Kos, Greece, April 2006
 
We left our winter berth in Marmaris Turkey at the end of March 2006, starting our cruising a little early in the season with an eye toward a long leisurely passage through the Greek islands.

Just before leaving Marmaris, we were the victims of a thief. We had left the secure environment of Yat Marin marina, where we passed the winter, and tied up on the quay at the Marmaris town dock. At about 5:00 AM, somebody jumped onto the boat from the quay. We were stern-to at the quay and had pulled up our ladder/passerelle, as usual, for the night, so he was both daring and agile. We didn't hear him until we heard a floorboard squeak in the main cabin (we sleep in the forepeak). We yelled, then Rob chased him to the cockpit, but he was off the boat and running before Rob could do anything. Inspection revealed that he had taken Andi's purse and Rob's wallet, with about $220 in cash, all our credit cards and our driver's licenses, a gold watch (in Andi's purse), our digital camera, cell phone, and the 5 year-old laptop computer we use solely for navigation. Fortunately, we keep our passports in another location, and he missed our backup hoard of cash. He didn't have time to take our new laptop computer. We immediately reported the theft to the police, who took it all very seriously, putting a team of 3 robbery detectives on it and fingerprinting the boat. We borrowed another cruiser's cell phone and canceled all our credit cards, getting 2 companies to issue emergency 2-day delivery replacements. Word spread quickly and fellow cruisers as well as workmen stopped by or radioed us to offer help, support, commiseration, or even apologies. This was very heartening.

We then sailed off for 2 days to clear our heads. The Turkish coast is very indented with beautiful coves everywhere, lifting our spirits. After a night in a remote cove where we shared dinner with a young fisherman who had come to clean up the little taverna for the season, we went to Datca, 2 and a half days of leisurely sailing, but only an hour and a half bus ride back to Marmaris. The bus ride, over the top of a mountainous ridge, was gorgeous and pleasant, and we got our new credit cards and felt solvent again. We also checked with the police and found that someone had returned Andi's purse and both wallets and all of our credit cards and drivers licenses! Of course, there's no way to uncancel credit cards, so we still needed to get total replacements, but we were glad to get the driver's licenses -- it was going to be a real hassle to replace those! (BTW, the 4 year old cell phone that was stolen had been acting strangely and we had been discussing replacing it, so the thief settled that issue for us! And our new phone has a camera, so we haven't been totally without.

From Datca, we sailed to Kos, Greece, one of the Dodecanese Islands tucked right up near the Turkish coast. (For those who remember their geometry, there are 12 main islands in this group.) We got there on March 30th and med-moored in the old harbor, right under the walls of a Crusader castle, with the right mooring fee -- it was free until May 1. We had a day to get settled before Rob took a ferry to Athens on April 1, then flew to England to umpire the British University Team Racing Championships. He's done this almost every year since we've been in Europe and claims to enjoy it, though he's reported snow and sleety conditions on a couple of occasions, including this one! Andi prefers staying where it's warmer. On his trip, Rob managed to tour the Parthenon in Athens, get a positive assessment as International Umpire, and even pass an exam for a license to drive small motorboats in the UK, as well as umpiring hundreds of team races. All in all, a very successful trip.

Upon Rob's return, we discovered that the water pump on our engine (that circulates the coolant) was leaking. We had replaced it in Trinidad in 2001, discovering, to our delight, that the pump was the same one used by all of the maxi-taxi minivans there, so replacement then was cheap ($55) and readily available. Alas, there are literally and figuratively oceans between Trinidad and Greece. Our pump was simply not available in Europe. Apparently Trinidad-style vans (Mazda/Mitsubishi) were not sold on the European side of the pond. Despite the fact that we had a Mazda part number for it, Mazda in Athens could only locate a part if we could provide a VIN! No use explaining that boats don't have VINs. The mechanic we hired to remove the pump tried his best to find another, and we spent hours on the web, to no avail. We considered returning to Turkey (3 miles away) where they can fix anything, but the old pump was irreparable because the shop that tried to remove the seals broke the casing in their attempts. Finally, we were left with no alternative but to buy a genuine Westerbeke engine replacement pump, for $225, and get it shipped from the US. Now our concern became the cost of customs duties to import the pump (as well as the time it would take). An extraordinary UPS rep in Athens explained shipping options and customs regulations. We could reduce, or perhaps avoid, customs if the package was valued at less than 55 euros and was sent it to us as a "gift". So we called our long-time friend Greg Bradley, who agreed to drive from his home in Norfolk to the Westerbeke distributor in Portsmouth, remove the invoice and send it to us as a "gift". He even enclosed a sweet "thank you" note to explain the gift.

UPS Express said it would arrive in 5 working days. The operant word is "working." It got from Norfolk to Athens in 2 days, on Thursday, April 20th, where UPS coded it as "out for delivery" at 9:50 a.m. It was now in the hands of Interattica, the package delivery system within Greece. Friday was Holy Friday for the Greek Orthodox church and businesses worked only a half-day. Interattica did not work at all. Of course, then came Easter weekend, during which nobody worked. Bright and early on Monday morning, we went to Interattica and learned that Monday was also a holiday (St. George's Day) and no businesses were open. We finally got the pump at 11 a.m. Tuesday the 25th and got it installed by dinnertime (dinners are late in Greece).

