Article by Ella Maillart, The Yachting Monthly, London, July - August 1930:
With Bonita to Greece
By June our crew of four girls was ready. But we had no boat. For us it seemed a tragic state of affairs. We knew only one thing for certain, that we had to make Athens in the first days of September, as Patchoum, our cook, had planned archaeological researches in Crete before the rainy season.
From what port should we put to sea? Nobody knew; marvellous tales about Fiume being “full of cheap boats” proved to be wrong. Our captain, Miette, was poking into every cove of the south coast of France in search of our Dream Ship, and I was visiting every yard between Brightlingsea and Weymouth while on a cruise on a Thames barge. But every boat I saw proved to be too expensive.
Miette and I, the mate, had served our apprenticeship on fresh waters. Every summer used to bring us together on Lake Geneva. We began with dinghies, had a centre-board craft, then a one-ton-bulb-keel-wet-racer, to finish with a good 6.50 metre. We divided our activity between cruising and racing. From the paid hands in charge of other yachts we learned about scraping, varnishing, splicing, bending sails and anchors. The regattas taught us a lot about trimming boats and tiller work.
Then we took to deep water at Marseille in Perlette, a three-ton cruiser, and for five months we cruised along the coast and to Corsica. Miette had had some experience at sea, having sailed with fishermen in Brittany. A year later Perlette was shipped to Greece and Miette remained on board there, covering 1,500 miles during many months. With her was Patchoum, the student of archaeology who was sailing for the first time. Yvonne, the forth member of our present crew, was the eldest sister of Miette. She had also had her sailing experience on Lake Geneva, an experience which consisted mostly of sitting in the stern sheets with her umbrella! But she was a heavyweight (most useful for taking in sails!), her willingness everlasting and it was hoped that she would take some interest in the housekeeping questions: there Patchoum reigns as cook because she is not so easily sea-sick as the captain or the mate, who both want to remain undisturbed in their work on deck.
One day at Newhaven I received a telegram from Marseilles: “Found Bonita. Come.” I left at once for the south of France, dropping oilskins and boots at Geneva, where I joined Yvonne. On June 29 we were in the Vieux-Port, running along the floating stages of the Société Nautique.
Here is Bonita! Oh, the intensity of the first look given to an unknown boat which is going to be yours! Seaworthy she certainly seems, with a hint of stiffness about her sheer, while her slightly tumble-home sides look a bit... well, box-like. Built in 1873 near St. Malo as a cutter of 31 ft., she was a price winner. In 1880 Bonita was bought by a Marseille yachtsman. No steamer being able to ship her, she was sailed to her new port by an English captain; with only one hand as crew, the passage was made in thirty-one days from Guernsey, Gibraltar being the only port of call, and under storm-canvas most of the time. In 1891 her sail area was diminished, the bulwarks heightened, while a new taffrail gave her two foot more in length. She is straight-stemmed with counter stern; her full round lines below the surface are her main beauty and make her a steady cruiser of 15 tons Thames Measurement and nine tons register. She has two tons of cast iron fixed along her keel. In 1905 she received her present yawl rig.
Below she is very plain: no engine, as certainly we would be unable to master it. As you come down the steps you are in the ladies’ cabin, which is the cockpit as well; the two bunks were those of the captain and mate, and very practical they were as, unobserved, you could survey the tiller from your pillow. Then a large cabin with two settees, a folding table against the bulkhead, two cupboards; and the fo’c’sle with side boards and a fifty-gallon water tank. The dinghy problem was solved by Miette, who designed and ordered a craft to cover the skylight. The spars were in bad condition, but we did not want to go to the expense of renewing them all; we ordered only a boom and rolling reefing gear. Decks were recaulked on the Sunday before our departure. The mainsail was ordered at Bordeaux, while at Marseille a topsail was made out of a jib. The windlass and bumpkin were rather shaky and needed repair.
