Sunday, 16 September 2012

Day 285: The Wrath of God (13/08/2012)

After last night's Tequila-soaked shenanigans, it was no surprise that we needed the boat-hook to retrieve Adrian's remains from the harbour mouth as we departed.

John meanwhile, armed only with industrial quantities of antacids, emerged perky if a little dishevelled from his cabin, prompting the Dorian Gray suspicion that somewhere on board was a ornately gilt frame containing his grotesquely booze-sozzled likeness.

Quite unexpectedly for the Adriatic in August, yesterday's clouds, far from dispersing as the sun climbed into the sky, seemed to have set in for the day. Rain was suddenly ricocheting off the spray hood and the monochrome cloud base was falling faster than the mercury in our barometer. First there was thunder and moments later electricity was crackling amongst the forest of masts around us.

As giga-volts flashes began to crash down, it quickly dawned on all of us that standing bare foot on a giant wind propelled lightning conductor was an error. Gingerly stepping away from the rigging, we huddled in the cockpit as the inappropriately name Sunshine II chugged into the channel between and Vis and Hvar.

The wind quickly picked up to 20 knots and before long we had left the squall in our wake. We made good speed as we headed north to the Pakleni Islands before turning east to the menacingly named Zaglan Bay for the daily swim-lunch combo. In blazing sunshine we then headed north to the coast of Hvar and round the Pelegrin Headland before skirting along the north coast of the island and into the roadway of Starigrad, unimaginatively renamed Stalingrad for the duration of our stay. In light of the carnage that heralded our arrival, perhaps there was something prescient about the new label.

Here the pilot book warned of periodic tidal surges funneling up the channel that would lift unwary boats from their moorings and deposit them onto the timeless Venetian quayside. Again, the prevailing wind was on the beam and like a Polar Bear on roller-skates, we drifted at hopeless angles towards the dock, under the smirking gaze of a few early arrivals. Only as we struggled to get lines ashore, did we get the stern secured and the lazy-lines tightened. As I queued at the post office to pay the night's mooring fees, a breathless Simon raced in behind me with news that a power cruiser had struck us amidships.

Fighting back the tears, Simon relayed  how Sunshine's back had broken. Her mast had collapsed and just before she completed her final death roll, he had staked everything on a death defying sortie to salvage his bronzing lotion. I debated for a moment with the post master whether we should even have to pay mooring fees for a wreck before following Simon back to the quay to meet the rueful Russian skipper who had just rammed us.

Thankfully, the devastation had grown in the telling. Sunshine was still afloat and sporting a hole on the port beam that wouldn't be taking on water unless we were already sinking.

It was hard to be angry with Sergei.

In a disconcerting symmetry, it turned out that he ran a business selling Russian Orthodox bibles in Moscow and Volgograd (the former Stalingrad for those missing the clunkingly obvious plot device). His crew consisted only of his girlfriend who was heavily pregnant. It was she who alone had been trying and failing to secure the same stern-lines that six of us had been struggling with a few moments before. Within a few minutes we were in the office of the harbour master, completing accident report forms of such Byzantine complexity that patching up the damage and calling it quits, seemed the easier option. Clearly in T-Boning us, Sergei was doing God's Work and I persecuted him at my peril.

Sure enough, The Almighty's Displeasure was swift in coming as I began to bleed from the ears shortly after Sergei sauntered back to his power boat. Admittedly, I was at the top of the picturesque tower of St Stephen's church, when all five bells began to ring out the 7 o'clock peel.

Skull still reverberating to rhythms of the campanile, I staggered through the twilit maze of Venetian backstreets, promising to lay off Segei. As we sat down to dinner at Pharos with the full compliment of Sunshine II and Wilma, a plague of mosquitoes were massing. Apart from the unfortunate gassing of the whole restaurant courtyard with an over enthusiastic application of 80% DEET, we had a raucous night before retiring to well deserved rest.

We left the usual suspects to unleash hell on the unsuspecting residents of Starigrad until the early hours, unaware, until the following morning, that we had barely begun to feel the Wrath of a vengeful God.

It turns out we had unwittingly parked in a septic slick oozing from the town's main sewage outfall.

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