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Orchids for Aphrodite: Aegean Odyssey Hardcover – 1 Jun 2009
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Two live-aboards, Ursula raised in rural Derbyshire, who had never been on a boat before, and Bob an experienced sailor, together restore a classic wooden yacht to explore the Aegean world, probing the coasts, islands and anchorages of Greece and Turkey only accessible by small boat. Soon they are joined by a kitten fished from the waves. As he matures into their indomitable Ship's Cat, he adds a great dollop of humour, almost stealing the show.First sighted as a forlorn, snow-covered hull on a lop-sided cradle, the venerable Cappelle provides three years of Aegean adventure on the cusp of the new millennium and the explosion of tourism. The crew makes "KEEP LIFE SIMPLE" their watchword. Frequently suffering from sleep and fresh water deprivation, they learn the art of feast and famine as they set out at dawn, occasionally encountering hostile seas, for a fresh horizon. They endear themselves to the natives and find themselves embraced as foreign outcasts, for nobody with two pennies to rub together would live aboard winter and summer in these waters. But this is the way to explore the fascinating world of the Aegean.This delightful account of the real Greece will not fail to enthral.
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Our two intrepid travellers did not just sail through turquoise seas in serene weather, they had their fair share of storms as well:
"We beat in Force 5, pointing as closely as we might. The sea roughened, time dragged cruelly. Weary of Cappelle's head butting I longed for the wind to go down with the sun. Bob vomited and I lurched into the cabin to pull on oil skins. From baying like a pack of hounds,the wind, developing an edge, began to hone the nerves like a razor"
Whether they realised it or not, It was clear they needed an extra crew member on board and one day they unexpectedly met somebody determined to join their yacht:
"Between the sea shuffled boulders at my feet, in the approximate position of the Colossus's right foot, the bedraggled head of a black and white kitten appeared, its body rocked by wavelets...I 100_2352 grabbed it by its scruff and dropped it into my shopping bag, filthy and tar streaked it screeched louder....."
Ursula's plan was to clean it up and let it go with the other cats in the rocks but as we all know, cats have a mind of their own "the decision was not mine to make for the kitten intended to keep Capelle" and so Wacky, as he was christened, joined the voyagers as they continued onto Turkey.
When I read Orchids for Aphrodite I was full of admiration for Ursula who had never sailed before - through storm and tempest and then: "Riding the yacht's movement as she bounded forward on an even keel, her bit between her teeth, I was to all intents and purposes along while the captain slept. With the sails well balanced, I did as Odysseus 'who never closed his eyes but kept them on the Pleiades'".
I was also full of envy and a desire to hop on a boat and set sail myself, but then I remembered that on the few occasions I have been sailing I have been sick with permanently churning stomach, get fed up with not being able to sleep properly, suffered from sun burn and salt laden hair and, in short, I turn into a miserable whiny grouch. So perhaps it is best that I read gorgeous books like this and live vicariously.
And when the voyaging was over, Wacky the official Ship's Cat came home with Ursula and Bob after further adventures in Italy, Corsica and France and after six months in quarantine on return to England, he was soon back on the Capelle on the River Arun in Littlehampton. It seems he was a guest star at the National Cat Club show in Olympia where he was presented with a champion of champion rosette inscribed To Wacky for his Love of Adventure. Isn't that something? He ended his life ashore in Scotland where Ursula and Bob now live.
This is a lovely book full of wit and humour, a myriad collection of characters with their quirks and eccentricities who Bob and Ursula met on their journey and I enjoyed it very much indeed. I will be honest and say the addition of Wacky to the boat gave Orchids for Aprhrodite a little extra something that I found most endearing.
Ursula and Bob have taken a trip and undertaken adventures and experiences that will stay with them for the rest of their lives - I loved reading their story.
Absorbing, colourful and historically informative, this book offers a real insight into the tough but rewarding world that is their do-it-yourself Aegean odyssey.
Novice sailor Ursula, with a keen interest in all things Greek, absorbs the language and culture, the history and mythology, adding a new dimension to the tale.
An accomplished wordsmith, Haselden creates images of the harbours and anchorages they visit, and their exploration of the hinterland, as well as details of the Greek and Turkish ways of life with more intimacy than the average tourist could ever hope to encounter, as, with increasingly confident Greek, she endears herself to the locals, fellow boaters and the reader, too.
It is not all plain sailing,sunshine and calm seas.The pair encounter everything the weather can throw at them - storm force winds, mountainous seas, rain, hail and snow! This is about real life sailing, not an idealised view.
I recommend this book to those who love boats and the sea, travel, Greece and Turkey, cats, and anyone with a sense of adventure, but most of all to those who dare to dream.
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I love the Greek Islands, Turkey and sailing - not necessarily in that order - and this book satisfies on all...Read more
I've just read such a lovely book. It left me hoping that many other people will share my pleasure in it.Read more