Monday, May 31, 2010

Reflections: 2 months of Changing Courses


Remember summer vacations as a kid? It would always seem like the memories of the summer were longer than the school year, yet it was only a few months. That’s what it’s been like for me since I left for this new life aboard Sailing Yacht Juno. So much has happened; I just can’t believe it’s only been 2 months.

There have been some unexpected stages in my “adjusting” to all this.

Of course I expected the drastic change of lifestyle to be hard and prepared to be kind to myself. But I think all in all, it came easily. What I did not expect were these 3 things: Nightmares, Guilt, Gypsy-ness.

NIGHTMARES: Since I have been away I have had vivid dreams most every night. Each one is the same with a little variation. And it is each and every dream that I am back at my job, not really employed but observing or having conversations with past clients or co-workers. I’m trying to get back to the boat, somehow stuck there. It’s never a good dream. I wake up exhausted and feeling hurt by what was said. This, I never expected or prepared for. After 26 years of business, I left a little hurt and I guess can’t just resign and leave it behind after all. I ask everyday: When will the dream stop? Please go away.

GUILT: I went through a stage of feeling guilty of this great opportunity that I am living. Feeling almost undeserving---for lack of a better word. Then I started asking myself, if not me than whom? So I would list all my friends and say; “do they deserve this?” The answer was always yes. So between being in the company of many others and the thought that I am simply taking a year and a half of retirement and moving it forward, knowing full well I’ll enter the “work force” again. I am at peace with being here.

THE GYPSY IN ME: I am getting used to the idea of moving around a lot. The longest we have stayed anywhere since leaving Italy is 10 days. I like it. I find myself getting restless and anxious for what’s next after being somewhere a while. After living in the same place, with the same job for so, so long, who knew?!

Two months seem short in the scheme of 12-14 more months…and there are so many more places to see, people to meet. If only the bad dreams would stop.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

European Fashion Alert

Take a deep breath girls, MC Hammer pants AND leggings are coming back. Also really bright flowered flowing tops.  When I have gone to Europe before, I will see something that I can't believe they are wearing. Yet within a few years it is in our stores and I own it. Here are some photos to show you what is coming!






Saturday, May 29, 2010

Greek street dogs


Athens, Crete, Paros and Santorini, Greece---Having been to Greece before, I was aware of the stray street dog population. I was curious to see what the status was after the 2004 Olympics when they made an effort to do something.

Sadly, there were just as many as I remember. Being a dog lover, it is just overwhelming. Below is some information. On Paros, a local organization named PAWS sells before and after postcards of Dogs and Cats that have been rescued. Most puppies are found by trash bins and weigh less than 1 kilo!
FROM: www.greecetravel.com/mazarakis
"...dog catchers in Greece used to step in and round up as
many strays as they could. The strays were held in the local municipal dog
pounds for a period of no more than 90 days, and if no one claimed the
dogs, they were typically then put to sleep.
This system kept the stray dog population down to a manageable level up
until about 10 years ago. At about that time, a local animal rights
activist group found out about a particular dog pound that kept their dogs
in miserable and inhumane conditions. They visited the pound and filmed the
scene. Then they took their evidence and presented it to the local District
Attorney who in turn issued a warrant for the responsible mayor's arrest.
That mayor was charged with the crime of "maltreatment of animals" which is
a very serious offense in Greek law. He was convicted and sentenced to
several months in prison along with a stiff monetary fine. As a result,
almost every municipality in Greece dissolved their dog pounds and fired
their dog catchers. " (from www.greecetravel.com/mazarakis )

FROM NBC SPORTS WEB SITE August 6, 2004; Athens, Greece - Thousands of stray dogs being rounded up before the Olympics are not in danger of being killed or subjected to harsh treatment, Greek officials said Thursday, despite growing international concern about the animals' welfare.
"We are very sensitive about this issue ... I am at the disposal of anyone who wants to inspect the conditions under which these animals are being kept," Deputy Agriculture Minister Alexandros Kontos said.

