|CAPTAIN ZIGGY AND THE CRAZY HORSE|
by Willard Manus
The Crazy Horse cruised into Lindos, giving a wild cry that reverberated across the harbor, hit the cliffs and bounced back and forth, piercingly. We rushed down to the water's edge to greet the boat, a small, brown-and-yellow catamaran whose billowing sails showed more patches than a clown's costume. The rest of the boat showed equal wear and tear: peeling paint, salt-stained decks, sagging shrouds. But the captain, a small, bare-chested, sun-baked man standing in the bow over the tiller, manuevered the craft deftly, bringing her to rest without benefit of crew or engine. When Crazy Horse was safely tied up, the captain raised a conch shell to his lips and gave another unearthly blast on it, announcing himself with a sound that suggested the mating cry of a pteterodactyl.
Zygmunt Zerdzicki was the captain's name and he was Polish, from
Warsaw, and he had built the 26-foot catamaran himself, in the basement
of his apartment building, later shipping it overland to Trieste, where
he had launched the craft in the early 70s. Ziggy had been sailing the
Aegean every summer since, going from Greek island to island in
carefree, hippylike fashion. Most of the time he had sailed alone,
though occasionally his wife or daughter joined him for brief stays.
Not only did Crazy Horse not possess an engine, it had no electronic
equipment of any kind either--neither radio nor depth- finder, not even
a compass or barometer. Ziggy sailed by eye and instinct, much like the
captains of old, braving the elements, challenging whatever the nautical
Gods had in store for him.
Back in Warsaw, Ziggy financed his Aegean summers by painting portraits
of the American wild west of his imagination: cowboys and indians, wagon
trains, wild horses and buffaloes. Hence the name of his boat and the
panel of cavorting steeds which adorned the twin hulls of the catamaran. Ziggy also raised pocket money by setting up an easel on Greek waterfronts and doing tourist portraits and silhouettes. He fed himself by catching small fish with a line or basket. Food, though, was nowhere nearly important to him as alcohol, which he consumed in industrial quantities, any kind of firewater from vodka and ouzo to wine and whiskey.
Over dinner, Ziggy explained the drinking habits and needs of the average Pole. We conversed in a mixture of broken English and Greek. "Vodka rationed in my country," he said. "Can buy only two bottles a month, but most Poles get extra one by drinking a bukali while shopping at market.
"Not possible to buy vodka before two in afternoon," he added.
"Without this law, Poles would be too drunk to do any work." Ziggy
admitted to having been spent time in numerous state drying-out
sanitariums. "Was very nice, out in countryside" he recalled happily.
"Government pay everything: room, three good meals, orea fagita, was
like being on vacation."
Under communism, Ziggy could only buy limited amounts of foreign
currency when he left Poland; hence his inability to afford any kind of
expensive equipment for the Crazy Horse. "Dhen birazi, doesn't matter,"
he reassured me. "I am good capitanos, like to sail, don't need engine
"How can you navigate without a compass?" I asked him.
"Is easy," he replied. "Poli efkolo. In Greece, you can always see one
island or another, not like Pacific or Atlantic with nothing in sigt for weeks. Can't get lost in daytime."
Ziggy's most memorable time in Greece came when he was on Crete, about
ten years ago. On the waterfront of Hanea he picked up a stray puppy, a
scrawny little mutt that he judged to be a bastard German shepherd.
"Dog was very sick with worms, wouldn't eat," he said. "I give him olive
oil to drink, he throw everything up and feel better, fai kala after that."
Because of his long neck, Ziggy called the dog Leka--Polish for stork.
"Leka smartest dog in world," he said. "We sail together for many years. What stories I could tell you."
As the night wore on, Ziggy began to wax rhapsodic about Leka. "One
time we sail between Crete and Santorini, very big storm come up, a
fortuna from Africa."
Ziggy sought shelter from the raging sea by putting in at a tiny, uninhabited island. There was no proper harbor here, just a kind of inlet in the cliffs which was semi-protected by a mushroom- shaped stone clump. Ziggy skilfully manuevered Crazy Horse into the inlet and dropped anchor behind the clump, which was taking the full force of the savage, 10-foot-high waves. Because the winds and the sea kept shifting, Ziggy had to keep moving Crazy Horse this way and that behind its meager buffer.
The fortuna kept pummeling them, day and night, for several days. By
then their fresh water supply began to run out. Soon there was nothing
left to drink. Because Ziggy could not chance leaving the boat, he had
to depend on Leka for help.
"I swear what I say is true," he said. "I show Leka empty water bottle and say him, 'Go find water, Leka.' He look at me and understand. I pick him up and put him ashore. About misi ora later, he come back, stand on cliff, barking. I climb up with water bottle, follow him to little chapel, built by some sailor, probably, where there is well filled with sweet rain water!"
Ziggy's time with Leka was cut tragically short one summer when the dog
ate poisoned meat put out by village police trying to control a burgeoning cat population. "I find him swimming round and round in circles near Crazy Horse," Ziggy said. "I pick him up and give him whole bottle of olive oil to drink. He throw it up again- -but was too late, poison kill him, he die in my arms, saddest day of my life."
Ziggy made Lindos a regular stop on his Odysseus-like wanderings around
the Aegean. I looked forward to seeing him every summer and catching up
on his news. I also enjoyed watching him in action with the British and
Scandinavian women who filled the village's streets and bars in ever-increasing tourist numbers. It wasn't easy for Ziggy to score. After all, he was in his 60s, was small, wiry and grizzled, and spoke a badly mangled English. But that didn't stop him from trying: every night he would make the rounds of the clubs, looking for unattached females, hitting on one after another only to be rebuffed, sometimes impolitely.
Imagine my surprise, though, when Ziggy finally got lucky. I was sitting at midnight at the fisherman's beach, sharing a bottle of wine at Pallas Taverna with my wife, when Ziggy came down the hill from the village with a young, blonde girl on his arm. The girl was not just young but beautiful and shapely.
"Surely she can't have the hots for Ziggy," my wife said.
"She's probably a keen sailor who wants a look at his home-made
catamaran," was my take on the situation.
Ziggy helped the girl aboard. They sat in the cockpit for a while,
illumined by the warmly glowing moonlight. Then they went below.
There was a solitary dim light in the salon; then it went out. All was
silent and dark for the longest time. We sipped our wine and watched
the Crazy Horse swinging about on its anchor line. Finally, Ziggy came
back out on deck, clad only in a kind of loin cloth, and stood astride
the cockpit, conch shell raised to his lips.
Framed against the moon and the star-filled Greek sky, Ziggy sounded
his barbaric yawp over the harbor, one of the Great God Pan's reveling