Travels with S/Y Thetis

Thetis only

2001: Yerakas to Samos

This web page contains the logs of the ninth and final leg of a trip that I took with a S/Y Thetis from Greece to Tunisia and back. The logs cover a period of 9 days of sailing from Yerakas to Samos. On the way we stopped at: in the Cyclades at Adamas, the main port of the island of Milos, the island of Poliegos, the island of Ios, Katapola and Nikouria on the island of Amorgos, and in the East Aegean islands of Patmos and Arki.

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 in W Aegean
Route in W Aegean

Thursday June 21 2001, Day 49

The Fjord o Yerakas

Yesterday’s Navtex forecast called for force 6, locally 7, SW winds for the southeastern Aegean. These will be diminishing from tonight. With the help of this info and the local gusts we made up our minds to stay put here in Yerakas. If the wind does diminish, then maybe we could leave tonight for Milos.

The first thing I did today was to attack the outboard. I took it aboard Thetis and started dismantling its carburetor. I took it apart, cleaned it inside, blew air at all its orifices, and reassembled it. After re-installing the carburetor, I lowered the motor to the zodiac and started it. It ran for a few minutes but then it sputtered and stalled. I took it back up and repeated the whole procedure but no joy. Frustrated I gave up.

The Cyclopean Wall in Yerakas

We rowed ashore and while Nick and I climbed up the hill to see the medieval castle which is built on top of Bronze age foundations and its Cyclopean walls. Chris chose not to come with us but to go swimming instead. After we came back, we joined Chris who had installed himself in the shaded verandah of the Maistrali restaurant sipping cold beer. We too ordered beers which led to lunch…

We spent the afternoon back on Thetis swimming and resting. It was pleasant enough but the gusts came back with a vengeance. In the evening we went back ashore for dinner. After dinner we started getting ready for our departure. The wind was by then appreciably down.

We left Yerakas at 2250. Outside the fjord, the wind was 5-14 knots SW which allowed us to sail. It did not last. Within an hour the wind had died out. We motor-sailed for a while but the genoa started to flap. It was hopeless. We rolled it in and continued motoring. The night was very clear and mild. It was very pleasant and we could see lots and lots of stars. If only we did not have to listen to the motor.

Friday June 22 2001, Day 50

Sunrise on the way to Milos

In the morning the wind picked up a little to 8-14 knots NW and we were able once again to sail. We almost reached the opening of the caldera in Milos under sail. We arrived at the port of Adamas [36° 43.4' N 24° 26.7' E] at 1045, 64.8 M. We docked along-side the quay without any trouble.

There were water outlets along the quay, and amazingly enough there was running water. We immediately connected our hose, filled the tanks, and washed the deck which had not been washed since Sidi Bou Saïd more then 500 M away. We removed the torn mainsail from the mast, bagged it and shipped it, via courier, to Mrs. Rena my sailmaker (North Sails) in Athens for serious repairs.

I started asking around for a mechanic to look into the problem with the outboard. I finally located Nikos Vichos of Andromeda Diving who promised to me on the telephone to come at 7 PM and look at the motor.

The Financial Police Cruiser
terrorizes Adamas

A motor-cruiser with the designation Financial Police came into the harbor. Everyone panicked. Teams of 2-3 inspectors from the cruiser descended into the town’s businesses inspecting various papers. I had called for a fuel delivery. While Thetis’ tanks were being filled, one of these inspector teams pounced on the poor truck driver. Trembling he gave them his papers and they seemed to be satisfied. I got 69 L of fuel. As soon as my delivery was over, the fuel truck just left the harbor area. It was not seen anywhere near the harbor for the rest of the day.

Later in the afternoon it was my turn to be inspected. One of these dreaded teams had surrounded Thetis. They were very courteous. They asked for my papers and very politely asked for permission to take them aboard their cruiser and copy them. This they did and promptly returned them. They, like most Greeks, were talkative. They told me that they have aboard several computers, copiers, etc. Tax evasion is a big problem in Greece. They go from island to island. Something like a commando raid. I had no problem myself but the rest of the island lived in terror until they left.

We looked around town and found a laundry that could wash our clothes in the same day. We took them a load which they promised to have ready by 11 PM. In the mean time, Nick raised the zodiac on the quay found and patched a hole that must be responsible for its slow leak of air. Nikos Vichos did come, as promised, at 7 and took the outboard. He promised to try and have it repaired before midnight.

