September 30, 2012
Saying Good Bye


September 15, 2012
Reflections on Our 27 Year Circumnavigation


September 01, 2012
Sea of Cortez Sailing


August 15, 2012
Back to the Sea of Cortez


August 01, 2012
After Circumnavigation: What to Take, What to Leave Behind


July 15, 2012
Mexican Booby Trap


July 01, 2012
Tackling the Tehuantepec


June 14, 2012
Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Mexico


June 01, 2012
Sailing northern Costa Rica and Nicargua


May 15, 2012
Costa Rican Cruising


May 01, 2012
New Found Friends in Golfito, Costa Rica


April 15, 2012
It’s a Jungle Out There


April 01, 2012
Hunting and Gathering in Panama


March 15, 2012
Money.... Money.... Money


March 01, 2012
Feel Free Transits the Panama Canal


February 15, 2012
Transiting the Panama Canal


February 01, 2012
Feel Free is Back in the Pacific


January 15, 2012
Charter Skipper for a Week


January 01, 2012
Confessions of a Charter Cat Chef


December 15, 2011
Away to the Andamans Part 2


December 01, 2011
AWAY to the ANDAMANs


November 15, 2011
Sailing in a Freshwater Paradise


November 01, 2011
To Barf or not to Barf, that is the question


October 14, 2011
Remarkable Cruisers


October 03, 2011
The Sea of Cortez, Another World


September 15, 2011
Panama Canal Here We Come


September 01, 2011
Sailing for Humanity


August 15, 2011
A Hard Lesson on the Hard and Reflections on Boat Work


August 01, 2011
Here Come the Lion Fish


July 15, 2011
The Joy of Books


July 01, 2011
The Sailors of San Blas


June 15, 2011
The Good Life in Kuna Yala


June 01, 2011
The Dirt Dweller in Paradise


May 15, 2011
People of the San Blas, Then and Now


May 01, 2011
Cruising in Kuna Yala


April 15, 2011
Near Disaster in the San Blas


April 01, 2011
At Last in the San Blas


March 15, 2011
Chilling Out in Cholon


March 01, 2011
Ah, Cartagena!


February 15, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 2


February 01, 2011
Cruising the Cape Horn of the Caribbean Part 1


January 14, 2011
Aruban Interlude


December 30, 2010
Hunkering Down for a Hurricane


December 15, 2010
A Day in the Life - Our Passage to Aruba


December 01, 2010
Stuck in Curacao


November 15, 2010
Stormy Night Sailing


November 01, 2010
Sailing In The Sticks


October 15, 2010
Safety, Security and Circumnavigating with some tips on how to stay safe


October 04, 2010
Feel Free Transits The Suez Canal


September 15, 2010
Red Sea Sailing


September 01, 2010
FEEL FREEs Voyage Into the Red Sea


August 15, 2010
And just a little further, to Curacao


August 01, 2010
Bonaire Diving


July 15, 2010
Then To Bonaire


July 01, 2010
Cruising Remote Venezuelan Isles


June 15, 2010
Cruising St. Vincent


June 01, 2010
Right Place, Right Time


May 15, 2010
The Spice Isle


May 01, 2010
To the Grenadines


April 15, 2010
We Be In Barbados Mon


April 01, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part II


March 15, 2010
Atlantic Passage Part 1


March 01, 2010
Provisioning for the Atlantic Crossing


February 15, 2010
Atlantic Crossing Preparations


February 01, 2010
Cruising the Canary Islands


January 15, 2010
Out Of Africa


January 01, 2010
Come With Me To The High Atlas Mountains.............


