Travels with S/Y Thetis

Thetis only

2001: Skopelos to Kea

This web page contains the logs of the fourth leg of a trip that I took with S/Y Thetis in the Aegean in Greece. The logs cover a period of 7 days from the Northern Sporades to the Northern Cyclades. I singlehanded from the island of Skopelos (Skopelos Harbor and Panormos) to Skiathos where I was joined by Dimitris Gekas. We then sailed to Skyros, Karystos in Evia, and to the island of Kea (Monastery Cove and Vourkari).

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.

Route to Karystos
Route to Karystos

Wednesday September 5, 2001, Day 15

The Town of Skopelos First thing this morning, before sunrise, I climbed up the stairs to photograph the pretty churches and the narrow streets. Skopelos is such a lovely town. I particularly like the slate roofs on some of its old houses and churches.

Church in the Town of Skopelos
The Narrow Streets

When the sun came up and it was warmer, I rode the rented motor-scooter south of the town and visited the Monastery of Ευαγγελίστρια (Annunciation) which is inhabited by nuns who sell some attractive hand embroideries. I then went to the Monasteries of Μεταμόρφωσις (Transfiguration), Σωτήρα (Savior), Αγία Βαρβάρα (Santa Barbara), and the convent of Προδρόμου (St. John the Baptist). I also tried to go to the Monastery of Αγία Τριάδα (Holy Trinity) but it was closed. It was a pleasant morning.


The Monastery of the Annunciation


The Monastery of the Savior (Savior)


Inside the Sotiros Monastery


Santa Barbara

When I returned into the town I went straight into the Post Office. The pump had arrived. Then, after some light shopping I was ready to depart the harbor. The Navtex forecast called for strong southerly winds developing over the course of the day. Accordingly my plan was to head for the cove of Panormos, on the south side of the island. Panormos is totally landlocked and is an all around shelter. I will stay there until the S wind dies out and then head for either the island of Kea and visit my brother Byron, who has a house there, or for the island of Andros and meet my other brother Nikos who is in Sifnos with his traditional Greek boat the Faneromeni. Another possibility is to link with my friend from the Washington D.C. area, Dimitris Gekas, another Athens College alumnus, who may join me and Thetis for a few days.

Route in Sporades
Route in Sporades
The Harbor of Skopelos

We departed from Skopelos Harbor at 1310. The wind was still light, 2-8 knots but from every conceivable direction from NW to SW and we had to motor-sail. It was nice to be back in sailing mode. We arrived in Panormos [39° 06.4' N 23° 39.6' E] at 1535, having covered 13.2 M.

I anchored without any trouble. In anticipation of the expected strong southerly winds I took a shore line to a rock in the S shore. The problem was that because the cove is very deep, if I let an adequate amount of chain, Thetis will be too close to the rocks for comfort. So I deployed the second anchor as well. Now I was prepared for the worst. It was a good thing because the barometer had taken a precipitous fall. It had fallen to 1000 mB from yesterday’s 1014.

Later in the evening it started to rain with the wind blowing not from the predicted S but from the NNW. It was good that there were two anchors holding us away from the shore. As it were, we only had about ½ m under our keel. Strong wind and strong rain! While I was eating supper, a small sailboat came and anchored too close to Thetis for comfort. During the night we were hit by several very strong squalls, with winds over 40 knots, but we did not move. The Navtex began receiving gale warnings for the Kafireas region. I was sure that Thetis will not be going anywhere tomorrow.

Thursday September 6, 2001, Day 16

The Panormos Anchorage
The Panormos Anchorage

I occupied myself for the better part of the morning by shaking the rugs, vacuuming the cabins, and scrubbing with soap the deck and cockpit. Thetis had accumulated a lot of dust during her unattended days in Skopelos Harbor. The strong wind kept up all day but I managed to put up the tent for several hours. The sailboat that caused me some unease last night is the German Beduin, an old fashioned sweet little boat with an attractive young couple and a very active small boy. They made an attempt to depart but shortly thereafter came back and anchored next to Thetis again but with a much more comfortable separation.

In the early afternoon, a chartered sailboat with a crew of 4-5 middle aged British ladies entered the cove. They had a most difficult time anchoring. Their anchor just did not hold. While attempting to take a line ashore, their dragging boat almost collided with another British sailboat inhabited by an elderly couple. The gentleman came to their rescue. He re-anchored them and then he took their shoreline and tied it to a tree.