Well, we certainly didn't mope around while waiting. We enjoyed a leisurely relaxing pace of life in Kos, doing some routine work on the boat most days, then strolling around town and going to the main square most evenings for an ouzo. The square is formed between the museum, an old mosque, the agora (a vegetable market building) and a church converted to a theater. There are cafes with outdoor tables under umbrellas all round the edge of the square. The "mosque" cafe has its "kitchen" inside the old mosque, which seems a bit sacrilegious, but the ATM is tucked into the old church entrance, so it's equal opportunity heresy. There's no traffic in the square and it's generally occupied by children of all ages, from little ones on big wheels or bikes with training wheels, to older ones on skateboards endlessly trying and failing to do fancy maneuvers, to 4-5 pre-teen boys kicking around a soccer ball, to teen girls giggling and strolling arm-in-arm. Families, couples, tourists and the occasional yachties sit under the umbrellas, soaking it all up. We always went to the same cafe where the waiters quickly learned our preferences: Ouzo with both water and ice on the side, because we liked to drop in an ice cube and watch the ouzo go from clear to cloudy white before we drank it.

We rented a motor scooter one day and toured the island, which is not very big; we did it all in a day. We visited a mountain village (Pili) above which are the ruins of a castle and the medieval village that supported it. Very ruinous, very picturesque and, as is true of all the archeological sites here, absolutely no signs or indications of what it's all about. We were interested to see that there are quite a number of military bases scattered around the island. While you don't see as many soldiers on the streets as you do in Turkey, clearly Greece has a substantial military presence in Kos. In our harbor, there was a small gunboat, complete with its (presumably drug-sniffing) Rottweiler, which went out on patrol every night.

On Holy Friday, we went to the town square at 10 p.m., along with most of the town of Kos. Each of the four main churches made a procession from their sanctuaries to the square, carrying a flower-bedecked sort of mini-shrine, surrounded by parishioners carrying icons and tapers on long poles. One by one, the processions solemnly entered the square where we were waiting, then they in turn waited for the following processions. After they had all arrived, there was a signal and the four shrines were hoisted aloft at arms length, and were illuminated by white lights. A band, wearing red tunics and gold shakos, played rousing music for a few minutes, then the shrines were lowered again to shoulder height and the processions filed out of the square.

So, having celebrated the remembrance of Christ's crucifixion on Friday evening, the celebration of his Resurrection was on Saturday night rather than Sunday. We seem to remember that Christ rose from his tomb on the third day, but maybe it was really early on the third day. Anyway, at 10 p.m. Saturday night we went to the church above the harbor for a solemn mass, to be held at 11. We were planning to stand in the back, but an usher insisted that we take seats with a view of the proceedings. We sat and stared at all the icons and frescos of saints and scenes from the Bible; unfortunately, the labels painted on the frescos were in a strangely distorted form of Greek characters, and we could only make out a couple of the inscriptions. The seats filled quickly, and then just before the service began a large crowd including a number of military officers in full uniform pushed in, filling all the aisles including the one in front of us. So much for seats with a view! Of course, we didn't understand a word except "Kyrie Elaison", which interestingly came at the beginning (where we expected it) and again at the end, which came at the stroke of midnight, when the church was plunged into darkness and everybody lit candles they had brought. Whoops, we had no candles. Who knew?

Then the lights came back on and the priests led the whole congregation out into the little square in front of the church. We're not sure what happened there, as we were still trapped in the crush of people trying to exit the church, but it definitely involved firecrackers. Then the priests filed back in again, as we and many of the parishioners continued to try to get out. One of the priests offered to let us kiss the icon he was holding before him (as almost all of the parishioners had), but we declined. We finally made it out into the square, where people were still setting off firecrackers. There was a small company of soldiers in camouflage, half with rifles and half with musical instruments. They seemed to be waiting for something, and lo and behold, pretty soon a short guy in a gray suit came out of the church, got saluted, and the band played as he walked away. Then the whole company wheeled to their right and marched out of the square by the back way. We asked people who the big shot was, but nobody, including a military officer we asked, seemed to know or be able to explain in English.

The firecrackers (some of them sounding more like bombs) continued all day Sunday and into Monday. On the nearby island of Kalimnos, young men go into the hills on both sides of the town and set off dynamite -- supposedly in 200 cg. to 1.0 kilograms per charge! It is said that the explosions can be heard from Kos, but there was a pretty strong wind blowing the wrong way on Sunday, and besides, how does one distinguish those explosions from the larger blasts on Kos?

Once we were re-pumped, we left Kos, heading west. The last night, we had dinner at Kostas's gyro restaurant where we had often stopped for a lunchtime gyro pita. When we told him we were about to leave, Kosta insisted on buying us an ouzo as a farewell.

So in April 2006, instead of a long leisurely passage through the Greek islands, we enjoyed a long leisurely stay on one Greek island.