It was late on Tuesday night when we eventually parked up in the Gouvia Marina. All the restaurants were closed so we set off for the little town adjacent to the marina in search of something to eat. Everyone there seemed to be drunk, and most of the people in the street were in various forms of fancy dress. It seemed we had stumbled into the local sailing charter company’s end of season party, or rather the end of the end of season party.
After much searching we did track down the only eating place left open in town and we ordered up whatever she had to offer. As my mother used to say “Hunger makes a good kitchen” and the food was delicious. A quick refuelling in the morning, get the formalities sorted out with the port police authorities, re-provisioning and we would be on our way again next day. Or perhaps not.
Still nursing the scars of my encounter with officialdom in Croatia I set off early on Wednesday confident that we had done everything right this time. Corfu was the first port of entry to Greece, the ship’s papers were in order, as verified by the man in Sibenik, and I had the crew list duly stamped by the Croatian authorities. What could go wrong?
Her name was Vardia, or Vanda or something. She was a lovely, pleasant and generally sympathetic young port police officer. I greeted her in my best Greek, which admittedly was very limited, and all went swimmingly until she saw the boat registration certificate, or actually what was a copy of the certificate. This was a problem.
Let me explain something about the boat registration. Lothian Sky is actually owned by Lothian Sky Sailing LLC, a company registered in the USA for reasons that I will not trouble you with at the moment. The boat is registered in Delaware and the registration documents are in transit from the USA. The registration authorities in Delaware sent me a copy and assured me that this would suffice for the purposes of any official scrutiny. They reckoned without the Greeks!
I explained to Vardia/Vanda that there had been no problem in Croatia where they had been very happy to accept the copy and assumed that as we were all part of the EU the same standards would apply. That cut no ice at all. It seems that comparisons with Croatia are not particularly welcomed in Greece. Bit of cultural naivety on my part. The choices she offered me, and here we get a very interesting insight into the Greek culture, were as follows:
- Produce the original certificate. I explained that this was impossible as it was in transit from the USA.
- Go away. Of course she was at pains to stress to me that she was not recommending this and if I were apprehended further down the line she would of course deny everything.
I think this is what is called “Hobson’s Choice”.
We did explore other options. She suggested that I get in touch with the US Embassy.
She did agree to consult with her Ministry but would not be able to do so until the morning, and she offered me no great hope that this would be successful. She did say, however, that I could leave the boat in the marina until the original certificate turned up! Try as I might I could not identify any aspect of this suggestion that looked remotely attractive.
I telephoned the US embassy in Athens. Having experienced the British Embassy abroad I held out not much hope that they would be able to help, particularly as I started off the conversation with the words “I am not an American citizen”. In fact the fellow at the other end of the phone was sympathetic but made it clear that this was not an embassy matter. It was a State issue and needed to be referred to Delaware. He did say that the Embassy would be prepared to notarise a statement from me saying that the copy was confirmation of the registration of the boat, but of course that was not the same thing as them saying that the boat was actually registered. In any event I would have to go to Athens to get the statement notorised. Back to square one.
However, the conversation about notorised documentation put an idea into my head. I went back to Vardia/Vanda and asked her if I managed to obtain a notarised version of the registration from the USA would that suffice? She was noncommittal, which I took as a good sign, but it was not looking good.
Back at the Marina I delivered the news to the guys. We talked it through and explored options but it looked to all of us that the expedition was about to come to a premature end. John and Alan went off to explore how they could get back to the UK from Corfu, Jon said he would stick it out with me for the foreseeable future. My other main concern was that we were due to collect Ruth, my daughter, from Kefalonia on 7th November and Alistair Cameron, the final member of the crew, from Athens on the 8th. I had to tell them that in all probability the trip would have to be aborted and to tell them to stand down their travel arrangements. Ruth was devastated and I am sure Alistair was equally disappointed.
It was not going well and I was actually seriously contemplating spending the winter in Corfu. But first I needed to get the notorised documents from Delaware. I needed somebody with grit and determination, someone who would not take “no” for an answer, someone who could give the Company Secretary in Delaware hell and still get her to cooperate. I needed Joan, my wife. She had been in Huston at a convention for most of the time I had been away and had only just returned to Cyprus, jet-lagged and exhausted.
How she did it I do not know but suffice to say that within four hours I had the notorised documents in my hand, having been faxed from Delaware to the Marina office. That evening we had what I fully expected to be our last supper together.
Next morning Vardia/Vanda greeted me with the news that her Ministry had agreed to accept the copy of the certificate. I gave her the notorised documents but she was not particularly interested. Crisis over! “Much ado about nothing”. I cleared up the other formalities with customs etc and hotfooted it back to the Marina having already sent messaged to the guys that we were back in business. By 1215 we were out of the Marina and on our way to Lefkas.