Step one in taking an epic yacht tour is finding the damn yacht.
As you can see from the drone footage of Mandraki Harbor, the boats were packed in there like sardines. Easy enough, I mused. All of the boats had their names emblazoned on the stern, and the last correspondence from Yachts and Friends had confirmed that our boat was named Fryda. We would just look for the name and, upon finding it, welcome ourselves aboard.
After three turns around the harbor, there was no Fryda to be found. We asked the harbor master who consulted his logbook and told us that Fryda had left three days ago and wasn’t due back for another four days hence.
Had I miscalculated the date of our arrival? Were we in the right harbor? Is there more than one boat named Fryda? What the hell kind of name is Fryda anyway?
Angela, ever vigilant and level-headed, spotted a boat that had a website logo on the sail wrapping. Hoping that there would be some answers learned here, we hailed the captain, told him our names, and asked if he could track down our missing boat. He screwed up his face, cocked his head to the side, and informed us that THIS was our boat. I argued that we were looking for Fryda and that this vessel was clearly named Democritus, written right there on the stern.
“Oh,” he intoned. “Yeah,” he posited. “Um…” he reasoned. “They sent this boat instead. Fryda is already out to sea.”
So, in the span of one infinite hour, I had already experienced queasiness, anxiety, fear, frustration, confusion, relief, and joy. Followed closely by a seething anger. And we hadn’t yet stepped on the boat.
I gathered my composure and tried to make light of the mix-up, joking that this must be an isolated incident. Captain Max happily assured me that it was not. That this sort of thing happens all the time. And that we really were lucky to have found the right boat that quickly. None of which served to reassure me about the week of sailing to come.
We climbed aboard and the captain gave us the grand tour, demonstrating how the various latches worked, where we could stow our luggage, and (most importantly) how to operate the marine toilet. Angela and the boys then went to the harbor store to buy provisions for the week, and I stayed behind to fill out the necessary paperwork. That paperwork included a $400 deposit to cover fuel and water, and an enormous security deposit of $5000 for possible damages to the boat. While the fuel and water expense was a surprise, the security deposit was absolutely appalling. Thankfully, we had brought along a zero-balance, high-limit credit card with us for emergencies.
With all deposits paid and the yacht fully provisioned, we were easing out of the slip in Mandraki Harbor when the second unfortunate incident occurred. The harbor was jam-packed, and the yacht to our port side was sitting snuggly against us. Captain Max was fighting a surprisingly stiff current and trying to release one of the mooring lines when, crunch, our boat slammed into our neighbor, tearing off a piece of trim. We had moved less than five feet, and I feared that my security deposit was already forfeit.
Again, I took a deep breath, reminded myself that interesting travel is often unscripted, and exhaled a sigh of relief as we finally edged free from the congestion. Perhaps in an attempt to reassure me, Captain Max offered a hearty, “No sweat!” But I was sweating, Max. I was sweating balls.
The rest of the afternoon was spent motoring toward the Turkish harbor of Bozuk Bükü, beneath the ramparts of ancient Loryma. Note that we were motoring on the first leg of this sailing trip, and I couldn’t help but estimate how much of my fuel deposit was being consumed. Max explained that the angle of the headwind made it impossible to put up a sail and that, even with some serious tacking, it would take all night to make our first port of call in this weather. So we just ran the engine, slammed through the waves, and settled into uncomfortable small talk with our new roommate.
A few hours later, we steamed into the calm protection of Bozuk Bükü. With shadows of the surrounding hills stretching out east to the horizon, we could make out little of the countryside but stark silhouettes and ochre rocks tumbling down to an inky shoreline.
Max showed the boys how to set the anchor, and we settled in for a wonderful dinner of shrimp pasta complete with homemade marinara, olives, and stiff whiskeys, all prepared in the ship’s galley by the lovely and talented Angela. We were all exhausted as the crossing had been rough, despite the lack of sailing. With the calm of the harbor and the boat lazily rocking at anchor, I was eager to put an end this difficult day and motioned for bed.
And then I saw the stars.
The impossible infinity of that display. Free of light pollution. Not even the moon was out to diminish it. The Milky Way, rushing up from the jagged, black hills. Disappearing again into the flat, black sea and leaving a trail of constellations in its wake.
No wonder the ancient Greeks were stargazers and voyagers. No wonder they saw their gods dancing and fighting across the heavens. If this was their view, then no wonder they sought philosophy and the understanding of Pure Forms.
Angela and I went to sleep with newfound appreciation for this yacht thing, knowing that tomorrow would be a great day as we (hopefully) set sail for the island of Symi.
And I dreamt about stars.