Travels with S/Y Thetis

Thetis only

2003: Donousa to Tzia & Syros

This web page contains the logs of the second leg of a 37 day sailing trip that I took with S/Y Thetis in the Greek Aegean. The leg covers a period of 11 days of singlehanding from Donousa to Syros via Rhinia, Syros (Finikas, Grammata), Kithnos (Apokrisis), Tzia (Koundouros), and Kithnos (Fikiada) all in the Cyclades.

The logs are illustrated with photographs and maps. They also include some historical and geographical descriptions of the places visited as well as several links to other related web sites.

Route from Donousa to Syros
Route from Donousa to Syros

Sunday June 8, 2003 Day 5

I woke up at 6, still not sure whether to depart or to stay another day. I listened to the 0700 (weekdays at 7) AM radio (729 kHz) marine weather broadcast. It was not very different from last night’s Navtex forecast but it seemed to me that the wind strength here was decreasing as the day progressed. I finally decided to leave. I removed the outboard from the dinghy, which I had been towing without any trouble. I will tow it again. I uncovered the sails, and raised the anchor. While the boat was drifting, I removed the Brittany from the chain and restored the CQR. I also re-programmed the MaxCharge voltage regulator to limit to 50% the maximum alternator current. This was to minimize the load on the makeshift cabling arrangement from the service battery. I then raised the mainsail and, just in case, took a reef.

By the time we actually got going it was 0820. Once we cleared Donousa the wind was 15-20 knots from the north, a headwind. We motor-sailed with many tacks until we were clear of Cape Stavros, the northernmost cape of Naxos. The sea was fairly rough but there was very little spray. During this time the jump cable was disconnected and we lost all service power. I reconnected it and taped the clips, after which all was normal once again. Once we cleared the cape the wind diminished but we still had a headwind.

We reached our destination, the South cove of Rhinia [37° 23' N 25° 14.3' E], at 1515, coming 39.8 sea miles because of the tacks (the actual distance was 32 M). I dropped the anchor in the sandy bottom in 2.8 m. It was very calm in this wonderful cove. I put up the tent, and after a snack, took a nap.


In the late afternoon there was a southern breeze of 2-6 knots and I re-anchored to allow swinging room for both N and S winds. There were only a few boats in the cove but they all left by sunset, save for a small fishing boat. Thetis was the queen of the cove. I took a hot shower, which was followed with ouzo.

I called Antonis Dalmyras, the electrician in Syros, on the GSM phone and forewarned him that I will be in Finikas tomorrow beetwen 1200 and 1300 and that I will require his services.

In the evening, the wind died out and the sea was dead calm. I cooked rigatoni with garlic and served it with the last of the chicken cutlets from Leros with a lemon sauce. I ate dinner in the cockpit while listening to Maria Mutti on the violin. It was a great night illuminated by the half moon, stars, and the glassy sea. One appreciates such a peaceful night especially with the memory of the so recent difficulties and exertions. Also, the electricity to run the lights and radio etc. should not be taken for granted. It was a very lucky improvisation indeed. But most of all I appreciated being afloat on the good boat Thetis that could had been so easily lost to fire.

Monday June 9, 2003 Day 6

Everything is done. The cable problem has been fixed. Thetis now has two new, thick cables rated 300 amperes and as extra protection a slow burning fuse rated 150 amperes right next to the service battery. But let us start at the beginning.

At 0600 in the morning I very reluctantly sailed away from the lovely anchorage in Rhinia. As the sea was very calm and there was no wind I was prepared to be motoring all the way to Finikas, Syros. I did not even bother to uncover the sails. But when we left the sheltered cove the wind was a brisk 19 knots from the north. I raised the main, opened 70% of the headsail, and turned off the engine. We were making better than 7 knots. The wind, however, did not stay constant. It kept changing from 7 up to 25 knots while I kept opening and closing the headsail. We met a school of dolphins, about 7 of them, who kept frolicking with Thetis’ bow wave for over half an hour. We managed to be under sail all the way, well past Cape Valastasi, the southernmost point of Syros.

