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Never walk alone - 20. Chapter 20

The route to the hotel took them through the usual collection of warehouses and industries normally found in the vicinity of airports before joining the autostrada and heading towards the city. With the city looming ahead of them, the driver took an off ramp onto a wide, tree-lined boulevard with a traffic island in the centre and after driving on the boulevard for a few minutes, stopped in front of the imposing and elegant, yet playful, facade of the Grand Hotel Savoia, the establishment being painted a bright pink with white detailing. A short, wide flight of marble steps led to the main entrance and a doorman hurried down the stairs to open the door of the limousine, followed by two porters who moved to the rear of the vehicle and began unloading the luggage.

Andrew and Ryan exited the car each with a baby in their arms and after thanking the driver, who told them he would see them in the morning, walked up the steps into the cool interior. They stopped just inside the door and gazed around them at the magnificent, opulently decorated lobby.

The high-ceilinged room had marble floors and a double row of tall columns flanked a wide aisle to the reception desk, with seating on one side and elevators, two stores and an entrance to a coffee shop on the other. Crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling and large gilt - framed mirrors and paintings hung on the walls. Arched windows with heavy drapes allowed natural light into the room and provided a view of the park across the road. The young family approached the receptionist, returning her warm welcoming smile.

"Bon gourno. Messrs Devlin-Major and family. We have a reservation", said Ryan

"Ah, bon gourno Signor Devlin-Major. Yes, we were expecting you. Signora Kinley advised us that you would be arriving early. Welcome to the Grand Hotel Savoia. Your rooms are ready. Would you please just sign the registration forms?", she said as she pushed the preprinted form in front of Ryan. He checked all the details and signed at the bottom of the page. While he was busy, she programmed two key cards. She retrieved the registration form and handed the cards to Ryan.

"You have two rooms. A suite with an interleading twin. The cards will open both doors as well as the interleading door. It also allows you to charge items onto your account. The porter will show you to your rooms. Please enjoy your stay".
Andrew smiled at her and said,

"Thank you, I'm sure we will", and they turned to walk to the elevator where the porter waited with the trolley containing their luggage. The porter pushed the button and the elevator climbed slowly up to the 3rd floor. They exited into a wide, carpetted corridor and an arrow on the wall indicated that their rooms, 301 and 302 were to the right. The porter requested one of the cards and he swiped it through the reader on the door and when the light turned green he opened the door and stood back allowing them to go in.

A short hallway,with a cloakroom off one side, opened into a large, comfortable lounge with full length windows that opened onto a small terrace with a view over the boulevard to the park. The furnishings were period pieces in a dark wood, with a three piece lounge suite, the sofa upholstered in crimson velvet and the two high backed armchairs in crimson and gold stripes.
A small, wooden four seater dining table gleamed in one corner next to the windows and and there were two matching credenzas in the same dark wood, one holding a lamp and the other a vase of fresh flowers and a bowl of fruit. A taller one housed the TV, mini bar and refrigerator.
The windows had soft voile as well as heavy drapes which were tied back to allow in sunlight and the view, a chandelier hung from the ceiling in the centre of the room and the floors were polished parquet with loose rugs. The room was perfect for the overall ambience of the hotel.

There was, however, something Andrew was not happy with. Two doors on opposite walls accessed the bedrooms, which meant that the twins were effectively two rooms away from the main bedroom with the lounge between, but decided that he could live with it for the one night. The main bedroom was appointed in a similar way to the lounge, although the bathroom was modern. The twins bedroom, however, was very different, having more contemporary furniture although the headboards were fairly ornate.

Once the porter had left, they moved the coffee table and covered the rug with a spare blanket from the cupboard in the second bedroom for the twins to sit on and play with toys while they unpacked what they needed for the day.
Andrew and Ryan changed out of the smart casual clothes they had worn from the airport into knee length shorts, golf shirts and sneakers and after putting sunhats on the twins and donning caps themselves, went downstairs for a stroll in the park across the road.

The paths through the park were shaded by large trees and as they walked, with the twins in the chest harnesses, they passed several statues, a small lake with swans that they stopped and observed for a while, and a public marble chess board with half life size pieces where two old men were playing. The park also had a kiddies play area with some swings and they sat on the swings with the twins chortling with glee as they swung back and forth.

After just over an hour in the park, they strolled down the tree lined boulevard for a short distance before crossing over to the
other side and heading back to the hotel, stopping for gelato along the way. They let the twins taste the cold confection but didn't want to give them too much in case it upset their tummies, so Andrew went back to the gelataria and got a small tub of mango frozen yogurt which they loved, smacking their lips and waving their arms excitedly when the spoon neared their mouths. It was a relief to get back into the cool air conditioning of the hotel and they put the twins back on the blanket covered rug to play with their toys.

As it was almost lunch time and to celebrate being in Italy, they ordered pasta from room service, deciding that it was easier than going to the restaurant with the babies. Andrew ordered Spaghetti Vongole and Ryan had the Tagliatelle Bolognese. They were both highly amused to find a jar of Spaghetti Bolognese baby food in the supplies they had brought with them and Andrew dropped the jar into the room kettle to warm up . He was sitting cross legged on the blanket feeding the little ones when room service arrived with their order in a food warmer trolley. The waiter set up the small table on the terrace outside the open lounge doors shaded by a retractable awning, and seeing they were busy with the babies, left the food in the food warmer for collection later. Ryan made small bottles of formula while Andrew was feeding the twins and when he was done, they lay them on the blanket with pillows from one of the beds for a nap. With full tummies, they nodded off almost immediately so their dad's sat at the table and ate their pasta which they shared so that each had a taste of both dishes. The pasta came with blocks of Parmesan Reggianno and small graters so that they could grate the cheese over the pasta themselves. The waiter came to collect the trolley and dishes and they sat on the terrace sunning themselves until the twins woke up in the mid afternoon when they went up to the rooftop spa to use the tubs which they kept fairly cool.

The twins were facinated by the bubbles that the jets in the tub emitted, trying to grab them with their hands and giving squeals of delight when the water splashed them. When they stepped out of the tub, they wrapped the tots in fluffy towels and lay on sunbeds in one of the gazebos shaded by soft voile draping. They gave the twins bottles with cold, diluted apple juice while Ryan sipped on an ice cold bottle of mineral water and Andrew, his new favourite tipple, Limoncello and sparkling water, a grown-up lemonade.
The exertions of their swim caused the twins to nod off again and when Andrew and Ryan returned to the room they gently carried the sleeping infants to the main bedroom and put them on the bed to nap.

While their children slept, Andrew and Ryan both showered and changed into track pants and t-shirts , slipping their feet into the slippers that the hotel provided.
When Cameron and Elizabeth woke up they bathed them and dressed them for bed and fed them, keeping the formula bottles for later in the evening. And they sat on the terrace watching the sun drop towards the horizon with the twins cradled on one arm while drinking sundowners with the other, beer for Ryan and apple cider for Andrew. When the twins looked like they were getting sleepy, they gave them their bottles of formula and they both drifted off to sleep before they had finished. Andrew and Ryan carried them to the bedroom and put them to bed for the night, pushing the two beds together and placing pillows on the sides to prevent them rolling off.

They turned on the baby monitor, left the door open and returned to the lounge to watch SkyNews on the TV and ordered dinner from room service, Veal Parmigiana for Andrew and Olive and Lemon Lamb Cutlets for Ryan, with Tiramisu for dessert. Once again, they ate at the terrace table, enjoying the soft breeze, warm air and the lights of the city. They ordered cappuccinos from room service, which came with crispy almond biscotti, and double tots of Ameretto into which they dipped the biscotti while drinking the coffee.

After dinner, they Skyped with David and Janice, taking the laptop into the bedroom so that they could see their sleeping grand-children and Janice lifted Rascal onto her lap as he was barking madly at the sound of their voices. He kept pushing his nose against the screen as if trying to touch them and Andrew felt quite sad at seeing the little puppy obviously missing them.

Ryan filled out their breakfast order and hung it on the door handle and they went to bed early at 10pm having had a long day and disturbed sleep on the plane, cuddling for a while before spooning and falling asleep.

