What you have to keep in mind is that as we approached Athens for the purpose primarily of picking up Alistair, but also to take on fuel, it was still Sunday, and getting late on Sunday for that matter.
Zea Marina is a splendid haven adjacent to Piraeus Port and just to the west of Athens. Piraeus is one of the busiest harbours in the Mediterranean and, as you can see from the AIS image below the route in is through a maze of anchored and moving cargo ships and tankers plus the occasional high-speed ferry running at right angles to our route. On the image Lothian Sky is the black solid triangle with the blue circle at its point. The other triangles mark the location of other vessels in the approaches. This was going to be a challenge.
As we had lost some time crossing over to Athens the plan was to collect Alistair, take on fuel and continue on our journey. John Campbell had been in frequent contact with his company back in Scotland and it was clear that there were matters there that required his attention. It was with great sadness, therefore, that we received his news that he would have to leave us in Athens and make his way back home. He would be greatly missed on board, not only for his excellent seamanship but also for his great good humour and sharp wit, to say nothing of the Haribbos.
Once we had managed to thread our way through the labyrinth of parked up tankers and container ships, I eventually managed to hail the guy in the Zea Marina on my phone and he somewhat apologetically informed me that there was no fuel station in the marina! The pilot book assured us that there was but the man was adamant, and still apologetic. He suggested that we might be able to get fuel in an adjacent car filling station just outside the marina if we were desperate but that would involve carrying the fuel from the filling station to the boat, a prospect that appeared uninviting on several levels. Alternatively, he advised, we could wait until the morning when the mobile fuel pump would be available. So that’s what we did. The irony was that if we had held on a bit longer in Isthmia we could have filled up there, Alistair could have joined us there and we would have been a good way towards Crete by now. What was I saying earlier about being flexible?
Alistair is an old friend from our days in Doha. He and I did our Day Skipper certificate together. Here you see him in his normal sailing attire! He is a keen sailor and, from what he told me later, had been looking forward excitedly to joining us. For my part I was feeling a bit guilty about the trouble I had put him to. After the Corfu debacle I asked him to stand down as it looked like we would be going nowhere. Then it was on again and he confirmed that he had re-booked. I then asked him if he could get to Corinth rather than pick him up in Athens and he confirmed that the train was booked. Then when the fuel crisis kicked off in Isthmia I hurriedly asked him to cancel the trip to Corinth and to stay put in Athens.
It was a bit of a relief, therefore, to actually see him standing on the dock as we slid into the marina, complete with all of the provisions we had asked him to procure in the expectation that we would be doing a quick turnaround. Anyway he was quickly aboard and settled in and we all went off to do what we do best, food and beer! And the Zea Marina is particularly well set up for those two pursuits. Despite its end of season feel it had several good restaurants and what appeared to be the potential for a very lively night life. Its close proximity to Athens presumably had established it as an ‘in place’.
John had decided to stay with us one final night and from what I was able to ascertain in the morning it had been an epic finale. Again we have to draw a veil over the actual details but suffice to say that in the morning John was stretched out in the main saloon rather than in his normal cabin, presumably so that he did not disturb Alistair. He would be missed!
We fuelled up, I completed the necessary formalities with the Marina and by 1100 we were on our way to Rhodes, having said our farewells to John we “Resolved to meet some ither day”. I hope I will be able to take up his very kind offer to sail with him on the Clyde some time next year.
I had expectations that when Alistair came on board the intellectual level of the crew would elevate. Alistair is one of these people who sees a solution to every problem. But he had no answer to Mr Bean!
It is sad to report that my expectations were not fulfilled. Perhaps it was the influence of Mr Bean, who knows, but he quickly descended to our level. In his favour I would concede that he did have a better knowledge of the night stars than any of the rest of us, but only by a small margin. He was able to point out that the three vertical and very bright stars that we had been following in a generally south-easterly direction actually constituted Orion’s belt. He tried to point out to me the various facets of the Orion constellation – his belt, his foot, his sword, other bits – but frankly I couldn’t see it so I humoured him. It’s always best to let a man live in peace with his delusion. If only I had remembered that I had the stars at night App on my iPad I could have blown his socks off!
Talking of socks, it was now getting to the stage that we had to do some clothes washing, particularly the socks. We had hoped to make use of laundry facilities at our various stops but in both Corfu and Athens they were, you guessed it, shut. So we improvised using the guard rails.
300 miles to Rhodes, threading our way between the archipelago of islands that make up the Cyclades and the Dodecanese, at a point 36O 39.55’ N : 026O 58.57’ E just off the southwest tip of Kos we recorded in the log that we had completed 1000 miles. You might just be able to make out the arrow on the chart.
We were also aware that we were now deeply into refugee territory but the sun was shining, the sea was calm and the gods were in their heaven as we left Zea Marina.