Paul Ashford Harris

I Should Have Stayed at Home

I set out from Sydney full of enthusiasm for three weeks sailing on “Time Out”, a Beneteau 45, in the Greek Islands. Well who wouldn’t?

The travel agent assured me that two hours turn around at Heathrow would be ample for me to catch my BA flight to Athens and my connecting flight to Santorini, to meet the yacht and the guys. Piece of cake.

Qantas in Singapore; “We are sorry to advise passengers on QF 32 to London there will be a two hour delay whilst we await connecting passengers from Melbourne.”  No, no, no, they must know I have a connecting flight. But wait, after take off the Captain says we’re picking up time, and may only be an hour late into Heathrow. Could be enough.  7.30am arrival Heathrow Terminal 3, my departure 8.30 Terminal 5. Sprint down endless corridors knocking over old ladies leap on terminal 5 bus. Arrive panting at BA check in. “Sorry sir, no need to break into a sweat, that flight is closed.” Excellent. Lots of tapping on computer by helpful check-in lady. Try to look old and helpless. Actually am old and helpless. Where is wife when I need her? “Don’t worry sir you’re booked on Aegean Airlines departing 12pm connecting to Santorini,  so you’ll only be a few hours late.” Great, so all that stress for nothing.

Head back to terminal 3 and buy Talisker Single Malt in duty free as my ticket to board “Time Out”. Sit in terminal for three hours drinking shocking coffee and staring at muffins wrapped in two square metres of plastic. Pass. Crowd around TV. What’s happening? Bin Laden assassinated. What a perfect time to be stuck in Heathrow. Keep close eye on any gentlemen of “middle eastern appearance.”

Board Aegean Airlines more or less on time. Interrupted by hostie, “Sorry but due to congestion we will be holding on tarmac for an hour prior to take off.In the mean time, enjoy the complimentary soft drink.” Mutter oaths, and feel like I have pulmonary jet lag. Can you have that?

Athens airport. “Am I in time for the connecting flight to Santorini?” “No sir, it’s departed but we have you in the airport Holiday Inn only twenty minutes away and free buffet breakfast.” Excellent.

Better be at the airport in plenty of time for my new 10am flight. Big queue at security. “Sorry Sir, can’t take that bottle of Talisker single malt on the flight. We will have to confiscate it.” Consternation, this is my ticket on the boat. “But, but, but……” “Well if you really hurry you might be able to put your back pack in the hold with the whisky inside.” Good idea, run like mad, wrap whisky in spray jacket and shove it in back pack and through the check in. Run even faster back, strip off belt, shoes, watch, jacket and through Greek security and collapse on plane. Oh, shit, Phone in outside pocket of my back pack. Will probably fly out when they chuck it in the hold. Jesus how will I contact the boat. I’ll have to find hotel, use hotel phone and wake up wife in Australia, get her to contact the guys partners, so they can leave a message. Something like that anyway. This is going to be a three Talisker cock up. At least. How long left until we land? Oh no, where is my watch. Bugger, took it off at security and forgot to put it back on. Thoughts of suicide.  But how?

Plane lands. Anxiety attack and palpitations waiting for my back pack. Comes off last but the phone is still there. Out through arrivals and see large sign saying  “Paul Harris” held by scary looking thug who looks like Greek Secret Police; no it’s the Captain of “Time Out.” Thank God, resist urge to kiss him on both cheeks.

Four hour lunch, and next day a relaxing sail to Patmos, and then to Delos to see the ruins. Feeling much better and enjoying the amusing company of my fellow sailors, three engineers. (I swear on my Mother’s beard I’m not lying.) But you can’t moor at Delos so good plan is to moor at Mykonos at the cruise terminal and take day ferry trip to Delos. Spend happy evening in Mykonos bars drinking Tom Collins. Locals surprisingly friendly.  Return to “Time Out”. I’m last to join so I’m sleeping in the saloon. Put back pack on shelf by my feet, open hatch for air, and collapse exhausted. Wake up with sun. Where the hell is my back pack? It’s been stolen in the middle of the night. Captain wakes up and looks sceptical- he thinks “absent minded old fool has mislaid it”. Soon changes tune when discovers i-pod has gone. Engineers are helpless unless attached to electronic devices by umbilical cord. What have I lost? Passport, wallet, phone, back pack, torch, swiss army knife and sun glasses.” Bloody hell, that’s it I’m going home. Wait, no passport. I can’t.

Off to Mykonos water police. Spend three hours trying to explain why there are four men on the yacht when only two checked in at Kos. Disbelieving stares over theft. Probably Albanians/Gypsies/ Tunisians.  Officer gives resigned shrug, breaks for coffee, breaks for lunch and writes voluminous long hand report helped by sexy young assistant who is keen to practice English with the skipper who strikes ludicrous Hornblower pose and has suddenly lost interest in my passport and even his i-pod.

Finally depart and head for nearest bar for more Tom Collins. Engineers on electronic devices. Conversation extremely limited, so look around and suddenly notice weird people dressed in fancy dress everywhere, plus place is painted like the set from “Les Cage aux Folles?” Prevail on nearest engineer to let me use his electronic device. Find email from son in Sydney expressing sympathy and asking if I am aware I am in the Gay capital of the world. Asks if I have I become gay icon? Very funny. Why are people staring at me? That’s it now I’m definitely going home.

But “Time Out” heals all and in the end I had a great two and a half weeks. It was great. Most of it.
(apologies to Bridget Jones Diary)

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