To Constantinople!

March 20 – 21st: Skiathos to Halkidiki

The friendliest pod of dolphins followed me for about an hour, the soft blast of blowholes and squeaks and cackles of their voices the only sound under the late evening sun.

Filled with a warm zephyr, the sails poised like the wings of a great dove rising into the first stars as they carried me north. I checked the slight disturbance in the water around my rudder. We had just two knots. Further and further behind, the town lights on the Sporades started quavering like bog-stricken fireflies. The horizon ahead was empty, except for the thin brown haze which indicates the presence of land just beyond it. Then, for a moment, I thought I saw a distant geometric shape. I squinted, but it was gone. The light faded, and the bioluminescence sparked in a sweeping train off the rudder and bow while three large fish wove in and out of my slipstream like stray skyrockets, throwing stars into the abyss.

Apart for the masthead tricolour, I don’t use lights at night. Even checking a computer screen will blind you to the subtle and distant panorama of the open sea under a moonless sky. By the stars and the orange taint to a portion of the southern (Athens) and eastern (Thessaloniki) stratus, I was sure of my heading. 

Sleeping in increments, I aimed for Cassandra, the southernmost headland of Halkidiki, where a marina advertised itself on my chart just above the tip. And what does one dream of, alone on a boat, with galaxies above and a hundred metres of water below? A day or so at sea wipes vulgar trespassers from mind: work deadlines, lopsided press narratives, people who owe and are owed, migrant status, tax, a distant house which needs repairing. Soon I was in a familiar, gothic, city whose windows are blown out and curtains flapping in a stiff breeze. It’s a smog-bound place which continually lurks just behind my eyelids.

I woke up, heart pounding, back aching from sleeping on the cockpit floor, and stood. It was March 21, 2023, in the North Aegean. The shape I thought I had glimpsed last night rose ahead in the lilac twilight: MOUNT ATHOS!

The star crowned Holy Mountain – northernmost of the Halkidiki headlands – was still in the far distance. I have dreamed of this moment since I left Lowestoft.

But I will cover the southern (Cassandra), and middle (Sithonia), headlands before we get to Athos…

March 16 – 19th: Skiathos

When people nick your mojo (see previous post), the blow takes a few days to settle in. On Skiathos I found a town with a resident population and even a social life yet, more than ever, I hid myself away to read my book. Hiding is not so easy when you are the only boat in the harbour. One evening, I was hailed from a particularly raucous bar in one of the narrow backstreets and thrust into a smokey room filled with elderly expatriates wearing leprechaun hats and sequinned in lurid green for St Patrick’s Day. Generous with their Gin and island anecdotes, I surrendered to the bingo hall culture that I’d left behind in Lowestoft, a thousand miles ago. One day, I shall proudly tell youngsters that I met the pioneers responsible for turning the Sporades into Benidorm. 

The second conclave I joined was the captains’ meeting in Kostas’ cafe at the end of the old fishermen’s harbour. These were mostly fishermen who had packed it in to run tourist sightseeing businesses. I was the youngest by at least thirty years. Important details were translated for my benefit by the most cosmopolitan of the bunch who, as a fifteen year old, had worked in some capacity for Onassis in Portsmouth. 

A storm blew through from the north. Mount Dirfi emerged anew; a platinum fang, distant in the trembling light. But without south wind, I remained trapped. On Saturday, I went out to collect supplies from a supermarket. The waterfront was alive with the town’s youngsters and I noticed a girl standing on the ferry dock, dressed smartly but demurely to go out. Checking her watch and flicking a long mane of hair in avoidance of eye contact with passers by, she was still there fifteen minutes later as I cycled back the other way. And again ten minutes later, when I headed back out again with my book. Could it be that, in full view of the cafes, she was being stood up? I doubled back to the boat along an alleyway, chained up my bike, re-dressed in my waistcoat, jacket and pressed trousers (the difference between creep and heartthrob lies chiefly in physical appearance), and set out again on foot. Yes, she was still there – her lonely figure in white linen slacks under the glare of a naked kiosk lightbulb. As the only man in town who could slip his lines and physically disappear into the dark sea, it was clearly my job to risk the move.

