NOT FOLLOWING 

1030 GMT+2
 
36°23’216N 023 01’538E

Now and again the plotter, our GPS navigation system, loses it’s satellite signal. It announces this with a few beep beep beeps and describes itself as “not following”. This can also be said for us, Eve’s trusty crew. Not following. Just now and again, when the head goes slightly awry. We play Lisa Hannigan for the umpteenth time and come back to our senses.

Heading due east towards Santorini through the Straits of Kithira at 5.8 knots. No wind, only 0.8knots registering. Quite the lovely morning. Dreamt of me Da driving like a lunatic and screaming at me because I was complaining that my door wouldn’t shut properly. So much for his last words to me before this trip, “Keep safe!” We got to a car park made out of blue glass, I wasn’t convinced of it’s infallibility. As much as I’m getting used to this boat, my dreams are still betraying my fears. Another one amused me also, running through French forests chased by the enemy. He finally caught us. Played by Eddie Izzard, he introduced himself as “Le Profondeur”, named after our depth gauge. The enemy is the deep, of course. It’s a natural human fear. Back in the days of a flat earth, even the Greeks would refuse to consider venturing out to sea. Fear, terror, fright, being scared. I’m realising the difference between them. 

As I write this I’m keeping an eye on a fast moving large ferry north of us. It’s bearing, relative to us, has remained the same for a little while now. That’s a collision course, we’re heading for the same spot. Let’s see what the captain does. Observe, adapt, overcome. Not “find, forget, fuck it all up!” as we suspect our slogan should be. The big ship changes course and passes by astern. We continue east. The engine purrs as if fueled by the best Greek olive oil. The sea lazily cradles us, Adam is ahead, it’s getting hot. 

On watch last night I saw phosphorescence for the first time. Bioluminescent plankton don’t you know. Twinkle twinkle little star, what are you doing down there? Gorgeous. The night sky condensed into our wake, with some luck we’ll get more as the ocean warms with the spring. A new moon, new season, new start for everything. We head for Santorini and I feel wonder for the design of everything. And then to Gocek, due south of Joennsu in Finland, the furthest east I’ve been in Europe, this time the bottom corner. Finally the fourth sea of our epic journey, the Aegean. Feels good to be on the move again after the few days we had on land. Of course we got ridiculously drunk on the first night but as we spent more time there, our sanity was slowly recovered. We actually felt normal on the last day. Time enough to eat wonderful fresh avocados, salads, frappaccinos (handy as they can take ages to drink so all the batteries I had plugged in would have time to recharge), yogurt, honey… real luxury for us! Healthy foods to offset the meat overload of the previous weeks. Dan is the main chef onboard. He feels at home cooking, he’s damn good too. It’s his therapy, I think. As keeping this journal is becoming mine. He cooks meat in meat sauce to be served on a bed of meat with a side order of meat. Great food and I’m getting fit as a fiddle but normally I don’t eat so much meat. I had a meat fat allergy as a kid, and my belly had been starting to feel an old familiar feeling, something I haven’t felt in so long. Our days in Greece gave me a break, and now I have ingredients for salads, and Dan is liking my yogurt and honey breakfasts. I should have bought more. We’re in this together, he and I. Mark’s done all this before, we’re still adjusting. I had asked him one day during our last leg, “Everything perfectly normal?” He laughed, “Of course, I do this all the time!”

We had time to catch up with world events, and to discover where we were, which is nice to do on a voyage where you discover somewhat who you are. Pylos, in the Bay Of Navarino, so much history. Climbing castle walls, inspecting tiny flowers, literally grounding ourselves. We drank more sensibly as each day passed. The Dutch lads stick together, as do the older Irish. Us cousins do our own thing. Luca and I compete with each other for talking space. Really, we have to shut the other up after five minutes is up so equal ranting time is available. Birds of a goddamn feather. With such a short time and so much to say, It’s difficult to get all the words in. Our need for outside interaction is obvious. I rang a few of the girls, and put them on to the skipper. He also needed to talk to the fairer sex who aren’t waitresses serving us. I had to think of which friends would understand our insanity. It seems that I made the right choice. The Cap’n gets antsy the more time we spend ashore. Like myself five minuted before a gig, I just want to go.