Then we got provisions, charts, paint, binnacle, and, to my greatest joy, although Miette was not especially keen about it, I found the only Excelsior patent log to be had in Marseilles. Things were far from being tidy and we had only one coat of white paint, but in record time the boat was made ready to put to sea.
Finally, during the early afternoon of July 7, we left the calm and dirty waters of the Vieux-Port, bound for Corsica. Bonita was no longer a kind of house-boat – she began to live when, tacking in a light breeze, we passed under the majestic Pont Transbordeur. In the bay we met a very unpleasant westerly swell which wanted to pile us on top of the Joliette peer. The secretary of the yacht club said good-bye to us and jumped into his dinghy.
The view of Marseille is grand, the notable feature being the Oriental cathedral of Sainte Marie Majeure. If only this swell without wind would not shake the whole boat so wildly! Yvonne has soon adopted the horizontal position near the taffrail, so that we promote her at once to mizen-top-man. Boom and tiller are kicking violently, impossible to go about; in our despair we even use oars.
The W breeze came about 6 pm, and under the lee-side of Pomègues Island the sea was furrowed with sudden cat’s paws. Bonita has a nice way of answering the tiller and she certainly knows how to transform at once any pressure of the wind into a keen forward slide. At 9 pm topsail was handed and jib no. 2 set. For the first time, we put up the tiny side lights.
July 8, 1 am – My turn at the helm. Bonita, on the starboard tack, mainsheet eased a little, is heeling to her gunwale, foaming eastwards to a strong beam wind, shaping a course for Cap d’Armes lighthouse, south of Porquerolles Island. No moon; many miles to leeward we now ought to see the light of Cap Sicié. As I bend under the boom to have a look over the hissing waters, out of the darkness high overhead I see one red and one green light, coming at us! Terrified I jump up, seize the electric pocket lamp and show its glare full on the mainsail. The steamer swings to starboard, the green light disappears and the black mass passes a few yards to port. Down from the sky comes the voice of someone on the bridge, addressing us in angry, raucous tones.
Miette steers a little while I look at our lights: they are smoking badly and are very difficult to put in good order. Suddenly, as the boat is rolling, there is a crack aloft. “All hands on deck!” It is hard work to get the mainsail down, as the wind is strong and Yvonne is flying about in the darkness, hanging on to the leach. We discover that the jaws are split, and we manage to make a temporary seizing.
At dawn we are off the Hyères, Toulon lies far astern. The wind has totally dropped and for six hours we jump in the heavy swell, drifting towards the rocky Cap d’Escampo-Barriou. We lash and seize everything on board; the heat and the motion are exhausting, the sea breaks furiously against the cliffs where the hero of Joseph Conrad’s “The Rover” was supposed to have lived.
A light breeze comes up from the south at midday. We decide to make for shelter in order to wait for the swell to drop. In the middle of the Petite Passe leading into Hyères we have three enormous combers to ride and then we are in calm waters at 3 pm. We soon drop the hook in Porquerolles harbour.
But soundings give shallow waters astern, so that we heave in; then, as soon as we are up and down, the chain comes up without the anchor! We take bearings and bring forward the stern hawser that was made fast on the quay, while we get the second anchor ready. (Curse the man who told us we did not need to test our anchor gear!) Happily, safe to a grapnel borrowed from the tartan Le Petit Marc, we recover our anchor. To be safe in Porquerolles, you must face the entrance of the harbour looking NW, whence the “mistral” blow might come.
July 9. Outside the swell is always heavy. We do not want to make our landfall in Corsica with such a westerly sea running: it would be unpleasant to make the rocky entrance of Ajaccio, perhaps in the dark, under these conditions; we would then have to sail around to the sheltered east coast. It is better to wait here for a change. - Porquerolles is as lovely as two years ago, and we meet again our friends, the natives. We eat the real sailors’ bouillabaisse on board the coasting tartan, our neighbour. Riding out in the roadstead, there is an Italian topsail schooner from Viareggio, westward bound and waiting for a favourable wind. Miette and I feel obliged to board her in order to inspect her mast truck without passing through the lubber’s hole, if possible!
