In search of Odysseus

Sailing the wine-dark Ionian Sea in search of Odysseus’ real Ithaca — and finding ourselves

There is a problem with Homer’s Odyssey. Descriptions of Ithaca, Odysseus’ mythical home, bear no resemblence to the modern Greek island of Ithaca.

While at university, I attended a lecture given by the geologist . His theory was that the Ithaca in the books was actually the Paliki peninsula on modern-day Kefalonia; that volcanic activity had created a bridge between Kefalonia and what was once a separate island.

With all the zeal and arrogance of 21-year-old graduates, believing that the world was at our feet, we chartered a yacht and went off to investigate.

We never found the real Ithaca. But in the journey we learned a lot about about relationships, about leadership, about embracing the challenge of being human. We have all grown up in five short years. This is our log from 2009 — un-edited as a lesson to our future selves.

Day 1: Sunday 6 September 2009

Following Mr Bacon’s well-contained vomiting post Sub-Lt Ellis’ party on the A281 en route to Gatwick, the crew assembled in one piece for our flight to Corfu. Adam’s mother returns to Devon minus one tissue box.

We arrive into close, humid heat cloaking the crumbling town. Luckily we are able to board the ferry post-haste at 1200 for the two-hour passage to Igoumenitsa on the mainland.

Arrive in Igoumenitsa, a surprisingly attractive port town. The crew are introduced by AD’S to the phenomenon — the legend — that is Greek coffee frappe, eliciting mixed responses. Perhaps this will become an acquired taste; or maybe the more congenial atmosphere in Vassiliki will generate the requisite cappuccino-smooth karma?

Neil McRobert, our yacht’s owner meets us in Lefkas after an EU money-enhanced coach trip courtesy of KTEL. Neil is a charming and gentle owner. AD’S is flattered to be trusted with QUEEN — whereas the crew aren’t so sure! The yacht itself is very expertly re-fitted by Neil himself to bespoke specifications down below. While only 36ft long, she carries her beam far astern making her very spacious.

Neil kindly eases the paperwork with a six-pack of beer. The signatures are obtained and we learn more about his adventures on Lefkas of the last 22 years. Before that, he had lived in Kent and Norfolk. He also clears us to compete with QUEEN in the South Ionian Regatta, but issues a stern challenge to his would-be student vanquishers; in last year’s Watersweets Festival in Vassiliki a timing error robbed his crew of first place, he seemed determined to not let this happen again.

We take an evening stroll through the bustling streets of Lefkas and track down our recommended taverna. We are, of course, ignored. The crew experience for the first time the Greek disdain for everything. We catch the eye of a gin-and-tonic-class party of well-to-do imperialists, burnt red by too much time in the sun. Their sound advice is, ‘Start with a litre of wine — the red’s better than the white’. When it eventually arrives, the food is excellent, enhanced by the buoyant and cheerful (!) waiters.

Like all students, disobeying our elders, we stick to soft drinks and decide to stroll back to the yacht, shattered, in readiness for the excitement of tomorrow.

Day 2: Monday 7 September 2009

A busy day. We start early victualling supplies and bread from a very attractive young lady in the bakery. We also meet Neil’s ‘assistant’, little Hugh (? — MD suggests Philip) aged 3½.

After slipping from Lefkas Marina the first stage of the passage takes us down the Lefkas Canal with MD and GFS taking the helm for the first time. We motored out into the bay and Mario kindly volunteered himself as ‘Bob’, jumping overboard to great critical acclaim, giving all the crew an opportunity to practise MOB drill under power.

Anchorage for lunch on Day 2: a bay on the Greek mainland overlooking Lefkas island

We tracked south, raising our genoa to catch a little wind. Lunch was at a remote anchorage on the mainland. We dinghied ashore and enjoyed a Mediterranean lunch, swimming and Heath Robinson water-skiing (dinghy rigged aft with a fender). AD’S now likes olives. MD is pleased.

We leave our anchorage and raise both sails. The mainsail is jammed. Typical of a furling main, really. DB follows up on Sub-Lt Ellis’ advice, recounted by AD’S in a gripping yarn, and swans up the mast to fix the jam with a spoon. DB returned from his boom-climb with spoon in mouth, looking highly salty. We continue in homage to Yachtmasters of yore with very antsy logkeeping. However this attention to detail flags somewhat as the afternoon wears on to early evening.