And go we do, at 1740 local time holding warm thoughts of warm people. Viki at Mama’s restaurant, the staff at our regular cafe, even “Yes, please!” at the other diner we ate at, so called because he said that phrase to nearly everything. “But as the sun was rising from the fair sea into the firmament of heaven to shed light on mortals and immortals, they reached Pylos the city of Neleus.” I quote Homer but it was Aristotle that I read whilst there. A conversation with Ion. Luca had asked me, “Who’s Ion? Was he important?” I thought for a moment, “I don’t know, but I guess as we’ve just crossed the Ionian sea, he must have had some influence.” Neither of us studied the classics, I must look all this up when I get home. Pylos, Navarino being it’s Italian name, with it’s traditional fishing boats passing our mooring at each end of the day, waves from the skippers and their wives/daughters/babies. A motley collection of boats in the harbour including, amazingly enough, one from Waterford! “It must have come through France, by canal, it’s too small to make it around Biscay”, the Captain reckoned. I made avocado boats on a lazy morning, the halved skin acting as the hull and sail, weighted with the stone. One made it out right into the bay before I lost sight of it.

And it seems I have to try to be quieter aboard Eve from now on, lest Mark release another tirade against me. It was eloquent, hilarious, and at least partially true. Apparently they’ve been thinking that I’ve cocaine on board, judging by the way I bounce out of my cabin each morning, arriving on deck rabbiting on about my dreams, this or that girl, whatever story takes my fancy. I guess I’ve been doing this as an antedote to the situation. At home I’m not chatty in the morning, that’s for sure. I’m not as convinced, though, that I don’t normally talk a load of crap. The only bit I really remember is Mark pointing at Dan, “See this man, listen to him, HE’s interesting!” It smarted a bit in the morning, but Dan with a wink and a sympathetic pat on the shoulder, “What’ll we do with the drunken sailor?”, helped me cheer up. I wasn’t despondent by any means, just thoughtful. Think before speaking from now on methinks, or say nothing at all. It’ll probably freak them out, “Stu’s too quiet!” Like our seas, we’re blessed beyond belief. It’s the most comfortable crossing the skippers have ever had. And in March too, these early deliveries normally being the rougher ones. It’s been tough at times but not nearly as tough as it could be.

And suddenly… WIND!!!! As we pass the headland north of Kithira we get 16 knots thirty degrees to port. Wonderful. Sails up, engine off, for a while Eve is happy, doing what she was built to do, and loving it as much as her crew. We perch ourselves on the weather side, letting her skim along underneath us. I trust her so much more now. I’m catching up with myself now, my mind had enough time on land to process everything. Also because I dove underneath the hull and witnessed the half tonne of weight that’s at the end of the two metre keel, the long rudder and the clean propeller. With my snorkel fed breathing pounding my head it was quite a sight. I felt like I was a submarine, except they don’t have to surface because of cold water. Even with Dan’s wetsuit on, comfort was minimal. Partially floating, semi-submerged, like a dieting whale I looked at the hull and the physics started to make sense. It feels good to feel safe. This day has been good. It’s 1620, we had a fry for breakfast, Dan has beef stew on for dinner, Greek yogurt and honey was enough for lunch.

As our sensory overload of the first two legs has given way to a calmer soaking in of life at sea, Dan and I considered ourselves not so easily excited anymore. Until he saw a spout from a whale perhaps and we were once again like giddy kids, grabbing the binoculars and searching the ocean for it’s wildlife. Big fins slicing through the waves. Shark? I think dolphin, but a big one. A bottlenose, maybe. Rarer in these waters, so the sailors say. Looks like a torpedo when heading towards us, I fear for the lesser fish it’s chasing. 

