Travels with S/Y Thetis


Thetis only

2004: Preparation

I am starting this year’s logs while I am under a very gentle sail from the small island of Archangelos, off the N side of Leros towards Lipsi, the next island N. While for the past few years I have managed to spend several months sailing, this year family related complications may curtail my sailing schedule. I am now here in Greece for just two weeks, long enough to launch the boat and have a shakedown cruise, then I will be flying back to Washington, D.C. where I will stay for an indeterminate period of time.

There have been several improvements and acquisitions for this year’s cruising which I had hoped would be in the Adriatic and Dalmatia. First of all, I had Agmar replace the old rusted galley stove whose oven never worked. They got me a new Camping Gaz ENO with electronic ignition and stainless steel surface. It works great. The next major replacement has been a new Air Marine X wind generator, replacing the old noisy one which had stopped producing electricity a few years ago. The new one uses electronic braking rather than stalling its blades. As a result it is much quieter and more powerful than the older models, best of all it works! Next to be replaced was the old thermal printer Navtex receiver. The new one is an ICS-6 Plus with a liquid crystal display, dual receivers, and lots of internal memory. It also works very well. It has received a number of messages since its installation. I also got a pair of inflatable emergency fenders, a pair of stainless steel tie down straps for the deck-mounted fuel jerry cans, a rigging knife, and other sundries. Thetis did not require any major repairs this year, just a new storm jib halyard. She did, of course, require her usual maintenance: engine, outboard, anti-fouling paint, waxing etc.

Last fall I had also ordered a canvas cover for the new RIB dinghy. However, despite the fairly short work list that I had left with Agmar in October, after I called Angelos, the owner and manager of Agmar, a few weeks ago announcing my arrival, I received a bewildering e-mail stating that they did not expect me until May 15 and almost none of the items on my list had been accomplished. After many frantic e-mails and calls from the US it turned out to be a most disturbing misunderstanding. Included in the “To Do” list that I had left in the fall was an item “please contact Hellenicos Neognomon, the Greek agency that inspects Greek registered vessels, and have them perform their biannual inspection of Thetis because the old certificate was due to expire on may 15, 2004.” Somehow Mastro Michalis, the technical manager, saw this date on my list and jumped to the conclusion that I would not be using Thetis until then. This mistake coupled with the Greek national malaise of almost always procrastinating any work until the zero hour resulted in this snafu and almost no work had been done on the boat save the engine maintenance. They did promise me, however, to do their best.

Tuesday April 20, 2004

I arrived in Leros and Mr. Nikos, the yard’s office manager, picked me up with the Agmar van from the airport and drove me the 500 m to the boatyard. Thetis looked great. They had applied the anti-fouling paint, waxed her, varnished the hand rails, and polished all the stainless steel railings. Still, no evidence of a dinghy cover which I had ordered last October specifically to cover the dinghy while in storage. Soon, Panayiotis the electrician came and together we installed the new wind generator which I had brought with me.

I had inquired about prices in Greece for both the wind generator and the Navtex receiver. The wind generator’s price in Greece was €1300 plus 16% VAT (value added tax) while I got it from Hamilton Ferris in the US for under $900. At least the generator is made in the US. The same story for the ICS Navtex receiver. The Greek dealer, whom I know personally, gave me a friendly price of €800 plus VAT for the older ICS-6 model while in the US I bought the newer, and more expensive ICS-6 Plus for $750. I cannot understand the reason for these high prices in Greece.

Wednesday April 21, 2004

The New Generator and Navtex Antenna Panayiotis finished the installation of the wind generator and installed the Navtex receiver. They both seem to work. The engine starter battery is dead. Angelos, the owner/manager of the yard, ordered a new one from Kalymnos. It is promised for tomorrow. I worked preparing Thetis for her launch.

Thursday April 22, 2004

Panayiotis came and checked the tachometer, which last year was intermittent. This, of course, should have been done months ago but never mind. Now the tachometer did not work at all and it was decided that both the instrument and its sensor ought to be replaced. Angelos ordered them and they should be here by tomorrow afternoon. Panayiotis climbed the mast and found that the snagged halyard was caused by a defective pulley. Angelos called the Frances Spar, makers of the mast, dealership in Athens. They told him that they carry no parts for the 20 year old mast and we should replace it. The day was saved by Mastro Michalis who right away fabricated a new pulley on the lathe. You see why I hate Agmar for their lack of organization and delays but love them for their workmanship and improvisations. Panayiotis climbed back on the mast and replaced the errant pulley and the halyard. In the mean time, the new starter battery arrived and the old one was replaced. Now everything is ready except for the tachometer and the inspection certificate.

There seems to be a problem with the inspection certificate. The inspector did come and he inspected Thetis. Everything was, as I expected, in order except that under a new directive all charter boats must have an EPIRB which must be sent every year to Athens for a special inspection. Now Thetis is not a charter boat and does not need an EPIRB. The problem is that she has one but it is not inspected. So, the inspector demanded that I send it to Athens for inspection and get a one year certificate. After several phone calls to Kalymnos and comversations with his boss, Mr. Psarambas, and after I offered to remove the offending EPIRB they agreed to issue a clean inspection certificate. They will be sending it to Agmar and all I have to do is deposit €357 to their bank account.

Friday April 23, 2004

Now Thetis’ cabins look respectable. All the cushion and bed covers are back, and, after vacuuming, the rugs are in place. We are ready for launching, all we are missing are the inspection certificate and the tachometer. The man who is belatedly fabricating the dinghy cover made an appearance for a fitting. It still needs more work. Angelos informs me that the tachometer should be in by tomorrow. I drove to Lakki and withdrew money from my bank account and deposited the inspection fee to the Hellenicos Neognomon’s account. By the time I returned to the Partheni shipyard a miracle beyond miracles had happened–the inspection certificate had arrived. Not wanting to waste any more time I asked that Thetis be launched.

Thetis Waiting to be Launched
Thetis Waiting to be Launched

I had to wait because there were several other yachts ahead already scheduled for launching. By 3 PM the travelift came and Thetis was moved to the launch “pool.” She was launched by 3:45 PM. Pandelis, the travelift operator, helped me install the head-sail. This is almost impossible to do without the help of another person. There was a fairly strong wind of 12-22 knots NNW and some chop. Everything seems to be in order: no water coming in, the engine working fine, etc. By 1630 we were under way, Pandelis handling the shore lines to help Thetis clear the “pool.”

We did not go very far, just 1.75 M to the deserted island of Archangelos [37° 11.9' N 26° 46.3' E]. I anchored without any problems. The new wind generator was working fine. There were strong gusts from every direction but the anchor held firm. I prepared a chicken cutlet for supper which I consumed with a nice wine to celebrate that we are now in cruising mode. But I had to eat indoors because it was cold outside once the sun went down. However, the wind died out with the sunset and the night was wonderful and clear.

It is fantastic to be back on dear Thetis and most important to be once again afloat and feel the wind and the water under the keel. To see the clear Aegean sea and the bright stars. For a while I forgot all the problems at home and how short this cruise is going to be since I have to be back in Washington in just two weeks.