With the mountains darkening, we made for Plaka. An offshore breeze as hot as a hair-dryer
scorched us as we struggled to hand the mainsail. Though we failed to pinpoint the
requisite landmarks, a mill and a white church, on closer approach a thin grey line
revealed itself as the harbour mole. When we asked an old man wielding a hose for
water, consulting his watch, he locked the hydrant. It was water knocking-off time.
At dawn, requested to move stern-to to make room for a Flying Dolphin, we warped
Cappelle out. Concentrating on rope handling, I dropped anchor after thoughtlessly
placing my foot within its circle of chain which proceeded to tighten so fast I was
caught off balance. In sudden danger, as I saw it, of amputation, I shrieked my head
off. “Now that WAS a silly thing to do!” said the Captain.
That evening an uncomfortable swell entered harbour, hit the inner wall and bounced
back to meet its sister surge in the prelude to a night of pitch and wallow. Time
to abandon the boat for the beach. Here, among the loveliest pebbles of malachite,
alexandrine and rose-pink quartz, tiny fish played hide and seek. A few yards away
the sea floor plummeted to depths as blue as the upside-down sky. Playing Sophie-in-the-Sky-with-Sapphires,
I turned turtle to find above and below me the same fabulous colour. Pausanias brought
history to life when I discovered that 2,000 years ago, on this very stretch of coast,
he had gathered the prettiest pebbles he had ever seen.
It was another world next day, the sea grey and Paradise Beach desolate. The wind
heading us, we squeezed for the night amongst fishing boats behind the tiny mole
of Poulithra. Then we were away again into a sea of veined marble, a treeless, roadless,
mountainous landscape to starboard. Goats foraging sea pinks clung like Velcro to
the vertical face of a sea-cliff. Wind-blasted bushes, suddenly transformed into
grey herons, peeled away. Bob called out,
“You see that headland over there?”
“Yes!” I said brightly.
“Well, point at it!”
Did he think my eyesight defective? I raised my arm and pointed.