Joe just asked me if I’d gotten any water. No, Joe. I got coffee.
We were maybe going to try to get up early and hit a beach yesterday but that didn’t really happen. We would have been hurried anyway, no sense in being rushed at the beach. Instead we were very on time for our boat adventure at 1300. So on time that we squeezed in a quick breakfast.
We got weird breakfast crepes and I got a filter coffee that came in a tiny french press and now I’m wondering if that’s what they’ve meant by filter coffee this whole time but I doubt it.
We walked around near where our boat was supposed to launch killing time. Employees were stationed by a sandwich board still signing people up for Captain Nick’s boat tour.
Joe had located Captain Nick on a google search of things to do in Chania. The good captain advertised a guided snorkeling trip with a 90% chance of finding an octopus. Those seemed like good odds so we booked in advance. On the board, Nick is depicted enlisting the help of a small child to free himself from the iron grip of a giant octopus so we knew we’d made the right call.
“Look,” Joe said. “It takes you to a fish show.”
“What a deal. Snorkeling and live music.”
We walked over and checked in with the dude near the board.
“Hi! We’re here for the fish show.”
“Nothing. We’re Joe and Devin. We’re on the list.”
Uhhh, sir. Are you aware that your sign clearly advertises a FISH SHOW? He checked us in and asked us where we’re from. We told him New York and LA.
“Ohhh, east coast west coast. Biggie and Tupac.”
Yep. That’s us.
The boat pulled in and let a load of tourists back onto dry land.
Then came the next bunch, us. We were loaded onto cushioned benches along the gunwales. Nick came aboard last and began his comedy routine. Nick is pretty funny and he’s clearly been doing this for a long time. He speaks with a heavy but understandable accent. His beats are polished. Before we had even left the dock, a woman asked to use the toilet. Nick held out his cupped hands. Good one, Nick. He instructed the woman to use the bathroom at one of the restaurants since we were still, you know, docked. Once she returned, we got underway.
He informed everyone that if they were going to get sick, not to do it over the side because the wind would carry it back onto the boat. He also told us not to go down to the bathroom, but to use the plastic bags that his crew would provide. He made fun of people’s understanding of the English language. He told the Dutch family that they better not get seasick since they were descended from Vikings. He told the parents that the kids didn’t need lifejackets because in the event of an emergency he, Nick, would save them. He got them lifejackets anyway.
“That’s the blondest kid I’ve ever seen.” Joe said.
We chugged out to an island off the coast of Crete. We stopped briefly over what Nick told us was a downed WWII aircraft so we could observe it through the glass bottom, but it really didn’t look like much more than some sea trash. We were too close to it to even get a sense of the shape of the plane. All I wanted was a sense of the shape. Nick made a joke about it not really being a plane but some garbage they put out there to fool the tourists. Not funny, Nick. That one hits a little too close to home.
We circled the island which, Nick told us, is home to 120 endangered goats. He pointed out what he thought was maaaaybe a goat but nobody else could really see it. Swing and a miss on those goats. There were some old fortifications on the island as well as some wheeling brown falcons but that was about it. Joe grabbed me by the shoulder.
“What is it, a goat?”
“Nah, I think blondie’s gonna yack in that bag.”
Sure enough the blonde kid had his face halfway in a blue plastic bag. He didn’t look good. Then he seemed to recover, pulled his head out and laid back against his mom. We went back to looking for goats. All of a sudden I see a bunch of people leap into action. The deed had been done. Blondie erupted. A crewman was wiping things up with a shirt, the mom was one-handing a turgid blue sack while trying to sooth the child, the dad was wobbling towards the side of the boat, his cupped hands held out in front of him. Huh, I guess that kind of was the toilet. The kid looked pretty chill. Probably felt great.
We arrived at the small island beach where we would be snorkeling and hanging out for two hours. We were all given equipment and instructed on its use then turned loose for a half hour of independent snorkeling before Nick would lead the guided snorkeling. He asked me if I would go down to the bottom and free the mooring line which was caught under a rock. Aye aye, Cap’n. I did as instructed and he told me I could have one extra free beer. I didn’t take the beer, but I do now consider myself part of Nick’s crew.
The snorkeling was good. There weren’t a ton of fish but there were definitely some cool fish. Not like, tropical fish cool, but decent fish. Some colorful ones. Joe and I saw a big school along the bottom that flashed reflected silver when they turned. I tried to dive down and find an octopus on my own but no such luck.
When it was time for Nick to lead the guided swim, about ten of us gathered in the shallows and listened to his instructions. Stay close to Nick. That’s about it.
“OK! Less go see if we can fine you some inheresting creechures.”
