We were six aboard Stressbuster, our Greek-designed Atlantic 70, on the day spring arrived.
It was late March; we were under sail in the Gulf of Gökova on Turkey’s Carian Coast. Our guests had joined my husband, Kostas, and me a week before, on the Greek isle of Lesbos, to begin their preseason 28-day charter. The plan was to meander slowly south through Greece’s easternmost Dodecanese islands, with a short foray into Turkey before ending the trip back in Greece.
Claudia, who’d booked the boat, was an experienced Lake Superior captain and boat owner with roots in southern New England. She was gathering local knowledge while hatching a plan to retire and sail the Aegean a few years hence. “I want a real cruise,” she’d said with a grin, “not a relay race.” She’d asked a few adventurous friends to join her.
The weather so far had been cold, damp and cloudy. Sailing south, we kept warm with hot drinks and conversation. Cockpit discussions often included questions for our crew about Greek history and culture.
“What’s the significance of the pomegranate in Greece?” someone asked. “I see the symbol and the actual trees everywhere.”
“Ah, the pomegranate,” Kostas answered, leaping at the chance to expound on two of his favorite topics: Greek history and mythology. “It was Persephone’s fruit. She was the goddess of spring and new life, but also queen of the underworld and death. Every year, when she emerged to spend six months aboveground, spring came. When she returned to the underworld, all plants died and it turned to winter.”
“Evidently, she’s still underground,” someone said with a smirk.
That day, we were bound for Castle Island, home of Cleopatra’s Beach (yes, that Cleopatra). None of us had yet shed our fleece jackets and long pants. As we ate a quick lunch underway, clouds melted away to dazzling sunshine, blue skies and a warm, 12-knot breeze.
“Persephone heard you,” Claudia said, peeling off her jacket. One by one, fleeces fell. Faces turned toward the warmth. Eyes closed, all aboard were lulled into sleepy silence by the riffs of gentle wind and the swish of the hull through the sea.
A soft splash came from abeam.
“Dolphins!” I screeched, shattering the peace.
Around me, guests launched into a full-tilt boogie. I headed to the bow, like a mama duck with charter ducklings following. Behind me, I heard: “Where’s my camera?” and “Oh my God, this is awesome!” followed by various attempts to engage with the animals: woos, clicks, soprano la-las, and mangled attempts at wolf whistles.
By the time the dolphins veered away in choreographed unison, we were approaching Castle Island. We dropped anchor in an empty Cleopatra’s Bay, surrounded only by olive trees, pines, and the scattered remains of ancient structures ashore. The queen’s beach was on the windward side, a short hike across the island. We dinghied in to explore it.
Ashore, it appeared deserted. A small concession shack was closed tight.
Cleopatra’s Beach was a pristine stretch of deserted white sand with wooden walking platforms. Evidently, the extravagant queen spent considerable time here, and ordered sand brought in by ship from Africa so that her lover, Anthony, could sunbathe in style. Scholars have since confirmed that the sand is not local. The sea looked inviting. It was deceptive. From the corner of my eye, I caught a sudden movement.
“I have to swim here,” Claudia said as she streaked toward the water. “It’s Cleopatra’s Beach!”
A splash and a beat later: “Holy crap, it’s cold!”
Back on the boat, the time was edging toward cocktail hour.
“I need a Cape Codder,” Claudia said, referring to the popular New England cocktail made with vodka and cranberry juice. “I have a craving. That cold swim did it.”
We didn’t have cranberry juice, but we did have pomegranate juice, which is sold all over Greece. Similar in taste to cranberry, it’s tart; better with a little sweetener such as apple juice or dilution with club soda, but very refreshing.
“How ’bout vodka and pomegranate juice?” I suggested. “We can call it a Persephone.”
Claudia volunteered to bartend, and we put our heads together to create the delicious cocktail below. In honor of the Greek goddess who’d served up this perfect first day of spring, we christened it Persephone’s Potion.
“To Greek goddesses and Egyptian queens,” someone said as we raised our glasses. The answer was a unanimous, “Hear, hear!”
Persephone’s Potion (serves 1)
- 1 jigger vodka or rum (1.5 ounces, or to taste)
- 2 parts pomegranate juice
- 2 parts sweet apple juice
- Generous splash orange juice
- Splash club soda
- 1 sweet red apple
- 1 green apple
- 1 orange
- Fresh mint, if available
Prep the fruit: Core apples. Halve the fruit, and cut into thin slices. Set aside.
Fill a large cocktail glass with ice. Add vodka or rum. Add pomegranate juice and apple juice; stir. Add a splash of orange juice and a splash of club soda. Stir again, and garnish glass with a half-slice each of apples and orange. Add a sprig of fresh mint, if available.
Serve with bowls of salty nuts, and consume garnish. The salty-sweet flavor combo is delightful.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Can be made: At anchor
This cocktail doesn’t require precise measures. You can pour by eye, taste, and then adjust the ingredients accordingly. If you abstain or just aren’t in the mood for alcohol, this makes an equally delicious mocktail.
Do you have a favorite boat recipe? Send it to us for possible inclusion in Sailor & Galley. Tell us why it’s a favorite, and add a short description of your boat and where you cruise. Send it, along with high-resolution digital photos of you aboard your boat, to [email protected].