July 11. We fill with water, vegetables and fruit. The sea does not break any more against Hyères’ cliffs. Next day, at five o’clock in the morning, we weigh anchor; the small lever winch is just used for breaking out. Everything is silent ashore and Bonita slides noiselessly along, close to the shore. As we sail past Les Mèdes we meet some lobster-fishing “pointus”; they are open “double-enders” with lug-sail, and remain sometimes thirty-six hours at sea. At ten o’clock there is light headwind from the east; we are in the Grande Passe between Porquerolles and Port-Cros. Later Bonita sails along the south coast of Port Cros; it is a high cliff on top of which, two years ago, we used to look for seagull’s nests with their chickies.
3 pm. Two cargo boats are seen near the Ile du Levant. 9 pm. Sudden swell from the W surmounted by a cross swell from the S, so that it is impossible to enjoy our supper any longer. We take bearings with the Titan lighthouse (east end of the Levant) and set our course for the Sanguinaires red light (Ajaccio, Corsica).
In the night of July 13th, we take the balloon jib down before a short southerly blow. The side lights need much trimming. A pale sun comes over the horizon and the barometer has dropped ten points. At 5 am the log reads forty-five miles. Very hot and hazy day with practically no wind and less swell. Our wearing apparel is reduced to nothing, as sun-bathing is our main occupation, except for the mizen top-man who protects “his” delicate skin from the burning rays. In spite of the ship’s routine, we seem to live half asleep. Incredibly heavy dew at sunset, and thick clothes are worn during the night watches, taken in turn by the captain and the mate.
July 14. The new sun is perfectly red. I steer with my head leaning against the bulwark, dozing. At 9 am the log reads eighty-three miles in two days. Far away in the mist one can guess a peak of Corsica’s mountains of 7’800 feet. We go overboard and swim in the calm sea, some 1’000 fathoms deep. Out from the dark blue water, rays of golden light reach the oily surface where Bonita’s hull splashes helplessly.
July 15. Night not as cold as yesterday. I pick out some indefinite lights ahead. According to our dead reckoning we ought to make Sagone Bay in the morning. At 5 am, fifteen miles logged in the last twenty-four hours! With the coming of daylight we try to identify the high mountainous coast – matching it with the descriptions in the Sailing Directions is an exiting puzzle. No more doubt about it: we are off Pointe Orchino, some fifteen miles more to the N than we thought. It is a bad landfall, matching our sailing and drifting. We tack the whole morning in a nice south-westerly wind. At midday, between Cap Feno and the Sanguinaires Islands I haul the log on board, which reads 126 miles from Porquerolles. Over transparent waters we soon reach Ajaccio harbour.
The day of July 16 is spent in the town of Napoleon, either working on board or ashore in the dusty streets, buying fresh stores, calling for our mail and trying to cure a leak in one of our three Primus stoves. Yvonne brings back a big jar of honey and fifty black figs, while Patchoum gives strict orders to the customs not to divulge our identity to hungry reporters.
Miette decides to get under way in the evening, so as to take advantage of the land breeze. First, in the darkness, we go alongside in order to fill the water tank. From the tap we bring innumerable buckets of water while Yvonne, like a station-master, balances an anchor lamp to light the quay side. There is a pile of unloaded stuff on the quay, out of which come strange, plaintive noises; every time I pass by I am slightly afraid of this unknown form; at last I discover that it is only a very peculiar snore omitted by a sleeping “corpse”! Bound S for Bonifacio, we come out of harbour at 1.30 in the morning, just behind a topsail schooner, l’Aiglon, and it is a joy to see the outline of her square sails in the starry blackness of the sky.
The land breeze, heavy with scents from the burnt mountain bush, dies away. Bonita is tacking in a south-westerly wind while a strong, regular swell is cannonading along the coast. Not a noise on board as the three others are sleeping late. It is one of those rare moments so filled with perfection that one wonders whether we are not in a sort of paradise; so that when four dark, long destroyers pass swiftly near Bonita in the morning mist, I could not have sworn they were real.
