Travels with S/Y Thetis

Thetis only

2001: Sarakino to Skopelos and Skiathos

This web page contains the logs of the third leg of a trip that I took with S/Y Thetis in the Northern Sporades. This trip was in the company of S/Y New Life. I singlehanded from the island of Sarakino, near Skyros to the small island of Skanzoura. From Skantzoura to Skopelos I was accompanied by Orhan Ayker. In that passage Thetis developed engine trouble and had to wait there for a few days for parts. During this time I was invited on S/Y New Life for a sail to Skiathos and back to Skopelos.

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 Skopelos and Skiathos
Route to Skopelos and Skiathos

Thursday August 30 2001, Day 12

I woke up early, made my coffee, and went out in the cockpit to drink it. There was Turgut in his cockpit drinking his coffee. He had hardly slept all night because his back was hurting him. My elbow hurt also, but although it was still swollen it hurt much less than it used to.

Thetis cast off from New Life and raised her anchor at 0815 and departed from Sarakino. I foolishly towed the zodiac behind her rather than raising it on deck as I usually do. The wind was over 10 knots NNE but very gusty. We motored towards Linaria in Skyros. While passing by Cape Marmara, a very strong gust overturned the zodiac and before I could slow down to right it one of its towing rings snapped off. I raised it on deck but I felt very stupid not to had done so before departure. I was lulled into complacency by the low wind and the short distance.

We arrived in Linaria the main harbor of Skyros but it was full and there was no room for two more boats, so we went to the cove of Aherountas (Αχερούντας) [38° 50.9' N 24° 32' E] which is just E of Linaria. Thetis anchored at 1015. The distance from Sarakino was just 9.3 M. New Life anchored also and then rafted along side Thetis. Because they were uneasy due to some swell they also set their second anchor.

Turgut, Orhan, and I took New Life’s dinghy to Linaria where I filled the two empty jerry cans with 38 L Diesel fuel. We also called for a taxi to come and pick us up, in 20 minutes, from Aherountas for a visit to Chora. Turgut walked back while Orhan and I drove the cans back to the boats. After leaving the cans, Arzu, Dilek, Orhan, and I went ashore while Seref stayed behind to keep watch over both boats while we were away.

Arzu, Dilek, Orhan, and Turgut Ayker

The taxi came almost as soon as we stepped on land and took us all to Chora. We walked in the narrow streets ending in the Faltaiz Museum. Unfortunately not all of its rooms were open to visitors. The recent Earthquakes had damaged the old house and access was restricted. Back in town I bought a new cooking pot to replace the old one whose handle had broken off.

We met a nice young man, Stamatis Andreou, who owns and operates a traditional wood shop. He showed us some marvelous Skyrian hand carved wooden trunks (κασέλες) and other furniture. They were expensive. A particular trunk that I liked very much went for 800,000 GRD. He can also take custom orders and make furniture to specific dimensions. While expensive, I do believe that such effort should be supported. After all how many young people do practice the traditional crafts anymore?

Tired after our long walk we sat down at one of the few open establishments (it was past 1330) for drinks and a snack. It seems the whole town shuts down in the afternoon.

View from Chora in Skyros

When we all returned to the boats we raised the anchors and departed at 1540. We motored via the Valaxa Channel the 4.3 M to Ayios Fokas (Άγιος Φωκάς) [38° 52.4' N 24° 28.6' E] where we arrived at 1630. The wind was a gusty 10-15 knots NNE. We anchored in the center of the cove. New Life again set two anchors.

Turgut described to me a number of electrical problems with New Life. A particular intriguing problem is some electrical load that appears to come on and off, in the service circuit, at random intervals. I promised him to look into this problem and trace the wiring if necessary.

Later in the evening we all went ashore for dinner in the small but friendly restaurant. We had simple fare of roasted chicken, μπάμιες (okra), salad, and freshly fried potatoes. It was good. After dinner we took a walk, under the moonlight, to the small chapel of St. Fokas. This was followed with a nightcap of sweet Samian moschato wine. It was a most pleasant evening in very convivial company.

