06 August 2009 | Vlicho, Greece
Sorry about the long silence, we've been very busy. Perhaps I'll have time to fill in some of the blanks later, but for the moment I'm a bit distracted by the current "situation".
Anyone who has travelled by air recently will have seen the HSBC ads that highlight the difference a point of view can make. A poster showing a stiletto shoe is labeled "pain"; beside it a poster of a hot pepper is labeled "pleasure". A few steps closer to the gate, the same posters are shown, but the stiletto is now labeled "pleasure" (oh, sure) and the pepper is labeled "pain". A baby is labeled "work" and a computer "play", then the reverse. The cruising life is a bit like that-some days are great, but some days can be really, really bad. Sometimes you get time to play and sometimes it's a lot of work.
The last few days haven't been so great. We're in Vlicho, a sleepy little village in an area that reminds me a lot of the Cape Breton highlands, my personal benchmark for natural beauty. But, as my Aunt Katie used to say, "there's always something". In the case of Vlicho (and apparently throughout the Greek islands) the "something" is rats. And one of them (please Lord, let it be only one) had a little staycation on Aisling while we were away.
We were so hopeful, so unsuspecting, when we arrived back at the boat after a lovely two days in Athens. Horatio's men had been hard at work-- the steps and walls of the companionway were newly varnished, the windlass repaired, the wind generator refurbished, the new motor mount installed. Things were a bit grimy above and below, but at first glance nothing seemed amiss. Then Rick lifted the tarp that had been covering the settee and found a little pile of shredded mystery stuff and a partially chewed cork. Oh. My. God.
On the list of things women fear when cruising, "rat onboard" is right up there with "wife's incompetent downwind helming causes husband to be knocked out by boom". I'd known for some time that this day could come, had read Linda Dashew's story of encountering a rat in a stern locker, had heard tales from other cruisers of picking up unwanted guests in various ports of call. So before leaving we had carefully rodent-proofed the boat, sealed up all the food, and laid out some poison just in case. How had the rat gotten on board? Probably through the hatches that had been left open without screens for an extended period while Horatio's men were working on the boat.
I should have been prepared to cope with the problem calmly and matter-of-factly. Instead, I retreated to the cockpit and burst into tears. And if those other women claim they didn't do the same thing, they're probably fibbing. The thought of sleeping in a small enclosed space with a rat running around was too terrible for words, but Horatio's search for a vacant hotel room turned up nothing closer than Nidri. Fortunately, there seemed to be some indications that the rat was no longer with us. When Rick found a half-eaten block of poison and we realized that none of the "evidence" was fresh, we began to hope that the rat was dead, or gone, or both.
After a mostly sleepless night, we began the process of cleaning. Most of the hard work fell to Rick-not a pleasant task with the temperatures climbing about 35C. After two days of hard labour, the boat is now cleaner than it's been since we left Halifax. In the process, we discovered that the little bugger had chewed the lid off our precious jug of Tunisian olive oil. Here's hoping he didn't get to any wires or hoses. We still haven't found a corpse and I fear we will stumble on it at the worst possible moment. But surely, in this heat, we should have smelled it by now if it was here?
Things haven't been all bad. On Tuesday evening, we joined a group of Horatio's friends for dinner at a taverna high in the hills above Nidri. It was a small family-run operation in a spectacular setting, just like something from the movies. As we sat under the branches of a huge beech tree, a young boy brought us platter after platter of delicious food. The bill for nine people was 113 euros. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that we will ever find this place again, since no one could even tell us the name of the village.
We have a few more tasks to finish but we hope to find our way to a pleasant anchorage soon. We need to get away from the rat race.