This web page contains the logs of the first leg from a thirty seven day sailing trip that I took with S/Y Thetis around the Greek Aegean. The leg lasted ten-days and it was from the island of Samos in Eastern Aegean to the island of Santorini in the Cyclades. Islands visited on the way are: Agathonisi, Marathi, Patmos, Levitha, and Amorgos. I started the trip from Samos by myself but a few days later, in Patmos, I was joined by my friend Professor Andonis Ephremides with whom last summer we had sailed in the Black Sea. He stayed with Thetis until Amorgos after which I continued the trip solo. At Santorini I met with the S/Y New Life and my friends from Turkey, Turgut and Arzu Ayker.
The logs are illustrated with maps and photographs, and also include some historical and geographical descriptions of the places visited as well as several links to other related web sites.
Tuesday August 22, 2000, Day 1
First thing in the morning I took my daughter Corinna and her bicycle to the airport. She was on her way to South Africa where she will stay for one year to study the effect of drought on succulent plants. She will be attached to the University of Stellenbosch under a Fulbright scholarship.
After seeing Corinna off, I went back to Kalami and packed. I then took a taxi to Poseidonio and boarded Thetis. I installed myself and prepared the boat for her next trip. By the time all was ready it was late in the day and since my brother Nikos was not yet ready to leave with his Faneromeni I decided to spend the night at Poseidonio and depart in the morning.
Rozina still had her car and taking advantage of it we (Nikos, Rozina, Naxos, and I) drove to Paliokastro (a village inland) for dinner. During the night there were a lot of mosquitoes.
Wednesday August 23, 2000, Day 2
The Faneromeni’s crewman, Samile, helped me to raise the heavy fisherman’s hook anchor which we left behind in Mr. Karapanayiotis’ house. I do hope to find it next year.
During the past two weeks the weather had been very windy with NW winds of force 7 and 8. Today’s Navtex forecast called for winds of only 5-6 force in the Samos Sea.
Thetis left Poseidonio, Samos at 1140. Destination Agathonisi because I did not want to travel a great distance and wanted to be at a place with a good GSM signal so that I can hear from Corinna that she had arrived safely in South Africa. Also, I wanted to hear from Andonis Ephremides who was due to arrive in Athens yesterday and will be joining me aboard Thetis for a few days, most likely on Friday.
Near Samos, the wind was 5-35 knots NE but later changed to 12-25 knots NW. We motor-sailed until the wind changed and then sailed with both sails. It was a pleasant sail other than that I was forced to keep the motor running to charge the batteries and supply the watermaker with electricity so that it could replenish the fresh water tanks. The fuel on the fuel tank was running low but I planned to stop in Patmos and top the tank and avoid siphoning from the spare jerry cans.
We arrived in Agathonisi at 1530 having sailed most of the 19.3 M. I anchored in the first W cove [37° 27.2' N 026° 57.7' E]. Very nice place and I had it all to myself. I snorkeled and scraped the bottom of Thetis that had accumulated some weeds and barnacles during her stay at Poseidonio. The zodiac was slowly deflating but I could not locate its leak.
I heard from Corinna. She was safe at Stellenbosch. Also, Andonis called. He will fly to Samos and then take the hydrofoil and meet me on Friday in Patmos.
Before leaving Kalami, I cooked several cutlets and individually wrapped them in tin-foil. This is a good trick, because this way they keep well in the refrigerator for several days. Now I cooked a pasta and a piquant sauce for a cutlet and had a wonderful dinner. As the moon-rise was late, I had a wonderful view of the starry sky. I fired my Macintosh iBook computer and run the MPjAstro program that shows a picture of the sky as seen for a given time and location. I was thus able to identify many constellations and some planets.
The night was pleasant but gusty. No mosquitoes!
Thursday August 24, 2000, Day 3
After lifting the zodiac, I raised the anchor and left Agathonisi at 0915 heading for Marathi, a small island just W of Arki. The wind was a rather gusty 18-30 knots from the NW. I raised the main and reefed it at the 2nd reef and then opened about 30% of the headsail. Nice fast sail. Later the wind changed direction to WNW and diminished to 5-7 knots and I was forced to motor-sail for about 5 M. Then it changed again to 15-18 knots, NW and after opening some more of the headsail we sailed the rest of the way.
