The Day We Hired an Illegal Boat in Greece. Why Not End With a Bang?
13.09.2018 - 13.09.2018
I couldn’t believe it was already our final day in Greece. We enjoyed one final al fresco breakfast by the pool.
We had decided to rent a boat for our final day, since our boat day in Kefalonia had fallen through. I had contacted an online boat rental place located at the Aripa Port, simply because it was the only one that I could reserve online. We communicated weeks before through a series of texts and confirmed our boat rental for the day. I checked in to make sure we were still a go (lest we get halfway there and find out it was too windy or some other messiness). I was assured it was a go.
We made the hour drive to the Aripa Port. When we arrived, we parked in the only parking lot and looked around. We saw multiple rental boat stands but none that had the name of our rental company on it.
We wandered helplessly between the facilities and the docks looking for anything that might tell us where to go. Finally, we approached a gentleman at another stand and asked if he knew where we could find our rental.
He seemed to know something we didn't. He rolled his eyes, sighed heavily, and explained that they had no official stand and basically told us, “Good luck.”
Uh-oh. Had I booked with a hokey agency? Was a guy with a paddle boat going to show up? Had I rented a kayak instead of a power boat? Was anyone even going to show up at all?
I pulled up the photo of the boat the man had sent me and sure enough, we saw the boat tied to the dock, but there was no one nearby. I sent a text that said, “We are at the boat.”
Within minutes, a man came running down from one of the restaurants. In broken English he explained something that we interpreted to mean he didn’t have an official license to allow renters to access boats from the dock, so he had to take the boat out with us in it, we had to drop him off on some sketchy rock outcropping where the boat police couldn’t see us, and we’d do the same in reverse when we returned.
Matt and I looked at each other and shrugged. Okay.
We were game. We were happy to help him stick it to the man.
We felt like Columbian drug smugglers trying to dodge the Coast Guard as we pulled out from the marina, quickly ducked into a cove, and literally dumped the guy on some random rocks.
Only I would rent the only illegal boat on the island of Corfu.
It was a great boat and we spent an incredible morning touring the coastline, filled with endless little pocket beaches and insanely blue water. We pulled in to hidden coves and stopped to swim in the beautiful water.
We had only rented the boat for a ½ day, so we stopped at what we decided was our halfway point at a lovely beach and had a picnic lunch, cried over having to leave, swam a little more, cried a little more, rested on the beach, and cried one more time.
Then we took a leisurely cruise back.
We weren’t really sure what the “plan” was when we returned. We had a return time. Had he just gone down to the rocks and waited? We had no idea.
As we pulled closer to the marina, we saw him crouched, hidden in the rocks, waving his arms. We puttered over and he jumped in, wiping sweat from his brow and said, “The boat police are in the marina.”
We had to do a covert detour to an entirely different place, because he couldn’t be seen bringing us into the marina. We were unceremoniously dumped at a staircase carved into the mountainside that led at least 3,000 steps straight up to a restaurant that was about a half mile from our parked car.
“You walk up steps, my father pick you up at top in car. Drive you back. No boat police. Go RIGHT. Not go LEFT.”
Matt and I looked at each other and shrugged. Okay.
“GO RIGHT,” he emphasized again. “NOT LEFT.”
WTH was going to happen to us if we went left???
It was a long, hot trudge up all of those steps. I kept looking over my shoulder, not sure what would be behind me. Were we being pursued? Had our illegal boat run been spotted? Were they going to tackle us and throw us in the pokey? I kept expecting the Hellenic Coast Guard to be moving in below us, weapons drawn, shouting for us to freeze. When we made it to the top, a white van was waiting with a strange man driving and, like the trusting fools we are, we climbed inside.
This is how you become sex slaves or get sold for your kidneys, people.
I felt like a drug mule with a kilo of cocaine in my Debbie Katz tote instead of a tourist spending the day on a leisurely boat tour of the Corfu coast.
Within moments, however, he parked back in the marina parking lot, invited us into his restaurant and offered us a free drink. We had not been picked up by a serial killer. We had been picked up by the boat owner’s father. Apparently, they were in this whole boat running thing together. They rented you a boat, shook you up, dumped you on a pile of rocks, and then offered you a frappe as if it was the most normal thing in the world.
All’s well that ends well, right? Our boat had been cheap. It had been a beautiful morning. We’d had a great day. And we didn’t get raped or sold for our organs. I call that a success.
We took a different way back, enjoying the winding drive through old town Lakones where we stopped for a snack with a view .
I was curious what a jag of wine was. Especially when a "glass" is poured like this:
The rest of the day was spent sipping drinks in the pool, laughing about our ridiculous boat rental, and thinking back over the past 11 glorious days.
Because there were no great restaurants in the area, I had arranged to have the hotel prepare dinner and serve it poolside for our last night. The sky put on a spectacular display as we enjoyed a mixed appetizer platter (is it just me….or were those pigs in a blanket?), one final Greek salad, taztziki, pasta, stuffed peppers, and a Corfu beef dish that was the specialty of the house.
I won’t bore you with the details of getting home other than to say we left Corfu early Friday morning and were back in Knoxville late Saturday.
And it was worth it.