In the afternoon we reach Les Moines tower and give it a wide berth. A current comes out of Bonifacio Straits, producing an irregular swell very unpleasant in our present six knots speed. Set a course E by S. At 5 pm I take the log in, scoring thirty-two miles. We can already see the white cliffs of the southern coast; somewhere there, according to the Sailing Directions, a cut exists in the cliff, the sea winds in, forming a fjord, the end of it being the very safe harbour of Bonifacio. We sail closer and closer – no sign of an opening. Bonita’s officers are intently silent, a sign of growing nervousness. Have we missed it against all evidence? No, here to port we see the painted tower, near the water, against the cliff.
We open the narrow entrance at seven o’clock and, gybing, Bonita shoots into the calm fjord; we bring in to starboard and let go not far from the quay. Amazing old town this, perched on top of the cliff hanging over the sea.
Bound for the Cap Ferro anchorage, east coast of Sardinia, we weigh anchor hastily next day as we want to clear the fjord before the arrival of the mail, which is due. We have to reach; the wind is falling from the sky; Patchoum at the head sails, Yvonne at the mizen, Miette sounding the depth, and I at the helm, are intensely attentive; we must not miss stays in spite of the capricious squalls. Out of the land’s claws Bonita sails first SE then SSE for the passage between Maddalena archipelago and Sardinia, in order to cut a big corner.
Maddalena harbour is an Italian naval base and according to the Directions these are “forbidden waters.” But on page 196 it is written: “Ships sailing through the channel, even not going to the Maddalena, must hoist their colours and keep them flying.” Consequently we are now flying the French colours.
As we sail past Point Rossa, on the last island some gun shooting attracts our attention to two flags hoisted on a fort. With the help of the code we read M.N. – “stop immediately.” A rowing boat gives us the order to go about, a tug takes us in tow and we let go in Gavetta harbour. In the bay of Maddalena we drop the dinghy in the water and bring our stern ropes ashore where two or three natives make them fast for us, having taken them out of our hands.
A naval officer asks for our Bill of Health and says that for us it is strictly forbidden to land; but at the same time the police station requires our passports at once! While Navy and police have a noisy argument to the great joy of the surrounding crowd, our captain and our cook are in the police office, obliged to give our parents’ forenames and dates of birth, and trying to explain that we are “yachting for pleasure.” In the meantime three natives are nearly boarding Bonita; they want ten liras for the belaying of our ropes! The cheek of it! I answer by brandishing an oar, pushing them away and all the time using my worst French, while Yvonne is lecturing them in her best Italian! They leave, pointing shiny spikes at our hull and proffering menaces. So it happens that during the whole night a rowing-boat and four sailors from the Navy keep a silent watch alongside Bonita. Next morning at eleven o’clock Italian authorities visit the boat, but it is only one hour later that we can get under way, the French ambassador in Rome having answered about us.
We tack the whole day, bound for Aranci Bay, Terranova Gulf, where the British Fleet is moored. At 10 pm we shape a course that takes us clear of the high Cape Figari and its gas-buoy. But near the land the wind dies and, caught in the current, we drift on the rocky cape. In the dinghy Miette and I in turn pull at the sweeps with the energy of despair. With the help of a light breath we clear the land and open the bay illuminated by forty men-of-war. It is not easy to pick out the fixed red light we want on a small pier, but finally at 4 am we let go near the shore.
The next three days are devoted both to the Royal Navy, whose welcome is unforgettable, and to Bonita’s painting, with the help of the H.M.S. officers. - On July 24 the storm of the last three days is gone and at 3 a.m. we creep slowly out of the gulf, bound for Cagliari, some 120 miles S. The three last warships leave for Malta and we hope to see them once more at Argostoli on August 15. The next days are very calm. We cover thirty-eight miles on the 25th. The coast is no longer rocky. It is a flat, rather unhealthy country. - In the afternoon we sail through the Porcelli channel (SE corner of Sardinia), and set a NW course for Cagliari, where we arrive at 11 a.m. on the 27th, the log giving 140 miles sailed. Here we lay in stores.
