Finally Leaving Athens

Monday May 7, 2018

I am sitting in front of the customs office in Piraeus Port and hoping that the financial turmoil of the past decade still inspires people at the customs office to show up on time. The information desk says 8:30 but I remain skeptical until someone shows me a chair. As mentioned Saturday was a tough day with the port police forcing me to get a new transit log from the customs office before signing me out of the island. So I sit and wait for the paperwork people to do the paperwork assuming they arrive on time. The office door is wide open and there are stacks of paper on both sides of all three desks and at least one of the guest chairs so I am a little skeptical that this is going to go smoothly.

I am still titling this Finally Leaving Athens because we all survive on hope. I think my normally blasé demeanour may have been darkened by an article forwarded by a friend, from the New Yorker about the anti-Natalist movement and why all of the suffering in life should be reason enough to avoid breeding. It was very logical and academic but dark as well. I shall tell myself that the customs people are going to promptly resolve the issue and the Port Police sign me out of the island forthwith and rely on hope rather than evidence.

The last two days have brought heavy rain to Athens which is somewhat unusual I think. Certainly in my experience, but today it is currently sunny with almost no wind so it should be a pleasant day on the water. [update: nope. Cloudy and rainy on the water but nice in the pilot house!]

Karen and Larry remain on the boat watching out for things while the water tank fills, and when the paperwork is complete we will move on to Hydra for the day at least. After that we are making things up as we go. Until the weekend when we will end up in Crete, probably Chania.

Last night I looked at flights from Corfu back to Toronto and return prices are crazy expensive now so I will have to pick my dates carefully. A big problem is that I can’t leave the boat in Gouveia for a month. It seems they don’t have space for that long. So I will have to find appropriate dates and make further arrangements

Part 2:

I made it to a chair and saw the wonders of paper based bureaucracy first hand. Or more appropriately, the wonders of a society focused on status over productivity. In the hour that the very kind gentleman helping me with my new transit log did his work he drank a coffee, smoked two cigarettes and had about 9 or 10 people come in, say good morning, kiss cheeks and discuss the weekend. For those unfamiliar with other political systems and social structures, this is a throwback to the days when you made sure you were seen by coworkers, honoured your boss and friends and were socially acceptable so that you wouldn’t be cut when they cut jobs. It is very communist/socialist and fascinating to watch.

Now other than the fact that this issue was related to my screw up and the kind pleasantries, I was still in a hurry. I was offered a very nice bit of cake and sweets and forced to eat (I did refuse twice, really, until I was told that the lady offering it had just celebrated her birthday and I chose to be gracious). It was all very friendly and helpful and a huge waste of an hour or more. It was ten minutes of work and five minutes of questioning me.

In the end I received a new transit log and discovered at the same time I cannot command the boat in Greek waters for 6 months after June 5th, legally. That was new information! I was planning to leave Corfu by June 1st. Phew!

Next step, back to the Port Police. I arrived and proudly handed over my new transit log and the guy helping me was clearly a male chauvinist, power monger. The lady who helped me last time was sitting beside him and he was rude and dismissive to her (she was helpful, he was just difficult), rude to me, and overall made my experience way, way worse than it could have been.

To be clear, a new issue popped up. He wanted to see my captain’s license. I don’t have any such thing and in Canada and the US you don’t need one for vessels under 65 feet. Visions of having to steal away in the middle of the night began dancing in my head, or hiring a ‘qualified’ captain for thousands of dollars! In the end I offered up my pleasure craft operator card and said this was my captain’s license. Another gentleman arriving from France, standing with the helpful lady beside me proffered a very similar card and so we explained what pleasure craft were to the Piraeus Port Police, in varying tones of disgust, pleading and feigned excitement that we were being helpful. Another hour wasted time. Finally at about 11:30 we untied and left the dock. Goodbye Athens. Finally.

The trip to Idra was uneventful but the arrival was packed with difficulties. Unfortunately we are anchored out for the evening, ate on the boat and will not have time to spend on the island because we want to move on first thing in the morning to Sifnos. It wasn’t bad, it’s just not what we expected. The wine was good, the card games fun and the scenery excellent.

I believe we have many of the problems worked out too, and we hope for a good day tomorrow. I would type more but I’m just too tired.

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