After 21 M we arrived in Finikas at 1115. I anchored and then moored stern-to in the small “marina” [37° 23.8' N 24° 52.6' E] without any trouble. Right away, I called Mr. Antonis, the electrician, who promised to be there by 1:30. I walked to the bakery and got some bread. On the way back, I had a pleasant surprise. The “marina” toilets which, 2 years ago were a total disgrace, now were actually clean, they even had toilet seats!

The 'marina' in Finikas
The “marina” in Finikas

Mr. Antonis came right on time. We started by removing the jump cables and the old burned ones. He is of the opinion (and he also convinced me) that they did not burn because of an overload but due to a short. His scenario is that the positive cable came loose from its tie-wraps and rubbed on the engine block. After some time, its insulation was frayed and it shorted. It was very fortunate that a ½ m section of it vaporized right away because we could have had a fire. The new cables that he installed are rated for 300 A for a 6 m length. Nevertheless, I insisted that he install a slow burning 150 ampere fuse between the cable length and the battery. He had to drive back to his store and get it, but it was worth the extra protection. Now I am much happier, total damage was only 120 €. It could had been the whole boat.

I spoke with my Athens College friend Yankos Krinos who has a wonderful old mansion in fashionable Episcopio. He and his wife Sue will come at 7 PM and pick me up. In the mean time, I connected the battery charger to the shore AC power and started re-charging the batteries. I then jumped into the clean sea to cool down. Now I can relax.

Later Yankos and Sue came and we drove to their house for ouzo. Also I was able to use his phone line and connect my computer to the Internet and download the accumulated e-mail. After that we drove to Ano Syros and to our favorite Lilis restaurant where the famous bouzouki musician Markos Vamvakaris started his musical career. It was a most satisfactory conclusion to a long but productive day.

Yangos & Sue in their Garden
Yangos & Sue in their Garden

Tuesday June 10, 2003 Day 7

The friends in Piscopio
At the Kalpakis’ House in Piscopio, Syros
Yiankos & Sue Krinos, Janice & George Kalpakis

This was a lazy day. In the morning I took the bus to Ermoupolis where I had a haircut, bought capers (Syros produces some of the best), and some good filtered coffee.

I spent the afternoon swimming and resting. I finished reading the Mioulis biography and started a very enjoyable book, the Tears of the Giraffe, by Alexander McCall set in Botswana in Africa.

Later Yankos and Sue picked me up again and we went to dinner at the house of their neighbors, George and Janice Kalpakis. They own a wonderfully restored old house down from Yangos’. George is Greek and his wife Janice is British but in the winter they live in Switzerland. Before getting the house in Syros they had a sailboat and cruised for several months every year. They have been all over Greece and Turkey. Time went very fast with the good company, food, and drinks. It was past midnight when I returned to Thetis.

Next to Thetis was a charter boat full of rather rowdy German men. Our other neighbor was a Halberg Russy with the US flag. She belongs to a couple from Los Angeles who have sailed here via the Pacific. They are in company with another US boat, moored a few berths away, with which they have been traveling together for almost a year. They were all a fairly friendly lot but I did not get to know them very well.

Wednesday June 11, 2003 Day 8

The AM radio marine forecast broadcast for the SW Aegean, called for N winds of force 5-6, locally 7. I was not sure what to do: stay put or depart. At any rate, I got a fuel delivery and topped the tank with 47 L of Diesel fuel for 32 €. I also got back my laundry for another 20 €. I then paid the “marina” fee 11 € and gave an extra tip of 5 € to the delighted attendant Mr. Nikos who had arranged for the laundry and the fuel delivery. I walked to the nearby super market and bought some provisions: bread, fruits, cold cuts, and a piece of the wonderful San Michaeli Syros cheese. By this time I had made up my mind to depart from Finikas and head N to the pleasant cove of Grammata. If the sea conditions were too rough I could always turn back and anchor off, thus avoiding the noise and lights of the “marina.”