July 28. Our anchor is caught under somebody else’s chain. We are in the inner harbour and of course we all let go in the middle of the place. A sleepy watchman on a sailing coaster eases away enough chain to enable us to get free. I tow Bonita out of harbour while the gramophone plays under the stars.
July 29 – 10 p.m. 34 miles. According to a last bearing our compass is true. Bound for Tunis, or, if the wind is contrary, for Palermo.
July 30 – 5 p.m. 80 miles. Light winds from the south, with increasing swell. The captain does some sextant practice and everybody is proud to see that a worked meridian altitude locates us within twenty miles from where we are by dead reckoning. We make for Sicily. The gear suffers and in a jerk the chafed gaff halliard gives way. 7 p.m. I pass by an enormous tortoise which I first took for a floating box.
July 31 – 1 a.m. Sailing slowly under the moon I notice a black thickness arriving like an express train from the SW. “All hands on deck!” it is again, and down topsail, but before the mainsail is reefed we are already shut in a kind of black fog, while the blow strikes from the starboard quarter. All is excitement. The binnacle lamps refuse to burn any longer and, running through a short cross sea, I steer more by the feeling of the wind than by occasional glimpses at the compass by means of the pocket lamp. At four o’clock the squall passes over and the reefs are shaken out. - 2 p.m. Land ho! Straight ahead. According to our dead reckoning it must be the conical summit of Marittimo Island. At 9 p.m., 162 miles from Sardinia, we clear Marittimo.
August 1. From Cape to Cape, along this wonderful N coast of Sicily, we sail E until we round Point Pellegrino and enter the Conca d’Oro, having covered 165 miles. At 4 p.m. we let go in the Cala Felice Palermo harbour. - We leave Bonita in charge of a boatman during the six days we spend ashore, exploring Sicily’s temples, sleeping under the stars, walking barefooted as we cannot bear even our canvas shoes.
August 8. Bound for Messina, we get under way at 3 p.m., with a crew reduced to three, as Y. had to go back because of a death in her family.
August 9 – 8 a.m. Let go in three fathoms, clear, sandy bottom, in front of Cefalu’s houses, as we want to visit the old cathedral in Norman style. We leave again at noon, and cover twenty miles in twenty-four hours.
August 10 – 3 p.m. 45 miles! A school of striped, blowing porpoises are playing around us. Next morning the red sun comes out exactly at the extremity of the bowsprit. Flat calm; stuck for hours in sight of Cap Kalava. Smoke on top of Mount Etna (9,900 feet high), to port the Stromboli. In the night, nearly bumped into a full-rigged ship.
August 12. A last time we cram the directions about Messina Straits, as we are off Cape Peloro. The current is like the tide, following the moon, and we have only one hour of favourable flood left to reach Messina. Because of the sea’s bottom, the five-knot current is stirred by dangerous whirlpools and rapids already well known in Homer’s time as the Abyss of Charybdis, while Scylla is a rock on the other side of the strait. - At 7 a.m. Bonita is in the shallow waters of Point Faro. Suddenly caught in the stream and wind, we shoot past anchored craft, whose fishermen are on the look out, motionless at the top of their mast. If you only look at the water, everything is all right, but when you feel the terribly slow motion of the tiller and see the coast flashing away, you wonder how the ship is ever going to be stopped! Anyhow, it is too late to look for a pilot. An hour later we let go in front of the Capitenaria, at the entrance of Messina harbour. - At 7 p.m. Among skiffs and outriggers at training; Bonita leaves Messina, having shipped stores and our forth hand, just arrived from Geneva, B., the young brother of the captain, bound for Argostoli Bay, Kephalonia Island, Ionian Archipelago, Greece (260 miles) course S. - For once the shores are brightly illuminated. At midday next day we have sailed thirty-six miles and being now off Cape Spartivento, we can steer east again. So say good-bye to Italy and its regime of calms that drove us mad since we wanted to make Argostoli definitely on August 15. Going about in order to pick up a cushion which has fallen overboard, I tear the spinnaker on the cross-tree. Swell and wind are increasing from the SW. While the sun gets whiter and whiter.