Around 5pm we encounter a longer blast of decent wind and reach 9 knots under sail, the yacht handling well now we have fixed the sails and got the mainsail up. GFS and MD feel a little queasy as the yacht gently tumbles over each wave crest, but bravely concentrate on the horizon before any crisis develops. AD’S enjoys a long stretch on the helm, wave surfing.

We round Lefkas’ final limb near Sivota and drop the sails before motoring our final way into the setting sun over Cape Lefkada. It is growing dark: Vassiliki is ahead. AD’S briefs the crew on stern-to mooring and the entire group is to be congratulated on a slick delivery.

Distance run: 31M.

Day 3: Tuesday 8 September 2009

The day begins well with AD’S visiting old friends at Club Vass and the rest of the crew enjoying a lie-in. We then collectively retreated to ‘that cafe by Zeus Bar’ for brunch. Unfortunately the day was not to get better.

We left the mooring smartly with MC and DB on anchor and MD and GFS bringing in the lines. We were, though, thwarted by a sandbank: the harbour entrance is charted to 2.5m, but our echo sounder suggested that 1.5m was a more realistic figure with Vassiliki’s notorious wind driving up a sand bar off the mole. We ran aground on the bank so had to work to free ourselves with bursts of motor and helm to windward. Eventually QUEEN is freed and we creep out a little too close to the quay ballasting for comfort.

We motored down Ormos Vasiliki with AD’S a bit shaky. As we rounded Cape Lefkada it became apparent that there was a strong smell of fuel coming from the engine bay. AD’S immediately ordered the engine to be turned off and the main to be put away in anticipation of a diversion downwind to Fiskardo, the nearest town.

The crew took shifts on the helm to avoid the intoxicating stench. AD’S and DB recce the engine bay and found fuel leaking into the bilge. AD’S decides to sail in as far as possible, mop up the fuel and risk the motor at the last minute.

We arrive at Fiskardo in one piece and motor our way in, keeping the revs low in case there is a leak in the fuel system, to avoid over-stretching the engine. We slip into a crowded harbour to jostle for a space.

The Hell-Fish hasn’t re-appeared since the fuel spill in Vassiliki, so we find a space and anchor. Alas we haven’t enough chain so retreat back to the safety of the harbour. There we discover our anchor chain has fouled on the chain of a large catamaran.

We stop in the harbour entrance to avoid further damage. We are rescued by a friendly Belgian snorkeller, replete in his teeny speedos, who seemed to be the unofficial rescue service. He dives down and capsizes the anchor. After much cruising up and down to find a space our Belgian friend again comes to our aid, offering a berth alongside for the night. We soon realise why there is space either side of him: our continental cousin is fond of swimming off his transom au naturel. We donate some beers and a Franglais note of thanks, which are enjoyed hurriedly before he and his wife indulge in midnight skinny dip and vaginal douching with the on-deck shower.

Full of MC’s excellent pasta, we retreat to bed, the mystery of the fuel leakage still unsolved.

Fiskardo on Kefalonia: we arrive by accident but are completely drawn in by this colourful, soulful town

Day 4: Wednesday 9 September 2009

First thing, slip from our snug berth alongside Monsieur and re-anchor on the Fiskardo town quay. There we identify the cause of our fuel leak: during the impact from our running aground a jerrycan of fuel up-ended in the starboard aft locker. AD’S finds fuel dribbling into the engine bay. Suddenly, a shout comes from off our bows, ‘Can you move your dinghy?’ A Moody 38 is backing in at tremendous pace. Once secured, the kind owners offer us some assistance clearing up the mess, which is quickly achieved with a bucket and a disposable nappy.

AD’S finally clears the fuel spill, with the help of some Huggies

MD and GFS victual very successfully and the entire crew decides to depart for Paliki, the isthmus supposedly connecting Kefalonia to Homer’s ‘Ithaca’.

