It's been a while since you've heard from the crew on Promise so I feel I owe a big fat letter. However, events lately haven't exactly been conducive to letter writing - at least, any letter I'd want to send out. So instead of a letter, I was going to beg off this time with some excerpts from my log. But I was dismayed when looking into my log to find only sporadic and rather cryptic entries covering our trek from Turkey to France. So that's what you get - sporadic and cryptic log entries - with a little explanation of course.
DATE: JUNE 4 LOG: CHURCH BELLS AND PORK CHOPS! Well, there we were finally out of Turkey and back in the world of church bells and pork chops - Mandraki Harbour on the Greek island of Rhodes. After leaving Kusadasi in the beginning of May, we spent a month coast hopping from one lovely anchorage to another in Turkey before saying our Allahaismalardik's and heading to Rhodes. Mandraki Harbour dates back to the 15th Century BC and is most famous as the site of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world - the 32 meter tall bronze statue, Colossus of Rhodes which stood astride the entrance of the harbour, legs apart to allow ships to pass through. Today the entrance to the harbour is less spectacular with a bronze deer on each side, but probably easier to enter without those colossal legs to run into. The harbour was very crowded with about 300 boats squeezed into space for 100, but it was a fun place to visit and worth the docking hassles.
DATE: JUNE 9 LOG: A SEX KITTEN ABOARD! No, George hasn't signed on new crew for Promise. However, we do have a sex kitten aboard. Every two weeks out of three Doxy has taken to rolling about the boat, her tail in the air, making churtling sounds, and generally acting sexy. How can this be when she was spayed back in December by a Turkish vet? Your guess is as good as ours, but we suspect she'll never have appendicitis.
DATE: JUNE 11 LOG: TURKEY REVISITED. Back to turkey?? Yup, Bozuk Buku to be precise. After a week of waiting out strong NW winds (our course, of course) in Rhodes we decided to go regardless of the wind. We tried tacking through the narrow channel to the next Greek island, and couldn't do it! The short, steep seas, and the current kept pushing us backwards. When the sailing awning shredded in a particularly strong gust, we decided to duck into a small harbor downwind on the Turkish (!!) coast. Our negative progress was disappointing, but the worst part of it was that we were in Turkey illegally. If the Turkish patrol boat had come in checking transit logs we'd have been in trouble. We snuck down our Greek flag and put up our faded and worn Crescent and Star to flap in the wind which was by then blowing about 35 to 40 kts. I walked forward to check the anchor and was knocked down by a gust. I landed in the dinghy, and the only thing hurt was my pride. So all-in-all our imagined idyllic drift across the sunny southern Aegean wasn't working out quite as we had planned. To cheer ourselves we went ashore to have dinner at the beach restaurant. We explained that our Turkish Lira were "finish" and could we pay with dollars. They were delighted with our dollars but explained that since there was no road out of there, and the wind had been too strong to take their boat to the nearest town, their food was "finish" and dinner would consist of potatoes, eggplant, and stale bread. Ah well, any restaurant in a storm.
DATE: JUNE 12 LOG: SEE ENTRY FOR JUNE 4: DITTO. We finally made it back to Greece, having made good 15 miles of our 2,000 to France. Only 1,985 to go! That may not sound like progress to you but...there we were in Panormitis on the island of Simi. There's nothing there but a monastery (the church bells) and a taverna (the pork chops) both of which we visited.
DATE: JUNE 16 LOG: SERENDIPITY ON FOLEGANDROS. We'd had terrible weather - strong wind on-the-nose the whole way. We tried to pick a slot when it at least wasn't too strong to make a run for the next harbour. We had planned to stop at the island of Ios just before dark one night, but the winds were so unusually light we decided to by-pass Ios and continue on. Just as it got too dark for us to change our minds and stop, the winds came up and up and up and still on-the-nose. Soon we were hove to. We stayed in basically the same spot the whole night and ducked into the island of Folegandros as soon as morning came hoping for a safe place to wait out the blow. What a serendipity! The harbour was safe, clean, and pleasant. And we discovered that the town was on the very top of the mountain cliffs overlooking the sea 1,200 feet below. You had to take a minibus or donkey to the top. We minibussed and discovered the most perfect little town, with winding streets and whitewashed houses, doors and windows trimmed with sky blue, a beautiful white domed church, a fantastic view of the steep rocky coast, and a great taverna for dinner. We ate in the town square under a huge tree and watched the village elders gather for an evening chat and the children gather for games. A perfect break in our slog Westward.
DATE: JUNE 24 TO JUNE 27 LOG: GREECE TO ITALY. We motored out of Greece with the wind on-the-nose but not too strong and just hoped that it wouldn't come up too strong. It didn't and 60 hours later we motored into the harbour at Cabo del Armi on the tip of Italy's "toe". An uneventful trip.
