By Thomas Panagiotopoulos

Without any doubt, the crossing of the Mediterranean with inflatable boats is itself a very big challenge. But when it is combined with such an important task then things become even more difficult and require very good planning and of course good luck in the unpredictable world of the sea.

Journey to Gibraltar

Without any doubt, the crossing of the Mediterranean with inflatable boats is itself a very big challenge. But when it is combined with such an important task then things become even more difficult and require very good planning and of course good luck in the unpredictable world of the sea.

The crossing of the Mediterranean had been scheduled to take place in the summer of 2004 and the timing of the Olympic Games in Athens was the most appropriate chance. The transfer of the Olympic flag at the other end of the Mediterranean, the Pillars of Hercules in Gibraltar, made this trip very important and filled us with excess liability. The crossing of the Mediterranean was upgraded automatically in a symbolic journey internationally.

For thousands of years the Mediterranean basin was the center of the world as well as the crossroads of major civilizations. Ancient Greeks were crossing this ancient sea, creating the miracle of Magna Grecia and implanting our culture in the western world.

Although the traces of our ancestors can be so hidden in forgotten routes and old nautical charts, their stories are imprinted everywhere, monuments, temples and entire cities.

Journey to Gibraltar

Through this trip we wanted to highlight our message of Peace and Friendship either to the people of the Mediterranean and the whole world as well. We wished to present in our own way our country, our flag and our history together with the announcement simultaneously of the Olympic Games in their birthplace, inviting the world to the global celebration of the Olympics.

The RIB clubs in our country embraced this effort, demonstrating once again the sensitivity of the people of the sea for cultural matters. Similar interest was shown by the RIB groups of the neighboring Italy and the countries that we visited too.

We really felt unspeakably happy that our message was embraced very warmly, and translated in a very honorable way in touching welcome with each country urging us to convey its own message of Peace and Friendship in every part of the Mediterranean.

Journey to Gibraltar

Apart from the messages of the Olympic Spirit, we wished to get across in the Mediterranean, integrating in this trip two specific objectives:

By the first objective, we felt that it was so very important to integrate Magna Grecia in the global celebration of the Olympic Games, in order to participate and celebrate in their own way the Olympic Games. For this reason we should deliver the Olympic Torch, which would decorate the Institute of Greek Studies in Bova Marina, and many other souvenirs.

Still, we had planned visits to Greek villages, carrying a message of love from Home Land and showing the residents that the bridge was not cut with Mother Greece.

The second objective which would be the accomplishment of our mission was the symbolic raising of the huge Olympic Flag to the extreme limit of the whole ancient world, the Pillars of Hercules!

So, after months of preparation, several disappointments and much trouble, everything was ready for the big trip. On Friday morning on the 30th of July, two 9-meters inflatable boats manufactured in Greece, with a crew of four people in each boat were outside of the hotel Macedonia Palace in Thessalonica. Following the departure ceremony held in the hall “Alexander the Great” of the hotel, with greetings and wishes of the state authorities who offered us two Olympic Torches and Olympic Flag as well as the greetings of the people, the crew was boarded on the RIBs.
With a lot of excitement and mixed feelings, and the Olympic flag waving in the waters of Thermaikos Gulf, the two Ribs already started the rout of this long journey. During the first day we had to cover 250 miles up to Mati located at the eastern Attica. The weather forecasts stated wind force 5 and locally 6 Beaufort.

At 14:10 our position was N39o41’, A20o23’. The wind was north-west and force of 5 Beaufort, allowing us to travel pleasantly on the backs of the waves. But a few miles before cape Gourouni of Skopelos Island the weather force increased to 6 Beaufort and led us to turn the bow from east to west in order to avoid strong waves.

We directed the bows of our boats to the port of Kymi, 42 nm south.

Journey to Gibraltar

Our compass was showing 152 and in less than two hours we were moored in the spacious port, adding a few liters of fuel in our tank.

It was almost dark when we were sailing between the southern tip of the island of Evia and the "Mantili" island. A small break for a cigarette... and we set sail for the last 29 nm up to the small marina in Mati, located northern to Rafina. It was 22:15 when we entered the narrow entrance of the Mati Marina with the applause and cheers of members of the RIB Club of Eastern Attica welcoming us. Like being old friends all together, we headed to the restaurant of the marina where the conversations around the long journey lasted until late.

July 31, Saturday at 08:00

The boats were prepared meticulously; the stickers of sponsors were placed, as well as the Olympic Flag and the flags of all Rib Clubs of the country. Accompanied by many RIBs of the RIB Club of Eastern Attica, we came out of the "Mati" marina and headed to the port of Rafina, located 1.5 miles south. There, in a festive atmosphere greeted us the guys of the local group and a lot of people with horns and fireworks.

The time however had passed and we had to continue our long trip. So we set sail to Sounion forming a spectacular procession of several boats, the Coastguard boat of Rafina Nautical Station since all the prohibitive measures of the Olympic Games were already into practice. Sailing in formation, we performed a symbolic transfer of the Olympic Flag on the coast of Eastern Attica and soon traveled 28 miles to Sounion. Under the temple of Poseidon, we said goodbye and we renewed our appointment for the return.

Journey to Gibraltar

Very quickly we covered 60 miles to the Korinthos Isthmus and we passed the 4 nm Canal headed to Loutraki, where we filled our tanks again.

The next 72 nm up to Rio-Antirio was not so pleasant, since the strong wind of the Korinthian Sea forced us to deviate north of our course.

Pretty tired we followed a night ride under the full moon, 28 nm that separated us from our favorite Kalamos Island, having thus the most beautiful end of the day. It was 24:00 o'clock when we were mooring at the picturesque harbor.

We walked a few meters up the familiar tavern with its tables touching the sea.

231 nm were covered this day, but still the conversations and analysis of the program and the progress of our next day lasted until late. No one of the crew wanted to leave early from this tranquil corner of the Ionian Sea.

...keep Ribbing!

Journey to Gibraltar

Journey to Gibraltar

 

Journey to Gibraltar

 

Journey to Gibraltar

Sponsors of our mission
- SUZUKI MARINE - ATLANTIS - CONSULTANT
- EXANTAS - STEKON HELLAS
- MINI OUZO - TRATA
- MACEDONIA PALLAS - GYMNASIUM
- D. MASOUTIS LTD (GROUP OF COMPANIES) - WDS