‘No problem’, says the fisherman, but I highly doubt it when I see the large white Greek sheepdog coming straight at us with twisted lips and his mouth wide open. Our fearlessly barking Sammie seems to be his first target. As I lift a thick bamboo stick with both hands as high as possible above my head, I look straight into the big dog’s mouth. He doesn’t back down. Then I hit the stick on his head with all my strength. It breaks. Bamboo is not strong. Fortunately, the dog is put off anyway. Relieved, but still somewhat trembling, we enter the tavern, where we have just been invited for the remnants of the Easter table. Kalo Pascha (Happy Easter)!
When Ron goes to get a few cold beers after a hard day’s work, he is immediately invited to sit down at their dining table. Of course it’s ok if he picks up his wife first. The taverna’s are still officially closed here because of the lockdown, but this one also seems to function as a family living room. ‘At Easter we eat lamb’, says the owner and proudly shows a photo of three lambs on a spit. One lamb per family. He bought them a month ago, ten kilos each, and now they weigh double. ‘Nice and fat, good for the taste’, he grins and takes me to the kitchen in the back. He shows me the last grilled lamb and cuts a piece of warm meat from the abdomen. The fat drips off. The outside is a bit chewy skin, but the meat itself melts on my tongue.
After more than seven months in Koronisia, of which almost half a year in lockdown, we finally cast off on Monday April 26th. We are happy as kids in a sweetshop, if only for one trip: to the Steel Design shipyard across the Gulf of Amvrakikos near Vonitsa. A sloppy eight miles. Yet it takes us almost four hours. That’s less than half our normal speed. The beard of mussels under our Coco is apparently slowing us down quite a bit.
This way there is not much time left to stay at anchor in the beautiful Rougas bay. But enough to relax for a while and row with the dogs to the shore for a sanitary stop and a first exploration of the wharf. The owner, Wolfgang, is still nowhere to be seen. When we are all back on the boat, he’s suddenly whistling. “Five minutes!” he shouts. It’s time. We’re getting out!
When Ron has satisfactorily maneuvered our Coco onto the trailer, we have to get off our ship. With a heavy heart I get into our dingy and the four of us paddle the last bit to the side. What comes next always costs me an extra year of my life: hoisting our boat, our house out of the water, seeing her hang helplessly in a pair of frayed, creaking slings above the stony ground, only to be maneuvered and dropped on a rickety cradle. But this time it’s different. Coco is gently driven out of the water on the trailer and a few minutes later is standing on a rock-solid cradle between the other boats on the wharf. Deep sigh and another year of my life saved. The work can begin.
The first few days, Jack is still faithfully waiting for the dinghy back. He stands on the jetty, carefully wriggles his small body down the slightly too high staircase and stares aimlessly into the distance. Does he miss his friends in Koronisia? Doesn’t he realize that our Coco no longer floats in the water? Fortunately, he slowly finds out that this place isn’t too bad either. Just like we do.
When we arrive, everything is spring green and countless flowers color the alpine meadow-like landscape, which looks just as Austrian as its inhabitants. German is the official language here. Tit nests in the hollow boom of a sailboat next to us, a turtle crawls under our boat and the neighbor sees a snake in the grass that is still man-sized. Just under two weeks later, the fields are slowly turning dull green and yellow due to the steadily warming summer weather. Here and there the tall greenery is pruned.
In the meantime, new boat owners arrive every day to do odd jobs on their boats. We enjoy a real hot shower for the first time in over a year and find out that washing your clothes in warm water really gives a better result than in cold. We are invited to a barbecue together with the other boat inhabitants. It’s fun and everyone helps each other. Our dogs have now completely adapted to life on dry land.
And of course we work. Scratching, sanding, polishing, priming, filling and antifouling of the underwater hull. As is often the case, the planned week becomes two weeks. Not even because it’s not going well, but because it’s a great place for working. We make optimal use of the fact that we are out of the water and do some extra chores that are only possible then, such as checking and maintaining the hull fittings and valves.
Time flies when you’re having fun. Before we know it, we’re back in the water. As smoothly as we went out, as smoothly we go back in. We are almost floating again. A final check of all theoretically possible leaks and then our Coco slides the last bit into the water. Engine in reverse and off you go. Not far. A short circle and then we quickly drop the anchor. We stay another night. Just because it’s finally possible again. Just, to enjoy the feeling of our boat back in the water. Just to enjoy our first trip since seven months of lockdown.