Travels with S/Y Thetis

Thetis only

2001: Fourni to Leros

This web page contains the logs of the seventh and final leg of a trip that I took with S/Y Thetis in the Aegean in Greece. The logs cover a period of 7 days of singlehanding from the island of Fourni to the islands of Samos, Agathonisi, Arki, Lipsi, and Leros all in the Eastern Aegean. In Leros Thetis was lifted out of the water in the Agmar Marine shipyard (later renamed Moor & Dock)where she will spend her winter.

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 Leros
Route to Leros

Wednesday September 26, 2001, Day 36

Cove in Fourni SW of Agridi

I woke up fairly early with a strong premonition that the weather was about to deteriorate, although at that time the sea was perfectly calm and there was no wind whatsoever. In addition to the forecast for strong winds I had been disturbed by the humidity and the falling barometer. Since I was already up, I decided that I might just as well depart for Samos after having a leisurely cup of coffee.

I raised the dinghy and pulled up the anchor at 0630. The wind outside the cove was the mildest breeze, no more than 4 knots. Its direction was variable. It seemed to come from almost all directions but it was predominantly southerly. We motored for almost an hour and half and then suddenly there was a 15-25 knots NNW wind. I was too lazy to raise the mainsail but I opened about 50% of the headsail and turned off the engine. Thetis was moving well, making almost 6 knots, but the wind kept strengthening reaching 35 knots and backing to WNW. I reduced the sail but kept up the fast movement. The sea roughened with white caps and some spray. I had to open the spray-hood and close all the hatches.

This fairly pleasant state of affairs did not last for more than an hour. The wind began to weaken while I kept opening more and more of the genoa. Pretty soon, even with the full genoa, we were not going anywhere. By that time the wind was back to 4 knots NE and the sea had reverted to flat. I rolled-in the sail and started the engine. No problem with the cooling water pump this time. Although we had been sailing without the engine on a starboard tack, now there was plenty of water coming out of the exhaust.

We arrived in Pythagorio, Samos at 1050 after 23.2 M. There was plenty of room in the inner harbor [37° 41.4' N 26° 56.6' E] and so I prepared by hanging the fenders, and getting ready the anchor and docking lines. It was hot. I anchored and backed to the quay without any problems. As I was getting ready to jump ashore with the stern line, the wife of Hugo, who runs the Seafarer Yachts, came and tied the lines for me. It was hot. I deployed the passarella, replaced the stern lines with the more permanent ones with spring shock absorbers, and covered the sails. While underway I had already packed, mostly clothes for washing. I had also emptied the ice-box. My plan was to spend a few days in Kalami and then continue cruising moving slowly to Leros where Thetis will winter.

Sunday September 30, 2001, Day 37

Kalami is beautiful in the Fall

I stayed in Samos for 4 days. Most of them were very windy and cold. I was waiting for an improvement of the weather before resuming my travels with Thetis. Yesterday’s forecast finally called force 3-4 NW winds and so I decided to make a go for it. I topped, yesterday, the tanks with water and washed down the boat.

This morning I took a taxi and full of new provisions boarded Thetis. It was a little windy in the harbor but the sea outside looked calm. I cast off and raised the anchor without any problems. We departed Pythagorio at 1015. The wind, as we moved away from the bay of Pythagorio, was anywhere from 15 to 30 knots NE. I raised the main but kept it on the 1st reef. I also opened the genoa and sailed very nicely on a heading of 166° towards Agathonisi. No problems with the engine but once again had trouble with the GPS signal. It was lost, for a while, but then it was regained. It was fine for about 3 hours then it was lost again.

There were some strong gusts near Agathonisi. I lowered the sails and headed for the SW cove but the anchor did not get a chance to dig in and hold as we were tossed about by the gusts. I moved across to Tsangaris [37° 27.1' N 26° 58.3' E] and anchored in 6 m depth over a sandy patch, then let out over 50 m of chain. The anchor held. It was 1340 and we had traveled for 16.6 M.

It was a nice afternoon. I had a swim and checked my anchor while snorkeling. It was well dug in. I put up the tent and read. A charter boat with a sympathetic looking German family came and made at least 8 attempts at anchoring before giving up and heading for the harbor of Saint Georgio.