Only when standing right in front of her and ascertaining that she could speak English did I realise she was only about sixteen years old (I am thirty-four). But one can’t flinch in these situations and I told her that, if her friend didn’t turn up in five minutes, she must join me in the corner restaurant for supper. She was extremely nice about it but her friend (another girl), was at that very moment coming into view. They then moved in a small pack around the scene, giving me slightly shy waves whenever our paths crossed. I dread to think what would have happened if I’d extended a similar invitation to the average girl outside an English pub.

On Monday, the forecast showed a breath of southerly wind: weak but steady for nearly 24 hours. South winds are rare now, so I made a snap decision and was underway within the hour.

March 15th – Impounded and Rebounded in the Sporades

My luck ran out as the island ferry docked on Sunday. There is very little tide in the Mediterranean, which makes it possible to tie a boat up right next to a harbour wall and leave it unattended. In a calm harbour, one gains a false sense of security about how much slack to leave in the mooring lines. They only need enough ‘give’ to accommodate the boat’s movement on the water. In this case, hardly any at all. 

I saw what was about to happen from my position in the waterfront cafe, ordering the bill as the wash from the ferry bow thruster rolled across the harbour. The boat was slowly lifted by about three feet to the peak as I counted out my change, then jerked against the wall as the lines tightened. I hastily handed over my card as the boat dropped by a majestic six feet to the trough, a hollow crack resounding as the waiter handed back my receipt with a perfunctory smirk. One of the stern cleats had wrenched out. ‘Shit,’ I thought, as I repositioned the boat stern to the wall on a mooring line. But the damage was done. 

Here’s one I did earlier. Replaced in Spain

This happened once before in a very stormy harbour in the Ria de Arousa. So much for sightseeing, I was in the island chandlery first thing on Monday collecting epoxy, fibreglass, gel coating and a dozen other things the Aladdin’s cave remind me I always needed.

By midday I had repaired the hull; finishing the worst part of the work. Until I can find the same shade of blue deck paint, the single remaining stern cleat will do. But worse was to come. 

‘’Ello Kapitan!’ 

‘Oh bugger’ I thought. This salutation, in all its Balkan deference, heralds an economic mugging. 

Half an hour later I stood in a dim office, my boat’s papers arrayed across several desks. The trouble with being the first yacht of the season is that the police have all day to check your details. Bright eyed Amazons the lot of them, I can’t pretend I didn’t enjoy the initial stages of their interrogation. You are supposed to get a stamp in every port you visit in Greece, to prove where you have been. A few missing stamps are OK as the sorts of places I sail to don’t usually have an official but, having gone often by night, rarely seeking infrastructure, I was at a loss to explain to them how my boat had apparently vanished after arriving in Kefalonia a year ago. Dusky tresses swayed and sugar-tong limbs lounged as we frolicked in kafkaesque circles around the charts and calendars of their smokey little harem. They seemed particularly perplexed by my efforts to reach womanless Athos. From the open door of their chief’s office, a doyenne’s voice chanted in periodic relish ‘you are under penaaaltyyyy! You maast pay a fiiiiine!’ Soon, the girls were telephoning around the extended family of the dead man in Paros for a declaration that my boat really had been there all winter. I will let you imagine how willing the shipyard was to communicate with the police about a cash transaction for wintering a foreign boat.

So I was called into the chief’s office, where the woman slapped me with a penaaaaltyyy and fiiiiiine, which I would have to pay at the bank, which is open for exactly two mornings a week but not until after next week now due to a striiiike. Until this was done, my boat’s papers were to be held in her office ‘because Britain is not in the Europeaaan Uuunion and is a thiiird paaarty caaaantry!’ She handed me the contract which I had to sign for her receipt of my papers until the fine was paid. 

