Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Aegean Mission part II

I never lose the sense of anticipatory romance from arriving at an airport in the dead of a scorched night and having to walk across fuel spattered tarmac.

Jetways are great, but you get a sense of the real achievement of the engineering you have encountered when you descend the steps and glance back to giant turbines, red strobes and hard hatted erks scurrying around the belly of the beast in which you flew.

It connects you with the reality of it - and as an aviator one's self, you feel the connection between yourself (who is used to wire controls and propellers) and the chap perched 50 feet above you in a white shirt with a clipboard in his cockpit.

In someways it helps for those who fly not well to have the experience sanitised. Jetways and soft lighting removes one far from the harsh reality of flaps, ailerons and landing gear.

Sanitisation, though is vital when one is to be whisked away from chav-city-luggage handling to one's Yacht.

It is far better to be carried off far from the madding chavs in their charter airline finery, then to cope with public transport at 4 am in a foreign clime.

And thus we found ourselves in the back of a car that awaited our arrival.

Cheeky chappy cabby he was, having had Bill Clinton, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston in the back of his cab.

Yachtie heaven was a short slink away. The First Mate and I grinned with anticipation while the strange banter wafted over our heads.

And so to SY Athena.

My First Mate has clearly be brought up with noble austerity, for she was suitable impressed by the yacht. I found her a little on the small side (Last time I was here, I rented a Dreadnought) and listing to starboard - but the Cream Leather sofas, cooling fans and Ice box worked their magic and soon we were established aboard.

One needs no reminding at this juncture, that a boat grows a foot shorter everyday.

The first day is always handover. The Boat chap (In this case an ex-KriegsMarine Petty Officer) comes along and runs through the controls with us, indicates the location of various items of kit aboard, goes over the sailing ropes and ticks off an inventory.

We met shook hands firmly and we exchanged knowing looks.

'Where do you sail Herr D--?'

'English Channel, old boy.'

'Ach, you know they say there is no seamanship East of Gibraltar!'

'Indeed, one must watch out for rogue Italians!'

'Jah! We understand each other!'

The check out took five minutes. Being a nautical cove, he clearly saw the cut of my jib and that of the studious first mate and reckoned we were right seamen. (In the non-gender specific sense of the word)

Now - a quick reflection - when one hires a boat in the UK, the owner comes aboard and counts the teaspoons. One gets charged for every chip, scratch and scuff on the plates.

In Greece they understand the commercial realities, and treat one with some respect. In other words, he didn't count the teaspoons, which considering his Teutonic nature was rather gratifying. When one has handed over the thick end of a thousand Euros in cash, a ten cent spoon or fifty cent wine glass does not break the bank.

Like the UK, Greece has a glut of charter boats. The difference is, in Greece, they treat me as a customer who has chosen their business. In the UK, one gets treated as a nuisance who should be punished for the smallest transgression of cutlery.

Renting a boat in blighty is somewhat akin to taking rooms off one of those sorts of 'landladies' who seemed to exist in the 1950s. They come along afterwards and check the pillows for stains. There may be more boats than crew in the Solent, but while they are largely run as tax sinks to escape Gordo's thievery, we will scant see the likes of service I enjoy from my chums in Greece.

It is afterall cheaper to fly to Greece and hire a boat for week than it is to do it from Scotland.

PS: I have a photo of the barky, but she's going to require upload and editing.


Anonymous said...

"Cheeky chappy cabby he was, having had Bill Clinton, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston in the back of his cab."

No, that was on the way back. The one on the way out was the apples-and-pears gor-blimey-guv'nor one.
Though to be fair he'd had a 2 hour wait due to our delay so he deserved the tip despite his irritating bedside manner.

Nicodemus said...

A two hour delay and ten euro tip indeed he did deserve, but that is no reason for chirpy cockney sparrow antics, whichever the direction.