'Through the fairlead!'- Drama at Sea

Vasco da Gama
Ian Strathcarron
Sat 27 Aug 2011 12:38
We are bobbing up and down on a quiet sea in a beautiful empty bay in the north of Leros Island - waiting to be hauled out!  Our drama started yesterday morning as we were motor sailing out of Pendeli Bay in the direction of Samos, when the engine conked out.  Both sails were up, there was a fair amount of wind, but the engine screeched to a halt.  I thought we should perhaps return to the safety of Pendeli Harbour and find a mechanic, but Ian thought the best option would be to sail to the north of the island, where there was a boatyard.  For a few hours an intermittent wind and Ian's sailing skill carried us on several tacks towards our goal, about 20 miles distant by sea.
We negotiated successfully a channel through various small rocks and islands, but when we were only one headland away from the yard, the wind dropped altogether and we were becalmed, with the danger of being washed towards the shore.  Ian tried to call the boatyard, only to get an ansafone message in Greek.  At that moment a RIB appeared, zooming in our direction. Ian waved to the driver who rode towards us and slowed down.  He spoke no English and as we have only two words of Greek, Ian waved a rope, indicating he would like to be towed to the yard.  The man shook his head and looked doubtful, so Ian said, pointing at me 'can you take her to the yard please to get help' and I prepared to jump in the RIB.  Should I take anything, I thought.  I was aware of looking very wild and woolly, after hours of sun and wind at sea, but with very little time to decide, I just grabbed my sun hat and jumped into the boat.  The man obviously loved to drive fast and I clung to my hat with one hand, and the side of the boat with the other, and wedged myself in with my feet until we reached the quay in front of the yard.  I thanked him enthusiastically with my two words of Greek sasaferisto (thank you) and yassas (hello/goodbye).
In the boatyard office all was calm and air conditioned and everyone spoke English.  I explained our plight and showed our position on Google Earth.  A man was sent for who drove a motorboat, but he explained (in Greek, which was translated) that his outboard motor wasn't working, but he could look for a fisherman friend who might take me.  I followed him and his mate through the yard into a little red car which was parked under a catamaran, and we sped around looking for a fisherman in a boat.  The Greek fishing boats are quite small and charming, painted white and pale blue and decorated with coloured stripes and usually a crucifix.  We found a handsome young fisherman who was mending his nets, and he agreed to take me to rescue the boat.  Once on board I sat on the deck, but he beckoned me in to sit on a stool, covered with a cushion, in the wheel house,  The wheel house had carpets on the floor, a small television and a GPS plotter which looked for shoals of fish.  His tobacco, papers and lighter were there (everyone in Greece smokes constantly) and piles of clothes.  As we chugged through a fish farm he pointed to the round pens and said 'fish'.  I replied 'sea bass?' but he just looked puzzled, so I drew a fish outline with both hands in the air, and he nodded and we both felt very happy with the conversation.
Soon Vasco came into view.  Ian had let down the sails and dropped the anchor.  He saw us coming and offered to throw a line, but the fisherman threw one to him, and  Ian wrapped it around the mast at the front of the boat. Then Ian raised the anchor and the fisherman skilfully towed him through the waves.  This is where I noticed that the fisherman's line was getting caught around the anchor, and I had the pleasure of calling out 'through the fairlead' which is a line I have heard so often when I've been tying ropes at either extremity of the boat, and is a way of keeping the lines free of obstructions.
It was very exciting travelling in the fishing boat.  The radio was playing 'Zorba the Greek' type music and sky and sea looked blue and brilliant. I was also very relieved.  The fisherman helped us tie onto a mooring bouy, which is where we are now and where we have spent the night.  We both thanked the fisherman profusely, sasaferisto and yassas we both said many times, and I gave him a 50 Euro note with which he seemed very happy. 
Let's hope the problem is not too serious or expensive........