Anchored in the Tsangaris cove of Agathonisi

When the sun went down it got rather cool. The barometer however was a rather high 1014 mB. During my stay in Kalami, Yiorgos our new overseer gave me a bottle of young wine made from the grapes of our vineyard which we had pressed in August. Amazingly enough it is drinkable. Now I made myself a plate of snacks, mezedes, to go along the wine and sipped some in the cockpit while enjoying the scenery. The wind had dropped somewhat down to 6-12 knots.

Another sailboat, an Atlantic 55 with a Swiss group, came into the cove. They dropped their anchor over the weeds in 15 m depth and then backed off rapidly. Miraculously their anchor held but I did not expect it to do so for very long. In the mean time, I cooked some spaghetti which I served with pesto sauce. I had made the pesto earlier in the summer and found it frozen in the refrigerator in our house in Kalami.

During the night the wind was gusting at irregular intervals. Our neighbor’s sailboat dragged her anchor, as predicted, and almost fell on the rocks. It took them over an hour of effort to re-anchor her again. It seems that anchoring is not as easy as it appears. The most common mistakes I observe are:

  1. Not letting out enough scope
  2. Dropping the anchor very slowly, with the electric windlass, while at the same time reversing vigorously. This does not allow the anchor to settle in the bottom and dig-in but instead it flies like an underwater kite.
  3. Reversing furiously before letting out enough scope. This simply dislodges the anchor.
  4. Dropping the anchor over weeds. The anchor catches in the weeds and gives a false sense of security. As it is strained it uproots the weeds and…

I too, as a singlehander have an occasional problem with items 2 and 3. I lower the anchor quickly, not by push button, but by releasing the windlass capstan and I usually let the breeze gently back the boat while releasing the necessary scope. But when the winds are strong the operation is not that gentle. The boat backs up faster then it is good for the anchor which either kites or gets dislodged before it has a chance to dig-in. When there are two people handling the boat, strong wind can be compensated by putting the gear into slow forward. It is advisable not to power in reverse until there is at least out 3:1 or 4:1 scope over depth.

Monday October 1, 2001, Day 38

The Double Church near Tsangaris

I woke up fairly late and by the time I had my coffee there was some strong breeze, this made up my mind for me. I decided to stay here for the day. The charter boat with the German family pulled out of the harbor and this time succeeded in anchoring in my cove. I launched the zodiac and went ashore. I walked for 40 minutes or so up to the village and bought some fresh bread and grapes. By the time I returned to Thetis the other two sailboat were leaving and once more I had the cove all to my self.

The “Cruel” Fishing Boat

I put up the tent and went swimming. While I was getting ready to have lunch a fishing caïque (τράτα) came into the cove and cast their net. They then took two long lines ashore and tied them on the rocks. These held them in place while they started pulling the net with the windlass. As the net came aboard, they sorted the fish throwing back into the water the rejects. A large flock of seagulls congregated feasting on these rejected fish. One of the crewmen threw overboard a bated fishing line. The line caught an unfortunate seagull which the crewman started hauling. I was furious at this display of cruelty. But as I was getting ready to go over and give them a piece of my mind, he released the bird which flew away. It seemed all right but I was very upset.

In the afternoon there were strong WSW gusts. I was very glad that I had stayed. I tried several times to call Sabena Airlines and check the status of my ticket for Washington but all I got was a recorded announcement and was placed on hold until the line went dead. Sabena had recently been acquired by Swiss Air which is in financial trouble so I was nervous about my ticket for October 18. I persevered and eventually got through. I was told that my ticket was still OK but that I should check again a week before the flight.

After a hot shower I made myself an ouzo and sat in the cockpit to enjoy it while watching the sun go down. The wind by that time had dissipated to a very gentle NW breeze and the sea was, once again very calm reflecting the reds, azures, and gold shades of the sunset. In the west the islands of Arki and Lipsi were outlined in the back light. It was marvelous to have the whole cove all to myself surrounded by the sea, the golden slopes of the island, and the sounds of the goat bells. A sailboat silently glided into the harbor. No, I will not go to the harbor. But I will stay right here and feast my eyes on the stars and water. Always the water. Will I ever have enough of these? My thirst for the sea seems to be as endless as the sea.