Animal rights groups say as many 15,000 dogs could be snatched from the streets in greater Athens over the next week, and have expressed doubts over the government's pledge to free the strays after 45 days.

Kontos, in charge of coordinating the collection with municipalities, said about 1,000 dogs had been placed in kennels so far, under a $4.8 million program sponsored by the ministry.

Government estimates have placed the capital's stray population at under 5,000. Stray dogs are a familiar site in Greece and for decades have been left free to roam city streets.

Earlier this week a group of strays were discovered the Olympic Village after evading a massive security sweep of the site by police and soldiers. The government and Olympic organizers say they are strongly opposed to euthanizing street animals and insist their neuter-and-return schemes are working.

"Our country has been slandered abroad over the issue," Kontos said. "Animal rights groups do not have a clear position. We believe our program is protecting these animals. We will not change our targets."

On Tuesday, the London-based World Society for the Protection of Animals called on Greek officials to assure strays will not be mistreated. WSPA spokeswoman Susan Sherwin said the government and the International Olympic Committee had failed to respond to the organization's request to give details about the mass collection.

"This problem is very close to being swept under the rug and our fear is that thousands of dogs are going to be inhumanely rounded up an euthanized," Sherwin told The Associated Press, speaking by telephone from Framingham, Massachusetts.

"We need some transparency and to know what is happening to the animals," she said. "It's highly dubious that 15,000 dogs are going to be rounded up and kept somewhere and will be released after the Olympics."

Friday, May 28, 2010

Kithnos---goats on the beach

Kithnos, Greece---We are at an unusual anchorage. Imagine two islands next to each other joined by a long sand bar. On each side it is deep enough to anchor. From one side you can see all the boats who anchored on the opposite bay. I quick dingy ride or swim and you can swim on that side. Early one morning I heard the sounds of goats. Reminded of my childhood, since we raised goats, I went "up top" the boat and sat with my coffee and watched a parade of goats moving from one mountain island to the other by way of the sand bar. It was an unusual site since the boats were anchored so close.

Athens


After seeing the Parthenon again, I left my friends for some exploring and shopping alone. Here are some sites

Monday, May 24, 2010

Seeing one of the Gaza floatilla boats in Athens


I didn't know exactly what I was taking a picture of when I saw this curious looking boat in our Marina outside of Athens, Greece. A political statement surrounding this boat and the many young people boarding it. They left that morning.

Now I know.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Zea Marina: our home for 3 days near Athens

Just one word. Wow.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Experience the Corinth Canal

http://www.youtube.com/my_videos?pi=0&ps=20&sf=added&sa=0&dm=1       

Sail with me for a minute and a half and see a portion for yourself. I was on the bow of the boat as we went through the highest point. The water is a milky-turquoise that looks like you could just scoop up the color. The rocks above your head are beautiful shades of browns, oranges and yellows.

Before and after, people stood along the banks and waved.

Friday, May 21, 2010

3 islands and 4 anchor attempts

Gulf of Corinth---To get closer to the Corinth Canal, we decide to leave our safe little bay and head to 3 islands, clustered together that will cut an hour off our trip to the opening of the canal.
These Islands are called Nisoi Alkonidhes. They are suppose to protect us from all winds except the North and the Med "rarely gets wind from the North"...

There is a lonely abandoned Monastery on the side of one Island, it looks a little more like a jail to me.

First Anchor attempt did not catch on the sandy bottom seen through the clear water.
Second Anchor caught.
Later, the winds changed.
Third Anchor, switched position avoiding the rocky cliffs.
Then, the winds changed to blow from the North.
WHAT!!!
Fourth Anchor at sunset, we move the boat to the other side of one island. In front of the only house on this tiny land. This anchorage has constant waves that cause the boat to rock all night. I don't mind but it makes the captain nervous. In the morning, it's clear and calm.

Each anchorage means I am lifting the 65 pound anchor down to the "dangle" position including some chain.

But, nothing feels better at night when you are exhausted, then a safe harbor and a solid anchorage.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Just a Day Sail..."

