By Melody Burson
It had been a wonderful two weeks on Seascape Sailing‘s 55’ sloop Vassilis with the charter company’s owner and skipper Diane. We had done share-boat sailing – a mixture 10 people; couples and singles; on one boat – with her as captain a couple of years before and it was such a memorable vacation we decided to do it again. On that Seascape trip, we spent the two weeks sailing around Turkey’s Turquoise Coast. This trip was spent exploring small islands and coves in Turkey and then in the nearby Dodecanese Islands in Greece. And we were delighted to share a boat once again with Bob, a gregarious Australian who had a discerning taste for beer and wine, a love of seafaring adventures, and a treasure trove of jokes for his new friends and his close Rotary Club mates back home in Gymea Bay, a suburb of Sydney.
Vassilis was now back in Lakki, on the island of Leros, the home port of Seascape’s three charter sloops. It’s one of the most protected, deep water harbors in the Aegean Sea, and it’s a great place to moor a boat, but it’s not very attractive. During World War I, the British established a naval base there. The subsequent Treaty of Lausanne gave possession of the island to Italy, and during the next 30 years, Italy expanded the naval base. During the fascist period leading up to World War II, Italy built many hulking concrete structures that were devoid of any decoration. It was the antithesis of the charming seaside villages we had enjoyed on our trip. There were no bright white stucco homes with striking blue trim with splashes of neon magenta bougainvillea growing against the house. The streets were wide boulevards and not the narrow little streets made of stone. Lakki felt too stark and antiseptic. We needed to find another place to enjoy our last bit of vacation. Bob, my husband, and I decided we would leave our fellow sailors behind, pay a taxi driver to show us the sights around Leros and then have the driver take us to a taverna for a last-afternoon-together lunch before we would say goodbye the next day.
Our tour ended up at Pandeli Bay on the opposite side of the island from the port of Lakki. The taxi driver let us out at the end of the road, in the middle of a crescent pebble beach with tavernas and small hotels on each side. On the right was a larger restaurant that was crowded and playing loud music. We went left.
I can’t remember the name of the place we chose. I wish I could. I’ve tried to find it on maps and guidebooks, but it may have been remodeled or changed hands since we were there. But it was perfect. There were just a few other people there. A very tan older couple were basking in the sun on lounge chairs, both immersed in their books but making sure to scratch their small dog’s ear every once in a while. A distinguished looking gentleman sat by alone near entrance to the dining room and kitchen. We assumed the man in the apron who was inviting us to sit at a beachside table was the proprietor.
Bob asked me, “Whatcha drinkin’, Petunia?” It had been a hot and dusty taxi tour. The pine-tasting Greek retsina wine didn’t sound appealing to me. A cold beer is what I needed. Bob ordered a large bottle of Amstel Beer for us to share. As our order came, Bob told the he owner that he might as well bring another over since this one was going down fast among us three. And maybe we could have some olives, pita bread, and some hummus for a snack? Cheers!
And that’s the way our three-hour lunch started at Pandeli Bay. The sense of time stopped as we remembered the highlights of our trip, ordered more beer, and enjoyed an array of tasty appetizers prepared by the chef. The book-reading couple chatted with us for a bit and we found out that they were retired ex-pats from England and lived year round in a little house up the road. They said there was a large contingent of Brits in the area so they felt right at home. They recommended the dolmades, the rice-stuffed grape leaves.
The gentleman with the mustache near the back of the patio was the taverna owner’s uncle. We invited him over and we spent a good deal of time talking and laughing, even though he didn’t speak a lick of English and we didn’t know much Greek beyond baklava and gyros. I also found out that Uncle was bit of a randy fellow and didn’t hesitate to give the ladies a peck on the cheek and plenty of hugs. Note to self: keep an eye on charming Greek Uncles.
We ordered a bit more food and Bob decided we needed wine to go with our meal. He didn’t like the ones listed on the limited menu, so the owner allowed him to rummage in the back storeroom and choose a wine from the café’s stash of “good wine” that the owner kept for close friends and family.
I don’t remember what we had for our early dinner, nor remember the food itself being memorable, but it was the experience of spending a languid afternoon with friends, old and new, that is locked in my memory bank. It was Bob’s silly jokes, Uncle toasting to our health (I think), commenting on the people strolling along the beach, and watching the small, colorful fishing boats bob up and down in the bay.
The Greeks have a word for this type of afternoon: aragma. It indicates the small joys of life, and specifically refers to their all-time favorite activity of “chilling” with friends for hours. It’s really what vacations should be: relaxing, interacting with locals, being in the moment, acknowledging similarities, and enjoying the differences between cultures and people.
And we found our most memorable vacation meal at that little place on the beach in Pandeli Bay in Greece with Bob and Uncle.
About Seascape Sailing: It’s for people who like to find adventure off the beaten track, exploring tiny islands, secret coves, and delightful villages. You can travel solo, with a partner, or charter the whole boat. Guests can take the helm if they want, learn how to sail, or just to sit back and enjoy the view. And it’s at an affordable price. In the summer their boats sail in Greece and Turkey, and in the winter they have a large catamaran (with a local chef) sailing around the islands near Phuket, Thailand. We’ve made some lifelong friends on the three trips we’ve taken with them. https://www.seascape-sailing.com.