Travels with S/Y Thetis

Thetis only

2003: Astypalea to Leros

This web page contains the log of the second leg of a singlehanded sailing trip that I took with S/Y Thetis in the Greek East Aegean (Dodecanese). The leg covers a period of 11 days of sailing from the island of Astypalea (Vathy) to the island of Leros (Xerocambos, Lakki, Archangelos, Partheni) via the islands of Kalymnos (Pothiá, Emborios), Lipsi (Platys Yialos), and Marathi. At the end of this trip Thetis was hauled-out for the year at the Partheni Agmar Shipyard. The log is illustrated with photographs and maps it also includes some historical and geographical descriptions of the places visited as well as several links to other related web sites.

Route from Astypalea
Route from Astypalea to Leros

Friday October 10, 2003 Day 13

First thing in the morning I listened to the AM radio weather broadcast. For the Sea of Ikaria it predicted NW winds of force 4-5 increasing to 5 and by the late afternoon reaching 6-7. I relayed this information, with the VHF, to my German friends in S/Y Viking III and to my British friends in S/Y Harriette. It was a cold morning, the temperature inside the cabin was just 16°C (61°F) relative humidity 55% and the barometer a fairly high of 1013 mB. It was time to leave.

All three boats left within minutes of each other at 0700. As soon as we were outside the inlet I fired up the computer and connected to the Internet via GPRS. I downloaded my e-mail and paid my household bills, a real first this one. I then got extended weather forecasts for the next few days: strong N winds. The wind here was 5-8 knots from the N winds. I raised the full mainsail and opened 40% of the headsail but the wind was too week and I had to motor-sail. Around that time a little sparrow flew into the cabin. I slowly guided it out. It sat on the stern and watched me for about 10 minutes and then it flew away towards Astypalea. Despite the forecast, the wind never increased over 10 knots and we continued motor-sailing but I later opened all of the genoa and reduced the engine’s RPM. It was only when we were just a few miles away from Kalymnos that we got enough wind to finally turn off the engine. It was a most welcome but brief period of quietness. As soon as we were just off Cape Ayios Yiorgios, in the SW of Kalymnos, we experienced gusts of over 18 knots but by then we had almost reached the main harbor Pothiá.

I lowered the sails, prepared the anchor, docking lines, and fenders. I then hailed the Limenarchio (Coast Guard) on the VHF channel 12 and asked them for directions on where to dock in the harbor. They told me to anchor either on the NE side or on the N side next to the day-trip boats. They did not mention the “marina” that was almost finished last summer. I proceeded as directed. On the NE side there was only space for one yacht but it was blocked by a line running between the two adjacent yachts. On the N side there was a good space for Thetis. I maneuvered for it, dropping the anchor, but other yachties told me that the space belongs to a day-tripper that will be returning at the end of the day. The only room left was at a corner, side-to, in front of a charter boat. I raised the anchor and proceeded to that spot but Thetis was 1 m too long to fit comfortably. At that time the captain of another day-tripper told me that he will be departing within minutes and that I could use his place. More maneuvering: dropped the anchor and backed up to the newly vacated spot, fellow yachties helping with the lines. By the time Thetis was safely docked in Pothiá [36° 56.9' N 26° 59' E] it was 1410. The distance we came from Vathy was 36 nM.

After some rest I walked to the Limenarchio (Coast Guard) and validated the ship’s papers. They told me that I may have to move tomorrow sometime between 1100 and 1300 because 7 day-trippers are due. I walked to the site of the “marina” under construction. Not only there has been no progress since last year but it has regressed. Last year’s floating docks are now rotting on land. This is very advanced Greek bureaucracy and project management. In the meantime the already decaying large poster sign states that the project is 75% financed by the European Union. I wonder how the funds have been squandered.

By the time I returned to Thetis the rest of the day-trip boats were gone and the quay was almost empty except for the one spot where I had tried to dock before. Now a new day-tripper was docked there.

I made myself some coffee. While sitting in the cockpit and sipping the coffee someone from the quay was calling my name. It was my cousin George Billys who moved from Samos to Kalymnos many years ago and with whom I had lost contact. He was walking and recognized the boat. There was no way out. He invited me for dinner.

After shower George and his wife Evdokia came and later and we went to a restaurant for dinner. When I returned back to the boat it was almost midnight. The night was very cold.

