only had one spare.

From Nicholas’ Taverna (maker of model boats!)

Daily life is slow.  Guitar is played (Rick), books are read (me) and backgammon is won (Rick) and lost (me).  Chores are done (both of us), future planning is a big topic of conversation. I always said it would be more of a psychological rollercoaster living on a boat and I think that is true.  I miss family and friends way more than I anticipated.  We said the highs would be higher and the lows lower and we were as ready for this as you can be. I suppose this is the reality of living the dream and as you can see from where we are right now right now we are in one of the places that make it more than worthwhile.

Dunno why he’s concentrating so hard….
Posted by:cathmaddox

6 replies on “Slow Living on Board

  1. Absolutely loving your blogs Cath thank you. I can relate to some of what you are saying after sailing from Roslyn Bay to Airlie for 2 weeks ie winds, anchorage, water, and food storage, as we only moored at deserted islands! Would love to do what you guys are doing, the Greek Islands look gorgeous ( I’m going to Athens and Naxos in September with my “boys”) I have left Martin to do Airlie and Hamilton Island race week with the guys, I prefer cruising! We keep doing Lotto Martin’s dream to own his own boat and then we can meet up in the Greek Islands bliss! Enjoy big hugs xs

  2. Hi Cath & Rick
    Thankyou for sharing your beautiful snaps and big adventures of your sailing life. I just love reading every word, you write so well Cath allowing me to be encapsulated in your daily life. Learning curves sound step but you guys have got this, I’m sure the scary anchor moments far outweigh the incredible highs you are living on a daily basis.
    Happy sailing and adventures on the Dodecanese jewels. The Taverna food sounds divine.
    Much love
    Fi xxx

    1. I’m with Fiona. Loving ever word, loving the food notes especially…. pickled caper leaves!
      I’m missing you 😦 too.

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