We left Trizonia today. I said good bye to Reinhard but no one else last night. Again I felt sad having crossed paths with some interesting people. My Mom used to tell me I hang on too close. I can’t be friends with so many people and try to keep up, she would say.

Maybe this year will teach me that: letting go.

So on to the next destination as we get closer to the Corinth Canal and Athens.

It will just be a day sail, but leaving early and hitting our destination by 10am seems too easy. We decide to continue, then continue again, past the next and the next. We try an anchorage that was too deep and decide a safe, tucked away, anchorage was only a couple more hours…

10 hours after leaving this morning we are FINALLY anchored in the middle of nowhere Med-style, actually nowhere has a name; it’s Vathi (off the Peloponnisos). Rocky hills 360 degrees around a circular bay because we had to zig-zag to this spot. No one in sight except a small barge anchored about a mile away. Deep water. We set an anchor in 30 feet of water that you can see the bottom as clear as the compass. The Captain orders 120 feet of chain, which since Orion and I have been assigned anchor duty we comply and once set, we have the place to ourselves.

We will rest here for the next day, because we have no immediate schedule. And I guess, because we can.

Note on photo: The boys take the dingy on shore to hike up the hill for daily exercise. Although we are anchored close to shore, it appears small. Also note, my first dip in the sea was here and it was 64 degrees F. yikes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Delphi trip Sponsorship and the gift


Delphi, Greece (by way of bus from Trizonia)---Today we went to Delphi where the ancient ruins of Apollo and Athena’s temples are located. It was interesting and mind blowing to look at some of the preserved artifacts from so long ago. To hear the stories retold. To know Alexander the Great specifically traveled here to consult the Oracle, wouldn’t wait with the common folk, so he grabbed the Priestess and dragged her out of the temple to get the answer he came seeking: Should he try to conquer the World? She was so scared (and high on those gasses) she was saying “you are so strong, you are stronger than all the rest”, because she was afraid for her life. He took her cries as a prophetic message coming directly from Apollo.
About as reliable, I took my Magic 8 Ball.

Well, I couldn’t fit an entire Magic 8 Ball toy in my luggage to sail, so I took the insides. Does anyone know what the message reader inside a Magic 8 Ball looks like? Several years ago the curiosity consumed me so I took a hammer to the toy and pounded out a 20 sided white icosagon* (yes, I googled what a 20 sided form was called).
PARENTAL ADVISORY: Do not try this at home, take my word for it, it's filled with oil and ink.
TOY ADVOCATES: No other 8 Balls were hurt in this experiment.


My friends Rick and Barb sent me a donation in lew of flowers when my Dad died. In the museum shop in Delphi, I found a small silver ring with the Greek word and lettering “Gift” inscribed. It is an exact replica of a ring found from 430 BC. This struck me as a tiny memorial. My Dad gave me a lot of gifts even though he was a bit crazy. The gift of life itself for one, his independent spirit and a lot of desire to make my life different than the Kansas one I was originally destined to.











Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Road Trip: Navpaktos

Gulf of Corinth, Navpaktos (by way of bus from Trizonia)---Today we got up really early, caught the 7am ferry and the 7:15 bus to a city just West of us called Navpaktos. For history buffs, this is the harbor and bay where the Battle of Lepanto was faught October 7, 1571.

Determined to see the Castle we climbed a jillion feet up to find it closed, but the view was incredible and the hike felt good after sitting in the boat all day yesterday due to rain.

We were able to do some business: phone store and a bank for cash before heading back.

After the bus ride back I got off the bus and as soon as it was pulling away realized I left my mini Ron Jon Silver’s pack back on the bus. The men around the Ferry started talking very fast and motioning me to get in to one of the guys Toyota pickup truck. He was someone who was familar in town. We zoomed off, following the bus to the next stop…just as it was pulling away. So what happened next was like a movie, my driver honks and weaves behind the bus. The bus driver seems to be cussing at us and pulls aside to let us pass. My driver pulls up and cuts off the bus yelling in Greek to explain the situation. I jump out and run to the bus as the doors open. I grab my bag and yell “Para-kalow (thank you ...or please) Returning to the dock I’m glad to see Shirish and the boys hadn’t left yet. I motioned that I got my bag and later found out the reason they had not left was it was the ferry captain who was my driver and had raced after the bus.

