When the Wrong Sail is the Right Sail
Call it fate, karma, or kismet. Call it whatever you like, but some encounters, and the sails that turn up with them, are meant to be. From our October 2012 issue.
These were the disjointed thoughts that ran through my head as our long-suffering headsail shredded itself into the furious, frothing Aegean Sea.
That old UK-Halsey jib had been mighty good to us. “Rest in peace,” I muttered, looking astern.
Carolyn and I both sat in dead silence for a while. We now had no serviceable headsail. True, we could limp along under our storm staysail salvaged from a dumpster, but only at a snail’s pace. And, we planned on sailing about 7,000 miles in the near future.
We looked at each other glumly. “OK, navi-guesser,” I said wearily to Carolyn. “We need a place to lick our wounds and catch our breath, someplace with good protection from a meltemi.”
She ducked below and started scanning the chart, rattling off goofy names with too many vowels. Then I abruptly stopped her: “If we ease sheets and crack off, can we still lay Mílos?”
We’d barely rattled out the anchor chain in front of the bustling port town of Adámas, at Mílos, when an inflatable dinghy approached. It appeared to be carrying a smile, a smile so huge it obscured the man beneath it.
“No more scope! ” he cried. “Take up the anchor! We’re sailing to Kléftiko! I am the one you call Papa Gosh. Nadire called and said you might appear. Anyway, we’re going just around the corner, and it’s the very best place in all of Greece! You can follow me in Glicki.”
You only get one chance at a first impression, and the one that Papa Gosh (more accurately know as Panagiotis Avgidis) made on us was huge. First, there was the megawatt smile. And the big, proud nose, like Alexander the Great’s. He was also barrel-chested, suntanned, sturdy, and glowing with robust health. Mostly he just grinned, a maniacal, demented, enticing grin as bright as the Greek sun.
There was also something Old World and gracious about him, as if we’d be doing him a huge favor to comply with his modest request.
Frankly, the last thing I wanted to do was go back to sea, so I was amazed to hear myself happily agreeing to do just that. The Grin grew even wider as I spoke. “Don’t worry,” the Grin said. “You are with Papa Gosh of Mílos now—and everything and anything will work out perfectly!”
Gliki turned out to be a gleaming Hallberg-Rassy 46 whose decks were awash with Greek movie stars, local doctors, and a gang of scientists from, amazingly, the University of Minnesota.
“She said he was a force of nature,” mused Carolyn as both our vessels hoisted our luffing mainsails side by side. “It’s the grin,” I agreed. “He’s just so happy! I dunno, he’s like sunlight or something.”
Carolyn cracked up. I grinned back. She said, “He’s treating us like long-lost family, and we don’t even know him!”