Travels with S/Y Thetis

Thetis only

2004: Leros to Samos

This web page contains the logs of a 10 day single-handed sailing trip with S/Y Thetis in the Greek Aegean from Partheni in Leros to Samos (Kérveli and Pythagorio) via Archangelos, Lipsi (Papandriá), Marathi, and Fourni (Petrocopió, Kambí, and Vitsiliá).

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.

Route near Samos
Leros to Samos

Wednesday May 26, 2004

Fortunately the family troubles in D.C. sorted themselves out and I was able to return to Greece and Thetis. Yesterday I took a daytime BA flight from Washington D.C. to Athens connecting in London. This got me in Athens very early in the morning and I was able to get a flight to Leros on the same day.

So I am now in Thetis while she is on land in the Agmar Marine (renamed Moor & Dock). All is well except that Agmar, despite early warnings (on my part) and assurances (on theirs), had not yet installed the new tachometer. This is not however, the most serious problem. The real problem was that there was a strong NW wind with large waves coming into the bay. These waves were preventing the large wooden ketch Oliria, that was launched yesterday, from vacating the launching “pool.” This means that neither Thetis nor any other boat could be launched until the “pool” is clear. Since I was rather tired from the long trip, I just made arrangements to rent a motor-scooter and then I took a long nap.

I met Anastasis Raftopoulos with the M/S Vassiliki and the large dog Serio. Vassiliki has been repainted and is now being readied for launching. In the evening I drove to the Steki of Dimitris where I had dinner. I was introduced to a German couple who owns the catamaran Pili-Pele. They have just taken her out of the water after a 10 day cruise. I also met a couple from Johannesburg who are still working on their boat and hope to launch next week.

Thursday May 27, 2004

In the morning I noticed that despite the strong N wind the anemometer on top of the mast was not turning, so I asked Panayiotis, when he came to install the tachometer, to check it out. He climbed up the mast and checked the sensor but could not find anything wrong with it. We theorized that the turbulence from the mast and the proximity of other masts caused the problem. I later washed down the deck with soap and fresh water.

In the late morning I took Thetis’ papers to the Limenarchio (Coast Guard) in Lakki and got them stamped with an apoplous (permission to leave port) and a new document: adeia kathelkyseos (permission to launch her). This last one set me back 0.80 €. The friendly staff informed me that the new government, in accordance to the European court decisions, has rescinded the sailing permit/tax on all EU boats. They are very happy not to have to enforce this unpopular and clearly unjustified regulation. In the Lakki marina I saw the S/Y De Doffer and visited briefly with my friends Karel and Dita, with whom we had sailed for a few days in the Spring of 2002. There was no sign of Mike and Nicola of the S/Y Gordian Knot. I sent them an SMS but got no reply. I went to the Spanos supermarket and bought some provisions and arranged to have them delivered to the yard.

When I returned to the boatyard, Panayiotis had finished installing the tachometer and its new sensor. Although she was ready to go, Thetis could not be launched because Oliria was still in the “pool.” I toped the fuel tank and re-filled one jerry can with 21.5 L of fuel.

In the evening I was invited by Anastasis to dinner at the Milos restaurant in Ayia Marina. The party included Anastasis, his lovely wife Moo, Vassiliki his ex-wife (after whom his boat is named), and her friend. Vassiliki is the owner/editor of Emboriki Naftilia a monthly periodical that covers merchant marine news and issues. The food at the restaurant was very good and so was the company. If only Thetis was in the water.

Friday May 28, 2004, Day 1

Finally Oliria moved and Thetis was launched at 1000.

I motored 1.6 M from Partheni to the lovely Archangelos [37° 11.9' N 26° 46.3' E] and at 1030 anchored in 4.5 m. I am very, very happy to be afloat with my beloved boat. The anemometer (windmeter) seems to be working well. I strapped the extra fuel jerry cans on deck with the new stainless steel tensioner web straps. I put up the tent and after a quick swim (water temperature only 20°C or 68°F) and anchor check, read The Spring of the Ram, the second book of Dorothy Dennett’s renaissance novels of the House of Nicolo series.

I ran the water-maker. I had some trouble at the beginning priming it because air had leaked into its filter, but after I re-sealed the filter it worked well. The wind was variable from several directions but under 15 knots. The air was cool. I put up the spray hood for shelter. In the afternoon and early evening I listened to music and read, happy to be alone.