We left Finikas at 1015. After exiting the bay, we had a N headwind of 10-20 knots and we motored the 8.5 M to Grammata [37° 29.9' N 24° 53.6' E] where we arrived at 1210. I anchored without any difficulty on the E side of the cove over sand and 4.5 m depth. I let out almost 50 m of chain. It was very gusty but with periods of dead calm.

Grammata in Syros
Grammata in Syros

In the evening I wanted to go ashore for a hike but because of the unpredictable direction of the high gusts I set the second anchor. I had a very pleasant hike over the hills. When I returned to Thetis despite the two anchors she had drifted rather close to the E of the cove. Although I did not like the situation she did not appear to be in any immediate danger.

I had an ouzo and started cooking my supper: pasta with tuna and capers. While eating inside the cabin the wind was howling and Thetis was tossed in every imaginable direction. I was afraid of drifting further towards the rocks. I spent till midnight at anchor watch. I even contemplated departing right there and then for Kithnos, but the prospect of raising the second anchor in the dark deterred me. After midnight though the gusts subsided and I went to my cabin for an uneasy sleep.

Thursday June 12, 2003 Day 9

The morning forecast for the Kafireas Strait and the SW Aegean was for N winds of force 6 locally 7, the same as yesterday. Despite this not too great forecast and mainly because I was not too happy with the local gusts I prepared to depart. After seeing the real conditions I will either proceed to Kithnos or return to Finikas.

By the time I had raised and stowed both anchors and uncovered the sail it was 0720. I raised the mainsail and took in a reef. I debated whether to take a second reef or not but I left it at one as the wind did not seem all that strong. We had a nice fast sail with the headsail opened to about 25%. The wind was from the NE at about 18 knots. We proceeded W towards Kithnos. Later the wind calmed down to 5 knots and then, after a few minutes, it came back with a fury reaching 32 knots. I quickly rolled-in the headsail, headed to the wind, and took in the second reef that I should have taken it earlier. During this noisy and hectic process the following bad things happened:

  1. the upper batten was lost
  2. one sail slide (attaches the sail to the groove on the mast) broke
  3. the attachment clip for the front lazy jack got un-riveted and fell overboard.

Too bad but now, despite the mishaps, we again had a fast exhilarating sail doing over 7.8 knots. We soon rounded Cape Kefalos, the northernmost point of Kithnos and turned downwind south towards one of the favorite anchorages of Kolona, Fikiada, and Apokrisis (or as Heikell calls it Apokreosis). After rounding Cape Kolona with the wind now from our side, it came with renewed fury gusting to over 45 knots. I lowered, with some difficulty, the sail without any further damage. I considered the Fikiada anchorage but the wind seemed to be less gusty in Apokrisis where there is also considerably more swinging room. So we motored to Apokrisis [37° 24.8' N 24° 23.8' E].

Thetis arrived at 1245 after a 33.2 M sail. I had trouble anchoring because the strong gusts jerked the chain before the anchor had a chance to dig in. Finally on the third attempt I dropped the anchor in 4 m over sand and did not let out a lot of chain for a while. Once the anchor got set, I let out over 40 m. Thank goodness that the windlass was working!

Apokrisis in Kithnos
Apokrisis in Kithnos

I had lunch and fell asleep for several hours. There was not even a thought of putting up a tent with this wind. In the evening the wind decreased but the Navtex kept issuing gale warnings for the Kafireas Strait and the Ikaria Sea. I snorkeled and checked the anchor. It was completely buried under the sand. Thetis felt very secure despite the gales. I took a shower, and drank my ouzo while watching a spectacular sunset. I finished reading the Tears of the Giraffe a charming book about the romance of a plump lady detective and a car repairman in Botswana.

Later I went ashore, ending up in the taverna located on the S side of the bay. It has a very commanding view. I ate a salad and grilled meat. The food was not bad. The young lady who served me was born and raised in Canada but she is now engaged to the young taverna proprietor. While eating I met a 40ish Greek who lives in Belgium and an elderly French couple who live in New York City. The Greek man has sold his lovely 54' ketch, also anchored in the bay, to the couple and now he is showing them how to sail her. He has traveled with his ketch from the Caribbean to the Aegean, mostly singlehanding. Now he will be getting another boat that is easier to singlehandle.

