Trip Reports

Corinth (24-Jul-2002-22-50):
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 charged.

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 impossible.

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

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