En-route GFS spots a secluded beach so we creep in and anchor in 10m. DB takes the dinghy ashore to recce but then finds the outboard stuck in the up position. MC swims over to help but has no joy either so MD and AD’S swim over, too. It’s a lot further than expected. The waves crashing onto the shore also prove a shock.

AD’S retreats in the newly-fixed dinghy to pick up GFS from the yacht. The landing is rough and one of GFS’ jelly shoes decides to practise MOB from the dinghy. GFS and MD mourn the loss, forlornly staring at the foaming breakers.

Meanwhile AD’S, MC and DB set up some tea of bread, feta, crisps and beer. While we eat some pirates dinghy past. DB fears for the safety of QUEEN and is convinced one has a sawn-off shotgun. AD’S suggests this is ridiculous. A gunshot cracks through the air: it was a gun, but our pirates are poaching birds from the cliffs. We are also joined by some sure-footed mountain goats. DB, thinking of guns, spies a lost opportunity for dinner.

MD and GFS want to wash off so set out with toiletries in hand. Like Odysseus himself, GFS’ jelly shoe is found, washed up on the shore. The ladies retreat to lather up and GFS’ bikini bottoms are ripped from her (shapely) derriere, Poseidon indulging her in a touch of momentary skinny dipping.

Luckily her modesty is still in tact since, when we retreat from the beach, the gentlemen had all been averting their gaze. The first run is with the ladies, baling out the flooding dinghy. GFS nearly loses the infamous jelly shoe again. MC and DB engage in an epic at-sea entry to the floundering dinghy.

MC smartly de-anchors and we motor round to Paliki under a setting sun. The sea is very calm. The first plan is to anchor against the harbour wall, but AD’S chickens out for fear of hidden underwater ballasting. Unfortunately DB is already ensconced in a dinghy full of murky, cold water, prepped and ready to go with long lines, suitably attired in full oilies. DB is rescued and we anchor up in the middle of the bay.

Dinner is philosophical and soon the crew retire to bed; AD’S and MC spend a fitful night on deck, gazing at the stars, summoning the muses and dreaming of pirates.

Day 5: Thursday 10 September 2009

The Imaginarium of Miss Fearnside-Speed

Set off early from Paliki. The anchor had held all night luckily. We sailed back smoothly on a three hour, largely uneventful passage. Speeds reached a tidy 8 knots under sail.

We arrive back to the same space we left in Fiskardo. GFS decides that she will acquire some sundries in the supermarket and a millionaire husband with a large gin palace anchored in the harbour.

The crew strolled around the pretty town, the only part of Kefalonia to survive the 1953 earthquake unscathed; local legend suggesting the subsoil of wobbly clay absorbed the impact. We also found some Roman ruins with the underfloor hypocaust system still in tact.

GFS’s adventures continued: at a cafe chosen for its favourable frappe prices, she and AD’S were subjected to a tirade on the English wine-drinking habits. AD’S reminisces over his cellar at home and suggests that the waitress has picked the wrong man.

Food at the taverna that evening was excellent – especially the vine leaves and the lamb kleftiko.

Day 6: Friday 11 September 2009

Dawn breaks over Fiskardo. While in 2001 the entire course of western history was changed forever, this was just another day for the crew of QUEEN. AD’S rises early to fetch bread, while MD runs a later mission to the baker while the rest of the crew scrub down the yacht, ready for passages ahead.

We depart from our friends on the quay without hitch, quickly raising sails and beginning to work to windward up towards the southern tip of Lefkas. We are visited by the charmingly camp photographer from who nearly floods our cockpit with an appalling coming-alongside. Had we been on the Solent, the tea and scones would certainly have been overboard.

The sailing is exciting and the winds blow to almost 25 knots in sporadic gusts. The yacht is sucked up to windward and AD’S is suitably entertained at the helm. We eat lunch on deck, grabbing the olive jar between mouthfuls to cope with the yacht’s ever-changing heel.

Following a long but satisfying sail we arrive at Meganisi, where we drop the sails and and creep in to size up the two tavernas where mooring is offered. AD’S plumps for the slightly more sheltered one at the head of the bay, where we are met by ‘Stelios Yentob’, a lookalike of the BBC’s pretentious arts strand anchorman.