Anyway, I had decided to wait for the next ferry and explore the town across from our island. The town was called Glifadha. I found the baker who made the bread that we had been ordering thru the Mini Market in Trizonia. There was a café and a very small market, other than , it was nice to see the sights. back at the Ferry stop I ran into Reanhard and several others from Trizonia. Funny, after only being here a short time, we still greet each other as good friends. Such is a sailors life.

Monday, May 17, 2010

An outrage; OPEN ALL DAY SUNDAY

Today was an outrage. I’m angry and sad for Alison and Lizzie’s Yacht Club.

I had decided to go back to the building for an unexplained feeling I had. There I found a huge dump truck piled with things from the Yacht Club and 3 young Greeks loading more. I waited for them to leave and ran down the steps in disbelief. All the things inside and out were on that truck.

I had a terrible feeling and decided I needed to look for myself. I found a short cut to the dump and started up the hill. It didn’t take much detective work since every 50 to 75 feet lay a paperback book on the dirt road. I opened the first one’s cover and stamped clearly on the inside cover read “Lizzie’s Yacht Club.” Arriving at the dump, yes, there is was. A new pile that was once Lizzie’s Yacht club. Perfectly good dishes, ice buckets, a cash register, solid wood beds, mattresses, a heavy solid wood high table with an aluminum top, a cabinet full of paint and toxic thinners and chemicals, curtains, bedding, pots, glassware… I was sickened. Is that it? Someone’s life, toil, business dumped off the side of a cliff.


First, I gathered up the dishes and stacked them in a pile hoping someone would find and want to use them. Living on a boat meant I could not take much back. I thought if I made some of the things easy to take, someone would. I found two wooden folding chairs, one painted Mediterranean Blue and the other one white. Then the words echoed in my head. “They look the other way…” And I realized the humor in positioning the chairs to overlook the dump.


Wishing I had brought my camera, I ended up creating a memorial to Lizzie’s, to the sailors served there and to Alison. The chairs overlooked the dump, forcing the viewer to look directly at it with the contrast of the majestic beauty of the blue, blue sea behind it. Another smaller chair with a rope seat served as a table. A large glass jar was filled with rocks so the wind couldn’t easily blow it over. I picked some wild yellow daisies and filled the vase. Then set a lineup of my gathered goods that I hoped would be taken for use. As a final touch, facing the road , I leaned a sign I had found from the restaurant:
OPEN ALL DAY SUNDAY.
note on photo: leaving Tarizonia with Lizzie's in the background, half way up the hill next to the condos.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Who was Alison?





Gulf of Corinth, Island of Trizonia, Greece--- It was mysterious. In one small paragraph in the “Bible of Sailing the Med”: Rod Heikell’s Greek Waters Pilot it was written: “Lizzie’s Yacht Club---The Y. C. was built and started in 1980…and has offered food and drink and good cheer to yachts stopping here. The club has been owned and run by Alison Fraser for the last 15 years. Sadly Alison died in the spring of 2007 at the tragically young age of 42. At the time of writing the future of the Yacht Club is uncertain.”

“Strange,” I thought to be included in this book, and went about exploring the Island. Then a few days ago, on a hike, by chance, we happened to pass a royal blue gate with rock steps rising steeply leading up. And there it was, with piles of trashed paperbacks collected around the front gate and a big “CLOSED” sign hanging from the fence: Lizzie’s Yacht Club. I peered up the overgrown steps leading to the building high on the hilltop. More curious, we continued but I started wondering more and more: “Who was Allison? How did she die? Who was Lizzie? What happened? Why is it so trashed and vacant?”

From the boat’s dockage I could look up at the hill and see the old wooden building overlooking the harbor and the bay. The word “Club” had fallen down and only “Lizzie’s Yacht” was hanging from the roof.


