Sunday, October 22, 2017

Write What You *Want* To Know Part II: Sailing in the Greek Islands

Zoë Sharp

The last few days I’ve been coming down from the buzz of Bouchercon in Toronto and getting back into the writing of the prequel to the Charlie Fox series. All this is being done from a lovely apartment I’ve borrowed via a friend of a friend up in the Washington Heights district of New York City.

But more about that next time.

I wanted to finish off the exploration of my trip from last month, around the Greek Islands. No, I didn’t travel to the areas that have a problem with the ongoing migrant crisis. It would no doubt have been a highly motivating experience, but heartbreaking at the same time.

I’m still trying to get a little more under the skin of the area, where sailing can go from flat calm waters one moment …

… to wild weather warnings the next. Just before I got out there, the people I joined experienced a mammoth hailstorm and had ended up dragging their anchor right out of a bay and into the main channel.

Mind you, we also began to drag when anchored in a very sheltered bay with little wind. Sitting in a little café on the quay having lunch, we began to realise that the boat was gradually getting further away than it had been. Never has a restaurant bill been paid so quickly.

The best way to ensure you’re not going anywhere is to take lines ashore. Doing this usually involves throwing a crew member (guess who?) over the side to swim them to a suitable making-off point. Much easier than messing around in a dinghy, providing there are no sea urchins lurking amid the rocks.

I remain fascinated with boat names, and how they came about. Take this one: Angela. Who is or was she?

Going ashore in different places so often means finding amazing derelict buildings. This one, with its intricate ironwork balcony, overlooked a beautiful harbour. You would have thought it was in a prime location and would therefore not have been left to run slowly to ruin. You have to wonder at the story behind the place.

And even more so at the interior, which had this little boat inside. Some considerable effort must have been expended to haul the boat up there and wriggle it inside through the narrow doorway. Question is, why?

Small business is rife in the islands, with just about anything available to purchase from the back of a pickup truck. In this case, the traditionally black-clad ladies were selling fish and vegetables.

The ingenuity continued in this harbour-front bar, where all the furniture had been made out of old pallets. Or, alternatively, it had been very expensively crafted to look as if it had been made out of old pallets. Don’t know how comfortable it was, as I didn’t stop. When you’re on a yacht you tend to be looking for the cafés with good Wi-Fi and plenty of power sockets to recharge your laptop.

All the tourists leave behind them a lot of litter, most of which seems to end up in landfill alongside the Lefkas canal. It was one of the few places we saw seagulls in any numbers.

Lefkas itself was a fascinating town, with some of the construction of the buildings similar to the Caribbean, with corrugated tin over a timber frame.

Once you get away from the main tourist areas, the houses line narrow paved streets of low-level housing, crammed in cheek-by-jowl with little room for outside space or gardens. It has the feel of an upmarket favela.

Elsewhere in the islands, green spaces are surprisingly abundant. Wild olive trees, some of them of advanced age, are everywhere.

And, of course, the ubiquitous island cats. They are numerous and beautiful.

Some of the cats have the tourists well worked out. This one was begging at our restaurant table. Cats are good hunters, and normally I’d let them take care of themselves rather than encourage them and see them chased away as a nuisance But he was so lame I took pity on him.

At the end of the trip, the boat was hauled onto the hard for the winter. If this yard is anything like the others I’ve spent time in, some of these boats will never move from one season to the next. You have to wonder what the story is of their owners.

A feature of most marinas is the book-swap shelf in the office. This one had all kinds of books in half a dozen different languages. I like to play ‘spot the author friends’ and managed one or two here.

Why is it that your last night always puts on a spectacular sunset to make the end of the trip seem so much more poignant than it might otherwise have been?

This week’s Word of the Week is not one that’s in very common use … as yet, but a part of me hopes it will be. It’s Harveyed, meaning to have been the victim of sexual harassment, particularly at the hands (or other parts for that matter) of someone in a position of professional power. Needless to say, it has been taken from a certain Mr Weinstein, who may well find his lasting legacy is a word in the language akin to boycott or lynch. As Shakespeare said, “The evil that men do lives after them.”

Upcoming Events

On Wednesday, October 25th at 6:30pm I’ll be at The Mysterious Bookshop at 58 Warren Street, New York, NY 10007 with fellow author John Lawton. We’ll be talking about the inspiration behind our latest books, FOX HUNTER and FRIENDS AND TRAITORS, including what makes a spy, and how I got from the hazing of trainees at the Deep Cut army base to looted antiquities in the Middle East.


  1. Looking forward to seeing you and John on Wednesday! I thought to bring you a cat to make you feel at home, but NYC street cats are rather rare these days, as with rents being what they are these days even the cat houses are relocating.

    1. Why is it I get the feeling, Jeff, that our definitions of cat houses differ slightly ...?

      Looking forward to seeing you both!

    2. All I can tell you is that one definition's formulation is thriving on Mykonos.

    3. Remind me to tell you about the boats I saw with similar definition, Jeff ...

  2. What a lovely, idyllic trip (from the sounds and looks of it). Thanks for sharing, however vicariously. May your anchor never drift but when you want it, and may you never be Harveyed. All else is just a bonus.

    1. Any time spent on the water is fairly idyllic as far as I'm concerned, EvKa. I was taken sailing from being about 18 months old. (Not that I was very active crew at that age.) And yes, any time not being Harveyed in life is definitely a bonus.

  3. Zoe, I am in Knoxville and you are in NYC? And I will be boarding a plane for London just as sick you and John are beginning your appearance at Mysterious Bookshop? What a plague of bad timing on my part! My consolation is that I had the good sense to get my signed copies in Toronto. Send me that final image and I will spread the word to my New York mystery tribe. And I'll get to work on improving my timing in the hopes of a meet up very soon.

    1. You have more energy than the rest of us put together, Annamaria. Thank you for the good wishes for our event, and hope to see you very soon, either on this side of the Atlantic or the other.

  4. YIKES!!! I am sorry. I typed "just the second!!" Dies anybody know how to kill autocorrect? PLEASE!

    1. Dies? Kill? Hmmm... you're getting pretty bloody-minded, AmA. Maybe you should write mysteries?

    2. This is what happens when I am left to my small devices.