Following a short kerfuffle to work out the peculiarities of the new bows-to mooring style, QUEEN is alongside. Unwittingly we have moored amongst a Sailing Holidays flotilla, so AD’S, DB and MC quickly escape to the superior delights of Spartakhori’s clifftop village, while the ladies opt for the less strenuous beach option.

The gentlemen drink frappes and chat shit – mostly Conservative politics; a number of options for our would-be MP friends Messrs Ridge-Newman and Milton are interspersed with vehement debate on transport policy (MC is bored by the M6 toll road) and education policy (AD’S is bored by the rampant ostrich syndrome infecting British politics). This discourse attracts the attention of the rest of the cafe, who give us approval for our advocacy and tip us off about the work of the Stewards’ Trust.

The day concludes with some excellently-cooked food at the taverna (Stelios Yentob seems brighter) and a mouth-wateringly dry bottle of Kefalonian white, a surprise to the crew since the bottle was the usual shape for red. Olives accompany as the stars emerge from behind the clouds drifting over us.

Enjoying a swim at Ormos Kapili, Meganisi

Day 7: Saturday 12 September 2009

The bread for breakfast arrives, rather enticingly, by boat from Little Vathi. We slip Spartakhori with the aid of Stelios Yentob — his boat handling advice, though, was fortunately disregarded by AD’S who thus avoided clonking yachts both port and starboard while reversing out of the quay.

We quickly raise sails to take advantage of good winds for a short hop around Meganisi. Spotting our anchorage we drop sails and motor in to the deeply indented bay at Ormos Kapili. As DB tries to coil ropes he is startled by a hellfish flopping on to the deck. He slips but is caught in the nick of time by AD’S as the gore-streaked terror returned to the murky depths. There is clearly no room for complacency; it could re-emerge from the wine-dark sea at any moment.

We are greeted with glittering turquoise waters. We anchor, Scandinavian-style, stern-to the shore, with DB taking a long line over in the dinghy to tie around a convenient olive tree. He then returns to the yacht to effect his forthcoming literary metamorphosis.

The calm is interrupted by a misunderstanding with the holding tank, but no harm is done and a shoal of small bream are attracted alongside the yacht to enjoy the iron-rich water. Once the valve has been secured in the correct position, the whole crew settle down for a bite of lunch and, later, a swim at this incredible site, with olive trees and rough maquis cloaking the stony slope.

DB emerges from his cabin, now transformed into the personage of his hero, Oscar Wilde, in a daring attempt to re-create the famous photograph ‘Oscar Wilde in Greece’. There are no winners in this audacious photoshoot: AD’S loses his wager and DB his dignity.

QUEEN at one of our favourite anchorages, Ormos Kapili, Meganisi

After lunch we sadly wave goodbye to one of our most memorable anchorages and set our sights towards Paleros, where we are to meet Lt Cdr Lawson and Sub-Lt Ellis. As predicted, Vounaki Harbour cannot accept our yacht, since it is not a Sunsail boat and would outclass all their chavvy, plasticky junk.

No, instead we cautiously weave through the myriad wobbly sailboards and slip into Paleros, about a half mile up the coast. After having our shopping delivered (how civilised!) we are met by MJL and DRE, who invite us back to their hotel for a drink. The ladies take a very, very, very long time over showers but then we retire to Paleros for dinner. After our repast the gentlemen again plod down to Vounaki for whisky, cigars and putting the world to rights.

AD’S, DB and MC stagger in at 2am.

To be continued…

Day 8: Sunday 13 September 2009

Dawn breaks. The crew don’t notice. Eventually AD’S sounds the oliphant and the crew, with the exception of DB, head out for a caffeine-rich breakfast. DRE and MJL pop in again for an orange juice. Some minutes later, DB arrives and nibbles at a piece of dry toast in self-pity. The captain orders DB to be confined to the brig until he is sober.

There is a stiff breeze blowing down from Kalamos and extricating the yacht is hairy. AD’S again feels his coronary arteries clearing. Our next-door neighbour, ‘The Professor’, looks on nervously as we slip our lines.