‘Do you seriously recommend that I sign that?’ I asked.

‘Legally I cannot recommend you anything.’ 

I considered. There was blank field on the form, to which there could be added permission for one more voyage to another port – presumably for purposes of confession, communion, trial and execution. I requested a journey to the Sporadic administrative centre of Skiathos. She refused.

I requested permission to sail from Alonnisos to Skiathos

‘I have very few winds to make it out of Greece,’ I explained. ‘Once my Schengen visa lapses in a few weeks, anything I do here will be illegal anyway. Either I will abscond without these papers, which I have never needed to show anyone until now, or you will somehow disable my vessel and it will remain rotting forever in your harbour as I refuse to pay mounting fees in excess of the diminishing value of the boat. You see,’ I reminded her ‘Nobody in Britain will make me pay that fine. We are not in the European Union. We are a third party country.’

Lust flickered across her sour features.

‘I will sign your form if you permit me a journey to Skiathos, so I can talk to the harbour police there. That’s my last offer.’

Much shrieking on the telephone followed. Skiathos obviously didn’t want to play pass-the-parcel, so she was probably having to reassure them that, in her opinion, I posed more of a flight risk than a ‘rotting boat left in your harbour’ risk.

Eventually, looking rather relieved, she put down the ‘phone and amended her form with permission to sail to Skiathos.

Heading to Skiathos

I headed out into the evening, with strict instructions about which stamps and receipts to collect and send back in order to regain my impounded papers. I had until 11:30am tomorrow to complete this Homeric quest through the offices of Greek bureaucrats, because that was the departure time of the ferry which would carry the police paperwork back to Alonnisos. The bank on Skiathos would be closed after the ferry and not open again for a week. Availed of her day’s work, she sighed.

‘You know what means “Skiathos?” It means “in the Shadow of Mount Athos”.’

There was just enough warmth in this valedictory that, in the silence of the evening, the thought grew on me: perhaps she wasn’t just kicking the can to another authority. The efforts to ascertain from Paros the whereabouts of my boat went beyond jumping the basic prescribed hurdles to absolve me of my missing stamps. Maybe she was really trying to be helpful; giving me another office; the chance of a second opinion. I resolved to make good on the amended document I had signed, and do what I could to pay this fine. If I failed in the morning, then I would have to continue without the incriminating papers and my case would most likely be dropped, provided I switched off my transponder and avoided landing in any large port on Lemnos. But the off-chance that I had indeed been shown a bit of good will compelled me to honesty. Arbitrary fines being the implicit fee for venturing into the Third World, it seemed within reason to rend unto to Caesar. A pod of dolphins followed me under the red sky as the towns lit up on the South of Skopelos.

The next morning on Skiathos, I unfolded my bike at 8:00 and started dashing back and forth around the dock promenades. Bank, port police, bank again, harbour authority, police again. The limestone porticos were heaped with wicker chairs and still echoed with Greek, ahead of the seasonal roar of German and Atlantic voices. A black and a white swan drifted beside my boat like two pieces on an un-marked tactical board. The ferry (wretched vessel which took out my stern cleat), arrived at about ten. Lorries started disgorging as I rushed one way; sheep as I went the other. The whole sluggish, tense, itinerary unfolded to the roll and snare of martial drums up the street, practicing for the upcoming Greek national holiday parades. 

In his grand upstairs rooms, the Skiathos police chief couldn’t understand why I didn’t just pay the fine from my online bank. I explained that I had once paid my greek boat tax using online banking and not received the receipt that was necessary for an official’s stamp (it was at that juncture, last year, that I had lost the determination necessary for keeping on top of the paperwork). I might as well have sent my money to a numbered account in Nigeria.

‘No receipt?’ The chief scrutinised the IBAN number. ‘I promise you, that is legitimately the Inland Revenue Account at the Central Bank of Greece.’

