May 31, 2008
[ JOURNAL ENTRY BY STACY ]
Greetings from the Greek island of Crete.
We have been traveling in the Greek Cyclades Islands, and have now arrived at our last stop in Greece, its largest island, Crete, in the town of Chania – (curiously also spelled Xhania, Hania, and other ways too). We arrived this morning at 8am from an overnight passage, blissfully uneventful, on a night of no wind, doing 2 hour on, 3 off shifts. We arrived from Santorini. It took about 17 hours to traverse the 85 miles of Aegean Sea. We have been traveling to islands with very limited facilities for yachtsmen, are exhausted, and thus Wheat and Molly found a room at a pansion near the harbour. I have taken one as well, enjoying a hot shower and a 2 hour sleep during the heat of the day. The room cost only 20 euros. It is an extension of the owner’s house, is ancient, has 15 foot ceilings, a courtyard and a balcony overlooking the harbour and sea. I just went out and found a copy of the International Herald Tribune, having had no news from the world in over a week, and had a big cup of Greek coffee (like Turkish coffee, with the grinds right in the cup – strong).
After a 2 day rest here we have a 465 mile jump to make to Valletta, Malta, about a 3 ½ day sail. Even more reason to take a room for a couple nights! That will put us in the central Mediterranean, poised to make progress to our goal in Gibraltar.
In my last report I think we were in the Fineke marina, Turkie, waiting out adverse weather. Well, it blew from the direction of our travel, west, for 3 days, strong. So the newlyweds and I did indeed catch a dolmus to Kas, where we had a great evening, night and next day. Kas is a delightful small harbour town, and now discovered, somewhat, by tourists, especially the British. The old town along the harbour has many narrow streets with many bars and restaurants, all dark and small and very nice in atmosphere. We walked thru the town and after an Efes beer at a harbourside café to get focused and to regain our fortitude, we walked down to the pansio n where Tonia and I stayed 2 years ago, the Lila Pansion. Wheat and Molly got my old room and I laughed with the Turkish women who ran the place about my being there 2 years previous, and they gave me a special one person room with a nice balcony overlooking the sea. It cost about $25 US. Walking thru the old town after, on our way to dinner, we were walking the dark old streets and Wheat and I heard a voice directly in front of us down on the ground, but all there was there was an old cat. Wheat and I took a double take and looked at each other and said “did that thing say that?!” and sure enough it was a talking cat. The damn cat talked for some time and people would pass and marvel at it. It spoke Turkish, and we stood there for some time absolutely spellbound, laughing our asses off each time it spoke. We then proceeded to a bar as we felt we ne eded a strong drink after such an episode; thus we drank Raki, the Turkish equivalent of ouzo from Greece. Then our host at the restaurant was a real character, and he sat with us for most of our meal; we would tell him we would buy his wine if he would sell it cheaper than on the menu; he said no problem. (This is a pattern here – At our hotel in Kemer the manager would use a calculator to translate the price of the room from Euros to Turkish lira to US dollars - I would then re do the entire process with his calculator with him watching and unsurprisingly arrive at a lower price, turn the calculator around and show it to him and he said “no problem” – similarly at a popular outdoor bar where we liked to take our evening Efes, the stated price was 4 lira. You just had to cajole the guy by saying “hey we drink many beers here we want to pay 3 lira” “No problem, for you, my friend, special pric e”) So we weren’t crazy asking this restranteur to give us a lower wine price, believe me. His brother the elder finally apparently told him to stop fraternizing with the tourists and giving them discounts, and then he wanted our assistance in meeting some English women at the next restaurant. Again his brother intervened, and we all laughed a lot. I believe we had the black sheep of this Turkish family as our host.
I went on to some music bars after the newlyweds retired, met some very interesting people and finally went home around 2.
After enjoying the town the next day we returned to Fineke and departed about 7PM. We were late returning and hence, since we were leaving Turkish waters, and going to Greece, we needed to check out of the country. The customs police at the marina said “closed – finished” “return Monday” (it was Friday), despite the fact that they specifically told me closing was at 7. So the captain, pissed at our lateness, suggested we pay the man “overtime” to process our passports. Great idea. I gave him 25 Turkish lira ($22) and problem solved. Very nice.
