Travels with S/Y Thetis

Thetis only

2002: Limnos to Samothrake

This web page contains the logs of the second leg of a 45-day trip trip that I took with S/Y Thetis in the Northeastern Aegean in Greece. The logs cover a period of 8 days of sailing from Vourlidia, on the island of Limnos to the island of Samothrake.

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.

I started the leg by myself from Vourlidia, Limnos, from where I slowly made by way to Limnos’ main harbor Myrina, stopping in Kondias and Ormos Thanos. At Myrina my old school mate and frequent sailing companion Manos Castrinakis and Nadia Demetropoulou boarded Thetis and sailed with me the rest of this leg (Cape Moutzouflos and Kotsinas in Limnos), and then on to Samothrake.

Route to Samothrake
Route to Samothrake

Tuesday June 11, 2002 Day 14

I had a quiet night. This is a fairly pleasant cove if only the water was not murky but clear. During the night the wind, as forecasted by the Navtex veered W but did not increase. I decided to move Thetis to the cove of Kondias, separated from Moudros by a narrow strip of land but by sea it is separated by the large Fakos peninsula. I raised the anchor at 0920 and after waving to the near-by anchored French S/Y Dolce Vita, I motored out of the large Moudros bay. As soon as Thetis went round the point the wind came at 16 knots from the W. The visibility was so amazingly good that I could see Mt. Athos, about 50 M away. The alternator belt kept on slipping and I had to stop and tighten it. This routine is getting rather tedious!


While on route, and while I was getting a strong GSM signal, I called Mr. Psarambas of Ellinikos Neognomon, to inquire about the promised forwarding of the inspection certificate to Limnos. He promised that it will be in Myrina before the end of the week. It is ridiculous that one has to agitate about this 800 € worth of bureaucracy. Why can they not get their act together? Another aggravation is the Navtex weather report. It is supposed to be issued every 6 hours but whenever there is a drastic weather change (when one needs it the most) the report does not come on time. Also the 2nd ERT (the Greek National Radio) program, which broadcasts a weather report at 6:30 AM, skips the broadcast whenever the weather is not settled. This is Greece, a part of Europe where things do not always work.

We arrived in Kondias Bay at 1230. We had motored 14.1 M just to round Cape Fakos. Heikell reports that there is a restaurant at Diapori in the head of the bay. Now, since I have not eaten ashore for several days it seemed to me a good idea to check out the restaurant. But, by the time I had entered the bay, the wind had backed again SW and at Diapori there was an appreciable swell. So, I anchored instead W of it [39° 51.2' N 25° 09.8' E] in 5.5 m. There was no problem there.

I put up the tent. The wind had picked up and it was rather cool under the tent, but away from the tent the sun was too strong. Later, in the afternoon, I went ashore to explore. Diapori was totally deserted, a ghost place. The former restaurant is a dilapidated shack. I took a long walk in the Fakos peninsula. It is an Ecological Park but to walk to the point it is over 15 km long. I walked for about an hour and then headed back.

By the time I got back onboard Thetis the swell had become pretty uncomfortable. Since there was not even an operating restaurant here, there was no point in staying and being uncomfortable. Having looked at the road map of Limnos, I ascertained that the cove just SW, at the end of the bay, is the closest to Kondias, a sizable village. I made up my mind to try it. Up came the anchor at 1930 and I motored all of 0.8 M towing the zodiac with the outboard still on it. I dropped the anchor in 9 m at 1945 and let out all 55 m of chain and 15 m of rope. Kondias cove [39° 51' N 25° 09.1' E] is a very attractive place and well sheltered from the westerlies. But by that time I was tired and did not feel like going out ashore again. I cooked some pasta, what else, with capers and olives. It was a very nice evening. The night sky was full of bright stars peeking between clouds.

Vourlidia from Fakos

Wednesday June 12, 2002 Day 15

Despite the strong breeze that blew during the night, this morning the sea was very calm, There was no wind and the water was glassy. A small fishing boat had been raising nets as the sun rose and at that time I saw a rather surrealistic scene. Reflected by the mirror-like water an elderly gentleman, fully dressed and holding a cane, was wading parallel to rocky shore while over the rocks an elderly lady, holding a large bag, was keeping a parallel course. He took small, agonizingly slow, steps. Step by step he made it to the point where the cove ends while the lady had to climb over the steep rocks to keep pace with him. As they rounded the point, always in parallel, they disappeared presumably walking to the next beach.

