Varkiza to Euboea
Sunday 21st - Monday 22nd October - last days at Varkiza
I hang on for a couple more days at the event site. Amongst the nations represented are Russia (competitors and coaches) and Turkey (jury member) and there is an opportunity to make some connections. To Tatyana and Pinar, I stumble an explanation of the plan: a Russia to Russia solo windsurf, a route going south on the Black Sea coast, an objective to reach Sochi.
It isn't clear that the required permissions will be obtained, but from a symbolic one-planet perspective it seems important to try. Tatyana's and Pinar's warmth and positivity are a real lift.
Tues 23rd October - end of day: Rodou
I leave the beach with the departing fleets. Billy from menorca must have been watching because moments later he planes across into my path. I'm sad to go. Goodbyes are sad. Best keep them short.
I fall into the familiarity of coastal sailing. Wind funneling, channeling, being blocked. Today mostly between 10 and 25 knots.
A course southward takes me to Cape Sounion and the Temple of Poseidon - Greek god of the sea, known to have a temper. Then it's northward in stronger wind and rain. Satisfying but quite bruising upwind sailing. Some significant cliff sections. Half an hour before dark I am rewarded with a find of a protected anchorage. 27nm is a good haul.
The closed-up sailing club is little more than a beach hut, but chairs and table make it a good camp spot. A short while later three policeman turn up. The mean cop demands ID and is quite unfriendly. I guess they are Athens police rather than local plod. Oh well, it's a comfortable plastic chair to lounge in and I've no other engagements.
Wednesday 24th October - end of day: Mati
Early on there's a perfect breeze for zigzagging upwind. Then after a quick stop at Athens Watersports, at the end of a nice beach section, the wind drops. Eventually, out comes the paddle. Later, I see what at first appears to be a shark lobbing a lump of something around, but when I get closer it is clearly a seal, lobbing a good sized fish. A rare sighting, the only seals in the Mediterranean are Mediterranean monk seals, and in 2015 their global population was estimated at fewer than 700.
Impending darkness lead to a stop at Mati, where a windsurfer called Nick says hello, and confirms it will be no problem to sleep under the boat shelter. I'd seen lots of burnt buildings whilst paddling. Apparently wildfires swept through the neighbourhood earlier in the year with considerable loss of life.
Thursday 25th October- end of day: Aghia Marina
It's far too windy to sail in the morning. But there's coffee to drink and I've bits and pieces to catch up on. By mid-afternoon the wind has eased enough to grab a few miles. Shorter days now, and a couple of hours later I'm struggling to reach a stopping place before dark, until the beach I'd been hoping to reach comes into view. It's a nice beach too - good showers - and with what appears to be a closed down resort. After landing routine I go for a wander, on the offchance that there is a bar open.
The resort isn't exactly open... but I do see a few people, and exchange a couple of standard calasperas without problem, before being clocked. Mmm, this didn't look right, and I appear to have landed in a military area. Oh well, check my diary: nope - nothing else on tonight either. And the Hellenic navy guys are very polite and understanding, and even take me and gear in their truck, back to the small ferry port I'd passed earlier.
Friday 26th October - end of day: Nea Palatia
Sail and paddle. Beautiful relaxing day. Gentle following breezes. Land on all sides. Like being in Norway. A day to enjoy. Realise I have a contact in Chalkida, where I should reach tomorrow. Nickolas had been keen to sail when I reach there, so I message to let him know that I am close.
Saturday 27th October - end of day: small beach, island of Euboea
Following breeze again. Easy progress to Chalkida where the gap between island and mainland is at it's narrowest. Sail under a suspension bridge. Approach a much smaller bridge, but before reaching this a group of Optimist dinghies and coach boat come close enough for us to chat. Chalkida looks nice, I would be happy to stop here if it were later in the day. But there are still good miles to be had. Nonetheless, I would like to pass on my regards to Nickolas. I ask the coach if he knows him, but it's like he hasn't understood the question, so I ask again. Again the reply is delayed. The coach's expression is now absent of joy.
"Nickolas is dead. He died of cancer, earlier this year."
Kerboom! That news impacts upon this and following days. Sailing through the afternoon I think back to our communications. Nickolas had been sounding out whether I'd make it here in the time he had left.
The rest of the day barely matters.
Sunday 28th October - end of day: Gregolimano (Club Med beach), Euboea
Stunning scenery. Good distance 30nm! Nice stop at Limeni, where say hello to some locals. Sail until late, and camp on a spit of sand. A deserted holiday camp again - confirmed this time by kids beach area - and still available Club Med wifi.
Monday 29th October - end of day: Faros Vasilina, Euboea
Struggle to make 3nm in the morning, but that gets me to a small village where I write most of this update. When I sail again later in the day find that I shed a few tears. For Nickolas - perhaps, and probably for Paco, and for Dennis, and maybe for Dick too, and others. We are only privy to a small part of what our brains are up to. And it occurs to me that whilst tragedy is tragic - more tragic would be a life lived without tragedy, before realising that I am confusing tragedy with loss. Nope, tragedy is just a bastard.
Then I round the corner of the island and hit some current too strong to sail against in such light wind. But the water here is beautifully flat. Out comes the paddle to add a few miles more.
To the family or friends of Nickolas - who may conceivably read or become aware of this post - I offer my heartfelt condolences. From the few messages Nickolas and I exchanged it is clear that he was a wonderful person. His star still shines.