Unfortunately our 24 hour sail to Rhodos (Rhodes) 105 miles, was not. Light wind on the nose but big lumpy seas that had the WRiii sloshing all over the place. It was quite unpleasant. Queasy. Dark. No moon until around midnight. We carried on in shifts thru the night and at the 5-7am shift cap wanted the main up, normally a two person job. Wheat was due up in 15 minutes and I pointed that out but he wanted it up then, so I lashed on and went forward to do it. Halfway thru the process, after getting flung about, the main halyard got caught around the radar reflector and radar unit up the mast and we could not get it undone (normally sailor 2 takes up slack on the halyard as it is connected by sailor 1, but…….) Wheat tried to get it loose and couldn’t. With no sails up the boat was pitching heavily in the sea. Wheat volunteered to go up the mast on the boson’s chair and Bob and Victor cranked him up and I steered between dry heaves. Molly, new to sailing, had bad luck for a first sail and remained uncomfortable all night, but attended her shifts. It was really great. The mast was rolling probably thru 8-10 feet of arc and when you’re up there in that you’re holding on for dear life and Wheat kept screaming about various protuberances on the mast, such as lights, and what they were doing to his privates, and try as he might he could not get the damn halyard loose. So down he came and we carried on on the jib alone (later he developed bruises on his inner arms and thighs and his back went out!) Late morning and afternoon were better as the wind veered to allow us to point right at Rhodos town. At 6 pm as we were just an hour off the town, exhausted, and as a final joke the evening meltimi wind came up at 20-25 knots directly from the harbour mouth, to just give us that last test as we got there. “What the hell else can happen?” the captain asked. Fortunately with the charts and pilot book we found our way into the ancient Mandraki harbour and still water. The two columns at the entrance of the harbour are where the legs of the giant colossus of Rhodos stood over 2000 years ago.
We got tied in bow to, which requires us to drop a Danforth anchor amidships and pay it out astern as we approach a dock and whoever handles that is essentially the brakeman. We are the only ones to do this. Everyone else has different systems in place to go stern to by dropping their main bow anchor – operated electrically – and more importantly lifted by motor (the anchor and chain weigh probably 45 pounds). We have all long ago concluded that our system remains as it has because the captain is never involved in the process of deploying or lifting said anchor.
Anyway, Wheat did that and I caught the bow and tied it up. The others fended the two boats on either side of us. Everyone was exhausted but hungry and we went into the old walled city and had Greek food and retsina. Its funny how over here a change in countries – really now states as its all EU – makes everything so different. We threw out all 15 of our Turkish words and our favorite menu items and had to learn anew.
A word on Rhodos town. I first came here 15 years ago to meet the WRiii. I flew in from Athens and taxied to the boat and found the boat in the same Mandraki harbour. I of course then found the crew at the nearest taverna drinking and eating. There were celebrations going on I asked about it and was told that it was the town’s birthday – its 2,400th birthday. I sheepishly told the guy my ancient city was going to celebrate its 300th soon. “Oh,” he said “a new city – that must be very nice, it must be quite modern.” “yeah, very modern” I said, thinking of New Orleans..
So there I was again in the 2,415th year of Rhodos town. We got a day off, again because of howling west winds, and so rented a car – the newly weds and I – and toured Rhodos island.. It was delightful, with flowers everywhere, cold Mythos beer everywhere, and walking in remote mountain villages. The beaches and towns were crowded with tourists even though it is still May. We ate at a small seaside town and of course met another Greek man that lived for years in the states. He pointed out, in good English, that there are 12 million Greeks in Greece and 4 million in the USA. I ate grilled octopus and anchovies and washed them down with lot s of retsina.
Another note on Turkey vs. Greece. If you use just their bathrooms as a point of comparison the difference is distinct. In the monolithic marble baths of the Turks, with a sign-in sheet for the employee whereby he must certify with his signature that he has cleaned the bathroom spotlessly every hour, everything is right. In Mandraki, there was a crappy (pardon the pun) little bathroom, not so clean, with no doors on the toilets or showers, no hooks to hang clothes, no paper, etc. Some might have guessed it would be the other way around. Greece may have ruled the world one day, with its culture and language, but those days are over, meh son.
(Before I forget, I wanted to pass on that gasoline is Turkey is now over 3 lira a liter making it about $10US per gallon. In Rhodos, using Euros, with a weak dollar, it is about $8.50US.).