Later in the morning I went ashore and walked to the village of Kondias. It was a nice 30 minute walk. The village is pleasant enough but not particularly colorful. There is a bakery and a few basic grocery stores but there is no restaurant. After getting some fresh bread I walked back to Thetis.

The barometer had been rising since yesterday and this morning it was up to 1015 mB (yesterday evening it was 1004). I spent a quiet morning doing various boat-keeping tasks. The wind increased slightly over the morning to 5 knots W which caused Thetis to drift towards the shore but she was still in 6 m depth. I snorkeled and checked the anchor. It was well dug-in but I realized that if Thetis was to drift 3 more meters towards the shore the 6 m under her keel would decrease to less than 1. So, since I was already contemplating whether to spend another night in this pleasant cove or to go on to Ormos Thanos, my original destination, my mind was made up for me.

I pulled up the anchor at 1220 and motored the 4.4 M to Ormos Thanos [39° 50.3' N 25° 04.7' E] where we arrived at 1330. On the way, I turned on the watermaker to replenish the water I have used in the last two evenings. It did so in an amazing 40 minutes of operation, replenishing the 21 L I had spent and filling three 1.5 L bottles as well. By the way, with the new plastic tubing, the water quality is excellent. Here in Thanos the wind was blowing 10-18 knots NNW. Since the forecast called for force 5-6 NE I anchored conservatively in 6 m depth letting out 45 m of chain.

Ormos Thanos from the Village

Later the wind backed coming from the WSW which caused, once again, an uncomfortable swell in this otherwise wonderful anchorage. Since I had observed, with the binoculars, some activity in the restaurant where the whole family had a memorable evening meal back in 1992 (but on every other time I came here it was closed), I decided to swim ashore and check it out. Also I had observed a new largish restaurant which I wanted to check out too. The old restaurant, on the W side of the cove, had not yet opened but was being made ready to open next week. It stays open from the middle of June to the 1st of September. The new restaurant was open, but only for lunch. I was told, however, that there is a decent restaurant in the village of Thanos about 1.5 km up the hill. Maybe I will go there this evening.

Few hours later in the afternoon I moved Thetis about 200 m west where there was considerably less swell but the signal on the GSM phone was intermittent.

In an effort to keep up with the world and not be totally cut-off from the news, I have occasionally been listening to the local FM radio stations. I have two observations concerning these stations:

  1. Their news coverage is extremely colloquial. They spend tremendous amount of time in covering the speeches of Greek politicians while they only briefly mention world news.
  2. The deterioration in quality of the Greek music they broadcast. The wonderful rembetika songs, with their Byzantine overtones, the music of the great Greek composers Theodorakis, Hatjidakis, Xarchakos etc. has been replaced by monotonous electronic beats while the soulful lyrics of Tsitsanis and Vamvakaris or the poetry of Seferis, Ritsos, Varnalis, Sikelianos, and Elytis have been substituted by repetitive, telegraphic, and trivial vocals.

In the evening, after a hot shower, I went ashore and walked up the hill, about 45 minutes, to the village of Thanos. At the main square (platia) there is a very nice taverna with grilled chicken and many other mezedes (appetizers). I had a good meal there and a long chat with the friendly proprietor, who commented that he had seen Thetis anchored in Ormos Thanos before.

Thursday June 13, 2002 Day 16

After all these days with S and W winds, the Navtex begun calling for strong NE and indeed this morning here in Thanos the wind did start blowing at 20-30 knots. The sea here was of course calm but the forecast called for further strengthening. While well sheltered from the N winds here, I was afraid to face an uncomfortable beat to Myrina and to dock there with a strong cross-wind from the NE.

I spent most of the morning cleaning inside the cabins—I soaped all wooden surfaces. While doing so I kept thinking of the strong NE wind. Finally I reluctantly made up my mind to leave this nice anchorage and go to Myrina earlier than I wanted.