He snorkeled a little ways and then stopped to show us a WWII shell that was in the shallow water. It was cool. Big bullet. Then Nick swam out into deeper water.
I was trying to follow as best I could, splitting time between looking down and looking along the surface so I didn’t lose the group. Below us was nothing. All I could see was rocks about 15 feet down. There definitely weren’t any octopi. I started to doubt the 90% number. Nick swam for a little longer and then stopped. We all popped up.
“OK! Down there is octopus.”
He explained that the octopuses climb into little holes in the rocks and then use smaller rocks to close the opening of the holes. It’s these small octopus doors that he looks for.
“Now less see if the octopus will be difficult to remove.”
He dives straight down to the bottom with the 10 of us bobbing on the surface watching him. He moves a couple of rocks and then takes a chopstick and starts poking around in a hole. That’s all we can see. He lets go of the chopstick, which starts a slow ascent, and swims back to the surface.
“OK! Now you see how the octopus is difficult to remove. Lemme try again see if I can get im.”
He dives back down, grabbing the chopstick on his way. Showoff.
He goes back to jabbing at the hole. We’re all watching him jab at a hole. I start to wonder if maybe we all paid 25 euro each for no goats and to watch a grown man poke at a muddy rock with a chopstick. I think maybe I see the tip of a tentacle and then WHOOSH! I big cloud of ink envelops Nicks whole upper body and the next instant he’s swimming up to the surface with a fuckin’ octopus in his hand, the chopstick in his teeth.
“WHOOOAAAA!” We all say through our snorkels.
I’m kind of floored at this point. I mean I know he said he would find one but the doing of it was way more impressive than I thought it would be. Nick is a pro.
He swims back towards the beach, taking a quick detour, avec octopus, to show us some sea urchins. When we get back to the beach, he brings the kids over and gives them all a thrill by showing them this incredible animal. Most of them touch it. He sticks it to the german kid’s chest. Some of them are a little freaked out but they loved it. EVERYONE loved it. I mean it was beautiful. It wasn’t huge but it was so great to see up close.
We all said our goodbyes and Nick put the octopus back in the water until the next boat tour when he catches it again. I hope the ‘pus gets a cut.
We hung out on the beach for a little while longer shooting the shit with Nick. He told us about all the trees he’s planted on the island and how these days there are less fish and sea life in general. He’s been doing this for 25 years and you can tell how much he cares about the ecosystem here. Eventually we all got back on the boat and headed back to Chania, the thing with the plane and the goats forgotten. We are big fans of Nick now.
Didn’t really get a fish show and we never did see anything through that glass bottom boat.
We went back to the spot and had a light snack of ketchup chips and a mini-mart sandwich. We also did laundry which was a little complicated because I bought hand detergent at first, exchanged it for the right stuff using sign language, then we set the washer on the Allergy Free cycle which takes, no kidding, 2 hours and 45 to complete. We stopped it after 2 and hung our clothes out on the rack to dry.
We went to dinner at another recommended restaurant. We took one bike which Joe didn’t like because he was getting too much wind in his eyes. When we got there we ordered the Cretan Dakos cheese on rust with tomato. I mention this first because it was the best dish. That cheese was insane. We wanted to order a fresh fish and when we asked the waiter about the catch of the day he told us it would be better if we came and looked at what he had available. Joe went with him.
“Pick us a nice one!” I yelled.
He selected a mackerel.
“Seemed like a good fish.” he said.
“Sounds good to me.” I said.
“What was I supposed to do there? How’s a person supposed to pick a fish by looking at a fish?”
“I have no idea. I’m sure you did fine.”
He did fine. The fish was tasty and bony but hey, it’s a fish. We also ordered fried snails because why not. They were tasty but there were way too many of them. We ate about half and then Joe started spooning some of the uneaten snails into the shell discard bowl so it would look like we’d eaten more than we had.
“Tell me this is a bad idea. You can’t because it’s a great idea.”
“You don’t want any more?”
“No I just want more wine and to feel the wind in my eyes.”
After they cleared the plates, they brought the inevitable bottle of raki. They serve it as a digestif but it’s a bottle with like six shots in it.
“Hey here’s a little something to help you digest. It’s called Getting Super Drunk, you’ll love it.”
Dinner done, we went back into old town Chania because we thought we’d found a bar with a dart board. We found the bar but the board was over some tables and the name of the bar had been changed from Dylan’s Irish Pub to something in Greek. It was also humid and deserted. I’ve never seen Joe turn away from a dartboard that fast.
“They seem to have gone through a rebranding.”
We walked a little more thinking maybe we would go out, but then we peer pressured each other into going home and going to sleep. I’m so proud of us.