Friday August 31 2001, Day 13

New Life under Sail

We left the Ayios Fokas anchorage of Skyros at 0830. Our plan was to stop in Skantzoura for lunch and a swim and then continue on to Skopelos. The sea was calm and there was a very light breeze which after 4 M of motoring freshened to 10-17 knots NE. I raised the mainsail and opened the genoa. New Life, being a larger boat, was ahead of Thetis. They too put up their sails. It was glorious that the two boats were having a gentle sail together.

Thetis arrived in Skantzoura [39° 04.1' N 24° 06.8' E] slightly before New Life but by the time I gathered and secured the sails New Life had already anchored. After anchoring, I backed Thetis and rafted along side New Life. The time was 1245 and we had sailed for 21.15 M.

The water was crystal-clear and we had a very refreshing swim. I then traced New Life’s electric circuit to shed some light to the mysterious load. It looked like an inductive load. After some digging the culprit was located. There was a window wiper motor and its circuit was on. It turned on and off the motor but the wipers never moved, only the battery was drained and the volt and amp meters went wild. Once we disconnected the motor everything behaved normally. Next I looked at the rectifiers. They had bad contacts; once cleaned they were fixed and the service battery could once again be charged, but slowly thanks to its automotive type regulator.

Arzu told me that Orhan wanted to come with Thetis for our next passage to Skopelos but was too shy to ask himself. I, of course, invited him and I am very glad that I did so. We departed Sarakino at 1530. The wind was light, 8-12 knots NE but we did manage to sail with both sails. New Life, also put up her sails including her spinnaker. She was a great sight. However, as we approached Skopelos the wind diminished and we were forced to turn on the motor. We motor-sailed for 10-15 minutes when I noticed a certain smell. There was hardly any cooling water coming out of our exhaust. After further checking I discovered that, once again, the plastic water trap had melted and the engine compartment was being flooded. I tried to patch the trap with duct tape but it did not work. We could not use the motor.

New Life
Route in Sporades
Route in Sporades

We arrived in Skopelos at 1920. We sailed next to the quay, dropped the anchor and quickly lowered the sails. Being two persons made a huge difference during this precision maneuver. In the mean time, New Life had moored and launched her dinghy. Seref had already tied two docking lines to the quay and brought their free ends to Thetis. We warped the boat the rest of the way to the quay [39° 07.4' N 23° 43.8' E]. All was secure. We had come 18.8 M from Sarakino, tired but pleased with our performance.

After showers and a change of clothes the crews of both boats walked up the steep steps on N side of the town until we reached the restaurant Ουζερί η Ανατολή (Ouzo pub the Orient) where we feasted on a large assortment of excellent mezedes (tasty snacks) to the sound of recorded rembetika music. When we were almost done eating a group of bouzouki musicians started playing old rembetika. The music was excellent but we all were very tired and so we reluctantly started on our descent to our boats and berths.

Saturday September 1 2001, Day 14

Thetis in Skopelos Harbor
Thetis in Skopelos Harbor

My theory for the water trap failure was that the pump deteriorated to the point that it was delivering a significantly reduced volume of cooling water to the motor. As a result the discharged water entering the plastic water trap was too hot and it damaged it.

Last night, I had asked the captain of a day-trip boat if he could recommend a Diesel engine mechanic to look into the cooling water pump and water trap problem. This morning he produced a man, named Yiorgos, who spoke Greek with a foreign accent. Later we found out that Yiorgos was from Izmir, Turgut’s home city, and that his native language was Turkish. His real name was Mehmet. Yiorgos/Mehmet removed both the pump and the water trap and told us that he will have no difficulty repairing them both. Turgut, who was not going to let me deal with this problem all by myself, got with me into Yiorgos/Mehmet’s dilapidated car and we were driven to his rather basic shop, a distance out of town. He disassembled the pump. Indeed its bushings and its oil seals were shot. He made several phone calls and then announced to Turgut and me that he had located replacement parts but he would have to drive to Glossa, 35 km away, to get them. He insisted that we will have to go with him.

