top of page

"I don't believe in accidents. There are only encounters in history. There are no accidents." – Pablo Picasso

  • R.B.

Nephtys: a sailing encounter in the Aegean

July 5, 2014 - North Aegean*

Wind appears to be a hot topic this year. It’s obvious that to sail a boat you need wind, ergo wind must be a good thing. But like everything in life, too much of a good thing soon becomes excessive. At the moment we would be satisfied with just a little Breeze-Please, just a nice consistent gentle wind to push our little boat on its way.

Evening was approaching as we maneuvered our boat, Manaia, along the harbor quay on the quaint little island of Samothraki. As luck had it, a man popped off a French flagged boat to help us with our mooring lines. He was the most English of Frenchmen and as it turned out that is exactly what he was; an English Frenchman named Geoff.

As I tidied the detritus which always accumulates after a long crossing, I heard Jamie and Geoff trash talking over the transom. Geoff explained that he and his charming wife Simone were “Doing Northern Greece” from North to South and since we were heading from South to North the transfer of information was mutually beneficial. Simone popped her head out of their boat, greeted us and exclaimed with a delightful broken English~French accent “zee weather it’z has beeeen horreeble, zee worst we have ever seen in Greece. Here it iz late June and still zee rain falls! Weee have rain every day’z; and zee wind; iz teerrible, too strong to bez pleasant.”

She had an unusual collection of clothing pegged out along their lifelines; raincoats, warm sweaters, blankets all flapping in the breeze. First impressions are lasting; I liked this smiling frazzled woman, we obviously had a lot in common. I, however, rather was taking a more pragmatic view of the uncontrollable elements; I figured it was Zeus’ way of announcing "you’re on my turf now, don’t get to cocky, I’m still the big boss!" Jamie and I settled at the pier and planned to depart for Thasos in the morning.

Up at the break of dawn, which is an unusual time of day when the sky starts to get light but the sun hasn’t come up yet, I made tuna sandwiches while Jamie jaunted off to the Coast Guard Station to check the weather. Our early morning start proved to be a dress rehearsal as our departure plans were quashed when Jamie returned. The wind was blowing but in the wrong direction from where we were headed, life is too short to sail up wind for 10-12 hours. We made some coffee, shared a tuna sandwich for breakfast and opened our books. With little else to occupy our time thoughts turned to lunch; sardines at the little taverna on shore sounded like a dandy idea but as we disembarked Manaia our French neighbors beckoned us over for a chat.

This is how we ended up sitting on sweet little Nephtys, Geoff and Simone’s spacious 32 foot, 30 year old Dufour whiling away the afternoon sharing a bottle of red. Simone introduced me those strange foamy white sponges which work a treat to clean stainless steel sinks while Geoff raved about the tapenade she made from Greek olives. Geoff is a weather guru, or at least stays well informed so he shared websites with Jamie. We had such a delightful time we invited them to have dinner with us on Manaia.

Jamie had made a big batch of Ratatouille for the now abandoned crossing to Thasos so we served it with some Greek country sausage. I thought it extremely brave to serve our Kiwi rendition of such iconic French cuisine to real French people but we got the nod of approval when Simone declared ours was better than hers! We had an amusing evening, lively conversation, telling tales and laughing at life. Our guests related the enchanting story of their courtship. Living on opposite sides of Paris each thought they would surprise the other with a visit. On the same evening each spent several hours crossing the entire city of lights only to find no one home.

We planned another departure for the next morning but after rolling out of bed at 4:30 AM the wind was still driving us directly onto the dock making exit impossible. Eventually at 8:00 with Geoff’s help and a small break in the gusts we managed to push off without any damage. Geoff’s last words were “you are right to go now; we will be stuck here until Tuesday.”

Thasos proved to be an ill-fated destination; the streets were crammed with disgruntled Bulgarians tottering over the white marble streets in unfortunate holiday attire, the clutter of waterfront taverna’s hocking uninspiring “international fare” left use wanting and when we finally decided to dine at a grill house the waiter did a “bait and switch” with our order and padded the bill!

