Captain's Log, Stardate:
Arrived Argostoli, Greece!
Olga had been dreading coming into Argostoli for the last week. Even motoring up the harbor, she said, "Can't we anchor out near a beach one more night? I'd really like to swim some more." I said no, there was a NW wind coming near gale force and we had to get the boat secure. But she made several attempts to dissuade me. "We still have time; we can go into the marina after the storm," she said.
"But what if the storm lasts through Wednesday when you have to leave?"
"That's OK," she said, "I can go ashore in the dinghy and take the bus."
"Uh, huh. But what about the big boat,?" I cross examined and like that.
We had already had a practice session with throwing dock lines. Coil it up, split it into two coils, throw the coil with the end first and then immediately follow it by throwing the second coil with the left hand.
"But what if I fail?"
"Well, then you'll have to pull the line back in, recoil it and make a second attempt, this time with a wet rope. Hopefully, that will be done before the boat crashes into the dock or another boat."
But there was no way to practice the insane Med-mooring i.e. dropping the anchor while I motored backward, letting just the right amount of chain out at the same time. Then, at the right moment, rigging the bridle and letting out enough more chain to take the strain off the windlass followed by a mad dash to the stern to throw the lines or, in the event no one was there to take the line and pass it back to you, step ashore and fasten it to a mooring using a special knot for that purpose.
So this was her mindset as we approached the dock in the main city on Keffalonia called Argostoli. As we rounded the point, miracle upon miracles, all the existing yachts there were tied up along side the quay and NOT stern or bows to! This would make the job considerably easier. So we quickly rigged all the fenders on the starboard side, rigged docklines along the side of the boat and carefully laid them out in two-coil fashion.
As we got closer, however, there was no one there to take our lines. So I had Olga take down the boarding gate and told her she would somehow have to step off the side of the boat unto the quay and then tie the lines her self while I held the boat in a more or less stationary position. This thought pretty much terrified both of us!
The wind was blowing the boat off the dock so I would have to get the boat very close for her to step off but, of course, the wind would immediately began to push the boat away from the dock. Although the boat can turn a full circle in its own length because of the twin engines (one in reverse, the other in forward), there is no way to make it go sideways, especially against the wind. When we got to about 15 feet from the quay, Olga stood on the edge of the boat looking down at the pier from her perch about 4 feet higher, with the black dock line accentuating her white knuckles . . . when "Eric" popped his head up on the boat tied up at the pier just in front of us and said, "Hi. Would you like some help with your lines?"
With Eric's 20 years' experience cruising, the boat was tied up snug as a bug 5 minutes later. We invited him and his mate over for drinks that night and Olga continued to express her view of the matter which was that she had been praying to God for a week to somehow save her from this experience and He answered by sending Eric. So all's well that ends well, right?
The only bad thing about Eric was he informed us we were supposed to check in (and out) at each port as we cruised Greece. Then they charge you a port tax of ~10,000 draculas. However, I think it was my friend Nick who said don't check in unless they ask you to . . . twice! The only trouble, I can't remember if he was referring to Greece or Italy. So, when we first arrived, we were getting water when two officers came by and told us to check in with the port captain. I ignored them until today. I figured the boat will be here another week at least so I began thinking I should go face the music. Eric told me he has a whole book that he must get stamped each time and was surprised we had made it this far, especially after I told him about the deal down in Zante Town with the Customs boat evicting us as mentioned in my last email.
When I got to the Port Captain's office, the guy asked for my "book" and I told him I didn't have one. He asked for my last port of call and I said "Sami." The one before that? Poros, Keffalonia but we were on the hook in each place. The one before that? Navagia, also on the hook. Before that? Porto Vromi . . . on the hook! What country did you come from? Malta! (This was a fortuitous change of subject because the port previous to Porto Vromi was Zante Town where we had all the trouble and skipped out without checking in or out and without paying.) I showed him my 28,000 draculas receipt we received when entering Greece (Crete) from Malta. Please sit right there. Later, "you must go to customs and get a "book." So I went to customs and spent 1 hour and 10,000 draculas. Back at the Port Captain's office, it was another 45 minutes and 8,750 draculas. At any minute, I expected a stern lecture about Greek law plus a fine. I was thinking, unlike America, if I have enough money, I should be able to stay out of jail! All the time, Nick's words kept drifting back, "Don't check in until asked to. . . twice! They don't like to be bothered with yachts." Stupid. What am I doing wasting my time and money here. I should have not checked in at all thereby keeping my string of victories alive. But now, after having checked in once, they know that I know the procedure i.e. I will have to check in and out of every port from now on. Then, when the last rubber stamp came crashing down on the last defenseless piece of paper, the captain shook my hand and sent me on my way with a "have a nice day." Nick was right all along and I violated his sage advice.
When I was still 100 yards from the boat, I could see Olga breathing a sigh of relief. I had told her I should really check in while she was still aboard since she could possibly help get me out of jail from the "outside." She welcomed me back with a big hug saying while I was gone, the police came by and demanded we go up to the captain's office and report in. Olga was able to diffuse the situation with a "but the captain is there right now doing just that." However, that was 2 hours earlier so she was really happy to see me. Although she had no keys to lock the boat, she had made up her mind that if I was not back by noon (2 1/2 hours after I left), she would go see what she could do to help. It also concerned her that I had her passport.
However, as mentioned above and elsewhere, "all's well that ends well" and this certainly ended well. It's not that we saved the $30 or so entry fees for each of the many ports we entered while touring Greece for the last month and a half but it's really the saving of an hour checking in and an hour checking out of each port, can't be done on the weekends or after hours, etc. Thanks Nick. While I was checking in, Olga was being asked for the second time so I think we obeyed your rule!
Hope all is well with you.