| 10:50 PM local time, Wednesday, July 24 (1950 July 24 UTC) 38 22 N
(approximately the latitude of San Jose) 022 23 E. Temp. 87, Humidity 45%,
Cloud Cover 0%. On the quay at Galaxidhi, Greece.
Greetings from the crew of Maverick.
We are currently bows-to in a beautifully serene little harbor on the
north shores of the Gulf of Corinth, about forty miles west of the Corinth
Canal. The Italianate architecture is a welcome change from the tacky
buildings of Salamis and Athens, and to tell the truth, much of the eastern
Mediterranean. This area of the world had the misfortune of suffering
numerous devastating earthquakes in the fifties, and the result was that most
of the rebuilding was done at the 5000-year nadir of western architectural
design. But there are few new buildings here in Galaxidhi, a great science
fiction name, and the town retains the picturesque Mediterranean look that we
all wish for when we travel to this area of the world.
After two and one half weeks on the hard, during which time the Captain
had only two afternoons free for the visits to the Athens agora previously
reported, Maverick was relaunched in Salamis at Theo Bekris' shipyard on
Wednesday the 17th. The Captain had completed a long list of repairs and
painted the bottom but the rest had to wait until Mr. Shrode returned from
the US bearing a heavy load of parts for the Perkins diesel, among other
things. Our Chief of Engineering soon had the engine running and we were
ready to go. By Friday we were in a private marina on the mainland near
Athens picking up supplies from a chandlery along with some Greek charts, and
collecting our mainsail from the sailmaker who had done some minor repairs.
We had accomplished a lot but as is not unusual when there are so many things
to do, there were a few glitches. For example, there was a little
misunderstanding about a small fiberglass job I should have done myself.
Because of the language problem the yard's guy apparently thought I told him
to use cocaine instead of the normal white powder we use for thickening
epoxy. At least, that's the only way I can account for the price I was
Departing Athens, we sailed to the west side of Salamis to put more
finishing touches on some repairs and wait for a Monday departure for the
Corinth Canal. They charge a premium for weekend transits so it made more
sense to delay a day. On Monday we sailed for Isthmia, the canal's eastern
entrance, arriving midday, and forked over 132 euros to the canal authority. After
a short wait, we motored through the deep, narrow ditch that links the Aegean
Sea to the Ionian and cuts the mainland off from the Peloponnisos. It was a
beautiful day. The cicadas were boisterous. The slice in the limestone that
holds the canal was a lot more dramatic than it looks in the pictures, and
the forty-minute trip was one of the coolest experiences of the voyage.
Once through the canal you're in the Gulf of Corinth and the harbor of
the modern city of Corinth is only a mile away. We tied stern-to and the next
day took a bus to the nearby ruins of ancient Corinth, the place St. Paul
sent those letters to. He was quite the ramblin' guy, old Paul. Though he was
a rabbi from Tarsus, near Syria, he was a Roman citizen and spoke and wrote
Greek fluently, and these together made travel less of a struggle than it
might otherwise have been at least on a practical level. He visited Corinth
three times, probably under sail, calling most likely at the ancient port of
Cenchreae on the eastern shore of the isthmus at Corinth, the ruins of which
are now visible underwater. However, I believe the last time he had to leave
by road to avoid a plot against him. As I've said before he managed to get
himself in a peck of trouble wherever he went, which isn't so much as a
bushel, in fact, it's only a quarter of a bushel. He might have gotten into
several bushels of trouble in Rome, maybe a kilderkin or even a hogshead
full. We'll never know for sure.
When Paul visited Corinth he probably took the hike up to the
Acrocorinth, which, unless I missed my tack, means high Corinth, just like
acropolis means high city. When you get up there you find the climb's been
hot enough and steep enough that you've left most everyone behind. From the
top you have a perfect view of the narrow isthmus that connects the
Peloponnisos with the rest of mainland Greece, which was a true crossroads in
that all land traffic had to come through here, for instance the Spartans on
their way to die to the last man at Thermopylae. But in addition, ancient sea
traffic came to the east end of the Gulf of Corinth and could be transported
by wheeled carts overland across the isthmus to the Saronic Gulf, thereby
avoiding the long and dangerous voyage around the Peloponnesian peninsula.
The Corinthians collected a lot of money for this service and the old roadway
is still visible down to the ruts worn by the carts over two thousand years
ago. The Romans tried building a canal to replace this labor intensive method
of portage but even those masters of public works couldn't pull it off, and
it had to wait until the end of the 19th century.