After sailing a total of 17.1 M we arrived at Marathi (Μαράθι) [37° 22 N 026° 43.6' E] at 1230. Here the two restaurants have laid some moorings. I caught one and was done in no time. This is too easy! The Navtex forecast called for increasing winds, but since I was close to Patmos where I am to meet Andonis tomorrow, I anticipated no problems.
The cove is a bustling place. All afternoon boats of all descriptions came and went: sailboats, fast inflatables, caïques, day-trippers from Patmos, and small cruisers. Yet the place is surprisingly pleasant and quiet. The island has a nice beach with 2 houses renting rooms, 2 restaurants, and 3 tents.
I spent a quiet afternoon cleaning the boat and reading under the tent. I finished the large Michener’s book The Convenent set over several centuries at South Africa and I started a new book: Ευτυχισμένος που έκανε το ταξίδι του Οδυσσέα - Happy he who made the voyage of Odysseus (in Greek) by Marianna Koromila. It is the story of a Greek man born in Russia, by the Black Sea, who spends his life wandering until finally he settles in Romania where he becomes a very successful businessman but political events force him to become an impoverished refugee in Athens.
Later in the evening, after a hot shower, I went ashore and had a long walk. After that I had a good dinner at the Marathi restaurant owned by Mr. Michalis. The Marathi is on the W side of the cove the other restaurant the Pantelis is on the E side. While eating I met an attractive Greek family consisting of a father, a mother, and two daughters aged 5 and 8. They had come from Kalymnos in their tiny caïque The Nomiki named after the oldest daughter. They were unusual because one meets Greek cruising families so seldom.
Friday August 25, 2000, Day 4
Right after sunrise I went ashore and took some photographs. I had a slow start and did not manage to cast off until 0950, after raising the dinghy. The wind was a brisk 20-30 knots NNW. I raised the mainsail, still on its 2nd reef, and opened 30% of the headsail. We had a fast close-reach sail doing better than 7 knots all the way to the entrance of the harbor.
Thetis arrived at Skala, Patmos [37° 19.5' N 026° 33' E] at 1140, 11 M. The gusts were so strong, over 26 knots, and I decided not to risk docking at the fuel dock all by myself but to wait for Andonis and dock when there will be more hands. The same thinking applied to docking at the quay. So, I anchored off instead. I always prefer anchoring off anyway because this avoids the noise from the harbor activities.
I launched the dinghy and put up the tent. I then had my lunch consisting mostly of a salad from the wonderful ripe tomatoes from Kalami. I spent the afternoon doing a number of repairs. First I removed the engine water pump. It looked OK and I could not see that it leaked from its flange. It must had leaked from its axle and bushing. I did not want to open it. So I re-installed it. The zodiac continued to leak. I suspected the valves. I coated them with soap water but still I could not find the leak. Finally I looked at a cabinet door whose hinge was stuck. I oiled the hinge and will wait.
As the time that the hydrofoil “flying dolphin” was due from Samos, I went ashore to wait for it. At 5 PM sharp, she did arrive right at the scheduled time. Andonis looking very sporty came out of the hydrofoil and before going back on Thetis we had a coffee. As soon as we went aboard, Andonis installed himself and soon it seemed that he had never left Thetis since our last trip.
In the evening we went ashore and had a reasonably good dinner at the Loukas restaurant consisting of roasted chicken and lamb on the spit.
Saturday August 26, 2000, Day 5
Both Andonis and I got up fairly early after a good night’s sleep. We went ashore while it was still early and cool and did some light provision shopping. After we returned aboard Thetis we raised the zodiac and lashed it on top of the deck. We then raised the anchor and moved Thetis to the fueling dock and started re-fueling. Unfortunately, due to an operator error (mine) there was some overflow and spillage on deck. We scrubbed with water and detergent which disperses the oil and very little oil actually fell overboard but it was close. All together we took 80 L of diesel fuel.
We departed from Skala at 1045. We had not gone more than a minute from the dock when, as I was taking down the fenders, I noticed an unusual amount of white smoke from our exhaust. After looking more closely it was clear that no water was coming out. I immediately shut down the motor and investigated while Thetis was drifting at the entrance of the harbor and Andonis kept an eye for traffic. The drive belt had slipped from the water pump pulley. I quickly fixed it. A disaster had been averted, but it was close.