Saturday October 11, 2003 Day 14

When I woke up the temperature had plummeted to 15°C (59°F), the humidity was a low 47%, and the barometer had risen to 1015 mB. The forecast called for force 6 NW wind for both today and tomorrow although it did seem windier here. I wanted to stay here for at least one more day but I hated the idea of having to move to another berth. I hailed the Limenarchio (Coast Guard) on the VHF and asked for a status report. They said that they have just received a gale warning and are about to issue a small craft advisory so none of the day-trippers will be arriving and I could stay where I was. Just in case, I gave them my GSM telephone number.

Platys Yialos
Platys Yialos, Kalymnos

Later my cousin George came with his motorcycle and took me sight seeing around the island. We drove to the Cave of the 7 virgins, Panormos, Platys Yialos, Myrtia, and back Pothiá. On the way we stopped to the unused airport. This is another monument to the Greek bureaucracy and corruption. The construction of the airport was finished, yes actually finished, 18 years ago. However, it has not yet been allowed to operate because of petty political local interests. You see if it does operate Kalymniots will not take the local ferries to Kos and the Kos airport will lose passengers. The ex-mayor of Kalymnos has already appropriated large sums from the airport and marina and is now under indictment. Thus the inexplicable was explained to me by the locals. The truth? Who knows? Would anyone ever know?


Had lunch and dinner in George’s and Evdokia’s house. Too much hospitality and food. I plan to depart tomorrow.

Sunday October 12, 2003 Day 15

It was a very cold night, the thermometer inside the cabin reached the lowest I have recorded this year: 11°C (52°F) while the humidity is 47%, the same as yesterday, and the barometer 1011 mB. Today’s forecast calls for force 5 N winds, the gale is over. I went to the Limenarchio (Coast Guard) and paid the harbor dues which came for two days to € 2.13! Back on Thetis I prepared for departure.

Inside the harbor there were furious gusts but I cast off and managed to raise the anchor without any mishap at 0840. Outside the harbor the wind was gusting up to 34 knots and down to 14. The wind direction was anywhere from the NE to the NW. After rounding Cape Tolmi and Cape Trachilos we headed N. No chance of sailing. The waves were considerable and there was some pounding and spray. We motored for 12 nM through the Telendos Channel to Emborios [37° 02.7' N 26° 55.6' E] where we arrived at 1135. I caught easily one of the Barba Nikolas moorings.

Thetis in Emborios
Thetis in Emborios

Thetis was the only sailboat in the cove. Here it was very calm but the wind was gusting up to 22 knots. There was nice strong sunshine and it was not too cold. Later I swam but the water was a little cold at 21°C (70°F).

I debated with myself whether to go ashore for dinner to Barba Nikolas whose mooring I was using or to cook. In the end I went out, thinking that being Sunday there will be a good variety of foods available. Pavlos, Barba Nicola’s son who is actually running the taverna was glad to see me again. He remembered me from my last visit and asked about my daughter Corinna. He was also glad to hear that his cousins in Vathy, and fellow divers, had recommended his taverna to me. I had a delicious roast lamb and a salad.

The night was windy but otherwise quiet.

Monday October 13, 2003 Day 16

My plan for today was to stay here in Emborios and take a long walk I particularly wanted to find the Cave of the Cyclops (also known as Kolonostylo). I had asked Pavlos last night about it and he told me to walk along the road to Arginontas up to the village of Skala and then to ask for further instructions at the kiosk. I packed my knapsack with water, camera, and a large flashlight and after going ashore I started walking. I had almost reached Skala when Pavlos with his wife and little Nicolas, his son, drove by with his truck. They gave me a lift and after driving about a kilometer past the village, Pavlos pointed out the entrance to the cave. It was up a very steep hill and was covered by a metal grill. I climbed up and although there was a padlock on the grill it was not locked. Inside there was a small hole and a metal ladder leading way down. I went down the ladder. At the bottom there was a small chamber, very slippery and dark. At the end of the chamber there was a narrow entrance also with a ladder. This led to a largish chamber with stalactites and stalagmites. Way into the chamber was a corridor leading further into the cave. The corridor was extremely slippery and I had a hard time walking. Save for my flashlight it was perfectly dark. At this point prudence got the best of me. I realized that if I were to fall and break a leg I would be stranded. So, after taking some pictures, I turned back. I ought to have taken my portable GPS to mark the coordinates of the cave for future reference but I did not think of it. I climbed down the very steep hill and walked back to Emborios. All together this expedition took me over 3 hours.