Chris and Nick decided to spend tomorrow here in Milos but I will sail on to Amorgos. My old colleague from COMSAT Laboratories Dr. Murray Dressler had been earlier to Israel with his son and he had just arrived in Athens from Rome. He wanted to spend a few days sailing with me. They will take the ferry and meet me in Amorgos.

We went out to dinner at the Ο Κυνηγός (the Hunter). The food was indifferent and rather expensive. While eating the GSM phone rung twice. The first call was from the laundry: our clothes were ready. The second from Nikos Vichos: the outboard was fixed but he cannot bring to Thetis until past midnight because the street is blocked to accommodate the traffic from the incoming ferryboat. He will bring it then. The cost is 30,000 GRD (~$80).

We got the laundry and went aboard Thetis to wait for the outboard, which arrived soon. Nikos did insist that we try it right away. It worked. All together not a bad day.

Saturday June 23 2001, Day 51

We all walked to town and found Chris and Nick a hotel to stay until tomorrow. Nick wanted to rent motor-scooters for sightseeing but none of the rentals will rent to either one of them. They demanded that they have a motorcycle license. This must be a new requirement because until now everywhere in Greece any foreigner could rent a motor-scooter with a regular car driver’s license. We were told that the police now demand motorcycle licenses and impose very stiff fines on agencies that rent motor-scooters or motorbikes to any one without such a license. After giving up on the scooter idea, Chris rented a car from a lovely young German lady who runs a car agency. She is married to a Greek from Milos and has been in the island for several years. Her Greek was excellent.

Departing Adamas

After making sure that my cousin and nephew were comfortable and had no further need of my translations, I got ready to depart from Milos. I cast off at 0940 and started to motor away from the harbor of Adamas. Chris and Nick were waving me off. After a while it dawned on me that their waving was too enthusiastic. It turns out that they could see no cooling water coming out of Thetis’ exhaust. The belt of the raw water pump was slipping. I shut down the engine and while Thetis was drifting in the calm waters I tightened the belt. Now I was really off.

The wind was a light 5 knot breeze from the E so I could only motor, staying in the shade of the tent. I was very glad to have sailed with my nephew Nick, who had very quickly become a competent sailor, and with my beloved cousin Chris with whom our time together is preciously rare. Nevertheless, I was also rather glad to be once again singlehanding. My plan was to head E toward the Kimolos Channel and to stop at the Poliegos [36° 46' N 24° 36.8' E] cove off the small island of Manolas. When we got there the cove was full of a large motor-cruiser and several jet-skis were buzzing around. It did not look inviting, so I continued on to the cove just south of Poliegos [36° 45.7' N 24° 37' E] where after 14.5 M I anchored at 1230.

Cove south of Poliegos

The cove was a delightful place, with no one else there. I had it all by myself. I had a nice swim and then lunch under the tent. I could have easily spent the rest of the day and night in that lovely spot but I was going to meet my friend Murray in Amorgos so I could not delay there. Reluctantly I started getting ready to leave. The breeze had increased to 14 knots so sailing was becoming a possibility. I took down the tent, and hit the starter. Nothing happened. The engine would not turn. There was nothing wrong with the starting battery. I jumped the starter solenoid and the motor purred to life. This was the third time this year that we had this problem.

Route in the Cyclades
Route in the Cyclades

I raised the anchor. The time was 1340. We motored for a few miles until the breeze had veered to 5-10 knots SE. I opened the headsail and motor-sailed E but it was uncomfortably hot without the tent. I put it up again. Continued to motor-sail until we were abreast of the island of Sikinos when the breeze stiffened and I was able to turn off the noisy motor. Serenity! We reached the Island of Ios under sail. I decided not to go to the harbor but to anchor off on a small cove NE [36° 43.4' N 25° 15.9' E] off the main harbor. The time was 1915 and we had covered 44.5 M from Milos.

The Harbor of Ios

The cove was very calm with clear water. There were a few bathers but they left shortly and I, once again, was left by myself. Very nice. I made myself an ouzo and later cooked a pilaf with tuna. I went to bed very early because my plan was to sail for Amorgos in the wee hours. I was very happy to have once again solitude. This trip has been a very good one but I have missed the peace and tranquillity of being all alone in a boat afloat in a lovely anchorage. I do feel much closer to nature when there are no distractions from other crew members. But I am very pleased that I had the opportunity to get re-acquainted with my cousin Chris whom I have known since he was a very young boy. Also to get to know his son Nicky who has become such a good and enthusiastic sailor.

