To Ithaca and Beyond

Over 1000 miles since our last post and we are happy to report we are hunkered down in Menorca, Spain, the easternmost Balearic Island. We left Cephalonia last week between storms, landed in Sicily at dawn, and rested while we waited out the storm. Lewie Wake flew from Cali to join us for the next passages. We had mostly good weather and with only one stop in Lipari, an island north of Sicily, we sailed our hearts out and caught a Dorado as well.

There will some blogging with photos to cover it but first we want to share a guest blog.

Our guest before departing Greece was Eric’s daughter Lucretia, my lovely step daughter.  She is smart, sweet, beautiful and taught English at a Greek boarding  school last year. We loved that she could read and understand the language because the saying “It’s all Greek to me” is true!” Letters, spelling, sounds are all different from any language we’ve encountered. We learned some basic words. Like neh is yes even tho it sounds like no. Go figure.

And although she placed this poem at the end of her post, I am taking poetic license to put it at the front. It brought me to tears, Eric grinned from ear to ear, and while reading her blog we giggled, laughed and remembered…so check out this poem, and check out her post.

and…

We hope you find your Ithaca too. 🙂

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“TO ITHACA”

I wish them the most incredible voyage and thank them for including me in it, and I want to share a poem I’ve always loved.  Here’s to you two finding your Ithakas, wherever they are.

Ithaka

BY C. P. CAVAFY

As you set out for Ithaka

hope your road is a long one,

full of adventure, full of discovery.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:

you’ll never find things like that on your way

as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,

as long as a rare excitement

stirs your spirit and your body.

Laistrygonians, Cyclops,

wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them

unless you bring them along inside your soul,

unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope your road is a long one.

May there be many summer mornings when,

with what pleasure, what joy,

you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;

may you stop at Phoenician trading stations

to buy fine things,

mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,

sensual perfume of every kind—

as many sensual perfumes as you can;

and may you visit many Egyptian cities

to learn and go on learning from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.

But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you’re old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you wouldn’t have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

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When I arrived I had not the faintest where we were headed— I was just excited to swim in the blue, blue Med and eat octopus, Greek salad and local rosé.

After living in Greece for a year I was thrilled to visit my dad and Annie here.  I had fantasies of introducing them as my mother and father to the abbot of an island monastery and translating epic poems to English on the fly, for which he would no doubt reward me with bottles of olive oil from their tithes which I would then casually pour over the delicious Greek salad I had prepared on the back of the yacht.  Unfortunately Greek doesn’t stay up unless you use it, and my greatest success has been ordering dinner for us at the restaurants.  However the Greek food is as delicious as I remember and with food this fresh it’s hard to mess things up.

It was an odyssey to get here— five flights, two taxis, two train lines and a taxi.  So I should’ve known we’d be heading to Ithaka.  Dad’s been preparing for this since he read the Odyssey and the Iliad in Latin in 8th grade.  A classical education has to end somewhere.

We started our journey in Salamina near Athens.  Saturday morning we sailed to Corinth and thence through the Corinth Canal, a true ocean cruising experience.  The rock walls rose 70 meters on either side of us.  It would’ve been like the Pilgrim’s Passage if it hadn’t been sunny and warm.   No sooner did we emerge from the canal than we killed our motors and sails up and fishing lines out the back.  Dad and Annie proved to be a fluid team on helms and sheets, and I spent the whole sail reading about our destination and claiming each mountain on the horizon was Parnassos, home of the Oracle of Delphi.

After spending the last Saturday of Greek summer in the old Venetian port of Nafpaktos, we set out another long sail through the Gulf of Patras out into the Ionian Sea.  We were headed for Vathi, a natural port at the girdled waist of Ithaca.

During my time in Greece I never had any experiences like being on Ithaca with Dad and Annie.  Well, the food is always good, the rental cars are always janky, it’s always hot, and the sea is always blue.  But during our jaunt over Ithaka I was amazed at how friendly the Greeks were to Dad and Annie.  Soon I realized it’s because despite their lack of “insider knowledge,” they embrace and love everything new they encounter.  They don’t let the language barrier keep them from telling the chef how much they love the lamb kleftiko, or the erratic business schedule from visiting the shops, or the serious lack of signs prevent them from finding Odysseus’ palace.  With enthusiasm and flexibility they charmed everyone we met.

Now that’s a good traveler.

