I took a job that interrupted my Greek idyll with my friend of imminent patience. It was a job I had been in the running for just prior to my departure but lost out due to the whims of fate.
Howsomever, when the call came to replace the incumbent, I was off on the soonest flight the following day.
Bongoes, pillow and teabags packed, flight plan was Athens to Marseille and then onto Corsica.
As we took off from Eleftherios Venizelos – the International Airport of Athens – it is always a bittersweet flight out of this incredible country, where the dusty roads and the Greenery merge from white through Khaki to Viridian; the mountains surrounding the Capital heave themselves from the hundreds of blocks of white that dot the countryside like a page out of a maths book and as we curve our way west, the local waters of the Aegean juxtaposing brilliant white flecked Cobalt to outline the coast almost blindingly.
I think the pilot was doing his bucket list flight, or mine, of all the places I had been in the last 15 or so years – but from the air. There was the Peloponnese – which a whole other conversation as to pronunciation; then Corfu, tracking the heel of Italy, Elba and Corsica. Then the South coast of France and St Tropez and slowing down for a full circuit of La Ciotat and the Iles d’Hyeres before arcing across the Camargue and the bay of Foss to land among the chalky mountains surrounding Marseille. Next flight was similar but in reverse taking in the West coast of Corsica to land in the south east near Porto Vecchio. A black Mercedes mafia hitman van picked me up and drove through the crunchy Firestarter bushland of Summer, down into the tiny port where I was collected by a tiny rib for the 20 minutes jolting, slamming, heart pumping and suitcase death-gripping ride out to the big boat.
I had been given a deckhand from the big boat for the first night at anchor because as soon as I was on board and the guests were picked up, they left for their next port of call – we were to catch up next morning at daybreak. After a very sleepless night as the weather picked up slightly and rolled us around our anchor chain consistently, we were glad when the first streaks of pink filtered through the grey of dawn and we could get on our way – destination Elba where my deckhand was happy to leave me to the rolling and pitching of the vessel and head back to the big boat where they had on the zero speed stabilisers so the guests didn’t chuck up their breakfast…
From Elba we criss-crossed our way to Genoa via various ports where I fuelled up just in time to follow them to their next destination.
A sea trial for the engines brought an interesting break in proceedings, as at about 23 knots the boat did a 90* turn to right on its own. Totally inappropriate behaviour if there were guests on board so we have come to the yard and dry dock to replace the trim tab on Starboard that pulled itself off the hull and was dragging itself like a broken wing before wedging itself into the square hole at a weird angle.
I have decided to stay on board for the week it will take to fix and return to the water.
There is a toilet in the office which I have been given the key to but it does entail the need to go versus the requirement of climbing down the high ladder, crossing the graveyard of dry stand vessels, up a few flights of metal mesh stairs and into a worksite container style office block. In my time, I have enjoyed a bit of camping, but it is quite some time since I have had the thrill of a shower in a bucket but the excitement of finding a bidet in the toilet block for things other than washing my laundry will no doubt give you cheer!
There is no air conditioning on board whilst out of the water and I didn’t buy the fan that I saw yesterday back with me, so I had the beautifully curved door from the exterior cockpit open to the heavens – mattress dragged out of the pokey cabin onto the salon floor for some air.
There was a mistral pushing its way across the gulf from the mountains, so we get a good sway up on the blocks and the shaving mirror sized portholes in the bathroom and galley are desperately trying to funnel a little of the gale into the interior but not really doing the job.
I could hear the seagulls doing their best to impress the Italy’s got talent producers with their singing and pantomiming abilities and figured that they were doing some divebombing of the judges (boat) before I twigged that they were rain drops hitting the topsides like little water balloons exploding on impact.
I give you the comical mental image of grunting Woodford trying to levitate from horizontal to running up the 3 and a gap stairs to shut the door before the white carpet treads and my pillow and mattress were drowned. It was three and a half a step because the veneer on the top one is cracked so I had removed it to give to a carpenter before I left the marina in Genova Sestri Ponente and I have blue tape stripes to remind me to mind the gap which is a good half a meter!
Then in my half sodden Etihad PJ’s, I was attempting to raise the automatic bimini top in the lull of the mistral so that I could get some relief from the downpour. I need the bimini up so that I can attach the clear windscreen to it which covers the doorway.
With the flimsy non-waterproof bimini up and in almost the right position, I started to try to uncurl the clears which had petrified into a log shape in the cold and wet. I found the jack the ripper zippers which are hiding among the Velcro closures which only attach when you are trying to use them and got the starboard side of the screen zipped in position and praying that the clears didn’t snap, uncurled and attached the port zipper, then had to do the mad dash to the front of the boat to find and attach the bottom side of the clears to the slick stainless curved glass windscreen.
Finally, with half the clear attached, the wind picks up and the bimini top decides it would prefer to act like a parachute and be elsewhere, but I hang on and get the whole zip done up and a break from the cannonballs of water and air can be returned to the interior.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have had the most incredible opportunity to revisit places I have been and visit some I have never made it to. The Cinque Terre walk was something I had always thought I would get to and finally I was dragged there by some of the crew – younger fitter and more agile crew I may add.
I am glad I have been and done some of the available pathways, but next time I will take the ferry or be Heli lifted into the towns. Most of the track is hot, dusty, uphill or treacherous downhill, boulder strewn that encouraged crawling and scratching in the undergrowth. Yes, the view was exquisite and I really enjoyed my lunch afterwards but even the easy way, by train involved some climbing. Manola, one of the little towns was very interesting with the little fisherfolk vessels drawn up into the passageway to the sea, the boat ramp littered with bodies catching the sun and the little cove was awash with the youth of the area bomb diving from the rock in centre stage harbour.
Genoa and its incredible buildings still encourage cricked necks and I returned to a fountain where I had last been when my niece was small enough to fit against my chest.