Cameron and Elizabeth had their dads up and about quite early, both clearly hungry having not finished their bottles the night before. While Ryan changed dirty diapers, Andrew boiled water for formula and prepared bottles and a bowl of baby cereal to feed them. When the cereal was finished, they put them on the bed in the main bedroom and gave them their bottles while Andrew and Ryan took turns to shower, and were both in bathrobes when breakfast was served by room service at 8am.

The waiter opened the door to the terrace, but set the dining table in the room after pulling it in front of the open doors and arranged the breakfast on a small table that stood against the wall. Ryan had just ordered a Continental breakfast, with orange juice, muesli with fresh fruit salad, thick yogurt and honey, a selection of cold meats and cheeses, specifying cream cheese for Andrew, and a basket with croissants, brioche, seed bread and Danish pastries and preserves. There was also a large pot of freshly brewed coffee. They moved the twins onto the blanket covered rug and ate breakfast, keeping a surreptitious eye on the clock so as not to be late fortheir 10am pick up.

They were finished by 9 and got dressed before getting Cameron and Elizabeth dressed for the day. Then they packed the few things that they had taken out of the suitcases and when the concierge desk phoned to advise that the driver was waiting, they were ready and requested porters to fetch the luggage. They headed to reception ahead of the porters to check out and the luggage was loaded and the driver holding the door for them when they emerged from the hotel carrying the twins in their arms.

They were impressed that the driver had already secured the car seats and they got the twins settled and strapped in before fastening their own seatbelts for the short drive to the harbour. As they drove away from the hotel, Ryan leaned forward to speak to the driver.

"We have to stop off at Customs and Immigration to get our passports stamped. Do you know where that is?"

"No signor, signor Kinley has arranged for Customs and Immigration to be at the yacht to process you out of Italy", he replied. "They have to stamp all the documents for the boat anyway".

Within minutes he brought the limousine to a stop on the quayside where a gleaming white and blue motor yacht lay moored stern-to at the quay her stern proudly displaying her name 'Texas Lass'. A paserelle, a movable boarding gangway, was positioned from the port main deck to the Quay and the huge stern door was open to the yacht through a room that contained a large dining table, a u-shaped seating area and at the far end, a lobby with stairs leading upwards. Also visible was a few pieces of gym equipment and a variety of water toys including jet skis, water scooters, kayaks and several sunbeds with mattresses.

Dan and Joan appeared on the stairs down to the room with the open stern doorway and stepped out of the yacht onto the stern platform that raised them up to level with the quay. They stepped off the yacht and stopped a short distance from the limo as the driver opened the door and the visitors alighted into the hot sun. Dan spoke as they straightened up.

"Andrew, Ryan, welcome. I'm afraid we can't greet you yet as Customs and Immigration have to process you out of Italy first.".

Two uniformed men standing to one side approached them and requested their passports and travel documents. Ryan handed them over and the officials asked them to follow them. They stepped onto the teak covered deck and followed the officials onto the yacht, to the dining table where they examined their passports and visas, then stamped them and handed them back to Ryan with a nod and returned to the quay where they got into their vehicle and drove away. Dan and Joan reboarded the yacht and walked up to them smiling. Joan hugged them both then said,

"Welcome aboard 'Texas Lass'. Sorry about that. Officialdom comes first I'm afraid. It's good to have you aboard"

Dan greeted them, shaking their hands as Joan spoke to them.

"Well, what do you think of her?, she asked.

Ryan grinned at the older couple.

"Haven't been able to see much of her yet. Just her rear end, which isn't half bad, and this room".

Dan took their arms and led them back out onto the quay so that they could look down the side of the yacht. She was beautiful.

A 62 metre long San Lorenzo, steel hulled , with a trideck superstructure. She was painted a brilliant white with a narrow blue and red cheat line above and below the portholes in the hull. Her superstructure decks were fitted with ceiling to floor glass windows. The portholes and three rectangular windows close to the stern were all smoked glass.. The upper decks both had generous overhangs aft. Dan spoke again.

"She has six guest cabins sleeping twelve, and a crew of ten including the captain. She weighs 1200 gross tons and has a top speed of 16.5 knots". He glanced at Andrew, "That's just over 30km/h. Let's go back on board, get you settled and then we can show you around".

He led them back into the stern room and said,

"This is the beach club". He looked over his shoulder as a motor whined and the stern door started closing. "As you can see, the stern opens up when we are in port or at anchor. But what you haven't seen is that there are doors on both sides, where the long portholes are, that open up as well to give us two more patio areas. It's pretty spectacular when you see it all open".

Joan linked her arms through theirs.

"Come on, let me show you to your cabins", she told them leading them into the central lobby and up the stairs.

"This staircase will take you all the way to the top deck, what we call the Sky Deck. The beach club is on the Lower Deck, and we will go through Main Deck to the Owners Deck, where the master cabin and the VIP cabin is situated. You will be in the VIP cabin and it's actually a two bedroomed cabin with an inter leading door. We had it built that way for when the family and their children are on board. They have little ones as well, just slightly older than yours"
She stepped out into a spacious marble floored lobby with a door almost directly in front of them and opened it.

"This is your cabin. Come on in".

She stood back and they walked into the large, spacious, beautifully appointed cabin. It was situated on the starboard side of the yacht with windows that filled the entire wall facing the side deck. Soft voile with cream and blue drapes were pulled back to reveal a sliding door onto the sidedeck. Andrew mentally apologised to the older couple as he had expected the decor to be dark and more 'old fashioned'. Instead, the cabin was light, bright and modern.

The king size bed, stood against the aft bulkhead on a slightly raised black plinth with concealed lighting, which in turn stood centred on a thick cream carpet. A footlocker was placed at the end of the bed with a TV that retracted into the locker and the sides contained a mini bar and refrigerator.
Treated beech flooring covered the remainder of the cabin floor in a herring bone pattern and all the cupboards and lockers were finished in the same wood, with darker mouldings and gold plated door handles.
A small couch and two easy chairs were placed next to the windows, around a small stainless steel and glass coffee table. And the forward bulkhead was covered by full length cupboards with a dressing table/desk in the centre with a large mirror. The cupboard door on the port side concealed the entrance to the opulently appointed full bathroom where marble, glass and gold plating featured predominantly. Lighting was provided by bedside lamps, an overhead chandelier type light fitting in the middle of the ceiling and concealed lights in the ceiling, all dimmable.

A door in the aft bulkhead, between the bed and the lobby wall accessed the cabin that the twins would sleep in. The twin bedded cabin was a lot cosier, but just as elegantly decorated in the predominant creams and blues, the only difference being the judicious use of more blue and no sliding door onto the deck. It also had its own shower room with the same appointments as those in the VIP cabin.
Andrew turned to the older couple, standing at the door with proud smiles on their faces.

"Oh wow, this is absolutely amazing. It's quite beautiful. Are all the cabins similarly decorated?"

Joan smiled back and replied,

"Thank you, Andrew love. Yes, all very similar. Just small differences in accent colour. There are four cabins on the lower deck, forward of the beach club. Our cabin, just down the corridor is double the size of this one. I will show you once you are settled. We'll leave you to unpack. We will be sailing in about an hour. We are just waiting for our final clearences. We'll be in the Sky Lounge one deck up if you want to join us when we sail. It's lovely having you with us" she said, pecking them both on the cheek Their hosts turned and shut the cabin door behind them.

They put the twins on the main bed and gave them some juice to drink while they unpacked and hung their clothes in the cupboards. Then they packed all the babies clothing and paraphernalia into the cupboards and drawers in the smaller cabin.
Andrew and Ryan changed into their usual shorts and golf shirts, slipping there feet into deck shoes and checked the babies diapers which were both wet so they changed them. While doing that, they felt a slight tremor pass through the deck under their feet as the motors were started in the engine room.

They shrugged into the chest harnesses, got the twins into theirs, gathered a few basic necessities into a baby bag along with some toys and stepped out of the cabin. They walked the few paces to the lobby at the end of which they glimpsed a beautifully appointed dining room with a small seating area, and climbed the stairs to the Sky Deck where they stopped for a moment in yet another lobby, a perfect replica of the one on the the deck below.