The Harbor of Myrina

I raised the zodiac and by 1110 I was pulling up the anchor. Despite the wind, motoring the 5.6 M to the harbor presented no problems because the waves were still small. Thetis arrived in Myrina [39° 52.5' N 25° 03.5' E] at 1230. I spotted a gap between two boats (I had been somewhat concerned about finding space), dropped the anchor, and backed up. I had not yet reached the quay when a man from a French boat started yelling at me, in Greek, that I was over his anchor. I do not believe that I was but in the interest of good relations and since there was another spot available, I re-anchored and backed up again. Other boaters, not the Greek speaking one from the French boat, came to help with the lines and there were no further problems but it was hot.

I walked to the ACS office (a courier service in Greece), which is some distance from the harbor, and told them that I was expecting a document and could be contacted on my GSM phone. In the evening, since I was going to be here for the next few days, I rented a motor-scooter. I had dinner aboard Thetis.

Myrina Castle
From the Castle of Myrina looking North

Friday June 14, 2002 Day 17

Today Thetis stayed in port. In the morning I went with the motor-scooter and found an automotive store from which I purchased a new alternator belt, with ridges. I then I installed it. The hope was that this one will not slip. I then shopped for some provisions and had Diesel fuel (88 L) delivered to the boat, and connected the charger to the port’s AC source. All these activities consumed most of the morning.

The Point of Fakos

In the afternoon, I rode the scooter to Diapori and from there, along the dirt road, to Fakos Peninsula, where I had walked two days ago. Now, with the scooter I was able to cover the whole peninsula. It is a lovely place in its stark beauty. Cliffs and rocks, and multi-colored shrubs. Then back to Thetis for a hot shower and much needed coffee.

At the harbor I finally met the couple from the French S/Y Dolce Vita who had been waving to me in Vourlidia. Melinda and Guisepe (Yousouf in Turkish) are actually Italians but they bought their boat in France, hence the flag. They, too, winter her in the Agmar (renamed Moor & Dock) shipyard in Leros. Also, next to Thetis was the Greek M/Y Yari P. She was full of Greek men and 2 boys. Very friendly. They come to Limnos every year from Glyfada for a few weeks of fishing. Not all of them stay on-board. Most of them are staying in a near by hotel. They are all from one family of which three generations were here.

The GSM signal here in the harbor was intermittent but I did call ACS. The inspection certificate had not arrived today. Also, I had a bad encounter with a very rude Limenarchio (coast guard) officer. He inquired, using the familiar and insulting singular form of Greek, why I had not reported to them on my arrival yesterday. Now, it is true that all Greek boats should report their arrival and departure from ports to the Limenarchio, a rule which is almost never enforced. Usually the officers, if they ever bother, come and ask you. If they do, they may even ask you to pay some dues for the harbor. I cannot, of course, object to this request. What I do object, however, is to be addressed rudely by an official. I plan to complain to his superior tomorrow.

For dinner I went to Ostria, a restaurant recommended by the new Alpha Guide, a guide to “the best hotels and restaurants in Greece.” Indeed, the food was excellent. I had atherina (tiny fried fish), and a large sargos (a silvery flat fish) grilled to perfection.

Saturday June 15, 2002 Day 18

The Pre-historic site of Poliohni

In the morning I did some errands: provision shopping, took clothes to the laundry, checked on ACS (no documents), took the little hand held Dusterbuster vacuum cleaner for repairs, and washed the deck which had become unbelievably grimy after two days in the harbor. When the errands were over, I rode the scooter to Moudros and from there to Poliohni, the major pre-historic site in Limnos. I did not expect it to be so substantial, but it was impressive. I rode back just in time to get the laundry before they closed for the weekend. The Dusterbuster was also ready. From the same store, I bought a new 12 V DC to 220 V AC converter. Also I visited the Limenerchio (Coast Guard) and spoke to the Harbor Master. I informed him of last evening’s incident with the officer. I emphasized that the officer’s tone of voice and use of the singular not only to me, an elderly gentleman, but to anyone, is totally unacceptable and reflects very badly on the whole service and particularly on his Harbor Master. The Harbor Master was very apologetic and thanked me for bringing the mater to his attention. Later the miscreant officer came over to Thetis and apologized also.

In the late afternoon I rode the scooter again, this time along the west coast past Ayios Ioannis to where the dirt road degenerates from very bad to impassable. Very nice views of the sunset. Had an excellent dinner of mussel stew at the Glaros restaurant.

