Of Hercules, Argonauts, Oedipus, Refugees and Diesel

Boat maintenance on a journey such as this is very important.  The engine has to be checked regularly for oil, ware on drive belts, blocked filters etc.

This is not what it seems – I hope!

Washing of the boat usually fell to Jon and his entanglement with various forms of hose pipes became quite worrisome – see below.

My money is on the hose.


The boat’s control systems gave us a real-time indication of the state of the batteries, use of fresh water, the current state of the holding tanks and, very important, fuel usage.  After transiting the Corinth Canal our fuel level was at 20%.  Our pilot book told us that we could take on fuel at the exit station near Isthmia but, you guessed it, when we arrived there at around 1000 on Sunday morning it was shut!

We did spot an ancient VW Camper Van with lots of telephone numbers on the side encouraging us to call up for fuel, but my guess is that the guys at the other end of the line were off having an early Sunday lunch.  Despite trying four separate numbers listed on the van I got no reply.

The capacity of the fuel tank is 140 litres so at a rough guess we had around 28 litres in the tank.  We had a further 40 litres in two jerry cans that we had carried with us from Portoroz, a total of around 70 litres, give or take.  I had worked out earlier in the trip that we were getting 2.36 miles per litre.  Athens was some 32 miles away, so we had barely enough in the tank and the wind would be against us in the next leg.  It would be tight, so we emptied one of the jerry cans into the tank and set off.  Although we had been sailing mainly by engine since we left Portoroz we always had the option of hoisting the sails, but the problem with that was that it made our progress less direct and arrival time less predictable.

Nevertheless, we had backup.  By the way, some two hour out of Isthmia I received a call from the owner of the clapped-out VW Van saying that he had a number of missed calls from me and could he help me?  I managed to stay calm and polite in my reply.


One thing I have learned from our experience on this trip is that you need to be flexible.  Our intention when we left Kefalonia was to make a break south after passing through the Canal towards Crete and from there on to Cyprus.  This had the advantage of being a shorter route than going over to Athens and also it would significantly reduce the chances of us running into refugee traffic.  In the few weeks leading up to the trip we had debated what we would do in the event of encountering refugees.  We acknowledged that we would have to provide assistance if we encountered any vessel in distress but equally we were clear that we could not do anything to put ourselves or the boat at risk.  The problem is that these situations can easily get out of hand and we reasoned, prompted I would have to say by a very clear steer from Ruth, that the best policy was to avoid confrontation if at all possible.  As seemed to always be the case the decision was taken out of our hands.  We did not have enough fuel to get us to Crete, so Athens it was.

It’s all a Myth

I touched on Greek Mythology in an earlier post when I mentioned the link between Odysseus and Ithaca.  Clearly the stories of Greek mythology occur all over the the Greek Islands but Corinth is particularly rich in reference sources for some of the more famous events.  Hercules (or Heracles to give him his proper Greek name), for example, performed at least two of his twelve labours only a stones throw from Isthmia.

The first of his labours was to kill and flay the Nemean Lion.  Nemea was located somewhere just south of Corinth.  He achieved this without too much trouble but the lion did manage to bight off his finger.

The second of his labours was to kill the Lernaean Hydra, a many-headed dog-like monster which terrorised the people of Argos.  Argos, please note, is not the convenient cut-price electronics store with which we have all become so familiar in the UK.  And the Hydra was not upset at the counter staff for slow service!  Argos is the ancient city on the Peloponnesus Peninsula, very near to Sparta and only just down the road from where we were currently located.  Heracles performed a further ten labours, the reward for which was immortality (I think that tops the Capital One Cup) and it is said that the twelve labours formed the background for the twelve signs of the Zodiac.

Heracles was also one of the Argonauts who set off under the leadership of Jason in the good ship “Argo” in search of the Golden Fleece.  You might recall my reference to this in an earlier blog.  Argo, as you might guess, took its name from Argos.  See how it all fits together?

Now Oedipus, of “the complex” fame, killed his father, Laisus, on the road from Corinth because he ran over his foot with his chariot.  Of course, he didn’t know Laisus was his father because he had been cast out by Laisus when he was born, and I would have to say I have some sympathy with Laisus on this point it having been prophesied that the first child born of his wife, Iocaste, would kill him.  Anyway, having killed Laisus, Oedipus calculated, not unreasonably, that his kingdom of Thebes now needed a king so off he went to Thebes.  Being a handsome sort of chap, albeit with a very distinct limp on account of his crushed foot, he caught the eye of Iocaste, his mother (although he did not know this – I hope you’re taking notes!), and he married her and became the king of Thebes.  It all ended very badly as you might imagine and the story skims over what if any odd deformities might have afflicted the offspring of Oedipus and Iocaste.

I could go on and on about this but, “No!”, I hear you exclaim, “What about Alistair?”

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