The Voyage: From Patras (Greece) to Charleston, South Carolina?

by LJ Frank


 It was morning, yet it was late in the afternoon of my life ~ L J Frank

Adventurer is one way to describe my physical and spiritual voyages and treks ~ at times it seems mostly in my mind. As any seeker knows there are no do overs in life, at least that I have uncovered. When an opportunity avails itself…I observe, listen, consider its content, and when perceived as genuine committed myself to action.

 On paper a voyage can stimulate all my senses. Imagination is the first step in whether I wished to accept an offer of a free Ketch – a sailboat that needed serious loving care and repair from rigging and sails to modern electronic navigational and communications equipment, along with some manual backup – just in case.

The well-seasoned, ocean voyaging sailor knows the courage and skills required for any sea and ocean crossing. It’s not for the timid or inexpert or mere adventurous soul. My experience suggests you got to know what you are doing under the bleakest and unnerving of conditions. They can come from the weather or any accident or incident at sea. Anything can go wrong especially on the open seas and a mistake can turn into a tragedy.

I sailed across the South China Seas decades ago and witnessed a man washed overboard into the deep. Was his ending nirvana or heaven, or merely food for a sea creature’s communion and subsequent oblivion or perhaps reincarnation?

Storms in the waters of Malaysia and Indonesia can crop up in the breathtaking moment or so it seemed back then.  Though the expanse of the adjoining Pacific Ocean is awe inspiring or of yielding reverence, and a mountainous swell seems less choppy and crushing then those of the Atlantic…admittedly my mind at sea did play tricks…like the desert the sea can deceive, as I noticed once when the evening waters appeared to blend into the horizon’s starry sky.

The expanse offers a calmness, particularly in good weather. I never felt that way about the Atlantic even in good weather.  But still…once at sea…there was always something mystical, drawing me back to it and yet…I like firm ground under my bare feet with dark soil squishing between my toes. It’s all temporary within this illusion called my body…depending on one’s philosophical bias…I can feel a sore limb or a troubled stomach while the boat rolls with the waves. In other words, some philosophical leanings take me only so far to the edges of feeling and sensation. Still, sailing offers an opportunity to enrich one’s persuasions.

So…at this late juncture I noticed an email sent to me from a distant friend. To summarize the content, it was about a purported 55-foot Ketch, double-masted with mizen sail…the owner wanted to gift it to a sailor who had the wherewithal to repair and update. Nothing is truly free.  It needed new rigging, sails, and updated navigational and communications equipment. The hull was in good shape. Though details can mount. Labor, material, and updated equipment. It could cost up to six figures. Safety at sea is a major factor with me. The boat’s location was near Patras, Greece.

As part of my own preparation, I set about looking in part, at geographical challenges with both physical and digital maps. Sailing from Patras, Greece to Charleston, SC. I considered hugging the coast of Africa (in particular, once past the Strait of Gibraltar) down the west coast and over to the Canary Islands and Cape Verde, following an equatorial route to the Caribbean and then north up to Charleston – many thousands of nautical miles. Unless there’s an opportunity for a short cut (short cuts require a wealth of skill, experience, and knowledge) it’s best to follow known routes. The best month for sailing such a route begins the second week of December for strongest, consistent trade winds with stormiest season being between June and November.

I wanted experienced ocean seasoned sailors that included a helmsman, mechanic, and an added able-bodied sailor with sea crossing experience, and myself.  Added supplies would include physical maps, sextant, flashlights, rain gear and a crowd of related items. Details.

Backup plans are vital. Things happen at sea.  I also wanted a crew that possessed adaptable social skills (especially a sense of humor) and basic culinary abilities, and familiarity with food and equipment storage and solid experience with safety.

Cost of experienced ocean adept sailors that I wanted averaged between $175 to over $200 a day.

Total journey in good to excellent weather…roughly 6 weeks. Or…up to 3 months if inclement weather or the occurrence of other incidents at sea.  Anything is possible, natural, or otherwise. I have discovered odd things occurring in open waters from islands of garbage to pieces of wrecks. Subtotal…another potential six figures.

Total potential would be well over $200,000 though it could be less…there are people who have done it alone and, on a lot less in smaller boats…. but…that’s the stuff for documentaries as far as I am concerned. I wasn’t wanting to  create a documentary though it did tease my mind for funding.

Unless wealthy, funding looms large while reshaping one’s philosophy of adventure.

During all these ruminations there are other developing options. Adapt is the first word in any adventure.  And so…opportunities are being explored that might lead me on a different voyage…though Patras brings a smile. Again, I remain adaptable and open even in the late afternoon of my life. The opposite is rigidity and inflexibility and that tends to be where the accommodations offered by the Grim Reaper prevail.

A tattoo will be the sign of an imminent voyage…destination to be determined.