This web page contains the log of the fourth leg of a trip that I took with S/Y Thetis in the Northeastern Aegean in Greece. The log covers a period of 6 days of singlehanding sailing from Alexadroupolis, in Thrace to the Gulf of Yeras in the island of Lesvos via the island of Limnos, the harbor of Mithymna, and Aspronisi in Lesvos. The log is illustrated with maps and photographs, and also includes some historical and geographical descriptions of the places visited as well as several links to other related web sites.
Sunday June 23, 2002 Day 26
We got up early and drove to the airport well in time for Manos and Nadia to catch their 7 AM flight to Athens. After their departure I drove back to Dadia determined to get to the bird observation hide. It was too early since the reception does not open before 8:30 but I figured that I could walk the 2 km up the mountain to the hide without taking the mini-bus. I walked and walked loaded with the knapsack carrying the binoculars, camera, telephoto lens, etc. Even in this early morning hour it got hot and unpleasant. After walking for over an hour I gave up and descended to the now open reception. I paid € 3 for a ticket and boarded the first bus for the day.
The hide overlooks an adjacent hill frequented by several species of raptor birds such as eagles, vultures, hawks, and falcons in addition to the local storks. During the fledgling season the park attendants leave, every two weeks, the carcass of a goat on this hill so the birds always come to check it out. Today there were visible at least three different specie of vultures. Unfortunately there were no eagles. Several hawks were soaring up in the sky but did not come down to the hill.
On my way back to Alexandroupolis I took the scenic route over the mountains. It was a lovely ride. By the time I returned to Thetis it was hot, 36° C (97° F) but the humidity was only 36% and the barometer 1012 mB. Despite the heat I managed to take a short nap as I was fairly tired. Not as long as wanted but it was restorative. After a cup of coffee I transferred 2 jerry cans of Diesel fuel to the main tank and loaded the empty cans to the trunk of the rented car.
I drove west along the coast. In Makri I took some photographs, for future reference, of the small harbor. A yachtsman in Alexandroupolis had told me that it does develop a lot of swell. Now I could see it. I continued driving to Mesimvria, a large archaeological site. Then I drove past the cove that we spent the night a few days ago, to the ancient theater of Maronia which was closed. I then went to modern Maronia which is a very attractive village with several restaurants under a large plane-tree. This is as far as I went. On the way back I drove inland taking side roads. There are many large fields of sunflowers, very pretty. At a gas station in the outskirts of Alexandroupolis I re-filled the car’s tank and also the two jerry cans with 42 L of Diesel fuel. I then called Marina the friendly lady of the Prina car rental and asked her to come to the harbor and pick up the car which she did shortly.
In the evening I had an indifferent meal in town, near the port, because the restaurant recommended by the Alpha guide was too far and I was too tired. I went to bed but I had trouble sleeping because of the heat.
Monday June 24, 2002 Day 27
I woke up at 4:30; it was so hot that I could not get back to sleep. So I started getting ready to leave Alexandroupolis. I raised the dinghy and removed the spring lines and the passarella. I cast off without any trouble at 0610. As soon as we were out of the harbor I had to wash, with many buckets of water, all the grime accumulated on the deck over the past 2 days in the port. The day was just breaking. We had a good wind of 10-18 knots NE and we were able to sail. I raised the full mainsail and opened 50% of the headsail. Thetis had a nice fast sail until 0825 when the wind diminished and I was forced to motor-sail until 0930 when the wind came back and so did the nice sail. After rounding Cape Kipos, the southernmost point of Samothrake, I rolled-in the headsail in anticipation of strong katabatic gusts from the high mountain. Indeed I was right. As soon as I reduced the sail area the gusts hit us. We experienced N gusts reaching 50 knots. When we were just 2 nM S of Samothrake the gusts abated. We changed course at that time heading directly for Plaka in NE Limnos. This was a completely downwind sail so I kept only the main. The wind persisted NNE at around 25 knots with some higher gusts but nothing like the ones in the neighborhood of Samothrake.
We arrived in Plaka, Limnos [40° 01.1' N 25° 26.1' E] at 1455, the distance we came from Alexandroupolis was 52.9 nM. I anchored in 3.8 m inside the small breakwater where it was calm but there was still some swell creeping in. After anchoring I checked the anchor by snorkeling. It had caught on a large boulder where two other anchors from fishing boats were also lodged. The air temperature was 31° C (88° F) and the relative humidity 44% but the barometer had fallen to 1009 mB. I will have to check the Navtex forecast this evening before making any travel plans. The anchorage is fairly pleasant but too windy for the tent. Maybe the wind will be down in the evening.
I received a call on the GSM phone from my brother Nikos. Finally he is underway with the Faneromeni. He has arrived in Poros and plans to follow the Peloponnese coast S to Kythera. After the call I dozed off in the cabin.
