Saturday January 20 , 2018

Aegean seagulls in Agios Efstratios

The journey...

The last mission for the Aegean Seagulls in year 2010 was to Agios Efstratios and it was a great success. It proved a rather difficult mission, since the weather conditions were adverse for the full 200 nautical miles (in total), even though it was only the beginning of winter. Based on the research we conducted about the residences' needs, we collected donations for the medical center and the school. The journey was set for the beginning of November.

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One of the five members of the Seagulls' team unfortunately had a serious accident and this not only affected the mood but also the organization of the mission as we were forced to delay the journey for a while. Finally it was decided that only four of the five "Seagulls" would participate and the date was set for Friday, 3 December 2010.

The two RIBS were ready and our sponsors, the authorities as well as the residents of Agios Efstratios had been informed of our departure date. However the weather conditions were not in our hands but controlled by the Archipelagos. Our anxiety escalated as the 3rd of December approached: "glued" to pc screens and web pages with meteorological forecasts, we could see that up until the date of our departure south winds blew as strong as 7b. We hoped that Poseidon would make a favorable turn, even if only at the last minute.

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Two days before departure we had an emergency meeting to evaluate the situation and find alternative solutions. The journey had to be accomplished no matter what, but our safety prevailed as well as the safe passage of the goods our sponsors had trusted us with. Besides, we also needed to transport electrical equipment.

 

Realizing that the weather conditions were not going to improve over the weekend (minimum 6b winds blowing) we decided to abandon the idea of traveling with the RIBS and chose to travel by boat to Agios Efstratios. This however did not come through either, firstly due to the dockers' strike and when that was over due to the strong south winds 7-9b that blew in Northern Aegean and prohibited the sail of "Taxiarchis".

Hence, we "lost" Friday and had to wait at the port of Laurio on Saturday for the menace of Poseidon to calm. 6 hours delay became 6 long hours of anxiety. Our tenacity, our faith and our strong will to achieve our goal, sat us firm in the seats in the boat. We decided to wait as long as it takes for sail to be approved. We didn't waver even when some of the other passengers seeing the flags on the dock whipping the wind disembarked disappointed.

 

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 18:00 and there is movement among the crew that brings back our lost smiles.

18:30 the engines of old "Taxiarchis" roar and the Seagulls shake their wings.

Leaving behind us the passage between Evia and Andros it is difficult to describe the conditions of our journey from Cavo D' Oro to Agios Efstratios.

03:30, dawning Sunday, the boat ties at the harbor of Agios Efstratios with great difficulty and with the instructions of the crew for fast disembarkation, we almost jump off the ramp, as the sea crashes on the dock.

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The island's priest is at the harbor to meet us and show us to the guest house of Ms. Julia Balaska where we will rest until morning.

Sunday, 5 December at 08:00 we are walking around the village taking photographs. Truly, a peaceful place in the off season. The only people we meet at this hour are some fishermen repairing their nets. We can hear the Holy Mass coming from the church.

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The island's priest is at the harbor to meet us and show us to the guest house of Ms. Julia Balaska where we will rest until morning.

Sunday, 5 December at 08:00 we are walking around the village taking photographs. Truly, a peaceful place in the off season. The only people we meet at this hour are some fishermen repairing their nets. We can hear the Holy Mass coming from the church.

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With the end of Sunday Mass, the square is filled with people and the mayor Mr. Makris Charalampos soon comes to greet us. He is a person with an open mind and progressive ideas, knowledgeable of the needs and troubles of his island. From what we hear and see he offers the most to the island he loves greatly. We remain with the best impressions!

We set off with him for the High School where we install a pc and a multifunction photocopier donated by PriveShop. There we meet the students with their teachers. From our discussions we realize that they surpass their duties: they choose to serve the ideal of education and offer their best on a Greek island that is distant and isolated.

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To the youngsters in Kindergarden, Primary and Secondary School we distribute paper supplies, stationery and toys that we collected from our sponsors, Moustakas Toy Shops and two young students Androniki and Panayotis. We receive from the students a wonderful thank- you present, a year calendar they made by themselves and their "green" project on their island.

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Next stop is the local medical Centre. We get there with the Mayor and offer the medical supplies donated by the Pharmaceutical Association of Kilkis and the Menidi Medica, a company based in the province of Aitoloakarnania.

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The Mayor invites us to his office and offers us presents: two books with information and photos of the island of Agios Efstratios dated from the beginning of the century until today, together with printed material and a Guide around the Museum of Democracy that is based on the island.

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15:00 and together with the Mayor and the teachers we go to the only tavern on the island were we enjoy a delicious lunch. Best of all is their warm hospitality. Time passes happily but quickly with constructive discussions around subjects related to the life on the island.

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Our friend Pandelis, who lives on Agios Efstratios all year round, offers to show us the other side of the island. To get there we have to travel off road to places only reached by "Gorbatsov" ... the name he has given to his 30-years old Niva. Shifting into gear he takes to places we wouldn't go to even on foot. Friendly and joyous, he doesn't leave a single part of the island he doesn't show us. Pandelis, our friend thank you for the amazing moments of laughter you offered us.

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Time passes. The sun sets slowly and Pandelis with "Gorbatsov" return us to the village. We prepare our things and take the road down the narrow lanes to the only "cafeneio" where we find the students, teachers and the Mayor. Here we get the chance to meet everyone better and feel such warmth that we promise to come back to the island. Unfortunately the last moments pass and all together we go to the harbor where we wait for the "Taxiarchis".

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As we are saying goodbye, the teachers explain what a beautiful and special day this has been for them and the children. This is the greatest reward for all the team.

The Aegean Seagulls extend a great "Thank you" to all of you who helped us realize this mission and to all of you who welcomed us on Agios Efstratios.

From the "Aegean Seagulls"

Pavlos Vlachos.


 

 

                                                         

 

 

2 May 2011


 


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