My First Time - Final part

In classical Greek times Aegina was a city state and, lying across the Saronic shipping lanes, became prosperous, rich and powerful and was often in conflict with the Athenians who called it 'the eyesore of Piraeus'.

It controlled a vast trading network between southern Greece and the northern Aegean and had colonies in Italy, Egypt and the Black Sea. By the time we were there in 1985 it was just another of Greece's many islands, but its past was clearly evident in the ruins of the Temple of Aphaea, a local deity, one of the best preserved Greek temples anywhere and an important tourist attraction. There were also over 30 well preserved Byzantine churches and chapels dotting the hillside where the town of Ayia Marina once stood.

We stayed on Aegina another day and hired four mopeds to tour around, see the sights and stop off for a swim in a rocky bay then back to the boat for the evening.

The following morning it was time to start to retrace our steps, but first we sailed to have a look at 'Frog Island', a barren bit of rock that Skip said looked like a frog. It just looked like a lump of rock stuck in the sea to me. It was then on back to Poros. Next morning we were approached by a man and wife with two small children who asked if we were sailing to Hydra. When we said we were, they claimed their holiday accommodation left a lot to be desired and wanted to know if we would take them with us to save the ferry fare, which we did, hopefully earning a few brownie points for our trouble.

Day 12 saw us leaving early for Spetses and our planned evening BBQ with the boats of the flotilla. We stopped for lunch in a bay en-route and collected a lot of driftwood and branches from the beach for the BBQ fire. We stored it in the inflatable tender that we had towed behind the boat throughout our voyage. After this Skip had us cleaning the boat inside and out ready for the return to Porto Heli. We had to use the wood-filled tender to clean the hull and we later discovered that this had not been a good idea.

Late in the evening we approached the bay where the flotilla was already moored under sail as a breeze had got up during the afternoon and, keen to show off the skills he had taught his three novices during the trip, Skip decided to sail in and anchor instead of dropping the sails and motoring in. Big mistake! We dropped the anchor OK, but it would not hold on the rocky sea bed and the boat, with its sails still set, was soon being blown down onto the other moored boats. On with the engine to help us hold position and then rapidly down with the sails. We then lifted the anchor and tried again, but still it would not hold. Skip then told Little and I to get in the tender, lift the anchor and row it to where we could see sand in the crystal clear water. As soon as we got into the tender it partially folded up around us and this became worse as we rowed. At some time since collecting the wood, possibly when we were cleaning the hull, we had punctured the tender and it was slowly deflating. All this faffing around took about 45 minutes before we got the anchor to bite and we were secure, all the time under the amazed gaze of all the other crews. We found it hilarious, but Skip was mortified!

Eventually we got settled, pumped a bit of air back into the tender and went below to clean up. When we emerged it was dark and the BBQ fires were twinkling on the beach so it was back in the again-soft tender to row ashore with our stock of wood, food and drink. After a bit of ribbing we all had a good time and enjoyed the company. At about 1am Big had to go and get rid of some of the beer, so he wandered off behind some rocks in his bare feet. "Oh s***!" he screamed and after a while came hobbling back to the fires. "I've trodden on something and it bit me" he said and, sure enough, we could see a small mark on his foot which the flotilla leader said looked suspiciously like a scorpion sting. That put an end to his party, so we said our good nights and took him back to the boat to put some antiseptic and a dressing on the spot and then we all went to our bunks.

Next morning the foot was slightly swollen, but there was not a lot we could do where we were in the bay. It was the end of the cruise and all the boats had to get back to Porto Heli. It was just as quick to get there as it was to go into Spetses harbour so we went too. After arriving, the flotilla leader took another look at Big's foot and, not happy with its appearance, suggested he take him straight to the hospital on the back of his motorbike and off they went. We all stayed behind to pack up the boats and our gear ready for the journey home. About 3 hours later they returned and Big looked decidedly unhappy. We thought this was due to the scorpion poison in his system until he told us of his further mishap. On the way to the hospital on the pillion of the bike he had put his head over the shoulder of the flotilla leader to say something. As he opened his mouth a bee or wasp was blown in and stung the inside of his cheek. When he got to the hospital they had given him an anti-histamine injection in his backside to guard against anaphylactic shock so he had holes in his mouth, foot and bum! I am sorry to admit that all the rest of us could do was fall about laughing until our sides ached. Big was not a happy bunny.

Our flight home the next day was not until late in the evening so we again decided to forego the pleasure of the coach trip back to Athens and took the fast hydrofoil so we could spend the day sightseeing. We had a good few very interesting hours there, mainly going up and around the Acropolis before finally setting off by cab to the airport.

It had been a fabulous two weeks. I was as brown as I had ever been and felt relaxed, great and ready for the fray back at work. The day after we got back, a couple of lady friends invited Little and me to a slap-up Sunday roast as a welcome home and because they thought we had probably skimped on food in favour of the beer; little did they know how well we had looked after our stomachs!!
We had all taken photographs during the cruise and agreed to get four sets of prints each, so a couple of weeks later, met up again to have a beer, a chat and give them out. I never saw Big or Skip again after that, but am still friends with Little and was best man at his wedding to one of the ladies who had given us the Sunday dinner on our return. I did not sail again until I started dinghy sailing in 1990 and did not sail a cruiser again until twenty years later in 2006, by which time I was living in Spain. I now sail on a friend's boat about once a week and each year we have a two or three week trip out to the Balearics, but I would love to go back to the Greek Islands once again before I get too old and past it.