Travels with S/Y Thetis


Thetis only

2003: Preparation

Thursday May 1, 2003

Thetis on her stand I begin writing this year’s logs inside Thetis’ cabin while she rests on her stand in the Agmar Shipyard at Partheni, Leros. I am very glad to be on my dear Thetis after spending my first night of this year in her cabin. All her cabins are in a completely chaotic state, but they are improving. I arrived here yesterday flying from Athens where I arrived the day before from Washington D.C. Last night I just picked up enough things to make room in the right cabin for me to sleep. Now I am preparing her for launching tomorrow (today is May Day, a holiday in Greece).

Preparations for this very much anticipated and desired day started last fall and continued over the winter. Agmar had completely scraped Thetis’ undersides, treated her against the dreaded osmosis, and applied two new coats of anti-fouling paint. They also fabricated and installed a double alternator pulley which will prevent the belt slippage problems that I had last year. In addition, they have performed a complete service on the engine (change of oil, filters, sacrificial anodes) and on the outboard. They also fabricated a stainless steel bracket to hold the second anchor on the the stern push-pit, a labor-saving device for me (rather than keeping it in the sail locker). They made a nice wooden flag pole, a new door for the bathroom, varnished various exterior wood work, waxed and polished the hull. Another improvement was the installation of a through-hull cooling plate for the refrigerator, replacing its air-cooled condenser. This should improve its efficiency and lower its power consumption.

I brought with me from the US a new Balmar MaxCharge voltage regulator with temperature sensors for the service battery and the alternator. This was to replace the ailing old regulator. Yesterday afternoon Panayiotis, the Agmar electrician, installed them. In addition, I brought a new edition of C-Map Plotter cartridges for the E Aegean and the Cyclades. I have also ordered a new inflatable dinghy in Athens. It was made to order by Plefsi. It is a hard bottom (RIB) made of hyphalon, a much more durable material than the usual polyvinyl. It is supposed to be shipped to Leros tomorrow and arrive on Saturday.

I have already checked the operation of all the instruments and the refrigerator. They are all working well except that no signal has been received on the Navtex. I spent the rest of today cleaning rearranging things inside the cabins and making the boat more livable. The dust was thick. Before leaving Thetis last fall I had covered her with a tarpaulin, but during the winter and until last week Leros was subjected to very heavy downpours and gales, even reaching an unheard of force 12. The tarpaulin was torn to shreds and dust covered everything. I vacuumed the accumulated dust everywhere and installed the cushion covers and rugs. By the end of the day the cabins were clean, tidy, and inviting. I also filled the water tanks. I had a hard time doing so because the air vents were were completely clogged with dust and a golden pollen. With some effort I unclogged them.

In the evening I joined with Mike from the British S/Y Gordian Knot and Don and Anne from the American S/Y Blue Jacket whom I had met last fall and who were now preparing their boats for launching. We all had rented motor scooters and now we drove to Alindas to the Steki of Dimitris which since last year relocated from his rented space to his own newly built restaurant. He was very glad to see us and his food was as good as it was in the old place. We had an assortment of mezedes which he prepared without waiting for our order. These were washed down with plenty of wine and toasts for the new sailing season.

This has been a very productive and satisfying day but the sense of accomplishment was marred by the sad news that a few days ago the couple from the German S/Y Lucania, also located near Thetis in the shipyard, had a bad spill with the rented motor scooter and Karl, a retired chemical engineer, was badly hurt on the head while his wife, Heir, escaped with scrapes and bruises. Karl is now in the hospital and seems to be doing well and may be released tomorrow, but they plan to fly back to Germany for a thorough check-up before launching their boat. In anticipation of his discharge Heir, spent all day waxing Lucania so that he will feel good when he sees her. What a nice wife!

Friday May 2, 2003

This is the great day. Thetis will be launched this morning, the only thing remaining to be done is to install the new flag pole. Despite my jet lag I slept well. While waiting for Michalis, the carpenter, to bring the flag pole, I again unclogged the water tank vents, and topped the tanks. Eventually the pole was installed and Thetis was scheduled to be launched in the early afternoon. Ersi, the efficient Agmar secretary, just got back after getting married. She gave me the new horseshoe lifesavers, the newly-serviced life raft, the fire extinguisher, and all their newly issued inspection certificates. I stowed these in their places and went over the paperwork. Everything is in order save a new certificate that I need from the Limenarchio (Coast Guard) and two smoke signals that need to be replaced, their validation date having expired. These I will attend to in Lakki. Now I am waiting for my turn to be launched.