After leaving the harbor, we raised the main sail, still on its 2nd reef, and motor-sailed because I wanted to make some fresh water with the watermaker. Our destination was the small island of Levitha after which our plan was to go to Amorgos. After reaching the southernmost point of Patmos we shut off the engine and opened the genoa, but the wind was dying out. We had started with 22 knots NW but it had shifted to WNW and was already down to 10-12 knots. The genoa was flapping, so we deployed the spinnaker pole to keep the sail open. But after a few minutes the wind increased and we were forced to take down the pole. Nevertheless, we had a nice sail doing better than 6.5 knots, and sometimes 7.3 knots, all the way to Levitha.
We arrived in Levitha [37° 00.1' N 026° 28.1' E] at 1520 having sailed most of the 24.4 M. We caught one of the laid moorings without wasting any time. There were several boats already there: a Belgian, a Swedish, and an Austrian. We had a very pleasurable swim.
In the evening we had an ouzo in the cockpit while watching the sunset. We then went ashore and walked to the Kamposos’ compound to have dinner at their wonderful little restaurant. We were not disappointed. They had a young kid goat stuffed and baked in the wood-burning oven. It was divine. We ate it along with a salad garnished with their home made goat cheese and washed it down with a Naousa Boutari red wine.
Very pleased with ourselves we walked slowly back to the cove and went aboard Thetis. It had been a long but very satisfying day but if we had burned the engine it would had been a real catastrophe. We were lucky.
Sunday August 27, 2000, Day 6
We left Levitha at 0900. The engine water pump was still leaking water and the zodiac was still leaking air ever so slowly but steadily. In the mean time the bilge pump was acting up. It was pumping at an appreciably lower rate. This will have to be investigated. The wind was modest and after raising the main it was coming from the WNW at less than 15 knots so that we had to motor and we did not even bother to shake the reef. We motored for 5 M to the westernmost point of the island and then turned N to investigate the Vathy cove.
After leaving Vathy we opened the headsail and with the wind having picked up to 10-18 knots WNW, we were able to sail to Amorgos. The sail was fairly pleasant but it was punctuated by short periods of no wind.
By 1615 we had covered 36 M and had reached Aegiali (Αιγιάλη) [36° 54.2' N 025° 58.4' E], the pleasant anchorage at the NE end of Amorgos. We anchored off at 3.5 m without any difficulties. It was pleasant enough save a constant light swell.
In the late afternoon we went ashore. We found a car rental place and made arrangements to rent a car for tomorrow. Andonis also inquired about ferry boats leaving the island, and bought a ticket for the Tuesday 7 AM ferry. We then went to have an ouzo and then dinner at the Korali restaurant where I had good fish on my previous visit here. The ouzo was a great success with grilled octopus and a magnificent sunset. I cannot say the same for the rest of the meal. They were out of fish and we ordered grilled chicken. Alas it resembled more grilled cardboard rather than chicken. I guess we had such a great meal yesterday that we were due for a dud tonight. You win some and then you lose some!
Monday August 28, 2000, Day 7
This was Andonis’ last day and we wanted to make the most of it as he had never been to Amorgos before. We went ashore where the car we had reserved last night was waiting for us.
Right away we drove across the island and to its S side to the famous monastery of Hozoviotisa. As usual, it was a hot climb to the monastery, and as usual it was well worth it. The small monastery is a breathtaking sight as it is perched on the shear rock as if floating between the light blue sky and the deep blue sea. What a wonderful place for contemplation. The construction of the building on a cave did remind us of the Sumela Monastery on the SE of the Black Sea. The monastery is well described in Lila Maragkou’s book Η Μονή της Παναγίας Χοζοβιώτισσας στην Αμοργό - Τhe Monastery of Our Lady Hozobiotisa in Amorgos.
By the time we descended from the monastery we were very hot. But the wonderful tiny cove of Ayia Anna was close and there we had a most refreshing swim. Having recovered from the heat, we got into the car and drove to the SW tip of the island at Palos and had another swim. Palos is very well protected from the meltemi and it looked like a good anchorage to keep in mind. So did the S side of the little island of Gramvousa just across from Palos.
