Travels with S/Y Thetis

Thetis only

2001: Agathonisi to Sarakino

This web page contains the logs of the second leg of a trip that I took with S/Y Thetis in the Aegean in Greece. The logs cover a period of 6 days. I singlehanded from the island of Agathonisi to the island of Sarakino, near Skyros, with stopovers in Pythagorio in Samos, Salagonas in SW Chios, and Psara. From Psara to Sarakino, Thetis sailed together with the S/Y New Life.

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 Chios
Route to Chios

Friday August 24 2001, Day 6

This was a very long day. It is also my 34th wedding anniversary. How does time fly?

The crew in Sea Rose was agitating for an early departure. They raised their anchor at 0800 and they were off for Pythagorio. I too had decided to go to Pythagorio on my way to Chios but I was not ready to depart yet. I slowly raised the second anchor from the zodiac, undid the shore line, stowed everything away, lifted the zodiac and lashed it, and in general prepared for a long passage. The weather report was reasonable. My plan was to first go to Pythagorio, wait there, and leave from there for Salagonas, Chios either in the late evening or in the early morning. From Salagonas I will coordinate with Turgut on how to link up with New Life.

Thetis departed from Agathonisi one hour after Sea Rose at 0900. The wind was 15-25 knots N directly against our course for Pythagorio of 354°. I did not even bother to raise the mainsail but motor-sailed with about 40% of the headsail. I had to tack several times to avoid excessive spray and banging. It was not too bad a ride but it was certainly not great either.

I arrived in Pythagorio [37° 41.3' N 26° 56.8' E], Samos at 1300 having gone 21.6 M instead of the direct 17 M. I anchored off in the outer harbor. I launched the dinghy, put up the tent, and ate my lunch. Sea Rose had not arrived yet, she came around 1430 and went straight into the inner harbor.

Later I went ashore and did some shopping. Sea Rose was shut-closed and there was no sign of her crew. After leaving my groceries in the zodiac, I walked along the waterfront and located my friends who were having their afternoon coffee in one of the cafés. I joined them and we said our goodbyes. It was a good cruise and fun to be with two boats. Before leaving they gave me their leftover provisions, including 12 bottles of spring water. I ferried everything back on Thetis and contemplated my next move.

I called Alice who was in Chicago visiting her Mother. The Navtex report called for 5-6 on the Beaufort Scale. NNW winds which will increase tomorrow from 1400. I made up my mind that there was no point in delaying any longer and if I were to leave now I would be in Salagonas by the morning. I started getting ready.

I raised the anchor and departed Pythagorio at 2013. I raised the mainsail, still on its 1st reef, and motor-sailed towards the Mycale Channel. The wind was about 12 knots N but near Psili Ammos there were violent gusts reaching 40 knots. Past Poseidonio, just 7 M further, there was no wind at all. Taking advantage of this calm, I prepared a risotto and ate it perched on top of the cabin for a better view. It was a lovely night.

After rounding Cape Prasso, I opened 35-45% of the headsail but the wind instead of coming, as predicted, from the N was coming from the W at 14-20 knots. Once again this was a contrary wind since our heading was 292°. The very reason I chose this longer route was to avoid the forecasted northerly headwinds. Westerlies would had been much more favorable had I chosen the shorter route via Fourni. To aggravate this situation the waves were rather large and in order to maintain some reasonable speed I had to tack several times while motor-sailing.

Saturday August 25 2001, Day 7

At about 0300 the wind backed to 8-15 knots WSW which made it possible to motor-sail in a straight course without tacking. By 0645, after the sunrise, the wind had strengthened and farther backed to 10-18 knots SW and I was able, at last, to turn off the motor and sail with the full genoa. By 0700 it had strengthened even more and Thetis was sailing very nicely and fast. But around 0800 the wind veered to 8-12 knots NW and it was back to motor-sailing after rolling-in the flapping genoa. There was a considerable amount of water in the bilge. I was not sure if it all came from the leaking pump’s shaft or some it came from the water trap. I was too tired to work on this.