Ayios Ioannis
The Beech of Ayios Ioannis

Sunday June 16, 2002 Day 19

Yesterday I started reading a book that I have been savoring for the occasion: Η Μαρούλα της Λίμνου — Maroula of Limnos by Maria Lampadariou-Pothou. It is a historical reconstruction (most of it fiction) of the life of Maroula Komnini, the Jeanne D’Arc of Limnos. Maroula, who lived in the end of the Byzantine period (late 1400s), successfully led Limnos’ defense against the invading Ottomans. The action took place in Kotsinas, the mediaeval capital of the island. So, this morning, I rode the scooter to the north side of Limnos and to the hamlet of Kotsinas. Nothing but the foundations of the old castle remains from the old town. On top of the foundation site there is a church from which a dark passage with 75 steps leads down to a crypt with a well. A modern bronze statue commemorates Maroula. It is a lovely, if haunting place, and except for the swell it can be a good anchorage. Maybe we can come here tomorrow with Thetis.


The Statue of Maroula in Kotsinas


The Crypt in Kotsinas

I rode back to the harbor via Dafni. On the way, I took a side road which leads to the peak of the island. Great view but near the top there was a garbage-fill. The afternoon was very hot. I hosed down the deck and cockpit and sprinkled the tent to cool the boat. The S/Y Dolce Vita with the friendly Italian couple and their friends departed for Samothraki, also Thetis’ next destination. I helped them with the dock lines. Maybe we will see them there.

Manos and Nadia arrived around 7 PM while I was in the shower. He brought with him a new edition of Heikell’s Greek Waters Pilot, extra paper for the Navtex and a flood light to replace the burned deck light. Nice to welcome aboard my old ship mates. We all had a celebratory ouzo and then took a long walk. We ended at the Ostria restaurant where we ate an assortment of tasty mezedes (appetizers).

Monday June 17, 2002 Day 20

We started getting ready for departure. First I had to go to the Limenerchio (Coast Guard) with a new crew list and get the apoplous (permission to leave port) and pay the harbor dues. Then I checked with ACS. No document. I called Mr. Psarambas of Ellinikos Neognomon. The story now was that the issuing had been delayed but now it was on its way to Kalymnos! When he receives it he will forward it to me in Alexandroupolis. What can I say? We also had to buy some provisions.

The Beach S of Cape Moutzouflos

It was not until 1010 that all the errands were finished and we were able to cast off. Outside the harbor there was very little wind so we motored towing the dinghy. Our plan was to stop at a cove, which I knew from my last trip, just S of Cape Moutzouflos, for a swim and then go on to Kotsinas on the N side of the island, then, tomorrow, proceed to Samothrake. When we were about 2 M from Cape Moutzouflos we noticed a lovely and well-sheltered beach [39° 57.3' N 25° 02.7' E] so we anchored there. The time was 1125 and the distance from Myrina was 5.7 M. This was such a great place to spend the night that, after swimming and lunch, we were tempted not to leave. Manos, however, eventually decided that we should go on.

Cape Moutzouflos
Cape Moutzouflos

At 1540 we pulled up the anchor. By that time there was absolutely no wind so, we motored the remaining 17.7 M to Kotsinas [39° 56.8' N 25° 16.9' E] (17.7 M from Myrina) where we anchored at 1830, without any difficulties, in 4 m over sand. The barometer had fallen by this time to 1009 mB while the temperature was 29° C (84° F) and the humidity was 45%. We removed the tent and I had the pleasure of climbing up the mast while Manos and Nadia cranked the winch. Fortunately I was able to replace the burned deck flood light, this time without too much trouble. After this activity, we had a nice swim and launched the zodiac.

On the mast
Changing the Deck Light

After having an ouzo, we all got dressed and went ashore. While in the dinghy going ashore, we were hit by a light squall which did add some adventure to the landing. Fortunately the squall did not last. We walked to the ruins and ended having dinner at the Korali restaurant. The Maroula, recommended by the Alpha Guide was not open. We ate an assortment of mezedes (appetizers): beets, χόρτα (boiled greens), grilled feta cheese, grilled sardines, mussels, grilled octopus, etc. All were delicious. By the time our meal was over the bay was calm again and our return to Thetis was uneventful.