In the evening I cooked a pot roast with fresh tomatoes and garlic. I also had a well deserved ouzo. Now Washington, D.C. and its problems are beginning to be far, far away, although I wished that my wife was here with me. I had a nice meal with wine from Kalami. The wind calmed down and there were many brilliant stars in the clear sky. It is great to see these old friends and finally to sleep in the gently rocking boat.

Saturday May 29, 2004, Day 2

The Navtex forecast called for the Samos Sea NW winds of force 4, locally 5, but decreasing. Most likely I will be moving to Papandria and take a nice walk.

I raised the anchor at 0800. The wind was 12-18 knots NW, a head wind. We motored the 5.8 M to Katsadia in Lipsi [37° 16.8' N 26° 46.2' E] where we arrived at 0920. On the way I ran the water-maker and refilled the tanks. I anchored in 5 m over sand, after two attempts, and let out 50 m of chain as it was gusting to over 20 knots. Since I wanted to walk to the town and get some fresh bread, I set the second anchor with 15 m of chain and 60 m of line.

I went ashore and walked the ¾ of an hour to town where I got some bread and fruits and ate a chicken souvlaki (kebab) for lunch. After returning to Thetis I fell into a deep sleep.

In the afternoon I did a number of boat chores and read. For supper I just had some cold cuts, bread, cheese, and melon. The wind stopped and the moon rose, very bright, too strong for stargazing.

Sunday May 30, 2004, Day 3

It was a quiet night and I woke up late at 7 AM. The weather report called for force 5 NW winds. I connected the GPRS with my iBook computer and downloaded my e-mail and the weather picture. The forecast for the next few days was benign. In the mid morning the temperature in the cabin was 21°C (70°F), 71% relative humidity, and the barometer at 1012 mB.

Later in the morning I put up the tent but it was cool under it and I had to stay well dressed. I cleaned the cabin and the storage spaces and re-arranged some stuff. After these chores I read the The Spring of the Ram novel. It is very complicated.

I also started reading a second book: Call of the Ancient Mariner, by Reese Palley. It is a book full of advice, most of which I agree with, for elderly sailors. The author is in his mid 80’s and he urges sailors to keep on sailing. However, I strongly disagree with his anti-technological bend. This is an attitude common among people who are uncomfortable with technology especially with older Americans rather then Europeans. The usual advice they give is to do without technology. Maybe because of my science and engineering background I am very familiar with technology, especially with electronics, computers, and of course, communication satellites. This background gives me a completely different attitude. I think that anything that makes my life aboard more comfortable and safer is worth having. These include communications, refrigerators, GPS, chart plotters, radars, electric head pumps, windlasses, autopilots, winches, water makers, and Diesel engines. True, all these do add complexity and do increase the probability of a failure. But, I think that even very complicated systems, especially electronic ones, can be made very reliable, for example most communications satellites now exceed their ten year maintenance-free design life. In a boat one should not do without the convenience of such systems because they may one day fail but rather be prepared to make do without them when they do fail or have plenty of redundancy. I have two autopilots, a hand operated head pump, I have four electric bilge pumps and two hand operated ones. The electric windlass can be operated by hand, with some effort. I have a complete coverage of the area I sail with paper charts although it is hard to have as many, because of space, as I have electronic ones. I have two GPS units and a sextant with tables, and I do know how to use it. There is no backup for the refrigerator, if it fails I will just do without it. But, and it is a big but, just because I can do without it when it fails I do not see the logic that I should do without it all the time because it may fail.

In the evening I went ashore. Because I had a bag of trash that I wanted to dispose off, instead of just going directly ashore I took the dinghy to the little pier in front of the taverna on the E cove. I was immediately met by two brothers, Nicolas aged 9 and Marios aged 12. After holding the painter Nicolas informed me:

  1. The W cove where Thetis was anchored is not called Katsadia but Papandriá, Katsadiá is the E cove.
  2. His father is a fisherman and owns the taverna where they serve very good food and fresh fish and I should eat there.

Now my plan was to walk to the town, have an ouzo with octopus, and then return to Thetis and eat aboard. But, after such a charming sales pitch I promised the boys that I would return and eat at their parents restaurant.

I walked to the town and had my ouzo and the octopus. It is indeed the best grilled octopus anywhere on the East Aegean. The owner, Nikos, is a very skilled griller, and his wife, while very nice and friendly, is always dressed very provocatively. Their daughter is a younger replica of the mother but even more outrageously dressed. Both are very polite and sweet and not provocative. After dark, I walked back to the Katsadiá taverna where Nicolas proudly served me a grilled fish and a salad. Nicolas wanted very much to visit Thetis and see her the next day but his mother did not give him permission to do so because he had to study for school although tomorrow is a holiday.

