Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Kythera Chronicles: The Boat

    We met Stavros at the taverna on the beach where the fisherman took their coffee in the morning after they came in from a night of pulling in nets and setting out lines.

    Stavros had the deeply grooved face and gravel voice of a man who has spent his life on the salt sea smoking Greek cigarettes that smell like cigars soaked in tar.
     "My grandfather's house is up on the hill," he said.  "In Greece, everybody in the family gets a piece of the land when the old man dies, so I just have a couple of acres left to farm.  That's why so many Greeks went to Australia.  You can't make a living farming a few acres on a Greek Island. So I fish too.  I fish twelve hours a day, and I farm the other 12," he laughed.

            Could we go out on his boat and fish with him?

             "Sure.  Be here at 4 in the morning."

              So the next morning we pushed off from the dock and went out into the darkness.  It was a big boat for one man, maybe 30 feet long, and heavy.  We help pull in the long lines with the big hooks for swordfish, and bait the hooks and lay out new lines.

              When the sun came up the sky was clear blue and there was no wind.  The sea had been calm but as soon as the sun cleared the horizon, we were rising and falling in a ten foot swell, the waves smooth, the water glassy as if it should be calm.  It was hard for us to stand up.  Stavros said "we have to go back into Agia Pelagia, the fishing village where we'd cast off.
         It was not a bad trip, but the sea tossed the boat like it was a little toy in a bathtub.  We anchored inside the long concrete barrier, around 25 yards off the beach.   Stavros offered to row us into shore, but we sensed he could use a little help and wanted company so we stayed.  The storm, when it came was ferocious, with violent gusting wind and rain.  Why didn't the concrete barrier protect the boat?

                "You get four Greeks, Stavros said, you get 5 opinions.  The barrier doesn't protect the boats but it's filling in the bay."

                  In the morning we were still out on the boat with Stavros, bailing and making sure it didn't get blown off its moorings on onto the beach.  By the afternoon the storm had gone and the sun was out.  We hadn't got much sleep and we were very tired.  Some of the fisherman with the smaller boats had dragged their boats up on the sand, but most of them had stayed anchored offshore and had gone without sleep.

                They were exhausted but instead of going home to bed, they went to the taverna to get drunk and dance and sing, happy to be alive.       

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