The Long Sad Saga
of the Water-Taxi

Water Taxi in Greece
Photo courtesy of

A wasted day. Too tired to do anything but sleep, read, eat, and sleep some more. At around six I force myself to take a swim around the coast with Andrea. I shoot one large skaros but he wiggles off the spear. That damn smerna. My life hasn't been the same since. I decide to get out of the water before I accidentally shoot myself or worse. I had gone that morning and searched the spot where I had shot it yesterday but there was no sign of him (or her).

At dinner we are sitting talking with our new friends from Holland, Niko and Cora when I feel a breeze stir. I turn to Niko and remark that the weather is changing. He agrees and tells us that it is a bad sign when the wind comes in from the sea at night. It means there could be a big storm. Just as the words leave his mouth the wind picks up and the leaves on the olive tree began dancing. Suddenly, the captain of the American's sailboat runs back into the restaurant where his crew is finishing their dinner. "We gotta move!" he commands. They jump up and run towards the dock. I follow. There is lots of activity. Almost every boat is getting ready to set sail. The taxi-boat has its running lights on and is warming up its engines. The old men are starting up the outboards on their little dingys and fishing boats. Already you can see the lights of boats bouncing on the waves on their way to the shelter of Agios Nikolaos on the other side of the bay. I go to get Mitch so he can witness the exciting activity. The sea, which had been completely calm an hour before, is now choppy and white-capped. The wind is blowing steadily. We watch the Americans run around their boat getting it ready. In a few minutes they are on their way joining the caravan of vessels headed for safety. Finally there are only two boats left, a small red motorboat, and a big old salvaged American style power yacht. It looks like the guy isn't going to move. For whatever reason he is going to ride out the storm tied right where he is, in front of the bar in the very spot where Uncle Panayotis boat was blasted to smithereens. The owner paces the deck nervously. One of the old fishermen yells to him to get his boat out of there or in twenty minutes he might not have a boat. There is some discussion and then action as he and his friends feverishly try to get the boat untied and away. In the meantime our landlord Yannis Zaferis has come down from Vrissi and gotten into his boat and motored out into the darkness. Finally there is not one boat left of the dozen or so that had been there before the wind had changed. It's raining too. Then as quickly as it had begun the wind stops. The rain ceases and the sea goes calm. It had all been like a fire-drill.

"That's the thing about the sea" said Niko. "You never know if it's the real thing or a false alarm."

I realize one thing. For all the freedom that having a boat seems to represent, it looks like one big anxiety filled pain-in-the-ass. I don't think I would want to own a nice boat unless I was so rich that its destruction wouldn't cause me despair. If I could see every storm or dangerous predicament as a form of entertainment rather than a life or death effort to save my ship I would be more comfortable. Otherwise, watching from the safety of the dock is just fine with me. Besides, the second order of fries are probably getting cold by now. We return to the safety of the dinner table.

Later as I pass the dock on the way to bed I notice a crowd milling about. I assume they were trying to avoid the heat and humidity that has re-settled on the village with the passing of the storm. I think little of it and go to sleep.

We had arranged to wake early the next morning and drive to Zarafona, my Grandfather's village, with Niko and Cora as our Taxi. I promised them an authentic mountain village experience in return for a ride. Plus I would pay for fuel and food. They happily agreed. Mitch would come too.

When I wake up Elaine, she tells me something about the water-taxi having an accident. I walk down to the port to check out the story. Sure enough there is something to it. Last night when all the boats were leaving for Agios Nikolaos to avoid the storm, the water-taxi had taken off in the opposite direction towards Agios Georgios. One of the villagers had gone there fishing before the storm and his worried father asked Nikos, the owner, if he would help him find his son, not realizing that the son had already returned. They saw the rocks too late to avoid them, and the hundred thousand dollar water-taxi smashed into them. That began a rescue effort, which is why the crowd had been standing on the dock last night. They were able to tow the water-taxi across the bay to the beach on the other side, and with the help of several tractors and a dozen or more people from the disco, pulled it on shore before it could sink. Vassili told me there was a couple million drachma damage. It could end the long sad saga of the water-taxi.

The Long Sad Saga of the Water-Taxi (short version)

The story goes that it was bought by Nikos and Maria who were going to use it in Spetses, where water-taxis are common, taking people to the numerous bars, clubs, discos, restaurants, hotels and beaches scattered around the small island. Whatever their plans were, the water-taxi sat on the beach here for two years while Nikos went to sea on a container ship in an effort to pay it off. Maria stayed here and rented rooms in their large home. She even rented their bedroom while she and her children slept in the kitchen. When we came here this summer, the water-taxi was in the water for the first time I can remember instead of on cinderblocks on the beach.

Unfortunately it was not making any money. It was used once this summer to bring a wedding party to Spetses. A couple of times it went either to Leonidion or Spetses to pick up supplies, but mostly it just sat there. Every night Nikos and Vassilis the carpenter would set up a little cafeneon table next to it and drink, perhaps making plans for the future of the boat. I took a couple photos, telling Nikos we would start an advertising campaign to make business for the water-taxi, with a smiling captain next to his sleek craft.

It makes me sad. I really liked the water-taxi. It had character. It was beautiful and it was fast. Faster than the Flying Dolphins. Now its future is uncertain, but if it was insured properly, running it onto those rocks that he had been able to avoid for forty years, was the best thing that could have happened to Nikos and Maria.

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