Did I mention it’s always hot in Greece?  Dad and I set out on a well-marked stone path to find Odysseus’ palace.  10 minutes later we were clambering over boulders and dodging piles of goat poop on a trail that had really thinned out very quickly.  (Annie had hurt her heel and it’s good she didn’t join us because Dad and I both hit the deck during our descent.)  As we climbed, Dad stripped off the clothes he was too hot to wear and hung them on trees.  It’s a good thing he did because we needed those markers to get back to the car.  We circled the north island visiting Homer’s school and lots of towns, but the palace was nowhere to be found.  We did, however, pass Polyphemus’s Tavern, which is where unsuspecting unliterary tourists enter for a meal and find that they’re the ones being eaten.  We had a great lunch at Odysseus’s Tavern and drove back over the switchbacks thousands of feet above the sea.  We got groceries and more booze…But all that walking made us HOT! Fortunately Dad and Annie had the perfect solution…

Around 5 pm we headed out of Vathi harbor (no good for swimming b/c of open holding tanks and small parrotfish that liked to nibble on Dad) and around into a small, west-facing hamlet with beautiful flat water.  After lots of hiking the water felt GOOD! The next thing I knew, Annie said, “Watch carefully!” and was up on the water skis, gracefully slalom-turning behind El Ratón.  Having never done this before, I ventured a feeble, “I’m scared…” but Annie gave me a wistful look and said, “Your dad really wants you to learn.” (The secret truth is I am terrified of fish and therefore of any water where I can’t see the bottom—pathetic for the daughter of Ohio’s own Odysseus, I know—and I didn’t want to fall down in the middle of the ocean and be stuck floating there for parrotfish to take bites out of me!!!)

Well, I listened very carefully to Annie’s instructions and got up on the first try! And then, of course, I would not fall in for love or money.  After few minutes just riding the wake I decided to try some turns.  There were a few near misses, but I was skiing for dear life.   Man, it was fun! (And with skis and lifejacket on I probably looked very intimidating to predatory parrot fish.)DSC_4999

Annie and I wanted to give Dad a chance to ski.  We ditched the life jacket (no extra drag needed) and I sat in the front to get Ratón to plane.  Unfortunately the Ratón chose that moment to misbehave.   As Annie and I floated closer and closer to the British couple lounging in their cockpit the situation became more and more urgent.  If you can picture starting a lawnmower   with no clothes on while your neighbor is having coffee on the porch…

The next day we headed south in completely still air to Zakynthos, in search of the Blue Caves.  We saw the caves on a postcard the day before and couldn’t resist.  We stopped alongside the southern part of Kefallonia for a dip.  The small caves below a sparsely populated cliff looked interesting.  (Our interest was also piqued by a naked Greek man in a kayak who appeared to be hunting for octopus.)  As we snorkled to the caves, I thought at first that someone in front of me had peed because of the swirling, opaque character of the water.  But the startlingly cold temperature suggested that it was in fact fresh water pouring into the ocean from fissures below the water level.  We had to dive below the layer of fresh water to see the creatures.

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Zakynthos was worth the trip.  The stunning blue caves had attracted tons of tourists in retired fishing caiques-turned day trippers. We saw guides with a new batch every hour.  But while they were rushing in and out of the biggest caves, Annie and I had a detailed tour from Dad of each and every cave (he has a special touch with the Ratón).

We couldn’t resist a snorkel in the caves and plunged in.

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It was the best snorkeling of the trip (and they said, of the whole time in the Med)! As we swam, Annie dove down for starfish while Dad and I, with our bad ears, hovered just below the surface.  We swam through tunnels, inspected the beautiful purple coral growing inside the caves, picked shells, watched crabs, and even spotted a new take on a sea cucumber.  It was about the size and shape of a big zucchini when we picked it up, but a bright purple and spiked all over.  Annie picked it up and it…responded.  As the sea slug engorged, we got a few great shots on the underwater camera of Dad holding it… right in front of his James Bond bathingsuit.  I’m sure the tourists wondered what we were giggling about through our snorkels.

I made my first real contribution to El Gato as the sun rose over the east-facing caves.  Before any tourists were there, we positioned El Gato in front of the caves, I deployed in the still-erratic Ratón, and with Annie in her Thunderball bikini and Dad in his 007 suit we had a hell of a photoshoot.  As wind, waves and the quickly arriving tourists complicated our endeavor we had to reposition a few times, but it was worth the satisfaction of one or two killer shots.  I hope to be featured on the Tradedwind Adventures Website…DSC_5103

Speaking of contributions to El Gato, Annie and Eric would probably greatly appreciate the following items that you might have occasion to bring with you on your next visit: good books for their library, beautiful coffee cups for their collection (the octopus cup goes to the Guest of Honor; I got it one morning!) and more red wine (they are always running out).

We spent the next morning swimming the caves again before sailing across to Kefalonia, where Annie would spend the time while Dad and I were in Houston.  In more wind and bigger waves, I got to practice steering.  First Dad taught me all about the proper apparent wind angle to maximize speed and course, and how to interpret every data point in the system to understand my heading.  After we tacked, Annie instructed me, “Don’t look at the numbers, just pick a point on the horizon and sail to it.”  How illustrative of the ways they complement each other!

I don’t want to write about Kefalonia because I was so sad I had to leave the next day. But the great thing is that this boat and its awesome captain and mate are on the worldwide tour.

2 thoughts on “To Ithaca and Beyond”

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