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At Sea in the Ionian

It’s never too late, no matter what they say about old dogs.

The first time I took out my boat, I was a nervous wreck, eventhough I had two friends to crew with me. I sat drinking coffee looking over the jetty, while a Swiss couple encouraged me.

-you will take it out yourself soon-

This was the farthest thing from my mind as I noticed my two friends arriving, coolbags in tow.

I nervously introduced everyone and then we abruptly left, the Swiss insisting on standing me the coffee. I tried and failed to relax as we settled on to the boat, and I went through the written out procedure for starting the engine. The throttle was slow to respond, so the rope holding the bow had well and truly sank by the time we moved for ward. I inched out of the berth and past the hundreds of assorted boats, power boats, sailboats and then the superyachts, tied up at the farthest jetty.

The adrenaline was pumping until we got out into the bay and I was able to take a deep breath. We put out a fishing line and caught a tuna first time, the only one of the summer,as it turned out.

The following week, I was swept along by my friend from Dublin, let’s call her the Dynamo, who showed me the ropes , literally. We sailed the channel from Kassiopi to Benitses, until , passing Corfu town, I said to her- let me take down the sails and steer. I pointed the boat into the wind and when the sails were in and we were motoring up the channel again, I glanced at the Dynamo. She was smiling from ear to ear with satisfaction at her pupil doing so well.

So the seeds were set. The day the Dynamo left, my eyes scanned the marina to add to the stash of enthusiastic crew. I noticed a sailor heading out on his own, standing tall at the back of his 34′ yacht, so I interrupted his meditations at the bow of his boat one day and asked him how he learned to sail alone.

He’s a man of few words, and with a strong South African accent he said- Next time I go to Sayada, you come with me in your boat.-

And so, the following week, I was given an hour’s notice, to leave on a trip south. I stocked up on food, water and for the first time, I slipped my lines myself.

The fish that were follwing me…

Tuneful Tine

Scavenging on Ipsos beach today I came across dried bamboos washed up by the tide. Adding them to the fire as kindling tonight, I was surprised at the tune they played as the air rushed through. No wonder they’re used as instruments all over the world.

Instruments have come on a lot since the basic tube with holes. My neighbour in Ireland took up wood turning during covid and produced this chanter for a set of Uileann Pipes . Made with Maple wood and his first attempt, he sent me this picture today. And he can knock a fair old tune out of the pipes too

No matter where you go, your roots call to you. The Irish language word for a fire is Tine. Calls to mind the word tines for the points on a fork. But completely unrelated I would think despite the relationship to music.

Uileann is the Irish word for elbow, used to produce the air for the pipes just like bagpipes. The coordination necessary to move your elbow while playing with both hands on the chanter is bewildering. The sound can be incredibly lonesome or full of joy as a dance tune.

And the fire lit in record time with the dried bamboo. Such an extraordinary plant -a member of the grass family, it spreads just like grass and grows to an enormous size in Corfu.