A few weeks in a Buddhist centre in Brighton on the South coast landed me back in a quiet place long enough to recharge. Thank you to Paul and Helen and everybody there for your unique and special friendship guys. And our leading monk for his understanding when catching me engaging in pork pies, wine, and all of those other things essential to the essence of being a sailor in the UK.
I soon afterwards put in some time with a charity group that worked on the East coast that took disadvantaged youngsters to sea to build their confidence and character. The work was hard as there was much maintenance of the boats to take care of, and the group was interesting to say the least. The skipper was a modest lady that spat on the floor and told me straight away I would not be sleeping with her just because she was a woman. I swore agreement and left her to her distrust of men (and personal hygiene too it seemed). Within a couple of weeks the first mate got drunk and attacked me in a fit of jealousy (whether over his love for the skipper or his sailing ability I'm not sure). I offered to settle his dentist bill from the ensuing confrontation but he told me afterwards that he often got in this state after drinking. The second mate's antics I won't even mention as there would be legal implications. The whole episode could be a blog on it's own.
Eventually though the snow slowly gave way to warmer days and Spring showed it's face. Back in the seventies, Bradwell marina turned out to be the place that my father first sailed his own boat back from nearby Maldon. It reminded me of my earliest memories on that little sailing yacht of his called 'Snow Goose' on the Thames and the Medway, and the surrounding Essex and Kent coasts. It was the sound of rain on the coach roof, the gentle motion of the sea, and the wind that moved us that told me Mother Nature was there for me, and to this day she always has been.
Close to the area of Gocek and Dalaman , Dalyan is a special place to see, especially if you can manage it before the tourist season. Luckily I got there in early April before the talk revolved around Manchester United. This place has a great mix of beach and nature reserve, ancient tombs cut into the cliff, and cool bars and restaurants should you desire them. It also offered decent hotel rooms for £10 ($15 US) per night. One morning at breakfast I was amazed at the spread of dishes that covered most of my table and thought what a luxury it was to simply sit and try all of these fresh and natural foods. I wondered what the inhabitants of Chin Chin were living on, but the reality is probably still healthier food than many people in the West. With little frozen or canned food, and very cheap fresh produce, it is cheaper to eat better out here than eat rubbish, unlike the supermarkets back in the UK where a high price is expected for the privilege of eating good wholesome food. It also reminded me of one of the simplest factors of a happy existence; the ability to appreciate everything. If you can realise it in the moment...
Eventually I joined Blind Date once again in Goekova, and we took her to Bodrum to prepare for the season. When we set sail this time our destination was the Dodecanese and the Cyclades, and of course it was Rhodes where we began this voyage. I have already sailed the passage from Turkey to the main town in Rhodes so many times the locals assume I am a ferry boat skipper. Except for Mike, who drives the fuel truck in the marina, who took me in with a knowing smile and shared a few moments with me when I asked him how the suffering economy was affecting him on the islands. After a pause he bade me follow him.
"Look. What do you see?"
"A wall?" I answered, feeling like the dumb kid with a patient teacher.
"Look closer... in the wall."
"Shells. Fossils... stones..."
"Yes. Life. It has always been in Greece and it will always be in Greece. If the banks collapse and I have no money, it doesn't matter. I can go to the sea and catch a fish. I can grow the egg plant in my soil. I can make wine with my friends. I can make love with my wife, and laugh with my children. How can I worry?"
I don't think I can find a better quote for this month.