Thursday, July 29, 2010

Vulcano: it's not Disney, it's the real deal

Island of Vulcano, Sicily---(Vull-con-oh)  It was dark when we anchored after finding the anchorage near town was full. The island loomed above us looking like something out of Lord of the Rings. In the morning we moved to boat to town. A small resort area under a smoking Volcano Crater famous for the healing powers of its mud pit.

Things on the boat are better, nothing has been discussed but she is back to the cool friend I always knew. I am shell shocked and still trying to decide what the right thing to do is. Meanwhile, I'm in this AMAZING PLACE.  I got a ride to the dock around 4pm and spent the rest of the day exploring, then met up with the family for dinner in the evening...another story as Shirish's cell died without giving me the location to meet them. That all worked out and we returned to a wildly rolling boat from the large swell that rocked us back and forth all night. I love this hammock-like motion and am like a kid in a car seat whose parents drive them round and round the block to get them to sleep. Marybeth however didn't sleep all night.
Eariler, exploring the Island I found a sweet little town with well kept houses built with cool Architectural designs, exotic yards with plants and flowers filling the yards and patios. I thought; "I could live here," until I discovered two things.
1. The prices.
2. The smell.

We have now been to enough ports for me to compare the goods in shops and see identical items. It took me no time to see this is a very expensive Island.  It appears to be an island mostly visited by Italians.

And then there is the Sulfur Mud Pit.

A huge rocks jets up above the pit and is a vent to the Volcano, spewing sulfur gases into the air. The ocean near the pit bubbles with a heat vent "Too hot to put your feet". The ocean bubbles with tiny vents that can be seen on a dinghy ride to the beach. Depending on which way the wind is blowing is where the smell goes. At first take I could not believe what I was smelling! "Good lord, it's the worst rotten egg smell I have ever...." I thought...and raising chickens as a kid, I do know rotten eggs. At times, only a slight whiff would smell like fireworks that just went off. Regardless, I was covering my nose and mouth, ready to gag and no one else was! Everyone else was milling about like nothing was different at least 20 people were wallowing in the mud like hippo's. Along the sides were people covered with mud that had dried and turned them a bright gray-white color. It costs about 2 euro for this experience.

"You get used to it. It is good. Medicinal," said the street vendor Syros from Casa Blanca who had just bought me a beer.  "Every day I sit, I watch people. They come to sit in mud. Business good, not like last year. August our biggest month," he said in broken english.

"People do not LOVE Vulcano, but they are drawn to it and keep returning," said Tony, a Bulgarian who grew up in Chicago but after 911, was asked to leave even with a business and married sister there. For one year he has been waiting for a green card and permission to return, leaving his business in Chicago to fail. After waiting in Bulgaria, he decided to come here, to Vulcano, to work and wait it out.

"There is something that pulls people here, but it's not America. America is the best. All my friends are there, it's home, I want to go home," he said with a faraway look.

The Gecko is the Islands Symbol. It is EVERYWHERE, on everything,  making me miss my friend Jen who's Adventure Racing team is named TEAM GECKO.  I buy a sea bag and a wrap with the symbol colorfully displayed.

Due to the rolling swell, Marybeth, (exhausted from no sleep) and the family decide to get a hotel for her last night. We meet for dinner and Shirish drops me off at the boat.

My first night alone on the boat. I set up my Ogg (a color changing egg-shaped light that my friends from Australia gave me before I left) and the cabin lit up in purple then blue, green then yellow, red then orange and back to purple. A gentle roll rocked me to sleep and in the morning, as I slept, Marybeth caught the early morning Ferry to Naples.  I woke up feeling sad.

But, it's a new day, I'm in Vulcano.  I plan to try the mud pit in the next few days, maybe it's healing powers will fix it all.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I need to leave the boat...or not

BLOG NOTE; I am adding this post because readers think this trip may sound amazing but real life still is difficult. This blog is personal, yet this situation is very much a part of the experience of my life changing courses.

Reposto, Sicily----I didn't think things could get worse.

