Old Turtle Route

You will have heard of the Old Silk Route but not many people know of the old Turtle Route.  This appears to be a course of 052 bearing from Malta to Preveza Greece.  

We set off from Malta, smart with haircuts fresh from a salon with a difference - the fore deck of Shearwater courtesy of Liz.  It was a novel experience sitting on an upturned plastic box, the hair dressers cape around my neck.  As the hairs fell and covered the deck Captain Morgan’s harbour cruises came by and the cameras were snapping.


We have our ‘adjusted’ swim ladder but it was a bit of a thing getting it to fit.  But a bit of bashing against the rocks and levering it in with a piece of wood and finally dispatching Daniel (A-Z Yacht Needs) into the small space of the lazerette (Also called: glory hole.  Nautical. A small locker at the stern of a boat- Collins English Dictionary, choose your definition – both are accurate!) to make sure that it was all bolted in securely.  We left late afternoon with a fond farewell to Luciano.  I don’t suppose we’ll see him again and in a way I hope not as we are each so different in our ‘other’ life and I cannot imagine him anywhere else but on his boat Favouille wearing his swimming shorts.  To meet in other circumstances would lose the magic and I’m sure it would be mutual, best save him as a lovely memory.

The first night passed without incident or wildlife.  The sun set brilliant in the west and then there was a lovely moonrise, Venus aka Aphrodite, the evening star came and shone brightly heralding the others.  Then this morning the sun and moon hung in the sky, equally balanced before the moon gracefully retreated.  I’m looking forward to seeing her again tonight.  There has been NO wind today and so it has been a motor.  We have tried to learn a little Greek along the way – oh dear, that’s going to be a challenge.  Then we saw a turtle pass by, then another and soon we were seeing quite a procession of them.  Some big some small, some near others far but always eluding our camera.  Apart from one we may just have caught before he became uncharacteristically agile and dived down flippers going full pelt, down, down, down he went and away.  Of the two whales I was convinced I had spotted one turned out to be an upturned grey lilo and the other a big turtle who seemed to be chasing a fish – does that happen?  What do they feed on and where are they all going?  I know they lay their eggs on big wide beaches on Zakinthos among other places but then what do they do?

The last ripples on the sea turned into waves of deep blue silk, folding her mantle, settling around Selkie Dancer and inviting a swim.  So we stopped the boat, took down the sail, put out a sea anchor and let the boat drift.  Silence.....rock, rock,.....silence = BLISS!  The ladder went down with a splash and we followed making bigger ones.  Then, all the horror movies I’ve ever seen regarding boats alone in the middle of the ocean came rushing back into my head.  If I wasn’t about to be snatched from underneath by a great white, then a psychopath would materialize from nowhere or the boat would drift off leaving me alone with my imagination.  Luckily none of that happened we didn’t stay in long enough to find out.  The water was warm; we were recording temperatures of 26c.


VEGETARIANS LOOK AWAY NOW (String, this means you!) the following description contains scenes of violence.

The following day we decided we would sail come what may and were rewarded by a beautiful sail, a steady 5 knots most of the time.  So Andy got out the fishing gear.  When, after about thirty minutes he said he had caught something, sorry to say I was sceptical, however dutifully went and collected the gaff, a bucket and some kitchen knives.  Convinced he’d caught an old net I went to the back of the boat to see while he struggled with pulling in the catch.  It took a while to register that he really HAD caught a fish, it was real.

As it came nearer I could see it shining silver and turquoise under the water and on first sight as the line pulled up looked unreal – he was rigid, metallic, screaming, petrified but packed with a scary energy.  He looked so brilliant, so vivid, so vital.  

I‘ve never seen such a fresh caught fish – my consumption of food being sanitized by the neat packaging on the shelves of Sainsbury’s.  To see it so fresh was amazing.  I couldn’t gaff it but held the rod; wedged to make sure I couldn’t lose the grip while Andy got it onto the boat and hit it hard on the back of the head with the winch handle.  It stilled and I hope was dead quickly.  We have since read that the most humane way to kill a fish is to pour alcohol into its gills, which would you choose?  Then came the messy bit, a three kilo tuna made quite a lot of blood, guts and gore on the deck (compare and contrast Findhorn 2006) but soon he was neatly dispatched into more steaks than two people could consume in the two days we had remaining.  We have learned some lessons, get a bigger sharper knife, some very cheap alcohol, put a notice on the line saying ‘lures limited to 1.5 k or less’  We’ll probably never catch anything else again but that tuna lives on with me.


Passage making is odd, a suspension of time, a time out of time.  No contact with the real world, just the two of us and a cocoon of water all around.  I was reminded of the film ‘The Truman Show’ where the main character is living his life unaware that he is a live soap opera being watched and controlled by others.  At the end he realises this and breaks out of the set, tearing away the paper walls.  I felt that we might be in such a world, not that we’re being watched but that it is so removed from real life, so unreal.  We were moving around on this little patch of sea, it never changed much, never getting anywhere just living in the moment.  I really liked it.  Don’t know how I’d feel for weeks on end though.

But hey! We were in the real world, next thing I know, I’m on watch, the visibility is decreasing by the minute and I write in my little notebook, ‘should I wake Andy, or rely on the radar!?’  (Why am I writing in my notebook at this time? – will I be court martialled?)  There was something coming, something benign, must be with the name of ‘Daisy’.  Sadly this was not so and soon I was waking a very bleary Andy ( we have talked about it since and I will wake him right away next time but hindsight is a wonderful thing)  Now the boat was enveloped in fog, two contacts were identified on the radar but only one on the AIS, critically, one was doing 20 knots.  It shortly passed ahead of us, unseen and unheard.  We breathed again; Andy resumed his broken sleep, I to my watch.  When I next looked up we had come out of the fog bank and were bearing down on two pairs of trawlers – OK – fine - simple.  Then the AIS and radar showed two 20 knot ferries in line abreast bearing down on the fishing boats and at this rate we would be right in the middle of it.  Once bitten twice shy.  We did a quick 180 and watched the ferries pass either side of the trawlers before resuming out course to Preveza Greece.


So, Greece at last, three days from Malta but eight years from an idea taking seed.  We can relax now for a bit and not feel that we have to “get” anywhere, that is, until the next mad plan beckons.


Jinti, Preveza, 4 July 2010


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Lady Macbeth ?