Mediterranean Cycopaths

High Seas – High Drama

8th April, 2007 

Being a veteran of several ferry crossings of the notorious Bass Strait (stretch of water seperating Tasmania from the Australian mainland) I had perceived taking a ferry ride through the Greek Isles as the maritime equivalent of driving a ride-on lawnmower around your own backyard. Alas the Agean Sea – an associate of our sworn enemy the Mediterranean – decided to portray it’s domination over man not once, but twice on our recent passage between the islands of Rhodes and Santorini.

Case 1

Selecting a good vantage point from the rear deck I settled down to watch the routine loading/unloading of goods and people in a port on the island of Karpathos – one of many stops. Our ferry backed onto a square concrete platform which was accessed by a narrow wharf with room for one way traffic flow only. As the ramp was lowered, the sea picked up, rocking the boat and occasionally sending a wave crashing over the platform and the water cascading over the opposite side. Not seeing any demarcations normally used to create queues I wondered how the ferry staff would organise the multiple trucks, cars, people and packages wishing to move on and off … not at all is the short answer!

The moment the loading ramp first caressed the platform was akin to the starting guns of 2 marathons firing – their participants lined up facing each other. People and vehicles on both sides surged with scores of collisions miraculously missed by last minute diversions. As for the ferry officials, who to a man insisted on doing little other than blasting their whistles continously – releasing a set of rabid pit-bulls would not have generated more chaos.

The ‘Loading’ Platforms   Bang! … and they’re off!

2 women – clearly not local – stood frozen on a small step, clinging to each other, their posture and their eyes betraying sheer terror at the thought of traversing the platform to board. A ferry official, recognising their plight, hastened to assist – screaming like a drill seargent, feverishly waving a flag and several sharp blasts of the old whistle for good measure seemed to do the trick.

The people moving off the ferry attempted in vain to avoid the inevitable shin deep drenching by hugging the edge of the platform – I was sure a small child or little old lady was going to be swept off at any moment.  Thankfully this eventuality was avoided – for humans at least. As we pulled away I counted at least 2 full sized suitcases bobbing in the harbour, their owners gesticulating wildly whilst ferry officials had suddenly become rather inconspicuous – presumably vanishing until tommorrows ferry when this daily routine would again be enacted.

Case 2

Some 12 hours later our ferry docks in Santorini, a stones throw away from where the Sea Diamond, a massive cruise ship holding 1600 people, is slowly sinking to the ocean floor (under the cover of darkness – unfortunately for our photo site). The incident has spurned 24-hour analysis and debate on Greek TV – which we are having difficulty interpreting save to say that the Captain apparently didn’t see the 25km long island he ran his vessel into (in broad daylight). The comments of a British passenger were also quite clear, describing the evacuation as chaotic, a situation exacerbated by “…to be honest, the Americans, who were grabbing all the life vests…” including those already attached to other evacuees!

Which leads me to the 2 lessons I will take from these shenanigans:

Lesson 1: Never underestimate the power of the ocean

Lesson 2: Never underestimate man’s total incompetence at dealing with the power of the ocean

All of which makes blokes like Ken Gourlay (Jon’s uncle – in the final stages of a solo circumnavigation of the globe by yacht), all the more impressive – read more via the link on the right hand side of the page.



April 11, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Do you think the Greek Captain of the Sea Diamond was distracted at the sight of Tombsy on the dock in lycra?

    Comment by Disgruntled Canadian tourist | April 15, 2007 | Reply

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