George Karpathios invited me to stay at his home in Athens. He runs a local kayak outfitter, and might like to paddle with me for a few days in his backyard, the Aegean sea.
To arrive at his home I had two options: I could paddle north of the large island of Salamina. I’d pass several smaller islands, some undoubtedly fascinating coast, and see Athens from up close on protected waters. Or, I could cross to the southern tip in a straight line, then pivot and take another direct bearing to my destination Gilfada. The crossings would be shorter, less interesting, and into a potentially force four head wind.
I wanted instant gratification. I chose the shorter route and paddled into the headwind. I passed a turtle the size of a full grown ground hog just a few feet from the boat. I paddled into more headwind and arrived at Salamina.
I considered calling it a day, for about half a second. Briefly, I passed cliffs and villages and was then on to the 2nd crossing.
I pushed on, patiently, slowly, through a tanker field. Long ago this water was the center of the nautical world. And when the weather got bad, Greek ships would sometimes sink. Slowly, they settled down to the bottom and the currents gradually blanketed them in silt. Fish came to explore and spread their pollen. Roots dug deep into the ground. Over the centuries, these seeds of civilization sprouted and grew into the enormous shipping tankers moored around me.
The sky looked like a walrus with a hangover. The wind was a mighty ongoing sneeze of warm air and spray off my paddles.
The air was hazy. I headed due east, picking one tanker out on the horizon after another. The wind died down, more or less.
The transparent dark blue water was packed with stars. Bright glowing blue lights drifted far and deep in the most spectacular display of bioluminescence I have ever seen, and the only daytime vision. I dropped my face into the water for a better look, shallow with caution of the unknown. The lights were so bright. I wondered if they were attracted to the tankers, or something that was leaking.
I entered the shipping lanes. Ferries and tankers rushed at me from either side as I tried to judge whether I needed to speed up or slow down. Do they see me? Does it matter? Is this the scariest shipping lane I’ve ever crossed? Due east. No slowing down, except to let the big boys pass. This would be a lot easier without a headwind.
The mist parted and I could see my port. Eventually, I arrived. Enormous motor and sailing yachts made up the largest uber wealthy collection of boats I’ve seen since Monaco. I would undoubtedly not be welcome here.
But my new friend, host, and temporary kayaking partner was happy to pick me up and throw my boat on the roof of his car. His home has a laundry machine, hot shower and a warm bed. It was a pleasure to make the acquaintance of local kayaker extraordinaire, George Karpathios.
It only took me ten hours, likely more than the longer route without the wind.
Nautical miles paddled: 27
Current location: 37.875521, 23.728894