Yes, I'm a strong personality in wanting to get things done. I will take charge if there is a task at hand. I have short patience. I get frustrated waiting for people. I can be overly sarcastic. I'm silly, childish even, at times. I'm normally cheerful, even in the early morning. I play victim to often. I get hurt WAY to easily. I take everything personally. I'll offer my things or my help too easily. I'm ultra-organized but not neat. I get myself in situations where people take advantage, but then when I think they ARE taking advantage I get hurt first, pissed second.  I keep up with a zillion friends, and was loyal to a fault.  I get involved in other people's problems when I think I can make a difference. (I'm learning how wrong that is right now.) Having fun is a huge priority. When given a choice, I try to take both. I'm smarter than I act and dumber than I want to be.

This is me.

Now I feel myself changing. What I thought was up is down. What I thought was wrong feels right.

Mostly, I wonder if I am going crazy.

Yesterday, the captain's wife had stern words with me about her last days on the boat and her desire to just spend time with her family. I had been attempting to engage her to see what was wrong and try to fix it. She would like me to just be. So I stayed out of the way as best you can in a small rental car to a Volcano and then in a small sail boat. For dinner we miscommunicated and after waiting for an hour, I found out they wanted to eat as a couple. I lost my appetite and walked, and walked, and walked. Again, thinking way to much. But what DO I do?

The city of Reposto is poor and dirty. I walked until I didn't know where I was but it had turned residential with multiple three story apartment complexes that looked like city housing.  It was still early evening and I had my Bushnell "Back Track" with me, a satellite driven location marker that points you back to where you marked home. This time home was the Marina we had docked at.

As I walked I continued to go over my options. Leave the boat and:
1. Go back to Daytona and help a friend run a bar.
2. Go to my cousins in the American Embassy in South Africa for a few weeks and sort things out.
3. Get online and look for another boat to crew on.
4. Go friend hopping for a while. A week on each friend's sofa would surely buy me a few months.

My heart aches, I want to stay but not if I'm not wanted here. I have cried more than I did making the decision to lose most everything.  I'm mentally exhausted.

About 1-1/2 hours later I returned to the boat, just in time as night was falling. I decided to go through my luggage and get rid of some excess. My things have been living under the table for the last month. I filled a trash bag, wrote FREE on the side, and set it in the marina bathroom hoping for new homes for some of my things.

We left this morning for the Straights of Messina and an Island off Sicily. A trip that turned into terrible stages of weather, wind (40 knot gusts!) and waves, steep and rapid as we beat up wind. 17 hours, 15 minutes and 22 seconds we anchored at about 2am.

I had napped during the day so I took watch from 9pm on. They moon was full and was so bright behind me that I had to look back several times and make sure it really wasn't a freighter bearing down on us.

And all the time, in the moonlight, as the water crashed up against the bow of the boat, I thought and thought.

What do I do?

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Sicily Volcano: Mount Etna

Mount Etna, Sicily---What a day! To my relief, Shirish did the driving. After driving in Thera, Crete, Ithaca and Paros, it was a luxury to sit back and see the sights. From the dock, we drove the rented car up the mountain 1923 meters to a point where a cable car takes you to 2005 meters. Then you board a Unimog by Mercedes Benz (huge short buses with large wheels). At this point a guide walks you to points around several smoking craters. Shirish brought the GPS and tagged an altitude of 8000+ feet at our top hike and this is not the highes point of the mountian.

It was 48 degrees F at the top where we were, luckily we had brought jackets but to be in 3 layers in July was strange. The next day we noticed fresh snow had fallen at the top.

I was fascinated. I'll let the photos say the rest!

People had made rock monuments in one area
It was not smoke but steam coming from the Volcano. Some vents along the path could be used to warm your hands!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Docked in the shadow of an Active Volcano

Riposto, Sicily---We were passing it by, about 1 hour off shore. We had been watching it for hours as we followed the coastline of Sicily. A looming 3,350 meter Volcano named Mount Etna. The largest in Europe and the most active in the world.

At the last minute, we decide to try a nearby Marina with “no vacancy” and yes, they can take us. We reserve 2 nights and make a 90 degree turn directly to the Marina.

Now, here we are in Riposto at the base of the Volcano, with over 200 steam holes throughout the area! Since recorded history, 135 eruptions have been recorded. The last eruption was in 2003 and it’s due for another, hopefully AFTER tomorrow, when we drive a car, ride a gondola, and then take a bus to the top to hike around.

Being my first ACTIVE Volcano I am very excited.