‘Is that supposed to sound reassuring?’ I blurted. His colleagues stifled their sniggers. The drums roared and snarled under the blue and white flags on the balcony. ‘Your Inland Revenue does not issue receipts! That is why I am here on Skiathos: to get proof of the payment from a branch of your national bank itself!’ 

The papers – now quite a mound – were completed at 11:27 and dashed from the police office to the Sporades bureaucratic bag on the ferry. Just before they went, I scrawled a message in the bottom margin of the Skiathos police report: 

Thank you, Alonnisos Police, for your help!

Then I collapsed into a Champagne bar, called my stockbroker, and wept. 

At 15:00, the Sporades ferry made its return pass of the island and I returned to the police station. My boat’s papers were handed back to me with a carbon copy of the Alonnisos police report. Scrawled in the chief’s hand at the bottom:  

Good to know you are finally through all this! Have a nice trip to mt Athos and all the best for what will follow. Take good care!’ 

Aah, so they were on my side. I should have told them the honest truth: that I intend to lead their country into a strategically untenable holy war against Turkey. Then they’d have let me off free and given me a gunboat escort. Johnny Greek is much more based than his bureaucracy.

Kymi – Alonnisos, March 11th

The obvious next port from Andros would have been the island of Skiros, but that would have left me with few possibilities for onward travel. My reason for stopping at Kymi was to use every breath of the week’s southerly wind to get myself far enough West that I would be clear of the central Aegean when this precious anomaly finally yields to the northern howl. My next stop, therefore, was to be in the North Sporades; either Skopelos or Alonnisos, I hadn’t decided which.

Saturday was a dawn-till-dusk passage of some forty miles, and a mightily successful one as the wind was just right to give me about three knots on Grandma’s self governing close reach. No pulleys or sheet-to-tiller required. No autopilot. No engine. Just, as they say, plain sailing. 

Mount Dirfi, on Euboea

The air was getting brisker and the sun brighter as the Sporades developed from silhouettes on the horizon. 

Lawrence Durrell described these islands as ‘loitering with intent.’ To my eyes, the vista bares out this malevolence for its resemblance to Scaramanga’s South China Sea hideout; the scattered stacks and imposing rise of Kira Panagia evocative of bikini clad women operating liquid hydrogen compressors. 

In any case, the promised change in wind direction was now imminent. Blazing tulip orange, the mighty forge closed its furnace doors behind Skopelos. Far to the south, bright snow clawed down Mount Dirfi. I steered for Patitiri on Alonnisos and watched a flight of gulls rise like aluminium darts against the livid mountains.

It was dark when I landed in the little port, here to stay for a couple of days as the north wind passes.


Andros – Kymi, March 9-10th

A night’s sleep in the howling wind of Andros harbour. The few ports gouged into the north faces of Andros and Euboea (I think there are just two on each), are tiny and lie in the islands’ wind channels which expose them to the same southerly anomalies which I am using to head north. The town itself is dull, rather empty and partly in ruins. However there is a terrace at the top where a few aluminium chairs and tables shine under the roaring plane trees. Ordering a Greek Coffee and a thing I couldn’t read from the menu, I examined my charts for the next leg. The thing, when it arrived, was a tiny bowl of fragrant quince jam. 

Quince – a sort of middle class pear – seems to share the fate of carp and trout in the west, its flavour too subtle to compete with the pungent essences which loiter with intent on every reverse colonised spice rack. Several generations of elites who could afford nannies and boarding school fees have inadvertently severed the link between money and the demand for quality in food. It is a laughable irony that the future of high cuisine now lies in the horny hands of the working class. You have to ape the mannerisms of a medieval serf if you want to chip in with a name like ‘Fearnley-Whittingstall.’ The intelligentsia need to wake up to this.

I enjoyed my quince.

The next leg of the journey filled me with trepidation. I would have to cross the Doro Channel; about ten miles of open sea between Andros and Euboea through which the fury of a hundred miles of trapped south wind would rush, along with all shipping between Athens and the North. I judged from the forecast that the relentless southerly blow would drop a little just before midnight, remaining steady until a few hours before dawn. This would be the time to go.

