August 1996, Island of Kos, Aegean Sea – Dodekanes
Windy! The Meltemi wind is blowing heavily this afternoon from North. 6 Beaufort, no doubt. I can hear it, because the shrouds of the catamarans in Club Robinson whistle and howl. Actually, I hate this noise. It hurts in my ears and makes me nervous.
The holiday club has well maintained catamarans, Hobie Cat 16. Robust sport machines, but you need to know how to handle them. Too much wind and waves even in the sheltered South bay of Kos, today.
Cat sailing basis Kos (taken from prospect Club Robinson) – Not windy.
So the instructors do not let the boats out. As I have proven my cat sailing skills the days before in nasty winds and even more importantly that I can put up a cat easily after having capsized, they let me go. I choose as bowman, Waldo, a flight pilot and former navy officer from a submarine. Nice chap, eager to improve his cat sailing skills. “Had some issues with my wife on the cat the other day. I need more practice”, he says.
Ok then, neoprene suits on, lifejackets, shoes, gloves, fix sunglasses tightly. Stretching of arms and hand muscles. Concentration … go! We push the cat in the water, climb on the trampoline. I push down the rudder blades, click them tight, we have to hold firmly in the waves rolling in, I pull the main sheet a bit to stabilize, we find our right positions and roll out jib, we pull all sheets tight and off we go. We fly out to the bay. Wonderful. The sun is shining. I put the cat on the leeward hull and lift the other one above the waterline and steam through the waves on an empty, but a bit white bay. I am one with the cat. Control every inch of the boat watching carefully my leeward hull that it does not cut under the waves. I enjoy the wind, waves and the sun, and my life.
Not us, but it looked like this – taken from Hobie Cat
Too quickly we reach the other side of the bay, turn around and fly back. “Look”, says Waldo, “they have released on more cat. Let us see who they are.” The other cat also rather flies than sails towards our direction and few moments later we pass each other with supersonic speed. Too quick to really see who they are. Anyhow difficult to see with the seawater on the sunglasses. Irritating! Good sailors, obviously. I tack without delay and follow them. They are good, but we are faster. I catch up. Impressive scene. Their bowman totally stretched in the trapeze, and the helmsman leaning out professionally. Their helmsman struggles a bit in the gusts and the waves. It is really hard, as you have to trim the main sheet without blocking it, slalom through the waves and work with your weight. Takes concentration, sheer power in your hands and arms and still a very fine sense for your steering stick. Their bowman in the trapeze compensates wind and waves from the resulting instabilities in their boat with his weight like an artist. Must have a super balance and quite some experience. I can see that both are not as tall as we are. Probably guys from the Med area. Experienced in their own waters. Impressive how these 2 guys control the boat being a rather light crew. I bypass in leeward in order to not disturb their winds, but also to demonstrate that I am really faster. So again I cannot see them. I put myself in front of their boat in a respectable distance and take the paceman position and reduce speed a bit. They follow… and I look back more attentively.
“Excuse me, do I see this correctly that these are 2 blond beauties?” I ask my bowman. “Correct”, he replies. “In fact blond girls. If they are beauties, I cannot judge from her”, he adds dryly.
“Waldo, your weight ten cennntimeterrrs to the frrront, jibbb tighterrr pleasssse, thank you”, I growl. I need to have a closer look, now. Sun and water smashing on my sunglasses are really disturbing. But I have no hands free. Damn! I start to sail a circle around them to have a better viewing position. “Waldo, pleasssse kindly a bit quicker your weight on the other side and more to the front when we tack”, we loossse time and speedddd, thank you”, I buzz.
“These girls are not only amazing sailors, but also very good looking”, I say to my bowman. We agree that of course a clear and final judgment regarding their beauty cannot be done when everything is packed in neoprene suits, lifejackets and trapeze belts. And that blond hair itself is no criterium by itself. The wind is blowing heavily in the center of the bay and I have to be really a bit more cautious to prevent that the hull does not cut under the waves which would lead inevitably that we capsize. Impossible in such a situation. Absolute no go!! I take the paceman position again and they follow. Might be that the helmslady appreciates our presence, not being alone out here.
Too quickly, we have to return to the basis. On land, we shack hands with the other crew and show a respectful appreciation for each other´s demonstrated sailing performance. “Hey, you were really great out there. Super good. You really know how to master the boat with this wind”, I say or something like this. “You are also very good, indeed”, they confirm back. “It was nice sailing with you in a tandem”, the helmslady confirms. ”I see that you have your own very professional trapeze belt”, I remark now to the bow-woman. “Sure”, she responds, “with the amateur equipment they give you here, you can hardly stand securely in the trapeze and master such seas”, she states with a tone of assertiveness which makes me listen.
“Would you mind to sail with me next time,” I ask the good looking, blond wet hair, wonderful smiling, green eyes bow-woman with her own professional trapeze belt under the arm politely. “Why, not”, she responds with a more distant smile. “But now I have to rush, my kids are waiting,” she says. And off she is.
In the evening, we meet by coincidence at the bar with our friends, kids and partners being with us. “Hello, how are you, bla bla bla, where are you from, how interesting Munich, also we are from Munich. Bla Bla Bla.” At last we agree to sail next day for one hour.
Next day, we meet, trapeze belt under the arm and prepare the boat and us. Standard procedure. The afternoon wind is back to normal again and water is smooth. Awesome! Looks like a relaxing afternoon in nice company in the wonderful bay of Kos. We push the cat in the water. I have just climbed on the trampoline and fixed the rudder blades when she is already sitting outboard in the trapeze, legs still bend and has already rolled out the jib without asking and starts to accelerate the boat with the jib. “Upps, excuse me”, I think. “Ok, ma’am”, I say to myself. “You would like hear the cat singing in the water, let´s go for it.” (Actually, if the water is flat or not too bumpy, the hulls of the cat start to vibrate gently with high speed and give a nice buzzing or singing tone). So, I push the cat to really fly over the water with this amazing bow-women in the trapeze who ensures a perfect weight trim of the boat and the jib always correctly adjusted and changing sides during the tacks like a lightening. Faster than ever before we rush through the water and the hulls vibrate and sing, clearly and intensively. And not only the hulls of the cat start to vibrate…
Troubled waters had to be crossed in the coming years. In 2000, we became a formal patch-work family and sailing team.
So why did we not name our boat “Kos” but “Ithaka”?