December 15, 2009
Two Years Of Mediterranean Sailing


December 01, 2009
Moving On To Morocco


November 18, 2009
Leaving The Med


November 13, 2009
Reaching The Rock Of Gibraltar Milestone


October 15, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del Sol


October 01, 2009
Sailing Spains Costa del High-rise


September 15, 2009
Sailing The Spanish Isles


September 01, 2009
At Sea Or On The Hook, These Recipes Travel Well


August 15, 2009
An Interlude At Menorca


August 01, 2009
A Pleasant Passage To Menorca


July 15, 2009
The Agony And Ecstasy Of The Tunisian Coast


July 01, 2009
Tripping Around Tunisia


June 15, 2009
Tales From North Africa


June 01, 2009
Dont Freak If Your Fridge Fails


May 15, 2009
Into Africa


May 01, 2009
Meandering Around Malta, Then Off To Tunisia


April 15, 2009
Low-Tech DIY Ideas For The New Economy


April 01, 2009
The Med Set A Few Cruiser Profiles


March 15, 2009
That Sinking Feeling


March 01, 2009
Thailand to Oman: Three Passages, Three Ports


February 15, 2009
Doing Hard Time in Malta


February 01, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 2


January 15, 2009
Pirate Alley Part 1


January 02, 2009
So Many Islands, So Little Time


December 15, 2008
Cruising With The Bear


December 01, 2008
Versatile Vinegar, The Boaters Friend


November 15, 2008
What I Did In This Summer -- Dock Masters In paradise


November 01, 2008
Over The Top Of Oz


October 16, 2008
The Tumultuous Tasman


October 01, 2008
Sweet Memories Of The Splendid Surins


September 15, 2008
And Then We Were In Malta


September 01, 2008
Feel Frees Siracusan Story


August 15, 2008
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times


August 01, 2008
All Tied Up In The Ionians


July 15, 2008
A Greek Odyssey Our Journey to Ithaca


July 01, 2008
Anatomy of a Near Catastrophe


June 15, 2008
Good-bye Turkey, Hello Greece


June 01, 2008
More Winter Cruising in Turkey


May 15, 2008
Winter Cruising in Turkey


April 15, 2008
Talking Turkey: Marmaris Marina Living


April 15, 2008
The Joy Of The Side Trip


April 01, 2008
Return to Marmaris, And The Budget


March 15, 2008
Passing Time And Dodging The Meltemi


March 01, 2008
Home Sweet Home


February 15, 2008
A Little Working, A Little Cruising


February 01, 2008
Working Our Way Around The World


January 15, 2008
Welcome Aboard Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Liz Tosonis and Tom Morkins Feel Free


January 01, 2008
About Tom Morkin and Liz Tosoni


January 01, 2008
About Feel Free


January 01, 2008
Voyage Itinerary


August 01, 2008
All Tied Up In The Ionians

By Tom Morkin

Fiskardho Bay
Cephalonia Island, Greece
38 27.5 N, 20 34.9 E

Our first two days in Vathi Bay on the famed Greek isle of Ithaca were about as idyllic as a pair of cruisers could ask for. We had the amenities of a small, picturesque Greek village nestled at the head of a crystal clear turquoise bay surrounded by ancient mountains, once the home of Homer, Odysseus, and Penelope.


Our first two days in Vathi Bay were idyllic. We hiked the ancient paths that Homer, Odysseus, and Penelope might have hiked.

When we felt as though we’d enough exercise for the day hiking the hills, we could sip ouzo in the shore side cafes or drink horrible Greek coffee in ridiculously small cups that were half filled with coffee sludge and as my friends would predict, Liz drank the sludge, I drank the ouzo. The universe was unfolding as it should.

However, just like old cruiser buddies Glen and Glenna from the California based Califa would wisely tell you: “In sailing – and in life -- really good times, like really bad times, don’t last long.” This Califa-ism has over the years given us comfort when our universe was not unfolding as I felt it should. Now, however, while contentedly contemplating a full well of wandering the hills of Ithaca on foot and perhaps by rented motorbike, my bubble was burst by that nasty inveterate bubble burster, the weather woman. Yep, her again, and now, her promises of Beaufort 7 strength winds --- 30 knots for us North Americans, out of the southwest -- that would mean on-the-dock winds with about a mile and a half of fetch -- not dangerous, but definitely enough wind to cause us a rough ride against a concrete quay. Recognize this scenario? Yep, it’s yet again leavin’ time!