Earlier Murray had called me. He will be taking the 8 AM ferry which is due to arrive in Katapola, the main harbor of Amorgos, at about 4 PM. This gives me plenty of time to get there. I really do not have to leave early, as I was planning, but can sleep almost as late as I want.

Sunday June 24 2001, Day 52

Sunrise on the way to Amorgos

In the very early morning hours an extremely uncomfortable swell developed. There was no wind, but I was uneasy because I had not let out as much anchor chain as I would have liked. I did this because the cove is narrow and I did not want to risk drifting to the rocks. But with the strong swell I was afraid that the anchor may come loose. I kept getting up to check it. Gone were my plans for sleeping late. At the end, I made up my mind that I may as well depart for Amorgos. I made some coffee and started getting ready.

I pulled up the anchor and motored away from Ios on 0305. Outside the bay of Ios the sea was calm and the wind a light breeze of 4-5 knots coming from every direction. The sunrise was terrific, the sun rising over the islands of Schinousa and Keros. It was a smooth and pleasant passage, as pleasant as it can get given that we were motoring.

Thetis arrived in Katapola, Amorgos [36° 49.6' N 25° 51.8' E] at 0920. The distance traveled from Ios was 33.7 M. The mooring, stern-to, was perfect. There are only two problems: the harbor had a heavy sewage smell (raw sewage was being discharged almost under Thetis’ stern), and the Navtex forecast was calling for strong N winds beginning tonight. I took a shower and rested.

Shortly after 4 PM the Piraeus ferry arrived and Murray Dressler and his 13 year old son Avi arrived. I have known Murray for over 20 years. He was a very young and bright Israeli when he joined COMSAT Labs, straight out from college. I watched him develop to a brilliant researcher while pursuing his doctorate. He left the Labs for New York a long time ago but we kept in touch and maintained our friendship. While we did speak fairly regularly on the phone it had been several years since I had seen him. So here he was with Avi in Amorgos of all places.

After both Dresslers were installed, Murray in the left cabin and Avi in the front, we walked across the bay to Xylokeratidi and sat at the highly recommended Vinzentos restaurant. We ordered their specialty patatáto—lamb cooked with potatoes in a clay pot. It was tasty and the atherina (tiny fried fish) were very fresh but the rest of the appetizers were rather mediocre and not up to the billing. Over the dinner and wine Murray and I brought each other up to date with our recent activities and discussed our mutual friends.

We walked back to Thetis and tried to go to sleep but the very loud music from the café/restaurant just across the quay kept waking us up. It did not subside until well past 3 AM.

Route in SE Aegean
Route in SE Aegean

Monday June 25 2001, Day 53

The wind picked up during the night, as predicted, and caused an uncomfortable swell. It was definitely not a good day for traveling. We found a laundry and we took some used bed sheets. The lady promised to have them ready by 12. This is good because although I had a clean change for the left cabin I had none left for the front.

The Monastery of Panayia Hozoviotisa

We rented two motor-scooters (my motor-cycle license seemed to be sufficient here for both of them) and rode to the most famous site of the island, the Monastery of Panayia Hozoviotisa. We climbed up the steep path and visited the monastery. Fortunately it was still early in the day and not too hot yet. After the monastery we stopped at the lovely small beach of Aigiali (Ayia Anna) but my guests did not feel like swimming. We drove to Chora instead. On the way poor Avi burned his leg on the exhaust of the bike but although it must have hurt a lot he put on a very brave face. We sat at a café and they gave us some ice cubes to cool and relieve the burn, that helped.

Murray and Avi Dressler
Street in Chora

By the time we returned to Katapola a large motor-cruiser had squeezed next to Thetis. They kept on running their infernal generator filling our boat full of exhaust fumes. The Greek owner was very surprised when I politely objected to these fumes. “You are the first person that has ever complained about our generator...” Fumes, swell, and sewage! Not a very good combination to spend the rest of the day and night with. The Navtex forecasts continued predicting strong, force 7, northerly winds for both today and tomorrow with a chance for improvement by Wednesday. I suggested that we depart immediately, before the weather deteriorates any further, for the near-by cove of Nikouria which is well protected from the N winds and is a very attractive and remote anchorage. No fumes. We returned the scooters but we unfortunately had to wait for the laundry and for Murray and Avi to have a pizza lunch.