We arrived in Salagonas [38° 13.25' N 25° 54.8' E], Chios at 1010. The distance we had covered from Pythagorio, with all the tacks, was 73.8 M. I had no problem anchoring in the sand of this wonderful cove. I swam and checked the anchor with the snorkel. I then dozed off and later made lunch: a cheese omelet and a tomato salad. I slept most of the afternoon.

I pumped out the water from the bilge and the engine compartment and tightened the stuffing box and the rings around the hoses connected to the water trap. I will have to inspect the water trap and the shaft when under way. I also found out that the varnish solvent “White Spirits” works like a charm to clean the stained horseshoe life buoys. After these tasks I launched the zodiac and went ashore to call Turgut. There is no GSM signal in the cove but if you climb up on high ground there is a weak signal. New Life had left Çesme and had arrived in the main harbor of Chios and they had already cleared Greek customs. Now they were on their way to Langada where they will spend the night. We agreed with Turgut, if the weather permits, for both boats to sail tomorrow for Psara, New Life from the N and Thetis from the S, and rendezvous there. Alternatively, if the weather deteriorates, we may converge somewhere on the west coast of Chios. We will communicate again before departure tomorrow morning, after we have received the latest Navtex report.

Salagonas, Chios
Salagonas, Chios

I am very glad to have again solitude and to be anchored in this gorgeous cove. But I am tired and my elbow is far from healed. It is still swollen and it hurts. I have a hard time sleeping because as I turn in my berth I press it and the pain wakes me up. I had an ouzo while watching the sun go down. It took me a long time before I could stir myself away from the cockpit.

Later, not feeling particularly ambitious, I made myself some spaghetti with a simple garlic and olive oil sauce which I enjoyed eating in the cockpit that was illuminated by the half moon. I retired early and fell asleep almost instantly.

Route to Sarakino
Route to Sarakino

Sunday August 26 2001, Day 8

Cape Mesta

The Navtex report called for force 5-6 winds, locally 7, from the NW but here in Salagonas the wind was no more than 6 knots. I decided to depart from the cove and head W and see what the conditions are after rounding Cape Mesta. Then I would call Turgut and together we will decide where to meet.

I left Salagonas at 0840. I checked the axle and the water trap. They were not leaking, but the engine compartment and bilge were still flooding. The water had to come from the pump. As soon as I had a GSM signal I sent a written SMS to Turgut advising him that Thetis was under way. After we cleared Cape Mesta the wind was 15-23 knots NW, a dead beat for a straight course for Psara but not too strong to prevent effective motoring at a speed around 5 knots. The sea had large but non-breaking swells. I fired another SMS to Turgut informing him of these observations. He responded that New Life was also under way heading for Psara. So Psara it was.

We continued motoring. Later I received a call from Turgut. New Life had developed a serious problem with her gear box and he was turning her back heading for Çesme, her home port, for repairs. I briefly entertained the idea of turning back to Chios and go to Limnia, but kept on going towards Psara. The wind increased to 18-28 knots NNW and I was able to open 40% of the headsail. This improved our power and now we could easily scale the by now considerably tall waves. An advisory arrived from the Navtex with a gale warning for this region. We kept on going as we were by then closer to Psara than to Chios.

We arrived in Psara, 27.4 M from Salagonas, at 1115. The wind at that point was about 30 knots with stronger gusts. I was afraid to attempt mooring Thetis in the small harbor and exposing her to the cross-wind. Instead, I headed for the sandy beach E of the harbor [38° 32.4' N 25° 34.7' E]. We had anchored here during strong weather, in 1992 I believe. I dropped the anchor at a depth of 4 m. It held for a while but then it dragged. I re-anchored and let out over 50 m of chain. This time it held well. Thetis settled in 7.7 m depth.

