Trip Reports

And A Bad Go-Getter (16-Jun-2002-21-00):
9:00 PM local time, Sunday, June 16 (1800 June 16 UTC) 36 32 N 026 21 E. Temp. 72, Humidity 50%, Cloud Cover 20%. Anchored at Katapola harbor on the island of Amorgos, Greece.

Greetings from the crew of Maverick.

We've been to quite a few islands so far here in the Aegean Sea. Rhodes, of course, we went to by ferry, but the rest, including Symi, Nisiros, Kos, Astipalaia, and now Amargos, we visited with Maverick. We're approximately half way across the Aegean, in the part of the islands known as the Cyclades. They are all different, but share, as Wittgenstein would unquestionably note, a family resemblance, and the one thing they all have in common is motor scooters, the jet-skies of the roadway.

Fortunately, Ship's Chief Engineer Terry Shrode at one time was a fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he concentrated on studies in terrestrial vehicle velocity. This gives him a special insight into the operation of road racing machines of all types, which he often uses to put the Captain at a disadvantage when we are ashore. Back in Egypt, we patronized, as is our habit, the local go-cart track. No money was placed on the outcome, of course, as we are above that sort of thing. Having checked the weather that morning in preparation for the voyage, the Captain arrived at the harbor where the carts were berthed and took a serious look at his vessel with regard to safety. He checked for audible and visual distress signals, a fire extinguisher, etc., and noticed the absence of a life jacket. The proprietor was clearly not trained in these matters and seemed more than a little put upon by my request, which I must say I pressed rather forcefully, as safety is number one with me. I finally accepted his child's inflatable toy as a workable facsimile. I was willing to forego the type IV throwable PFD which is irrelevant for a single-hander, but otherwise I was determined not to leave the dock until I was "safe to go," as the literature is filled with voyages coming to a bad end because of an overly hasty and ill-prepared departure.

Mr. Shrode, who, I'm sorry to report, cast off the lines without taking the above precautions, smiled rather unreservedly, I should have thought, as he screamed by me failing to yield to the starboard cart, which was the stand-on vessel in this situation. Fortunately, I was alert enough to avoid a collision. I navigated cautiously and in a seamanlike fashion, somewhat below hull speed, as I gained my offing, keeping a sharp lookout for shoals, wrecks, reefs, and headlands as Mr. Shrode drove by me, lapping me yet again. The reader may be forgiven for assuming that after the fifth, tenth, or fifteenth such encounter, the insane gleam in Mr. Shrode's eye would have dimmed a bit, but if so, he undoubtedly has not had the privilege of his acquaintance.

So it goes with most of our adventures on land, and yet there are times when I prevail. Mr. Shrode is the better of the Captain in every manly virtue save one, and that is shortness, and its attendant lack of bulk, if I may say so without impropriety. As a direct result, when climbing hills on underpowered motor scooters, it is Mr. Shrode who is at a disadvantage and the Captain who emerges victorious. There, I've said it, flinging modesty aside. The truth is out. Let the chips fall where they may.

Scooters are lots of fun but we have also our serious work to do as we visit these islands. Part of our burden, under the heading of archaeological and cultural findings, is to contribute what we can to the search for the actual geographical locations for the adventures of that sailor of legend, Odysseus, in whose wine-dark sea Maverick now finds itself. This problem has fascinated scholars since the times of Homer himself. Even then, or soon thereafter, it was believed by some that Homer's tales were pure fiction. Eratosthanes, that old windbag (who figured out that the earth was round and came up with a pretty good estimate of its circumference), for one, said that the actual places of Odysseus' wanderings would be discovered when the "cobbler who sewed up Aeolus' bag of winds was found." The best work on this subject in your correspondent's opinion is "The Ulysses Voyage" by Tim Severin, Dutton 1987, ISBN: 0-525-24614-2. It's out of print, but surely the reader has a friend with a copy. Severin, a Cambridge man like our Mr. Shrode, oversees the reconstruction of a bronze-age galley and sets out to sail it along the logical route for a mariner returning from Troy to Ithaca. It's a great tale, to which, if the reader is fortunate, we may return at a later date.

For now, however, it will suffice to describe our own careful methodology as we search for the home of Polyphemus, the Cyclops who eats some of Odysseus' crew and then is maimed and taunted by our hero in the most famous story of the Odyssey. We are sorry to report that although our knowledge of ancient Greek is sufficient, the modern version does not come easily to our ear, so we have devised the following stratagem for communicating our main question to the locals, the question being, of course, where is the Cyclops? Utilizing Mr. Shrode's skills as a graphic artist, we have drawn on a yellow legal pad a large and bold question mark. Thus equipped, we set out on our travels. When we have secured our anchor at a likely island, we take the dinghy ashore with our question mark and look for a man or woman who, though advanced in years, seems to possess that certain pomme de terre that signifies obscure and ancient knowledge. We approach politely, and then proceed with the following pantomime to signal our inquiry: The Captain places the forefinger of his left hand to the forefinger of his right hand, then he places the thumb of his right hand to the thumb of his left hand. Having completed this maneuver, he meticulously and subtly forms the four digits into a circle. This he places flatly against the middle of his forehead, with the junction of the two thumbs resting on the bridge of his nose and the lateral remainder of the thumbs covering his two eyes, now plainly representing a one-eyed monster. He accompanies this likeness with frightening grimaces and gruesome grunts and howls, stomping around heavily as he does so. Mr. Shrode approaches with our carefully prepared question mark and holds it next to the monster's head, pointing to him urgently as he shrugs his shoulders and raises his eyebrows. Even though we do not share a common verbal language with the person we are addressing, we have little doubt that our intentions are made crystal clear to even the dullest mind.

We didn't undertake these, or for that matter, any of our studies, just to satisfy our own vain curiosity; we have humanity's larger interests at stake. And we never thought it would be easy. We've got a lot more islands to go, so the fact that our efforts have thus far met with few positive responses, and some which were, frankly, puzzling, does not discourage us. Homer lovers, we are finding, are a rarer breed than we had heretofore supposed, as astounding as it may sound to our readers. For the sake of those at home who depend on us to seek out the facts, however, we intend to, undaunted, soldier on until we find the true home of that unfortunate giant of olden times, Polyphemus, son of the earth-shaker Poseidon.

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