To the left down a short corridor were three doors, two directly opposite one another and the other at the end that opened onto the bridge. On the right, the lobby opened up into a another U-shaped lounge area with overstuffed, buttoned tan leather couches and recliners around a dark wood coffee table with rounded corners and a glass inlay. A thought crossed Andrew's mind that he hadn't seen a sharp corner on any of the furniture so far. Everything had rounded corners.

Dan and Joan were at a bar in the port corner next to the open glass doors to the deck, Joan sitting on one of the six bar stools and Dan holding court behind the bar. Joan glanced up as they entered the room, smiling.

"Ah, there you are my darlings. All settled?"

"Yes, thank you. We're feeling very spoilt in that gorgeous cabin", Andrew replied.

"Don't think anything of it. It's our pleasure", Dan added. "Can I get you guys something to drink, I think the sun is over the yardarm?"

"Just a Coke for me , Dan", Andrew said. "And me too, Dan", added Ryan.

As Dan busied himself with the drinks, a door marked 'Crew Only" opened on the port side forward bulkhead, and young woman entered the room. Joan beckoned her over to them and she approached the group, smiling.

"Guys, allow me to introduce our Chief Hostess, Kirsty. Kirsty, this is Andrew and Ryan Devlin-Major, owners of the luxury catamaran we cruised on in South Africa, and our guests for the next week. The littlies are Cameron and Elizabeth."

She shook thei hands, beaming.

"Welcome aboard, all of you.". She examined the twins and said, "Oh, they're beautiful. I would swear they are the same age. Are they adopted, if you don't mind me asking?".

Ryan grinned at her.

"Hi Kirsty, nice to be on board. To answer your question, no not adopted. Biological twins. Same mother, different fathers", he explained, indicating Andrew and himself.

"Oh wow. I didn't know that was possible", she said, a puzzled expression on her face.

"We didn't either, until a doctor friend told us about it. It called heteropaternal fecundation. Two ova from the mother are fertilised with sperm from the fathers and implanted into the womb. And hey presto, twins", Andrew explained.

"That's amazing. At a guess, I would say that Andrew is holding Ryan's child and vice versa".

Ryan grinned again.

"Yeah, spot on. But we are way past yours and mine. They have always been and always will be, our children. As far as Andrew and I are concerned, there is no distinction".

"Well, I admire you guys. It's a huge responsibility ".

"We have had to make some adjustments", said Andrew, "but we wouldn't change it for anything. Ask Dan and Joan. They even come on charters with us"

"Well, I wish you all the luck in the world. Now, I know Mrs Kinley has probably already asked you, but are you settled in your cabins? Do you need anything?"

"Thanks, she has asked. And everything is just perfect", Ryan replied.

"If you need anything at all, Kirsty is the one to contact.", said Joan.

Dan handed them their drinks and lifted his head as a uniformed man entered the room from the lobby.

"Ahha, and you can meet our captain as well. Andrew, Ryan, our captain, Nigel Flynn", Dan said, introducing them to the tall, lanky blonde haired man, as he neared them. He extended his hand and greeted them.

" Welcome aboard 'Texas Lass' gentlemen. It's good to meet you at last. Dan and Joan have told me about you. All good, I promise", he grinned.

"Thank you captain, it's good to be on board. You have a beautiful ship here", answered Ryan.

"Please call me Nigel. Yes, she is beautiful. I feel very privileged to have been chosen to command her".

Andrew looked at Dan and Joan, a questioning look on his face

"Wait a minute, you told us you had a rather unfriendly captain who resented having you on the bridge. That wasn't Nigel, was it?"

Joan's hearty laughter filled the room.

"No, thank god. He chose not to move to 'Texas Lass', but wanted to stay with old yacht. So we were obliged to find a new captain and were very fortunate to get Nigel. And he doesn't mind having us on the bridge"

"That's the reason I actually came out here. We are ready to cast off and I thought you may want to be on the bridge for departure"..

Dan grinned broadly.

"Brilliant idea. Let's get going". He walked briskly across the room with the rest of them following.

As they walked down the passageway, Joan explained that the two doors off the passage were Nigel's cabin on the port side and an office/meeting room on the starboard side.
The bridge, as expected, was very impressive, with lots of wood panelling, a plethora of digital gauges and lights, and the usual radar and course plotters, on the control console and amazing 180° views through front and side windows.

A small, cream leather upholstered seating area was placed against the rear wall of the bridge, slightly raised for a better view, where Andrew and Joan sat down. Nigel had a captains chair in matching cream leather in the middle of the bridge in front of the controls. Ryan and Dan stood on either side of it, as Nigel opened a door on the starboard side and stepped out onto the bridge wing, where he opened a locker that housed a set of controls as well. He would use the bridge wing controls to guide them away from the quayside once the mooring lines had been released by the dock workers ashore.

He gave the release command and they could see the stern lines being removed from the bollards on the quay and winched back on board on the overhead CCTV. Then, very slowly, they started moving away from the quay, allowing some slack on the anchor chain at the bow that had prevented the bow from swinging around. Using a remote control, Nigel raised the anchor while a crewman on the bow checked the anchor locker.
At the same time, the ships horn on the mast array above them blared loudly, three times, startling them all. Elizabeth, who was still with Ryan, jerked with fright and screwed up her face as she started to cry. Ryan cuddled and soothed her and she quietened down, laying her head on his chest. Nigel re entered the bridge and sat in his chair before grasping a joystick and moving it to the left. The bows slowly swung around until they were pointed into the channel and then he moved the chrome throttles forward and they started to move ahead. Nigel said something to Dan and he leaned forward and pressed a button on the console. The horn blared again, causing Elizabeth to burrow against Ryan and he kissed her small head, soothing her again. Andrew handed Cameron to Joan and he stood up and walked to Ryan and took Elizabeth from him, also kissing her and comforting her. He sat down again next to Joan and Cameron as they gathered speed and sailed slowly down the channel between the ships moored on either side.

As they sailed past, the other ships started blowing their horns, acknowledging their maiden voyage. Dan spoke to Ryan, and Andrew was just in time to cover Elizabeth's ears as her dad reached out and pushed the horn button in answer to the greetings around them with a happy grin on his face. They eventually reached the main channel to exit the busy harbour and soon after, they nosed out into the Ligurian Sea on a course that was roughly southeast and would take them past Elba, Giglio and Corsica, the calm blue seas stretching out ahead of the bows.

Once they were out to sea, everyone except the bridge crew returned to the Sky Lounge, where a table was being laid just outside the doors on the aft deck under the overhang.

"We've arranged a light lunch up here for 13h00. I think we have time to show you around before then. Follow me", said Joan.

She took them back down the stairs to their cabin deck and walked to the end of the companionway, past their cabin door, to another door at the end. She opened it and stepped in to the cabin ahead of them.

"Welcome to the master cabin", she said sweeping her hand around the room. Andrew stopped dead in his tracks, his jaw dropping.

The cabin was, in one word, awesome. It was more than twice the size of the VIP cabin, with full length windows spanning the entire width of the yacht and windows on the sides as well, fitted with electrically operated blinds and soft cream drapes. A sliding door in the centre of the forward facing windows opened onto a huge private owners sundeck with its own pool and sunbeds. The foredeck stretched out ahead of that with markings to allow for helicopter operations.

The room was furnished in a very similar fashion to the VIP cabin, with the bed also raised on a black plinth, a comfortable seating area, a desk with chair and two chaise longues. The big difference, however, was that there were no cupboards or lockers in sight. All the storage and packing space was in the his and hers dressing rooms, reached through doors in the bulkhead on either side of the headboard, which accessed the huge marble clad bathroom with a shower big enough for six.

On the sundeck, two lockers on either side played host to a wet bar and refrigerator in one and gas BBQ grill and sink in the
other. They admired the cabin and complimented Dan and Joan on how beautiful it was before she led them to the dining room they had seen earlier. It was, as with everything else, beautifully appointed as was the outside aft deck where a hot tub and more sunbeds were located, along with seating along the aft rail overlooking the pool. They used the exterior stairs down to the main deck aft

"This is the main deck. The pool has got a glass bottom that gives amazing light to the beach club below it. As you can see, there is a large dining table out here as well that we can shade with a retractable awning." She led them back inside to the main salon.

