A Passage from Amorgos, Greece

I find myself wondering how the brain works when you find yourself on an island and don’t know how to get off. I started to put together a trip in my mind while watching the sea gulls calmly fly by, not having a care in the world. The closest island to Amorgos with an airport was Astypalea, and I had to get there by nightfall.  From there, I could fly to Kos, which also had an airport, and then take the Blue Star Ferry which stopped at various islands of the Dodecanese on its journey between Rhodes and Patmos. Just like the ancient Cycladians, I would be voyaging from island to island. I turned on my cell phone to see if I had any friends in Astypalea with whom I could spend the night.

Amorgos in the Cyclades

Amorgos in the Cyclades

What joy when I found them!

“I’ll be right over!” I told them, “and wait till you find out what happened that forced me to leave the most beautiful cruise ship in the world. I have to stay over for one night. Have you got a spare room?”

“Stay as long as you want,” they replied joyfully.  “You’re not a sea bird, you know, flying from one island to the next.”

I happily hung up the phone. Poseidon was offering me comforts which Odysseus had been denied, as he had been forced to go to and fro. The question now was how I would get to Astypalea. I called the Port Authority of Amorgos only to be told that there would be no boat to Astypalea on that day.  Scanning the area, I let my gaze settle on the boatmen who were enjoying their coffee and sharing in lively conversation at a table close to me. They stopped talking as I got up and approached them. As they were looking at me curiously, I could feel the last semblances of courage leave my body. How was I to ask them? And just then, as if Aeolus (god of winds) himself was there to help me out, a sudden gust of wind blew off my hat and it started to jauntily drift towards the sea. One of the boatmen jumped up and ran to retrieve it.  As he handed it back to me, I found my tongue released and asked the boatmen if the caiques that were tied up to the pier were theirs.

Fishermen's boat

Fishermen's boat

“Could I hire one to take me to Astypalea? I definitely have to be there by nightfall,” I informed them politely.

“We’re just fishermen, lady,” they replied.

I took a step back and murmured something about what I was going to do, looking longingly out at the cruise ship anchored in the distance.  It looked so comforting. What had come over me that had made me decide to leave it so suddenly and find myself caught up in this adventure?

As I sat back down at my table, I saw the fisherman who had caught my hat heading my way and saying:

“In a little while, when the wind settles down a bit, I’ll go out fishing and I’ll take you to Astypalea. If you want, you can come with me.”

I looked at him as if he were my guardian angel and breathed out a huge sigh of relief.

“Thank you so much!  Of course I'll come with you. You can also show me how you fish.”

I must have sounded naïve to him, as if I were from another world, and I found myself hoping he hadn’t seen me coming off the cruise ship.  It turned out that he had, as he told me, because I had gotten off first and hadn't followed the rest of the passengers who were headed to visit the Monastery of Our Holy Mother Hozoviotissa.

The monastery of Our Holy Mother Hozoviotissa

The monastery of Our Holy Mother Hozoviotissa

Two hours later I was on my way to Astypalea with captain Nikolas and his son, who had come to help him throw the fishing nets overboard. They had also brought their dog along, and the two of us quickly became good friends. Whatever I tell you about the smell on the fishing boat would be a gross understatement. I eventually got used to it, as I sat bolt upright on a wooden plank half eaten away by the salt.

Leaving Amorgos.jpg

“I wouldn’t have thought this a couple of hours ago, lady, but you can really suck things up,” captain Nikolas informed me as he steered the wheel of the boat depending on which way the waves were coming from. He told me that the winds would die down even more as it got later in the evening.

“I have to get to my destination,” I told him in a loud voice as the wind was literally blowing my words away. “If I get dizzy, what do I do?” I asked, as if he were a doctor.

“Come here beside me and I'll show you,” he replied.

I got up and went to stand next to him, as if I were standing at a formal reception, and then I nearly fell down.

“You have to widen your stance and let your body move with the rhythm of the boat. That way, you won’t fall down and you won’t get dizzy,” he explained. Looking at him, I quickly picked up the rhythm of the boat, becoming one with it.

Amorgos, the easternmost island in the Cyclades

Amorgos, the easternmost island in the Cyclades

We were out in the open now and Amorgos was well behind us.  Its long and narrow shape was clearly visible contrasted against the deep blue of the sea. Luc Besson, in his film Le Grand Bleu, had made the island world-famous. It is the eastern-most of all the Cyclades, and maybe we had even entered the area of the Dodecanese as the mountainous coastline of Astypalea could be seen getting clearer and clearer.

An excerpt from the book: GREECE, The Dance of the Seas 

Barbara Athanassiadis