We cast off and raised the anchor at 1400 and motored, against the 20-25 knot headwind. There was an uncomfortable chop. The recently eaten pizza did not sit well, and both Avi and Murray got the mal-de-mere. We banged alone the 6.7 M and arrived in Nikouria [36° 52.9' N 25° 55.2' E] at 1535. There were violent gusts but the sea was flat. We anchored under the little church. The anchor was holding and looked well buried under the sand when I checked it with the snorkel. The sand here, however, is coarse and loose and there are many patches of weed, so even a well buried anchor can come loose, especially when, as in the present case, the gusts toss poor Thetis all over. At least we were fine for a while.

Avi recovered quickly and snorkeled for a long time. He loves the sea bottom. In the evening I made a light meal of pasta with a fresh tomato sauce. Everyone ate well and all retired early.

Tuesday June 26 2001, Day 54

Nikouria Island, looking N

The strong gusts continued all night but the anchor held. Around 9 AM though, we dragged. We made several futile attempts to re-anchor but we always dragged. Finally I moved the boat very close to the shore in a spot under the church that was somewhat more protected from the gusts and we anchored at 3 m depth. The anchor held very well but with the gusts and a possible change of wind direction there was the danger of Thetis drifting too close to shore. To prevent this we used the second anchor which we dropped from the dinghy. The outboard now was working well.

It was a quiet day. The wind decreased somewhat and we were able to put up the tent. In the late afternoon we went ashore with the dinghy and climbed up the cliff where I could get a good GSM signal. I received a number of messages and left one for Alice who was already in Samos.

We had dinner in the cockpit: rice with tuna, capers, and fresh tomato sauce. The Navtex predicted further decrease of the wind to a force 6. If conditions improve, maybe we can leave tomorrow for Levitha.

Wednesday June 27 2001, Day 55

There was no way that we could have left this protected anchorage today. Instead of decreasing, as predicted, the wind increased. It started blowing around 0500 with even stronger gusts than before with an average speed of 28 knots. It kept coming from all directions until the afternoon. At one time it lifted up the zodiac with its outboard and landed it upside down. Fortunately we were able to right it immediately, rinse the outboard, and ran it so that it could dry quickly.

Later I took the zodiac and went ashore. I climbed up the hill and made a few phone calls. There was a problem with my 90 year old mother’s heart. She may have to go to the hospital for tests. I also spoke with the sailmaker. They have received the sail and will send it to Samos after repairing it. Looking over the peak of the island to the N and E, I could see that the sea was extremely rough. Glad that we were here and not there.

In the evening, with Murray’s help, we installed mosquito screens in all 3 cabins. We made rice with cheese omelets for dinner which we ate along with some Tunisian wine.

Thursday June 28 2001, Day 56

The alarm woke me up at 5 AM. Encouraged last night by a favorable Navtex forecast I had set it so that I could check the sea conditions. After looking I decided that it was possible to make it fairly comfortably to Patmos. I was anxious to join Alice in Samos and the Dresslers wanted to be back in Athens in time for their flight to Rome and New York. My present plan was to transit the narrow channel between Nikouria and Amorgos and then appraise further the sea conditions. From there we will have 4 options: turn back, go to Aigiali, sail E to Levitha, or the most preferable, sail NE to Patmos.

It took us over an hour to lift the second anchor, raise the zodiac, lash it on the deck, etc. By 0645 both anchors were up and we were motoring towards the channel. Murray was at the bow looking for rocks while I was at the tiller watching the depth sounder. Slowly, we made it safely through the narrow and shallow channel. On the other side there was considerable chop but the wind was a fairly benign 10-20 knot northerly. Both Dresslers had taken their Dramamines 2 hours before. We motored past the NW point of Amorgos and then set a 050° course for Patmos. This heading allowed us to open the headsail and motor-sail. We were moving at a reasonable speed.

