Terror by Land and Sea: My Greek Vacation

by Richard Poe
Friday, July 5, 2002

12:00 am Eastern Time
1 Comment

My Greek Vacation: A Four-Part Series

Terror by Land and Sea: My Greek Vacation, July 5, 2002

One Volk! One Reich! One Euro!, July 12, 2002

Greece: The Cradle of Conservatism, July 19, 2002

Bill Clinton’s Secret Trip to Greece, July 26, 2002

GREECE IS a great place to spend one’s Fourth of July. After all, it is the birthplace of democracy. And there is never any shortage of metaphorical fireworks.

The pyrotechnics have been especially volatile over the last week. My wife and I experienced both a near-mutiny at sea and a semi-close brush with a terror attack.

The mutiny occurred Saturday, when we set out from Athens to our secret island hideaway in the Saronic Gulf.

We took the 5 pm Flying Dolphin hydrofoil from Piraeus. After some time, we noticed that the boat was chugging along at a dead crawl, rather than flying over the waves at its usual 44 knots. A rumor spread that we were having engine trouble. But no announcement came over the intercom.

My wife suggested strongly that we proceed to the bow and position ourselves by one of the open hatches. If it became necessary to abandon ship, she explained, we would be among the first ones out, before the panic started.

“Panic? What panic?” I thought innocently. Engine trouble or no, we hardly seemed to be sinking.

But my wife is Greek-American. She has been visiting Greece since childhood. She knows things about this country that ordinary Americans don’t.

We stationed ourselves in a stairwell on the starboard bow. To our left was a stairway up to the bridge, where the captain sat. To our right, through an open hatch, we could see inflatable lifeboats lashed to the deck.

“Perfect,” said my wife. “We’ll stay right here.”

The action started soon after. A man pushed his way through and started yelling at the captain from the stairway.

“Why haven’t you made an announcement?” he shouted (as my wife murmured real-time translations in my ear). “People need to know what’s happening. Are we all going to be swimming soon, or what?”

I assumed that the man must be some sort of crewman or ferry line official, to approach the captain so boldly. But, no, he was just a passenger speaking his mind. Soon the stairwell filled with other passengers, all yelling and screaming at the same time.

One woman with a particularly Wagnerian set of lungs pulled out her cell phone and called the police, to report — quite inaccurately — that our captain was drunk.

“We’re all going to drown,” said the first man to my wife. “We’re going to die.”

Every cell phone on the boat lit up, as people frantically called their families. “I feel like we’re in the World Trade Center on 9-11,” my wife quipped.

They say that Greece gave birth to Western civilization. But Plato and Socrates were not with us that night. An older, more primitive Greece showed its face. The spirit of Pan came alive among us — the randy, goat-legged god who gave us the word “panic.”

No crewman even attempted to calm or restrain the passengers. The mob climbed freely into the bridge, crowding around the captain and shrieking in his ear. A full-scale riot seemed only moments away.

My mind drifted to the Greek liner Oceanos, which had sunk off South Africa in 1991. The captain and much of the crew had abandoned ship while 170 passengers were still aboard. My wife tells me this is common on Greek vessels.

As the mood grew uglier, I wondered if our own captain and crew might begin casting longing eyes at the lifeboats. I found myself sliding unconsciously in front of the escape hatch, as if to block their way — not that I really thought our brave crewmen would try such a thing, but, well, just in case.

In the nick of time, the engineer arrived, announcing that all was well. We were soon cruising along at a healthy 40-plus knots, the uprising forgotten.

Local terrorists provided a fitting coda to our adventure. We heard on TV the next day that a bomb had exploded near the Flying Dolphin ticket booth, less than six hours after we had bought our tickets there and boarded our boat. A second bomb, two grenades and a revolver were found nearby. The alleged bomber — icon painter Savas Xiros — was severely maimed when the first bomb exploded in his suitcase. Authorities believe he may be tied to Greece’s notorious “November 17” terrorist gang.

If there was any link between Xiros’ terror plans and our mysterious, unacknowledged “engine trouble” at sea, no one is saying.

All that aside, we are enjoying the beach and getting lots of wonderful Mediterranean sun. Have a Happy Fourth, everyone!

Cross-posted from 07.05.02

My Greek Vacation: A Four-Part Series

Terror by Land and Sea: My Greek Vacation, July 5, 2002

One Volk! One Reich! One Euro!, July 12, 2002

Greece: The Cradle of Conservatism, July 19, 2002

Bill Clinton’s Secret Trip to Greece, July 26, 2002


One Response to “Terror by Land and Sea: My Greek Vacation”
  1. Richard Poe says:

    See reader comments at
    Posted on 07/04/2002 2:58:38 PM PDT

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