Then the next afternoon, on another hike, a point in the road stopped me. The gate was identical from Lizzie’s but without signs. This was the back gate and the building stood below us. I wanted a closer look so I gingerly moved the unhinged gate and crept down the natural stone steps steeply curving down to the building. “She was only 42,” I kept thinking as I reached a patio in front of the wrap-around porch. There were Travel Magazines dated 2001 and other items heaped in a pile. Although it was a mess, little details remained: someone had taken great care here at one time. Neglected potted plants in terracotta bowls and little nautical decor items decorated the porch. The building was surrounded by windows and peeking through I saw a small dining area overlooking the large outdoor porch with the most amazing 180 degree view of the harbor, the bay and the islands all around us. Bar stools and chairs were in piles and a wall with short shelves that once held the bar’s bottles, stood empty. It didn’t feel haunted, it felt sad.


I decided to ask around the Island and found out that Allison (Ali) was from England, cheerful and tried hard to get along with the towns people, learn Greek and serve the travelers. They reported that for the final 2 years she didn’t look good and they could tell she was ill. No one knew for sure what she died from, but all said that it had something to do with her liver. They reported that she was not seen for 3 days and missed a call from her mother so some of the locals went up to find her dead. Everyone I asked said she had been a friend.


Later I found out that it was her Mother that was “Lizzie”. And it was her Mom that was diagnosed with breast cancer and wanted a house to get away from England and fight the cancer. She ended up buying the restaurant/house and found her way through the cancer this way. It was Ali that had come to be with her mom and decided to stay. For 15 years Ali ran the Yacht Club that was known for a large collection of paperback books, there for trading among sea goers. But for three years it had sat empty and for sale. Rumor had it that it was just purchased.


Someone showed me an interview with her on YouTube. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYD5TeCOoS4) Then it got weird, in many ways she reminded me of myself. In many ways I could relate to her: coming to Greece, changing her life…


But for her, a life cut short, a building standing vacant, and somewhere, a mother named Lizzie missing her daughter and the times they shared in Trizonia.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Trizonia’s Dirty Little Secret


Gulf of Corinth, Island of Trizonia, Greece---I stood there in disbelief. How could a place so beautiful be treated this way? How could they be so short sighted? The smell alone was nauseating, but I felt ill for other far reaching reasons. On a lonely trail Shirish and I had hiked that afternoon, high on a hill top on the far west side of Trizonia, stood a dump. Its contents filled in the side of the hill’s valley and scattered down its’ cliffs. Hidden from the Mainland road’s view, AND from the main shipping and boating lanes in the Mediterranean Sea.


Dozens of plastic crates, thousands of black plastic bags filled with trash. Bottles: both glass and plastic, and many unwanted items from refrigerators to shelving, from perfect wood to good terracotta bricks. We stood and glared. Why wasn’t it hauled off the island and disposed of properly? Why weren’t they recycling in any way when only 1 mile across the water, the Mainland had large re-cycle bins at the ferry stop? We continued down the path noting how far the trash had blown along our way. The thought that the entire dump would, due to gravity, end up in the Mediterranean Sea someday made us very quiet. And angry.


Later we asked someone. There was no answer. It was how it is and it’s been going on for a very long time. “They don’t think in those terms,” was the only explanation we were given when asked why the community doesn’t actively work with waste. “They turn and look away.”





Thursday, May 13, 2010

Trizonia

Trizonia, Greece--- The Island discribed as a small fishing hamlet is only a mile from Mainland Greece. A small ferry boat courier’s people and things on a regular schedule about 8 times a day. The island is about 2 miles in length and about ½ mile across (average) and very hilly. There are no personal cars but several industrial trucks, a tractor, one mule and a horse. Oh, and about a hundred cats. There are 4 Travernas/restaurants along a sweet tiny half circle bay facing mainland. Colorful tiny fishing boats are tied to this area. Just a block away is our safe harbor with more boats than you would think could fit. A regular "coming and going" of sailboats who duck in for a night’s safety, occurs like a scheduled event.

