The good ship Tzenh

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On our way to the Makares islands yesterday I saw this boat in the port and it made me think of a friend back in New Haven. The name is the boat, as you can see, is Tzenh, which in Greek is pronounced “Jennie.” I realized, in talking with her though, that while I’ve shared several stories about island hopping and the work we do on various islands in the cyclades, I’ve not given a very clear sense of just how we get there. So, here we go.

While we didn’t ride the Tzenh, she’s a fairly good representation of many of the boats we do use. With a few exceptions, we rely on fishermen to ferry us to the uninhabited islands. Because there aren’t people living on these small islands, or even docks for that matter, there’s not a lot of demand for travel options. The boats we ride on then are working boats with big hydraulic wheels for hauling in nets (as you saw in the video from my fishing trip), a no frills wheelhouse for 2 people to get out of the elements, and sometimes, a small bunk belowdecks for a fisherman to catch a few winks on.

The trickiest, and likely the most dangerous part of this field work is sidling the boat up to the rocks so we can jump from bow to boulder. At issue is finding a spot of shore that is steep enough so that the water under the boat stays nice and deep but not so steep that we’ll slide right off after our jump. While that may be difficult, everything is made even harder by wind and waves which cause this maneuver to sometimes be quite hairy. One of the boats the field team hired last year sustained quite a lot of damage on rocks. Luckily our captains this year have been extremely nimble with their big boats and, despite a few long jumps, we’ve managed the procedure with no greater inconvenience than a few wet feet and one lost sandal.

Here’s a video of us jumping onto a boat from Nikouria. You can’t see but at the last minute, I grabbed Johannes’ backpack just before he dropped the gaffing stick from the boat. He was heading for a swim! I had a better grip second time around.

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