Monday May 31, 2004, Day 4

It was an uneventful night other than that at about 2 AM the wind picked up. I started preparations for sailing to Marathi. First I had to raise the 2nd anchor from the dinghy by hand, lift the outboard to its stand on Thetis, and stow the chain, anchor, and line in the sail-lockers. It was only after all this that I could raise the primary anchor with the windlass.

We departed Papandria/Katsadia at 0955. The wind was a brisk breeze of 15-22 knots NW, right on our nose as our heading was 313°. It was very choppy. We had to motor all of the 8.7 M to Marathi [37° 22' N 26° 43.6' E] where we arrived at 1200. I caught one of Pandelis’ moorings without any trouble. It was a very smooth arrival. There was only one other S/Y at a Marathi’s mooring. The cove was very calm.

I put up the tent and had lunch. It was too cold, however, to read in the cockpit and I took down the tent. Later I did some more cleaning. I finished the Ancient Mariner.

In the evening I had a hot shower and after that an ouzo, I then went ashore where I was greeted by Pandelis, Katina, and their daughter Toula. The new chapel of St. Panteleimon now has a lovely hand carved wooden templo (iconostasis). They had some trouble locating a woodcarver specializing in ecclesiastical work until Toula searched the Internet. She located two young brothers, in their early 30s, in the mainland town of Trikala.

After a walk, I had a nice meal at Pandelis with octopus and fresh capers, a salad with a soft cheese from Arki, and roasted young goat along with freshly home baked bread and wine. Pandelis was planing to leave with his trechandiri caïque at 3 AM for Samos to get a load of charcoal and other provisions. So, when I got back on board Thetis, I looked up the latest Navtex forecast and read it to him over the VHF.

Inside the Chapel of Ayios Panteleimon
Inside the Chapel of Ayios Panteleimon

Tuesday June 1, 2004, Day 5

During the night the wind went down to zero. In the morning, after checking the e-mail, I went ashore for a hike around the island. Early in the morning the earth was still moist and there were wonderful smells. The forecast called for WSW winds of force 4-5 but it was very calm here. The cabin temperature was 27°C (81°F), 53% humidity, and 1017 mB, while the water temperature was a cool 20°C (68°F). I took a brief swim.

After warming up in the sun I put up the tent and started reading a new book: The Kalahari Typing School for Men, the fourth of Alexander McCall Smith’s Botswana lady detective series which I have been enjoying so much. The rest of the day was spent very pleasantly being lazy.

In the evening, after a shower, I went ashore. By then there were several sailing boats in addition to Thetis: there was a Swedish, a Swiss M/S, 2 chartered Greek boats, and a 50' Greek boat that was expertly sailed to a mooring by her large crew. At Pandeli’s I met the Swiss couple from the M/S Cocagne, Renée and Jeannot Lanz, whom I have the impression that I have met them here in Marathi before. They are also retired and sail mostly in Greek and Turkish waters but spend their winters in Florida. I had a terrific grilled fish.

Wednesday June 2, 2004, Day 6

It was very calm and there was no wind. The Navtex forecast called for SW wind of force only 3-4 for the next few days. I decided to go to Fourni.

We departed Marathi at 0830 with the wind just 6-10 knots from the SW. I raised the mainsail. As I was raising it, a whole bird’s nest fell from inside the folded sail, eggs and all. What a pity and what a mess with smelly egg yolk all over the cockpit. It took me over half an hour to clean up the mess. I have known about birds nesting in the booms of the boats in the boatyard and I have been taping both ends of the boom but I did not expect them to build a nest inside the sail. I opened the genoa but I still had to motor-sail. We moved slowly at a stately pace on the glass surface. At least the batteries were being charged and the water-maker replenishing the water tanks. At 1230 after 17.2 M we arrived at Petrocopió [37° 33.6' N 26° 29.3' E]. I anchored at 8.5 m over sand but with the SW breeze I could only let out 30 m of chain before Thetis would drift to water shallower then 3 m. I reversed the engine to help the anchor dig-in.

Thetis in Petrocopió

I put up the tent and read. It was very nice and very calm. There was not a soul in sight other than one lady ashore sketching, but soon she too left. By 5 PM the cabin temperature was up to 28°C (82°F), a record for the year, 48% relative humidity, and 1015 mB pressure. The water temperature was 23°C (73°F), another record. For the first time this year it was comfortable to swim.

