And Away He Goes!

Vai Beach Crete GreeceHow about that time my kid brother drifted out to sea in a little rubber boat off the east coast of Crete? Boy, that one nearly killed our dad! We took the Pugeot station wagon on vacation to Crete. We spent a week tooling all around the island. We visited the beach at Vai because someone said we should. Look it up on a map right now: Crete Vai Beach. Zoom out. What’s around Vai? That’s right, a whole lot of nothing! The road leading to the beach passes through a grove of palm trees that has some ecological significance. Other than that, all Vai has to recommend itself is its remoteness.

We swam, we dozed, we drank some Sprite (the only beverage available from the snack shack, which was the only commercial establishment in about 100 kilometers). We took turns paddling around in the little rubber boat. Then my dad and I lay down on the beach for a sunbathe, and my brother headed back out for a solo cruise in the yellow rubber raft.

Waking some indeterminate time later, I looked around. “Hey, where’s the boat?” My dad sat up and looked around. “Hey,” he rejoined, “where’s your brother?” We paced the length of the beach, squinting anxiously out to sea. There was no sign, no speck of yellow. I waited in suspense to see what my father would do. I was ambivalent concerning my brother, but the raft was really cool. This was in pre-cell phone days: there was a pay phone on the beach, but it was busted. There were some tourists on the beach, but what were they supposed to do? Form a pyramid? Bury themselves? Shout? There were no lifeguards, no police, no motorboat, no town.

There was, however, a row boat. Without a word to me, Dad put out in the rowboat and smote the grey sea with his oars. Now I stood alone on the beach, following a red speck in search of a yellow speck in the vast blue-grey of the Aegean.

When I could barely discern my father any more, a familiar voice at my elbow asked, “What are you looking at?” There was Rob! But where was the raft? I waved my dad back in. He smote the sea hard against the current for almost an hour before returning to shore. He collapsed across the oars and gasped “Where the hell have you been?!”

Rob, it seems, had been swept around the point by the strong current, but only just around the point. He came up on a jagged rocky outcrop and held fast. The waves shredded his boat and down it went. On he held until a windsurfer happened along who towed him to the nearby — wait for it! — nudist beach! After a little sight seeing there, it was a short stroll back to the main beach.

I interpreted my father’s actions as decisive and heroic, if ineffective; my mother and sister, I believe, interpreted Dad himself as ineffective. As for Dad, I think he simply enjoyed rambling around the world, sharing old favorites with us and discovering new places together. He seemed to find a bit of risk in the endeavor to be acceptable.

I resented losing the raft. My brother appreciated finding the nude beach.

Vai beach

He disappeared around one of those rocky points in the distance. Imagine it was your kid…

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