The Gordian Knot, was scheduled to be launched ahead of Thetis but first Lucania had to be relocated so that the travel-lift could get to Gordian Knot. Heir had already left to go to the hospital to see Karl. When she came back she could not find her boat! Karl will be released this afternoon. I hardly had time to speak to Heir when Thetis’ turn came. Thetis was launched at 1330.

The launching went very smoothly and no leaks were detected. Only the head pump refused to work. Panayiotis the electrician was called to look into this problem. It turned out to be a bad contact which was soon repaired. In the meantime, Pantelis, the travel-lift operator, and his assistant, Nicolas, helped me to install the genoa, a task that requires at least 2 people. The engine works fine and so does the new voltage regulator.

At 1500 all was ready and we cast off for Lakki. There was no wind and we motored the 9.8 nM. Thetis arrived at Lakki at 1640. Every system that I could think of I tested on the way and they all worked, including the Navtex, which received a good signal. In Lakki, I caught a mooring line and came stern-to with Mike and the new attendant, Zacharias, securing the stern lines.

I received word from my daughter Corinna, who is in Samos, that she will come tomorrow to spend a couple of days with me. I also received word that the dinghy will not arrive until Monday. I went to the Limenarchio, (Coast Guard) but the officer who will issue the required certificate will not be in until Monday. Fantastic! I bought two new smoke signals and went to the Spanos supermarket. No problem delivering this year, so I bought a lot of provisions. I spoke with my wife, Alice, who is visiting with our oldest daughter Cynthia in Durham N.C. Cynthia is due any day now to deliver our first grandchild.

After a hot shower, I joined Mike, Don, and Anna at the Petrino restaurant. We had a very nice meal and a lot to celebrate as two out of our three boats were safely launched.

Saturday May 3, 2003

Corinna, my daughter, was due to arrive at Ayia Marina with the 11 AM hydrofoil from Samos. I went with the rented scooter, which the proprietor had already brought from Partheni to Lakki, to fetch her. On our way back we bought some fruits and vegetables. Later we had a fuel delivery and topped all the tanks with 88 L of Diesel fuel.

In the afternoon we washed the deck which had large areas covered by the mysterious golden pollen which had clogged the water vents. In the evening we drove the scooter to Pandeli and had an excellent meal at the Psarapoula restaurant.

Sunday May 4, 2003

Since there was nothing to do here in Lakki but wait for Monday when the new dinghy may arrive and the Limenarchio official goes back to work, we decided to take an excursion to near by Emborios in Kalymnos, a few miles south of Leros. Before leaving we filled the new sun-shower with water but it burst right away, a sample-defect no doubt.

Emborio, Kalymnos We cast off at 0930. The wind was a very light SE breeze, no more than 8-12 knots. Nevertheless we raised the main and opened the genoa. We sailed for 8.9 nM, very slowly, toward Kalymnos. We arrived at Emborios [37° 02.7' N 26° 55.6' E] at 1130. We caught a mooring belonging to the taverna (informal restaurant) Mparba Nikolas.

After inflating the old Zodiac dinghy we went ashore and had a light lunch at the taverna. Very friendly people, most of then retired sponge divers. All around the shore of the island there is a yellow scum. We think it is pollen, same as the one that clogged Thetis’ vents. While we were at the taverna, my wife Alice called from Durham where she is with our daughter Cynthia who is due to give birth on May 9. Alice reported that Cynthia is doing well. I am poised to leave Thetis in Lakki and fly back to the US and see both mother and baby as soon as I hear the happy news.

We took the rest of the afternoon rather easy, resting under the tent. In the early evening we went ashore again for a long walk. By the time we returned aboard, had a hot shower and an ouzo, it was getting dark. We were still not very hungry and Corinna made just a salad which we ate along with some cold cuts. We went to bed early.

Monday May 5, 2003

We cannot stay here in Kalymnos any longer because Corinna has to catch the 2:30 Samos Flying Dolphin (hydrofoil) from Ayia Marina, Leros. We departed Emborio at 0840. We had a head wind of 6-14 knots and we had to motor. This gave me a chance to observe the operation of the new Balmar MaxCharge voltage regulator. It worked very well and it replaced the 45 Ah we had consumed since yesterday in less than an hour. We arrived in Lakki [37° 07.8' N 26° 50.9' E] at 1010, after 8.9 nM. We moored without any trouble. Having a crew member who knows what she is doing is a luxury that I am not used to!

There was no sign of the new inflatable dinghy. After several phone calls to Athens I ascertained that no only it is not on its way to Leros but that it has not even been picked up by the shipper from the manufacturer. The next promised day for its arrival now is Wednesday. All this is very frustrating but very typically Greek, lots of promises and reassurances but little action and many delays.