That was the bad news. The good news was that we only had 10 miles to go to the northeast side of Ithaca and the small harbor of Frikes where we’d be in the lee of the island. So off we went and with the exception of a few small fishing boats, we had the harbor to ourselves. We dropped the anchor with 200 feet of chain in 20 feet of water, then proceeded to take two stern lines ashore so our stern was presented to the southwest -- the supposed direction from which the wind was to come.


Feel Free is tucked neatly in Vathi Bay anchored with 200 feet of chain in 20 feet of water, and two stern lines ashore so her stern is presented to the southwest, the direction the wind was expected to come from according to the forecasts.

We then went off for a hike for the remainder of the afternoon, arriving back at the boat about the same time as the 30 knots of southerlies and south-easterlies arrived! Wait a minute, the weather woman promised south-westerlies, not south-easterlies. Southeast winds put the wind on our beam and if the wind increased, we’d see our anchor drag with unpleasant results.

It’s times like this that I offer thanks to the previous owners of Feel Free who had the foresight to invest in over 1,000 feet of rather expensive double-braided three-strand 7/8-inch nylon line. The line comes in three segments, the longest being almost 400 feet long. On more than one occasion, having such a large inventory of nylon line saved our bacon.

I hearken back to September 1992, when we were anchored in a fishing harbor in Fukuoka, Japan, during Typhoon #19 (the Japanese number rather than name their typhoons). We were Med-moored, with our bow facing the concrete quay with four lines securing the bow to a bollard on the wall with three stern anchors off the stern. But, most important was the 400 feet of 7/8-inch braided nylon that was tied off at the stern and taken 300 feet to a bollard at the far end of the harbor. In preparation for the typhoon, we moved the boat back so the bow was some 20 feet away from the wall.


The previous owners of Feel Free had the foresight to invest in over 1,000 feet of nylon line, and it’s really paid off. Here it is drying after being given a fresh water rinse in Tranquil Bay. It had been put to good use in the blow at Ithaca

During our 4½ years of living on our previous cruising boat Hoki Mai in Japan, we experienced no less than nine typhoons. It became my custom to don my thickest wetsuit complete with mask and sit in the cockpit to monitor events during the height of the storm. It was at the height of #19 when we got peak winds of 90 knots shortly after the eye of the typhoon passed overhead that I came to truly appreciate the value of such anchor line. The wind was from astern and would’ve pulled all three anchors out of the mud had the 300 feet of nylon not been at work. I vividly recollect the line, bar tight, go from 7/8 inch to ½ inch in diameter as the wind drove the boat forward 15 feet, then slowly the boat would come to a gentle stop just short of the wall before being pulled back, much like a bungee jumper in slow motion. We won’t leave home without it.

In Frikes, we had the luxury of no other anchored boats, and a big steel bollard 250 feet to windward -- off our starboard bow. This was a golden opportunity to put our precious nylon line to work. So into the dinghy I went as Liz paid out all the line into the dinghy. She tied off the bitter end at the bow and off I went paying out the line as I went. For those who haven’t been through this, it’s important to pay out the line from the dinghy rather than from the yacht because if the line is paid out from the yacht, you end up pulling the line through the water, which results in a surprising amount of drag. Paying the line out from the dinghy results in virtually no drag.

After this line was secure and tensioned, we put a third line off the stern, also to the weather shore, and felt quite secure even when gusts were strong enough to heel the boat, and the driving spray was enough to drench the wind-pelted crew.


Tom puts lines away after the blow

So there we sat for the night with one anchor down and four lines ashore with the wind howling, the boat rolling, but the crew pretty much asleep through most of it. Just before I nodded off, a line from Katherine of the boat Hiva Oa, who’d cruised the Med off and on for 25 years, came to mind: “When you cruise the Med this early in the spring, it’s not the rough sailing that gets the boat into trouble, it’s the harbors. Many are not all-weather harbors and being in the wrong harbor at the wrong time has ruined many boats.” For us, this may not have been a good time but it was a good harbor.