Tuesday June 18, 2002 Day 21

We departed for Samothrake at 0740. The wind was a brisk 18-22 knots NE which allowed us to sail on a heading of about 20° W off our course with the mainsail on its 1st reef and the headsail unrolled to about 40%. It was nice fast sail. Around 1215, when we were almost 10 M from Samothrake, the wind veered N and lessened. We had to roll-in the headsail which was flapping and later the mainsail had to come down also. We motored the rest of the way. Despite its ridges the new alternator belt was still slipping. I came to the conclusion that maybe the alternator bearings are defective and impose undue loads on the belt.

Thetis arrived in Kamariotissa - Καμαριώτησσα, Samothrake [40° 28.5' N 25° 28.1' E] at 1420. We had come 36.2 M from Kotsinas. We docked side-to on the outside mole, just behind the S/Y Dolce Vita with whom we were friendly in Myrina. It was very windy and without a crew the maneuver would had been hard but with a crew of 3 it was very easy. It was very hot and there were a lot of flies.

The island of Samothraki (Σαμοθράκη) or Samothrace is a small island of 180 km² and about 2900 inhabitants it is located in the NE corner of Greece. It is a remote and rugged, wind-swept, island with its highest peak, Mt. Fengari at 1676 m (5500 ft). Mt. Fengari is covered with snow for about 9 months of the year. This is the highest mountain in the East Aegean. Here sat the God of the sea, Poseidon, to watch the Trojan War

Map of Samothrake

Samothraki is best known today for the famous statue of The Winged Victory, alas not here but at the Louvre Museum in Paris. In antiquity, however, Samothraki was one of the best known and most visited islands, because it was the center of the cult of the Great Gods of the Underworld. People flocked here to be initiated to the cult’s mysteries.

Owing to its strategic position at the entrance of the Dardanelles, the island was heavily populated since Neolithic times. Indeed, the name of the straits was taken from Dardanos, a native of Samothraki and the legendary founder of Troy. The early inhabitants of the island were from Thrace, most likely Pelasgians. Samothraki was colonized on the 8th century BC by Aeolians from Mitilini who mingled with the early natives. They were worshiping Athena and the Great Gods. The early Thracian language survived in the religious rituals to the 1st century BC. By the 5th century BC, Samothraki had reached the height of its importance and had joined the Delian League. The sanctuary had become the religious center of the North Aegean, attracting pilgrims for all the Greek world. Important visitors from the mythical Argonauts, to Herodotus, Philip II of Macedon (Alexander’s father), and the Ptolemies: all came here to be initiated to the cult.

Thetis in Samothrake

Hellenistic and Roman rulers, also used Samothraki as a naval base, but by the Roman times the island started a decline caused by pirate attacks and earthquakes. St. Paul visited the island but failed to convert its inhabitants to Christianity. They held on to their belief in the Great Gods and kept their sanctuary running until the 4th century AD when the Byzantines outlawed paganism and destroyed many statues. Most of the island was depopulated. The few remaining inhabitants retreated up the mountain to Chora to avoid the frequent raids of the pirates. The Byzantines were succeeded by the Genoese Gatttilusis who built the castle of Chora. They in turn, were followed by the Ottomans who forced the island inhabitants to re-settle in Istanbul. From that point on the island went into obscurity until 1821 when its few inhabitants joined the Greek War of Independence, but the island continued under Ottoman domination. Samothraki joined Greece in 1912.

We walked ashore and made arrangements to rent a car tomorrow morning. We also inquired about climbing to Fengari, the peak of the island. It takes about 6 hours to climb and more then 4 to come back. Not feasible in this heat. As we were walking back to Thetis, the crew of the Dolce Vita was returning from their day excursion. They too had rented a car and spent the whole day sight seeing. They highly recommended a visit to the water falls. They will be departing tomorrow for Thasos.

We took it easy for the rest of the afternoon under the shade of the tent. In the evening, Manos cooked pasta with a sauce of tomatoes and capers that he had prepared in Athens, After eating, we walked to a pastry store and indulged in loukoumades (dough fritters served with honey). All was well except for the mosquitoes.