Glorious Sunset from Agathonisi

For supper I used one of the turkey cutlets that I had pre-cooked in Kalami. I served it with a rice pilaf made with chicken stock, also prepared in Kalami, and a sauce of chicken stock, capers, onion, and balsamic vinegar, thickened with Dijon mustard. Very good. I ate it in the cockpit illuminated by the rising full moon. It is a wonderful life, here and now, and one can, at least for a while, forget all the tragedies and horrors of our cruel world.

Tuesday October 2, 2001, Day 39

Nice day today. I woke up and prepared to leave Agathonisi but before doing so I waited for the latest Navtex forecast. When it came, it called for NW winds of force 4-5 for here, the Samos Sea.

I lifted the anchor at 0830, raised the mainsail, and opened 50% of the headsail. The wind was 15-25 knots NNW which gave me a very pleasant sail to Arki. On the way, we passed very close to a boat from Kalymnos fishing in the open sea.

The Water Boat in Glypappas

After 12.9 M we arrived in Glypappas, Arki [37° 22.4' N 26° 44.4' E] at 1115. I dropped the anchor on the patch of sand, 2.5 m depth, and anchored without any problems. Inside the cove there was a ship, that almost filled it, delivering water. She comes from Rhodes once a month. The wind here was a gusty 15-20 knots NNW. But I snorkeled and checked the anchor and it was secure. I put up the tent and spent the rest of the day swimming and reading.

In the evening I took the dinghy ashore and then had a nice long walk towards Tiganakia. I managed to speak on the phone with my brother Nikos and received a message from Manos Castrinakis. The GSM signal here is spotty. By the dusk I walked back to the hamlet, Port Augusta, and sat at the Manolios restaurant for dinner. The vivacious proprietress Nektaria, served me octopus as an appetizer to be followed by roasted katsikaki (baby goat).


Glypappas and Porto Stretto in Arki


The Tiganakia islets, south of Arki

There is a new taverna in Glypappas, opened a month ago. The AM radio has stopped receiving, so I do not know what is happening in the rest of the world.

Wednesday October 3, 2001, Day 40

Arriving in Papandria, Lipsi

We departed from Arki at 0910 for Papandria, at the southern tip of Lipsi. The wind was a light breeze, no more than 8 knots NNE and we had to motor. Later the wind increased, with some gusts reaching 18 knots, but by then we were very close to our destination and I was too lazy to raise the sails.

We arrived in Papandria [37° 16.8' N 26° 46.2' E] at 1045, the distance was 7.6 M. There were no other boats in the whole large anchorage. I anchored without any trouble behind the Lyra islet over the sand in 7 m depth. Later I had a long swim in these wonderfully clear waters and I checked the anchor, it was well set under the sand.

The day was fairly warm and I put up the tent. I called Angelos of Agmar Marine (later renamed Moor & Dock)to arrange for Thetis’ haul-out. He scheduled us for 10 AM on Friday October 5. I suppose that I will stay here in this lovely spot until then.

In the evening I went ashore. I first made sure that the taverna (restaurant) in the next cove Katsadia, was open, has food, and would stay open until late. I then walked the 45 minutes to the town. It is a fairly ardent walk because of the steep uphill but it is fairly pleasant. In the town I bought some bread and then went to the harbor where I had an ouzo with their specialty: charcoal-grilled sun dried octopus. It is, I believe, one of the best served anywhere in the Aegean. I then walked back and ate at the taverna in Katsadia: grilled eggplants topped with local goat cheese.

Back on board I sat in the cockpit contemplating the lovely evening. The season is almost over and soon, very soon, I will be abandoning my “girlfriend” Thetis. It would be a relief, of course, not to have to constantly worry about her safety, as I have been since April, but I will miss her as well as the wonderful places that she has taken me. October in the Aegean is an almost magic month. The atmosphere is usually very clear and the colors are particularly vivid. There are many calm days and while the sun shines, it is not unpleasantly hot. It is a good time to take long walks in the islands. After the first rain, the dust has been washed away, and several Autumn flowers bloom, the islands are fragrant. I am already getting mildly depressed that I will be trading these for the relative grayness of Washington D.C.

