Archive for June, 2005

I didn’t go anywhere…

Thursday, June 30th, 2005

… yesterday. I just motored back to the marina area, anchored carefully a bit offshore upwind of the marina, and rowed the dinghy across to the promenade area. I tied up the dinghy and walked, carrying the oars to discourage joyriders, to the hardware store I’d seen on Tuesday and bought a big lockable metal box, a padlock and some big brass screws. I saved myself some trouble by getting the owner to drill the side of the toolbox for the screws. Returning to the boat, I crawled into the space under the front decking and screwed the box to the inside of the bulkhead between the half-cabin and the storage area under the deck. Luckily, I had a torch, screwdriver and a few other tools in there already, so it wasn’t too hard. Now I’ve got a nice lockable safe that I can get laptop, GPS and mobile phone in when I’m not on board. It feels much more secure. I then moved the boat to a sensible bay and anchored for the night.

This morning, bright and early, I set sail for the next island on my itinerary – a rather small but mountainous island. A brisk northerly wind, just a little west of north actually, sent me scudding across the waves in fine style, shipping a lot of spray. My destination was not visible as I started, and after an hour or so there was no land to be seen in any direction. It’s a bit of a panicky feeling for a landlubber. I wanted to ring up Alexis to sort of reassure myself, but I didn’t want to have to stop, and the waves were sufficiently choppy that it was going to be more comfortable to carry on and I was hanging on to the GPS for dear life. It assured me I was going in the right direction, which was nice, but, you know, these things develop faults, don’t they? However, it agreed with the compass to within a few degrees and I knew I was being silly. When, after a couple of hours, I passed a motor cruiser thumping along in the other direction I was uncool to such an extent that I waved very merrily to them. They must have thought I was nuts. Another couple of hours in a dying wind and I could see my destination, though it’s probably high enough to be visible from sea level a good fifteen miles away. After that, what with the wind getting weaker, it seemed an age before I could distinguish features ashore, but it’s got a lovely little old-fashioned harbour where I’m comfortably tied up now, ready to do my Palimpsesting. I can smell some nice food cooking ashore, which I am very much looking forward to.

Really feeling…

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

… singularly unprepared for this little voyage. There’s landing, you see. At ‘home’, I can always be pretty sure of finding a corner where I can get the boat’s bow to a buoy and fasten the stern to the dock, in such a way that pulling on the stern rope brings me close enough to step in and out. When the wind got up yesterday, which it did even before I could have a rest, I set sail for what I shall call “Temple” island, because it’s got one. The wind became very brisk and I was what we yachting types call ‘broad reaching’, meaning running almost at right angles to the wind with a tendency to turn into it. This is a most satisfactory way to sail – it looks impressive and you feel like you’re making progress.

Then, when I arrived at the little port, I found it was a regular marina. Apart from the obvious crowding of ghastly motor yachts and immaculate sailing cruisers, there were guards in peaked caps, expensive-looking services and fences and formalities, so I carried on, looking for the little fishermen’s harbour that surely ought to be there, and didn’t find it. I have since discovered that it was subsumed into the marina, and the only other harbour is on the wrong side of the island. I stopped in a bay about half a mile east of the port, and anchored carefully, using two anchors. The coast road was near the water, but I was still several tens of yards from the rather rocky beach, and I didn’t have a dinghy to get ashore with. I changed into my swimming trunks, put my wallet, flip-flops and the key for the engine in a plastic bag, and swam ashore, scratching myself on the evil rocks at the edge. Then I limped into town, with the full intention of buying a tender of some kind so that I wouldn’t be marooned again like that. Well, the chandlery attached to the marina was far too posh. There were no prices displayed, because “..if you have to ask, you can’t afford it…”, and I could see that it was very fast-lane. I eventually bought, from a tourist shop, a children’s inflatable dinghy for 40 euros (including carry bag, oars and pump(!)) that’ll suit me fine for these twenty yard bursts. I was worried, because I’d left my GPS and mobile on board, I won’t tell you where, and I felt I ought to carry these with me when I’m not on the boat. So I trotted back, inflated the dinghy and went aboard again.


Next, I moved the boat further down the coast under power until it was opposite a nice sandy patch of beach and anchored again, lit the riding lights because it was nearly seven, changed into reasonable clothes and went ashore in the dinghy with all my kit. When I got ashore – in good order this time – I deflated the dinghy as I had nowhere to hide it securely, packed it into its bag. In the end, I was walking into town with about twenty-five kilos of assorted baggage. I began to see the point of these marinas. Luckily, I found a nice little taverna and general store very near where I’d landed. I ate well, bought supplies. I used their loo, because there isn’t one on board – a loo I’d have run a mile from last year, but I’ve got used to them. As it got dark, I returned to the boat. I had to re-inflate the dinghy and make two trips with my kit and the new supplies. I was so exhausted, I just collapsed onto the bunk and slept until ten this morning when I heard some local kids climb aboard, squeaking and fighting as they do, and made a noise to frighten them away.