In the Cave of the Cyclops
In the Cave of the Cyclops In the Cave of the Cyclops
In the Cave of the Cyclops In the Cave of the Cyclops
Emborios from the Cave of the Cyclops
Emborios from the Cave of the Cyclops

In the early afternoon, while I was reading in the nicely sunlit cockpit the dinghy from a chartered sailboat that had arrived last evening and anchored some distance away, approached Thetis. Inside the dinghy was a young German couple. The girl spoke Greek reasonably well. They told me that they were in trouble and asked me to help them if I could. Their anchor was hopelessly fouled on thick ropes at the bottom and they could not raise it. They wanted my help in locating a scuba diver who could untangle them. They were lucky because Kalymnos is populated by more divers than any other Greek island. Immediately I though of Pavlos, who is a diver, but he had not yet returned. Instead we drove the dinghy to the pier and I spoke with the crew of a fishing caïque. Yes, there was a diver with a narghile (a long hose connecting the diver’s air regulator with an air pump aboard a boat) but he was working at the nearby fish farm. They promised to notify him and that he will go and help the Germans sometime after 3 PM. After thanking me the couple dropped me back in Thetis and drove to their boat.

A Taverna Menu in Emborios
A Taverna Menu in Emborios

It was a glorious afternoon. Clear day, warm sunshine, but not too hot. A typical Autumn day! I enjoyed swimming and reading. Many sailboats arrived, at least 10 but very few took advantage of the free moorings. Most of them had a hellish time anchoring. Some took upwind shore lines which held them. The rest spent hours anchoring. Fortunately for them the wind was not very strong. The diver did come around 4 PM and freed the Germans.

I cooked a batch of fresh tomatoes and made them into a sauce but I did not eat onboard. I went out to Barba Nikolas mainly because I enjoyed the company of Pavlos and his family. They are very nice and hospitable people.

The night was most enjoyable with the moon a day past full. My plans for tomorrow are to sail to nearby Xerocambos in Leros.

Tuesday October 14, 2003 Day 17

The AM radio weather broadcast called for N winds of force 5, but I was concerned because of the large pressure differential between the 1027 mB over the Balkans and the 1008 mB over the Aegean.


I departed from Emborios, Kalymnos at 0830. The wind outside the protected cove was 18-26 knots from the NNW. The distance was just too short and the wind around the capes too close to bother with raising the sails, so I just motored the 6 nM. We arrived in Xerocambos, Leros [37° 06.5' N 26° 52.2' E] at 0955. I had some trouble catching one of the Aloni moorings because it got tangled with the dinghy’s towline but with the help of an extra line and the hook I untangled them and soon we were securely moored.

I called Agmar and made arrangements for hauling out Thetis next Monday October 20. It was very quiet in the bay. Thetis, other than a permanently moored Italian S/Y, was the only boat. Most of the tavernas have already closed for the winter. I swam a little and read.

In the afternoon a flotilla of 5 sailboats arrived. Three of them tied to the two moorings next to Thetis. A gentleman who appeared to be the leader of the flotilla kept issuing, with a very loud voice, an endless and continuous barrage of orders to the other 4 boats. I despaired that the tranquility of the anchorage was gone and I was in for an unpleasant evening. Fortunately, after a few hours, new orders were issued and the flotilla left. I did not feel like going ashore. I was perfectly content to stay on my boat, swim some more, and then absorb the warmth of the sun while reading.

In the evening, after a shower, I enjoyed a glass of ouzo in the cockpit while watching the sun go down and the approaching dusk. For supper I made spaghetti with the tomato sauce that I had prepared yesterday. After eating I went ashore for a walk. It was a pleasant night but for the many new streetlights and the occasional noisy motorbike.

Wednesday October 15, 2003 Day 18

In August when I was here in Xerocambos I had met a hiker who told me about a WW II Italian house, way up the hill, with interesting fresco paintings by the soldiers who were garrisoned there. Now I was determined to find this house. I went ashore and hiked to the ridge that he had told me. On the way I met with Alessandro, the Italian owner of the lovely sailboat that is always moored here, walking his dog. Alessandro also has a villa up the hill and between the house and the boat spends a good part of the year in Leros. I climbed up to the ridge and down on the other side. I almost missed the house with the frescoes. All I could find was a cottage, which I assumed was the house I was looking for. But there were no frescoes. I then saw a path leading some distance away. I followed the path and sure enough I came upon a large dilapidated house. There was no mistake, this was it. Inside there were lots of goat droppings but the walls were nicely painted.