Setting out at dusk with the mainsail on three reefs, I edged along the dark cliffs. The moon was high in its nimbus halo. The very stars reflected on the water. Slowing to allow the hours to tick away, the red beacons of Euboea’s wind turbines flashed across a distant mountain. Cumulus mounted high over the peaks glowing with, I think, the light of Athens beneath the opposite horizon. I barely read one knot as I approached the last rocky outcrop of Andros, the stillness checked by a low, rolling, roar. The headland was retreating from my defence; the bitter musk of mountain herbs purged from the night by a clean smell of open sea. I reefed the headsail right in, though there was scarcely yet a breath to fill it. The distant beacon of Ntóros was framed in the steel pulpit of my prow. Between me and that scintillating double flash lay the answer to many doubts. Then the wind rose, the sheets creaked under the strain, and we were off.

Remaining conservative with the reefing, I probably could have added a couple of knots to my speed, but preferred to keep Grandma upright and my nerves slack. For one last time, I felt the swell of the South Aegean as it refracted through the channel. Towering cargo ships and glittering ferries thundered slowly abaft, abixt and abtwain my track (yeah yeah, whatever), but company lends only a false sense of security at sea. I double checked my mast light and transponder and thought of how favourably this compared to tight scrapes I had been in before without even realising it: the time my autopilot broke in the Bay of Biscay, the slight jolt as I touched the Tagus sandbar the night I left Lisbon, Moroccan tap water, the entry to Civittivecchia without an engine, running aground in the port of Herculaneum, Hurricane Janus. And how on earth a girl and I got away with some of the stupid shit we did in the Rias of Galicia is beyond me. But tonight’s objective was met. After 90 minutes, that distant beacon of Ntóros was mounted high on its black rock, silver waves crashing in the moonlight. Another half an hour and the mist and spray of the Notos Channel were an eerie haze behind me, emanating as if from another world as dark cliffs moved in again to shelter a small voyager. The sea was calm, the stars bright overhead. I let out the Genoa, handed over to the autopilot and slept as Grandma continued north.

At sunrise I was progressing along the bright, gently sloping, hills of Euboea, the landscape now green with trees. At midday I approached the port of Kymi. Again the katabatic blast – but this time I used it. With the Genoa on the third reef to enter the harbour at a full 7 knots, I slammed down the mainsail as we swung into the fishermen’s basin. Three old men who were casting their lines from the pier helped with the warps. (‘From England? In that?’)

Then I put on my swimming trunks and plunged into the freezing, pearlescent waves. Out of season, the town was empty. Row on row of holiday lets were spattered with a few boutique restaurants, all shut. One senses that the indigenous society has long departed.

Kymi harbour

Syros – Andros, March 8th

Departure on Wednesday was very tricky. After half an hour of swearing at the packing gland greaser, I had to launch into a Katabatic wind which was pinning Grandma to the inside edge of a curved wharf. Engine roaring, I made it out with less of a scrape than I probably deserved, killed the engine, and left the harbour’s embrace.

The pastel scattered confection of Ermoupoli receded as my compass rested on 0°, dead north. Then, for a glorious six hours, I had the wind behind me as I headed across the strait for a tiny gap between Andros and Tinos: the Steno Pass; gateway to the North Aegean. Fast were my spirits, high my speed as I approached. North facing shores of the Aegean take the direct hit of the Meltemi winds, so beyond this rubicon there would be little but wind blasted cliffs and precious few ports. But this way the brave must go if they are to quest north while evading capture by men with clipboards and unreasonable demands for fees, fines and paperwork.

The afternoon light was warm as I entered the gate, amid the cry of vortexing gulls and crashing of the swell on bright ochre rocks.