We then drove back east past Aegiali. We first visited the village of Langada (Λαγκάδα) and then Tholaria (Θολάρια) where we got out of the car and followed the sign to “Ancient Aigiali.” There was a path of sorts but it fizzled out and we never found the ancient site.
By the time we drove back to Aegiali, returned the car, and got back onboard Thetis, it was late afternoon but still time for another swim. A group of teenage swimmers surrounded us frolicking in the water. They were talking to each other playfully but it seems that every other word they used was a profanity. Andonis, despite his constant association with young people at the University Maryland where he teaches, was shocked. What he particularly disturbed him was the use of such vulgar language by the otherwise attractive young girls.
We both agreed not to venture another cardboard meal ashore. So, after showers and the obligatory “sunset” ouzo, I cooked some more of my cutlets in red wine sauce and served them with pasta. By that time, the wind had completely died out, and the water was mirror-flat. After dinner we ate a tremendous quantity of grapes which I had brought from Kalami.
The Navtex predicted a calm NW 4-5 force wind for tomorrow.
Tuesday August 29, 2000, Day 8
Andonis boarded his ferry and left on time at 0700. After he left, I did some mild shopping and then got aboard and prepared to leave. At 0915 I raised the anchor and motored to the nearby cove of Kalotiri Bay which is off Nikouria Island.
While slowly motoring I called Corinna in South Africa. Amazingly I got through to her new number in Capetown and spoke to her. She was doing very well. Instead of taking the conservative route and rounding Nikouria, I ventured the narrow channel that separates Nikouria from Amorgos. The channel is not well charted. I proceeded very slowly Thetis being steered by the autopilot while I alternatively looked ahead from the bow and moved back to check the depth gage. We did cross the channel rather easily. It turned out that the minimum depth is at least 5 m and not the 2.5 reported by Heikell.
I anchored under the small church [36° 53' N 025° 55.2' E] in 8 m depth at 10:05. We took over one hour to cover the 3 M from Aegiali. The sea was very calm.
There were three mysteries left unsolved aboard Thetis:
- The water leaking from the engine cooling water pump. It could only be from the shaft bushing and there was nothing I could do short of opening the pump and replacing the bushing. Since I did not have a spare bushing, I had to defer this problem for later. I just pumped out the water from under the engine.
- The low volume pumped out by the bilge pump. This was baffling, The actual electric pump seemed to work fine so I concluded that the hose from the pump to the outlet must be clogged. I run a “snake” to no avail. There simply was no obstruction.
- The air leak of the zodiac. It was slow but persistent. I lathered almost all of the zodiac with soap and water but could not detect a leak. Very annoying!
Frustrated at not being able to solve any of these defects, I spent the afternoon reading under the tent the Ευτυχισμένος που έκανε το ταξίδι του Οδυσσέα - Happy he who made the voyage of Odysseus by Marianna Koromila. It was rather absorbing.
Later, I went ashore on Nikouria and had a long walk. While at a high point I was able to sent a SMS to my brother Nikos since there was no GSM signal at the boat.
At night I cooked the last of the cutlets since I did not want them to spoil. Nice peaceful night in a nice peaceful anchorage.
Wednesday August 30, 2000, Day 9
I woke up at 5 AM to prepare for departure. My plan was to sail along the N coast of Amorgos to the NW and check the anchorages of Palos and Gramvousa island that looked so attractive from the land. Then to sail south to the Anafi island that I have never been to and from there to proceed tomorrow to the new marina in Santorini and rendezvous with my Turkish friends Turgut and Arzu Ayker who would be with their S/Y New Life. I did not know much about this marina other that what Turgut had relayed to me from reading an article in the Yachting magazine. It is supposed to be on the SW side of the island.
By the time I had a cup of coffee, lifted and lashed the dinghy on deck, and raised the anchor it was 0645. We motored N along the coastline of Nikouria. By the time we cleared the lee of Nikouria the wind was blowing a strong and gusty 20-28 knots WNW. I raised the main and kept it in its 2nd reef. I also opened part of the genoa. Thetis was moving fast under her sails doing approximately 7.5 knots. The seas were large. It did not appear prudent to stop at the NW of Amorgos but it seemed that the best strategy was to keep moving. The morning Navtex report was not very encouraging as it was predicting near gale conditions.