DATE: JUNE 27 LOG: A STONED CAT AND A STOLEN DINGHY - WELCOME TO ITALY. Ah yes, I remember this well. We had just docked in our first harbour in Italy and were down below toasting a successful passage. Doxy was up on deck churtling and playing sex kitten - embarrassing but harmless - when we heard what sounded like boulders landing on deck. Well, they weren't boulders, just small rocks which some delightful Italian bambinos were chucking at our cat. George yelled at them to stop, and he promptly got a bawling out from their mother (hands on hips, feet spread, babbling loudly and rapidly at George who just smiled and said "non capisco"). Eventually both mamma and bambinos went away, and we settled down to a quiet evening and dinner. So, that accounts for the "stoned cat" part of the log entry. And the "stolen dinghy"? The next morning we awoke to find the dinghy had been stolen, its line sliced cleanly through. I immediately looked up the words "small, rubber, boat, stolen" in our Italian dictionary and proceeded to say the words "barcito di goma rubare" to all the fishermen docked around us. For added effect, George waved the cut dinghy line at them, and said "bandito, bandito." The fishermen told us it wasn't banditos, but bambinos who took our dinghy. And then they shrugged their shoulders. So, George started prowling the harbour on the off-chance he'd spot the dinghy. He did. the fishermen on the boat "Angelo" had just deflated it and were pulling it on board their boat trying to figure how to get the floorboards out. He grabbed the dinghy back from them and ran away with it while they yelled Italian at him and waved their hands. We hoisted it on board and prepared to get out of there before they could call their bambinos to do anything else to us. Before we could leave a committee of fishermen approached us. They yakked earnestly at George whose response was to yell, "Susan, come here and see what they want." I understood just enough to know that they were saying that the fishermen on "Angelo" didn't steal the dinghy so we shouldn't report them to the police (which we had no intention of doing anyway as it wouldn't do any good). The committee said that it really was bambinos who took the dinghy, and the fishermen were just "saving" it for us (of course, to save it for us it was necessary to deflate it, pull it on board, and take out the floorboards). That they didn't know to whom it belonged (it only has Promise painted on it in three inch letters). So I just kept saying "Si, si, si, capisco, capisco," as we tossed off our lines and motored rapidly out of the harbour. Welcome to Italy.
DATE: JULY 2 LOG: WIND ON-THE-NOSE, LOW OIL PRESSURE, AND ITALIAN HARBOURS!! This log entry isn't so cryptic and is very easy to explain. We'd had the wind on our nose for six weeks, the engine oil pressure had deteriorated to the dangerous level (catastrophic failure imminent), and the harbours available for shelter had been packed. They were literally so packed that we were usually nowhere near the dock, just tied off to other yachts, our stern barely in the harbour, waving in the breeze and bouncing in the swell (not nearly as much fun as it sounds). And we were still 50 miles South of Fiumicino (the closest harbour to Rome). And the weather forecasts were full of "burrasche (thunderstorms) in corso", "sistema frontale", "linea di instabilita", and "depressione". As a result of all our hard motoring through this weather we were anxious to get to Rome to turn the engine over to the Volvo rep for a major fix. (Most people go to Rome in search of Michelangelo, Da Vinci, or the Pope. We go in search of a Volvo mechanic. Ah well, goes with the lifestyle.)
DATE: JULY 5 TO AUGUST 19 LOG: ROMA. VENI, VIDI, VOLVO! Seven million, two hundred thousand Lira to repair an engine? Yup. And that's over $5,000. We limped into Fiumicino with almost no oil pressure, relieved to find a Volvo dealer who recommended some "molto bene" mechanics. To make a very long, tortuous story short, it took them 45 days and $5,000 when their estimate was two weeks and $2,000. And our mechanics did such a crummy job, it was finally necessary to hire a third mechanic to put their mistakes right so we could get out of there. We still don't know about the engine. Other than that, our 45 day stay in the Rome area was fun. The Italian version of UPS lost our mail package. And when they found it three weeks later, charged us over $100 import duty because it contained a tiny part for the Sat Nav. Then on one of our trips into Rome to get money for engine parts, a tiny gypsy child picked George's pocket. Even after George grabbed his wallet back, the kid kept trying, and it required a fairly healthy swat to get rid of him. All the other tourists standing on the street corner watching cheered George's successful recapture of the wallet. Well, so much for the highlights of Italy...actually, we did see all the usual sights and stopped to wave up at the Pope's window at the Vatican. And Rome can, at times, be a charming city. So, all-in-all, Italy is a country we'll long remember.
DATE: AUGUST 24 LOG: ARRIVEDERCI ROMA! BONJOUR FRANCE! We made it out of Italy alive! So far the engine's running OK, and we're in Marseille, France and loving it. We stopped for a few days in Corsica to meet up with some cruising friends from New Orleans and to catch our breath. Now we're waiting out a mistral (force 9 & 10 NW ly winds!!!) so we can make the 20 mile hop to Port St. Louis where we have the mast pulled off the boat and enter the canals. We're hoping France will change our luck, and we're looking forward to the trip up through the canals. So, now you've heard all about our summer (sounds more like the Perils of Promise, huh). We're looking forward to our next mail package in Lyon and hope to hear from you all about your summer. As always, hope all is well there. So take care, and a tout a l'heure.