In the late afternoon I went ashore and took a 2 hour hike up the ridge. The scenery was wonderful with yellow flowers and many scents. One could see the open expanse of deep blue Aegean water to both the E and the W broken with small islands and in the E the brooding presence of Mt. Kerkis on Samos. I met just a few people, they all greeted me with a smile. What a contrast with the miasma of Washington with its unfriendly people, gloomy light, and closed vistas. In the cove of Petrocopio there was no GSM/GPRS signal but the signal up on the ridge was strong and I was able to check for urgent messages.

The evening, after my return to Thetis, was lovely. Light clouds illuminated by the setting sun in wonderful colors. I am missing my wife Alice, with whom I was here at this very spot a year ago. I finished the The Typing School for Men. It is a treat to read a book without violence whose hero or heroine is a just a normal decent human being. For dinner I made some spaghetti and ate it with left-over roast. This roast seems inexhaustible! It was warm enough to eat in the cockpit, another first, looking at the sky. Later the nearly-full moon rose over the mountains and bathed the calm sea with its silver light. I almost felt that I had to applaud the performance. There were almost no stars visible with the clouds and moon but the SW sky was dominated by Jupiter. By the time I went to bed it was past 11 PM. How time flies!

Looking E of Fourni in the Late Evening
Looking E of Fourni in the Late Evening

Thursday June 3, 2004, Day 7

A strong swell developed during the night but almost no wind. Thetis moved around as the light breeze changed from SW to NW and S but the anchor held firm. Time went slowly in the morning. I started reading Piracy in the Ancient World by Henry A. Ormerod. It is a very interesting subject but this book is very dry. The sky became overcast during the morning but by early afternoon the sun came through the clouds and it was rather pleasant. A large German catamaran came into the bay, anchored near Thetis for a while and then she left. I had a very nice swim.

At 1535 I raised the anchor and motored the 1.72 M to Kambí [37° 34.2' N 26° 28.6' E]. As I was entering the bay it looked as if all 3 moorings of the Sklavos’ taverna were missing but as I was approaching a young boy waved to me indicating a small buoy next to a moored caïque. I caught the buoy at 1550. In the meantime, the boy had swam to the mooring and helped me tie a better line to it.


I invited the boy to climb aboard Thetis. He wasted no time doing so. All local young boys are dying to visit the yachts that they see from a distance. He had never been inside one yet. The boy turned out to be little Markos, now 14, the scion of the Sklavos family whom I have known for several years now. Their 3 moorings are now down to 2 (one used by their fishing caïque). However, ashore a new concrete pier has been built.

In the evening I went ashore and after ½ hour walk up the steep steps and down the slope I reached the town and harbor of Korisia. I walked around the harbor and ended up in Miltos, the taverna that specializes in lobsters. Miltos himself greeted me warmly and he chose for me a lively medium sized lobster to be grilled over the charcoal (they light them by blowing air with an electric hairdryer). In the meantime, the crew of 7 from the German catamaran arrived and also ordered lobsters and spaghetti. It was a great meal. But, after I returned to the dinghy its anchor line had become untied and the little anchor could not be recovered. I will have to fish it out tomorrow morning. The moment I stepped aboard Thetis, as if on cue, the full moon peaked over the island. It was gorgeous.

Friday June 4, 2004, Day 8

I slept like a log. The Navtex forecast called for the Samos Sea S winds of force 4 locally 5. I had trouble interfacing the iBook with the P800 Ericsson GSM phone via the Bluetooth interface. I suspected that the interface did not make good contact with the computer via the USB port. Eventually by moving it and shaking it the contact was established and I managed to download the e-mail and the Wetter forecast for the next 3 days. It predicted low 4-5 SSE winds.

I recovered the dinghy’s anchor and then I walked to town and bought fresh bread, some local fresh goat cheese, and fruits. When I returned to Thetis it was hot but too cool under the tent. For lunch I had a small fish with baked potatoes at the Sklavos restaurant. I feel a certain obligation to eat at least one meal there since I am using their mooring. This is such a peaceful little resort. Some boats come and go, a few people are swimming, others sunbathing or playing racket ball. All low key, no loud music, no shouts, no crowds.

I was planning to leave after drinking my afternoon coffee but two British sailboats came into the bay and I decided to give at least one of them the mooring. I told them to wait for a few minutes as I would be leaving. We departed at 1525. There was no wind other than the mildest of S breezes. We had to motor. I planned to check out two possible anchorages on the E side of the island that Miltos had told me about last night. He said that both offered good protection for either S-SW or the NW meltemi in addition to being pleasant and providing good holding. After looking over the one further N, Maneta, I turned back and entered Vitsiliá [37° 32.6' N 26° 30.5' E]. The time was 1650 and we had come 7.1 M from Kambi. It is a nice cove with a small sand beach enclosed by cliffs. I anchored in 4.7 m over sand.