Thursday October 4, 2001, Day 41

Katsadia in Lipsi

Today is my last full day afloat for this year. This is a quiet but lovely, sweet, and quiet anchorage. There was hardly any wind. I spent most of the morning organizing what needs to be done on the boat during the winter.

I swam for a long time and then had lunch under the tent. In the afternoon there was a mild southern breeze. There is not very much to say about this quiet day other than that this cove is very beautiful, the Aegean is beautiful, particularly during this time of the year, and that I do not want leave but I must.

Dusk was wonderful once again, I watched it quietly while sipping my homemade wine. The colors were lovely, reds, pinks, emeralds, greens, and blues, all reflected in the glassy sea while a mild swell rocked Thetis gently.

Sunset in Papandria
Sunset in Papandria

I finished reading Shadow’s End a Sci Fi novel by Sheri Teppen which I had found in Corinna’s library in Kalami. I started a Greek book Η Μύηση - The Initiation (in Greek) by Yiorgos Michaelides. It is a story of a very talented (painter) young man growing up during the terrible years of the Metaxa dictatorship before World War II. He is madly in love with an older woman. The story goes through the war and ends in the years of the junta in the 1970’s. It is a strange story but absorbing.

The evening was mild and lovely. I cooked another turkey cutlet with a fresh tomato sauce with mushrooms. This I served with spaghetti and ate it in the cockpit table. While I was eating the moon, just past its fullness, rose red-orange over the island and soon bathed the calm sea in its silvery illumination. The humidity was a fairly high 80% and the barometer went down to 1009 mB.

Friday October 5, 2001, Day 42

The dreaded day had arrived. This was it! It was the last day of Thetis afloat for 2001. However, I did not have to get going early because we are not expected at AGMAR before 2 PM. I took it slowly, savoring the last hours afloat. I drank my coffee in the cockpit admiring the sunrise and in general delaying departure as much as possible.

Eventually I did get going. I lifted the zodiac and raised the anchor at 0940. We headed across for Leros, although I planned to stop somewhere near Partheni for a swim and lunch. I wanted to investigate the small island near Partheni, Archangelos, so maybe that was the place to stop. The wind was light, 5-10 kn from the SE. I opened the genoa and motor-sailed for about 2 M but it was hopeless. I rolled the sail in and motored the rest of the way.

Alas, all the promising coves of Archangelos have been completely taken oven by fish farms. These are a real problem because not only they are unsightly and consume most of the water surface but the fish food and excrement heavily pollute the whole cove. I finally gave up on Archangelos and went to a small cove [37° 12.1' 26° 47.9' E] in Leros NE of Partheni. The distance form Lipsi was 7.9 M and the time we dropped the anchor in 6 m of water was 1120.

Sunset in Katsadia
The Last anchorage, NE of Parheni in Leros

I took a long swim, which was most likely my last of the year. The cove was nice and I made my self a salad for lunch. The sun was delicious and I did not bother to put up the tent. The only problem was that the GSM signal was too weak to contact AGMAR to advise them of my proximity and coordinate the time of Thetis’ haul out.

At 1330 I pulled up the anchor and departed the cove. Outside the cove the GSM signal was stronger and I was able to contact Agmar and they told me that they will be waiting for us. I prepared the boat by hanging fenders and getting ready 4 mooring lines and slowly motored to the “pool.” The travelift was already in place, but the several people there were waving to me to circle. I could see with the binoculars Michalis and Thomas, the mechanics, working on the outboard of a small boat. I circled for about half an hour waiting for them to finish what they were doing. Finally they waved me in. Pandelis, the travelift operator, and two other men caught my lines and Thetis was gently guided in place. The travelift groaned and by 1430 she was out of her element and on the dry. We had traveled for 9.5 M from Papandria today.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the travelift carried Thetis to her wintering place and settled her on her stands. I connected the charger with AC. She was home. I now had the long task of winterizing her before I could leave too for my winter home. She is surrounded by several other boats, whose owners, mostly German, were frantically preparing them for winter. There was a lot of activity and energy, but also sadness. All these lovely and obviously well loved boats were outside their natural element either already abandoned for months or about to be abandoned by their loved ones.

Inside Thetis, although now she was standing on terra firma, I had the strange sensation that she was still swaying with the breeze and the swell. But in my heart I did know that the wonderful adventure was over, at least for a while.

