Plan B

Here we go again: plan B comes into effect. As enthusiastic as we were about our temporary winter stay in Kasos, as nervously we are now checking the weather forecast to see when we can sail on again. When do we ever learn: never tell about your plan, because it always turns out differently.

Kasos is a safe harbour, but like in many Greek ports the same applies here: it’s better not to leave your ship unattended. Especially during the fierce southerlies in wintertime. We cannot be there ourselves since we want to go to the Netherlands for a few weeks in december and there is no one we can or want to ask for this task. Time is running out, since we’ve promised to be in Holland for the 85th birthday party of Ron’s mother on November 24th. And despite persistent summer temperatures, the weather forecast isn’t looking really stable.

Hiking on Kasos

Then it’s Wednesday. The forecast is a repeat of the past days. The wind just a little too strong and the waves just a little too high for our liking. And in the past few days there has always been even more wind and waves than predicted, so we decide to stay put and go for a nice hike. One of the last routes on Kasos that we have not seen yet. But we haven’t even left the port when Ron sees that it looks pretty quiet anyway. Maybe we still …? Can we make it on time …? And yes, plan B comes into effect again. We are going to sail. Within the hour we buy all our groceries, pay at the Port Police and break up our camp on the quay. Lines loose! Karpathos, here we come!

The narrow entrance of Tristomo anchourage

The oars gliding gently through the water echoing against the steep mountain walls of the pitch-dark anchor bay. I hear some crickets in the distance. Furthermore, it is dead silent. No human sounds. The light of the crescent moon illuminates the houses of the abandoned village in front of which we’re anchored. It resembles the decor of a poor Western played on my first black and white TV that only received a signal from a small, unreinforced indoor antenna with a coarse black, white and gray grain image. Surreal. Unreal. Jack doesn’t care about all of this. He loves the smell of the sheep’s shit and contributes some himself. It is our last trip to the shore before we fall into a deep sleep behind our anchor in the wrinkle-free Tristomo anchourage on the northeastern tip of Karpathos.

Leaving Tristomo anchourage

Due to a lack of telephone and data reception, we sail on to Tilos the next morning without a recent weather forecast. Fortunately all works out well. Most of the trip we sail at top speed over a messy sea. We cover 42 miles in 8 hours. More than 5 knots on average. Not bad for our heavy, longkeeled lady. Today appears to be a ‘plan A’ day for a change.

Approaching Tilos

As we sail along the East coast of Tilos, we see a patrol boat from the Turkish coast guard. I only recognize the vessel later on the basis of a news report about extra money that Erdogan has ransacked from the EU for more of these vessels in order to stop the flow of migrants to Europe. It is the first time that the Turkish coast is within our sight distance. We realize that from now on we can come across a refugee boat anytime. Or worse. Refugees who did not succeed. Talking about people with a ‘plan B’.

“Something is floating in the water,” Ron says the next morning when I return from my morning walk with Jack. ‘Something big. It looks like a corpse.’ You’ve got to be kidding me. When I check it out, it looks like a pig. Or a goat. At least not a human being. Thank God. A little later a small boat drags the carcass into the harbor and removes it.

The dead goat being towed

If we continue to sail to Kos the next day, we must make a detour to not cross the border illegally and end up in Turkish territorial waters. It’s that close here. The Turkish mainland curves around the Dodecanese, a Greek group of islands. No wonder that many desperate migrants try to cross here. Their ‘plan A’ was a safe and happy life without hunger and poverty in their own country. Unfortunately, that often does not work and they have no option but ‘plan B’: in search of happiness, food and safety elsewhere on earth. And most of them don’t end up with that either. Instead they end up under inhumane conditions in an overcrowded refugee camp or even worse: washed ashore on the coast of the promised continent of Europe.

We arrive in Kos Marina in the afternoon. In front of the harbor are several armed boats from the coastguard and Frontex, the European border guard. Soldiers are hanging around looking bored.

Frontex vessel in Kos Marina

A burden falls off our shoulders now that we are safely in a Marina. We will probably stay here until we go to the Netherlands and leave Coco here. We try to remain uncommital, because you never know if there will be another plan B again. Relieved and happy that we found a safe haven in time, we are getting our own party started that afternoon. For the first time in six months we can have a real, luxury shower. How very privileged we are…

On our evening round with Jack we see that most of the patrol ships have left the port. On their way to guard the borders that are now shrouded in darkness. The borders of our safe port Europe. Safe for us, but unfortunately not for everyone. While we sail around freely in search of our happiness in safe harbors, that is not for most people in this world. What are we making a fuss about if our worst ‘plan B’ is that we go sailing a few days later, miss a birthday party or that ‘Black Pete’ might be purple this year?