Another View of Panormos

In the late afternoon I took the dinghy and went ashore for a walk. I walked to the Panormos hamlet and tried to see if I could find the ancient ruins described in the guide book. There was no access to them. I only managed to take a photograph from a distance.

While returning back to Thetis I noticed that two of the British ladies from the charter boat were out with their dinghy. Their outboard had stalled and they were furiously trying to re-start it while they were drifting and were being driven away from the shore by the strong wind. I went to their rescue with my zodiac and towed them back to their boat. The rather fat lady who seemed to be their skipper on our approach exclaimed: “Ugh, another man helping!” That was all the thanks that I ever received.

For dinner I cooked the two pork cutlets that I had bought in Skopelos. I ate one with rice and a sauce of balsamic vinegar and mushrooms and put the other in the refrigerator for another meal. Dimitris Gekas called me from Athens. He most definitely wants to join me. I explained to him the situation: I am presently waiting for a weather break and cannot move. If the weather improves tomorrow I may be able to get to either Kea or Andros, if not, he could fly on Saturday to Skiathos, here in the Sporades, and I will try to meet him.

Friday September 7, 2001, Day 17

All night the strong wind kept blowing. But the Navtex downgraded their gale warnings to near gale warnings for Kafireas and Central Aegean. We are definitely not moving from this safe and pleasant anchorage. The barometer was now slightly up to 1002 mB. Maybe there is hope for an improvement.

Beautiful Panormos in Skopelos

This was a slow morning, mostly reading. I finished my second reading of Patrick O’ Brien’s H.M.S. Surprise. I find his books fascinating and their second reading maybe even more enjoyable than the first. You can concentrate on the details and not on the plot. I started a new book Ρεμπέτικo - Rembetiko in Greek by Kostas Ferris (Rembetiko is an early form of bouzouki music). It is the fictionalized story of Rembetika from the 1922 collapse and exodus from Smyrna to the 1950’s dens in Piraeus.

Dimitris Gekas called me. He could not get an airplane ticket to Skiathos for tomorrow but he did get one for tonight. He will be arriving at 11:20 PM. If the wind dies down sufficiently I will try to meet him tonight in Skiathos, if not he will have to check in at a hotel and we will meet tomorrow.

I cleaned the zodiac (soap and brush) and the railing on Thetis. I also cleaned the lower cabinets in the bathroom, they were rather dirty.

I spent a quiet afternoon reading inside the cabin because it was not very pleasant out in the cockpit without the tent which could not be set with the strong wind. At around 1400 the wind started to weaken. It continued to do so and I finally decided that I could sail after all to Skiathos.

It took me over an hour to get ready for departure. I had to untie and stow the long shore line, raise and stow the second anchor, lift and lash the zodiac on deck, etc.

We departed Panormos at 1705. After getting out of the cove the wind was a mild 10-14 knots WNW and I opened the genoa. I was too lazy to raise the main but even with the genoa we sailed almost all the way to the harbor of Skiathos. While entering the harbor I had a scare. I started the engine but no water came out of the exhaust. I suspected that since we were sailing on a starboard tack the water from the pump to the engine was siphoned off and the pump lost its prime. It took me several tense minutes before I managed to get it going again. I disconnected the hoses, operated the pump until plenty water came out, and then reconnected the hoses. This is an alarming development that needs to be watched very closely.

After the engine scare, entering the harbor presented no problem. I anchored off at 1905 in Skiathos Harbor [39° 09.9' N 23° 29.7' E] in 6 m depth. We had come 8.7 M. Inside the harbor was very calm and the anchor had no problems holding. Now all I had to do was to wait for the arrival of Dimitris.

Entering Skiathos Harbor

I took my time launching the zodiac, changed clothes and went ashore for a long walk. After eating a chicken souvlaki and walking some more, I returned to the boat. The plane was late. I saw it land at about midnight. I went ashore again and there was Dimitris grinning. He had taken a taxi to the harbor. All was well but he was very hungry. We sat at a restaurant and he ate while I had a drink. It was well past 1:30 AM by the time we made it to Thetis. The night was calm but there was a lot of extremely loud music being blasted from ashore.

