Thursday, June 24, 2010

Call Captain Yiannis

Our host for two weeks, Petros, has given us the name and number of Captain Yiannis. Petros owns a shipping company, which means he knows something about boats. And Captain Yiannis has an important job: he pilots Petros's own boat.

After trying a couple cell phone numbers, we finally reach Captain Y. "Do you want to go for a tour of Antiparos?" He tells us to wear our bathing suits and bring a few towels. We tell him that we'll bring sandwiches. He says that he has drinks. Do you have beer on the boat? "No problem. Biera." We're not sure, but we think that is a "yes". How will we find you? "I meet you at the dock." We ask him where. "You'll know me." Is ten people too many? "Not problem."

We arrive at the dock. Moored to the pier, we see two big, shiny 35-foot boats. "Captain Vassilis" and "Captain Gregory." No Captain Yiannis.

Then, we look up. Motoring in from mid-harbor is a small, pontoon motor boat. In the stern is a portly man in a white shirt and a white Nike tennis hat. He's waving. We've found Captain Yiannis.

The pontoon boat, of course, is not the real thing. The real thing is "Argos" -- a 52 foot motor boat with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. It's stunning.

And it's fast. Before we know it, Captain Y has us cruising toward the southern end of Antiparos at 30 knots. We wave as we fly past our villa.

After about 20 minutes, we've flown past Soros, and around the far southern point of Antiparos. Ancient cliffs stare down at us, as we head away toward the smaller, uninhabited island of Despotiko, which sits just south of Antiparos. Captain Y steers us around the south side of Despotiko, past two coves, until he finally takes into a third, shell-shaped lagoon.

The water is stunningly clear, with the white sand floor visible from the deck of the boat. Hundred foot cliffs stare down at us from either side of the lagoon's mouth. We ask Captain Y if it's not too shallow to jump. "No. Still deep here." And suddenly, half of us are in the water, swimming the final fifty yards into the beach. Captain Y lowers the pontoon dingy into the water, and loads our remaining passengers ... as well as beach towels, lunches and cooler with Biera ... on to the dingy, and motors it in around the swimmers.

The beach itself is about two hundred yards long. There are five or six palm-branch umbrellas permanently in place. Along one cliff wall, a small dock has been built.

It's a normal day at the beach. We smim out to the dock, give a wave to the beach, and dive back into the lagoon.

We collect drift wood, eat our little sandwiches. We share a biera. And a deserted ancient cove all to ourselves.

After an hour or so, we reverse the routine -- half of us swimming back to the Argos, the others getting a lift from Captain Y.

He gives us the slow tour back. With eyes and mouths wide open, we stare at the cliffs that tower over us, at the monumental rocks jutting out from the sides of the cliff walls. As we cruise the narrow strait between Despotiko and Antiparos, we talk about Ulysses, and his cruise between Scylla and Charybdis. We had a better day than he did.

And then we are headed home.

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