It was the next day when we connected with Dominique and Catherine of the French boat Socrate, a Dufour 32. Like many Europeans we met in Turkey and Greece, they bought their boat secondhand in the Med, and in this case, Greece. The boat is treated like a vacation home. Catherine is a primary-school teacher and Dominique builds classical guitars. During school holidays, they drive from their home in Marseilles to Brindisi, Italy, a distance of about 1,000 km., then take an overnight ferry to northern Greece, then a two-hour bus to their marina berth on Lefkas Island. Given the myriad cheap flights throughout Europe, others fly to and from their boats. A common scenario is to spend May and June on the boat, back home for July and August, thereby avoiding the crowds and the heat of summer, then back to the boat for September and October after the crowds leave, temperatures moderate and before the lows begin their pre-autumnal migrations. Not a bad life.

Dominique and Catherine on their (new) French boat Socrate, a Dufour 32, seen here in their marina slip on Lefkas Island. They’d spent a sleepless first night on board, during stormy conditions

Over drinks aboard Feel Free, the four of us using our high-school French and their high-school English managed to recount our previous stormy night’s experiences. It was a completely sleepless night for Catherine and Dominique. Socrate lay along the harbor wall with an anchor set to hold them off. Early in the evening the anchor dragged and they spent the remainder of the night bouncing off the wall, their topsides saved only by well-placed fenders. Not an auspicious way for them to spend one of their first nights on the boat. (By the way, Dominique would happily build me one of his custom classical guitars. However, I’d have to wait two years for him to start it, and it would cost US $9,000. I told him I’d get back to him...)

It was a gentle 18-mile sail to Tranquil Bay on Lefkas Island. This huge, landlocked bay is reputed to be one of the securest anchorages in the Med. So secure is Tranquil Bay that scores of Europeans have elected to leave their boats at anchor for months while they return home.


The heavily treed and mountainous shores of Tranquil Bay (Lefkas Island) make it a natural home base for hundreds of boats as well as large bareboat-charter companies

Remarkably, our great cruising buddies Karen and Graham of the Kiwi boat Red Herring with whom we’ve shared some fine adventures, and who we thought we might not see again after good byes in Turkey, hailed us on Channel 16. They left Turkey a week after we did, and were now heading north, bound for Croatia. Both boats Med moored to the Nidri town quay at the entrance to Tranquil Bay and together we hiked the hills and had happy hours and dinners, and talked and talked and talked. This apparent propensity to spend so much time talking together is somehow even more remarkable given the obvious impediment to communication; that is, their inclination to speak “Kiwi” English while we speak “Canuck.” “Two couples,” we all joked, “separated by a common language.”

The fact of the matter is, their company has been cherished because we share so many interests and experiences and each time we say goodbye we all know that it could be for the last time


Both Red Herring and Feel Free were Med moored to the Nidri town quay at the entrance to Tranquil Bay for a couple of days

Karen and Graham of Red Herring are seen here by a waterfall

Before setting off for Syracuse on the east coast of Sicily we had to visit one of the largest of the Ionian islands, Cephalonia, brought to world attention with Louis de Berniere’s Captain Corelli’s Mandolin -- one of our favorite books. Fiskardho was our only stop, located near the northern tip of the island. It was the only place on the island to escape damage in the 1953 earthquake that devastated most of the region, and charming, colorful 19th century houses, shops, tavernas and fishboats line the waterfront.

During our two hikes in the forests around town, I was continually reminded of our home cruising grounds, the Gulf Islands of southwest British Colombia with the protected bays, islets, emerald green waters, mountains, rocks, and of course pine trees. However, coming upon a clearing on a ridge and seeing the remains of a 2,500 year old castle fortress still easily recognizable, quickly brought back the reality that this was definitely Greece, not my Canada

In Fiskardho Bay on Cephalonia Island, charming, colorful 19th century houses, shops, tavernas, and fishboats line the waterfront.
A clearing on a ridge revealed the remains of a 2,500-year-old castle fortress still easily recognizable