Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Port of entry

Let's forget about what was. Here's what is. Enki in Greece. And if she's at a Greek town quay - this one is behind the breakwater at Zakynthos, one of the northern Ionian islands on the western side of the Greek mainland - her skipper must have completed that tricky manoeuvre known as going in stern-to.

I had no idea that Alex was approaching this "first time" with such apprehension. He is so famously cool, calm and collected that when he gave me instructions about freeing up the windlass so as the anchor could run freely as he reversed into what would inevitably be a tight spot, I assumed it was my performance, as ever, that he was anxious about. Not a bit of it. It turns out he's spent years reading in yachting magazines of how many ways this particular manoeuvre can be fouled up. After three days of being here, and watching other skippers coming in, I can see why he had the jitters.

Call it beginner's luck (I won't ) or a great crew (perhaps), but he did it perfectly the first time. Unfortunately the spot was a little too snug, so we did it again, further down the quay. Because we'd arrived from Italy early in the morning, there was none of the notorious cross-breeze which multiplies the degree of difficulty many times over. This morning, when we're getting ready to leave Zakynthos, there's brisk northerly blowing across the harbour. Alex is still asleep. The news can wait.

Zakynthos isn't much of a town to look at. It was destroyed by an earthquake in 1953, and rebuilt in what is fancifully called the Venetian style. Think concrete slab. This being July, the place is heaving with holidaymakers - mostly families and young adults who tip off buses and onto cruise boats each morning. Here they are, packed tightly for a better roast on the top deck. The waterline is a bit of a worry too.

The plan is to take the short cut through the Corinth canal and into the Aegean sea. It's been blowing dogs off chains there for weeks (that's an Alex saying - looks a bit odd written down), but we wouldn't mind some wind. We motored a lot of the way from Sicily over a dead calm sea. Enough said. Yesterday Alex did an oil change, just an ordinary job - for a change.

I leave you with two images which probably sum up Greece as we know it - without knowing it at all yet. On our first evening strolling along the main street, we met a protest march. Later, eating at a grill house,  Alex asked our waiter what the the marchers wanted. He looked embarrassed. "Oh, nothing. It's government...." He didn't want to talk. He was busy. It's summer and there's money to be made if you have a job. 

And here's the second image.

The man had just scooped his little fish out of the gutter where he'd landed it, and was washing it at a tap provided for visiting yachts to use (for a fee). He was pretty pleased with his catch though it would have left a cat feeling peckish. The point was to be there, on the quay, fishing. He seemed to be saying, this is the life.

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