Well, after all sorts of false starts and worries, this week I finally got under way with the "Bay to Bay" cruise this season. Yes folks, this year it's called "Bay to Bay" and, among other tour operators (Polish, French and Italian for starters), I have guests who are holidaying with Olympic Holidays (UK) on my excursions for the first time in several years.
I've been escorting excursions since 2007 now and every year I have done at least one (and often more) excursion(s) which involve the sea. I've done Symi, Marmaris, Halki and a plethora of different swimming cruises with all sorts of different boats and this year I'm adding yet another one to the list. The "Lindos" is the vessel's name and I bet you can't guess where she sails from. 'Course you can, eh?
In seven years of water-based excursions, which must mean that the number of times I've leaned over the rail of a boat whilst gazing at the wonderfully azure Aegean sea waters below is way up in the hundreds, I have seen dolphins probably only as many times as I have fingers on one hand. The best ever sighting, though, was this very Wednesday. We set out from St. Paul's Bay with the sea looking like it damn well ought to at this time of year (finally!); as the Greeks would say, it was "san lathi" (soft "th") which translates into "like [olive]oil". Of course we English-speakers are more used to "Like glass", or "Like a mill pond", but the Greeks always say "san lathi", so that'll do for me.
We hadn't even reached our first swim-stop, which was to be Haraki Bay, when the visitors arrived and set everyone off in a frenzy of excitement. I'm getting to know yet another crew on this boat, which consists entirely of the father and son team of Kostas (the dad) and Dimitri. Dimitri is tall and his hair quite fair for a Greek. He rather put me in mind of an American footballer or something. He's not the most outgoing of people, but he's OK. I've decided that he'll get chattier the more I get to know him. Kostas is about my age and rather more genial in nature. Both men were quick to spot the visitors, spying two dorsal fins breaking the surface of the almost flat-calm sea as we traversed Kalathos Bay going northward.
They gave me the nod, so I announced it to the 27 guests, many of whom were just settling down for a serious bit of sunbasting, sorry, sunbathing, and thus were not scanning the water's surface. Once the magic word "dolphins" was heard, every guest to a man (well, to a woman and to a child too if I'm to be PC about this) was leaning over the rail and pointing. Our visitors treated us to a leisurely swim this way and that, at times approaching to within a few metres of the wide-eyed aboard the Lindos (me included) before finally ceasing to surface and allowing us to drift back to what we were all doing before they'd arrived, which was basically nothing at all. Isn't that what this kind of boat trip is meant to be all about?
Kostas was quick to drop the engine speed to idle and bring the boat to a halt while we watched the show. It may well have been a mother and calf since both remained very close together. I'm afraid I only had the iPad available for photographing them and so the best I could do was the photo at the top of this post. But if you scan it carefully (perhaps clicking on it to get the larger view will help) you can clearly make out the smaller fin just in front of the submerged nose of "mum". Quite what it is that enchants us about these most intelligent of sea creatures it's hard to put one's finger on. But everyone feels enriched when enjoying such an encounter. I like to think it has to do with the fact that they rather like to approach boats and accompany them for a while, ostensibly simply out of curiosity. Whatever it is, bring it on. Here's hoping that we'll repeat the experience on many occasions this summer.
Whilst we were chugging sedately along with not much else to do but watch the exquisite coastline of South East Rhodes lazily sliding by, I made attempts to get a conversation out of Dimitri. I got the feeling that Kostas' occasional absence had something to do with the fact that there is a large room (cabin? Sorry, I'm not very nautical) below decks, which I rather fancy he'd retire to for a spot of the old "shut-eye" whenever he saw the opportunity, leaving his son to steer.
There are some more random candid photos of the day on the Facebook album here by the way. The first photo following the dolphin shots is a rear view of Kostas and Dimitri, Kostas to the left, obviously. So, anyway, I opened with "So, you married, Dimitri?" His reply was classic Greek bachelor-speak.
"Me? No!! No!! I'm not forty yet. plenty of time, plenty of time."
I've mentioned on many occasions in the books and on this blog that it's entirely normal to meet a Greek married couple where the husband is at least 10 years older than his wife. Greek young men do their military service, then they concentrate on the serious business of business - ie: making a living, all the time playing the field until some time in their thirties when they finally turn their attention to the idea of choosing just the one girl (usually many years their junior, to enhance the chances of them producing a few sprogs in short order once they've jumped the broomstick) to settle down with.
Now, far be it from me to cast aspersions, but it could be added here by the more cynical commentator that, once the young (or not quite so young, by this time) Greek man gets wed, he then sets out to enjoy the fruits of the fair sex in much the same manner as he had before, while his young spouse grows plump with their first progeny. But I won't go there, OK? Right.
Anyway, as I said above, I shall look forward to prizing open yet more cracks in Dimitri's armour as the summer progesses. Meantime, here's a shot of that cozy corner of St. Paul's Bay which sits right beneath the Acropolis, taken as we chugged back into the bay at just before 5.00pm, after what had turned out to be a pretty good day on the whole.
For anyone who'd heard that the car parks at this end of the bay had been closed off a while back; you'll be pleased to see from the evidence below that they are now open once again.
Now then, where did I put that Polish phrasebook..?