Seashell Scotland

Orchids for Aphrodite

 

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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.

“Not your ARM, you fool, the BOAT!”

 

What I dreaded most was a simultaneous....