It was dominated by a huge, modern, U-shaped seating area in cream leather with scatter cushions in shades ranging from the palest of creams, to taupe and chocolate brown on a cream rug, surrounded by beech timber floors.
A large modern oil artwork hung on the central bulkhead between two small lobbies with cream leather upholstered doors. The coffee table was a piece of art in its own right, composed of three pieces of marble, one white with dark brown veining in an L - shape, and the other two pieces being brown
marble with black veining and the third being a cream marble with a glass top insert. It was all modular and fitted together like a puzzle. Two black lacquer tables stood behind the long sides of the seating area, one with a lamp, the other with a modern cubic sculpture. The full length windows, with sliding doors onto the side decks had blinds and electrically operated cream drapes. The room was modern, almost minimalist in appearance, but opulent and comfortable at the same time.

The door on the starboard side led into a small cinema with twelve leather upholstered seats while the door on the port side was for crew access to the galley and crew cabins.

They returned to the Sky Lounge where lunch was almost ready to be served and they were able to relax for a while having pre lunch drinks and feeding the twins. Lunch was a simple but very tasty smoked mackerel salad with fresh apple slaw and ciabatta, which was perfect for the hot weather. Andrew drank his new favourite drink, Limoncello and sparkling water, while Ryan had a beer with Dan and Joan drank white wine. The chef, Mark Taylor, came out after lunch to meet them and have a chat about their likes and dislikes.

"We'll both eat just about anything you put in front of us", Andrew told him. Just no funny stuff like liver or sheep's eyes. Stuff like that", which had them all having a good laugh. "And you'll make my husband very happy if you could include ice cream and pecan nut pie somewhere along the way".

"I promise, there will be no funnies. Just normal stuff. I must admit to feeling a bit intimidated cooking for you", he said, looking at Andrew. "Mrs Kinley has been raving about your cooking since they got back from Cape Town. She's even given me copies of the recipes you gave her".

Andrew grinned at him. "Have you tried any of them?".

He nodded. "I have actually. The malva pudding is amazing. And the pickled fish. The flavours are so unlike anything we have here in Europe. And milk tart. Absolutely love it. So much better than our custard tart".

"That's nice to know. And there is absolutely no reason to be intimidated. I'm very chilled about what I eat, as long as it's tasty, I'm a happy camper. And I think I can say the same for Ryan".

"Well, I hope you enjoy what we put in front of you. If you want anything special, let Kirsty know and I'll see if it's possible to do".

They thanked him and he returned to the galley to start prep for their first dinner on board. After lunch they took the twins to the cabin to sleep and walked around the decks exploring. Ryan had the baby monitor in his pocket, but they weren't sure how well it would work on board, but were pleased to hear Cameron start voicing his disapproval when he woke up to find neither of them around.

They hurried back to the cabin to find that Elizabeth had woken up as well and was also upset. They picked the infants up and pacified them before removing their used diapers and putting on bathing costumes, sunhats and sun protection cream and taking them for a swim in the pool, much to theirs and Joan's delight who was enchanted by the enjoyment the tiny tots got out of being in the water. They didn't stay in the pool long, not wanting to keep the babies in the sun for too long and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the sunbeds while the twins napped on a sunbed between them under the shade of a parasol.

They returned to the cabin with the sleeping tots in the late afternoon to wait for them to wake up before bathing and giving them their dinner. Andrew and Ryan managed to shower before the twins woke up and lay on the bed in fluffy white bathrobes watching satellite TV while they waited for them to wake and speculating about where their first stop might be as Dan and Joan had been very cagey about where they were heading.. All they knew is that they were sailing southeast, paralleling the west coast of Italy and werepresently between Elba and Corsica.

When Cameron and Elizabeth did wake up, they fed them first then bathed them and got them dressed for the night. Then they sat them on the bed while they got dressed for dinner which was being held in the owners deck lounge, the same deck they were on. They picked up the twins and they walked down the companion way.

Kirsty greeted them as they came in, just finishing at the table they were going to dine at that had been laid in front of the sliding doors to the aft deck which were closed due to a stiff breeze that had sprung up just after sunset. They were very gratified to see a playpen had been set up on the rug and had a thick soft mattress at the base.

"What can I get you to drink?", Kirsty enquired.

"Just a dry white wine for me", replied Andrew, "And a beer for me. Lager if you have", said Ryan.

She disappeared through the crew door and returned a few minutes later with their drinks. Andrew was elated when he saw the wine was a bottle of Southern Right Sauvignon Blanc, his go- to white wine.

"Oh wow, Southern Right! Where did you find it?" he asked in amazement.

She grinned at him.

"Mrs Kinley doesn't miss much. When they sailed with you, you told her this was your favourite white wine. So they arranged to ship a case from South Africa. There's a case of Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir in the cellar as well".

She moved to a concealed control panel and dimmed the lights, turning on some background music at the same time, before lighting the candlelamp on the table.

"Sit down and relax. Mr and Mrs Kinley will be here shortly".

They sat on one of the tan leather couches, keeping an eye on the twins and watching the lights of Italy in the distance. After a short while, a door closed in the companionway and they heard voices. Dan and Joan entered the room, greeted them and sat down.

"Ah, I see Kirsty has revealed my surprise", said Joan indicating the bottle of wine in the cooler..

"Yes, thank you. It was a surprise", said Andrew.

Kirsty approached with a gin and tonic for Joan and Scotch and soda for Dan.

"Chef says he will be ready in ten minutes", she told them, handing them printed menus.

Dinner was a three course affair, with a choice of two dishes for each course.
Hors d ' oeuvres was either an intense gazpacho made with a blend of fresh tomatoes and sundried tomatoes garnished with basil pesto and yogurt or a prawn, avocado and pink grapefruit salad with a hint of chilli. Andrew couldn't decide which one he preferred so he ordered the salad and a half portion of the soup. Ryan had the salad.

Entrées were a choice of pan seared sea bass or grilled beef tenderloin with a red wine reduction. Both were served with new potatoes and ratatouille. Andrew had fish, while Ryan had the steak.
Mark took Andrew's suggestion and had ice cream and pecan nut pie on the menu for dessert.
They had coffee in the lounge with Frangelico liqueur, catching up with one another and watching the twins sleep. They took the twins off to bed at 23h00 and were in bed themselves soon after.

When Andrew opened his eyes the next morning, the first thing he saw was a pair of blue eyes gazing at him They were both on their sides facing one another and he smiled sleepily at Ryan and whispered,

"What's wrong? Why you staring at me?"

"Nothing's wrong! Just watching you sleep and thinking how lucky I am to have you in my life. And those two little minxes next door".

Andrew reached out and caressed his face.

"I think I'm the lucky one. Heaven only knows where I would have been without you. I was in a pretty bad way after my parents died".

"Well, let's just say we are lucky to have each other then", Ryan replied.

"That's okay with me". Andrew lifted his head off the pillow. "We're not moving!"

"Yeah, we dropped anchor about thirty minutes ago. The change in movement woke me up. I wanted to get up and see where we are, but decided watching you was a much better idea".

Ryan hopped out of bed and peered out of the windows. He was looking into the rising sun, so it was difficult to see, but the yacht swung round slightly on its anchor and the view improved slightly.

"Ahha, if memory serves correctly, I think we are anchored off Capri, quite close to the Blue Grotto"

His words galvanised Andrew out of bed.

"I've always wanted to see the Blue Grotto", he said. "It's on my bucket list of things to do".

"Well, my love, it looks like you are about to tick it off today". Ryan glanced at the bedside clock. "It's still early though. Just past 6.30".

The words were hardly out of his mouth when they heard a sound from the adjoining cabin. They shrugged into bathrobes and moved to the interleading door. Cameron was moving around but not quite awake. Ryan was bent over the bed watching him when Cameron's eyes opened and gazed blankly at his dad for a moment before recognition dawned and he smiled up at at Ryan.