WWII Italian Army House
WWII Italian Army House, with Frescos
Two of the Frescos
Office Fresco
Fresco of the Office
Kitchen Fresco
Fresco of the Kitchen

By the time I returned to the boat 2 hours had passed. I was in need of provisions, especially fresh fruits and produce, but I was too tired to walk to Lakki. Instead I decided to go by boat. I cast off the mooring at 1000. The plan was to make a brief stop for shopping in Lakki and then proceed to Archangelos, the small island on the NW side of Leros. The wind was a light northerly breeze of 5-10 knots and I had to motor. After 4.8 nM we arrived in Lakki at 1105. Instead of bothering with mooring in the Agmar marina I just anchored off in 4.5 m depth and went ashore with the dinghy. I bought fresh bread, fruits, spring water, lettuce etc. as well as some cutlets.

By 1220 I was back onboard Thetis, the provisions were stowed, and I had raised the anchor. On the way out of Lakki I saw a small sea turtle. We motored the rest of the 7.8 nM to Archangelos [37° 11.9' N 26° 46.3' E] where we arrived at 1400. I anchored in 5 m depth over sand and let out 50 m of chain because this time of the year the weather can change rather abruptly. Thetis was the only boat in the cove. I snorkeled and checked the anchor; it was nicely set.

Dusk was very pleasant but a little chilly. I had to put on warmer clothes before enjoying the sky colors while sipping a glass of ouzo. For dinner I cooked the cutlets that I had bought in Lakki. I ate one of them together with the last potatoes from Kalami. The night was dark and clear with many, many brilliant stars. Later the half moon rose illuminating the calm sea.

Thursday October 16, 2003 Day 19

The morning was sunny and very calm. I felt kind of lazy and other than a short swim did not do much. Another sailboat, an Italian yawl, arrived and anchored some distance away. The Navtex forecast calls for a heavy rain in the Ionian Sea and N Greece.

Everything here was very quiet until the early afternoon when all hell broke loose. Five large charter boats full of heavyset men and a few equally stout women arrived. I counted over 40 people. They spoke loudly to each other and to the other boats in a language that I did not recognize. They all had trouble anchoring. One boat crossed my anchor and I had to wave them off. Another, after anchoring and letting out some chain, drifted so close to Thetis that she almost touched. Eventually, to my relief, after a heated discussion among her crew they re-anchored further away.

Later in the afternoon I went ashore for a walk. At the beach there were several men from the charter boats. They had lit a fire and they were cooking sausages and large pieces of very fat meat. I could not resist my curiosity and I asked them where they were from. There were Slavs and they were all members of the Belgrade Yachting Club. They all seemed to have great fun. Fortunately for the tranquility of the anchorage all 5 charter boats departed after dusk leaving the place to the Italian yawl and Thetis.

I finished reading Jeffrey Lent’s In the Fall the sad and depressing story of 3 generations descending from a black slave girl who was raped at the age of 12 and escaped to the north at age 16. I started a new book Niccolo Rising by Dorothy Dunnet. Dark clouds started covering most of the sky in the late evening. Is it going to rain?

It did not rain. The sky cleared so that I could see some stars between the clouds. For supper I ate rice and another cutlet along with a nice red wine. The night was calm.

Friday October 17, 2003 Day 20

The AM radio forecast called for rain everywhere in Greece except here in the Samos Sea. It also predicted low NE winds of force 4. I am getting mildly depressed because my sailing year is coming to an end. Would I be able to make the trip to the Adriatic and Croatia that I had to cancel in the spring next year? I decided to sail for the last time to Marathi.

I departed from Archangelos at 0920. There was no appreciable wind, just 2-6 knots from the NNE, but plentiful sunshine. We motored 9.2 nM to Platys Yialos [37° 18.8' N 26° 44.5' E] in Lipsi where we arrived at 1130. This was going to be just a lunch stop.

Platys Yialos, Lipsi
Platys Yialos, Lipsi

Later the sky clouded and the wind veered W but it was still a light breeze. I connected to the Internet and got an extended forecast from Wetter: the wind will stay N-NW-W and light until Sunday when it will come from the S and increase by Monday. We shall see.

We departed Platys Yialos at 1440. Again no possibility of sailing with the wind no more than 3-4 knots. More motoring. We arrived in Marathi [37° 22' N 26° 43.6' E] at 1520. I caught one of Pandelis moorings without any trouble.

It was very quiet, Thetis being the only boat here. I spent the rest of the afternoon reading. After dark I went ashore. Pandelis, Katina, and their son Manolis greeted me very warmly. Manolis is here for a few days to help his father with their new project: build a chapel dedicated to Saint Pandeleimon. These people never stop! Dinner, as usual, was very good. While I was eating and chatting with Pandelis the crew of a British sailing boat came. The owner and his two guests were British but his wife was Danish. They ordered fish which they declared the best they had eaten all year.