I went to the Limenarchio (Coast Guard) for the extra certificate. I had tried to get this last fall but the official was not available. This time, to my amazement, not only was he there but was actually rather friendly. He issued it promptly after I payed the € 66 fee. I was in his office for ¾ of an hour, most of this time spent on a political discussion between the official, the skipper of the patrol boat and, myself concerning the war in Iraq and US policy. I could only offer some explanations but could not honestly defend this war and the actions of the US. Greek anti-american public opinion, completely shared by these officials, is running very high.

I drove Corinna to Ayia Marina and she left more or less on time. I returned to Thetis and continued with my cleaning campaign. It is getting much better inside now. No news from Durham. Later I had dinner at the marina restaurant with Mike Millington of Gordian Knot. The restaurant this year is not operated by Agmar but has been rented out as a concession. The food was reasonable.

Tuesday May 6, 2003

The Navtex received a gale warning. Force 8 for the Sea of Ikaria and 7 for Samos Sea. I do not feel like leaving the harbor. I found the one and only travel agency in Lakki where I made inquiries about getting a ticket for the US on a short notice. While they do book they cannot issue such tickets directly. They get them by courier from a corresponding agency in Athens which can take 2-3 days. Further, they may have a problem with the payment via a credit card. At any rate, the best routing is to Athens and then a connection to D.C.in either Frankfurt, London, Paris, or Amsterdam, depending on the airline. Seats are available.

I drove the scooter to the Partheni shipyard and settled my bill. It was much higher than I was expecting. I had not budgeted the anti-osmosis treatment. They had advised me of that via e-mail but they had sent the mail to a long defunct address. Before leaving the yard I gave small € 10-15 tips to various craftsmen who had worked on Thetis. These are in accordance to Greek traditions and build a lot of good will.

After returning to Thetis I had a snack and then I fell asleep under the tent. I later continued cleaning. A lot of the upholstery has stains of mildew because the winter had been extremely wet. I used a special cleaner that I got from the Partheni chandlery to get rid of the mildew. It worked well. Now that the cabins, galley, and bathroom have been cleaned, I attacked the wood work. First with a mild soap solution, and then with a wood polish. Enough work for the day.

I joined Mike and his wife Nicola, who had just arrived from London, at the marina restaurant. There I met Mike’s Greek friend Mikés who has a bakery in Platanos with an outlet in Lakki. His wife was born and raised in NYC and they have a lovely daughter and a frisky Dalmatian. Mikés will be going to Athens and take delivery of a used S/Y which he will bring back to Leros. His brother-in-law owns a new restaurant in Xerocambos.

After I returned back to Thetis I tried calling Alice, but I got no answer either at her hotel or from her mobile phone. I called Cynthia’s number and her husband, Scott, answered. She is dilating and the baby maybe arriving soon. Later I managed to call Alice and she confirmed Scott’s report. It is possible that they may be going to hospital tonight. I had trouble sleeping.

Wednesday May 7, 2003

In the early morning hours I received an SMS from Alice that Cynthia went into labor and is in the hospital. I am on stand-by.

The New Dinghy I went to the internet cafe at the harbor and checked the accumulated e-mail. When I was walking back, to my delight I saw a truck with a deflated RIB inflatable. It was mine. The shipper promised to deliver it to Thetis within half an hour. It was 9:30. It was delivered, after serious agitation, at 14:30. I inflated it and it is indeed very nice but it is heavy. I am not sure how I will manage to lift it on Thetis’ deck and where I could keep it once I did lift it. I plan to give the old zodiac to Pandelis, the travel-lift operator.

Alice called me with an update on Cynthia. Nothing has happened at the hospital and she was now sleeping. Alice promised to contact me as soon as a new development happened. I walked to the travel agent who has received more information on tickets to the US. These go for €700-800 but once issued they cannot be rescheduled. They also have to be sent here which will take a few days or else I will have to pick them up at the agent’s office in Athens during working hours and not at the airport. I called Corinna in Samos and asked her to check the situation with the agency I used last year.

Again I washed the deck of the boat which once again was covered by the mysterious golden pollen. I also filled the water tanks. I spoke with Alice in Durham again. No developments. She is of the opinion that that at any rate I should not rush to the US but wait a few days.

I went to dinner with Mike and Nicola who have rented a car. We drove drove to Alindas, the plan being to eat at a restaurant which I have never been to the Varelia. However, it had not yet opened for the season and we ended at the Steki tou Dimitri. There we were joined by Anna and Don and a large crowd from from the shipyard. The long table represented several nations of sailors: British, Greek, American, Swedish, German, Norwegian, and even a lady from Chili. A mini UN. It was a very convivial crowd but I was distracted by thoughts of my daughter and constantly looking at my GSM phone for messages. I got back to Thetis late without any further news.