We departed Rhodos Tuesday morning about 6. Wheat lifted the anchor, and I helped carry it up front, around all the shrouds, meaning you had to hold the anchor and chain and lift it far out in front of you and pass it along to the next guy. And of course it came up with a bonus 25 pound clump of ancient Mandraki clay, which had to be remove by lifting and dropping the anchor into the water, maybe 25 times, until it was clean. This proved by days end to be too much for our backs. We both complained back in the cockpit that our backs hurt and Bob asked “What the hell is wrong with you guys???” to which I responded “Captain, your crew is getting old.”< o:p>
We motor sailed for 45 miles due west into light westerly winds, tacking. Using the main sail only and the engine allows us to go about 25-30 degrees off the wind and thus travel far fewer miles than on sail alone which would require us to sail 45 degrees off the wind. We went to the little island of Tilos, very quiet. We barely fit into the little harbour. The island has only a few hundred inhabitants. A little promenade along the waterfront had tavernas, and we made our way to one and enjoyed the Mythos beer ice cold in the heat of the afternoon. The Greek owner, having lived in the states, spoke fondly of USA but of course not of its Government these days. All the Greeks and Europeans he said are for the black guy. He also bemoaned the state of his little island as overdeveloped and full of Euro trash. A group of 4 young women strolled by and he said “you see, not one of them is Greek – they all are working here, from Rumania, Bulgaria and such” “The English are buying up the island and building holiday homes” We told him to watch out for the Russian onslaught and he said it was already coming. “They don’t even ask the price and just hand over the money with big tip.” (In both Turkey and Greece we saw menus with $200 lobster offerings – the Russians must be those custom ers).
Wheat and my backs were really hurting and so we each took a flexural. Anyway we had a nice dinner there – I had whole grilled calamari stuffed with feta, tomates and spices, all of course washed down with retsina (the joy of retsina is that it is really nice and refreshing – if you like it – and very cheap). Vic our Irish mate walked along and joined us and ordered a bottle of ouzo, beers and such. He is a true Irishman at heart. Wheat and I had to limit ourselves since we were full of flexeril for our paining backs.
Sleeping in the tiny quiet harbour was easy. There were charter yachts there and the harbour was full with only 10 vessels.
Next morning Wheat could not even get out of the V berth. My back felt better but not great. Molly and I had a great breakfast at the outdoor café next to the boat and we were off at 11 for a 104 mile trip to Santorini. Again the weather was from the west but at only about 10 knots so we again motor sailed and tacked. With Wheat out of action the rest of us had two hour on and two hour off shifts, which as you can imagine gives you precious sleep. As soon as you get off and climb into your bunk, after getting off all the harnesses, life vests, jackets and layers of clothes – for it is chilly at night – and finally fall asleep, an hour later someone is tapping you on your shoulder and saying “It’s your shift” and so you reverse the proces s.
The harbour of Vlihada on the south end of Santorini is a difficult entrance as there are submerged rocks and specific instructions on how to approach. We made it safely and tied up alongsides – meaning no anchor necessary thank you. The harbour area is unattractive, dry and dusty. With no facilities, not even a bathroom. But we walked around and climbed the 50 or so steps up to the cliffs around the harbour and found tavernas with great views of the harbour. Molly and I went up there and stopped at the first one - Dimitri’s place – and met Dimitri. He was grea t, had good English and greeted everyone the same way- with a booming “ Kali merra, kali merra, how are you?” With the harbour devoid of services he was the de facto provide all guy. For the next 2 days he was our go-to guy. Need a meal? Go to Dimitri. Need a shower? No problem use one of his hotel room showers, 2 euros. Need a car? Dimitri would call the Romanian kid who would bring us a car. Three generations of Dimitri’s family worked the place, with a cliffside dining room and across the street another dining room and kitchen and guest house. “Dimitri more Mythos!” “Dimitri do you have bread for our boat?” “Of course” Wheat was holed up in the V berth, so Molly and I rented a car and toured Santorini. It is an active volcano and is the most famous post card of Greece, with its town up high on a cliff all white and blue buildings and narrow streets, about 800 feet above the caldera of the volcano now ocean, with cruise ships visiting and people everywhere. It is beautiful. When we returned we got Wheat into the car for his first meal in 24 hours an of course drove him to Dimitri. Dimitri’s first question, after having talked to us earlier was to inquire about how is the back? We have doctor if you need. Big meal and asleep exhausted from the night shifts.
We toured again the next day and left at 2PM for the sail to here in Crete. We had nice winds on the beam and hauled ass for a while and then it dies and we motored the night through, 2 hours on 3 off since Wheat was back in the mix.
So now the church bells are ringing, we are drinking cold white wine and the heat of the day is breaking – time to go out and walk about and try to send this missive to you all.
Today is Saturday May 31. Make a joke on my mom and all of you call her and wish her a happy 86th birthday by calling her at 340.392.0860 on Sunday. It would really make her laugh.
Best from over here,