"Good morning my little man. How is daddy's boy? Did you have a good sleep?"

Cameron waved his arms about and Ryan gently picked him up, cuddling him against his chest, his face
on Ryan's shoulder. Cameron smiled again when he saw Andrew, and Andrew leaned forward and kissed his head.

"Hullo there, daddy's little boy.". He sniffed. "I think someone needs a fresh diaper"

Elizabeth woke just then with a little cry of protest, and Andrew picked her up as well, giving her a cuddle too.

"And our little girl is a bit whiffy too. Let's get you and your brother cleaned up shall we."

Ryan boiled water to make formula and put baby cereal into a bowl. He prepared the cereal by adding some of the formula and then he and Andrew fed the twins and gave them their bottles to drink while they got ready for the day.

Ryan opened the sliding door and stepped out onto the sidedeck, looking over the rail. There were several smaller yachts, both motor and sailing, anchored around them, as well as another, bigger, superyacht. Further away, he could see two cruise liners, one at anchor and one a little way off on approach to the island.
Looking down to the stern, he saw that the sides of the beach club had been deployed and one of the yachts tenders was just powering away heading for the small harbour. Ryan stepped back into the cabin where Andrew was just putting the harnesses on the twins, not without some protestation from them.

"I think it would be best if we went to the grotto early. It can get very busy and I see two cruise liners already. We won't see the grotto its best but if we wait until then, we're gonna have to wait to go in," he told Andrew.

"Well, I think we're about ready to go. Just have a quick breakfast and then we can be off."

They picked up the twins and everything else they thought they may need, and stepped out of the cabin. They met Kirsty as she stepped into the lobby from the staircase.

"Morning gentlemen. Did you sleep well?"

They both nodded and smiled at her. Ryan replied.

"Yes, thanks Kirsty. Very well indeed"

"Glad to hear it", she replied. "Breakfast is in the main dining room, so you don't have far to go" and led them aft down the companion way to the dining room. One end of the fourteen seater table had been laid for four and the remainder of the chairs had been removed and the rest of the table was used as a buffet area for jugs of fruit juice and cold milk, cereals, fresh fruit and fruit salad, yogurt, cold meats and cheese. There was also a selection of freshly baked croissants, scones and pastries, still warm from the oven.

"Help yourself to what you want. Someone will be out to take an order for your hot breakfast in a tick. Can I get you some tea or coffee?

They sat down after putting the twins into the playpen that was still set up from dinner.

"I'll have a pot of tea, just normal Ceylon. Ryan will have coffee. Thanks Kirsty"

She went through the crew door that, they had discovered, accessed a pantry and beyond that, the galley itself, and was back in a jiffy with the beverages. One of her assistants, Maryanne, came with her and took their order for the usual hot items from the galley. While they waited, Nigel walked in with young crewman.

"Morning guys. This is Jason. He will be taking you on your excursion today". He grinned at them. "Do you know where we are? he asked.

"I think we're just off Capri, near the Blue Grotto, if my memory is correct", Ryan answered.

"Your memory is right. It is Capri. Jason has already been ashore to get you entry tickets and I would advise that you leave no later than 10h30. so that you don't have to wait to go in. It's probably going to be a bit of a madhouse today with two cruise liners here as well"

As it turned out, they were ready to go at 10 and made their way down to the beach club to board the tender which was moored to the port patio. They stared around the beach club in stunned amazement. The huge room with its glass roof had been impressive when they boarded. But now, with the stern and both sides open, it was simply awesome. All the water toys were either floating at the stern or on the swim platform. Both patios were equipped with removable rails, sunbeds and parasols.

Nigel was waiting for them on the patio with life vests in his hand that he handed to them and two tiny ones for the twins as well and observed as they put then on. The twins looked adorable in the life vests, seeming to almost disappear into the devices. Nigel, and Jason who was already on the tender with the twin motors ticking over, assisted then on board and once they were settled, Jason tossed the mooring lines to Nigel, who gave them a push away from the yacht with his foot. Jason then slowly advanced the throttles and they moved away for a short distance before he powered away, heading for the famous grotto.

The tender was too big to take them in, so Jason had to secure the tender to one of the buoys provided and a wooden rowboat was brought closer, after a short wait, for them to transfer onto to take them into the cave. The boatman and Jason held the two boats close together as Ryan and Andrew stepped from one to the other, taking great care due to them having the twins with them. The boatman rowed them to the entrance and, and as it was just past high tide, they had to bend quite low to enter the cave.

As Ryan had predicted, it was still too early to see the grotto at its best, but the water still glowed eerily from the available sunlight and they spent almost ten minutes in the cave before they were rowed out again. Back on the tender, Jason took them ashore, mooring the tender at a jetty in the small harbour and guided then through the village, taking them to the best stores to shop in and get souvenirs. Ryan bought cheesy 'I love Capri' t-shirts for them including small ones for the twins and new sun-hats for the twins as well. They made sure that the babies were well protected with sun protection as well as keeping them covered as the sun was starting to really beat down and the temperature was climbing rapidly and they gave them cold diluted fruit juice to drink to keep them hydrated. The three men all sipped at bottles of mineral water and Jason showed them a tiny hole-in-the-wall that sold the best gelato either of them had tasted and they strolled back to the tender licking at cones of the ice cold confection, giving the twins a taste as well.

Jason opened up the throttles on the way back and the wind caused by their speed was a welcome relief from the heat and it did not take long to arrive back at their floating home, where they had a late lunch and then just chilled in the beach club for the rest of the day, using the jet skis and water scooters and taking the twins for a paddle in the warm ocean after Nigel agreed to lower the stern swimming platform below the water surface, The twins loved it but the expressions on their faces when they splashed salty water into their faces and tasted it were priceless and Andrew managed to capture it all on video.

In the late afternoon, they prepared to set sail once again and Andrew and Ryan were facinated observers as the crew made ready to close the stern and sides back up again, marvelling at the ingenuity and engineering that went into it. The twins were very tired little bunnies by then and quite fretful, so their dads took them to the cabin and they lay with them on the bed where they all eventually dozed off.

As Ryan started waking up, he was vaguely aware of a slight pressure on his chest and when he opened his eyes, he looked straight into his own eyes set into the tiny face of his son who was standing next to him, his hand in the middle of his dads chest to support himself, peering at him with a curious expression on his face. He heard a giggle and glanced sideways to find Andrew filming the scene, grinning like a Cheshire cat. When he looked at the little boy again, Cameron was smiling down at him and reach out to pull at Ryan's bottom lip

"That is the cutest thing I've seen in a long time. You should have seen the battle he had to get up on his feet. I'm amazed you didn't wake up sooner".

Ryan sat up, careful not to let him fall over and also not to wake Elizabeth, who was still sleeping and lifted the little boy up and let him stand on his stomach, holding his hands to support him as he was still very unsteady on his legs. Cameron bounced up and down on his dads stomach or rather, just flexed his knees, squealing with glee and a pleased smile on his face. The noise woke Elizabeth who decided she wanted to play as well and crawled to Ryan's side, pulling herself up on her legs and leaning against him.

He lifted Cameron off and put Elizabeth on his belly. He placed his hands around her waist and bounced her up and down making her widen her eyes and then smile as she decided she liked bouncing. They played for a while with Andrew joining in and then it was time to bath and feed them again. Then they showered and dressed for dinner which was on the Sky Deck aft.

The stewardesses had been busy, and the playpen had been moved up for them to put the twins into. Nigel came out of the bridge to chat and Dan and Joan arrived soon after. Kirsty offered them drinks and she went to the bar to pour them. Mark popped in to give them the menus for dinner and he also stayed for a drink, although he and Nigel both had soft drinks. Ryan turned to Nigel and enquired,

"So where exactly are we, and where are we headed?"

