From Kung Fu to Corfu

Sailing between two continents

I have been lucky enough, since I took my first steps into the sailing world, to be asked or paid to sail to, what I would consider bucket list locations. The first of which, and when the cruising bug first bit was Thailand when my brother and I chartered a yacht to do some island hopping around Phuket. When I wasn’t on the water, I watched sailing channels like SV Delos and dreamt of a Polynesian island hoving into view.

One day, I found myself walking along a sparse super yacht dock in Hong Kong. I stopped next to the transom of a very stylish, very large yacht and shouted up “Got any jobs?”. A South African first mate introduced himself and asked about my experience to which I was forced to sheepishly answer, “None”. To my surprise, he broke the silence with, “Can you start Monday?”. So before I knew it, I was working as a very green deckhand on a 65m Codecasa, sailing the waters around Hong Kong, down through the Philippines, eventually making the jump to the island paradise of Palau. I was blissfully unaware at the time of the never ending line of dock walkers in Europe, CV’s in hand and begging for even day work. I realise how lucky I was to find myself on that dock at the right time. 

After working on yachts as crew, I developed my skills as a marine photographer, combining two passions and finding myself shooting beautiful yachts in exotic locations. I flew to Madagascar and Cape Town, South Africa to sail and photograph the exceptionally beautiful Kraken 66, ’White Dragon’. The Kraken ethos of building strong, short-handed, blue water cruising yachts was a key factor that eventually led me to join the team at Kraken Yachts.

With almost all of my time spent in Asia, my experience of sailing in the Mediterranean was woefully limited, so when Kraken’s Chairman, Dick Beaumont asked if I wanted to crew from Bodrum, Turkey to Corfu, I accepted before he had even finished uttering the offer. With an air of excitement to be back on the water, I found myself standing on a rickety dock in the hot Turkish sun, waiting for the dinghy to start the adventure. In the distance, I heard the familiar buzz of an outboard and before I knew it, we were speeding off to the anchorage. It is not hard to spot ‘White Dragon’ in an anchorage, her beautiful lines, flush decks and wrap around saloon windows are all Kraken traits which bestow her beautiful ascetics.

Leaving Bodrum, you realise how close the Greek islands are to the Turkish mainland, Kos being about 3 miles off the Turkish coast. Our first jump was a relatively short sail to Kalymnos, a small island about 30 miles from Bodrum. We moored stern-to, a configuration I am fairly unfamiliar with but we squeezed between a local fishing boat and a glamorous motor yacht and set about clearing into Greece. 

With the formalities out of the way, we made for a small restaurant, Stukas, on the seafront which had been recommended to us. The owner, Maria was kind and jovial and produced a fourish of Mezes and fresh fish which were all delicious. I quickly learnt that it was hard to find a bad restaurant through the Greek Islands. Simple treats, like olives and cheese, which I had resigned to being far too expensive in Asia were cheap and in abundance again. Continued below... 

The town was lovely but after an evening of mooring next to a local club, we all felt a change of scenery to a quiet anchorage would be very welcome. We untied the lines and set sail for Levitha, an extremely sparse island (save for some goats) with two sheltered bays on the southern side. This is the element of cruising that I love the most, a remote anchorage, cooking onboard and cracking open the Kraken rum (originally bought for the name but subsequently for the taste!). This is also where the Kraken sets herself apart from other boats offering not only comfort but also self sufficiency. Dick, being quite the dab hand in the galley, set about making his famous ‘White Dragon Curry’. Each element of the yacht has been thought through in detail and the galley is no exception. 


‘White Dragon’ includes an electric cooker with induction hob, both features offering crews safety, gas being an obvious culprit and the cold-to-touch induction hobs give peace of mind in rough conditions. Beyond that, Dick will tell you that one of the most dangerous items in a boat is a loose boiled kettle so the installation of an instant boiling water tap not only removes the risk of injury but I feel is a must as a tea drinking Englishman!

