29 - Castaways

Storage space challenges aboard Elena and Meg's sailboat photo elenameg.com

[Image 29-1] Storage space presents some interesting challenges

Bang, bang, bang.

It sounded like an idiot with a chainsaw, knocking far too early for decency. And after that send-off party we had with Sinem and Nadia. Oy-yoy-yoy!

"You waiting for satellite dish?" A twitchy knave-bairn straddled an idling moped.

"Dish?!" Was this some kind of joke?

"For to get satellite. You pay to me. I bring."

"Oh right! The satellite communicator. It's all paid for."

"Pay to me. I bring, and you and Russian girl leave here. Nobody will knowing." He twisted the moped's throttle for effect. It sputtered and died. How embarrassing for him.

"Ach, sod off. I'll walk over and get it myself in the morning." I took one step down the companionway.

"You should hope not to meet my uncle." He said between frantic attempts to start his bike. "He will not let you to leave with Russian girl." He cracked a full-house grin, abandoned the fruitless kick-starting and veritably crooned, "You need satellite. You have no radio. No phone. No help in ocean."

"How do you know?" This was beyond it, even for Turkey.

"Uncle tells to navy, you go from here with Russian. You will not go far." The wanker gave his moped one last try. Useless. Too bad, roaring off -- more like, farting off -- would have been dramatic. He settled for shoving it along by the handlebars, snorting like an enraged emu.

Provisioning aboard Elena and Meg's sailboat, Boadicea photo elenameg.com

[Image 29-2] Nadia and her magic phone making things happen aboard Boadicea

I dove for our passports instead. "Hoooooleeeee kapoosta!" Elena's visa stickers weren't for one month apiece, but thirty days. "You're illegal!"

Elena moaned under the covers. A hand emerged, snatched the passport and retracted. "Oye, visa is done yesterday."

"No kidding, princess."

Sheets, comforter, pillows went airborne. "How did not you know this!?"

"Two months! I thought you got two months, not two-times-thirty days."

"So what? You get the satellite modem, and we leave."

"The timing, my dear. Vital kit shows up the instant you're an overstay and subject to arrest. Think that's a coincidence!?

"So, we leave."

"No exit visas! We won't get into any other country."

"Russians are not let into any countries, anyway." She had a point.

Well, somebody certainly knows you're illegal, and that we were waiting for the sat-comm." How was I to know the moped tosser wasn't bluffing!?"

"Forget the satellite thing, we go now! The sun's not even up."

"I'm not super comfy, sailing half way around the bloody planet with zero communication, navigation, weather." I jumped into my clothes. "Get Kemal over to weld the satellite antenna on. I don't know how, but I'm going to get the bloody thing."

Boxes of provisions await stowage aboard Boadicea photo elenameg.com

[Image 29-3] Some of the 8 months of provisions Elena and Meg had to find room for.

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Albatross was in his loft, smoking a cigar that smelled like a forgotten haggis in the boot of a hot car. "The way I see it, you should have paid to the man, gotten your equipment, and then been gone from here. Can you leave it, get one in Greece?"

I rehashed the nauseating circumstances we found ourselves in: Elena an overstay; her passport flagged. No way we could approach an EU country.

With the kind of body language that told me, it was the very last favour I'd ever get from him, Albatross phoned the customs agent. "He will make a special trip to clear your packages for one-thousand euros."

"Wow." was all I could say.

"If that is all it costs you, my friend. You will, indeed be lucky."

Elena Vaytsel is surrounded by stuff that has to be stowed somewhere aboard Boadicea photo elenameg.com

[Image 29-4] Elena is overwhelmed by all the stuff that has to be stowed somewhere.

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Out in front of customs, I leaned on a flagpole, taking calls. Three in the last hour: one from a hysterical woman, screaming at me in Turkish, and a couple from Elena. "Meg, Kemal is here at the boat, waiting for you and the satellite parts."

I checked the time. "I will give the customs agent another half hour, then we scarper, with or without the kit."

A Fiat Panda flattened a sandwich board, jumped the kerb, then coughed and died in front of customs. Muttering away, the driver rolled out and staggered toward the building.

He hauled on the institutional, steel and glass door. Locked, of course. Gave it a few more yanks and a feeble kick, then teetered back toward the Fiat.

"You hoo! Over here. Hellooooo?" I called out. It's not just an urban myth. There truly is such a thing as blind drunk.

"You have money?" He asked.

"Uh, yeah. If that's what it takes to get my already paid for, and cleared package."

"You pay to me for special trip." He concentrated intensely on getting a key into the lock.

I followed him inside, past a counter and down a corridor, to an office he had more trouble unlocking.

"Sit!" He pointed at a metal chair in front of a desk, then placed a bottle and two glasses down between us. "It is my birthday today -- we drink!" He filled both to the rim, drained his glass and banged it on the desk. With the back of a swollen index finger, he pushed the other tumbler toward me. "Drink!"