The sailing down to Kalamos is exciting. Lunch of tomato salad and bread is served under way. Shortly afterwards, MC ‘accidentally’ slips overboard after spilling sticky Sprite down his shorts and AD’S executes a MOB pickup under sail.

The wind dies down in time for entry to Kalamos, a steep, tree-cloaked island, which GFS notes is reminiscent of St Lucia. On entering the harbour, MC realises the electric anchor windlass, which has been playing up all trip, isn’t working at all, so at first QUEEN moors alongside the quay. Following much hammering of the errant windlass, AD’S realises the remote control is to blame; he jiggles the flex and all is working again. The first anchoring is deftly executed, but AD’S isn’t convinced the hook is buried in; time for another attempt. This antsy fastidiousness to prove vital later.

We are met on the quay by the island’s guardian, purveyor of specialities, restaurateur-in-chief and de facto harbourmaster, George, whose legendary roast lamb is nearly as good as his practically mythical status in MD’s eyes.

MD on Kalamos, recovering from her star-struck encounter with George

Dinner is, of course, delicious (roast lamb — what else? — preceded by local seafood) and the crew return to QUEEN to be met with rain and 25 knot squalls. Luckily the anchor is secure. AD’S and DB bolt down the hatches and everyone retires to bed after enjoying one of MC’s hidden cache of Hamlets.

Day 9: Monday 14 September 2009

A late start at Kalamos: MC and AD’S breakfast at George’s ashore while the others lie-in. MD hasn’t been well, so we monitor her condition during the morning.

Finally, we are ready to depart the warm hospitality of Kalamos and turn our sights towards Ithaca and Kefalonia once again. There is no need for EastEnders, observes GFS: there is plenty enough excitement in the form of Dutch charterers fouling their anchors. One was securely tied to the quay, but decided in his infinite wisdom to slip and then subject his fellow mariner to a tirade of shouted Dutch obscenities before gently T-boning his yacht. All is saved by a skilful Najad owner, ‘Socrates’ (with beard) and demon dinghy-sculling skills. Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Eventually we smartly slip the quay, showing the flotilla sailors how it’s done properly, and motor out in zero wind. Soon a breeze tickles down the channel between Kalamos and Kastos. The main and genoa go up for a gentle sail. Aeolus smiles on us and the wind backs round allowing us to visit One House Bay on Atokos for lunch and swimming. The crew, excepting GFS who stays back for a cheeky solo swim, visit the tiny church ashore, which was obviously the inspiration for the hanging ship in the Chapel at BRNC Dartmouth. DB gives AD’S a rowing lesson, in the course of which AD’S spies an unusually well-built yacht flying a familiar burgee. Later AD’S, DB and MD pay a visit to Hugh and Fi Symonds’ yacht ALETHIA. Hugh is an RCC member and it turns out that AD’S’s recent Ireland passage on NATANIS with Maj. Lewin-Harris had been from Hugh’s mooring at Cargreen on the Tamar. Sailing: it’s a small world!

MD, AD’S and DB dinghying across to ALETHIA (above)

It was now 1600 and becoming apparent that the planned passage to Sami wasn’t happening. We change course towards (Big) Vathi on Ithaca. As QUEEN motor-sails towards Ithaca’s eastern flank a mist drops in short of 10 minutes. The coast looms out of the haze and rain spatters down onto the steaming decks. AD’S manages an inverse fix (DB is mightily pleased) and realises the town ahead is actually Kioni! Since QUEEN has no working GPS, AD’S and DB adopt a strategy of tracking down the coast until the yacht reaches Kolmos Aetou. The rain continues relentlessly under autohelm and DB amuses himself with a knotted rope. Not, of course, in any way anal — creating a knot rope backup in case of the electronic log going down.

AD’S at the helm, motoring into Vathi

Finally, the rain abates and DB is forced to abandon his full oilskins for the final motor into Vathi. The first attempt is for water, but there is no one to be seen at the fuel pontoon so we drift on into the harbour. Our second mooring is again perfect but thwarted by an absent hoop on the quay, forcing us to lie purely to the hook in the middle of the harbour. Holding is good; the ladies dinghy ashore for a healthy taverna supper; meanwhile the gents opt for a gyros. Unfortunately, MD’s lurgy has returned so the pizza is left unfinished. We all re-convene at a cafe where AD’S plays Gregory House while GFS is distinctly unimpressed by the bubblegum flavoured Dodoni Greek ice cream.

