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Rowan Parkes

A sailors tales I

It was May of the year 1985. An old fisherman and his young inexperienced assistant and friend had thrown out their nets just off a beach near Myrtidia the night before, and that morning intended to bring them in. The weather however was very fresh, and the strong breeze of the evening before had climaxed into a harsh wind howling round the crags. The boat was no more than 5m long, with very little equipment and no anchor and the wind caused havoc from the moment they set out to retrieve the nets. Having retrieved most of them they found a few had caught on rocks below the surface and try as they might they found it a very tiresome job to pull them out. Persevering they at last managed to pull the nets away from the rocks, at which point the nets, coming away violently, tangled themselves promptly around the boats propeller. After that there seemed no more help for the boat and its crew. The wind picked them up and tossed them out to sea, and they were obliged to watch the island disappearing from sight. The younger of the two, not failing to recognize their plight, asked his superior what they should do about it. The old man confessed that the only remaining thing to do was for the younger to try and swim for it, back to the island, in the hope of reaching it and procuring some help.
When however the young man jumped in, he found it impossible to fight against the current caused by the wind, and he soon gave up and turned to attempt accessing the boat again. He found on turning that the boat was now many yards away and the distance rapidly widening. Panicking at last he seemed to see his life flashing before his eyes, and in his minds eye he saw his wife and mother in mourning for him. Then he remembered a passage from a novel he had read while on his travels about a shipwrecked sailor who survived after battling with the ocean for fifty hours or more. This gave him courage, as he thought that if such a thing was possible for one man, it might also be as much for him. He decided to continue the struggle, using an over arm stroke that would prevent him from having to look at the distant shore. He concentrated on this for what seemed like hours, and it seemed when he next looked the shore was nearer. At last he hit upon a reef jutting up from the surface were he rested, and then continued on to the shore. On reaching it he struggled to the monastery to call both the harbour patrol and the police, as he was now sure that there was no help for his friend. Dejected and feeling unable to return to his village alone he climbed up to where the cross stands over-looking Myrtidia and sat there a while to think.
After a time he saw a patrol yacht approaching the harbour and feeling it must have something to do with his plight he descended to meet it and the harbour patrol down below. He gave them the particulars of the direction in which the boat had been lost and they set off to see if there was any possibility of it’s recovery.
Meanwhile, on Melidoni beach, a fisherman was awaiting the blowing out of the storm, so that he could make his usual route to Kapsali, when he felt something inside him stir him to start out on the route with his boat, despite the fact that he would normally never have dreamed of doing such a thing in such abysmal weather conditions. However, after a little delay, he decided to follow the call of whatever it was and set out. On the journey he met the patrol yacht and having been informed of the tragedy agreed to attempt a rescue, the yacht being too light a craft to make the expedition. He set out in the direction already indicated, but after a long time of seeing nothing but huge waves he decided to give up on the matter and return to shore to wait out the storm. He made the turn.
Hidden by waves only a small distance away the old fisherman saw the craft he had hoped might prove his saviour turn back to shore, and his courage and faith failed him.
Meanwhile the rescue craft captain was having second thoughts, and suddenly decided that he could not after all forsake a fellow human when there might still be some chance of rescue. He turned once more, and to the delight of both he soon saw the smaller craft being tossed by the waves. Having managed to attach a tow, the two craft attempted to make their way back to the shore, the smaller boat however had by now taken it’s full beating, and, not being able to withstand the strain of cutting through the waves, sank at last. The old fisherman was cast overboard and the rescue craft attempted to draw up along side and pull him in. On the third try it was managed, however the old man broke his ribs on the bars of the deck in the process.
They all of them came out of that storm mercifully alive and much to the joy of friends and family and the young fisherman who waited anxiously on the peer. The old man recovered in hospital and was soon back to showing his young friend the ropes…

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