After rounding the westernmost tip of Amorgos the wind started coming from the N with a speed varying between 12 and 32 knots. Based on this and taking into account the rather dire forecast I reluctantly gave up on the idea of visiting Anafi. This visit will have to wait for another time. I made a course for Santorini. I called Turgut on the GSM phone. New Life will be leaving Ios and will be at the Santorini marina by early evening. We arranged to communicate with the VHF.
On this northwesterly route, the headsail was very unhappy and I had to roll it in. Nevertheless, Thetis continued sailing with the main only doing 4.5 to 6.5 knots. The seas were very large.
After reaching Santorini and rounding Cape Mesa Vouno, the wind was gusting ferociously while Thetis was planing doing almost 8 knots with just her reefed main. I gave Cape Exomitis a wide berth because it is shallow with many reefs and I was expecting even stronger gusts there. As we were passing the cape at high speed, I thought that I saw several masts. I broke out the binoculars and sure enough there were indeed many masts. This must be the “marina.” I lowered the sail and made a cautious approach from the W, following Turgut’s instructions conveyed via e-mail. None of my charts reflected the situation here. Slowly we motored our way to the entrance of the “marina.” [36° 20.2' N 025° 26.1' E]
Based on Turgut’s description I was expecting a real marina with attendants and the usual facilities of water and electricity. I even tried haling them on the VHF. It was a fool’s errand. It was not unlike the Pythagorio marina. Well built and protected quay without any other facilities but bare soil and dust. I entered slowly and asked the crew of a large cruiser. No, there were no facilities nor any attendant. Just go anywhere it suits you. And no, there were no moorings either, you had to anchor. I exited the marina and prepared the anchor, docking lines, and fenders. Then I entered again. The wind was blowing ferociously. I anchored and started backing to go stern-to towards the quay letting out the chain from the secondary control that I have at the cockpit. My prayers were answered and a middle aged couple from an Australian catamaran came to catch my lines. They were impressed at the smooth mooring under the strong wind by a singlehandler. I was not! I knew what an important role serendipity had played. It was 1505 and Thetis had traveled 43 M from Nikouria.
Thira (Θήρα) or Santorini (Σαντορίνη) is an amazing and unique island, an active volcano. Other than the “marina” there are no good anchorages but there are hordes of tourists, disgorged daily by monstrous cruise ships, there are tourist stores seling the worst and most vulgar souvenirs and yet despite all these one is drawn to this island. Maybe it is its geological history of islets suddenly rising and submerging into the sea, maybe it is because of its exquisite frescoes and other archaeological sites, or its wine, or its black beaches. Maybe it is the always-felt danger of angry Poseidon, the Earthshaker, who has not stopped shaking this island to this day. Santorini’s geological history is well described by Walter L. Friedrich in Fire in the Sea: The Santorini Volcano: Natural History and the Legend of Atlantis
According to myth, Thira was formed from a lump of earth presented to Jason by Triton which he had dropped in the Aegean and which became an island originally called Kalliste (the most beautiful) and Strongyle (rounded). The regular eruptions of the volcano created a rich, fertile soil which attracted early inhabitants from Karia. The Karians were chased away by the Minoans. They built the town of Akrotiri which was destroyed by the eruption of the 17th century BC. In the 8th century BC the island was populated by Dorians who gave it its present name of Thira. They built their capital in Mesa Vouno and they founded the city Cyrene in Libya. During the Peloponnesian War, Thira sided with Sparta against Athens. The Ptolemies of Egypt established a naval base here. The Byzantines built many castles on the island but in 1204 AD they lost it to the Venetians under the Crispi family. The Venetians made their capital at Skaros near Imerovigli (NE). Their patron’s name was Santa Irene from which the name Santorini is derived. In 1537 the Ottomans conquered the island and held it until it became part of Greece after the 1821 War of Independence.
The wealthy Nomikos family of shipowners come from Thira and they have helped with its rebuilding after the 1956 earthquake. They also grow vineyards and make excellent white wine. Recently, a very interesting and moving book was published with excerpts (in Greek) from the diary of the matriarch of the Nomikos clan, Kadio Sigala-Nomikou who was born in Pano Meria (Oia) in 1882. It is the story of Santorini and of a remarkable woman who, although almost illiterate, managed to build one of the largest fortunes in Greece. The diary was edited and published by her granddaughter Kadio Kolyva.
