I knew drinking raki would cause me big trouble one day. But when it hit me I was totally unprepared. I had been in a kafenion with some Cretan friends getting blotto one evening, when a newcomer had plonked himself at our table, poured a drink and started bemoaning the state of the economy.
Through the alcoholic fug, I realised he wasn’t talking about the Greek economy, but his own; he appeared to cry into his glass as he listed all the people to whom he owed money. True to Greek form, needless to say, the taxman was way off the bottom of the list, but he gradually reached the top and there I struggled to believe him. He said that he had a yacht, making it sound like what we Brits call a ‘gin palace’ in the local marina, which had been a shrewd investment for...aah...entertaining.
He sobbed, as he said his beloved yacht would probably be seized to discharge his marina debts for mooring, electricity and maintenance and there was nothing in these hard times he could do to stop it. He told his audience that he only owed €2,000 and his yacht was worth far more...if only he could find a good man to buy it for €3,000.
There were no takers around the table...talk had turned to the tide of refugees that were pouring into Greece and what it would mean for each of them. Although drunk, I took a pragmatic stance and told them in broken Greek that it would hardly touch their lives; Muslims don’t drink raki or wine, they wouldn’t touch their plates of precious pork and Cretan women barely ventured out alone. On top of that, the refugees were only using Greece as a convenient staging post on their way to a better life...why would they want to stay in Greece when life was certainly not going to get better for many years?
Vasilis, the man with the marina problem, complemented me on my philosophical approach which, he said, ranked amongst the quality observations of Plato and Aristotle. Head swollen, I belatedly realised what a decent man he truly was. “Ish she a deshent size, your yacht?” I asked in slurred broken Greek.
“She’s just over ten burrp long, regularly sleeps four, usual marine toilet, two stoves, new main and Genoa sails, can’t find fault with the engine...cost me 40,000 ten years ago...she’s still worth that today”.
“How much do you owe the marina?”
“It was only two thousand, five minutes ago,” I said, pleased with myself for catching him out.
“I said two, didn’t I?” he grinned.
“I’ll give you a thousand for it here and now, no questions!”
“You try to take advantage of my misfortune,” he groaned, “but you would make a good new owner, so I’ll let you have her for one and a half.”
“So, if I give you one thousand five hundred euros tonight, you’ll give me a receipt for the yacht and you’ll pay off the marina?”
“If you do that I’ll give you the key and you can sail Μπουζούλας out of the marina tomorrow!”
“That’s her name...Boozy Lass?”
He looked perplexed, but seemed to realise I’d heard the Greek name Bousoulas as if it were an English name, “Once she’s yours you can call her whatever you like...all females’ names change with time...my wife was given the name Antigone, now I call her Antagonisti.”
Liking his humour, I jumped in feet first, “Okay, come back to my house and I’ll give you the cash.”
He was on his feet and at the door in the time it took me to knock back half a glass of raki.
“Hurry before I change my mind,” he called.
I woke the next morning in my fireside chair clutching a rusty key and a piece of paper, a receipt for a 10 ‘squiggle’ yacht called Boozy Lass (I remembered writing the name for him) free of all debts (I remembered writing that too). At the bottom was a haphazard line, which I imagined was his signature, written above ‘Marina D23’. After more than enough cups of coffee, I was on my scooter heading excitedly for the marina and my floating ‘raki palace’ where I hoped I would soon be entertaining those flaunting floosies.
I swaggered along the pontoon savouring the quality of my neighbours’ ocean-going craft, but stopped dead, deflated in my tracks when I reached D23. I fished out the receipt, this was clearly the berth. Painted across the stern was what I took to be the Greek for Boozy Lass, but this was not the sizeable floating palace that I’d hoped for. I focussed on the crumpled paper to check what followed the number 10, that indecipherable squiggle that looked like an apostrophe, which I had taken to mean ‘metres’ and remembered the timely burp when Vasilis had described its size. I remembered all too late that a single apostrophe was English shorthand for ‘foot’ and a double apostrophe for ‘inches’; it was indeed 10’ and at 10 feet long would struggle to sit four, let alone sleep them unless wedged together drunk.
Stains on the gunwales indicated the toilet and the two camping gas stoves and battered kettle chucked in the bilge revealed the unsavoury truth. There was no wonder he could find no fault with the engine...there wasn’t one and the key he had given me was for an empty storage box in the prow! It dawned on me that the 40,000 he reckoned he’d paid was in drachma not euros and I had been had. However, the sails were new, to the boat that is. I imagine they were cut down ones a neighbour had tossed aside.
But I persevered and began to learn to sail, albeit lifting the boom over my head when tacking was daunting at first. Yet do I regret it? Not in the least, you see on my first outing I pulled the two birds in the picture and they were indescribably grateful. I have renamed my little tub Samphire and I can assure you that size does not matter...the girls said so too!
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