The Straight of Messina

Messina Straight, between Sicily and Italy’s Mainland---Described by the Odyssey, Book 12 transl. R Fitzgerald: “And all this time, in travail, sobbing, gaining on the current, we rowed into the strait – Skylla to port and on our starboard beam Kharibdis, dire gorge of the salt sea tide. By heaven! When she vomited, all the sea was like a cauldron seething over intense fire, when the mixture suddenly heaves and rises.”

This wasn’t fiction.

After going through a very rough several hours to get to the Straight, we lingered to wait for the boats that were obviously waiting to. Larger ships and ferries crossing from one side to the other needed to be dodged. Our timing was fine and the north-going current pulled us along through the straight. At the point, whirlpools were seen, the water was boiling, confused by the mixing seas and currents.

According to Italian Pilot by Rod Heikell, the tidal streams in the Strait are caused by the different times of high and low water between the Tyrrhenian and Ionian Seas such that twice each lunar day there is a maximum slope southward and twice each day a maximum slope northward. The Tyrrhenian Sea is warmer and less salty than the Ionian, the difference in density between the two seas sets up currents which flow southward at the surface and northward below about 30 m.

The other thing we got to see going through the area of the Straight was Swordfish boats fishing. According to the Pilot, Swordfish (and tuna) regularly migrate through the Messina Strait and peculiar boats have evolved there to catch the migrating fish.

The old sword fishing boats had perhaps a 10 foot mast with a lookout atop, four rowers, and a harpooner in the bows. Today’s motor boats with immense lattice steel masts and bowsprits have taken their place. The bowsprit is longer than the boat and on the larger craft may be a good 50 feet long! The mast has a chair at the top for the captain who can steer the boat from his perch. An electric winch hoists him up and down. The boats operate only in calm weather. Apparently the swordfish “sleep” on the surface during the day or at any rate move sluggishly, and the sword fishing boat can creep up and harpoon the unsuspecting fish.

We watched a boat off our port side for a while weaving back and forth. And when we reached our next Port, we went to the fish market and purchased Swordfish steaks to grill on the boat. A lime marinated recipe that The Captain found, made dinner that night an incredible feast. This was fresh Swordfish and like anything fresh verses frozen, tasted nothing like I order back home.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sad in Sicily

Riposto, Sicily---Living on a boat makes your world very small. There are 3-4 people who make up your social network so for me, when things are wrong, I take it all personally. Something I am working on and by the end of this year I hope to be an un-penetrateable rock.The Captain's wife is here and I feel like I am intruding on someone’s family vacation. My role has undefined lines, feeling largely in the way and I have become the punching bag.

I believe that the love you have for someone is equal or greater than the despair you feel when you think you are losing them. I never thought it was possible to be in Sicily and be miserable.

I think hard, evaluate, contemplate where I’ve been and what to do. I believe strongly that life needs to be lived looking ahead and not behind, however it is only with looking at the fuIl picture that you see why you have the belief system you do. I've spent a lot of time here evaluating: born poor, sharing a one room cabin with my family of four in a tiny town in Kansas, working since I was 15, a Mom that worked 2 full time jobs, struggling to pay for college, moving to Daytona Beach, Florida with no job, getting a job, making a life, a living, enough to buy a house and invest, then losing most of it because of my stupidity when choosing loans. (do you hear violins yet?) …Then (deep breathe) loosing most of it and letting it go and turning to hope. Hope for something to turn my way again. Travel. This trip. But now I question myself , where I might be going. I doubt myself, this life change, I feel daggers pointing at do I stay on the boat or do I find another option for the next year? I feel devastated at that thought. I never asked for any of this. I wanted to help. I wanted to make things easier for my friends taking this trip. I think way, way, way too much. I miss my dog. I miss talking to my friends. I even miss my clients and workmates. I miss feeling loved.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Siracusa with an “A”

Siracusa, Sicily---“I’m in Sicily.” I keep saying that to myself because it doesn’t seem real. The good news is the boat is anchored well in a mud bottom. The bad news is you can’t see the bottom and we are all spoiled by swimming in the clear waters of Greece. There are HUGE fish making long leaps out of the water which makes you wonder what is down there bigger than them, making them jump. My “boat shower” was quick.

This is the town of Archemedes. the Scientist who discovered for one, the water displacement theory.

