Winds from Hell

            One often thinks: 'What is the Greek experience?'  Let me tell you about a typical day.

            Rose and I made late night/early morning passage on the Ferry Daliana from Santorini to Heraklion, one of Crete's many port cities.  We hustled up a taxi, which turned out to be too expensive, and so shared it with another young German couple, splitting the costs.  After a crazed two hour journey across Greece's largest island, we arrived at our port, Agios Nicholaous, for the morning's continuation of our journey to Rodos in the Dodecanese.  There were no plane rides available.  They either already been shut down by high winds, or were already fully booked.   

            Rose and I were once again thrust into the world of sixty years ago, going no where fast, but loving it. 

             I got a chance to put my Greek to the test on the telephone, and called a local hotel, Hotel Pergola, as listed in Lonely Planet.  A quick bite at the harbor, and we quickly crashed, falling into a deep sleep.  It seemed like minutes, when the landlord awakened us. In staccato Greek, he said:  "The boat is leaving.  The boat is leaving."

                        "O my Goodness!" I grabbed by forty-five pound backpack, my thirty pound camera bag, my 30 pound backpack, and my sixty-nine pound lighting equipment bag, as Rose gathered her stuff.  We hauled ass down to the port.   Just in the proverbial 'nick of time,' we boarded the LANE ferry,  Vitsentzos Kornaros,  to Rodos, a twelve-hour journey. Rose and I mellowed in the first hours of the journey, as we tried to catch up on our sleep.  We stopped at Sitia, and continued on the Kassos. 

             On the fantail, drinking my first coffee of the day, I noticed the winds start to freshen, first from light breeze, to strong breeze.  Then, suddenly, the windstorm hit.

             I mentioned to a fellow traveler that the winds seemed a bit stronger.  Upon closer observation, I could see the tops of the wind waves, whiten, and blow off, starting to drag across a cerulean confused sea.

             "Hmmm! This could be interesting," I mused to my lover.  Rose reached over and  placed my hand over mine. We both hung on to that rail, as the ferry started to heal, pitching first to ten degrees, then to fifteen.

             We pulled in to Kassos our next destination stop.  After three failed attempts, the Captain finally backed the huge ferry up to the quay.  The first line was tossed, and lashed in a hurry.  Just as the second was tossed, a huge sustained gust hit, upwards of 45 kph.  The second line blew free!  The primary hawser line, which was about 5 inches thick, exploded like a cannon shot, whipping back, ripping off both paint and rust from the aged Vincenzo Korneros!

             Despite the full effects of our side thrusters, the meltemi winds pushed against the ferry's high freeboard.  The Vitsentzos Kornaros began its slow inevitable drift toward the rocks, now close at hand off our port side.  The captain made the right move, gunning the ferry's mighty engines and we squeaked out of Kassos tight little harbor.  Taking no more chances, the captain moved onwards back to sea.  All the forlorn people waiting to get on sat stranded at the dock as well as those wanting to disembark.

            Four hours later, in the midst of a stormy sea now laced with a patchwork of white caps dragging across the surface, we pulled up to Karpathos, to Karpathos Harbor.  Again, just as we pulled in, the wind venturied, doubled to Beauford 10 and sent us towards the cliff.  The ship drifted far too close, and but for the phenomenal steep depths of the waters off the Greek Islands, I am sure we would have gone aground.  The Captain tried valiantly FOUR more times, before submitting to the whims of nature, and heading to the next port.

          An excited buzz filled the aid as people talked rapidly in all the languages of Europe.  More than a little apprehension was in the air. I spent my time, firmly gripping the oft painted rail, reading the near hurricane force winds from the fantail, and marveling at nature's primal force.

            We tried to pull into our next harbor, two hours later at Pigadia in Karpathos.  The captain was not going to give up so easily this time.  We tried three times to dock.  Each time we tried to back the massive ferry the winds would catch her bow and swing it towards the rocks.  The mighty stern engines fought the confused seas, and building 5-to-6 foot chop.  

            Bowing to the inevitable, the captain, again, had to compromise, pulling away from port.  It was the only sound decision.  Another Greek buzz filled the air.  'We must unload all the refrigerated produce and vegetables."  A solution had been reached.  We would wait in the lee side of this very big, long island of Karpathos. 

             Some four plus hours came and went.  We were seriously off our schedule to Rodos.  We were in high winds, buffeted by hurricane force winds.  On the other hand, we were in Greece.  The sun was shining brilliantly.  It was a beautiful day.  A deck hand wisely cranked up the Greek music, and opened the bar on the fantail.  There were worse places to be after all.

            Time slowed down, as we lay there in the brilliant Greek sun and forty-knot winds.  Slowly but surely, the Aeolian winds subsided, dropping to a mere 35 knots.  We pulled in nailed the docking at Karpathos, hitching up to the ferry quay with no less than FOUR of the huge lines, to hold the ferry tight.  A quick unloading.  Those going to Kassos would have to wait three days until the next ferry, including a fine Greek Grandfather and Grandmother we had met, who were transporting their grandchilden back to their parents.

            Still traveling in huge seas, we made passage for Rodos, without much ado, some six hours late at 2 AM.  There we stood, crammed into the stairway down to the disembarkation deck, American sardines, stuffed in with peoples of all countries, speaking a melange of language.  The words that came to mind were 'hurry up and wait.'  We were going somewhere pretty darn quick now, it's just that we didn't know exactly where. 

          Leaving the ferry, I kissed the ground more than once with my 140 pounds of junk.  We met an enterprising Greek, Johnny, who invited us to his "Pansyon."  We jumped into his car, sped along the thirty foot thick walls of Rodos' Old Town, before making a quick left into the old fortress, and making our way into the maze to Johnny's "Pansyon."  A lovelier sight I had never seen.....a double bed! 

        Breaking out our emergency stash of megali (large) Heinecken, Rose and I sat on our veranda, above an ancient stone street, one-donkey cart wide.  Staring at the stone buttress holding up the wall of Johnny's place and the Greek Flag waving in the winds, we toasted to the Captain and our good fortune.

-Glenn Steiner, 2000