Leaving New Zealand is always a mixture of excitement and trepidation….from one life to another….and it all went rather smoothly, we managed to secure great Qatar flights, a jab and a negative COVID test 72 hours before arrival in Athens – a marked improvement on the previous year when our flights kept getting cancelled weeks out from departure (stressful!) and no-one really knew what was happening.
Auckland airport was still quiet but there were more shops open and most importantly you could buy a pre-departure G&T. Our PCR test printout got a good workout, we had to go through three Qatar checkpoints but it was all worth it – there is a new class called COVID luxury economy – we both got three seats each all the way to Doha – to put it in perspective, our Boeing 777300 can carry over 300 passengers – there were 32 on our first leg from AKL-BNE then 84 BNE-DOH, I was rather put out when I had to share a row on the DOH-ATH leg, luckily it was only five hours.
Flying 34 hours straight, brief 1-2 hour transits, we were tired, but Irene was there at the airport with the rental car, the dogs were lazing in the sun in the boatyard, the goats were making Balinese music over the fence, and we were reunited with our lovely Artemis family, home.
We had given ourselves a week to get everything shipshape and for the boatyard to finish all those last minute planned (and unplanned) jobs and treated ourselves to four nights at Aegean Blue – oh the luxury of not having to climb up and down a 2.5 metre ladder and trek across the dusty boatyard to shower and pee. Aegean Blue is superb, looking down at Panteli fishing village and Vromolithos, out across the sea to Turkey, a hot shower, comfortable bed and food treats awaiting – Kalliopi is the hostess with the mostess.
This is our fourth season – commissioning and provisioning NOETA are becoming second nature – so a week after our arrival, the Sahara dust acid-washed off, stainless gleaming, rigging sorted, new props fitted, freezers full, herb garden planted, we launched – only to snap a mooring line (not ours) as the Captain discovered that having clockwise and anticlockwise props do not work on a catamaran – Volvo Athens had sent a wrong (clockwise) prop, so out we came, new props off, old props on, back we went and we waited… But hey there were still a few things to do which are best done in the water – put genoa back up, commission watermaker, update electronics…. and it was lovely to be able to get up in the morning and dive into the big blue bath.
We spent the next two weeks fine tuning our girl, catching up with and helping out sailing mates, making new ones, savouring local fare, biking around Leros and sailing north to Arkoi and Leipsoi to check out some of the spots favoured by locals. Tiganakia Beach is a favourite, “like the Caribbean” said Mr George, sheltered clear blue water with a good 2.5 metre sandy holding (we draw 1.25 metre) and Makronisi Kasou, an island south of Leipsoi, has an underwater cave that you can swim through to a clear turquoise enclosed lagoon on the north side. A highlight was a flotilla of hand crafted model boats made by Nikolas’s father Kris outside Taverna Nikolas in Port Augusta, the attention to detail was so skillful, so beautiful.
In the middle of all this galavanting around the prop arrived, so during the third week out we came, old props off, new props on and we launched, again!
Finding out that we are going to be grandparents again – Emily and Jordan in New York are pregnant, and again – Arthur and Matilda gave birth to wee granddaughter Autumn on June 20th xxx
Finding the old German WW2 barracks up the hill from Xirokampos – it was a very hot 20 kilometre, one hour bike ride from the boatyard, the last four kilometres a dusty, steep slog up a wild thyme lined goat track, but worth every kilometre – stunning paintings and cartoons on crumbling concrete walls, goat guardians.
Bottega Cava Ilias, Agia Marina – without a doubt, the best little shop in the whole of Greece – fabulous selection of well-priced wines, spirits and specialty foods, Leonidas and Sofia are lovely
Our wonderful friends on Archangelous – George’s fish soup is simply delicious – vegetables in a fish stock with a whole cooked fish on the side, you break off the pieces of fish and put them in the soup as you spoon it up with crusty bread and olive oil
Persiana Churrasco, Alinda – opening night, succulent barbequed beef and lamb chef-carved at the table, with surf n turf options, superb food, beautiful presentation and delightfully engaging staff
Pizzeria Italiana da Michele, Panteli – a slice of Sicily
Mylos, Agia Marina – delicious and creative seafood, I always start with the light lemony fish soup, and this time had a parrotfish cerviche, never disappointed
Harris Bar, Windmills – newly opened, beautiful interior design with a fabulous view down to Panteli fishing village
It’s good to be back, we love Greece, we love the Greek people, and our only stress at the moment is managing our 90 day situation and getting back to New Zealand. We can stay in Greece for up to 90 days, the border with Turkey is still closed and the Managed Isolation System is fully booked until October 31st – November hasn’t been released yet. So, hmmm, Plan A head west and hope we get back before Christmas – No ETA.