A dinghy ride into shore and I had another town to explore. Siracusa is a large city founded in 734 B.C.. I stuck mainly to Old Town located on the island of Ortigia attached to mainland be 3 short bridges. Narrow pathways made of cobble stone, winding up mostly; to Cathedral Square (originally a Temple of Apollo) or to the Castle, Castello Maniace an example of military art, at the end of the island. Shops along the way displaying local wares, many with the logo of Sicily, the 3 legged angel-women symbolizing the 3 points of Sicily.

And yes the pizza is very good. The other memory of Siracusa I will leave with is how hot it is. Everything shuts down at 2pm and re-opens about 4:30pm…smart. I made the mistake of asking to be left in town to wonder alone after the morning run and after 8 hours, I was close to a sunstroke after being overheated. After a couple hours of nausea and a jump in the water to cool my head, I was okay.

There were many shops that carried God Father items, but other than that, I saw no activity of men in dark suits planning to hide a body. And even though the silhouette of the city looks like Hollywood, I think it all happens behind the scenes.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sailing to Sicily

58 hours at sea:

Monday: Up early and prep the boat for sea. Anchor up at 11am. Motor out of our safe harbor and point almost due West.

I couldn’t believe how calm the sea was. We had left Greece knowing the weather would be calm for the upcoming days and due to Marybeth and the kids tendency to get seasick, a window of calm was exactly what we needed. Even though this meant motoring with the Main sail up, we would get there in two and a half days.

After some coffee and breakfast, we settled into our sea routine. Someone on watch and others in various spots on the boat, depending on how hot it was. The kids are now helping with day watches, which helps the adults have more down time and earns the kids precious “screen time,” a system that Shirish, the captain, has expertly weaned to an art of trading chores for time spent on their computers.

I spent some time up front on the bow and finished the book, Christ Recrucified, by Nikos Kazantzakis, with the ending leaving me in a melancholy mood.

Night watch was split between the three of us and I was assigned 3am to morning. Shirish woke me on cue. Summer watch is so simple compared to pulling on a ton of gear for cold weather sailing. The warm air allows you to dress in what you have slept in and only slip on your safety harness.

Once in the cockpit, I clip a tether into my safety harness and get a briefing from Shirish: “No ships all night. Stay at 270 degrees. Wind shouldn’t change. I’m going to bed.”

Ten minutes later a ship appears on the distant horizon.

First just one white light. Then three. "Okay, it’s a cargo ship. Then green…or is it red. #@%^!&*!! It’s both!" I panic to myself.

I watched for about 40 minutes as the lights got larger and the position on the starboard (right) bow didn’t change. I absolutely HATE to wake the captain when I’m on watch but it was getting too close and I could not make out what direction it was heading relative to us. I was seeing both red and green and that means it is heading straight to us.

I decide: It is better to say “sorry I woke you” then “sorry I crashed your boat into a freighter.”

After waking him, the ship seemed to turn slightly and only the green light was seen and seemed to not be moving. As it passed, even Shirish was not sure what it was, I concluded that it was not a freighter but a large yacht that was able to slow down and change course slightly for us. With Shirish back snug in the salon bunk, I watched the ship quickly disappear on the dark horizon behind us.

Tuesday: Another light day of wind and hot day of sun. Most of the day would go by without a sighting of anything else living except a quick showing of dolphins. The second night, I had the midnight to 3am watch. This is a much harder watch because you go to bed at 9pm, wake and midnight and go back to bed at 3am, breaking up your sleep and leaving you zombie like when you wake at the normal “sun in your eyes” time in the morning. I’m a great nap-taker so I don’t worry about it and with the right amount of coffee (something sacred on the boat!), I can feel quite alive.

Wednesday: Sometime in the night the wind had picked up to 15 knots. Shirish had added the 150 gib and the Staysail increasing the boat speed from 4-5 knots to 6-7…letting us turn off the motor and giving us a sensation of flying thru the water. It was a great entrance into the port of Syracuse, Sicily. An amazing castle/fort lines the side of the city as the entrance to the bay. The pearly white ancient site blended into a line of like colored buildings that lined the city. It looked like a movie set. We are definitely in Sicily.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Leaving Greece after being greatly humbled

Methoni, Peloponnese, Greece----After 3 months in the Greek Islands and some Mainland, it is time to go on to the next portion of our trip. Up until now I have felt very sure footed on the boat and dinghy and really haven't respected all the "what ifs" of carting our things from sailboat to land. Yesterday all that changed.