Moonlight in Apokrisis, Kithnos
Apokrisis in the Moonlight from the taverna

Friday June 13, 2003 Day 10

This was a slow morning, resting from the rigors of yesterday. The forecast called for winds of force 7 in most of this region, diminishing somewhat later in the day. I started re-reading Patrick O’Brian’s The Surgeon’s Mate because I have to stretch out my new books but his books are so wonderful that I do not mind reading them again and again. In between readings I managed to clean the main cabin that was getting too dusty.

In the afternoon I ran the engine to re-charge the batteries, which with all of yesterday’s sailing were not charged. I then went ashore and walked for about 2 hours. On my return I had an ouzo and prepared a sauce of fresh tomatoes and canned mushrooms, which I served with rigatoni. The wind by that time was down and I enjoyed my meal in the cockpit under a large moon. Tomorrow I plan to go to Tzia (Kea) and visit my brother Byron and his wife Ivi who have a weekend house there.

Saturday June 14, 2003 Day 11

I took my time in the morning to replace the broken sail slide and temporarily secure the lazy jack line. I departed Apokrisis at 0730. I raised the mainsail and left it with the second reef but the wind was only 10-20 knots NNW, very much a head wind for our course of 320 and so I was forced to motor-sail all of the 13 M to Tzia. At least the batteries were being charged, or so I thought. While motoring, I kept getting interruptions of the current from the engine start-up battery to the engine circuits. The starting battery was OK and after I turned the battery switch off and on again things worked normally for a while but then the problem would repeat. Paralleling the service battery into the engine circuit had no effect. I suspected a fault with the engine key switch that disables the engine circuit. This will have to be investigated after we arrive. When we were half way between Kithnos and Kea I saw a canoeist go by, paddling, in what is one of the busiest shipping channels in Greece. Now this takes nerve!

We arrived in Koundouros, Tzia [37° 34.7' N 24° 16.7' E] at 1045. I anchored over sand in 5 m depth and let out about 50 m of chain. We seemed secure although I would have preferred to be in shallower waters but there were at least 8 more sailboats and motor cruisers as well as a number of large inflatables anchored in the cove. This is a weekend and we are, after all, not too far from Athens. I snorkeled right away and checked the anchor. It was well dug-in. I had a nice swim and then cleaned the deck of the boat and put up the tent.

I did not hear anything from Byron and Ivi until much later, after I had lunch and a nap. They called and said that they will be coming for a swim within half an hour but in a typical Athenian fashion they did not show up until almost an hour and a half had gone by. In the mean time, my youngest daughter Corinna called from Samos. Her houseguests will be leaving tomorrow. Eventually Byron and Ivi did show up bringing an enormous amount of lunch supplies. I went ashore with the dinghy to fetch them. We never made it back to Thetis. We stopped instead for a brief visit to a 40' First Benetau sailing boat belonging to friends of theirs, Dimitris and Katerina. Already on board was their friend and neighbor, Thanasis Yianoukos and we were soon joined by more friends Charoula and Floretta and others. A great spread of moussaka, kopanisti (soft spicy cheese spread), several breads, cheeses, etc. along with copious quantities of ouzo and wine were produced. By 5 PM everyone was wilted and ready to retire for an afternoon nap! Byron left me his motor scooter and we agreed that I will drive up the Katevati hill to his house and join them for a “Bar-B-Q” given by their other neighbors, Nikos and Elenitsa Rota.

I went back to Thetis and recovered from this late feast. I had a swim and then I started looking at the wiring between the engine battery and the key switch, which turns on the current to the starter and the engine instruments. I consulted the wiring diagram while looking at the physical wires and checking all contacts and connections. Everything looked solid but when I opened the fuse box that protects the engine wire harness I found the 25 A glass fuse broken. I replaced it. Now everything seems to be working correctly. No more intermittent charging.