To make matters worse as we begrudgingly parted with an unwarranted amount of Euros for our rather ordinary meal a streak of lightning broke across the sky; never a good indication of favorable atmospheric conditions. We hightailed it back to Manaia to batten down the hatches so to speak; Jamie checked the spring lines and I stowed anything that looked like it might take flight then made sure the foul weather gear was handy. With a feeling of foreboding we climbed into our bunk. There was the sound of thunder somewhere off in the distance. Around midnight we jumped up as rain drops were dancing on the deck, we knew the wind was not far behind. Then it hit………..BAM! Manaia started banging onto the quay as she was heeling over. We were just about to smack broadside into the concrete jetty as our fenders were set too low to accommodate the angle the wind was driving at us. Jamie leaped up, grabbed his jacket and proceeded to adjust the fenders. Something flying through the sky caught his eye: it was Naughty t/t Manaia. She had taken flight and landed on the boom. Naughty, our dingy, was quickly lashed to the deck. Ever the resourceful sailor Jamie grabbed two large hanks of coiled mooring line and hung them off the life lines to augment the fenders which were being squashed flat under the strain of the maelstrom.

I, lacking the time to insert my contact lenses tossed on my foul weather jacket over my nightie and in a show of solidarity cowered down below looking like Little Red Riding Hood afraid of the Big Bad Wolf! The violent wind and pelting rain continued for an hour then, as if someone said “just kidding”, it stopped and an eerie calmness settled over the harbor.

Samothraki, eating sardines and drinking wine with the lovely French couple until Tuesday……..what would be wrong with that?

Fast forward two years later anchored off the goat inhabited island of Dhokos, Jamie, whose pastime is Boat Spotting, spied a well-loved 30 footish Dufour flying a French flag. On closer inspection it proved to be Nephtys. We meet scads of boat folks, some you connect with, others are “ships passing in the night.” Unsurprisingly sticky “situations” create a bond. Our brief encounter, Geoff helping with our docking lines, our tricky departure and Simone dealing derogatory comments on the vile weather in her charming poetic French accented English made a lasting impression, so when Jamie spied Nephtys there was not much discussion, we weighed anchor and tootled over, resetting nearby Nephtys the sound of which resulted in Geoff’s head popping out of a hatch.

We shared an enthusiastic wave before he jumped into his dingy, rowed over to Manaia at lightning speed and asked the silliest of questions: “Do you remember us?” We laughed. Invites were issued: ouzo on Nephtys, dinner on Manaia; Laissez les bon temps roulez.

* {...Stories of the Manaians feature the Capitan, Jamie who hails from New Zealand and me, Renee who came to live in NZ via Seattle. Manaia is our little 37 foot sailboat which is the stage for our Greek adventures. We drift from island to island, port to port, town to town. We live local; shop, eat and drink plus experience with great gusto what this wonderful county has to offer. Jamie speaks a bit of Greek and I parrot what I hear. Our boat life is full of fun, adventure and discovery; sometimes we even hoist a sail. When we are not sailing in Greece we can be found in Auckland doing much the same thing!...}



“It is only at the first encounter that a face makes its full impression on us”

- Arthur Schopenhauer



“Chance encounters are what keep us going.”

– Haruki Murakami



"If there is no fate and our interactions depend on such a complex system of chance encounters, what potentially important connections do we fail to make? What life changing relations or passionate and lasting love affairs are lost to chance?"

– Simon Pegg


"Sweet Serendipity...that unexpected meeting that changes your life"




"Ironically, the people you meet by accident are often the ones who become an important part of your life." 

Solitary Reaper



“Important encouners are planned by the souls before the bodies see each other.”    

Paulo Coelho



"I am thankful for the serendipitous moments in my life, when things could've gone the other way"

Rick Springfield



"Synchronicity: ideas, thoughts,

occurrences that seem related, but defy conventional explanation."


Recent Posts


bottom of page