Marybeth and I were heading to the Wi-Fi cafe first thing in the morning.  Shirish ran us to the dock and I grabbed the ring and tied us off like I had so many times before. But, when leaving the boat to pull myself up on the cement dock, somehow I got the line mixed up with another boat sharing our ring. Pulling on this pulled that boat close and our boat the opposite direction. With my backpack and purse in hand, I did that "small boat wobble dance" and landed as a butt flop into the water, legs out like a visit to my Gyno.

You know how everything happens in slow motion at times like these?  As I was falling holding my computer bag like a baby, I lifted it as I fell. It went under a little, but the end result was me, completely under water, holding up my computer bag above my head, out of the water, trying to tread water and hope my friends would grab it.

Later, I found out the depth was only 4 feet.

I was wearing VERY light weight flowing white pants and a purple halter top with no undies. Okay, hey, it's really hot here.

A Greek man on the dock came running and everyone on the beach nearby seemed to stop what they were doing and stare for that minute.

My friends grabbed the computer and I waited a moment to compose myself. But...can you really compose yourself after that? Humiliated, I pulled myself up on the dingy as we rushed back to the boat to attempt to rescue my damp computer. As we left I poured out a full purse full of water and tried to keep a bloody knee from getting on my white pants.

My shipmates; the 2 boy geniuses and one of the smartest men I know, quickly went to work on my things. End result: a computer short somewhere between the battery and computer causing it to never really shut off unless you pop out the battery, Olympus digital camera dead and gone,  European phone, water spoted on the inside but it still works, a skinned up, banged up knee and a big bite of humble pie.

All the could of/should of's came out. I cried.

A huge lesson learned.  ...and YES, it could have been worse.

It will be funnier someday soon but right now, I'm still sulking.
Note: Juno is middle boat.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Profile of a Greek Woman: Zoe

She’s an artist who’s shop in Methoni, Peloponnese is open 7 days a week, leaving her “very tired.”

Zoe has the help of her daughter Maria and husband Nicholas, but she’s really the wheel that makes things go round in their business. Most everything in her shop she makes herself.
They seem over worked right now. Though their English is not rapid or smooth, they speak very well and have a large English vocabulary. Her black hair is pulled back smooth against her head.

She has lively Greek music playing. They turn it up and her daughter and her know each word and sing and dance around the shop putting out new supplies. I am offered Ouzo and when I say yes, they get very excited. “Oh, Ouzo, my Ouzo! Come drink Ouzo,” Zoe says delighted.

Her daughter looks at her longingly and she says “okay, but a very little sip” Maria sips and rolls the potion around in her mouth as a wine connoisseur would concentrate on a fine Cabernet.

We sit, I ask questions, we tell stories that are half pantomime and half English. We understand.

I try to explain the word “burn out” and she does not understand this word. We are interrupted by a customer and I look at her and remember that only 4 short months ago, I was on burn out.

Why don’t you sell on the Internet? : “I don’t want to be rich,” she says, “just live. I want to feed my animals, my family. I want to buy some clothes now and then. I want freedom.”

On her Relationship and Family: Even though her husband and she joke about their rough relationship, it appears her second marriage is a good one.  Trying to juggle 3 children, Maria, who at 13, lives at home while another daughter and son live out of town. Two dogs, two houses and plans to open another smaller shop in a nearby village makes her life overflowing. Later I found out that, both Zoe and Nicholas are from Athens and met in Mykinos. They moved back to Athens for 8 years and one day she said "I want to buy land," Nicholas recalls.  Through a chain of events, they bought in the Peloponnese. After a couple years living in a nearby town, they moved to their land and built a one room structure with only a generator. They lived there for 4 years! Their daughter remembers it as good years. Close family bonding. Maybe too close for a relationship but they later moved to Methoni.
“Men in Greece are horrible. They want a women to wash and clean, to f*** and sometimes they hit. I am lucky with him, he does not.

We are all alone. We must find happiness in ourselves and be free. Freedom. “

How do you feel about the Turks?: “We believe in God. We are all brothers, not the government but the people. We do not hate anyone. If you believe in God then you believe in love and it’s all one. Christians, Muslims, Buddah…all one, only love. “

When did you start as an artist?: “I am 45, she says. I have been making things all my life. I had my first shop at 17.”
Do you worry about the Greek economy now?: “We are not afraid because we do not need much. We can get by. We have land and gardens, animals for food and the shop will continue.”