"We are currently sailing south southeast in the Tyrrhenian Sea heading for the Straits of Messina between the boot of Italy and Sicily. We'll transit the strait later this evening and round the bottom of Italy. Then we change course to the north east to cross the Ionian Sea during the night, and pass between Kefallonia and Zakynthos before making landfall on the Greek mainland at about 11h00 tomorrow morning near Araxsos. Then we pass Patra and go into the Gulf of Corinth to transit the Corinth Canal. Fromthere its three hours to Piraeus. I am planning to be off Piraeus at about 16h00 latest, to catch the Customs and Immigration people before they go home. We're going to push her tonight. We're currently at 15knots, that's just under 29km/h", glancing at Andrew and Joan, " and plan to maintain that speed all theway across to Greece".

Ryan nodded.

"I thought we were at speed. I noticed the hum of the engines was far more noticeable than before. Yesterday it was barely noticable".

"Yeah, we're gonna give the engines a good workout tonight", added Dan.

Dinner, once again was delicious. The hors d'oeuvres were an antipasto platter with salami, Italian meatballs, chargrilled squid, marinated artichokes and mushrooms, a ricotta and olive spread, roasted peppers, olives and baby tomatoes, served with freshly baked ciabatta. Andrew and Joan both drank Pinot Grisio and Dan and Ryan were drinking beer. Entrées were a choice of pan fried sea trout with a leek and caper sauce or scotch fillet steak with sundried tomatoes and olives. Both were served with rosti potato and green beans.
Dessert was Passionfruit pannacotta with mango or Cassata with a chocolate amaretto sauce.

After dinner they sat on the aft deck and watched the lights of Italy recede into the darkness as they set course across the Ionian Sea with the bows pointed at Greece. They went to bed that night in the knowledge that their Mediterranean meander would begin in earnest the next day.

Because the next day would be what the cruise lines referred to as 'At Sea', Andrew and Ryan lay in with the twins and had breakfast served to them in the cabin.

Orange juice, muesli parfaits with mixed berries and yogurt and creamy scrambled egg on toast with smoked salmon and chives, hash brown potatoes and grilled baby tomatoes, along with a basket of croissants and pastries and a pot each of coffee and tea. They finally appeared in the main salon in the mid morning, with the Greek Islands of Kefallonia and Zakynthos ahead of them and the mainland a faint smudge on the horizon beyond them. The weather was ideal, with cloudless blue skies, calm seas and a soft breeze that helped cool things down.

Nigel came to chat and told them that they were ahead of schedule, thanks to a favourable current that had given them an extra two kilometres per hour boost.

The rest of the morning was spent sunbathing and swimming in the pool and lunch was taken casually at the pool as well with Mark preparing a 'Build a Burger' bar with extras like bacon, sliced avocado and guacamole, onions in three guises - fresh rings, deep fried rings and onion marmalade, three different cheeses, sliced gherkin and pineapple. And plenty of French fries. It was messy, but tasted amazing, and a good time was had by all.

But the main event at lunch was their transit of the Corinth Canal.

Just under five kilometres long and twenty five metres wide at the base, it gave the impression that one of the ancient gods had taken a massive axe and driven it into the earth, carving out a ninety metre deep ravine between the Greek mainland and the Peloponnese, linking the Ionian Sea with the Aegean Sea. The maximum speed a vessel may travel at was six knots or just over eleven kilometres per hour. The transit took just over half an hour at a speed of just over ten kilometres per hour, and they dropped anchor off the port of Piraeus shortly after 15h00.
Nigel had radioed ahead to advise the authorities of their arrival and within minutes of dropping the anchor, a Customs and Immigration launch arrived at the port side beach club patio, that had been lowered, and the two officials who boarded were met by Nigel and escorted up to the Sky Lounge where everyone had gathered with their travel documents and where Dan had the yachts paperwork as well. After checking that all the documentation for the yacht was in order, they stamped all the passports reboarded their launch, and just like that, they were in Greece.

They didn't linger, and within minutes, Nigel had raised the anchor and they were nosing out of the very busy harbour, destination the island of Mykonnos, three hours away.

They sailed past the Temple of Poseidon, built 60 metres above the sea on a rocky crag at Cape Sounion and entered the Aegean Sea proper, their route taking them between the islands of Kea and Kythnos and round the top of Syros to Mykonnos where they dropped anchor just before 20h00, sailing at a sedate speed due to the amount of marine traffic around them

Mykonnos Town was lit up like a Christmas tree and the sounds of revelry and music carried over the calm water to the yacht.
Dinner had already started, but was interrupted by their arrival, and once the excitement had died down, they returned to the table. Mark had planned a Greek style menu to celebrate their arrival in Greece and the hors d'oeuvres had consisted of a selection of tasty Greek delicacies including taramasalata, spanokopita - spinach and feta pies in phyllo, tzatziki, tyropita - mini cheese pies, favokeftedes - Greek vegetable patties, keftethakia - Greek meat balls, grilled halloumi and, of course olives, marinated sundried tomatoes and pita bread.

The main course was served when they got back to the table with either roast lamb with garlic, lemon and herbs or a tomato based calamari stew flavoured with garlic, fennel, olives and herbs., which Andrew found to be utterly divine with the squid almost meltingly soft in the intensely flavoured sauce.
There could be no other dessert but baklava, but Mark did his best and produced Greek custard tarts as well.

They all went ashore in a tender the next morning after an early breakfast to explore the town, buy more souvenirs, add some T-shirts to their growing collection and take picture perfect photographs and videos, even getting as far as the old windmills on the hill overlooking the bay. The narrow lanes of the town were, however, extremely crowded, and they returned to 'Texas Lass' for lunch instead of eating on shore as had been planned and to find an anchorage that was quieter.

While they were having lunch, Nigel raised anchor and set sail around the island, investigating several potential spots along the way, before finally dropping anchor in Panormos Bay in the north of the island. There were several other boats at anchor in the bay, but it was big enough that it didn't feel crowded. The beach club was opened up, the water toys were deployed and they had fun in the sun, which both Andrew and Ryan got too much of and had sunburn at the end of the day. Even the twins, who had spent only a very short time in the sun, had a pink tinge to their delicate skins and both Andrew and Ryan were a little concerned that bath time might be a problem that evening.

As it turned out, the little ones did experience some discomfort, but they applied some cooling after sun cream once they were bathed and after being fed, fell asleep soon after and slept right through until the morning. The same couldn't be said for Andrew and Ryan who both had a difficult and uncomfortable night. There was no cuddling or spooning due to the sunburn and they slept only intermittently. They felt better the next morning after hot showers to take some of the sting out of the sunburn and liberal application of cooling cream. The twins seemed to be fine, but they resolved to stay out of the sun for the day.

Nigel set sail after breakfast, going round the top of Mykonnos and then turning south for the three hour leg to Naxos, once again negotiating heavy marine traffic, arriving just before lunch. Much to their disappointment, the island was teeming with other yachts and tourists.

Ferries raced past their anchorage with no regard for the comfort or safety of those on the yachts at anchor and after being rocked by the wakes of four passing ferries, Dan and Nigel chose to up anchor and find somewhere quieter. They cruised
south and rounded the bottom end of the island, then headed northeast and looked at Kalando Bay and further north, Parnormou Bay. Both were heavily populated with boats so the decision was made to skip Naxos and sail on to Paros, a smaller island a bit more than an hours sailing away.

They reversed course, sailing south until they cleared the bottom of Naxos, then turned almost due west to cross the lower end of the channel between Naxos and Paros. Ryan recalled an anchorage from his time in the Mediterranean and wondered if Nigel knew about it. He walked up to the bridge and knocked on the door.

"Permission to enter, Captain", he asked, respecting the etiquette of the sea. Nigel turned in his chair to grin at him.

"Permission granted. Not that you have to ask, Ryan. I'm not too fazed about it. What can I do for you?"

"I was wondering where you were considering dropping anchor? When I was in the Med originally, we used an amazing location on the southwest coast of Paros, at a place called Faragga. Do you know it?

Nigel called up a chart of Paros and stared at it. "No, to be honest, I don't. Do you recall where exactly where it was?", he asked.

"No, not exactly. I mean, I wouldn't be able to give you coordinates or anything like that. Can I have a look at the chart?, he asked, stepping up to the control console.

"Yeah, no problem. Let me just zoom in on that part of the coast. I might make things easier.", Nigel suggested.