After taking a hot shower I went ashore. By 8:30 I was on Byron’s scooter negotiating the perilous, steep and slippery dirt road to Katevati and Byron’s house. It was a great party which included all of the afternoon crowd now augmented by the Rotas, Spelios Philipou, Charoula’s husband, and Pascal, Thanasis’ wife. The food was plenty and excellent, and so was the wine. By the time I made it back, I am not even sure how, to Thetis it was past 1 AM. This was an “early” Athenian party.

Sunday June 15, 2003 Day 12

The party continues. In the morning I cleaned all the stainless steel railings and ran the engine for about ¾ of an hour to recharge the batteries and operate the water-maker. I then went ashore and rode the scooter up the hill to Byron’s house where I had a nice chat with my brother and Spelios. I then connected my computer to Byron’s phone line and I checked the ferryboat schedules to Syros for Alice, downloaded my accumulated e-mail, paid some bills, and got weather forecasts. The long-range prospects were less wind for several days.

By 2 PM the most of the party crowd was up and about to descend the hill and once again congregate in Dimitris’ sailboat. More ouzo, more wine, more mezedes (tasty snacks), including saganaki (grilled cheese) made from St. Michaelis cheese from Syros. Later some of us went swimming and by 6 PM most people retired for their “afternoon” nap.

Around 9 PM Byron and Ivi came down the hill with their truck and after picking me up we all went to the house of Lefteris and Yiota, friends of both of my brothers. Nice people, nice wine, nice food, and plenty of conversation. Time went by very quickly. Once again, I did not make it back to Thetis until it was past 2 AM. I better get further away from Athens and the Athenians, and back to my more sedate living. I spoke on the phone with my wife Alice. She will be flying to Greece on Wednesday and then on Thursday she will take the ferry to Syros where we will meet. I will be sailing tomorrow to Kithnos and the following day to Syros.

Monday June 16, 2003 Day 13

I spent a quiet morning puttering around the boat cleaning and polishing metal surfaces. Around noon Byron and Spelios appeared along with scuba equipment, ready to repair the permanent moorings they have for their boats. Spelios has a hard runabout and Byron has sold his inflatable but he is expecting delivery of a 6 m new one next week. By this time I was getting ready to leave. The wind was down to about 10 knots and the sea was fairly calm.

I raised the anchor at 1315. Since the wind was light and the sun strong I left the tent and just opened the headsail. I motor-sailed for a while but as the wind strengthened to 15 knots NNE I was able to turn off the motor. I was forced twice to alter my course to avoid close encounters with fast ferries converging on Thetis from opposite directions. Never mind fine theories of boats under sail having the right of way. Fast ferries, as far as I am concerned, should be avoided with as wide a margin as soon as possible. They close in on you way too fast. At the beginning our sailing speed was slow but as we approached Kithnos the wind veered E and increased to 20 knots. I reduced the sail and it was good I did so because after rounding Cape Kolona the wind, as I had anticipated, started gusting to 30 knots. Anticipating difficulties while anchoring, I also took down the tent.

We arrived, after 13.3 M in Fikiada [37° 24.9' N 24° 22.9' E] at 1605. I dropped the anchor at 4.5 m depth over a sandy patch without any trouble. Nearby were two charter boats: one full of young people already under anchor and the other with 3 German couples was trying to to anchor. After many attempts they seemed to have succeeded. In the mean time, the young people had hoisted a youth up the mast with the bosom’s chair. He got off the chair, and after standing on the cross-trees, he dove into the water to the applause of his crew mates. But, the boson’s chair was now hanging from the halyard and swinging into the wind. It got all fouled in the rigging. It took them more than two hours until they finally managed to get it down again. Of course, had they provided for a safety line attached to the chair this would had been very easy.