 

The next afternoon, we pulled up the hook, set the sails and set off into the sunset to Kythnos where we expected to arrive at 7am the next morning. I found myself drifting silently through the calm evening Aegean waters having taken the 23:00 to 01:00 watch. I have always loved the night watches, the stillness and never ending canvas of stars all around us. As the last 30 minutes ticked down however, flashes appeared in the distance. Knowing what was coming, we reefed the main and prepared for squalls. The wind blew up to 45 knots and the tranquil seas were thrust into a state of turmoil. I decided to stay in the cockpit after my watch to help trim the sails and assist where needed. Dick took the helm and guided us through the storm, his years and miles of experience setting the crew at ease. Close hauled on the jib, we blasted along at 11 knots, quite a feat for a 40 tonne cruiser. I have faced heavy weather a few times on ‘White Dragon’ and she never ceases to amaze me, tackling heavy seas effortlessly. The hull design and strong construction providing a comfortable sea motion and safety for us as we rode out the weather. The sun came up and illuminated the empty waters, all other boats deciding to stay tucked up in their anchorages. There are times when ducking in to the safety of an anchorage is not an option and those are the moments you need a boat that looks after you. 

From Kythnos, we sailed to Poros, a small town, perched on the slopes of a hill with typical Greek architecture that took my breath away as we sailed around the headland. It is the type of place that might appear through your letterbox on a postcard, inducing jealousy as you look out of the window at the rain falling sideways outside. As with a lot of the places we visited, I would like to go back and explore the tiny streets more but alas, we had a rough schedule to keep. Poros is however only an hour ferry ride from Athens so I feel it won’t be my last visit. 

When I found out about the trip and researched the route, I realised we would sail through the ancient Corinth Canal, a 4 miles long, high sided, narrow channel that links the Gulf of Corinth to the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. The canal, built in the 1880’s saves about about a 200 mile trip around the Isthmus peninsula but the engineering feat alone makes it worth the trip. At its thinnest point, it measures 70 feet across which limits commercial traffic but yachts and tourist boats are a frequent users. We made an early start from Poros and made the short trip to the entrance, organising the paperwork and paying the toll. I launched my drone and experienced one of the most memorable flights, the aerial vantage point affording a unique perspective. Marine aerial photography has many considerations and risks, the most obvious being losing the drone in to a watery grave. Good planning and knowing the limits of the drone (and you) however have helped me use this great tool to success in some challenging conditions, Corinth was no exception. 

For the next two days, we motored lazily up the Gulf of Corinth, coming across, to our amazement, huge pods of dolphins. I hope, even my future self, hopefully with many thousands of miles under my belt, that the sight of dolphins will still cause excitement. Reaching the Ionian Sea, we aimed for a tiny village called Kioni. If I thought Poros was picturesque, Kioni stepped it up a gear. Again, buildings stuck out of the hillside surrounding a small bay which was already full to bursting with yachts. As luck would have it (as it often does), we had arrived during a festival and enjoyed yet more seafood and live music through the evening. 

With the miles to Corfu ever decreasing, we stopped at the islands of Antipaxos and Paxos, another two to add to the ‘visit again’ list, the town of Lakka being a particular highlight. Finally, the island of Corfu grew ever bigger in the distance and we sailed the last 40 miles, taking in the scenery up the coastline to Corfu Town.

We anchored in the lee of the old fortress and found ourselves a stones throw away from Corfu old town, a collection of narrow streets, delightful old architecture, marvellous little restaurants and the inevitable tourist souvenir shops. It was a perfect place to share the last evening and reminisce of the trip, the highs and lows and where we would visit again.

Sailing up through the Greek Islands has certainly been an experience I won’t forget and like all sailing trips, I take away some great memories and lessons. With the spectacular sights, tastes and friendly people we met, I’m also careful not to take one important element for granted. The yacht you sail can make or break your trip as much as the places you visit. ‘White Dragon’ always  turns heads and this trip was no exception. We met some lovely people who joined us onboard and Dick and I were extremely proud to offer a tour. 

For me, the deep seated lust for adventure is best quelled through sailing, the ability to take the comfort of home to the most remote islands and cultures. What I love most about what we do at Kraken is allow others to realise their own sailing dreams and embark on this incredible adventure. My personal preference is to sail to the most remote islands like the South Pacific but I see why the Mediterranean is such a popular sailing ground. By no means is it always easy but it does offer sailors the perfect place to hone their skills, effortlessly go sailing whilst still working or familiarise themselves with a new yacht before setting  for the wider adventure. We are proud and excited to expand production to Turkey and offer our boat owners this advantage so I have to say, ‘what are you waiting for and where will your adventure take you?’ 

"The yacht you sail can make or break your trip as much as the places you visit. ‘White Dragon’ always  turns heads and this trip was no exception."

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