I might snooze now. The sun takes it’s toll, even with hat, shades and sunblock. I couldn’t sleep last night during the Captain’s watch, the early one. I relieved him and crashed out when Dan’s turn was up. He, in  turn, woke me at three after my profound dream of the enemy deep. We laughed about it, he left me there and I saw the nighttime out until getting Mark up at 0600 hours. The clouds on the horizon were again suggesting an impressive sunrise but after the last morning at sea where I’d stayed up for the photo opportunity and exacerbated my cycle of very little sleep, I thought it better to go below. The sunrise of four days ago had been worth it, I think I had got the shot, but there’s no need for heroics here. I waited until a ship passed close enough to port, curious to learn more about how the lights change with the relative position. It takes time to read a ships lights, and to remember not to presume ship’s intentions. The ship passed, Mark pointing out details. “That’s about as close as you want to be.” It was over a kilometre away, about as close as the lit up cruise ship in the Tyrrhenean, but not nearly as close as the tanker that would pass us to starboard about ten hours later.

Mark and I had been chatting, sitting facing stern, but regularly checking ahead. Dan came up on deck, passing us to the bench at the stern, and as he turned to us, looked past us exclaiming, “Jesus Christ!” We turn and see this ship a couple of hundred yards away, heading in the opposite direction, it’s deckhands clearly visible, working hard in the heat, hammering away at whatever encrusted the deck. From the bridge, I’m sure we were an amusement, they had been in our blind spot the whole time, straight ahead of us, blotted out by the sail on Mark’s side. Our reaction surely was something for their Captain to laugh about. Ours too but we know we were a bit slack. Must do better! We laugh with the shock and relief. On captain’s orders I grabbed the camera and filmed it. It’s just that you don’t get that close to anything out here, normally. If you do, you’re probably in trouble. We weren’t, thank god.

2100 GMT+2 

36°25.503N 24°13’927E 

COG 89° Speed 5.3kts 

Nightwatch. The second last one on Eve. Mark was dead right, I don’t want this to end. We joked today about re-adapting to home life, me and Dan. Mark says he goes home, sticks on the news and turns on the tap. Sits there watching it. The tap or the news, I’m unsure. We’ve been so frugal with water, it’s funny to think of how wasteful you can be in a house. In saying that, we probably stink. Baby wipes only go so far but at least we have them. The waitresses in Pilos finally asked us where we were staying, curious probably for our appearance as we had no water at dock, so no showers. They looked surprised when I replied, “We’re on the boat.” Should we have explained at some stage what we were doing there, pre-season, unannounced, unkept. They must know delivery boats and their crews, this funny way of life. I still don’t think of us as being on a yacht. She’s a good boat, and I do love this boat. We’ll have to take her name off in Turkey, she’ll be named there with Turkish registration. So she’s ours forever. No others soul will sail this boat as Eve. I hope she remembers us, this scruffy trio, before she gets posh, carrying nice families, pensioners and honeymooners about. And will she ever do a long voyage like this again? I hope so. The good ship Eve, she deserves to see the world! To quote the skipper, “Lots of love, girl!”

Stars hang, calm sea, lovely night here in the Aegean. More phosphorescence, the crescent moon has set already, chasing the sun who showed off wonderfully as we ate an equally impressive stew. I’d napped a bit before dusk, dreaming of friends, another postcard to write. A longer list now, as is my list of things to do when I get back. So much time I don’t want to waste. To all the girls I play, to all those I play with, to those who’ve played me, to those we all play up to. I try to be honest, I hope I have been. Dublin, so much to sort out in so many ways, so much music to play in so many days. So many people to see, but first France and Italy, and of course the small thing of at least a few days in Turkey and the re-crossing of the Aegean to Vounaki aboard a different boat. Maybe with two other friends of Mark, and without Dan. We’ll see. The epilogue of the journey to Eden, hopefully we’ll all find our paradise. I’m calm, open to what will be without any wish to push one way or another. It’s a nice feeling. Venus hangs to the west, she knows what I’m talking about. What Mars has to say may be another thing. All told, it’s been a formidable year already. 

Really, I should check that we’re not about to hit anything! 

I think I first wrote in this book to preserve my sanity. Now I’m writing so I can remember not to go back to insanity when I’m finally home. But I just heard dogs barking, so what’s all this about being sane? It’s possible but the island to our North is miles away. It’s pitch black ahead. Still freaks me out at times, especially towards the end of watch. Really, I feel the edge of the world could be there. It’s nearly time to wake Mark and sleep myself. Plankton glows, lights on the land are apparent now. It’s weird. Three hours alone, gets me every time.

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