This web page contains the logs of the third leg from a thirty seven day sailing trip that I took with S/Y Thetis around the Greek Aegean. The leg lasted for six days and it was from the island of Kea in the Cyclades to Skiathos in the North Sporades. Islands visited on the way are: Andros, Sarakino, Skyros, and Skopelos. I singlehandled Thetis to Skopelos where I was joined by my school friend Manos Castrinakis and Nadia Demetropoulou.
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.
Monday September 11, 2000, Day 21
I got up kind of late, 7:30, and checked the Navtex. The weather seemed OK. So, my idea was to just go as far as Vourkari in the N of Kea and wait there for the NE wind to subside. To this end I started getting ready to leave. By the time I had untied the shore line, raised the second anchor and the zodiac, stowed everything etc., and finally raised the primary anchor it was 1000.
The wind outside of Koundouros was 15-20 knots NNW. We motored the 8 nM to Vourkari. By that time, the wind was 13-18 knots NNW which, if we were to continue to Andros, would allow sailing. The waves were large and confused. Based on these conditions, I decided to go on rather then stop at Vourkari. I opened the main sail, set it on its 1st reefing point, and opened the headsail. I turned off the motor, and sailed for a few miles until the wind shifted to 15-21 knots, NNE. Then I had to motor-sail. This is the way it went: sail for a short period, motor-sail, and then repeat.
I did not go ashore but had a quiet evening, enjoying my solitude onboard Thetis. I spoke finally with Manos Castrinakis. We agreed to meet in Skopelos. I will let him know when I will be there. He will come with a childhood friend from Vouliagmeni, who he assured me does not smoke. The moonlit night was very pleasant. I warmed up some left-over chicken with potatoes and made a tomato salad.
The forecast from the Navtex predicted rain and strong wind for tomorrow. Maybe I will just have to stay here for another day or leave tomorrow night. It all depends on the wind.
Tuesday September 12, 2000, Day 22
Most of this day was very quiet and lazy. I went ashore in the morning and took a long walk. I then bought few things and called Agmar Marine in Leros to tell them that I plan to bring Thetis next month and have her winter there. I also discussed the work that needs to be done on the windows. Then I called Mr. Anagnostopoulos, the window man in Athens, and discussed the possibility of him going to Leros to re-install the windows. He will not charge for the work, but I offered to pay his transportation and living expenses while in Leros.
Back aboard, I had a nice lunch with fresh bread and then I took a nap. I observed the weather and studied the latest Navtex forecasts. The best I could make out from them was that the Kafireas Strait (a notorious place, well known for nasty conditions) would have about 5 knots NE until tomorrow afternoon, after that the weather will deteriorate. Based on these forecasts, I decided to leave tonight, because usually during the night it is calmer, and the meltemi is at its weakest.
In the evening, I went ashore and after another long walk had a nice dinner of “local rooster in wine with rice” at the Esthisis restaurant. Lovely almost full moon!
Back on board Thetis, I lifted the zodiac and raised the anchor. Left Batsi at 2230. Destination Sarakino, a small island off Skyros. Outside the cove there was a nice stiff breeze form the NNW. I raised the main and kept it in the 1st reef. We sailed for a while but the wind shifted N and we had to motor-sail. By the time we cleared Andros and were in the Kafireas Channel, the wind was 15-25 knots N and there were large waves. The sail was very unhappy and flapping, and I was forced to lower it and motor. During this lowering operation, the halyard slipped off my hands and started flying all over. I turned on the deck lights, and fished it with the boat hook. Phew!
Wednesday September 13, 2000, Day 23
I did not have much time to rest from the halyard catching exercise, when the autopilot started making furious scrapping sounds. Remember, the autopilot actuator had fallen overboard a few days ago and I had retrieved it and rinsed it. Until now it had been working without any problem. I opened it and greased it. The noised subsided and it seemed happy. I raised the main again and was able to sail, at least for a while.
The wind got stronger and the waves larger. Thetis was beating against both wind and waves, hardly making more than 4 knots headway. There were lots and lots of ships in the channel. A large ferry, all lit up, was overtaking us. I was not sure whether she had seen Thetis. I hailed her on the VHF but there was no response. She kept coming closer and closer. I turned on the motor and made a 90° turn to avoid her.
No sooner had I resumed our course than the red navigation light went out. I put on a battery operated spare. The sail was barely effective and I turned on the motor to motor-sail. We just had to get out of this busy channel as quickly as possible. The waves grew larger and there was a lot banging. I was beginning to regret leaving Batsi.