Andros to port
Tinos to starboard (yes the ensign is knackered – I want it to come with me all the way)

Obviously, the waves that break here have accumulated over several hundred miles – so I knew that the sea would be calm on the other side. However, I was interested to see exactly how it flattened out. For a while, the state was very confused, with waves coming back at me as if rebounding from some vast underwater cliff (which I suppose they were). The surface puckered with ripples as the wind died and then, in a moment I just about caught on video and will add to instagram, the surface became silky smooth for about ten metres. Then the wind gradually built up again and I was off on a new, flatter, sea.

The cliffs of north Andros were, as I expected, raw and polished by the millennia of storm force winds which thunder down here for the summer months. The rock lay in bare teal and lavender seams, obscuring the sun over the crest of the island. It was getting dark again.

leaving the South Agean behind

Aiming for the eponymous port, Andros, I passed several dark headlands in the dusk. Their total absence of lights tells a grim story of what to expect if you get stuck here in bad conditions. The island itself is an imperfect windbreak. Under the last lick of magenta sky, channels of air rush through the saddles in the landscape with the accumulated force that they strike several miles of opposite shore. But the sea is flat, which counts for a lot.

I got the full whack of about Beaufort 7 as I rounded a ghastly spit of rocks into Andros, the town lights as white as fallen constellations on the hillside. The port announces itself with the sombre wink of an ancient lantern under its sandstone cliffs. The starboard harbour light needs replacing. I was grateful for the amber discus of the rising moon, guiding me in with its golden road over the waves (ok – a keen geographer will upbraid me for that artistic license. The moon was rising behind me, so the sea ahead was completely dark and I was neither grateful for its golden road nor particularly interested in the aesthetic until I had piloted in and killed the engine).

Port of Andros, dawn, Thursday 9th March

Syros, March 7th

The boat holds her course on a fairly close reach – so I barely touched the helm for six hours.

Mykonos to the east

It was an excellent weather window for the start of a season: bright, breezy and the wind progressively beamy throughout the afternoon. Yet I had set out two hours late, and knew there was trouble ahead…


With ghastly intinction, Helios took his leave. Grandma was reading five knots as we ploughed on through the boisterous waves – but I was looking at a landing in an unfamiliar port at night. To my left, the day’s aftermath reflected in great brass drifts of cirrus. To my right, a bomber’s moon rode over the jewel box of Mykonos. On we quested, punching up spray, towards the dark hills of Syros.

The rising moon

Mercury and Venus blazed over the black silhouettes of outlying islets. The east-processing waves relented and the wind came round to the stern. I scudded across the trembling cobalt to the purring of the main sail, dark headlands parting before me like the doors of a zeppelin shed, revealing the incandescent scree of Ermoupoli.

Into the harbour and up to the fishermen’s basin; I did it all on buoyage. The capital of the Cyclades smelled like a burnt sky-rocket. I fired the engine, brought Grandma alongside a desolate wharf of ruined Venetian warehouses and cycled into town.

Ermoupoli, the next morning

‘The City of Hermes’ rises over two steep hills and supports a population large enough to keep the cafes open and the streets clamouring out of season. Despite the grand Venetian architecture, whirr of mantid cranes in the shipyard and restaurants glimmering like rose-gold geodes, traces of small island life are still seen here: old ladies turn up in the narrow cobbled streets to sell their foraged radiki to the cafes, men play cards to the clicking of their prayer beads in the taverns, wooden fishing boats sell their catch for cash on the sparkling limestone waterfront.

Tie up in places like this and nobody will ever question you or your boat’s paperwork

Belonging to that ancient and mildly conceited culture of those of us who go by sea, I am treated rather well in harbour cafes. They never bring sailors a menu, honouring us simply with that day’s catch and the foulest of foul island cheese and Ouzo, stored for non-commercial purposes in carafes at the bottom of the fridge.

All the way from London you say? On that little boat!? On the house, sir!

A day in the clean sea air re-calibrates the senses so that one becomes aware of the mildest smells and flavours: the humidity of the sandstone cliffs, the cigar smoke from a passing taxi, the incense from a local church, the perfume of a girl sitting at her garret desk on the third storey above the sponge market a couple of blocks away. The most complex and delicious taste I remember was of a tomato, eaten Cape Finisterre after crossing the Biscay Abyssal Plain.

my date

On Tuesday I went exploring.