Aft battery compartment on Boadicea photo elenameg.com

[Image 29-5] Last minute preparations aboard Boadicea. Netsel marina, Marmaris, Turkey

I reached for the glass.

"Thousand euros. You have it." He tried to sound businesslike.

My bleeding package was right there by the door; adorned with bright orange "Customs Cleared" and "Paid" stickers. "Yeah, yeah, yeah. I got it." I had the Euros stuffed in a back pocket, but with the guy completely blootered, I took a chance on getting out with some of my hide intact.

"Of course." I drawled, surreptitiously pouring my vodka on the floor. I put my empty glass on the desk by his. "But first, another toast to your birthday."

Swaying like a cobra, he refilled our tumblers and raised his. "To me!" His head hinged back, and the vodka was down the hatch in a couple of swallows.

I grabbed his empty glass as it arced toward the desk on its return trip. Having it shatter, and open arteries before I got my gear, was less than optimal. He was operating on borrowed consciousness. Who was I to stand in the way of his hard-earned, alcoholic slumber? With both of his hands safely at rest on the desk, I switched his empty glass for my full one and proposed another toast. He stared deliberately at the full glass, carefully wrapped his fingers around it and drained it with ease.

Meg Aitken in a customs office with the cleared parcels and paperwork photo elenameg.com

[Image 29-6] Meg snapped this selfie with her customs cleared satellite communication gear.

Consciousness was deserting his sinking ship -- fast. "Mow-neee! I, do o ooon 'av all da'ay." One of his eyes made a heroic effort to stay focused on me. The other had given up and wandered somewhere under his right brow.

I opened my wallet and pulled out a colourful note with a big 100 on it. Playing maestro, I waved the bill through the air. His one functional eye valiantly tried to follow. Then, whap! I slapped it down on the desk. You can hypnotise a chicken that way. That time, however, it didn't work.

I quickly pulled out another bill, and another, counting them out and calling them euro-dollars. He had a hard time following those swirling bills but gave it his best shot. It was like his head might roll right off. I'm guessing, all he saw, through the delirium of booze, were the digits and not the Russian characters, because I barely got past ten, before he snatched them up, struggled to his feet and staggered from the room. I heard a crash down the corridor, and then, the building was silent.

Crikey, I hadn't planned on him dropping dead! I grabbed my package, and the big wad of keys off his desk, and got the hell out of there. The Fiat was still parked half on and half off the pavement. Walking by, I tossed the keys through an open window into a pile of detritus behind the back seat. It was majorly, high time to get the hell out of Dodge.

Last minute preparations aboard Boadicea photo elenameg.com

[Image 29-7] Elena gives Meg her death stare.

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I fired up the sat-comm and sent my first message. It worked! The air took on an unusual chill with twilight encroaching. Wordlessly, Elena started the engine, and I watched to see that everything was cradled in the green -- functioning normally.

Kemal was the only one there. It felt like we were the last people on Earth. I think, he worried about us. Wanted to be there at the last minute, just in case something should break. The three of us stood on the dock, surrounded by his tools. He hugged us, with tears in his eyes, and whispered something in Turkish. We got on board. He handed the dock lines to Elena and gave Boadicea a shove. I eased the throttle forward. It was eerily calm. Quiet, yet I was terrified. When I dared to look back at the dock, I could just make out Kemal, standing there. Alone.

Exit to Mediterranean from Marmaris bay at sunset photo elenameg.com

[Image 29-8] Passage to the Mediterranean from Marmaris bay, taken as Elena and Meg fled to the open Mediterranean sea

As the dregs of daylight faded to black. We pointed Boadicea south-east, away from Greek waters. We had never sailed that far from shore; not that we could see it or the horizon. The breeze became constant, the waves longer. Bigger. Ponderously rhythmic. We were in open water for the first time in our lives. Boadicea was heeled hard-over, full sail catching the wind. Elena shut down the engine. The sudden quiet wasn't a thrill, it was ominous. I listened to the rush and sloosh of water on the hull. Felt the bow slicing into waves and surging forward, to cut through the next. Millions of waves lay ahead. I supposed we would get used to it.

A thick cover of cloud snuffed out the stars. The only source of light was distant Rhodes island, and a zillion glowing microorganisms disturbed by our wake. All too soon, we had to admit, the breeze had become wind, and it wasn't diminishing. Our instruments told us it was twenty knots on the beam -- that's perpendicular to the boat. It could have been forty, for how I was feeling. Numb, yet afraid. Maybe, lonely, sailing at night and without Sinem. We didn't talk about it. In fact, neither of us said much of anything, when a little past midnight, in a developing gale, we slipped quietly into international waters.

[[ updated -- photos Apr 24, 17:53 GMT ]]