Around 0800 the autopilot died out. Kaput! I replaced it with the spare autopilot. It only made right turns! I had checked it before leaving Glyfada in June and it was OK. Great, no autopilot, bad weather, sailing against the wind, and making very little headway. I hand steered. An occasional wave was drenching me as I was at the tiller and away from the protection of the spray hood. I would steer for an hour and then take a few minute break letting Thetis hove-to.
I used the GSM phone to call Skordilis, the Autohelm dealer. They promised to send me a replacement autopilot actuator in Skyros.
Sometime in the morning two of the new windows started leaking. At the beginning slightly, after an hour or so profusely. Bang bang, leak leak, splash splash. Doing less than 3.5 knots velocity made good. I did not count for such a slow passage and such a reliance on the motor. The fuel tank was running low. Miseria!
Seeing that the fuel could become critical, I hove-to and managed to siphon fuel, despite the considerable swell, from one jerrycan to the tank. The new siphon that I had purchased in Syros worked flawlessly. Not one drop was spilled. Thank goodness something went right. By the time this operation was over, I felt sea-sick. I ate some bread and that helped. I lowered the sail once again as it was not helping. Proud of the re-fueling operation, I continued the miserable passage.
Finally, at 1630 we made it to Sarakino (Σαρακίνο) [38° 45.1' N 024° 36.9' E]. We had traveled 64.2 nM over the water (according to the log). The actual distance, as measured from the chart, was 58.3 nM, the difference was due to contrary currents. Entering the cove was like reaching a real oasis. It was calm and serene, nothing like the furry of the angry sea we had crossed. Just what a tired and banged (θαλασσοδαρμένος - beaten by the sea) sailor needed. I dropped the anchor, without any problems, on sand at 6.5 m depth.
After a very much needed cup of coffee and a snack, I took a swim and checked the anchor. The water was very clear and the anchor was well set. Then I took the autopilot actuator apart, completely. It seemed that a set of planetary gears were stuck. I cleaned them with gasoline and re-greased them. I tested the motor by itself and it worked. I then sprayed the motor with WD-40 oil, greased the helical screw, and re-assembled the actuator. It worked. I then, replaced the burned bulb of the red navigation light and put silicon caulking around the leaking windows.
By that time I was very tired and my arm was hurting from all the hand steering. I had a much deserved ouzo and watched the flock of sea-gulls that were roosting on the rocks. Although I was hungry, I was too tired to cook. I just boiled some pasta and made a simple olive oil and garlic sauce. By 8:30 PM I was in my berth, dead to this world.
Thursday September 14, 2000, Day 24
I slept like a log! I got up slowly and it was not before 0840 when I managed to raise the anchor and motor. The wind was 14-16 N. Nothing like yesterday, the waves were much smaller also. We motored the 9.2 nM to Linaria [38° 50.6' N 24° 32.1' E] (Λινάρια) the main port of Skyros (Σκύρος). We arrived there at 1025. The harbor was full and I anchored in the nearby very attractive Linaria Cove. While under way, I receive a GSM phone call from the Autohelm dealer. There is no courier in Skyros and they cannot send me the new autopilot actuator. I called Manos and asked him if he could pick it up and bring it tomorrow to Skopelos. By the way, my autopilot worked fine but a new actuator would be nice to have.
I siphoned the second fuel jerrycan into the tank. Then I launched the zodiac and I took both cans to the port and refilled them. I also refilled the small can with gasoline for the outboard. I drove the cans back to Thetis and siphoned some more fuel until the fuel tank was topped. Then back to Linaria to refill the jerrycans. All together I got 67 L of diesel fuel. I also bought some bottled spring water for drinking and cooking (I do not want to use the water from the water tank for these). Both grocery stores did not have any of the well known Skyros cheese, and both were out of bread. A nice older gentleman who had heard me inquiring sold me his loaf of fresh bread telling me that he already had enough and I, a visitor to his island, should not leave without fresh bread.
After I returned to Thetis, I put up the tent, had a swim, and then lunch, after which I fell asleep. I was woken by the GSM phone. This time it was Lefteris Bibis, the agent that handles all the paperwork for Thetis. The new commercial license was ready. Again, I left a message for Manos: could he please bring the license as well? I had hardly put down the phone when it rang again. This time it was Sophia Hadziyianni who does Thetis’ accounting. I should have another “charter”, to non-Greek, for 3 weeks and for $2500 worth in order to satisfy the requirements of the commercial license. Once again I thought of Manos who also has a US passport. Another call: could he please bring his US passport? What would I have done if Manos was not coming for a few days sailing?
