Trip Reports

Can You Hear Those Church Bells Ringing (07-Jun-2002-20-00):
8:00 PM local time, Friday, June 7 (1700 June 7 UTC) 36 36 N 027 51 E. Temp. 79, Humidity 54%, Cloud Cover 5%. Med-tied stern-to at Symi harbor on Symi. The Greek Islands.

Warm greetings from the crew of Maverick.

You, the readers, for whose patronage we have the deepest gratitude, have no doubt been thinking that the last three dispatches from us, your correspondents here in the field, have been a little thin on adventure and thick on pedantry. You're thinking that maybe that small part of your budget allotted for thrilling literature of the sea might be more wisely spent elsewhere. Let's face it, the last three issues have consisted of the kind of jejune reportage our readership has come, we hope, to disparage.

It would probably not ameliorate the situation to protest that we have been assiduously at our researches on your behalf, but the sad truth is, there are few adventures to report. We last faced this dilemma all the way back in Tahaa, French Polynesia, where the cruising life was simply too pleasant and easy for polite conversation. There is some concern abroad about violence in the media, but surely nothing is as likely to push someone over the edge towards mayhem, rape, and murder, than stories about two men having a better time than is appropriate for persons of their station. Not that we are those people; its just that a description of the events of the last couple of weeks might lead you to mistake us for them.

There was the fact that, one hour after departing Finike, our engine died again and we had to return to sort it out. Sorting it out had been one of our major goals in Finike and we thought we had fixed it, but there you go. We finally pretty much replaced everything in the fuel system and it has worked since. Anyway, there's not much of a story there. After Finike it was one pretty anchorage after another in nice weather as we made our way along the Lycian coast of Turkey to Marmaris. We got nailed on one overnighter but so? We took hikes and rented motorcycles--well, OK, they were scooters--and blasted through the high passes of the Taurus Mountains hoping to terrify the hill people but I think we achieved nothing more than stares of slack-jawed astonishment. There are a lot of "gullets" along the coast, which are big, fake sailboats, in the sense that they're really not much for sailing but they put them (sails) up to look good for the punters while they run the engine. These old-fashioned looking wooden boats are mini-cruise ships for the throngs of tourists in this area of the world. When we got to Marmaris, there must have been a hundred of them on the docks.

Marmaris is a tourist town and the center of boating for the eastern Mediterranean. There are enough tourist shops and restaurants there to bury Pier 39. And you know something? There aren't any Americans, here or anywhere else. The last time we saw any significant number was in Moorea, again back in French Polynesia. Not that there's anything wrong with that; I mean, we haven't seen a city better than London or Paris or New York or Venice out here, and as far as scenery goes, there's been some great stuff for sure but seldom, or to be more frank, never, the equal of the Colorado Plateau. So maybe folks are right to stay closer to home--if all they're going to do is fly somewhere in an airplane. Still, I miss Americans, as yucky as they are. But in Suez we ran into three men in a bar waiting for a ship, who had just flown in from Louisiana: an ordinary seaman, a cook, and a steward. They were black (African American, but the Captain suggests the moniker is imprecise) guys from the south, and if that didn't make me feel a little homesick, well, I just don't know what. We told them what we were up to and one said, "No way! Someone offered me more money on a 300-footer and I wouldn't take it. Give me 900 feet and I'm comfortable. I'm not going to sea on a 39 foot boat." The others were in hearty agreement, and folks, they're professionals, so maybe we should rethink this. A 900-foot yacht does sound like it would be pretty comfortable, when you think about it. We saw their ship later as it headed up the canal, non-stop to home.

Anyhoo, now we're in Symi. At least that's the official T-shirt spelling, whereas the pilot and the chart say "Simi." It's in Greece, which is to say it belongs to Greece. We had to sail 30 miles from Marmaris to get here but really, it's only about 4 miles from the closest part of Turkey, like the distance between San Rafael and Richmond, except with no bridge. Very nice sail, too.

I don't know if there is any important way in which Symi would not live up to your fantasy of the perfect Greek Island. Rugged and rocky mountains under a crystalline sky, a cute little harbor with white and yellow and blue and buff houses climbing the steep hills that you have to climb too, if you want to get up them. There is one road that goes over the hill to the next, smaller bay, but the houses that overlook the main harbor, below the church at the top of the hill that stands on the site of the old acropolis, are connected by stairs. Cars do not, as a rule, operate efficiently on stairs. This means there is relatively insignificant amount of automobile traffic on the hillsides and that means that there is little of that sound that until about one hundred years ago was never heard on earth. For all the long centuries up until then, every city, even the biggest ones, sounded different from nowadays. Rome, London, and all the great cities of history didn't sound like ours do. What you hear here is like that. It's the sound you can't put in a museum, of ordinary life revealed. It's not just like being out in the country, where you hear chainsaws and coyotes and front loaders. It's the sound of a village going about its business, without being masked by the internal combustion engine. It's as though someone took a shroud away, or removed some earplugs. Conversation, donkeys braying, children at play, dogs, goats, birds, and roosters. Not that a rooster isn't a bird.

And bells. We're back to the Christian world, even though it's the kinky one with the guys in beards and black robes and hats. No more calls to prayer by the muezzin five times a day. It's nothing more than hearing what you grew up with, I know, but I do prefer the bells. They're non-verbal, for one thing, and for another, if there are notes involved in the ringing, they all come from a scale with which I have some familiarity, so they're, you know, comforting. Call me parochial. Or call me provincial, which I believe is the same thing. I've been called much worse, at times with admirable accuracy. I can deal.

PS to Blackie: The readership would be much better served if you were writing all this, but in lieu of that, keep spinning those tales in song.


The Maldives, Oman, Eritrea, and Egypt seemed to be Britney-free zones, but I spotted a very nice poster in Marmaris. Shakira seems to be making a move, as it were, in Egypt, so maybe our girl oughta get some belly dancing lessons. At the same time, Egypt is trying to outlaw belly dancing so mostly only the tourists see it there. I really think that country has worse problems they ought to take care of first, but that's an outsider's opinion.

Karma, the boat that had a transmission go out in the Gulf of Suez and was considering motoring backwards, made it unassisted to Suez but is still stuck there waiting for a new transmission.

Keep those cards and letters short and keep 'em coming to

Next report from this location: Reunited

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