DOVKA

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April - June 2002

Heading Eastward
We are presently (June 3, 2002) in the Gulf of Corinth en route to a passage
through the Corinth Canal, which divides the Peloponnesian peninsula from
the mainland of Greece. It is a stretch of about a hundred miles and it will
lead us from the Ionian Islands into the Aegean Sea and the Northern
Cyclades Islands. Below is our first 2002 “All Points Bulletin”: a mixture
of log and summary of our journey so far this season.

May 20, 2002
1700 (5 pm)

We motored out of Catania, Sicily at 10 a.m. this morning on a course just
north of east, with the little wind there was on the nose from the east.
All our carefully listened to weather forecasts seemed wrong, as usual.
But the day was beautiful. As we exited the harbor, a lovely trawler,
HYDRANGEA, skippered by a charming and unusual Japanese businessman and his
wife, was entering.

We had met them upon our return to the yard where DOVKA wintered and have
been playing tortoise and hare with HYDRANGEA ever since, down the coast of
Italy and over to Sicily. We passed greetings and shouted over both boats’
engines that “We are off to Greece.”

And so we are. Now, at 5 pm, we are 25 miles south of the boot of Italy,
the hills a faint gray under the diminishing cloud cover. Italy will fade
away as the arch and heel roll further north of us as we continue our push
east to the Ionian Islands off the Peloponnesian Peninsula. We are sailing.
The engine is off. The wind has come around and come up.

It is an interesting phenomena to watch. The little breath of wind which we
had initially, died. The sea was glassy and the sun was hot. One of the
first times we have felt the intense summer sun since our return. Then very
gradually tiny ripples were raised on the smooth, silvery water. Then the
ripples became wavelets. The sea started dancing again, rather than moving
in long, leisurely rolls. The moon is up and the wind is from the predicted
direction of northwest, which, hopefully, portends a pleasant 48-hour sail
to Kefallinia.
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We left our land home in Falls Church on Easter Sunday, to fly to our sea
home, DOVKA, in Gaeta, Italy (halfway between Rome and Naples). We unloaded
two folding bicycle boxes of their cargo: new bikes, peanut butter, shoes,
books et al. Did a superficial clean up and then took off for three weeks of
travel.

We explored Budapest and Prague and the surrounding countryside with friends
from home, finding it all fascinating and fun, albeit rainy (sometimes
snowy) and cold. Came back to Italy via the alpine lake country around
Salzburg and found that spectacular scenery and the Austrians surprisingly
pleasant. The sun greeted us as we entered Venice and spent the next
wonderful week visiting in Florence and eating and drinking our way around
Tuscany with other assorted friends.

Another week working (very hard) on DOVKA and we were ready to get going,
but bad weather kept us at the dock and gave us more of a chance to enjoy
Gaeta, a lovely medieval seaside town with mountains looming behind it. The
Via Independencia is a narrow, cobblestone street lined with little shops
and produce stalls. It has been in continuous use since the 9th century.

For us, the joy of Gaeta, and of all Italy, is the food, the language and
the people. Everyday existence is translated into theater with sounds that
sing and gestures that dance. Simple requests for a certain cheese in what
we call our pidgen Italish are responded to with facial expressions, smiles
and hand motions that make us feel as if we are in the midst of a very
important and exciting drama. In fact, it seems as if all life is
performance art for the Italians and we feel privileged to be able to
participate in it with them.

On May 10, we motored out of Gaeta in a fine drizzle. We slowly worked our
way south along the Calabrian coast and through the Straits of Messina to
Sicily. There are several places we have been which evoke romantic images
for us. Horta in the Azores, as the crossroads of the Atlantic; Cape St.
Vincent, as the westernmost tip of Europe; and, of course, Gibraltar with
its history, rock and monkeys.

The Straits of Messina evoke images of Scylla and Charbydis, Odysseus and
the Cyclops and also fear of its currents and tides. We found no Greek gods
and no awful currents, but strange eddies and whirlpools and erratic winds
that blew up from nowhere. At its narrowest, this body of water between
Sicily and the mainland is less than a mile wide.

Sicily felt comfortably familiar, as we had been there last summer. We
toured Mt Etna and Siracusa by car. The lava flows from last year’s eruption
were impressive, as were the many, many previous ones, marked by years on
our topo map of the national park. The mountains are lush and green. The
yellow, blue and pink wildflowers are at their full blossom and blankets of
blood red poppies are strewn around the mountainsides. Then suddenly there
is a huge swath of hardened lava rock looking as if it was a freeze frame of
its flowing stage. It is a heart stopping sight when one imagines it as
red-hot molten rock rolling down the hills.

An Australian friend had joined us for a week and the three of us had a
wonderful experience attending the production of Euripides’ “Bacchante” at
the 2,400 year old Greek Amphitheater in Siracusa. The audience was as much
the show as was the Italian postmodern production, which was criticized by
our Sicilian seatmate, who kindly tried to translate the summary of the play
for us. He thought the production was much too Bertold Brechtian. We found
it a perfect ‘arrivederci’ to Italy.

A great deal of being in Italy is sitting over leisurely meals of the
freshest fish, tastiest pasta and sweetest tomatoes we have ever eaten. We
have stored in our memories for future personal smiles, the ambiance of the
surroundings and the smells of some of those special meals, as well as the
lovely little shrugs and eyebrow motions that go with answers to our
questions for directions or as responses to our “Come se dice…?” We look
forward to Greece, but leave Italy reluctantly.
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2030 (8:30pm)
Sunset at sea is an event. It is a slow, ever changing light show. First
the sun appears larger and larger as it gets lower and lower on the horizon.
Tonight it was a lovely soft red ball. It disappears as it dips into the
sea (The Greeks said it was bathing in the ocean) and leaves soft pinks and
grays above it. Suddenly, clouds cleared and we were able to see Mt Etna
behind us on the western horizon. Soft pinks backlit a black mound with a U-
shaped summit surrounded by mist.

The sea and sky are in continuous color changes for about two hours after
sunset. The sea glints and turns silver and gold, then gray and then darker
gray and finally, as if with reluctance, ink black. If the moon is up, the
bright light glistens in the sea. Meanwhile the sky goes pink and blue-gray,
then grayer and grayer. It is as if the sun is drawing the light down into
the sea with it, pulling it from the east, like a shade on a window. Only it
is many shades: each of a darker gray, until it is dark except for a bit of
light that does not seem to want to swim below the western horizon.

Sailing east as we are, we look ahead and see the night. We look behind
and still see the light of day. When there is no moon and the last bit of
light leaves, it is very dark 360 degrees around. When there is a moon, the
night is brilliant. And tonight we have a moon, so we are very happy with
our sea and sky and our sailing.

May 22, 2002
1330 (1:30pm)

We made our landfall this morning on Zakinthos, the southernmost Ionian
island. We had a delightful sail with gentle winds on the beam. As we
rounded the southwestern tip of Zakinthos, we motored close to the steep
white cliffs, which are topped with green and slope away from the sea, but
continue to rise. There were caves in the cliffs and several sightseeing
boats emerged from the east and actually poked their bows into the largest
caves.

We decided we were not ready to go ashore, so we are anchored around the
corner on the southeast coast off the breakwater of a tiny village. We can
see the yellow wildflowers in the mountains and the luxuriant pink and
purple bougainvillea around the few houses on the hills facing us. A rooster
is crowing regularly and every now and then we hear a motor scooter on the
road. Here we are. Tomorrow we will sail to the town of Zakinthos and begin
our explorations in Greece.