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on 24 July 2009
This is a book for dreamers,because it proves dreams can come true. When Ursula and Bob dream of owning a boat and cruising the warm, sunny waters of the Aegean Sea, they almost founder at the first hurdle.The old wooden boat they have bought in Greece is virtually uninhabitable when they arrive in the depth of winter, but with a 'can-do' outlook, guts and determination, they set about doing it up, eventually realising their dream to live permanently aboard and sail around the islands.
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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on 27 July 2009
The Shepherd with Joyce Kerslake, Rhosneigr, Anglesey

I love the Greek Islands, Turkey and sailing - not necessarily in that order - and this book satisfies on all counts. To anyone who has sailed or visited this lovely part of the Mediterranean Sea, the descriptions are evocative and nostalgic. To anyone who has not yet been there, they will certainly provoke a strong desire to go.

The sailing life of a `live aboard' is also well portrayed `warts and all.' There are lovely sunny sailing days and starlit nights in favourable winds and calm seas, and also the excitement and anticipation of arriving at a new island or harbour. But there is also the discomfort and occasional sheer terror of gales and rough seas. I read this book straight through with great enjoyment and will also enjoy dipping into it frequently in the future. I recommend it as a `must have' book for anyone planning to sail around - or just visit this part of the world, or indeed just as a most enjoyable armchair read."
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on 12 September 2009
Anyone who has ever felt even the smallest smidgeon of wanderlust will enjoy setting out on this adventure of a lifetime alongside the two main characters of this book. No romanticised tale this - the author, Ursula, provides a realistic account of life on board a small wooden yacht as she and her partner, Bob, make their way around the coasts and islands of Greece and Turkey. With her poetic turn of phrase, she describes enchanting scenery, momentous storms and great kindnesses from friends and strangers. The tale is also peppered with a succession of eccentrics, keenly observed and depicted with humour. A late addition to the crew, Wacky, the ship's kitten who turns cat during the voyage, is a ray of mischievous sunshine.
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.
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on 20 July 2009
Review by CP James with Jane Chancellor

I've just read such a lovely book. It left me hoping that many other people will share my pleasure in it. Ursula Haselden has written vividly and beautifully of her experiences sailing an elderly wooden boat, Cappelle, round the shores of Greece and Turkey and across the Aegean Sea. A widow, never having sailed before, she set off bravely with shipmate Bob ("The Captain"), regarding herself as Cabin Boy. Bob was an experienced sailor and clearly a delightful companion, with a sense of humour that matched her own.

The great thing about Orchids for Aphrodite is that no aspect of this huge adventure gets left out. She writes as much about the dangers, hardships and mishaps of life as a "live-aboard" as she does of idyllic swims in warm blue seas and the scent of flowers growing on the hills behind.

Knowing something of Greek customs and language, her awareness of their myths and history, her trusting friendliness (and no doubt her long blonde hair and petite stature) endeared her to local people many of whom, including the shopkeepers, become quite protective, as indeed they did in Turkey. Just as well, for there were some horrors of course, and some pretty ghastly people on board charter yachts. But most of the other boat people sound extremely nice, helping each other out with a mixture of camaraderie and competition and sharing a lot of fun. Sailors will appreciate her evidently increasing skill in handling the behaviour and quirks of Cappelle. There are maps showing their routes.

Then there is Wacky, the kitten they rescued from the water, who hung onto them for dear life, literally, and quite took them over, developing a strongly individual character and undertaking adventures of his own ashore that gave rise to heart-stopping concern from time to time.

The book is full of colour and light. There is a lovely passage as they are leaving the Aegean with Ursula alone at the helm under the stars feeling at one with the vastness of the Universe. Boat, cat, Cabin Boy and Captain made it safely home and - reader, the Cabin Boy married the Captain.
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on 13 July 2009
When the story starts, the author has never been aboard a sailing boat before in her life. Thankfully not averse to roughing it, she adapts quickly and takes water shortage, boat maintenance, sleep deprivation and occasional hostile seas in her stride, describing vividly the realities of full-time live-aboard life. Sailing is the natural thread that links the story to places and people, but, while the sailing has its moments, particularly the very rough, sometimes alarming crossing from Cyprus to the Greek island of Kastellorrizo, this well-crafted book is much more than a tale of the ups and downs of a sailing adventure.
They cross and recross the Aegean several times, from Greece to Turkey and back again, wandering from island to island and exploring both the coastline and anchorages only a small boat can enter. Whenever circumstances allow they make a point of visiting inland sites, among them Pamukkale's calcified waterfalls, Cappadoccia's cave dwellings and the Méteora, the Monasteries of the Air. Not forgetting Mykonos and Delos and the monasteries of Athos seen from the sea and Istanbul and . . . . All are memorably drawn.
Then there is Wacky the ship's cat. From the moment he arrives he occupies centre stage. When rescued from drowning in Rhodes harbour, he is a pathetic, flea-ridden, emaciated six-week old kitten, but, with loving care, he recovers rapidly and develops into a spirited and irrepressible crew member, who is both a worry -- in case he misses the boat -- and a constant delight. He is brought to life beautifully here.
From time to time there is petty officialdom to contend with as well as discomfort, exploitation and brief hospitalisation. But that is more than balanced by the friendships made among the Greeks and the Turks and fellow live-aboards and the unhurried pleasure of discovery.
The title comes from seven orchid blooms that are dropped into the sea as a votive offering to Aphrodite of Fair Sailing, as they set out from northern Greece for their final summer in Greek waters. For those that know and love the area the book will certainly evoke memories of happy days in the sun. For those that don't, it is the perfect off-the-beaten-track introduction.
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on 22 May 2013
Not myself being a Greek scholar, I found a lot of the author's visits to Greek historic sites a little tedious, as she merely touches on the history without providing much in the way of enlightenment. Obviously in a book this size there is not room anyway for much detail. But as a fellow sailor and also being owned by two stray cats myself, I was very interested to read this book. Ursula describes the dirt as well as the beauty of the area, and the Mediterranean weather does not seem to be so reliably warm and sunny as we like to imagine. Her thoughts about the charter companies are not very complimentary, and all in all the book didn't make we want to go sailing in Greece myself, but I loved reading about Wackie the cat and his adventures. Certainly worth reading.
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I have had this book a little while and read it during the winter. I would look out the window and see snow, blizzards and ice while I read about Ursula (who had never been on a boat before) and Bob, an experienced sailor and how they restored a classic wooden yacht and set off to explore those islands and coasts that were only accessible by boat. There is a map of their wanderings and I just sat reading these names out loud: Amorgos, Kalinos, Kithera, Santorini, Anafi, Ios and so on. These words just drop off the tongue and sound so alluring as does the Route of Cappelle, The gulf of Themal and the Straits of Karpothos.

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.
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on 26 June 2009
The trouble with most "I sailed round whatever with my yacht"-type books is that these days so many authors can't write. This one is different. I can hear the sea, sniff the odours coming from the tavernas and bars,and know I've met most of the characters in one form or another. Enjoyed every moment of this lovely, beautifully written book, and will be dipping into it for years to help my own memories. And I want always to remember Wacky, the ship's cat, who has surely been immortalised here, as brave sailor and extraordinary athlete, to sit alongside other great cats of literature, a real-life Gallico cat!
Don't miss this treasure!
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