Ermoupolis, from the summit

Most churches I have encountered since I left Lowestoft, being in ports, are naturally dedicated to St Nicholas and a very few to St. Christoper. The mountaintop churches here are for the resurrection (Orthodox), and St George (Roman Catholic).

…and this, somewhere in town, is neither.

Paros, March 5th

The director of the Shipyard at Monastery Bay was killed in a car crash while I was away. Everyone on the island is still talking about it. His extended family have a monopoly on boat services. After identifying to his sons which boat was mine, renegotiating my contract at their mercy and ordering new parts from his nephews, I set about antifouling. The snow-capped mountains of Naxos shimmered in the distance as I worked.

Admiral Orlov’s old shipyard

A life of total itinerancy quickly teaches you that it is more efficient to trust most of the time and occasionally get ripped off than to constantly be on your guard. On an island of 12,000 inhabitants, you feel quite safe handing 800€ to a total stranger on a motorbike for supplies.

This part of Northern Paros is called ‘the catacombs’ for the skeletal forms which wind and sand have blasted into the rock.

We launched Grandma on Ash Wednesday, from a slipway which was first used by the Imperial Russian navy in the time of Catherine the Great.

Floating free of the trailer, for a tense couple of minutes her engine wouldn’t fire. The marineos stood in grim judgment as I floated out from the ossuary, drifting in slow circles across the fluorescent turquoise, starter wheezing. Finally, up shot a triumphant plume of black smoke and, to distant applause from the shore, I turned the bow across the bay toward Naoussa. I hanked the sails back on and waited for oil, batteries, an anode, an impeller, nav-lights and so forth while a storm blew through.

Grandma, coming together

Monday was ‘Clean Monday’ – the beginning of Orthodox Lent. I met Nikos, a Florida born reader at the local church, who had returned to the island. He recommended to me the books of Kallisotos Ware and Metropolitan Anthony Bloom.

A couple of nights later, I heard some local children steal my bicycle from beside the boat while I was dozing off.

A few hours later I was awakened by the ratchet clicking back down the pier. I waited for the ‘clunk’ of the kickstand being deployed, but it never came. A pregnant pause in their whispering suggested that they were raising high an oblation to Poseidon. I braced myself for the splash. In fact, they magnanimously chose to return the article, with a mighty crash, directly into the cockpit of the boat. They then ran off laughing and sat in a car across the port passing around a spliff and listening to loud rap music.

I rest every case for ethnic monoculture and low feudal justice that I have ever made.

No harm done, mind you.

The following night, I suffered a truly distressing loss when my new bow light – a real beauty with incorporated port and starboard sectors – vanished. I can only blame myself for this. The sun had just set as I attempted to fix it to the prow, hastily finishing the job with heavy-duty parcel tape. I faintly recall being woken by a dull clang in the night and falling back to sleep as a patch of moonlight undulated on a varnished wood panel by my pillow. Next morning, I unpacked my tools to finish the job and… no bow light. It would have floated and, after great snorkelling efforts in the harbour, I had to give it up for lost. Maybe, when the weather clears I’ll have bit more luck – but I’m not going to wait on the island for another order to arrive from Athens.

My temporary fix is a cheap stern light, which is clear. Now I just need to examine the hands which bring my breakfast to see which local waitresses can supply me with translucent green and red nail varnish.

Until this is sorted I cannot go by night. Luckily it is a daylight run north from here to Syros or Mykonos.

Blessings noted: my gains are structural, my losses cosmetic.

I found the Catholic Church in the warren of Naoussa, about three yards from where I had repeatedly looked for it before. Alas, I was an hour late for mass and found the little room full of Albanian workers being reversed-colonised by a French Sister of Charity.

It is now 23:26, Sunday 5th March. I hope to sail at noon tomorrow and update this post as I go…