How is business?: “‘People come and they buy. They take away my pieces and leave me money. But then
I need to make that again. I am very tired, very tired. I am jealous of you. You go be free. You don’t know what you have: Freedom.”

She says, “What if someone said spend the rest of your life in Greece and live like us. We live for today. We live for now. Yes, we think about how we pay and work today so we can pay for tomorrow. But I want time to see the stars, smell the sea, go fishing with my husband. And some time to be alone too.”

Friday, July 16, 2010

A lesson in Ouso.

A drink in a Port is what the sponsorship request said. Okay, how about a lot of drinks!

I had Ouzo once in my life. Eight years ago when I visited Santorini for the firs time. The bartender insisted that it was a shot: “Dumb tourist’s, they’ll believe anything,” he probably thought.

This time, I read up on it. No, it is not a shot and it is NOT to be drank as if you are at a frat party. It is to be sipped slowly with water or over ice. As the two elements are added together, your drink turns a milky white.

After reviewing the shelves and seeing how many brands there are, I decided to use the price as the indicator and found the most expensive.

If you like licorice, you will love this drink as the flavor of anise is the dominate taste.

Three months later and four bottles later, we have enjoyed a tiny amount over ice on non-sailing nights. And if you love the flavor of licorice and have a mind set of sipping. This is a drink for you. bottle is floating in the sea with a note: “Help! Send more Ouzo, “ the note reads.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Anchor Wench humbled

Anchorage Porto Kagio, Peloponnese, Greece---It’s 5:30 AM and the wind is howling outside causing the Windmills to spin so fast they make sounds like they are ready to break apart. But they will not and sounds like this mean “free electricity” to the boat.

The boat is gently rocking side to side which I love. Even though it is July 14, there is a chill to the air this early in the morning.

We arrived here yesterday about 8am after the all night sail. We were ready to anchor and slip back in bed for a little while longer. The protected bay was a tiny Hamlet with 3 tavernas and an overpriced Mini Mart.

There were 4 boats anchored from the night so we slipped between two and dropped anchor. It didn’t hold. Tried another spot. It didn’t hold. Another, then another. It was a deep holding but we had done this before, many times. We were the anchor champs, patient, smooth, methodical unlike so many Charters we had seen racing in to a bay at full speed, dropping the anchor while still moving forward and lurching the boat in reverse. No, we were great at anchoring.

One by one, all boats around us pack up and leave the bay. Humiliated and embarrassed I contemplate taking the American flag down until we are set. After 6 tries, the 7th one barely catches on it’s side. After diving on the anchor, the captain decides to put out the second anchor: the Danforth. Using the dingy the haul the 2nd anchor to a spot about 15 degrees away from the other giving us a strong hold.

It took us 4 hours.

Never will I look on to another boat struggling to anchor, never will I assume the first drop will catch. I have been Anchor Wench humbled.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Being on Watch

Town of Methoni, Peloponnese, Greece---Yesterday we arrived here after leaving Kimilos, the beautiful rock beach. Leaving at 11am, we sailed through the night and with 3 adults now on board, I was given the 4am to 7am shift: total luxury! Having slept 7 hours, being awoke at 4 am is a huge difference than the past shifts: up 3 hours, sleep 3 hours.

Climbing to the cockpit I was briefed on the night it had been as I slept below. Ships, ships, and more ships. Twice the captain had to be awoken to judge the ships distance and projection and twice he had to manually steer around them.

Rule of the Sea: Big huge Cargo Ship crush little tiny sailboat therefore, like “Paper is to Rock” you lose. So best to be proactive and protect yourself!

The trick at night, is determining just from 3 lights in distances from 20 miles to 5, which way the ship is heading and if are you in its path. Cargo ships will have a white light at the top of the control tower which will be higher than the other white light at the front of the boat. Then they will have a green light on the starboard side (right) and a red light to port (left side) to help determine its direction. So by these 3 lights, the angle of their formation, and the time it takes to “get bigger” on the horizon, you determine it’s course knowing it’s going 30 knots and you are going only 5 to 7. Then there are Cruise Ships lit up like New York’s Time Square Ball at New Years, and Ferry Ships differently lit but a little easier to make out.