At 1645 I raised the anchor and motored via the Valaxa Channel (the depth was over 4 m) to Ayios Fokas ('Αγιος Φωκάς) [38° 52.4' N 024° 28.6' E] where I arrived at 1745, 4.2 nM. The wind was 12-14 NNW, while the barometer was up to 1010 mB from yesterday’s 1007 mB.
I had never been to Ayios Fokas before. It is a gorgeous anchorage with very bright green pines all around, almost up to the water line. I anchored at 4 m. Very good holding. I swam ashore and met the friendly old lady who is the proprietor of the restaurant. She remembered well my brother Nikos and his caique the Faneromeni. The restaurant will be open in the evening and I could definitely have supper there.
I finished the book I was reading, Beloved. It is well written and absorbing but somewhat depressing. I will need something lighter and more uplifting to read next.
After a hot shower and an ouzo while watching the sun set over the calm sea I was restored and rested. I took the dinghy ashore and the nice lady served me a dish of fresh green beans with feta cheese along with some local white wine. This was just what I needed.
Well fed, I returned to Thetis just in time to watch the moon rise while eating grapes and playing some classical music. The night was lovely, the wind well down, and the sea perfectly calm, reflecting the moon on its silvery waters. The forecast called for a mere force 5 Nwind in the Central Aegean. My plan was to sleep and when I would wake up, without an alarm, to depart for Skopelos.
Friday September 15, 2000, Day 25
I woke up at around 0330, the night was beautiful and very quiet. This quietness was occasionally interrupted by the call of an owl from ashore. The sea was still very calm. I decided to depart instead of going back to sleep. I made myself a cup of coffee and then lifted the zodiac on deck and lashed it.
I watched the sun rise over Skyros and took some pictures. The sea was calm and there was no traffic save for one fishing boat at a distance. This was an idyllic state that would had been perfect if only we were sailing instead of motoring. When the sun rose further I put up the tent.
The whole passage was easy and sweet except for the engine noise. I was planing to stay at Agnontas, a small harbor on the S side of Skopelos, but when Thetis arrived there I did not like it. There was too much concrete and several restaurants with loud music. I looked for an alternative anchorage. Less than 1 nM W was a cove named Limnonari (Λιμνονάρι) [39° 05.3' N 023° 41.9' E]. It looked rather pleasant with clean water and a restaurant with umbrellas at the sandy beach but it did not play any loud music. I dropped the anchor at 1210 in 5 m depth. We had come 41.8 nM from Ayios Fokas. The wind was a very mild breeze from NNE.
Skopelos (Σκόπελος) is a very green mountainous island with an area of 96 km² and about 5,500 inhabitants. Its highest peak is Delphi at 366 m (1200 ft). There are many natural springs and about a fifth of the island is cultivated with olive groves, plum trees, almond, and orange trees. Its capital Skopelos or Chora, is also its main harbor and is located on the NE of the island. More than half of the island’s inhabitants live there.
In the antiquity the island was known as Peparethos. According to the tradition, it was colonized on the 16 century BC by the king of Crete, Stafylos who was the son of Ariadne and Dionysos. His name means “he of grapes” and indeed Peparethos was well known in the ancient world for the quality of its wine. A cove on the SE corner of the island is still known today as Stafylos and a rich Minoan tomb was excavated there in 1927. In historical times Skopelos was part of the Athenian league. During the Peloponnesian war it fought on the side of Athens and after their defeat was briefly occupied by the Spartans. During this time Peparethos prospered and minted her own coins. The island worshipped Dionysos and Demeter in particular. Later it fell to the Macedonians and declined. In 146 BC it fell to the Romans who held it until 42 BC when it was granted to the Athenians, but in 196 AD it was reclaimed by Rome. The present name Skopelos was first mentioned by Ptolemy.
During the early Byzantine times, in the rein of Julian in the 4th century AD, the bishop of the island Riginos (Ρηγίνος — same, but for the accent, as my last name) was martyred and became the patron saint of the island. At that time the island had a second prosperity. After the fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade in 1204, Skopelos was occupied by the Venetians under the brothers Andrea and Jeremiah Gizi who held it until 1276 when the Byzantines reclaimed the island. After Constantinople’s fall to the Ottomans in 1453 the islanders petitioned Venice to take over the Sporades islands. Venice held them until 1538 when the Ottoman admiral-pirate Barbarossa occupied them after heavily looting them.
