Sunday, May 1, 2016

Crete - Our arrival (the saga), new friends, Spinalonga, Palace of Knossos, museum and olive oil tasting

May 1 - 10

We left Finike on April 30 at 8:00AM heading for Crete. The winds were light and once all of the fenders and lines were stowed I headed for more sleep as Paige and I would be on watch from 2:00 PM - 6:00 PM and Shaun was going to do the 6:00 PM - 2:00 AM. 

ready for our first sail of the season
On Shaun's watch there was a small bird that took refuge on our boat. Shaun watched him try 10 or so times to land in our sail bag without success. Shaun put his hand out and apparently the bird thought about it before choosing his spot. His next stop was on the lifelines near the starboard helm station. I was up in the night to check on Shaun and as I was going up it felt like a washing machine down below. Even though I had taken my meclizine I nearly vomited. As soon as I was able to get above deck or in a horizontal position I would be fine but man oh man when I had to use the head (toilet) that was a different story.

I took over the watch from 4:00 AM - 7:00 AM and the winds were coming from behind us but closing in on 7:00 moved forward off our starboard and the seas were really bumpy. 

During my watch I marvelled at how amazing the stars were as I watched them disappear and the sun rose for my very first sunrise by myself (I felt a sense of accomplishment as I was really nervous). As mentioned by 7:00 AM the seas were extremely bumpy so captain Shaun decided to divert course to a bay on the island of Karpathos for some rest before continuing our trip the following day. It was a great decision.

my first sunset on my first overnighter
Our plan the following day was to depart at 9:00 AM for Crete. It was another 60 miles. When we checked the weather it was forecast to have the winds calm down by 12:00 PM (that didn’t happen until approximately 3:00 PM). It was grey and drizzled most of the day so we sported our foul weather gear.

ready for action
When we departed we chose to skirt Karpathos and Kásos to avoid extra miles. The winds were pleasant at 10 - 15 and as we we entered the main channel between Kásos and Crete I spotted dolphins. I headed to the bow and found 6 (one was a baby). They swam along with us for 2-3 minutes before swimming off somewhere else for other entertainment. Both girls were not prepped to be out at the bow and it ended in tears.

We finally arrived to Sitia, Crete, it was quite disappointing as it was difficult to tell where we could tie up. We decided to leave Sitia at 6:00 PM for Ormos Ay Nikolaos but as we were heading along Crete the winds increased and the swell increased as well. Shaun made the decision to pull into one of the bays we were passing that had an anchorage to avoid another bumpy ride as it was approaching 7:20 PM and we were running out of daylight. We were glad for the respite.

Once we were settled we headed to bed for some much needed rest. Shaun woke at 3:50 AM because the movement of the boat changed. He checked our depth and we were shallower than when we anchored, upon looking outside it became apparent that the wind had changed and we were now being blown towards land (a leeshore) just like when we were in Leros (where we broke our rudder). He decided to prep the boat for an early departure while I slept a bit more. I got up at 5:00 and got dressed and released the bridle so that we could weigh anchor. As soon as we had it secure we saw the swells building, another great decision on Shaun’s part leaving early.

We headed 20 nautical miles to Nikolas Marina. The dock hand that helps with the lines upon arrival explained that it had been the Greek Orthodox Easter two days before and that there was another holiday in lieu of May 1 so everything was closed so Shaun was unable to check us in. He had to do it the following day (apparently it was hell and gone and thankfully Jordan didn't go with him). 

Over the next few days we took the girls around to the next bay to play at the beach while we had a beverage. Jordan agreed to be buried in the sand. She kept giggling and breaking her cocoon.

buried treasure
Also during our time at Agios Nikolas we met another kid boat. Rebekah, Marcin and Nathan  (8 years old) of s/v Ferdinand. Nathan is also boat schooled and had a lot in common with both girls. We all went over to the beach so the kids could play. It was a lovely afternoon.

left to right, Nathan, Jordan and Paige
later in the evening playing video games on Element
Before we departed Shaun and Jordan took a last walk around to grab some photos of our surroundings.
our spot
just outside the marina
view of the beach the kids played at
We left Nicholas Marina and headed over to Spinolonga (  and dropped our anchor in Elouda Bay. Our view was great. We took our dinghy over to the beach on the island of Spinolonga. We walked around to the entrance and purchased our tickets to look around. It looked much smaller from the outside.