On the beach there was a family with two children. These were the only people in sight and they soon left. The only problem was that when I tried the computer the Bluetooth/USB interface refused to work despite all my efforts. This translated to no weather maps, just text from the Navtex, and only rudimentary e-mail. I had an ouzo while watching the day end. I cooked some rice to go along with the endless left-over roast. This is the trouble when you cook only for yourself, leftovers last and last.

After dusk the sky was full of bright stars since the moon was now one day past full and rose late. I played the sad music of Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe and his pupil Marin Marais. Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe was the French viola de gamba player who spent most of his life composing music lamenting the death of his beloved wife. His anguish reaches us and touches our hearts several centuries after his time. Yet, even this profound sadness when felt under the vast canopy of the Aegean starry sky takes on a proper perspective. Men, no matter how profound they seems to us, are just very temporary and insignificant in relation to the vastness of space and time. I spent some time gazing at the sky and listening to music while waiting for the moon to rise. It would have been spectacular over the eastern expanse of the glassy Samos sea but it was not to be. Clouds rolled in and the stars were covered and when the moon did come I could only see its diffused light. The spell was broken!

The Cove of Vitsiliá

Saturday June 5, 2004, Day 9

There was no wind all night but in the morning a swell developed. I decided to depart for Samos, possibly head for Klima and spend the day and the night there and tomorrow go to the Pythagorio Marina to prepare Thetis for a few weeks of inactivity because Alice will be coming on Wednesday and we need to concentrate for a while on our house in Kalami.

I raised the anchor at 0815. Although there was just a mild 4-8 knot SSE breeze I raised the mainsail and opened the genoa. We had a gentle stately sail of about 4 knots. Not long after we left Fourni two dolphins joined us and kept us company for a while. Around 0930 the wind gathered some strength, now reaching 15-23 knots, still from the SSE. I first reduced the headsail and kept doing so until there was only 25% of it opened, after which I reduced the main to its 1st reef. Despite this reduction we were sailing fast, doing 7-7.5 knots. It was fun. When we reached Samos the wind became even stronger. In the Mycale Channel there were furious gusts reaching 38 knots. I rolled in the headsail and kept my hand on the main sheet, easing it out during gusts and tightening it during lulls. The sea was very choppy. Neither Klima nor Poseidonio were tenable. I continued on, rounding Cape Gatos and heading for Kerveli. The British S/Y Elephant entered the channel from the N and then turned around coming very close to Thetis and looking very confused. I waived to them indicating that good shelter is near by but they did not see me. Lowering the sail was a challenge. After lowering the sail, I hailed Elephant on the VHF but they did not respond. We reached Kerveli [37° 43.8' N 27° 02.3' E] at 1420 after 35.7 M. I anchored in 6 m depth.

Here in Kerveli it was very calm, no consistent wind but occasional strong gusts from every direction. I ran the motor to charge the batteries and make some water with the water-maker. I later called George, our caretaker in Kalami and invited him and his family for dinner in one of the restaurants here. I had a hot shower and an ouzo.

I met George and his party at 9:30. The kindest thing I can say for the restaurant was that food was rather indifferent but the service friendly.

Sunday June 6, 2004, Day 10

During the night the gusts subsided and it was rather quiet. We left Kerveli at 0925 and motored for 8.7 M to Pythagorio Marina [37° 41.5' N 26° 57.3' E] where we arrived at 1130. The conditions in the channel were much less demanding then yesterday. The wind was 12-16 knots SE. I moored the boat side-to without any trouble as a fellow from a Swiss S/Y came and helped me with the lines.

Because Thetis will be staying here for a while, I put extra spring lines and fenders. I then raised the dinghy on deck, covered it with its new cover, and lashed it down. I removed the speed log impeller from the undersides, a messy wet job, so that it will not be fouled. Had to do numerous small tasks.

In the afternoon I met a Greek from Karlovasi with the S/Y Apollon I. He loves to participate in regattas but his boat is not in the best of conditions, needs lots of work. I also met another Samian with the M/Y Stavros tou Notou (The Southern Cross). In general there were several Greek, German, Swiss, Swedish, and Austrian boats in this eternally unfinished marina.

In the evening I had an ouzo and the last of the roast. Went to sleep on the boat. Tomorrow I will be moving to Kalami.