During the Ottoman occupation, Skopelos prospered, developing a thriving shipping industry. At the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence of 1821, Skopelos with her significant fleet, joined the rest of the islands. After the war, Skopelos, along with the rest of the Sporades, became part of the new Greek state. But the war had decimated her fleet and the island fell onto hard times and was overrun by pirates. Admiral Miaoulis, the hero of the Greek revolution, subdued the pirates in 1828 but the island continued her decline which was accelerated by the advance of steam powered ships which made the traditionally built in Skopelos sailing ships obsolete. Today tourism, which has become the island’s main industry, has brought it a new affluence.
I was very hungry and before anything else I made myself some rice with a fresh tomato sauce which I ate with yesterday’s bread. I then had a long and pleasant swim, after which I took a nap. Later in the afternoon the wind, a light southern breeze, caused Thetis to drift inside the swimming area demarcated by buoys. Since the swimmers were already leaving and the anchor was well dug-in I did not worry.
Later, I launched the dinghy, got dressed and went ashore. I wanted to go the town of Skopelos to meet Manos and his friend who would be arriving later with the hydrofoil from Ayios Konstantinos (on the mainland). I started walking along the road to Agnondas but was picked up by the van belonging to the owners of the restaurant. They gave me a ride to the town.
I still had over two hours to kill before the arrival of the hydrofoil. I killed some time leisurely strolling and since I was kind of peckish I had a beer and a small pizza. Finally the hydrofoil arrived, around 10:30, and Manos Castrinakis and his childhood friend from Vouliagmeni, Nadia Demetropoulou, disembarked. We all three walked to restaurant and they too had a bite. We then took a taxi back to Limnonari. The ride was hair-raising, at least to me, because the driver was driving at high speed in the narrow roads. I supposed I have been at sea too long.
After boarding Thetis, I showed my guests around. Manos remembered everything as if he had never left Thetis. I then introduced them to the pleasures of making their berths with the fitted sheets. Because the berth cushions are irregular in shape and the space is limited, fitting the sheets is a devilish job. Manos took the port aft cabin and Nadia the front cabin. It had been a long day for all of us.
Saturday September 16, 2000, Day 26
We had a relatively slow start. With all of us being tired and then making coffees and breakfasts, we did not get around to raising the anchor until 0940. We were heading towards Skiathos. Our overall plan was to get to Koukounaries in Skiathos tonight and then tomorrow proceed to the Trikeri area in the mainland. I have never entered the Pagasitikos Gulf before and I was very eager to explore it.
First we motored to Panormos, just a short distance W. We did not stop there because it was full with a flotilla. The wind was a light breeze of 6-10 knots ENE but we raised the main anyway (I did not bother to remove the reef) and opened the full genoa. We were able to sail for a few miles heading SE from Skopelos, but the wind decreased and we tacked back towards the island.
I had a great disappointment with the autopilot actuator arm that Manos hand carried from Piraeus. It was for the wrong autopilot model. I called the Autohelm dealer and they were sorry but there were out of stock for my model. There is no helping it. My repairs will have to do for a while.
We stopped at 1220 for a swim and lunch in a sandy beach [39° 08.5' N 23° 38.2' E], just E of Glossa. Here we had a near accident. I asked Manos to steer the boat and I went to the bow to handle the anchor. I had also asked Nadia to read us aloud the depth from the sounder. She did so but missed the decimal point, so instead of 4.5 m she read 45 m! It took me a while to catch on. By that time we were at “22 m” which was actually 2.2 m, too shallow for comfort. I knew that the Aegean has clear waters but the rocks did look awfully sharp for 22 m. At any rate, we anchored without any further mishap and had a nice swim and a good snack.
At 1410 we left the beach. The only problem was that while raising the anchor I was stung by a bee. We raised the main again, and removed the 1st reef, and unrolled the headsail. For a while we sailed towards Skiathos. The wind was weak and variable and we were unable to sail at speed better than 2 knots. After a while we got tired of not getting anywhere and we rolled in the headsail and motor-sailed the rest of the way to Koukounaries.
We arrived at Koukounaries [39° 08.9' N 23° 24.1' E] (Κουκουναριές), Skiathos (Σκιάθος) at 1640 having come 23.05 nM from Limnonari. We did not enter the crowded little harbor but anchored off in 6 m without any problem.
After some more swimming, we all showered and dressed and went ashore. We walked for about 10 minutes from the small harbor to a “supermarket” where we bought some provisions.
After we returned to Thetis I made some linguine with a sauce made of tuna fish, fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, olives, onions, capers, and pili-pili (extremely hot tiny peppers). We consumed this on the cockpit table under the moonlight along with a semi-sweet rose wine from Santorini.
The total distance for this leg was 177 nM in 44.4 sailing hours out of which 39.25 were solo.