Now this is not the end

It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.

Churchill was referring to the changing tide of the Second World War after vanquishing German troops in Egypt.   I’m using it because Ondine is on dry dock, I’m writing this en-route to the USA, Emma-Kate, Paloma and Ronan are ensconced in an apartment in a British tourist enclave (in Turkey) and although I don’t want to admit it, this is looking increasingly like the end of our year at sea.

I didn’t know it, but our sail from the island of Kalymnos (Greece) to Didim (Turkey), via Leros (to pick up our missing P-Bracket) would be our last.  It was a great sailing day.  The meltemi was blowing about 20-25 knots, and we took it fairly easy putting a big reef in the sail and cruising along at 9-10 knots.  We arrived late in the day and the kids were THRILLED to see the lights of an amusment park right next to the Marina.  Emma-Kate and I?  Not so much.  So far we’ve avoided going.  Or rather, I’ve avoided going.  With me out of the picture for 10 days, I’m not so sure that Emma-Kate will manage to escape without a visit.

We’re having some painting work done as the hull above the waterline has consistently blistered and should be fixed.  And we’re fixing that pesky P-bracket (this time in bronze rather than carbon fiber – what were those crazy Frenchmen thinking?).  And we’ll fix a few other nits while we’re about it.

By the time I’m back, or more importantly, by the time the repairs are done, it will be October.  That’s a “transition” month for the Med.  Although she is notoriously troublesome in winter, a wise soul on Kalymnos pointed out to me: there are plenty of widows on this island whose husbands died [fishing] in October or May.   Those are the months where the unexpected happens.  In the winter, the weather can be horrendous, but at least it’s expected.

I’m sure I could have managed this differently and be sailing back to Gibraltar now if I’d focused more on getting the repairs done earlier.  But then we wouldn’t have been hanging out in the Aegean, swimming, eating at tavernas, and generally enjoying the Greek lifestyle.  And a good thing we enjoyed it now, as it’s a lifestyle that may be in jeopardy if Greece is going to stay within the Euro-zone.   Most of the Greeks I’ve met want all the banks to go bankrupt and revert back to the Drachma so that their touristy industry will be cheap and the villains who overspent will be punished.  Stay tuned…

Much as I’d like to return from the US, jump aboard Ondine, and then sail across the Med, past Gibraltar, out to the Canary Islands, then on to the Caribbean, it just isn’t going to happen.  The reasons are many-fold: (a) no one other than me would enjoy the rapid pace required before the outbreak of winter storms: it would be seriously hard-core sailing, (b) It is very likely that I’m going to be offered employment.  And if I am, I suspect that I will be asked to start “yesterday”, offering no time to find a (better) place to safely keep Ondine, (we would get to the Caribbean in December at the earliest if we left in October), (c) inevitably if we do that much sailing there will be a bunch more repairs – none of which I enjoy or want to afford, (d) we’ve found a brand new marina, whose prices are “right”, a yacht repair company I can trust, and an easy way to transition off the boat in a seaside resort next to the glistening Aegean Sea.

Every time I climb aboard Ondine (by scaffolding at the moment), I can feel the sea calling me back.   The memories flood through me, and I’m reminded of all my favorite things: diving into the cool ocean on a hot-hot day, listening to and feeling Ondine as she powers over the ocean in a 20 knot breeze, the ability to say “I’m done here”, pick up the anchor and be gone on a whim, meeting other similarly minded cruisers, seeing my children grow up every second of every day, looking at the night sky free from light pollution – the milky way and the multitude of stars, night sailing, the simplicity of knowing that there’s nothing that matters other than the boat and the people aboard.   But I’ve always felt that you should leave a party while it’s still in full-swing and everyone’s having a good time.  And so I’m blogging from an airport.   I suspect that there’ll be more of that in my future, and unfortunately, the subject matter will not be nautical.

Ondine will stay at dry dock until she is sold.   I will return to Turkey for 1-4 weeks, and then we’ll all pack up before Nov 1st and move stateside.  Job or no job.

When you see us, if you look closely, each of us in our own way, you’ll see the salty stains of the sea.  And for me at least, they will forever be tempting me back.

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