Ryan studied the chart and pointed.

"There, just southeast of Alyki! Faragga Bay. On the charts, it just looks like a double headed bay. But there's an amazing, much better third bay to the east, called East Cove. It's literally only big enough for one yacht our size to anchor in, and it has its own beach and great snorkeling. There's not much room to swing, so we'll need to take a line onto the beach to hold us in place. If
no one is there, it would be a great place to drop anchor. It's very secluded".
Nigel studied the chart intently. "Okay, I'll have to admit I was not aware of it. I know you have a 1st Mate licence. Could you stay up here and guide us in?"

Ryan nodded, "Yeah, no problem. We'll just take it nice and slow".

As they approached the main bay at at Faragga, they were disappointed to see another yacht in East
Cove. They hove to to decide where they should go. Ryan was looking at the other yacht and noticed her profile was changing. She was moving.

"Hang on Nigel, we may be in luck. I think she's leaving", Ryan said, gesturing in the direction of the yacht.

Sure enough, she sailed out of the cove and turned south as though heading for Santorini. Nigel punched the air.

"Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. Let's get in there".

Keeping a very close eye on the chart, depth meter and echo sounder, Ryan and Nigel coaxed 'Texas Lass' into the cove and dropped the anchor. Then Ryan and Jason deployed a tender, took the line from the stern and ran it ashore to prevent the yacht from swinging round. The cove was almost perfect. Secluded on land and sea, protected on three sides from the wind and big enough just for them. The water was clear and the beach was white and sandy.

They stayed for two nights. Dinner on the night they arrived was a BBQ on the aft Owners Deck. Succulent steaks and giant prawns with baked potatoes and salads. Dessert was a New York baked cheesecake with a mixed berry coulis.

On the second night, after a day on the beach and the water, they boarded a tender with Joan, and with Dan at the helm, motored round the point, to the next bay along to the west and went to dinner at the Parosland Resort near the town of Alyki. The resort was home to a restaurant that specialised in Greek and Aegean cuisine with a modern twist. The menu at Elaionas was small, just five cold and six hot appetisers, s,ix entrées and three desserts. In the end, they ordered all eleven appetisers and lobster tails to share. It was delicious and a great representation of modern Greek cuisine. They only had two desserts.
Loukoumades - Greek donuts with chocolate and pistachio nuts and Galaktompoyreko - semolina custard wrapped in layers of phyllo, baked until crisp and golden and drenched in a clear sweet syrup. It was served with cherry ice cream.

They finally left the restaurant to return to the yacht at 16h00. It was a great, final day on 'Texas Lass'. The following morning they would sail south to Santorini where they would disembark and 'Texas Lass' would sail for home.

None of them were particularly hungry so Joan got Mark to make up a selection of sandwiches and leave them in the galley to be toasted if anyone got peckish later in the evening..
Then after putting the twins to bed in the cabin, Andrew and Ryan sat with their hosts and watched the latest Avengers movie on the big screen in the cinema, snacking on popcorn and helping themselves to drinks from the bar in the main salon and Mary Anne, who had volunteered to look after the guests, was asked to toast the prepared sandwiches which she served with French fries. Andrew and Ryan both felt it was the perfect way to spend their last night on board.

When they arrived on deck for breakfast the next morning, the stern line had already been recovered from the beach and they were being kept in position by the bow and stern side thrusters which were automatically compensating for the wind and current flow. The engines were also ticking over should they be needed. It was another perfect Mediterranean summers day and the seas were mirror flat. Out on the bay, a superyacht lay at anchor, presumably waiting and hoping they would be leaving soon. They would however, have to wait a bit longer as 'Texas Lass' only raised her anchor after breakfast for the four hour leg
to Kamari Beach on Santorini where the cottage was located.

Once again, they had to sail slowly due to the water traffic. Ryan had forgotten just how hectic the Mediterranean could get in summer. Ferries raced in every direction possible, not caring about the discomfort caused by their massive wakes, almost every island had a cruise liner either berthed in the harbour or anchored offshore. And then there were the hundreds of sailboats and motorised pleasure craft that dotted the seascape, often playing chicken under their bows.

It was mid afternoon when they arrived off the black sand beach at Kamari. Beach chairs were lined up on the sand like regimented soldiers and the beach was crowded.

Fortunately, the cottage was located in the corner against a hill that butted out into the sea, resulting in a small, secluded private beach. It could be accessed from the main beach, but due to it being at the far end away from all the restaurants, bars and shops, it stayed quiet. Nigel slowly backed up as close to the beach as he dared, which got the attention of the beachgoers, which increased when the beach club opened up to allow for the tender to be deployed and moored to transport the Devlin-Majors to the beach and several jetskis and kayaks launched out to the yacht to be inspected by curious tourists.

Andrew had contacted the letting agent, an expat from the UK, to meet them on the beach with the keys for the cottage and the motor vehicle that Andrew had arranged with him to hire for them to use for the duration of their stay. Their luggage had all been carried down from their cabin to the beach club and was being loaded onto the tender by Jason and another deckhand.

When the time came for them to board the tender, they thanked Nigel and Kirsty, the only other crew present, and Ryan discreetly handed Nigel envelopes that contained a generous gratuity for the crew as well individually marked ones for him, Kirsty, Mark and Jason.
Dan and Joan boarded the tender to go ashore with them and they handed their two precious little bundles to the older couple before boarding themselves. With Jason at the helm, they cast off and slowly motored away from the yacht, waving to the crew who were standing at the rail on the main deck.

Jason ran the tender up onto the beach so that the bow was well clear of the water and jumped out to secure the anchor on the beach sand making sure it was solid. Then he assisted them onto the beach and started unloading the luggage.

Andrew and Ryan, with Cameron and Elizabeth in their arms, approached the letting agent who was standing near the stairs from the beach to the cottage patio. He smiled widely as they neared him.

"Blimey, when you guys said you were arriving by yacht, I somehow thought it would be a small sailing yacht, not a bleeding great big fancy superyacht. You certainly know how to make an entrance. The entire town is going to be wondering who the celebs are"

They shook his hand and Ryan replied,

"I hate to disappoint them. Just ordinary people with very special friends", he said, looking at Dan and Joan.

Dan waved his hand,

"Just hang on there. These two own a luxury catamaran and a hotel in Cape Town. So not so ordinary".

"Well, you're still going to be the talk of the town for a day or two, especially amongst the locals. Let me show you around and get you settled".

"No need to give us a tour", said Andrew, "we've stayed here before. So we know where everything is"

"Oh yes, I had forgotten that". He led them up the three steps to the terracotta tiled patio and into the cool interior of the cottage, handed them the keys of the cottage and the car that was parked under the carport, said his goodbyes and left.

Ryan gave Cameron to Andrew and returned to the beach to help Jason with the luggage while Dan and Joan chatted to Andrew and had a look around.

The cottage was an L-shaped structure built in the cube shape typical of the regions architecture with the longer side, the two bedrooms and bathrooms built into the side of the hill, keeping it cool in summer and warm in winter. Floor to ceiling windows and sliding doors running the full length of the cottage opened onto the patio, with the main bedroom having direct access while the second bedroom was separated from the patio by a tiled passageway which opened out into the living area at the junction of the two sides. The patio was covered by a retractable awning supported by a frame made from creosote poles, over and around which grew bright pink bougainvillea, and four sunbeds, topped with striped blue and green cushions were placed on the patio tiles. The interior furniture was simple, but comfortable. The main bedroom had a queen size bed, a small seating area and en-suite bathroom, while the second bedroom was a twin with a shower, basin and toilet. The wall facing the passageway and patio contained a large window which provided natural light to the room. The living room was decorated in a typical beach house manner with a three piece, white rattan lounge suite upholstered in blue, cream, tan and sand stripes,
and a small four seater glass topped bamboo dining table. A wall unit housed the entertainment system
with a TV and a music system. The TV had a satellite feed. Ceiling fans turned lazily in all the rooms to cool the air.

There were two dressers containing linen and crockery and the small, but very well appointed kitchen had drawers with all the cutlery and utensils.