Everyone returns, shattered, to the yacht. MD and DB are soon asleep. MC, GFS and AD’S are kept awake by a ticking noise seeming to come from the bilges; perhaps it is the Hell-Fish, clawing its way in through the heads outlet; or maybe an army of cockroaches? In the end after a paranoid check of the bilges, AD’S and MC decide it must be something outside the yacht in the water. A small crab had been spotted earlier in the harbour, and the moon is full, so it is possible that it was crabs mating. AD’S and MC retreat to bed, considering the possibilities of crabs f***ing sideways.

Day 10: Tuesday 15 September 2009

An early start in Vathi at 0900 to collect water from the fuel pontoon. The crew execute some thoroughly smart coming alongside and springing off.

We raise sails in Kolmos Aetou outside Vathi, tracking down the coast of Ithaca. There, at the corner of the island, Deulichion stretched down her rough-hewn finger to stroke the glassy surface of the wine-dark sea. The early wind that had brought us this far dropped off somewhat, leaving us drifting in irons; we switch on the motor to continue the passage to Sami, site of the filming of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.

By 1225 we were approaching the tip of Kefalonia, which hid its mysteries behind a veil of mist. We turn into the bay and there lies Sami, some three miles ahead.

Looking out from the hills above Sami

We arrive and moor up. AD’S grants the crew an afternoon of shore leave. We go for a corporate frappe. We spot a familiar yacht lying alongside: our friends from Fiskardo, Neil and Lydia’s Moody 38 SILVER LADY, but no life is to be seen aboard.

The crew decide to go for a stroll before dinner, which ends up becoming a mini adventure, zig-zagging up the steep mountain road towards Antisami. The signs point towards an ancient acropolis, which whets the archaeological appetites of DB and MC. The road winds past darting turquoise bays and rocky olive groves, the air heavy with pine resin and the chirping of crickets. The ladies retire about halfway up, leaving the gentlemen to push on towards the top at a jog. Passing ruins, AD’S maintains that the mature olive grove could constitute evidence of settled agrarian society, and hence the remains of the acropolis. DB disagrees, citing the round structure and location with restricted visibility as factors against. The three press on. Just short of the top, Neil and Lydia appear with a car and very generously offer us a lift to the top (and back down), where the gentlemen find the ladies wining and dining in a cafe.

To thank them for the life and their useful pilotage advice, we invite Neil and Lydia for drinks that evening. Appropriately, we select wines from Kefalonia and Lefkas. Dinner is a quick gyros before welcoming our guests aboard for an entertaining evening sharing scare stories of accidents at sea.

Walking along the sea front from Sami to the Melissani Caves

Day 11: Wednesday 16 September 2009

Most of the day is to be shore leave, taking stock and re-victualling for the last few days of the trip, including the South Ionian Regatta.

The crew decide to take a walk along the sea front to the Melissani Caves, our sole nod to mass tourism on the whole trip. The entry fee included a rowing boat excursion complete with slightly deranged boatman — ‘Very sallow, very sallow. Three metres. [whistles and clicks]’— and a priapic statue of the god Pan, which MC found particularly amusing. The cave was supposedly the home of the Nymphs; a local legend tells of an underground river running from Argostili right on the other side of the island to rise in the cave.

Inside the Melissani Caves

On returning to the yacht after a pleasurable but slightly bland salad lunch, MD and AD’S decide to try and breathe life into the dinghy outboard, which has been down for 24 hours. AD’S suspects a mis-fuel and empties the fuel tank to refuel with clean two-stroke mixture. This seems to hit the spot. The outboard splutters back into life, accompanied by clouds of smoke. Later that afternoon the crew ready themselves for a passage to Nidri on Lefkas.

This passage begins inauspiciously with a fouled anchor, providing the other yachtsmen in Sami Harbour the entertainment we had promised. DB and MC, maintaining their customary station forward, solve the fouling. Another yacht owner dinghies over to provide patronising and unnecessary ‘advice’. Poseidon rewards him with a jammed outboard.

