By heading north I escape the swell and move onto a low and sandy coast. Still very little wind but nice for paddling. Chance meetings and spontaneous kindness on the way. Ilias insists I can't sleep on the beach and puts me in a hotel room, Dimitris gifts me a poem - Ithica, by Cavafy - that has such beauty, and - I guess - offers reassurance:
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
Last camp spot before crossing the Gulf of Salonika is very lovely: a sand spit with wetlands behind. Lots of birds, frogs and/or toads, and abundant plastic of course. Professional fishermen are responsible for much of this: polystyrene fish crates, lost or discarded fragments of nets. And hobbyist anglers leave far more than their share too. I've been an uneasy critic of plastic, because it is damn useful stuff and better alternatives don't necessarily exist, and may in fact be far more damaging. Regardless, we need to use less of the stuff and deal with it better, and maybe that will happen. On that topic here is an interesting podcast: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0000t55
Early next morning I cross to Thessaloniki. There's good wind to get past the shipping lane, less breeze approaching the lighthouse, and a paddle - in Greek yoghurt conditions - for the last few miles. The city is a little way off route, but conditions are kind and I'd been easily convinced of the detour.
My principal contact in the city is Thomas from Stonero windsurf shop. Before arrival he had assured me that I would be amongst friends. MANY friends, as it turns out. The Hellenic Rescue Team also track me to the landing site, and I later enjoy a truly fascinating tour of the city with Odyseas and Harris. Such a privilege to learn this way. I end up with a sense of "where Europe is" totally recalibrated. The Atlantic coast is the far flung bit, too far out to be of much importance. It's here where the history happened. The city is *literally* layers of civilization. More recent, and sobering, history involves the city's Jews, deported en masse to concentration camps from where 90% never returned. And northern Greece shares a border with the various states of the now fragmented Yugoslavia. Peace here is less than 20 years old.
Back in the UK the Brexit news is running hot. The UK focus on Brexit is largely economic, but the consequences that we should have most in mind are peace, and the possibility of a coordinated and adequate response to environmental and climate challenges.
Later, I give a small presentation to the rest of the HRT team. And Tomas organises TV slots on local ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOhyYGzXFXc ) and national channels, and a very nice newspaper piece (https://www.makthes.gr/enas-monachikos-serfer-172451). We visit the Turkish embassy to see about procedure for the now-not-too-far-away border. There's lots of delicious food. In just a few words it is difficult to adequately explain the welcome, warmth and kindness of all who I have met. See how lovely our neighbours are?
Today I have sailed again. A nice goodbye and then the first miles in convoy with the HRT team. Windy too! A stop on the local beach. Last goodbyes. Then an easy 24nm. Back on the wagon. Next up the three fingers of Halkidiki...
Thomas and Stauroula from Stonero Surf Shop (https://www.facebook.com/stonero-40405956470/): for the new harness, organisation, home cooking, and many etceteras!
Theodore from Optician (https://www.facebook.com/optikaegnatia/) for the ultimate eye safe sunglasses.
Hotel Egnatia (https://www.facebook.com/Egnatia-Hotel-183665308454991)for a very nice place to stay
HRT team (https://www.facebook.com/HellenicRescueTeam/) especially Odyseas and Harris
Thessaloniki windsurf community
Thessaloniki SUP club