Yesterday was too much like hard work. I must plan better.

Started late and…

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

… was made later by having to wait for the “super”market to find a pack of mineral water for me. Then I remembered I’d forgotten the cigar-lighter charger for the laptop and went home and eventually found it in a drawer, then discovered that Alexis was doing a few last-minute alterations to the thing you wrap the anchor rope around at the back of the boat and it was 11 before I got away. I headed east along the south coast of the island, beyond my familiar haunts, with a fairly brisk northerly wind, until I reached the end of the island when it died, and I was left drifting with the sail hanging loose, a most unimpressive sight. I didn’t want to start using the motor so soon, and I could see the bottom, so I dropped the anchor on Alexis’s new line and made it fast to its new fastening and I’m waiting for a wind that’ll take me to the island I can clearly see to the east.

I’ve filled in my log, typed in all my stuff offline, including this blog, then I’ll do my Palimpsesting and Blogging, then I’ll probably have a nap. What a life, eh?

The mobile just rang. Alexis making sure I haven’t sunk yet. Told him yes I had, then had to explain it was a joke.

Went to the…

Monday, June 27th, 2005

… Post Office this morning and (relief and excitement) collected my GPS unit – a Garmin 60CS. Spent part of the day playing with it and reading the instructions – wow! – who needs a sextant with one of these? There’s even a little map on the display and more features than I’ll ever use, It uses ordinary AA batteries, so I’m stocking up on them.


I’m completely packed, got the inside of the boat quite comfortable. Alexis fitted a cigar-lighter type of socket for charging my mobile. I’ll be using the mobile as emergency radio because unfortunately my radio hasn’t turned up yet. Nor have the charts, though one of the fishermen has lent me some ancient ones (dated 1926). Alexis is looking very worried about me making an inter-island trip and made me take an extra anchor (that makes 3) and lots more rope. I set sail tomorrow.

We had a big celebratory meal at Nikos’ this evening, but I took care to go easy on the booze. I shall try to keep up with my internetting on my travels, though it will be difficult when I’m on the high seas. Stay tuned.

Yesterday’s email…

Sunday, June 26th, 2005

… has given me pause for thought. I’d like to just ignore it but it’d be silly to wait and see when I can just go on holiday for a few weeks in my boat.

So that’s what I’ll do. The sea around here is riddled with little islands, I speak a little of the language nowadays, enough to shop and eat. There are hundreds of people island hopping in their own boats. I’ll get lost for a month or two.

Disturbing news…

Saturday, June 25th, 2005

… in today’s email from Lionel, couched in his usual mock-pompous style, calculated to conceal emotion. The xxxx s are mine.

From: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject : Re: Greetings
I shall reply to your recent missive in due course, 
but felt it incumbent upon me to inform you 
immediately that (Desmëi) has apparently 
been talking, make that "boasting", about your 
plight and her contribution to its effective 
resolution. "So far, so uninteresting," I hear you 
reply, with some justification. 
I was not present, but it appears that the 
couple to whom her prattle was directed are 
a pair of self-selected media parasites who 
quickly persuaded her that fame, and even 
fortune, might ensue were she to call up 
(xxxxx - afternoon talk show host) at 
(xxxxx - local tv station) and tell her story, or, 
rather, your story, to a lacklustre audience of 
retired Canadians.

She came home full of this plan. I have been 
trying to talk her out of it. She says there is 
no need to worry on your behalf as you will 
already have given yourself up as she advised and 
you agreed. Do I not care that she has a chance 
at a little publicity for herself, and thereby for 
her important Truth and Honesty campaign that she 
is waging in our small community? And so on. 
I am saying that your slightly criminal past would 
reflect badly upon our association with you, and 
that she might lay us open to allegations of 
accessory. And so on.

Let us hope that she gets the brush-off from the 
talk show.

I shall keep you fully informed of interesting
developments, but I would be derelict in my duty 
to you were I not to say that afternoon tv is so 
dull around here that they will probably bite 
her hand off to get at the gripping details.

With Deepest Regret that I got her involved in 
your affairs.


