Redemption for Cassiopeia (Κασσιόπεια)
All aboard our vessel, Cassiopeia, or Κασσιόπεια in Greek.
Greek myth describes Cassiopeia as The Queen of Ethiopia, but also a woman of great vanity. Claiming to be more beautiful than his sea-nymph daughters, she angered the Great Poseidon, who sent a great storm to destroy Ethiopia. In order to appease him, Cassiopeia had to subject her own daughter to the horrors of the storm (she is later rescued by the handsome Perseus but that’s a story for another day). As further punishment, Cassiopeia was banished to the sky, where her constellation dangles upside down, in fear of plunging headlong into the sea.
Headlong into the sea. That doesn’t sound so bad to us, here in the Ionian Islands.
Half of our guests arrived in a Mercedes bus from Athens, having been thoroughly entertained and safely transported by our new Greek parter, Dimitrious. Very accommodating, he will bring them back the same way next week. He gave me a big hug before leaving for Athens again. Echfaristo, Dimitrious!
The other half of our guests had already been in Lefkada and were chomping at the bit to get on board when I ran into them in the marina last night. I tortured them and made them wait.
Having worked our butts off getting Cassiopeia ready for our headlong plunge into the Ionian Sea, it was a pleasure to escort Susie, Marina, Kerry, Mark, Katharine and Natalie down the dock to our home for the week. Simon brought up the rear, having arrived in Greece less than 24 hours earlier - this guy hit the ground running and hasn’t stopped, jet lag and all. Like all of our guides, Simon is a real pro and a real pleasure to work with.
This bunch took no time acclimating to the boat, and all seemed like they’d been here forever. We sailed out of Lefkada marina and headed immediately south and east to the lovely little bay of Varko on the mainland. Lunch underweigh was amazing mezzes, or as I like to call them, Amezzzes (they deserve three zzz). Everyone filled their bellies and settled in for the ride. We were met with gray skies and a stiff wind which made for perfect sailing, and snuggling into this bay gave us just enough protection for a reasonable swim. I threw all of our day one SwimVacation information at these guys - they absorbed it all, asked a few questions, and suited up, ready to plunge.
Everyone feared cold water and came prepared with various lengths of wetsuiting. I think we were all pleasantly surprised - I’d put the water at about 76F, lovely for a good swim - and climbed out thinking they can probably go without the neoprene once the sun comes out (I’m told it will). The wind blew into our faces a bit as we headed out along a lovely white sand beach at the bottom of a hill. Natalie gave me a run for my money - she’s faster since the last time she swam with us. We zoomed back to the boat with the wind behind us - thanks be to Boreas, God of the North Wind. A mile or so all told, I think we made Poseidon proud.
Cups of hot tea came out as we dried off and raised collars against the breeze. A great game of cribbage commenced, and continued through the Ionian Fizz cocktail that Lulu passed around. Giggles and laughter lead to dinner which was spectacular - delicate salmon and asparagas with Greek salad (keep the feta coming please) and lovely bottles of local wines. Our meal was completely disrupted by the most vivid rainbow SwimVacation has ever seen (and we’ve seen more than a few). Forks hit the deck as we all jumped up to get photo machines. So showy, this Ionian Sea and her magical light on mountain tops and stunner of a rainbow!
Many incredible stories we shared over this meal - stories of resilience, and culture, travel and home. Amazingly, Marc and I discovered we are connected by my brother in law, whom he works with. Marina filled our heads with tales of her Greek heritage as we filled our bellies with Mediterranean soul. Marina is our resident Greek expert. Her parents were both native to Greece, and she was raised here and elsewhere in Europe. She speaks Greek fluently and provides a wonderful resource of knowledge as we skim along these shores.
To cap the night, Lulu brought out an absurd platter of baklava. It was just absurd. That’s the only way to describe it. A honey-pastry-tastrophe and none left on the sticky plate. None.
As I sit here tonight blogging, all other souls asleep, I’m so pleased and humbled at the way these six just stepped aboard Cassiopeia and communed, and plunged headlong into the sea today. It might not have looked like our warmest or most inviting swim, but it deterred no one here.
Tomorrow we begin with a sail to our south before a morning swim. All aboard are open to this experience. Maybe Cassiopeia and Poseidon have finally mended ways.
Belly full of Baklava,