Saturday September 8, 2001, Day 18

Skiathos Harbor

Dimitris and I went ashore fairly early in the morning for some light provision shopping. By the time we returned to Thetis and had her ready to sail it was almost 1000. We raised the anchor and were about to raise the mainsail when a small speed-boat, full of Germans, waved at us frantically. They were in trouble drifting off with a failed engine, they had been trying to row themselves ashore rowing with the water-skis, they had no oars. We approached to give them a tow but they only had a very tangled water-ski towing line. We hovered until they got it untangled and then we towed them back to the harbor.

We departed Skiathos, for the second time, at 1030. Our destination was Ayios Focas, Skyros. We raised the mainsail and set it on the first reef, opened the headsail and sailed past Skopelos. The wind was a fairly light 15-25 knots WNW. After a while the wind attenuated to 10-20 knots and we shook off the reef. We managed to sail for about 15 M when the wind backed to the N and went down to about 6 knots. We rolled-in the unhappy headsail and motor-sailed the rest of the way.

We arrived in Ayios Fokas [38° 52.4' N 24° 28.6' E] at 1930. The total distance from Skiathos was 48.9 M. It was an easy and pleasurable passage with many reminiscences between two old schoolmates. Dimitris even managed to take care, by GSM phone, of some trouble with his business back in Washington, DC. We anchored off without too much trouble.

There was a wonderful sunset and the sea was very calm here. We launched the zodiac and went ashore to the restaurant. Being late in the season, they did not have very much but they did feed us with grilled meat balls, potatoes, salad, cheese, and homemade bread. It was simple fare but, as usual, very tasty. After a walk, we went back onboard and retired early. No loud music here to disturb the serenity of the lovely cove.

Sunday September 9, 2001, Day 19

We slept well despite the swell that crept into the cove during the night. I got up early and started getting the boat ready for our passage to Andros via the dreaded Kafireas Strait. When I was about to wake him up, Dimitris came out of the front cabin all dressed up and ready to go.

We departed Skyros at 0650. The sea was very calm and there was no wind. After motoring for about an hour, a slight SW breeze developed to be soon followed by a some swells. We continued motoring. As we were approaching Kafireas, on a heading of 180°, the breeze stiffened to 20-25 knots SSW.

Route to Kea
Route to Kea

When we reached the Strait the combination of S wind and waves slowed us down, we were not doing any better than 2 knots. We kept on going. Now if we were to continue to Andros we were going to be subjected for a long time to these unpleasant but not really bad conditions. Instead we decided to round Evia and go to Karystos. It was a slow and bumpy passage.

After 61 M we arrived in Karystos [38° 00.77' N 24° 25.2' E] at 1910. The last 11 M in the Kafireas Strait were very slow and wet. The harbor was, as usual, full but we managed to find the only available spot. Anchoring and going stern-to was fairly smooth. No sooner had we docked and an officer from the Limenarchio (Coast Guard) came and asked us to bring the boat’s papers to their office. I told him that we will do so before departing tomorrow.

Later we went ashore and had an indifferent dinner at an Ovelistirio (rotisserie) which was followed by loukoumades (honey fritters) at Τζίμης (Jimmys). After this very satisfying indulgence I went back in Thetis while Dimitris sat in a café just across Thetis and smoked one of his Havana cigars. He was so considerate that he did not even ask if he could smoke it in the cockpit.

Monday September 10, 2001, Day 20

Water, there was running water at the quay. No need to find the usually missing attendant and be told that he may come by in the afternoon. What a bonanza! We filled the tanks and the sun-shower. We also transferred Diesel fuel from the small cans into the fuel tank. Then we took, as I had promised, the boat documents to the Limenarchio (Coast Guard). They asked harbor dues for one night stay 2,500 GRD. This was about twice what I had paid for 5 days in Pythagorio, Samos. I got into a friendly argument with the attractive but officious young lady officer. These people often do not hear a yachtsman’s point of view. They have no idea what a terrible impression these inconsistencies make on a foreign visitor. For example, why documents cannot be examined and fees assessed right at the quay but the yachtsman must visit their office? What does Karystos harbor offer over Pythagorio to be 5 times more expensive? She had no answers, of course, but I felt good to let her know.