The wind grew more violent and poor Thetis was tossed right and left but the anchor held her firmly. The French flagged trimaran Lakatoï came in the cove. She had arrived in Psara about the same time as Thetis but they had anchored outside the harbor. Now they moved to “my” anchorage and anchored not far from Thetis. Rozina called me from Athens to inform me that the extended forecast calls for a gale lasting until Tuesday to be followed by calms. Turgut also called from Çesme with an update. The gearbox had been removed from New Life and broken parts have been identified. Tomorrow he will be going to a machine shop in Izmir to have the parts made. He hopes that by tomorrow evening, if all goes well, the repairs will be completed.

S/Y Lakatoi and the Town of Psara in background

After taking a long nap, I started cleaning the horseshoe buoys. I was pleasantly interrupted from this activity by the visit of Erik, a young man who rowed over from Lakatoï. There are two more people on Lakatoï besides Erik, his mother and father. His father built the boat all by himself. Erik’s parents have been sailing all over the Mediterranean including to Monastir, Tunisia where they spent a winter. He invited me to go over in the evening to Lakatoï for a drink but a few minutes after he left, he rowed back to inform me that his father is doing some complicated repair project with the windlass and would I please come tomorrow instead.

The Famous Rock of Psara

I launched the zodiac and went ashore at the beach. It is sheltered by a low lying reef and I almost hit the zodiac’s propeller on it. As it was, I had to wade and pull the dinghy on the sand. From the beach I walked for about 45 minutes to the town. I sat in an ovelistirio (rotisserie) restaurant where I had some grilled chicken. Then I walked back to my beach in the dark.

By the time I got back on Thetis the wind was very strong. My reading of Endurance, Shakelton’s 800 M voyage on an open boat in the Antarctic, did not help my serenity.

Monday August 27 2001, Day 9

The Beach where Thetis spent 3 days during the Gale

In the morning I continued cleaning some of the interior spaces. Then I went ashore and walked to town to get some provisions, especially some fresh bread. After my return to Thetis I went for a swim, had lunch, and a rest. The wind was still very strong.

In the afternoon I cleaned some more inside and then I finished cleaning the horseshoe buoys. The wind continued to blow at 20-30 knots and the Navtex was still issuing gale warnings. I was getting tired of this relentless wind. It had not let go since Thetis’ arrival here. Erik came and extended a dinner invitation aboard Lakatoï. I took with me a nice chilled wine from Santorini.

Erik’s father, Bernard, was born in Morocco. Before retiring we was a weaver making special textiles for the French high fashion houses. The mother, Christine, was a designer and designed the patterns that Bernard wove. As I mentioned before, Bernard built Lakatoï with his own hands following the design of a well known French boat designer. They have been sailing for 10 years now and have been living aboard Lakatoï for the past 5. Bernard is in his 70s but he is still a bundle of unrepressed energy. Christine is my age, 60, but definitely does not look her age. Both of them look at least 10 years younger then they are. Erik joins them whenever he can. All three are very nice and interesting people. Erik does speak good English but his parents do not. Christine understands some but Bernard does not. My French is rather weak, to put it mildly. Our conversation was slow but interesting it was a strange melange of English, French, and Greek, with an occasional Turkish word thrown in. But we did manage somehow to exchange many stories. I invited them tomorrow to come on Thetis.

The wind was still going strong. There was no let up. I received an SMS from Turgut. He has gotten the parts but he is not sure if they fit properly in his gear box. Tomorrow will tell.

Sunset in Psara

Tuesday August 28 2001, Day 10

Early Departure

I got up early. I had an ambitious plan. I wanted to go and visit the Monastery which is at the other side of the island. Since there are no taxis nor motor scooter rentals on the island the only way to get there is on foot. The road to the Monastery of the Assumption of the Virgin starts near the town. Instead of taking my usual way to town, I took a path along the shore line that the crew of Lakatoï had found yesterday. It is indeed a good shortcut.