Saturday October 18, 2003 Day 21

The morning forecast was discouraging. It predicted a possibly strong S wind for tomorrow developing into a gale. With this information I decided not to stay here for the day as I was planning but to sail back to Archangelos and be near Partheni in case the S winds do materialize. Before leaving I went ashore and took a long walk. Then I said good-bye to Pandelis’ family wishing each other a good and healthy winter.

Pandelis' Boats in Marathi
Pandelis’ Boats in Marathi

Back on Thetis I uncovered the main because there was some northerly breeze. We departed from Marathi at 1120. Right away I raised the mainsail and opened the genoa. The wind, a light 5-10 knot N breeze, just about propelled Thetis but since this was most likely the last sailing opportunity for the year I was determined to squeeze the last sailing mile out of it. Well, it took us almost 3 hours to sail, with many tacks, the 10.3 nM to Archangelos [37° 11.9' N 26° 46.3' E] where we arrived at 1515. I anchored in 6.5 m depth over sand and let out 45 m chain. This allowed plenty of room for the boat to swing even 360° in case that the wind changed to the predicted southerly.

It was very calm here in the meantime. The Navtex issued a S gale warning for the Ionian and Kythera Seas but for the Samos Sea it forecast just force 4 also from the S. Being nervous I also downloaded forecasts from the Internet. Wetter called for force 3 SE while Poseidon force 5, also SE. Time will tell which one of the three forecasts proves correct. I rigged the printer to the iBook and printed two lists: the list for work to be done by Agmar during the winter and the long check list of things to be done by yours truly before departing from Leros. Very depressing!

My plan is to stay here until the S wind materializes and then move to the very secure cove of Partheni to wait until the Monday morning haul-out. Maybe before then I will lift the dinghy on the deck.

The night was slightly cloudy with not so many visible stars but other wise very pleasant.

Sunday October 19, 2003 Day 22

There was no wind during the night. The AM radio weather report frustratingly re-issued the gale warning but offered no details. I plan to stay here until the early evening and then move to Partheni. That is unless the S wind comes first in which case I will move earlier. In the middle of the morning I finally received a Navtex forecast. It calls not for a gale but S winds of force 5 weakening tomorrow.

I occupied myself with various maintenance tasks on my long check list in preparation for the winter layover: I cleaned, with contact spray, all exposed electrical contacts and coated them with Vaseline spray. I ran alkaline solution into the water-maker and let it soak for several hours. This was followed by a biocide solution and by emptying of its pre-filter.

At noon there was some S wind but only up to 10 knots. Nevertheless I played it safe and departed Archangelos at 1655. I motored the 1.7 nM to Partheni [37° 11.6' N 26° 48.4' E] arriving at 1715. I anchored in 5 m depth.

It was very calm here and completely shielded from the S wind. I met the US flagged S/Y Brilliant. They also have an AirMarine wind generator but the most recent model. They seem very pleased with its high current output, especially at low winds. It does not seem to make a lot of noise, as mine does when it works. I am thinking of replacing mine with this model.

I had a glass of ouzo while watching the colorful sunset in the cloudy sky. During this my last evening afloat this year things went very smoothly. I made spaghetti for supper with the last leftover tomato sauce and red wine. The sea was very calm. I went to bed early.

Monday October 20, 2003 Day 23

It was not a good night after all. I had trouble falling asleep. The cause was apparent around 0100 when the forecasted S wind did eventually come. I did not like the way Thetis had drifted; it was too close to Brilliant. I do not think that the anchor dragged but, at any rate, I re-anchored. For a while there were very strong gusts reaching 30 knots. Then around 0300 the wind stopped and I was able to go back to bed.

In the early morning, way before my 0830 appointment with Agmar for the haul-out, I flipped over and raised the dinghy on the deck. While doing this one of the halyard lines froze and I could neither raise it nor lower it. I then prepared the fenders and 4 lines. After confirming with Agmar via channel 11 on the VHF I raised the anchor and moved the boat to the “pool”. Just as I was arriving the travel-lift came. By 0930 Thetis was on land supported by her stands.

Now the real work begins. For the next 4 days I will be very busy washing the sails, lines, fenders, tent, covers, lubricating winches, covering everything and on and on.

My sailing year is over. The statistics for the year are:

2003 Statistics
Total Distance 1098 nM
Time at Sea 93 days
Engine Time 247 hr
Solo Time 151 hr
Fuel Consumed 415 L
Water Consumed 891 L