This year Thetis has logged 2641 nautical miles (M) and 444 engine hours.

October 6 to October 12, 2001

There was a lot of work to be done before Thetis could be left for the winter. Lest I overlooked anything important I prepared two long check lists one for myself and one for the shipyard.

I need to replace the old sails. They are not only badly stretched but are now beginning to rip. Also I want to have the 17 year old rigging inspected, and, in case of any doubt, replaced. I want the yard to replace the roof lining in the 3 cabins and closets, the lining of the main cabin was replaced last year. I also want the yard to prepare for me estimates for redoing the gel-coat and re-painting both the hull and the deck. Also, to install a new raw water filter for the cooling pump intake. Last but not least I want them to exterminate the cockroaches that stowed away on Thetis from Tunisia. These tasks are in addition to the normal maintenance: engine, outboard, zodiac, re-varnishing etc.

On my side, I took all the chains and anchors out of Thetis and washed them with fresh water. I then marked the chains with colored paint every 5 m. I washed all the docking and anchoring lines. I rented a motor-scooter and took all the rugs and covers to the dry cleaner. I washed with soap and cleaner the zodiac and fenders and then stored them inside the cabin. For this task I got a very good inflatable and fender cleaner from the AGMAR chandlery. I cleaned all the sail lockers. Two of the fenders were very old. I bought two new replacements. I washed all the linen, towels, etc. and stowed them. I was washing and cleaning for days.

I rinsed and packed the sails to be sent to the sail maker. I asked Angelos (Angelos Gaitanidis is the director of the shipyard) to get me quotes for new sails from two different sail makers and I also contacted Chronis, Nikos’ friend, who represents North Sails for a third quote.

I got very tired. I have been eating dinner onboard on alternate nights. On Tuesday while eating at the AGMAR restaurant in Lakki I learned about the American invasion of Afghanistan. I hope that it does not upset my Sabena Airlines reservation for Washington. I have been trying to call them but either there is no answer or I am put on hold until the line goes dead.

Angelos and the rest of the Agmar staff could not have been more helpful during these tense days. The only cloud in the horizon is Angelo’s partner Vasilis Parapononiaris who during the summer had a stroke. He is now out of danger and in rehabilitation in Athens. Everyone here misses him.

Angelos obtained two quotes for new off-shore cruising sails, mainsail and genoa. The one from Kafetzidakis is for 1,200,00 GRD and the other from Elstrom for 1,050,000 GRD. I also got one from North Sails for 800,000 GRD. All also carry a 13% VAT tax. I made arrangements to send the old sails to Mr. Chronis of North Sails.

I threw away the two small jerry cans that I had been using for extra fuel and bought new ones. They look much better.

I removed all the lines (sheets, halyards, reefing lines, etc.), washed them, and stowed them. I also lubricated the winches and covered them. I lubricated the roller-reefing mechanism and covered it with plastic. I lowered and lashed the boom after covering the gooseneck and the aft end to prevent birds from nesting inside the boom. I washed all the storm gear and cushions. I covered all the cushions in plastic.

I emptied the refrigerator and cleaned it. I got rid of all the perishable food stuff and cleaned the food storage spaces. I covered all the books and other items in the cabin shelves. I cleaned all electrical contacts and covered them with Vaseline.

The owner of a British sailboat asked me if I had problems with my GPS. He could not get any signal during the past few days. I checked mine and there was no signal either. I checked the antenna contacts and the DC power and all was in order. The strange coincidence was that we both have Magellan GPS while another near by boat with an Autohelm had no signal problems. I packed my unit to take back with me in the US and send to its maker for a checkup.

My last day was frantic. I returned the motor-scooter and paid my account with AGMAR. I finally closed the boat and bid her good-bye.

Someone from the yard gave me a ride to the airport which is less than 1 km away. Everything went fairly smoothly until we landed in the new Athens, Eleftherios Venizelos airport, and I got my luggage. The bus ride to Athens was shear torture because of the narrow streets and traffic.

This is the end of my 2001 sailing adventure.

Athens from the Lycabetus Hill
2000 Statistics
Total Distance 2641 M
Time at Sea 100 days
Engine Time 444 hr
Solo Time 169 hr
Fuel Consumed 673 L