We departed from Karystos at 1015 heading for the island of Kea. The wind was 10-21 knots S and our heading was again 180°. We motored the 20.1 M to the Monastery Cove [37° 39.7' N 24° 24' E] on the NE side of the island where we arrived at 1410. There were very strong gusts but inside the cove it was calm. We anchored without any problem in 5 m depth.

After swimming and eating lunch in the pleasant cove, we raised the anchor and departed for Vourkari at 1615. We mostly motored the 6.5 M and arrived in Vourkari, Kea [37° 40' N 24° 19.6' E] at 1800. We did not dock, but anchored off in 9 m without any problem, despite the strong gusts blowing here also.

Sunset in Vourkari

Later, we launched the zodiac and went ashore. We walked, about 20 minutes, to Korissia where Dimitris made inquiries about the ferryboat to Lavrio because he had to be back in Athens by tomorrow evening. We took a taxi back to Vourkari and sat at the Maroula restaurant where we had an excellent dinner: grilled octopus, spaghetti with lobster, and grilled kolios (mackerel). The young men who served us were Albanian and could not have been more pleasant and attentive. Dimitris, in addition to a generous tip, also gave them some of his never-ending Cuban cigars.

The rest of the night aboard Thetis was quiet and enjoyable.

Tuesday September 11, 2001, Day 21

Korissia the main Harbor in Kea

This is the infamous September 11 that will never be forgotten by any living American. We, however, anchored here in peaceful Vourkari were completely unaware of what was going on.

We met the couple from a boat anchored near us, Ken and Margaret Clayborn from the S/Y Tomorrow registered in Los Angeles. Along with them we met a colorful Greek character from Egypt who owns the French flagged S/Y Samadhi. After visiting with them we went to Korissia where Dimitris got a ticket for the 2:30 PM ferry to Lavrio.

We then returned back to Thetis and Dimitris started packing. Our plan was to take a taxi to Korissia, with his things, have lunch and then see him off to his ferry. As we were leaving the boat with Dimitris’ bags in the dinghy, Ken from Tomorrow asked me if I could get him an English newspaper because they wanted to find out what was going on in the rest of the world.

We had a pleasant lunch and waited for the ferry. Afterwards Dimitris boarded his ferry. He had been a very pleasant sailing companion and I will miss him. After the ferry left, I bought Ken a Herald Tribune and walked back to Vourkari. By that time, the wind had picked up and it was howling. Definitely too strong for me to sail.

On my way to Thetis I stopped at Tomorrow and gave them the paper. After some prodding, Ken told me the story of their fantastic voyage. They left their home city Los Angeles in 1991 and sailed directly and non-stop to the Marquesses. From there they practically crisscrossed the South Pacific—New Zealand, Fiji, Tahiti, Vanuatu, Solomon islands, Samoa, etc. They then sailed into Sidney where they stayed for a while. Then back to the S. Pacific, then N Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Borneo, and incredibly enough, into Burma where they entered without any clearance. From there they proceeded via the Malacca Strait to Sri Lanka, Seychelles, Zanzibar, Kenya, north to Eretria, the Red Sea, the Suez Canal, Israel, and finally here in Greece. Ken is almost 70 years old and now he is contemplating to retire from his sailing career but not before completing their circumnavigation. I could spent weeks listening to these people describing their adventures. How I envy them.

Back in Thetis it was too windy to put up the tent, so I spent the afternoon reading inside the cabin. Then the GSM phone started receiving messages. One after another: from Alice, Cynthia, Corinna, Byron, Rozina, Nikos, Yankos Krinos, Turgut. They were all about the terrible tragedies in New York and Washington. Cynthia’s message was most reassuring: “something horrible has happened in Washington, you may not be able to call Mom but she is OK.” I panicked! There were precious few details in any of these messages but I knew that whatever had happened was really very bad. Amazingly enough I got through on my first attempt to call Alice. This is how I found out what happened. The attack on the Pentagon was particularly close to our home. I informed the people in Tomorrow who, of course, had no idea either of these events. I was stunned and spent the rest of the day talking to my brothers and listening to the radio. Slowly the horrid picture of the murder of so many innocent people emerged. The capacity for hatred, especially religious hatred, and the violence of man is something very hard for me to comprehend.