We got into the car and were driven, at very high speed and with total disregard of the rules of the road, to Glossa. During this most perilous journey Yiorgos/Mehmet did not stop smoking and making comments about the bad driving habits of all the other cars, which he almost ran off the road. It was hot and scary. I was very dizzy by the time we got to the machine shop that had the parts. I had to pay for them. Then back into the car for the ordeal of the return trip. At last the pump was reassembled with the new parts and declared fixed.

For some reason, Yiorgos/Mehmet, did not inspire me with great confidence in his repairs. So, I called my brother Nikos to get the number for both the Vetus (water trap) and Yanmar (the water pump) dealerships. I wanted to order completely new units. Today being Saturday I will have to wait until Monday before I can place an order, so with some luck, I may have them here in Skopelos by Tuesday.

In the meant time, both Turgut and I were in the clutches of Yiorgos/Mehmet. He drove us back into the town but not to the harbor. Instead we visited a hardware store where he purchased, I paid, glue for repairing the water trap. Back to his shop he cut a section of plastic from an old jug and glued it on the water trap but the glue did not hold. Back to the hardware for more stuff plus fiberglass materials. Again to his shop for the repairs. He re-glued the plastic from the jug and then wrapped the whole trap with fiberglass. He then drove us to Thetis where he installed the water pump while waiting for the fiber glass to dry. It was past 3 PM and very hot. Finally the water trap was ready and he installed it. Then we turned on the engine and we held our breaths. After some doing the pump did work but the trap leaked. Off it came and he put on some more fiberglass, working on the quay. This went on for several attempts until 8 PM when I gave up, but I had real trouble stopping Yiorgos/Mehmet, after paying him, from more futile attempts on the trap. At last we persuaded him to go home.

During this whole ordeal Turgut was a pillar of support. He stood by me and helped with the difficult relations with Yiorgos/Mehmet with streams of Turkish. The poor Ayker children who had lost a complete day from their vacation stood by uncomplaining. By then we thought that we were off the hook but it was not to be. Yiorgos/Mehmet came back as we were all ready to have dinner. He had located a used water trap which he could get for me for 10,000 GRD. I gave him the money and off he went.

Arzu made a nice dinner which we ate in the cockpit of New Life. After dinner, just as we were ready to go for a walk, Yiorgos/Mehmet reappeared. He did have a dirty water trap but it was the wrong size and had a hole, although a smaller hole then mine. I told him I did not want it. He said that he will be back in the morning with my 10,000 GRD. What a day!

Sunday September 2 - Monday September 3, 2001

Turgut bringing New Life out of Skopelos

Since there was nothing more that could be done about Thetis, the Aykers invited me to spend two days aboard New Life and to cruise with them around Skopelos and Skiathos. After some shopping we left the harbor and sailed with the mainsail to the cove of Panormos on the S side of Skopelos. There we swam and had lunch.

From Panormos we sailed along the S coast of the island to Glossa and across the channel to Skiathos. We looped into the harbor but did not stay there. Instead we continued W to the beautiful beach of Koukounaries where we anchored off. The only problem was that at the time we anchored there was considerable swell.

Arzu guiding New Life in Skiathos

After swimming and hot showers we took the dinghy ashore and walked in the woods and then outside the park ending at a Greek restaurant, right next to a Chinese. The food was mediocre.

During the night the wind, although light, kept shifting direction. Poor Turgut was so anxious about the anchor holding that he hardly slept.

The Stafylos Cove in Skopelos

Next day being Monday, I called Vetus and ordered a new water trap. It should arrive in Skopelos on Tuesday and I will mail them a check. I also called the Yanmar dealer and ordered a new water pump. It too should be at Skopelos by Tuesday. It will be shipped via the Greek Post Office Door to Door Service which will collect from me the price of the pump and its shipping charges.

