I have come to believe I have stared Death in the face too many times. Yesterday he came close to winning. Whether there is a god is a matter of personal choice, but I defy you to pour scorn on fate. In fact, I honestly believe the more you are a disciple of Lady Luck the more likely Grandfather Fate will send his emissary, Father Time, to throttle the last vestige of luck and maybe life from you.
Had he tried just a little harder, this blog could have been so very different and better entitled ‘Inside the Tragic Circle’. What had started out as a straightforward notion to set sail around a cluster of some two hundred islands in the Greek Aegean Sea, very nearly resulted in just one of the around 30 inhabited islands being visited. The signs could not have been clearer as Old Father Time, who I fervently believe had once been an Englishman and a cricket enthusiast, to boot, gave me fair warning that if I didn’t reconsider my planned folly, he would mete out a far greater punishment than those my schoolmasters had visited upon me when waywardness often got the better of me.
We had set out in Samphire, a renamed 34 foot mature sailing vessel, that had once been owned by a Greek shipping magnate who suddenly lost his money-magnetism with Greece’s troubled times and was forced to sell. Towing our inflatable dinghy alongside, it had been planned to reposition it by tethering rope at Samphire's stern, once the marina had been cleared. However, out of sight, out of mind and in my haste to raise some sail and dispense with fossil-fuel propulsion, the boat-shaped, air-filled rubber bag was forgotten, until the weather suddenly changed.
The weather transformation was not one of those protracted affairs that give time for preparation as in putting on a raincoat or raising an umbrella, but an instant increase in wind speed that nearly wrenched the foresail from Samphire’s nose. So busy was I taking the wind out of the sail and reefing in, I missed the dinghy’s tenuous hold on the side rail being loosened by fate so we didn’t even see the going of it. Here we were, embarking of a 300 nautical mile cruise without the safety net of a dinghy, let alone a means to reach the shore of an idyllic island from a mooring out in the bay. As we rounded a headland and swept past the ancient fortress of Spinalonga Island, it was fast approaching the hour to ‘phone a friend’. Not a friend to dissuade us from the foolhardiness of our journey, but one I knew had a spare inflatable dinghy to replace the one that was now scratching its bottom on some deserted beach, perhaps to be found and commandeered by a tourist family who would consider it to be too old and dilapidated to be other than purposely abandoned.
It was approaching dusk when we dropped anchor just north of the tourist honey-pot of Elounda, sensibly further from the shoreline than would have been normal in daylight hours and too damned far to swim with clothes crammed in a waterproof sack. Oh well, an evening meal of ‘catch-as-catch-can’ onboard instead of the promised slap-up meal in Elounda’s floating restaurant where a good friend is the chef.
Yet every cloud, well maybe some clouds, have a silver lining and as we munched biscuits and cheese, the would-be seller of a replacement dinghy phoned to say, in a much-appreciated bout of self-deprecating honesty, that a fisherman had seen our dinghy make its escape and had rounded it up and placed it into the hands of Agios Nikolaos’ harbourmaster who was insistent that he would only release it to the yacht’s new lawful owner on presentation of all the paperwork that had accompanied the magnate’s distress sale.
Those of you that have never engaged in anything quasi-official in Greece, will not have realised that the country’s desperate financial straits are not entirely due to the submarines and tanks sold to them by Germany once their entry into the euphoric euro had been achieved, but more to the reams of paperwork that accompany every transaction, great or small. Thus, having signalled our dilemma to a nearby yachtsman, who kindly took us in his dinghy to the shore, we caught a bus to the city and the harbourmaster’s office weighed down with paperwork that would lead to the generation of more paperwork in exchange for paper-money and the release of our dinghy.
Back in Elounda looking deflated (the dinghy that is) we set about pumping it up again then cadged a tow from our neighbour. All was set for the next day’s departure for the Cyclades...or so we thought. As the sky started to turn red with the approach of dawn we went to raise the anchor in preparation for our twelve hour sail to Anafi Island, the closest Cycladic Island to Crete, and wow did we raise some anchor!
The windlass (the anchor winch) shuddered to a stop and we were drifting. The anchor’s chain was released manually and it went crashing back to the bottom. What to do? Oh what to do. The answer should have been get the message and abandon trip, but no...it was 'phone that friend' time again and two worthies showed up a couple of hours later to help disentangle a huge ship’s anchor from ours...the sort of anchor depicted in tattoo form on Popeye’s forearm!
Still refusing to accept the myriad of warnings, at 5am the next day we set sail, well we would have had there been any wind, which was taking a temporary holiday...hah!
So with diesel banging away we motored ever onward into the magic, perhaps tragic circle...!
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