Made my…

Tuesday, June 21st, 2005

… first contributions to the excellent Palimpsest Forum today. It cost an arm and a leg because I was connected for 25 minutes, but I’m getting the hang of it, so I’ll be quicker next time.


I know…

Sunday, June 19th, 2005

… I’m not posting as regularly as I used to, but I’m worried I may bore you all by repetition or banality. Life here floats on much as it does. I’m now corresponding fairly regularly with Lionel by email, so he’s getting the babble you used to get. But I’ll still post here when it’s interesting. You have my word on that.

I have been lurking on a number of forums lately, but I am impatient to start posting. The problem is that forum administrators can find out the IP number of someone who posts, and I’m unwilling to reveal my Greece-based ISP, because I don’t know how secure it is. So I have set up a UK-based dial-up account so that I can make my forum postings largely anonymously. Of course, I can browse at my leisure, compose my post off-line, and just dial up to post the comment, so it’s not going to cost a fortune, even at international mobile phone rates – a couple of Euros a minute, I guess.

And, to prove it, I composed this entry on the laptop whilst at anchor off the island, and I’m about to upload it via my mobile, connected to the UK ISP. So, if you’re reading this, the experiment worked!


Thursday, June 16th, 2005

… my tame lizard has become very bold. He is now prepared to enter the house and run around begging for food. I’m always worried I might step on him, but he’s very quick and alert. I suppose he has to be because of the various cats around here.

There’s always a problem about pets, isn’t there? You become very fond of them, but, unless they are tortoises or carp, you are definitely going to outlive them. Besides, if you are moving internationally, you can’t take them with you most of the time. But they sort of creep up on you, don’t they? My mother kept adopting stray cats and dogs when she lived in the Far East, and there were always tears when she had to leave them behind.

And with that memory, I realised that I’d hardly thought about my mother since the funeral. We weren’t close latterly, but she is the reason I can afford to live here. She had many endearing qualities, but they were hard to see, and she died virtually friendless. It was not that she irritated others to the point that they would shun her. She was invariably polite. But she never sought the company of others, didn’t stay in touch, didn’t show any interest in her fellows at all.

She preferred animals to people, including – perhaps especially – her own family. She played a fierce game of Mah-jong , she belonged to a little club, but never socialised with the other members outside the game. She was selectively superstitious – obeying certain superstitions to the letter, and dismissing the rest as nonsense. What else? I remember so little about her that I’m horrified to realise that I am probably as misanthropic as she was.

The concept of…

Tuesday, June 14th, 2005

… Studio 3 was very simple and appealing, yet I see nothing much like it nowadays. It consisted of a large room leading off a steep staircase that led from the castle to the Grassmarket. Edinburgh is full of such “fit pedestrians only” short cuts. In this large room, there were benches around the perimeter and a few tables and chairs. You had to be invited to join – for a small fee – and you were expected to buy some refreshments while you were there. The menu contained coffee, tea and sandwiches, of which I particularly liked the peanut butter and apple. The room also contained a record player, a stack of suitable LPs, a couple of chess sets and a few books.

All we ever did was to talk, listen to records and play chess. We could have done all of that in the University Common Room, but there would have been too many people there, and someone would be sure to be misbehaving, while the music would have been inaudible or unacceptably loud. Similarly, we could have done it all in one of our own flats, but there wouldn’t have been enough people there. In Studio 3, there were usually between five and fifteen members present on any given evening, rising to twenty or so at busy times. Nowadays, the amount of smoke in the place would have classified it as a health hazard. The lack of a toilet was a bit of a downside, but it did have the effect of ensuring a turnover. Once you had left to find a public lavatory, you’d be tempted just to go home.

The LPs were an eclectic mix, though when you decided to put one on, you had to bear in mind the current clientèle, because if anyone objected to your choice you were honour-bound to change it. As a result, the vast majority of music played was classical, though there was some well-behaved Jazz, too. I first heard Miles Davis and Stan Getz in Studio 3. Woody Allen stand-up comedy; Bob Dylan strumming, blowing and moaning; Tom Lehrer skipping over the keys uttering the inutterable. The records and the books were mostly contributed by members.

Many of my current opinions and interests were formed during Studio 3 conversations, and it stands like a cultural beacon in my memory. Was it really so good? I’ll ask Lionel.

I wonder whether such clubs still exist, and I guess the answer is that certain forms of café society resemble Studio 3, except for the membership issue, though, in practice, membership can be controlled provided the members outnumber the gate-crashers and are prepared to be rude to them.

Remarkably, there is a Dance Base building, including a Studio 3, in the same sort of area today – no connection.