August 14. The well-established breeze is now from the N and brings a bad cross sea. Below everything is spilt or upside down as Bonita is lively, foaming through peculiar conical waves that cap the big combers. At last the log gives eight knots, and it is a joy to discover how the boat is at home in these disorderly seas. In the cabin the water is splashing over the boards, and the semi-rotary pump does not work. The dirt in the bilge-water must have obstructed the wire-gauze of the strainer; cleaning this deepest spot of the ship makes me sea-sick, and to cure me there is only the necessity of standing my turn at the tiller. - The rigging is too much strained; even with the boom taken inboard as much as possible, the gaff is chafing seriously against the lee shrouds, although we have reefed to the maximum. At one o’clock in the morning of the 15th, the gaff breaks and the top part of the sail claps threateningly in the darkness. “All hands to take mainsail in!” What hard work it is! If only we had a peak haul-down. At last spars and sails are made fast on deck while we sail under mizen, trysail and No.3 jib. Soon, however, the jib sheet gives way.
At noon we have logged 233 miles, and an hour later there is a pale streak in the mauve mist on the horizon. At 2 p.m. we identify the cliff of the due Cape Gheroghambo, and Mt. St. Giorgio (1,478 feet).
We enter the sheltered bay of Argostoli, where the whole Mediterranean Fleet is gathered. Though battered and dirty, we are pleased to arrive in time for our appointment. According to the invitation, we make fast astern of the Marlborough, and once more we are the guests of the Navy. - This time we have the privilege of meeting Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, who gives us the honour of inspecting Bonita. The same night the fleet gets under way and Bonita is now anchored in the small gulf that forms Argostoli habour. Then for the last time a picket boat comes to fetch us, and we dine on the Queen Elisabeth.
10 p.m. Just back on Bonita we experience an uneasy feeling. We drag our anchor. Already in shallow waters, with nasty squalls and a digue right astern, we have no time to lose. In evening dress and silk stockings, we bend the second anchor, let it go from the dinghy while heaving on the main hook. But the various anchor tricks we practice take us nowhere off shore. We try to gain to windward with mizen and jib set (the mainsail is still unbent because of the new gaff only just received) but luckily two Greek sailors from another yacht come to help us with a strong dinghy, and after some successive anchorages, we are again in deep water. It appears that there is a current to avoid.
The next two days we explore the island where the grape is everywhere ripe, and on August 20, at midday, we leave Argostoli. In the afternoon we sail along the S coast of Kephalonia, then shape a course NNE for Ithaque, where at 10 a.m. we let go in Port Vathy, most tranquil waters, in a sort of sunny, uninhabited corner of the fjord.
August 22, at 11 a.m., we leave for Ste. Maure, lying to the N of this marvellous island sea, and as we reach the entrance of Port Vlikho, sixteen hours later, the light air dies totally. - Along the shore the sea is dark and Bonita drifts slowly towards silent reeds, where she gently takes the ground. I free her, poling a bit, and steer for the cove selected on the chart. Once there, everything is so dark that it is impossible even to guess where the shore is. There is only the faint pealing of a goat’s bell. - In the morning Bonita is in the centre of the most ideal little creek surrounded by olive trees and half-wild vine-yards. A tribe of fishermen live in the open air, under a tree. They present us with a live chicken in exchange for a pair of blocks. Next day we proceed northwards, to Port Drepano, where we anchor at the mouth of the channel leading to Leucade, the main village of the island. The 25th is spent ashore and only at 8 p.m. do we sail away, this time to the S. At midnight we are so entangled in a net that we are obliged to cut the bolt-rope.