I had 8 ships to watch that night and they all behaved staying far South of us as we skimmed across the water lining the Peloponnese on one side and an Island on the other.

After briefing, the captain, exhausted from a double shift, went down to sleep and I was left peacefully with 4 hours to go. Only the main sail remained as the wind had lightened through the night and others were wrapped up. We were left to motor at only 4.5 to 5 knots.

The sea was like oil moving and swaying only a wave less motion, like a swimming pool after one person has jumped in. The moon is in New Moon state and missing from the sky but due to this, the stars shine even brighter. The entire Milky Way screamed “Here I am” and a chance falling star was caught and left in my memory.

The warm weather allowed me to remain in a shorts and enjoy the breeze against my skin verses the bitter cold when I am wrapped in foul weather gear. At night especially,  we sail with harness and tethers that line each side of the boat if you should need to go forward to work a sail.
I love watches like these. The wonders of the world seem to sparkle all around. Greek Dolphin awarded me with a small show on the bow.  A baby jumped completely out of the water showing me his speckled under belly. These are the sights I hold inside as memories to come back to another day.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Your Past Follows You

Island of Antiparos, Greece---I had a breakdown today. Marybeth and the boys were happily chatting over breakfast about what a great dog Turbo was and the funny things he has done in his new life in Tallahassee. I was at the table with my headset on but the music had long died due to the limited charge. Big tears started rolling down my cheeks. I can’t understand after almost 4 months why it hit me like it had all just happened recently: I gave away my dog after 14 years, I lost my career investments in rental properties being foreclosed on, I gave up my 26 year business, my Dad died four weeks after I left and I couldn’t go back for the funeral, I left behind my friends, my sister…

I tore through the sailboat’s cabin, climbed up the companion way, grabbed a random pair of goggles, striped and dove in the cool, clear, blue water of the Mediterranean.

And swam.

Beating the water with each stroke like it was some aspect of my past that I could actually punish. It was early morning and I swam to the small beach in the sparsely populated area that we were anchored. Deserted, it had several sets of lounge chairs and tied up umbrellas only a few feet from the water’s edge.

There I flopped myself down on the flattened chair face down and continued a good cry. The tan vinyl netting of the chair let my tears drop through and trickle down to the fine sand below me. “Could God really know how many grains of sand there are?” I randomly thought.

I’m 8000 miles away from what was my life and absolutely nothing has changed inside my head. It still feels like failure. And if so, then am I running? From what, and more importantly, to what?

My pity party and these thoughts were abruptly stopped by the happy family appearing with all the bags that come with a day at the beach, only to find a naked, crying, women wearing only goggles. Face down, I quickly contemplated my options: 1) pick up and wear the beach chair to the water. 2) make a run for it an hope the children aren’t too traumatized. 3) three…let’s see, I didn’t have time to get to three as a truck pulled up, slightly in view behind the hedges, with workers to empty trash bins.

I made a run for it and quickly dove into the water and swimming non-stop the quarter mile back to the boat. All my past trailed me closely…but I think maybe, just a little of it was left on that beach.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Church of 100 Gates.

100 doors (gates) and only 99 are known they say. The 100th is there hidden and will be opened when the Greek re-occupy Istanbul.

I rented a car for $30 Euro/tax, insurance included. Even though I have rented in Ithica, Santorini and Crete, this business insisted on keeping my drivers license!


Okay, so car ready I found out that the town of Parakia was only 8 miles away. Being the largest Port on the Island of Paros, the town was slightly larger than Naussoa but not by much. Again, all business, as built around the harbor and into a maze behind the first line of building.

The church stopped me in my tracks. NOT because it was so beautiful, but because it looked more like an old fortress. THIS is it? I went in thru the huge gate only to find that somewhat of a fortress had been built around the church. Inside the museum I saw the rendering of what it looked like after building. And yes, it was breathtaking. At the entrance I bought a couple candles. One I lit for my father, who died in May. And although he was a Mennonite and this is a tradition we do not follow, but it felt right for me. The other I lit for Tim Soth, my friend who died it a car crash when we were all about 17. His parents would appreciate it I think.