The canal is only 28 stadia or 23 cables or 256 chains or 9/10 of a
league or 2816 orguia, if it's easier for you to think in those, or 16896
feet or 1024 rods or 25.6 furlongs or 9300 cubits (in biblical cubits; but of
course in classical Greece it would have been 11140 cubits, due to inflation)
or for you sailors, 2.78260869565217391304347826086957 nautical miles long.
The cut is 250 ft. deep to the waterline and holds about 23 feet of water.
It's 81 feet wide but looks narrower when you're driving a boat through it. I
would give these figures in the metric system were this not prohibited under
rule number F-435a section M.0001 paragraph S4 of my agreement with webmaster
Jim Mead. As some of you will remember, Mr. Mead's patriotism prompted him to
write protesting the Captain's slip-sliding in his use of foreign measurement
systems, thereby heading his crew down the road to world domination by the
Trilateral Commission. I made this agreement on January 31 of this year in
the Maldives but have since received further enlightenment from one of our
readers. Pirates, Muslims, our engine, and sloth have contributed to delaying
our reporting of this but now's the time, I think, for you lucky readers to
get another view.
Jim Turner, who is a very old friend of the Captain and there are less
and less of the other kind, is certainly the most gentle person ever to be
admitted to the bar in these United States. Frankly, for this reason I'm
sorry to say I wouldn't be able to recommend hiring him to support your cause
in a vicious divorce or to preserve your corporate hegemony, but despite his
professional handicap he's managed to make a go of it. Since graduating from
law school back in the last century he has spent all but three years working
for the US House of Representatives and its Committee on Science. For ten
years he was the Committee's Technology Staff Director but in 1994 when
certain political events changed the lay of the land in Washington he became
Chief Democratic Counsel for the Committee on Science. All this would be
neither here nor there but we need to establish his credentials before wading
into this very emotional arena again. Mr. Turner, in his various capacities
at the House of Representatives, had occasion to write several of the
provisions of the US Code pertaining to the metric system. In a word, Mr.
Turner was among those who wrote the book on measurement in the United
States. The pertinent sections of the Code, which he was kind enough to send
me, seem to indicate that, although the metric system is not at present the
officially approved system in the US, the system we use is defined by means
of it, which makes it epistemologically and ontologically prior to our own.
The US, according to Turner, was well on the way to converting to the metric
system until the Reagan administration abolished the US Metric Board during
its watch. One of the groups lobbying against the metric system was the
Cowboy Hall of Fame, which we can all agree is a fine institution but one
does have the feeling that in that majestic hall where the greatest of
cowboys are honored, there just might be a statue of Ronald Reagan. Ergo:
bye-bye metric system.
Mr. Turner also reports that, as some of you may remember, the Mars
Lander crashed because of the failure of someone to remember he needed to
convert from (or was it to) metric. Aside from commercial considerations,
like for instance that the entire rest of the world uses another system of
measurement, Mr. Turner is concerned about the safety of travel, since even
your Captain and Ship's Navigation Officer Terry Shrode are put in the
position of having to make lots of conversions to or from the metric system
in order to do Maverick's navigation. It is not likely that people flying
airplanes are less able navigators than your correspondent, but it's not
Now Mr. Mead, who works for the Executive Branch of the Government, may
have a different mandate from that of Mr. Turner, who works for the
Legislative Branch, and this may speak to the issues that separate them in
the great dialogue concerning the fundamentals of the American Way. They are
perhaps each collecting a salary to thwart one another's efforts in steering
the American ship of state towards the safe harbor that is a certain distance
away but may have to be converted to another distance. It's the system of
checks and balances working for you, the taxpayer.
Your reporter out here in the field can confirm that in addition to our
different measuring system, our habit of calling a sport "soccer" that the
rest of the world calls "football," and our Britney, a couple of other things
display our cavalier propensity towards doing the mashed potatoes to the beat
of a different drummer. First, only in North and South America do aids to
navigation follow the "Red, Right, Returning" rule. Everywhere else, red is
on the left and green on the right as you return to port, matching your side
lights, and it's hard to believe that this contributes to safety on the
water. But second, and perhaps an even more troubling and dangerous result of
the lack of unanimity and cooperation among the many nations and cultures of
the world, is the fact that everywhere but the United States, the rear brake
on a bicycle is on your left hand, not on your right.
Joe New writes to remind the Captain that the Persians had the
disconcerting habit of making slaves of the peoples they conquered and
eunuchs out of the slaves, which may have provided an extra incentive for the
Athenians at Salamis.
Next report from this location: Delphi