August 26. Put into Dragamesti Bay, off Astokos, in order to water. - Under way again at 6 p.m., we have to weather three heavy blows, falling from the imposing cliff of Astokos. The lee rail remains well buried, but Bonita rights herself easily. We intend to spend the night in Plateali Bay, some miles S to port; at the entrance there must be a light. We sail a long time and then are quite astonished to have met no light so far. Suddenly ahead we distinguish vaguely a white fringe of water breaking on shore. Soundings give two fathoms. A few yards more and we are ashore on what proves to be the low isthmus of Petala bogs. Tacking backwards we succeed in making Plateali, whose light was out!
A good westerly breeze pushes us south, off Oxia Island on the following day, into the Gulf of Patras, and then towards the Corinth Gulf. To the south lies the Peloponnesus with its harmonious lines, while to the north on the contrary, directly after the plain of Missolonghi the land is a heap of rocks and rugged mountains. - At 11 p.m. we drop the hood off Naupacte (former Lépante), the village of the Middle Ages, and there we pick up M. J. B., just arrived from Paris; she is the geographer of the Cretan expedition.
At midday on August 28, we leave hurriedly, as we are dragging dangerously, and we have a joyous day’s sailing before putting into Itea Bay at midnight. - A. back from Delphos and its marvels, we hoist our sails at 3 p.m., bound for Corinth. We have no bunk for our newcomer, but we sleep in turn, or rolled up in a sail on deck. There is only a weak sailing breeze, but the weather is perfect for swimming as long as one avoids the sticking medusas. Sighted Mt. Parnassus and Mt. Helicon.
We pick up the quiet red light of Corinth, while on the other side of the gulf Loutraki, the plage “élégante” is shining brightly. On September 1, from the rock of the Acrocorinth we see the plain of Athens and Phaleron Bay, our last port of call! We get under way hurriedly at 2 a.m., as we are anxious about our canal passage. - 4 a.m. We open the jetties slowly and anchor off the canal office of Posidonia, where Jason consecrated his good ship Argo to Poseidon.
While three steamers go through the canal in succession, M. goes ashore to ask when we can go on. At first the answer is that we must wait twelve hours for a tug. But we pretend to towxx ourselves along; so the officer in charge asks how many men we are. - “Five”, answers M., without hesitation! -Consequently, half an hour later we enter the canal, B. on the towpath, the line on his shoulder, pulling at the masthead as in antique Egyptian pictures, while the rest of the crew row alternately.
The canal is sixty feet wide, four miles long, cut through high cliffs of yellow sand. The direction of the two-knot current changes every two hours. We need two small hours of hard work to reach Isthmia, the east entrance of the canal on the Megarum Bay, where we have to pay ninety drachmas for our passage. - For the last time, with sadness, we pull at each halliard, and though I had tears in my eyes (or was it lack of sleep?) little did I guess how much of a last sail setting it was for Bonita!
In the morning we distinguish the Piraeus, then the environs of Athens, with its tall chimneys, and last of all the Acropolis with the Parthenon. - At midday we let go in Phaleron Bay next to the R.Y.S. schooner, Maid Marion. We feel quite proud to ride at anchor like a smart yacht. But we had to pay dearly for this satisfaction as none of us could sleep because of the cross swell in the open roadstead.
September 4. We make for shelter near by, in the small Kastella harbour, which will be Bonita’s grave as well as last anchorage. Perlette is also there, now a well-kept Greek yacht.
Later we came back to western countries, leaving Bonita in charge of a capable boatman; she was for sale, though she had failed us in no way, but because M. wanted to own a hull in better condition. In December last, during a ten-days’ easterly gale, an English yacht dragged on to Bonita, and with her overhangs she smashed Bonita to pieces.
Our dear boat met her pathetic end. She lies on the bottom of an historical harbour, built by Cimon of Athens some twenty-five centuries ago. Who knows she might be lying next to a heroic relic of the past, worthy companion of valiant Bonita, who escaped the long last agony to be met with in shipyards.
© Ella Maillart, 1930