According to the information I picked up and looked up, the construction of the Church of 100 Gates (or Doors) dates back to the 6th century, but the inspiration dates further back to the 4th century when it was founded by St. Helen, the mother of Constantine. According to legend, St. Helen was forced to put in at Paros during a storm, while on a pilgrimage to find the path to the True Cross. As is the Greek custom when in trouble at sea, she vowed to build a church on this spot but died before this plan could be realized.

The emperor Justinian saw Helen's plans to completion in the 6th century.

One thing that interested me was the history of the builder. Since I had loved the Agia Sofia eight years ago in Istanbul, I wanted to see this church base on the legend. As it is recalled; legend surrounds this pretty church of pupil surpassing master, and ensuing tragedy. The church was built by Ignatius, who was a pupil of the architect of the famous Agia Sofia in Constantinople (Istanbul), Isidore of Miletus. Isidore attacked Ignatius in a fit of jealous rage when he saw the beautiful church and tried to push Ignatius off the roof. In the ensuing struggle, both men fell to their deaths. Ignatius and Isidore are immortalized in stone in the courtyard in front of the church.

Another legend surrounds the gates, or doorways. Ekatontapylani was made up of three interlocking buildings, with 99 doors and windows. According to legend, when the 100th door is found, Constantinople (Istanbul) will return to the Greeks. In the 10th century, the church was restyled in the shape of the Greek cross.

An icon of the virgin can be found on the wooden iconostasis which is worshipped for its healing powers. Nearby the icon, a footprint set in stone is said to belong to the island's patron saint Agia Theoktisti.
As a young woman, in the 9th century, Theoktisti was captured by pirates. She escaped and fled to Paros where she lived alone in the woods for 35 years. When a local hunter found Theoktisti, she asked him for some communion bread. He gave her the bread and she laid down and died. Realizing she was a saint, the hunter took her hand as a relic, but he found he couldn't leave the island until he reunited her hand with the body. The severed hand relic is displayed in the church.

I picked out a small cross necklace in the gift shop to remember this spot. And, while I was there, I could not find the 100th door. I guess Turkey is off the hook for a while.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Paros Island: Island of Marble

Ancorage of Monistar, Town of Nauossa, Island of Paros: Greece---(June 18-23 and June 30-July 5) We have been at this Island/Ancorage twice now. Once on our way to Crete and now, returning from Mykinos with Marybeth. It is a wonderful anchorage spot with a ferry stop about a 3 minute dingy ride away. For 2.50 Euro, you can go to Nauossa, about 2 miles away. We've also taken the dingy there several times but the rolling sea has gotten us soaked a few times so the Ferry is a nice option.

Our anchorage, named for the Monastery near by has a somewhat private beaches, and a great hiking trail. We are in about 15 feet of crystal clear water and swimming is our daily exercise. My attempt at training for a triathlon last summer has enormously paid off in learning more about ocean swimming, breathing on both sides (so you can see the speed boats approaching) and peeking ahead of you in the middle of the swim stroke. Paros is famous for it's MARBLE. In ancient times it was its fame and many temples were built with Paros Marble. The last emperor to raid Paros was Napoleon! After that, other last quarries were found leaving this Island to use its own structures and STREETS out of marble!   In Naoussa, they were doing street projects when I was there and huge mesh bags used for construction, were set along the sidewalks full of sparkling perfect smoothed marble rocks. At certain times of the day the cobble stone style streets sparkled.

Inside Nauossa, is a sweet village of tavernas and shops, again in a maze of walking only streets. It took me about 5 days to figure out to not get lost among the center of shopping.  Once Marybeth joined the boat, I had decided to let them have some "family time' and get a hotel on one of the Islands. After being disgusted at Mykinos, I chose to stay on Paros and found a hotel for only 30 Euro a night! (1.25 exchange rate at the time!) I had checked in Santorini and the price was $140 Euro per night! With my savings...I got to shop a bit.  My room was a simple single with a fridge, bathroom, and patio. No view but that wasn't the point. It was also located within a few steps of the marina and the heart of the town square.  I stayed here alone for 5 days, however, my plan to let them have family time turned into Sick Bay for them as Marybeth arrived not feeling well and a cold was passed between all of them while I was gone. They also stayed anchored there, so rather than re-joining them in Milos, I simply took a Ferry to the anchorage and joined them after they felt better. From here we head to the last Greek Island in our Trip: Milos/Kimilous.