view from the boat
zoomed in shot

shot from inside

huge cactus plant
a beautiful vine growing in the rocks
as we walked along the outside wall

peek-a-boo view

hiking up to a higher wall
view of Element from the top of Spinalonga

ruins of living quarters

games that were made for entertainment

tunnel back to the entrance
We pulled up the anchor and headed for Chania Harbour. This was another overnighter as Crete is so big.

sunset of our second overnighter
sunrise of the second overnighter
We made into the harbour and had an interesting time tying up with the lazy lines as it was very windy and we were exhausted. The harbour master was of no use. We made the mistake of not using two lazy lines and later in the week we ended up having to stay aboard the boat so that we could monitor the boat and make certain we didn't end up on the wall. Once we were all settled we went in search of a bacon and egg breakfast with a beer.

Chania is a bustling and touristy area but has a lovely walk along the harbour. The music plays at the tavernas until the wee hours of the morning. In the mornings I would walk around the harbour and do some yoga near the water. It was stunning.

While we were walking back to our boat one evening later than expected I was approached by a lady. I recognised her but could not for the life of me place the face. It turns out it was Cathy and her husband from Ocean Park. They lived six doors up from us. It was such a nice surprise. They hadn't planned to be in Chania but decided last minute on their trip that they would stay a couple of nights. Great for us to have friendly faces from home.

our old neighbours 6 doors up from our old house in Ocean Park
view from the boat 
old storage units
vine growing up the wall

wall along the waters edge 
wall along the harbour to the light house  
looking out to the ocean
view into the harbour
view of Element from the opposite side 
the lighthouse
the only maintained mosque near Chania
the lighthouse up close

a fisherman 
a very cool restaurant 
its interior
walking back to the boat
Jordan took no time at all to start feeding the local pigeons.

feeding the plethora of pigeons
Once the weather calmed down we rented a car and headed for the Palace of Knossos ( It was a 3 hour drive but well worth it. There was an added bonus of peacocks roaming freely. Paige was able to sit and sketch one as it was so close.

I found the ruins really neat. It was nice to see portions of them recreated by Arthur Evans over the 35 years that he and his team were excavating. It really allowed me to see what it would have looked like at it height.

a beautiful blossoming tree as we walked to the entrance 
poppies growing in a garden at the main entrance

partially recreated

the beautiful peacock

blocks of unworked lapis

huge multi-handled pithoi (storage jars)

the Crete Bull Fight fresco

the throne room
the griffin fresco
a better view of the throne room

bull leaping
octopus fresco

blue monkey fresco

view down into the tub of the throne room
fresco ladies

swallows made a nest above the fresco

holy cult horns

Prince of Lilies fresco

Once we were finished at the palace we headed to look at the museum to see some of the artefacts that were taken from the Palace. After we found a parking spot we walked through town in search of the museum.

Jordan showing her silliness
a very interesting statue
Here are the photos from the museum.

beautiful jewellery

my favourite vase
stamps for writing
Paige asked me to take a photo of all the mini items as these were her favourite
lovely decorated pottery
a stunning model of what the Palace of Knossos looked like

the Draughtboard game

one side of the Phaistos disc
the other side of the disc
a sealing ring.... I want one

another of my favourites

a stone wig anyone want to try it on?

a glass vase
a storage unit for a body

another storage box for bodies
pieces of the actual frescos

We had rented the car for two days and on the second day we were all feeling rather lazy but Shaun googled an olive oil processing plant that was 30 minutes away. He knew that I had been wanting to see this forever. This was one of my favourite experiences. It combined two of the things I love.... olives and the oil from them.

We were given a tour of the modern facility where all of the olives are brought from the local growers and then we were given an intimate tasting of six of the oils (after the cruise ship people left). I felt much more educated on olive oils. Creta oil will be sold in Costco in the US.

this is where the olives are offloaded
the olives move to the vats awaiting the pressing

the olives move to this machine next before the crushing
the crushing machine

inside the machine

crates of olive oil
the selection of oils
I'm in heaven

Crete was a wonderful place to visit. We had a great time.

Follow our video adventures on our YouTube channel: Video adventures of s/v Element

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