After a sumptuous breakfast, we raised New Life’s anchor and motor-sailed back to Skopelos. We stopped at the Stafylos cove. This is particularly lovely cove. According to my recollection at the top of the hill, on the main road, there is, or used to be, a very nice restaurant which specializes in very tasty stuffed chicken cooked in wine. My daughter Corinna and I had eaten there back in 1993.

New Life in Stafylos

After a swim, Turgut, Orhan, and I climbed up the very steep hill in search for this restaurant. Amazingly enough we found it. It was still very much in business and it is called Τέρψις (Terpsis - Delight) and it is very well known in the island. However, just as I remembered, in order to have their chicken specialty you must order it in advance. This we did. We ordered two chickens.

Back on board New Life we washed, changed for the evening and drank ouzo. In the late evening Arzu, Turgut, Dilek, and I landed with the dinghy on the beach and started up the 20 minute hike to the restaurant. Orhan had decided to stay “home.” The stuffed chicken was as delicious as I remembered it. We ate and ate but it was impossible to finish both chickens. They kindly packed the left-overs in a plastic box.

The evening was most pleasant with the full moon. We could not tear ourselves away from New Life’s deck and go to sleep.

Tuesday September 4, 2001

Dilek Ayker in New Life
Dilek Ayker in New Life

We motored back into Skopelos Harbor. Thetis was fine but looked lonesome. We refueled both New Life and Thetis (65 L). I walked to the ACS courier. My water trap was there but when I checked at the Post Office there was nothing for either me or for Thetis. They told me that the last shipment from Athens arrives at 2 PM but they close at 1:30. They did give me a telephone number, however, so that I can check on it. If it does arrive, the Post Master can give it to me at his discretion.

The Aykers by now were pressed for time because they had to be back in Izmir before the opening of Dilek’s and Orhan’s schools. So as soon as they bought some provisions we said our goodbyes and New Life departed for Alonnisos. These days that we sailed together had been very enjoyable. I was also glad to be able to spend few peaceful days as a passenger on New Life and to experience their warm hospitality. I do hope we meet again next year, preferably in Samos.

I took some clothes to the laundry and then called the Post Office but I was out of luck, the pump had still not arrived. I installed the new water trap (keeping the old patched up as a spare) and tested it. It worked fine, and there were no leaks.

While I was resting, drinking a cup of coffee, Yiorgos/Mehmet came by. I asked him to please bring back the 3 tape cassettes that he had boroughed from Turgut. He promised me to bring them by tomorrow morning together with the money he owed me and he installed himself under Thetis’ tent and told me his incredible story which I find rather difficult to believe:

He was born in Turkey but his family is of Greek descent and they are practicing Christian Orthodox. He grew up in Izmir knowing very little Greek, which he picked up from his parents. His language is Turkish. He became a car mechanic and did rather well running his own modest shop. One day, a small van was brought to his shop for repairs. After fixing it he took it for a test drive. He then gave it back to the man who brought it, whom he did not know, and got paid for his work. The next day he was arrested by the secret police. They accused him of driving the van and delivering the narcotics hidden in its chassis. (I am not too sure that I got all the details right because his Greek is not very good). He was kept at the police for 11 days and was brutally tortured by the falanga (beating with a cane at the soles of the feet). Finally, formal charges were pressed against him, and based on false evidence presented by the police, he was convicted to an eight year jail sentence. On his release, he bought a motor boat and two pistols. He then, over a period of less than a week, hunted down and killed all 13 policemen who had tortured and accused him. He then got into the boat and went to Lesvos where, based on his Greek descent, he was granted asylum. So here he is…

Later, after a shower, I walked into town and rented a motor-scooter with the intention to visit tomorrow morning several monasteries in the area. This should occupy me while waiting for the pump to arrive. I also got back the laundry that I had given for washing in the morning. After leaving the clothes in Thetis, I climbed the steep stairs and went back to the Ouzo pub the Orient where I had another wonderful meal. What a pleasant spot this is! Yiorgos/Mehmet came by with his wife. He returned Turgut’s tapes but he did not have my money. These he will bring in the morning. I did not seen him again!