When they had viewed the whole cottage, Dan and Joan returned to the living area. Joan hugged them both, being careful not to crush the twins.

"Well, my darlings, it's time for us to get going. We have a long way to go. It was lovely seeing you and having you with us. I will miss you and these two little imps. Look after them".

Andrew smiled at her, feeling unexpectedly sad.

"Thank you both for inviting us and spoiling us. It really wasn't necessary and we appreciate it. And for the flight home too"
Ryan put his arm around Andrew and added,

"We had a fantastic time. We're going to miss you too. Have a good trip back. Keep in touch".

"Well, we'll see you at the end of the year", Dan told them "We're taking the family out on vacation for Christmas and New Year. We've already made reservations at the lodge and on 'Belle Catherine'. Can you put together a nice itinerary for us. We'll be in Cape Town for New Year and then five to seven days on board. Maybe up the other side this time".

Andrew grinned.

"That's great. We look forward to it. Ry and I will put something together for you and email it to you. Probably only after we get back home though", he said enthusiastically.

"You boys will be back home long before we are. From here we go back to Piraeus for two days to reprovision and clear out of Greece. Then we head for home, stopping off at Gibraltar and the Canary Islands then heading across the pond to Miami with a stop in the Bahamas. Four weeks in total."

They stepped back onto the beach, walking towards the tender where Jason waited to take them back to the yacht, which had swung round on her anchor and was now floating parallel to the beach, looking very elegant indeed. Joan kissed both babies on their heads, then pecked Andrew and Ryan on the cheek.

"Enjoy the rest of your vacation", she said and stepped into the tender with Jason and Ryan's assistance. They shook Dan's hand and helped him in as well and after Ryan handed Cameron to Andrew again, he gave the tender a hefty push off the beach and she floated free. Jason started the motors, turned her around and headed back to the yacht with Dan and Joan waving farewell. They stayed at the waters edge and watched as the older couple climbed the exterior stairs to the main deck and the beach club doors started closing, making the yacht watertight once again. The water boiled at her stern and she started moving away, her ships horn sounding three times. She picked up speed and they waved until she disappeared behind the point of the hill, her horn sounding again in a final farewell.
Andrew looked at Ryan, smiling wistfully.

"I feel so sad"

Ryan kissed him and smiled back.

"I know how you feel. They're very special people. But we'll see them at the end of the year. We'll have to include them in any arrangements we make'.

They turned and walked back up to the cottage, arms around each others waists. They settled the twins on the bed in the main bedroom, giving them some juice to drink, and collected the luggage from the patio and started unpacking. They completed the task surprisingly quickly and as it was still light, decided to take a drive to the supermarket in Kamari for some extra supplies.

They grabbed the twins and their baby seats and their wallets, locked up the cottage and walked to the car under the carport,
amazed that it was a it bigger than what they had expected.

The grey BMW 5 - series was not a new model, but was spotless and well cared for. They were pleased to see that the gas tank was full. Ryan quickly fitted the seats and they secured the twins and got in themselves. It started first time and Ryan reversed out of the property into the narrow cul-de-sac that the cottage was in. It was a short five minute drive to the small town where every second store seemed to be either a restaurant or a bar, all doing a roaring trade. They found the supermarket quite easily, parked the car and entered the store taking two trolleys so that the twins could sit while they shopped. Andrew was in his element as he explored the shelves with all their unfamiliar brands and ingredients. By the time they reached the checkout line Andrew's trolley was half full including meat, chicken and fish for meals and all the ingredients to make the dinners he had planned in his head while shopping, with the idea of eating out or getting take out every alternate night.
There were also a lot of treats like ice cream and containers of baklava and cheesecake. And items for breakfast.

The week on Santorini was a very relaxing one, although they did not spend all their time on the beach atthe cottage. They made several trips to various tourist sites around the island including a day trip to the Minoan ruins at Akrotiri, caused when more than half the island disappeared into the sea when the volcano erupted in ancient times, leaving the crescent shaped island we know today, with its west coast overlooking the caldera of the volcano.

On another day they drove across the island to the main town of Fira and then followed the coast road north along the rim of the caldera all the way to Oia, an exclusive, very picturesque village on the north coast. They walked the narrow lanes of the village with its whitewashed cuboid buildings with some walls painted in vibrant reds and blues. They had planned their arrival in the village to be there for sunset, reputed to be the most spectacular in all of the Cyclades islands and they were not disappointed. They drove back to the cottage along the top of the island and then down the east coast arriving back when it was already dark. It was one of the nights they had take out for dinner.

They also went out for dinner one night to celebrate Ryan's birthday. In a small taverna on the beachfront, with a soft breeze and moonlight shining in a golden path across the calm sea, they ate spanokopita, and a simple, but unbelievably tasty moussaka with Greek salad and pita bread and a refreshing lemon mousse for dessert.

On their final trip, they spent the morning at Santo Wines, a winery on the west coast with amazing views of the caldera. Andrew, as the family wine expert, proceeded to taste every wine on the estates product list and ultimately placed an order for seven cases of wine, a sparkling rosè, two dry white wines, an off dry rosè, two red wines and a case of Vinsanto, a sweet, deep amber hued, dessert wine, made from sundried grapes. He arranged for the wines to be shipped to The Dorchester in London to await their arrival and the flight home. Back at the cottage, they took the twins for a late afternoon swim in the Mediterranean and then got to packing for their flight the next day to Athens and Paris.

They had just finished packing the luggage into the BMW when the letting agent arrived to drive them to the airport, so that he could return the car. Ryan sat up front with him, while Andrew sat between the twins, turning himself into a pretzel to get into the rear seat around the baby car seats. The drive was short, with the airport located near the town of Thira, slightly north and inland of Kamari.

With the twins in the chest harnesses, they checked in at the Aegean Airlines business class counter for their 11h35 flight to Athens International, landing at 12h20. Then they had a two hour connection for their Air France flight, departing at 14h25 and arriving at Paris Charles De Gaulle airport at 16h55, with a one hour time difference. There was no business class lounge at Santorini, but the airline gave them food and beverage vouchers to use in the small food court. The airport was teeming with people and they both decided that Santorini was a much nicer place in winter when it was quieter.

The boarding call for passengers travelling with children was made, so Andrew and Ryan stepped up to the gate to board. In the absence of boarding bridges, they walked the short distance across the tarmac to the plane and climbed the stairs to the door. They were the first business class passengers to board and a very friendly, helpful flight attendant got them settled in their seats and provided seat belt extentions for the twins. While they waited for the rest of the passengers to board, the stewardess brought them facecloths and ice cold orange juice to drink and apple juice for the twins. From what they could gather, the flight was almost full, with only a few seats remaining in business class. They took off towards the south before turning 180°, giving them a superb view of the entire island and caldera as they climbed to their cruising altitude heading north. They touched down at Athens International forty five minutes later and hurried tothe Air France check in counters. Their Mediterranean meander was over.
As Greece and France are both Schengen countries, it was not necessary for them to pass through customs and immigration. But their Schengen visas had to be checked before they could travel to Paris. They were given access to the business class lounge, but before they could go there, Ryan was on a mission. To find out if Sister Katerina was still at the airport chapel.

Copyright © 2020 Andre Delport; All Rights Reserved.
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Awesome chapter. A great European trip for Andrew and Ryan, with great friends and good food. Those meals sounded absolutely amazing.

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Awesome chapter, an amazing boat to sail around in. A great holiday to spend with friends and now onto the rest of their journey in The UK

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Great story, but I am amazed my children (now late 30s) survived without the level of attention Cameron and Elizabeth get!  And the little vignette about the wine on the boat; one reason I avoid telling people my "favourite" foods, drinks, flowers etc, as suddenly thats what you are offered, instead of being able to try the new and different!

I liked the descriptions of the islands. They can be very touristy, but as our heros discovered every now and again it is possible to discover the quiet, the calm and serene spots that make for perfect memories!


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Thanks for the great chapter of the Mediterranean. Some of the dishes they had , I loopt up for the recipe’s to make my self. Now for the next days of their vacation 👍🏻👍🏻🥰👨‍👨‍👦‍👦

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