Tourist Beach Camping ground in Psara
The Monastery of the Assumption of the Virgin in Psara

I left Thetis at 0700 and it took me altogether 3 hours of walking, mostly uphill, to reach the Monastery. On the way there was no traffic other than 3 cars, with armed men returning from hunting, and 2 men riding on donkeys. The scenery was breathtaking but also very stark: brown-gray rocks, blue sky, and azure sea. Mostly blue and brown with few patches of green. These greens were few but were they fragrant? Λυγαριά (osier the sacred plant of Hera), κονιζός (cannot find this in the English dictionary), δενδρολίβανο (rosemary)…

The Monastery is high up on NE side of the island. Alas when I got there it was shut. Nevertheless I was glad I went there. As Cavafy wrote in his famous poem Ithaca:

Η Ιθάκη σου έδωσε το ωραίο ταξίδι — Ithaca gave you the wonderful journey.

When I got back to the boat it was around 1330. A good swim refreshed me and I put up the tent which I had not been able to use because of the wind since Salagonas. I had some lunch and took a nap. Later I siphoned the 2 small jerry cans of fuel into the tank which was running low. I also run the engine to recharge the batteries. The wind was much reduced.

I received an SMS from Turgut. He had finally repaired New Life’s gear box and he and the family had already left Çesme and were on their way to Oinousa. Later I got a second message that they had docked in Oinousa and, weather permitting, will arrive tomorrow in Psara at about 1030. I responded that I will not leave Psara and will wait for them.

In the evening the crew of Lakatoï came over to Thetis for an ouzo. Now yesterday when I was aboard Lakatoï I noticed that she has the identical galley (stove/oven) as Thetis. My oven is a disaster. It never cooks, it just gets warm. I asked them how theirs work. It works fine and Christine often bakes bread. Bernard, who is the ultimate “hands on” person, volunteered to look over Thetis’ oven. Without wasting any time he had the galley dismantled and pronounced that its trouble was either at the “rubinet” (valve) or at the regulator. They did not stay very long because they were planning to depart very early in the morning for Petalious. I followed them with my zodiac so that I could see with my own eyes the difference in flame size between the two galleys. Indeed Lakatoï’s galley has a much stronger flame. Maybe if I were to clean the valves or change the regulator it will do the trick.

Wednesday August 29 2001, Day 11

When I woke up Lakatoï had already left. A message from Turgut was waiting to be read: New Life had already departed from Oinousa and was under way for Psara. I played with the galley trying to see if I could clean its valves but it needs a much thinner wire than I could find to clean its orifices.

Anticipating that Thetis too will be soon leaving Psara, I walked to the town for provisions. I bought some bread for both Thetis and New Life but could not find any tomatoes worth having, all the store had (there is only one store in the town) were some rotten ones. As I was climbing down the cliff to the beach where I had left the zodiac, New Life appeared on the horizon. Soon she was at anchor and rafted along-side of Thetis.

It was wonderful to be re-united with my friends. The kids have definitely grown since last year. One forgets how quickly they grow in their teens. We only had time for a cup of coffee and a swim since the crews of both boats were anxious to push on. I was getting tired of this place and they wanted to reach the Sporades because they do not have lots of time at their disposal as they must be back in Izmir before the schools open.

We departed at 1125 for Sarakino. There was hardly any wind, just a mild 4-6 knot WNW breeze. There were no waves, the sea was very calm. I motored for 5 M and then I opened the headsail. This helped our speed a little for the next 5 M after which the wind backed W and I had to roll it in. Later the wind died out completely and the sea became totally flat. On we went, the motor purring while the bilge flooded. I had to run the bilge pump rather frequently. The condition with the cooling pump was getting worse.

New Life arrived in Sarakino [38° 45' N 24° 36.9' E] about 20 minutes before Thetis. By the time Thetis arrived at 1840 New Life not only had anchored but had already launched their dinghy and Seref (her crew man) and Orhan (Turgut’s 15 year old son) had taken 2 stern lines ashore and tied them to the rocks. The distance from Psara was 45.4 M. I anchored and backed Thetis along side of New Life.

We all had a prolonged ouzo in New Life’s cockpit to celebrate our first joint passage this year. Mezedes (tasty snacks) were contributed from both boats. The kids, Orhan and his sister Dilek are now much taller and maybe more shy and aloof. Fortunately they are still sweet and polite.