We have been here 9 days.

Enough time to repair all boat problems and get to know the island and some of the “locals.”

There’s Tony and Patricia, a retired couple who watch over boats year round for people who leave them here. Tony is a salty ex-ship captain who does mechanics for stranded yachters like us. He has more stories than one ouzo allows, so it’s taken several nights and I’m sure there could be many more. Patricia seems to be easy-going and talks on the side of her mouth, between long puffs on her cigarette, with either a wisecrack or additional information to Tony’s stories. Tony helped with our water pump problems.

Rinehard, the retired German systems electrical engineer (who I went to town for the alternator with), is full of information, opinions, and deep thoughts. He has led an interesting life. At 40 he was told by his doctor that he could “die in 5 years as a very rich man.” It was his wake up call to get off the jet-setting life and ease back, sail and see the world from a different angle. Living under his own terms, he loves to study people and does not hold back his opinions. He has a wonderful laugh and I found something endearing about him. Now, ready to really slow down, he has settled into life in Trizonia. If your boat’s problem has anything to do with electronics, he is the man to find on the Island. “He lives on the large catamaran just across from the two big boats that are Tony and Patricia’s”, we are told…but we find them all in a Taverna. Rinehard helped with our alternator/starter problems.

George (or Your-a-gos) is a Greek who spent 36 years in New Jersey. He told me his Great Grandfather cut down a tree and paddled across from the mainland to Trizonia and was the first inhabitant. He then was born on the island in his Mother’s house that we passed daily to get to the WI-FI café, all his relatives, he explained had houses here. In school every kid out of 50 were related except for 2 girls---made for huge competition. ”Either that or date a 2nd cousin,” he said shaking his head.

Then there is Elias (Ill-lee-iss). Young, handsome, and speaks great English, he lives in Athens part of the year and comes to Trizonia during “season” to help his parents run their restaurant/Wi-Fi café: Poseidon. I wanted to call my friend Stacey one afternoon because when I walked up behind him on his computer I discovered HE was a Farmville addict too. He was really helpful to us during our stay.

There are 18 people left in Trizonia in December, I’m told. However residents account for about 250, but that really means people own houses here and their families use them to vacation in. Also during season there can be 300-400 visitors.

We have taken several hikes through the hilly island to see where any given path will lead. I’m really Thankful our path, for these few days in a lifetime, has led us to Trizonia.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Email to Kelly: Trizonia, a sweet little island IF you can get here...

Gulf of Corinth, Island of Trizonia, Greece--- Dear Kelly, Yes. Things are great...now. We are at a LITTLE island named Tarizonia. We got here two days ago and it was a bit unnerving as we were 1/ 2 mile out and wanted to motor in to the harbor only to find the engine wouldn't start. After drifting 3-1/2 hours in front of our harbour, dodging ferry boats and ships, I was at the helm FREEZING with heavy winds, while Shirish got Blackberry and Satellite phone advice from a mechanic in Gibralter!!! Finally, he was able to jump the engine and get us anchored safely at this tiny island.




Yesterday we tied to the dock and found some mechanics even though this island is SMALL! We will be here for several days as we have now determined, starter, water pump and alternater problems. But I feel very safe and there is FREE wifi and electric at a cafe! (But no shopping, which is actually good).




Today I went with the electrical engineer mechanic, Rhinehart, by ferry then car to the closest big city (Navpaktos) and batted my eyes at the alternater rebuilder for a good price. I got to see new sights and talk to Rhinehart, an interesting salty older guy for a long morning of anthropology and philosophy (his hobbie). It is so beautiful here and this is still before the corinth canal ...still not the Greek Islands that you traditionally think of but really sweet.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Missalonghi, just a safe harbour


In the Gulf of Patras, Missalonghi, Greece---We left Ithaca and have some day-sails ahead. That means leave early and anchor by 2 or 3pm. Sounds good. The first one is off the mainland, but we did not dingy in. Just a night and anchor and on towards the Gulf of Corinth.