It is 1800 and we are soon off under motor and no sails on a glassy, oily sea. The sun slips behind the mountains and DB pipes colours. MC whips up a delicious dinner of pasta, which we enjoy under way while the wind is low.

Darkness falls. QUEEN is now motor-sailing past the tip of Ithaca. Wind is gentle yet insignificant. In the western sky lightning forks down into the inky sea. The hairs on our arms stand on end and the falling glass and increasing stickiness warn of excitement to come.

Cruise ships pass us, leaving bumpy wake and diesel fumes trailing behind them. Then, suddenly, the rain starts drumming on the bimini roof.

The wind steadily increases to a gusty Force 6. AD’S, at the helm in the challenging conditions, suddenly realises the yacht is flying at 10 knots and heeling dangerously. As the wind ricochets off the hills in the Meganisi Channel, DB reefs in the genoa. At once a vicious gust slams the yacht to windward with a terrifying lurch. AD’S shouts over the wind whistling through the rigging to reef the main.

The yacht pushes through the very centre of the tempest: thunderclaps echo through valleys on Lefkas to our left, Meganisi to our right. Lightning crackles down around us. Aeolus’ might is summoned from every corner as horizons sing with fire and rain.

As quickly as the storm arrived, it passes overhead, leaving a gift of warm rain to wash the decks. We continue pushing on towards the cluster of tiny islands at the entrance to Ormos Vliho.

AD’S had predicted that there would be no space on the quay in Nidri — he is luckily proved wrong. After piloting through the dangerous bay entrance (‘First entry not recommended at night’, said the pilot book), MC and DB now prepare the anchor by hand, since the windlass has ceased to oblige in laying out chain. The chain is laid out and AD’S steers in astern for the final mooring approach after the customary investigative pass. We moor astern at 0100 with the smell of pine trees drifting across the bay.

DB seeks out a cheeseburger and AD’S debriefs the crew on a long, tiring, yet very safe and successful night passage.

The tension builds as we approach the start line of the South Ionian Regatta

Day 12: Thursday 17 September

The South Ionian Regatta

Following a lie-in to sleep off the strains and stresses of the taxing night passage the crew re-group for their assault on the South Ionian Regatta.

Our exit is delayed by the recurrent engine difficulties we have been experiencing throughout the second week of the trip, but eventually the motor is cajoled into life; the dinghy is strapped into its racing position astern.

We arrive at a crowded start line. With over 170 boats competing it is quite a sight; sails fill the horizon across the Meganisi Channel. A stream of orange smoke marks the line between the committee boats.

The first gun bellows across the channel and the Class 2 (under 34' LOA) are off. Then we begin tacking up and down, jostling for position in the light winds. DB and MC man the jib sheets and execute some smooth tacking, while MD and GFS maintain lookout.

We start towards the back of the fleet, but quickly push through towards the top third. Alas, en route towards Arkoudi the wind dies completely, despite an invocation to Aeolus. QUEEN is left, dismally, in irons.

After roughly an hour of drifting AD’S follows many other yachts and calls the committee boat to retire from the race. We make our exit under motor towards Sivota for the after-party.

Mooring is eventful but smooth: DB and MC man the kedge anchor which digs in mightily.

After a few Mythos-es (Mythoi/Mythooun?) we head out for a thoroughly English burger and piss-up where DB and GFS smoke cigarettes and the gents look jealously on the paunch of ‘DJ Feta’ and end the evening with a chance encounter with a very drunk Neilson hostess.

Sunset over Meganisi

And there the log ends, unfinished. Perhaps it is a metaphor for our future selves that life is always an unfinished story. You never know the ending.

The crew

‘In search of Odysseus’, Greece, 6–20 September 2009
S/Y QUEEN — Dufour Gib Sea 36'

Skipper: Mr Adam D’Souza BA (Hons) RHYC
Mr Daniel Bacon BA (Hons) RHYC
Mr Mario Creatura BA (Hons)
Miss Gabriella Fearnside-Speed BA (Hons)
Miss Megan Drake BA (Hons)

Traveller. Teacher. Occasional writer.

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