Or, "Keep it, keep it, keep it!"
Monday 6 June 2011 - Thursday 9 June 2011
We woke the next morning and continued exploring the town of Hydra. All of the cafes and restaurants on the main cobbled street/plaza had luxurious outdoor seating with couches and cushioned seats, all shaded by vast canvas awnings that pulled out from the fronts of all the buildings to protect the plaza from the heat. Alexei advised us to stock up on food for a barbeque later that evening. Excited to try some real Greek cooking, Kim and I stopped by a fisherman’s boat to get freshly caught redfish, but we realized that we didn’t want to (know how to) clean the fish for cooking. So we got ground beef (mincemeat as they seemed to call it) for burgers. Exotic food fail.
With Noah and Nick lifting the anchor as Alexei steered us out of the central marina, we said goodbye to Hydra and once again sailed out into the vast blue sea. Given that we’d had so many days of low winds, we hadn’t had too much experience with the actual sailing side of things. Luckily, that morning we had a strong wind behind us, and Alexei gave us all jobs and showed us how to man the boat as we tacked back and forth across the waters. It was certainly a good time to be working on deck – when the wind is full in the sails, it tilts the boat so far sideways that walking around below decks is like wandering through a carnival funhouse and trying to keep your balance. What a headache.
Once everyone had the hang of their jobs, it was smooth sailing from there. After several hours under Alexei’s careful eye, I steered the Leila into a small lagoon on a desert island. Again, perfect perfect turquoise waters. Here, we had to row the dinghy out with a rope to tether to boat to the rocky shore to prevent her from drifting in the wind. That done, the seven of us spent another gorgeous afternoon swimming and exploring the empty lands of the island. As per usual, Noah was at home in the water, and even dove down to the bottom of the clear blue lagoon to find an old bottle of wine (that he even dared try once we got it open!). Later on, I ferried Andy over to the shore in the dinghy where he explored and found the stone foundations of a fairly ancient building, according to our captain.
Preparing to leave, Alexei had us head back out in the dinghy to untie the boat from land. The upcoming events are a good explanation of why Alexei probably hated us. So the basic setup is this. There is a long rope that ties the boat to a rock on shore. The goal was to row out in a dinghy (that was previously tied to the big boat with a little rope) towards the land, where you untie the long rope from the rock, and bring it back. Nick and hopped in the dinghy and handled this, no problem (as should be expected, since these are simplistic tasks). When we rowed back in the dinghy, the big boat was already in motion since it was no longer anchored. With both of us moving, it was difficult to pull up smoothly, but fortunately we still had the aid of the long rope that we had fetched that was tied to the big boat. Simply, reel the rope in, thus pulling ourselves closer, and hop off right? No. As we got close, Alexei realized that Nick was preparing to heave this line tethering us to safety right at him. As we’ve mimicked countless times since then, Alexei shouted, “Keep it, keep it, keep it, keep it keep it KEEP IT!” as Nick eagerly proceeded to throw the rope, despite these warnings. Alexei sighed a big, “oh no” and took his head in his hands, as Nick and I tried to correct our error by throwing ourselves toward the edge of the boat to grab on. Successful, we quickly scrambled out of the dinghy and aboard the Leila, proud that we didn’t mess things up too badly. But as I was pulling myself upright, we heard Alexei shouting again, “the dinghy, the dinghy, the dinghy, THE DINGHY!”, and I realized that while we had indeed made it safely aboard, we had left the dinghy in the water, and watched as it slowly drifted away behind us, untethered. “Ohhhh no”, as he covered his eyes with his hands, shaking his head slowly. Poor dinghy. Poor Alexei.
With the sun sinking lower in the sky, we sailed on toward our last port – a tiny town on the mainland. Equipped with instant barbeque spits and the ingredients that we prepared on board, our little gang walked down the coast and found a rock ledge jutting out over the waters where we could enjoy our dinner. We cranked some tinny tunes from the speakers of my iPod, and had a delicious barbeque meal of burgers (on baguette bread – there were no buns in Greece!) and fresh fruit salad, right there overlooking the beautiful Aegean Sea. Perfect evening.
We brought a burger back to Alexei (he couldn’t join us since he had to keep an eye on the boat) and set off to explore the town at night.
Over the next few days, we continued our sailing trip, much as in the previous entries, as we tracked back towards Athens. I could describe it all in detail, but I’ll leave it with this. We sailed, we swam, we soaked in the sun as we read on the deck, we devoured greek salad after greek salad (which is quite different than the Greek salads that we eat in the states – it contains just diced tomatos, cucumbers, black olives with feta and balsamic – no lettuce to be found!), we devoured 1 euro gyros (favorite thing to say!), and came to love the Greek islands.
We disembarked from the Leila back in the Athens marina, sad to leave our boat home and our skipper. At the beginning of the trip, Vardis had purchased an American flag to fly on our boat, and he now took it down for us to bring home. Alexei signed it (emphasizing in large letters – A L E X – that we had probably been calling him by the wrong name the whole trip). We said goodbye, and prepared to see the ancient acropolis of Athens!