Long Passages

Two nights ago, on June 4th, we leave Porto delle Grazie in Roccella Ioncia. This will be our last port in Italy. 

At 9:30 p.m., we surrender our “constituto” to the capitainerie de porto and leave the dock on a journey taking us across the Ionian Sea to the island of Ithaca in Greece. The total distance will be approximately 208 nautical miles, so at an average speed of 6 knots/hour, we expect it will take us 34 hours to get there. This will be the second overnight passage we have undertaken, with the first one being from an anchorage in Sardegna to the island of Ponza with Roger and Tama onboard. The difference this time is that we will be at sea for two nights. After a good discussion, we choose to leave at 9:30 p.m. because it will mean we will arrive at the anchorage in Vathy, Ithaca in the morning, which is preferable to arriving at night and having to anchor in the dark in an unfamiliar place.

These overnight passages are not my favourite. We did do a couple of them in Lake Ontario many years ago when cruising, but that was in more familiar waters. I find it unsettling before we leave the dock because my mind always takes off in the direction of everything that can go wrong. Neil has a much more positive attitude, maybe because he is very capable and handles any problem that arises in a calm manner. Having Roger and Tama aboard for our first overnight on this boat was a bonus for me because it gave me a chance to get my feet wet (thankfully not literally!).

Before leaving, I ask Neil to go over all the safety equipment with me as a refresher… things like, how to rescue him if he falls overboard, how to radio for help using the proper terminology, how to use the navigation instruments at more than just a basic level, how to (heaven forbid) launch the life raft. I already know how to unfurl and furl the sails using the electric winches, how to start and stop the engine, as well as how to manoeuvre the boat. Although I have learned much of this in the past on our other boats, every boat is different and a refresher never hurts! If needed, I feel pretty confident that I will muster the necessary courage and handle an emergency situation effectively, but this knowledge does not keep my mind from viewing the glass as half empty.

The other reason I do not get too excited about long passages is that I worry that the sea state will be too much for my stomach and I will become basically useless to Neil when I am needed to step up and assist. Although I usually do not lose my cookies anymore, I am still finding myself pretty immobile when I get too dizzy in the swell. It leaves me laying down in the cockpit with nothing much to do. This will be a long passage for Finnegan as well because he has not yet learned to use the pee mat, which I understand is very common. Thirty-four hours might be pushing the limit!

The long-awaited shipment of our bikes from France finally arrived after a lot of anxiety around if and when they would actually come (how hard can it be to obtain a tracking number?, apparently it’s not as easy as one might think!) and Neil really does not see any reason to delay our departure. I have to admit, I really do not either. After all, we are scheduled to meet Al and MP in Greece on June 15th, so we really need to get moving if we are going to be able to see some sights along the way. 

Leaving port in the dark, I try to be optimistic and focus on glass half full thoughts. It is a beautiful night, there is not much wind to deal with leaving the dock, and the skies are fairly clear (no moon though). We are in good spirits because everything has worked out with the bike shipment, Alessandra and her team at the marina have been really excellent hosts, the marina is clean and well-managed, both Neil and Finnegan have been groomed (at different places), beautiful beach walks, and meeting some new people. But then, just as we are approaching the harbour exit, a large fishing boat seems to be stuck. There is a lot of silting in the entrance to the marina and they maintain a depth of 3.5 meters, but we did see it go down to 2.5 at one point on our way in (our boat needs 2.3 metres of water before it will be on the bottom). Anyway, we wait and the fishing vessel finally moves on and we are able to exit, with Neil taking it VERY slowly, following a route he had mapped on the instruments on the way into the harbour in the event that we would be leaving in the dark (smart man!).


Now that we are safe at anchor in the harbour in Vathy, I can say that the trip has been smoother than expected. We sail for a good part of it because the winds are higher than expected (12 - 15 knots at the highest) and the sea state is pretty good. I still have to lie down for most of it. However, I take my shifts on watch when needed and we both are able to take short naps here and there. 

Where you can usually find Finnegan and me

The AIS (Automatic Identification System for marine vessels) and radar systems work great so that we are able to “see” boats in the dark. But it is amazing how few boats we see after about 1 a.m. for the remainder of the journey. The biggest excitement we have is on my watch at around 11 p.m. I wake Neil up because I really am not sure how to handle our position with an oncoming boat. I can see its lights and the AIS information shows it is moving at 40 knts/hour. That is fast! It turns out it is a “military” vessel and it goes whipping past us and then turns on it’s flashing blue lights as it approaches a vessel that is ahead of us. A second military vessel approaches from a different direction. We decide we are best off altering our course to avoid any interaction. Later we hear communication between the vessel and the police on the VHF radio suggesting that everyone cooperated and all is well.

One happy sailor

The other excitement, or perhaps terror for me, is when we are into our second night as the sun is setting. A lone bird is flying around the boat when there is nothing but water all around, no land in sight. It flys into the cockpit a few times and lands up under our dodger, chirping away, taking what is probably a much-needed rest. That is all good, but then it takes flight and I freak out as its exit route from the cockpit is quite unpredictable. I take to holding a blanket over my head and screeching! This is repeated 4 or 5 times before it eventually decides to sit up on deck near the mast. We do not see it again in the dark and it is no longer with us in the morning.

Our visitor

Nothing in sight but water, sky and sun

Sunset on our second evening at sea

We are now enjoying our first visit to Greece on a beautiful, sunny day in Vathy. Finnegan wisely ate and drank very little on the trip over, but he is very happy when he sets paws on land to take care of business. Still no using the pee mat! He is fantastic for the entire journey and seems to be getting used to it, enjoying getting caught up on his sleep. Our plan for the rest of the day is to relax. Yet, that is just about impossible for Neil when is mind is racing with different projects he is anxious to complete, like wiring for the solar panels and the Starlink. We all enjoy an afternoon nap in the cockpit. Dinner will be out at a local restaurant enjoying the grilled lamb, tzatziki and greek salad, a change from all the pasta and pizza we have been eating in Italy. In the morning it will be off to Zakynthos to check in with customs and obtain our Greek transit log.

Sunrise as we approach Vathy

The photo does not convey the true beauty of this sunrise

Tired little sailor dog

At anchor in Vathy


  1. I just love reading about all your adventures! Glad you have made it safely to Greece! Hope to FaceTime soon!! ❤️

  2. Hello Carole and Neil! (and sweet Finnegan!)
    So great to hear about your Italian and Greek adventures! You are a brave girl. I think I am in your "boat" when it comes to glasses being half full, but thankful that Neil is calm and relaxed under pressure. Always good for a refresher on safety! Hopefully Finnegan will use the pee pee pad soon! He is a good little traveler! As we prepare for our drive north to Toronto and Huntsville with Daisy, and I am getting everything ready trying to anticipate everything we might need, I feel silly when I read your journey, and mine seems ridiculously simple! I can't even imagine what it must be like to be on that open water, sailing in the dark! Quiet. Peaceful. Terrifying. I am glad everything is working out. I really should stop watching movies about disasters at sea, as I imagine you guys in those situations and it scares me! I have to remind myself it is just a movie.
    We love reading about your adventures! Keep the updates coming. Enjoy Greece and your visit with Al and MP.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Go With the Flow...

Sailing the Coast of France & On to Corsica

Welcoming Our First Guests... A Journey Getting Here