In the evening the wind did calm down and so did the swell. There was a spectacular rise of the full moon. I ate leftovers and cleared the refrigerator. The night was very calm and peaceful here away from dirty harbors, their noise, and their strong lights. And, unlike those harbors, there are no fees. It is, like so many good things in life, free.
Tuesday June 25, 2002 Day 28
I slept late, it was almost 8 when I got up. The anchorage was fairly calm. I washed the deck with soap and now once again it is clean. I put up the tent and read for a while. Later in the morning I lunched the zodiac and went ashore. I walked to the village of Plaka, about 30 minutes, and got some fresh bread. The day was getting very hot but I kept jumping every so often into the clean water. This way the heat was bearable. My plan now is to wait until the late night and then sail with the full moon to Molyvos in Lesvos.
In the evening I raised the zodiac and lashed it on deck, then I showered and cooked dinner: pasta with tuna, capers, olives, and garlic. Killed time until 11 PM by reading and listening to music.
I raised the anchor at 2300 and motored outside the anchorage. The sea was very flat but there was a north breeze of 8-14 knots. I raised the full mainsail and opened the full genoa. Thetis sailed beautifully in the calm silvery waters while I played loud classical music.
Wednesday June 26, 2002 Day 29
These idyllic conditions lasted for only two hours, but while they did it was an exuberant sail. It does not get any better. Then the wind backed E while the sea became rougher and rougher. By 0300 we were firmly within the shipping lanes. One ship after another crossed our path on its way out of the Dardanelles. By that time the wind was very irregular, 10-30 knots from N to E. I took a reef on the main but the headsail was not very happy and required almost continuous trimming. After dodging the out-going ship traffic we had to repeat with the in-going traffic. We must had encountered more than 25 large ships all of which required a change of our course. I rolled-in the headsail and continued sailing, much slower, with just the mainsail on its 1st reef. The seas were large and very confused. It was definitely not such a pleasant sail anymore. After rounding Baba Burnu however, the seas subsided and the wind decreased to 4-12 knots NE. Eventually I had to motor-sail during the last few miles of the passage.
Thetis arrived in Molyvos or Mithymna, Lesvos [39° 22.1' N 26° 10.1' E] after 46.8 nM at 1040. I had hailed the Limenarchio (Coast Guard) on the VHF radio before entering the harbor and they had informed me to go stern-to near the end of the jetty and I had already prepared the anchor, the fenders, and the stern lines. Inside the harbor was very calm. I dropped the anchor and backed to the mole, without any problem, where a fellow yachtsman caught my lines. But it turned out that my chain, which as usual was very long, was over the chains of two other yachts. The owner of one of these the US flagged S/Y Thalia told me so, in passable Greek, after snorkeling. I asked him to please help me re-anchor. With him at the anchor, and his wife on the dock the re-anchoring maneuver was executed quickly and without a hitch. He is Doug Fortsyth, of Greek descent, and is cruising with his wife Karen and two teen-age sons. A very attractive family.
Once again, the day was very hot. Since I had not slept all night I was tired and fell asleep under the tent. In the evening, after a nice breeze came and cooled things down somewhat, I was getting ready to enjoy an ouzo when all hell broke loose. The sailboat berthed next to Thetis, crewed by an elderly Italian couple and flying the French flag but with no visible name, dragged her anchor. They decided to re-anchor. They cast off and after some very spastic and dangerous maneuvering dropped the anchor, without much scope. They backed up, with great speed, aiming straight at Thetis’ bow. The whole crew from Thalia came to help bearing extra fenders. It took the combined effort of all five of us to avert a bad collision, but in the ensuing havoc the French boat’s keel got tangled in Thetis’ chain and dislodged her anchor. While Thalia’s crew and I were busy trying to avoid damage from the out of control French boat, Thetis drifted to the quay. Fortunately the couple from the Belgian cruiser M/Y Citius came to the rescue and fended Thetis off the quay until the Italians got their boat under control and secured her. I pulled up some chain and because I had more than 50 m of chain out the anchor caught again and I was able to keep the boat away from the quay without re-anchoring. But just in case, I put an extra long spring line to ease on the side load on the anchor.
Later in the evening I went ashore looking for the two restaurant recommended by the Alpha guide. It turned out that neither of them was actually in Molyvos but both were in Vafios, a village about 4-5 km inland. Being stubborn, I took a taxi which deposited me at Elias (I am still not sure whether it one of the two recommended ones). At any rate, the very friendly young waitress brought an assortment of mezedes (appetizers) right away and took my order for the restaurant’s specialty: grilled meat. All were delicious. After returning back onboard Thetis I fell asleep. Blissfully there were no mosquitoes.
Thursday June 27, 2002 Day 30
I slept relatively late. Later in the morning I walked to the castle (about a 25 minute walk uphill). The view is very nice and the castle is clean and well kept. On the way down I found an Internet café where I checked my e-mails and paid a number of bills. I also did some provision shopping. When I returned to Thetis I was hot but the water in this harbor is very clean and inviting. I swam for a while before having lunch. Spent the afternoon under the tent reading with an occasional dip.