Kolona from Fikiada, Kithnos
Sunset over Kolona as seen from Fikiada, Kithnos

After the sunset, I had my usual ouzo. The wind was down already and the two charter boats had left. It was a nice and quiet evening save for a third charter boat that arrived after dark and had the most difficult time anchoring. I am having a hard time understanding people’s mentality. Here they are, inexperienced in the arcane arts of anchoring, arriving in the dark in an unfamiliar anchorage which all the cruising guides describe as having weed bottom and bad holding. In the dark they cannot, of course, see the sand and avoid the weed. It took them more than two hours before they managed to anchor. In the end, I think it was the wind, which by then had completely died out, that helped them.

For dinner I made rice served it with some left over sauce. It was a lovely night full of stars. Later the large moon, only two days past full, rose red over the mountains.

Tuesday June 17, 2003 Day 14

This was a slow day in this lovely anchorage. In the morning after doing some housekeeping tasks, I took a long swim. The water temperature now is 22°C (72°F) and very pleasant.

In the evening I went for a walk over the “island” which is connected to Kithnos with the narrow sandbar. It was very windy up there. Shortly after I returned to Thetis I really got mad. A British flagged sailboat had anchored earlier nearby. Her crew was a sympathetic looking family of four: father, mother, brother under ten, and little sister. Now as I was watching they raised their anchor and departed. But before departing this wonderful anchorage they dumped into the water about 6 empty beer cans. I was appalled by such gross behavior. I bet that they would never dare do so in the UK where they will be faced by a stiff fine. It is rare indeed that a fellow boater will deliberately pollute the sea, the very element that gives him so much pleasure. What can I say? I really wished that I had a fast dinghy so that I could collect the cans, chase them, and dump them back into their boat while delivering a piece of my mind. As it was I could only collect the cans.

Later I went ashore and had an indifferent meal at the small taverna that opened a few years ago.

Wednesday June 18, 2003 Day 15

Before going to bed I put on the alarm for 0500 because I wanted to depart early for Finikas in the island of Syros some 32 M away. I had already raised the outboard and now, after waking up and drinking my morning coffee, all I had to do was to uncover the sail and raise the anchor. The Navtex forecast called for N wind of force 5-6. We departed at 0610. Right away I raised the mainsail but left it on the second reef. I then opened the headsail. We had a nice and favorable NE wind anywhere from 30 knots down to 6 knots, which gave us a fast downwind, sail.

While under way, Alice called me. She had already arrived in Athens and will be taking a ferry tomorrow to Syros; she will call me tonight with the specifics. I called Mr. Varelas, the owner of Plefsi, the makers of my new inflatable dinghy. What has been missing from it is a one-way bailout valve. He promised to have one delivered to my mother’s apartment in Athens so that Alice can bring it tomorrow.

After a few nice hours of good sailing the wind died out and I had to roll-in the headsail and motor-sail. But after we were a couple of miles E of Cape Dimitri, the southernmost point of Kithnos, the wind picked up to 5-13 knots from the N and I was able to have a nice close reach sail with both sails open. Later the wind increased to 19-29 knots, still from the N, and I reduced the jib. After 32.7 M we arrived in Finikas [37° 23.8' N 24° 52.7' E] at 1235. I did not want to bother with the noise and lights of the “marina” so I anchored off in 5 m depth over sand.

After I covered the sail and I put up the tent, I lowered the outboard, and went ashore to get some fresh bread and fruits before the stores closed down for Wednesday afternoon. After a light lunch I took a short nap.

Later I snorkeled and checked the anchor. It was well dug-in. I had some coffee and another swim during which I scraped the bottom of the boat from some accumulated weed. I had a hot shower and an ouzo. I called my friend Yankos. They now have a new car. We arranged to meet tomorrow morning in Ermoupolis, after Alice arrives. He very kindly offered us the use of his old car for our stay on the island. In the evening I went ashore again and after a walk ended in the Pyrofani taverna for a pleasant supper. All was well save for the large number of mosquitoes, both in the taverna and inside Thetis’ cabin after I returned. They woke me up several times and I had to use the flashlight to locate them on the walls of my cabin and crush them.