Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex Photo of Bluebell Woods in Sussex

Greek Island Embarrassment

OK, it’s confession time. Again.

I’m just back from a week’s holiday with my wife on the Greek island of Kefalonia. It was our first holiday without the kids for about seven years, which felt bizarre from start to finish. This is the only, admittedly weak, excuse for the navigational lapse that ensued.

In Fiskardo, at the northern end of Kefalonia, we hired a small day-boat and spent many mornings motoring up and down the east coast of Kefalonia. We pursued the not very stressful business of hunting quiet bays and seeking secluded beaches for a swim.

On the fifth morning we putt-putted all the way round the northern Kefalonian coast to a beach at the northern tip of the island called, Dafnoudi beach.

We had spent almost all of the week on the east coast of the Kefalonia looking across the water, to the east, and seeing the beautiful Ithacan coastline.

After a quick swim at Dafnoudi we decided to head across to Ithaca, the land of Odysseus, and explore the beaches there. It was a little over 3 miles to the northern promontory of Ithaca, but I only know this now because I have researched it and I only researched it because we nearly didn’t get there. Yes, I know, there is a better order to researching journeys and undertaking them, but Greek islands have such a wicked way of mixing our ideas concerning being careless and being carefree.

Almost all small boat journeys in hired boats are done by line-of-sight navigation in these waters, from one landmark to the next. No proper charts, no compasses, no GPS. The distances are small and the visibility is usually pretty good.

On the late morning in question, the visibility was actually quite poor, a languid mist hugged the sea and the lower land. The photo above should give a fair taste of how the sea, land and sky like to merge a little in these conditions.

About five minutes after setting off two things in quick succession made me realise my massive and embarrassing mistake. The first was that I became subconsciously (through a feeling of unease) and then consciously aware that the sun was not where I was expecting it. I had grown used to seeing and feeling it dominate the southern half of the landscape as we pottered south, east and west. The only time we ever headed north for any serious time was when motoring back home from a foray to a southern beach.

The problem was that we were supposed to be heading east to Ithaca and yet the sun was nowhere to be seen. It should have been peeking below the canopy to my right and roasting my right cheek. It was not. What’s more I suddenly realised that I could feel it on the back of my neck.

This sudden dawning – I should say ‘near-middaying’ – made me scour the mist soaked land ahead with much keener interest than I had before. Then I saw a lighthouse where I was not expecting to see one.

‘Oh my God!’ I said out loud.

‘What’s wrong?’ My wife asked, with a voice that suggested that she did not want to know too many details if we were in serious danger.

‘We’re heading for completely the wrong island. We’re heading towards Lefkada!’

Lefkada is another neighbour of Kefalonia, but it is north of the island, not east, and at least another mile further away.

I corrected our course by a mere 100 degrees and half an hour later we were swimming on a beautiful deserted Ithacan beach. It was a bonus that this beach was deserted as I needed time to let my blushes subside.