In the late afternoon the strong breeze came back but Thetis was fine and her anchor seemed to be holding while the Italians’ boat was gyrating wildly. Earlier, while snorkeling, I had looked at her anchor. Not only the scope was too short but the anchor was not well dug in. Now Thetis’ scope was nice and about 45 m long and the anchor well dug in but in a cluster of weed. This made me somewhat nervous. I had supper on board and, since the wind was down, I walked to the local outdoor movie which was playing “The Royal Tenenbaums.” It was an enjoyable movie, but the breeze picked up again and the air temperature went down. I was cold and nervous about the wind and the anchor. I must say that I do prefer being anchored off and well away from hard quays and badly anchored other boats. In a harbor you are not only subject to your mistakes but the mistakes of others. Just like driving on a highway. Fortunately all my fears were ill-founded. Thetis was fine and far from the quay while the Italians’ French boat was better secured with 3 more spring lines.
I prepared for departure. My plan was to sail around the E side of Lesvos and end up on the Gulf of Yeras which I wanted to explore since have I never visited it before. The Navtex forecast however had been calling for a gale in the Sea of Ikaria while for the NE Aegean it called for more benign weather. It took longer than I expected before all was ready. I walked to a bakery and got fresh bread and to a butcher for meat. On the way I met Doug from S/Y Thalia. They too were planing to depart shortly. They were going to Ayvalik in Turkey. After shopping I went to the Limenarchio (Coast Guard) for the inevitable apoplous (permission to leave port). Doug was already there. I told the officers that their port was one the few ones in Greece where the day-tour and fishing caiques reduce speed before entering. I congratulated them for being so effective. They definitely liked to hear that their efforts were being appreciated. One of the officers who regularly goes out with the patrol boat gave me several helpful tips on anchorages in the Yeras Gulf. He particularly recommended Mersinia. Heikell says that the holding in Mersinia is bad and recommends against anchoring there but the officer insisted that the holding is good and that it is a beautiful and isolated anchorage. We shall see.
As I was boarding Thetis, Thalia was raising her anchor. But it took me some time to arrange the docking lines for the solo departure and to take in the passarella. During this time the Belgian M/Y Citius also departed. Finally at 0955 we too were off. As there was no wind we had to motor. The alternator belt continued to slip. It seems that it does not slip for the first ¾-1 hour of operation and then it slips. I can tell when it does so by the change of sound on the engine and by looking at the amperes on the digital meter. Now I tried a new trick. When it began to slip, I turned off the engine for a few minutes and then back on. The belt did not slip for another period of ¾ hr . I am concluding that the alternator bearings are defective. I have a spare set and will replace them when we get to Samos.
Friday June 28, 2002 Day 31
We kept on motoring. The sea was glassy but there was a low level swell. I planned to make a lunch/swimming stop at Makris Yialos in the NE of Lesvos. While approaching Makris Yialos I spotted Citius anchored at a sandbar in front of the small island Aspronisi. It looked very calm and inviting there, so I headed for the sandbar.
I dropped the anchor at the sandbar of Aspronisi [39° 17.9' N 26° 25.9' E] at 1310. We had come 18 nM from Mithymna. It was a lovely place now with flat clear green water but if the meltemi were to blow it would be somewhat exposed. I swam over and greeted the couple in Citius. After lunch and a rest I was reluctant to leave. It was so attractive.
Better judgment prevailed and I departed at 1550. Now there was a northerly breeze and I opened all of the genoa. It helped Thetis to motor-sail faster. After rounding Cape Agrelos the wind increased to 15-20 knots N and at last I was able to turn off the engine. We sailed the last 5 nM to Yeras our destination. It was too late in the day to attempt going through the tricky entrance of the gulf, so I decided to check out Mersinia, so highly recommended by the Coast Guard officer.
We arrived at Mersinia at 1945 and entered the easternmost of the 4 coves, Asproniso [38° 58.8' N 26° 30.8' E]. The total distance from Mithymna was 43.7 nM. As we motored slowly into the cove and I was looking for a suitable place to drop the anchor a small fishing caique overtook Thetis. The fisherman shouted at me that the bottom here is good if I avoid the patches of weeds. I dropped the anchor over a sandy patch 4 m down and paid out 50 m of chain. Thetis settled at 10.5 m. Since it was too late to snorkel and check the anchor, I reversed the engine and made sure that the anchor held firmly. After casting his nets, the fisherman approached Thetis and asked if he could tie on her for about 1 hour before raising the nets again. We had, during this time, a long conversation across the two boats. His name is Apostolis and comes from Plomari, few miles west. While talking, I started to cook a pork roast with garlic and fresh tomatoes and wine. After Apostolis left I had the lovely cove all to myself and I later had dinner in the cockpit in total peace.