If I think about it, and then make a decision, it takes me only five minutes to load my sea-kayak on the car roof rack, ten minutes to drive down to the Marina in Paleochora, and then fifteen minutes at most to unload, stow away several essential items, and launch out to sea, just half an hour in total. And one late afternoon in May, with an unexciting evening stretching ahead, that’s just what I did.
Once out of the harbour, I swung to port/left/eastwards, passing the long-abandoned “Lost Paradise” hotel, the accommodation now only for squatting goats. Pachnes, highest of the White Mountains, is visible from here, and from sea level, was exactly 2453m above me, almost hidden behind the lower summits of Gingilos, Volakias and Zaranokefala.
On past Methexis Beach, and threading a course between several rocks to the Skala pier, then along to Chalikia, our ‘stony beach’. On to the ‘Camping Beach’ below Pearl Cavo, and half an hour on a shady sun-bed with an ice-cold lemonade.
As I left the beach, “Samaria” had rounded Cape Crocodile and was heading towards its home port, and for a while it seemed we were on a collision course. “Steam gives way to sail …” is the rule of the sea, though probably does not includes kayaks. But I was far across the bay before the ferry glided slowly and serenely into the Skala.
Now I steered directly for “Lighthouse Island”, with several seabirds silhouetted against the setting sun. I’ve never landed here, and access from a kayak over sharp rocks looks difficult.
Round the island – its official name is Schistonisi – out of the shadow into the sun, and I set a course for the ‘Sandy Beach’, deceptively well over a kilometre away. The plan was to go ashore for a beer at the Jetee Bar, but landing is not as simple as it might appear, with a long ridge of low rocks protecting the shore, and with shallow waves breaking over these.
The drink would wait, and I paddled the length of Pachia Amos to where, below Castello, the sun was fast falling …..
“ How heavily it dies, into the west away …..
Past touch and sight and sound,
Not further to be found …. ”
Classic A. E. Housman. Then between island and mainland with darkness approaching. A little later and I would have needed the head-torch stowed in my “emergency pack” (along with flares, whistle, etc, etc.) But now the harbour light was calling …. and I paddled below the flashing red and green lights into the glassy waters of the Marina, to end an enjoyable evening cruise of ten kilometres.
A crescent moon was rising as I loaded the kayak, and the first stars beginning to appear in the soon-to-be-night sky. I looked to see if Ursa Major/The Plough was where it should be, high above my house, and it was, so I drove home. All was well.