We had a relative easy passage to Patmos. Instead of going directly to the harbor in Skala we anchored by the lee of Tragonisi [37° 17.6' N 26° 33.9 E] for lunch and a swim. The time was 1400 and we had come 37.25 M from Nikouria. There were no waves here but the wind had fierce gusts well above 30 knots. Because it was hot, despite the wind, we put up the tent. It was a mistake. One of the gusts snapped the tent pole as if it was a toothpick. Little Avi went to sleep in the front cabin.

We left Tragonisi for Skala at 1645. The strong gusts did not abate. We arrived in Skala [37° 19.7' N 26° 32.7' E] at 1735 motoring all of the 4.1 M. We had a hard time mooring because of the strong cross-wind. Our first approach was fine but we ran short, by 2 m, on our anchor chain and we had to anchor again. We got back into position and I gave the hand signal for Murray to drop the anchor. The windlass jammed but I did not hear in the wind Murray informing me of that and I kept reversing. Then, on our third anchoring we crossed the chain of another boat and had to do the exercise for the fourth time. On this attempt, the chain was too loose to hold us and we almost hit the quay. A burst of forward power on the engine and the help of the friendly kiosk owner avoided any mishap. Eventually, we took the slack on the chain and the anchor held firmly with 40 m scope. A separate spring line prevented the boat from being pushed on her side by the cross wind. All of this took over one hour of hard work. I was exhausted. The track that suspends the bathroom door broke off. It will need to be replaced.

Avi, Murray, and Thetis in Skala, Patmos

We had a water delivery and filled the tanks. Also we bought from the friendly kiosk a quantity of spring water for drinking. After showers we walked to a waterfront restaurant where Avi, who does not like too many different foods ate pizza. He then went back to Thetis to read and sleep while Murray and I had a very nice seafood dinner at the reliable Pyrofani.

Friday June 29 2001, Day 57

Murray got up early and by 7:30 he was on his way to take a taxi for the Monastery. Avi was asleep. I waited past 8 to go and look for a replacement of the broken tent-pole. I found a PVC pipe of the right diameter and had it cut to the right length. On the way back to Thetis I bought some fruits and fresh bread. There are several good bakeries in Skala. I also arranged for a Diesel fuel delivery and topped the tank with 50 L.

By 1100 Murray was back, and Avi was up. We cast off and were our way to Arki island. The wind was 18-28 knots NW which allowed us to sail the 9.3 M with the fully opened genoa. We arrived in Glypappas or Porto Grosso [37° 22.4' N 26° 44.4' E] at 1305. The wind here was gusty and we had to try 3 times until we were able to drop the anchor to the small patch of sand at 3.5 m depth.

We had lunch under the tent. The new pole worked but it flexed too much which did not allow the tent to be properly tensioned. I will have to either get a different pole or find a way to stiffen this one by inserting a narrower pipe or a wooden pole inside the PVC pipe. I will deal with this when we get to Samos.

In the afternoon Murray and I launched the zodiac and went ashore. We had a nice walk to the hamlet where we drank an ouzo. This time we went to the northernmost establishment. I had never been there. It is definitely friendlier than the other two. The proprietress was very pleasant but she was sort of disappointed that we did not stay for supper.

By the time we had walked back to the dinghy it was getting dark. I made pasta with pesto sauce which we ate along with a chilled Sicilian wine in the cockpit under the bright stars with the sound of the bells from the goats and sheep. It was a great finale to this the last night of the trip.

Saturday June 30 2001, Day 58

I was woken up by the alarm at 4:30 and started getting ready for the final passage to Samos. We departed from Arki at 0520. The wind was brisk, 12-22 knots NNW and gusty. We motored NW to clear the N edge of Arki and then we assumed a 030° heading straight for Pythagorio, Samos. After the new heading, sailing with the full genoa was possible. We sailed for 6 M but then the wind attenuated and backed first from the N and then from the E. We had to motor again.

We arrived in Pythagorio [37° 41.3' N 26° 56.7' E] at 1005. The distance from Arki was 22.5 M. Fortunately the usually crowded inner harbor was not too full and there was room for Thetis to moor stern-to. We moored without any of the difficulties we had in Patmos.

Avi and Murray will spend the night on Thetis because tomorrow they will take an excursion to Kusadasi in Turkey. They will return on Monday, spend another night on Thetis and then fly to Athens.

After making sure that everything was secure with the boat I took a taxi for our house in Kalami.

This is the end of the trip to Tunisia. The total length of the trip was 1869 M.