While executing the mooring maneuver, I could hear Turgut hailing me on the VHF. As soon as Thetis was secured I answered his hail. New Life was only a few miles away. Soon enough they entered the harbor and I was able to be there and catch their lines. On board New Life was Turgut, his wife Arzu, their two lovely children Orhan aged 14, Dilek aged almost 13, and another nice couple from Izmir the Uysals with their lively 9 year old daughter Duygu. Also there was a young man helping with the boat. It was nice to see my old friends again, especially in Greece. Last time we met we were at Çesme, their home port.
After we all had a well-deserved coffee and brought each other up to date with our past sailing activities, a group of us went ashore in a reconnaissance mission. At the top of the cliff there was a restaurant. Its friendly owner gave us the number of a car rental agency with which we arranged for two cars to be delivered at the marina. He also helped us to call for water delivery to New Life.
We had hardly made it back to our boats when the water truck arrived. By the time New Life had topped her tanks with water and all of us had our showers the rented cars had arrived. We all boarded the cars and drove to the main town of Santorini, Fira (Φηρά). We were just in time to see the glorious sunset over the Kameni island in the middle of the crater. We then went to the Archipelagos restaurant, at the rim of the caldera, where we had a wonderful dinner. After dinner we went to a travel agency where the Uysals made reservations for departing on Friday and we all booked for an excursion tomorrow to the Kameni island.
By the time we returned to our boats we were all tired. This, however, did not deter us from having a night cup of Samian Moschato wine and Turkish coffee (in Greece it is called Greek coffee but I cannot discern any difference).
Thursday August 31, 2000, Day 10
I woke up fairly early and did several maintenance tasks around Thetis. First I inflated the sagging dinghy, then I investigated the bilge pump some more. I narrowed down the problem to the one-way valve. While the valve did not appear to be totally clogged, it did restrict the flow. I substituted the valve with a piece of hose, of the same length, and the problem went away. Now the bilge is properly pumped out. At the same time, there is a slight increase of a chance of siphoning-in water when the boat is extremely healed to starboard.
By this time the crew of New Life were up and ready for a land expedition. We (the Aykers, the Uysals, and I), got into the cars and drove to Akrotiri to see the excavation. The site has grown appreciably since my last visit. It is now a big-scale operation and they are using a lot of power tools. They are also replacing the cover over the whole site. It is harder, however, to follow on what is going on.
We then drove to Fira. I gave my dirty clothes to the Pelican Laundry (off the main square) that we had located last night. They promised to have it ready by the evening. After that, we walked to the teleferic (cable car) and rode it down to Skala at the sea where we boarded the excursion boat for a visit of the crater and Kameni.
The excursion took the best of 3 hours. We swam at a place with a hot spring that colors the waters. We then disembarked at Nea Kameni where we walked to the craters.
The 17th century BC eruption created the great caldera and destroyed the Minoan civilization on the island. In 236 BC the volcano erupted and separated Thirasia from Thira, in 157 BC Palea (Old) Kameni (Καμένη - burned) emerged. In 1570 AD the south coast of the island was submerged, then three years later in 1573 Mikra (Small) Kameni rose from the water to be followed in 1711-12 AD by Nea (New) Kameni. The 1866 eruption lasted for two years with a new island appearing and then sinking again. In 1925-26 another eruption joined Small and Nea Kameni into one island. The last activity was in 1956, a massive earthquake that destroyed the towns of Fira, the capital, Oia or Pano Meria, and Finikia.
After returning to Skala, we took the mules up to Fira. Tired but pleased with the excursion we retired to a pastry store for a much needed cup of coffee and to once more admire the sun-set.
The Uysal family rented rooms in a hotel so that they can easily get to the fast ferry boat tomorrow for Paros and from there to Kusadasi, while Thetis and New Life will be sailing to Folegandros. The rest of us drove back to the marina for showers.
Later we all met at the restaurant at the top of the cliff near the marina for the farewell dinner and to celebrate Duygu’s 9th birthday. After dinner we all retired tired by a long and interesting day.
The total distance for this leg was 154 M in 29.6 sailing hours out of which 18.1 were solo.