Travels with S/Y Thetis

Thetis only

2006: Limnos to Samos

This web page contains the logs of a 20 day sailing trip that I took with S/Y Thetis together with my wife Alice in the NE Aegean in Greece. The logs cover the second leg of the trip, a period of 9 days of sailing from from Lemnos to Samos via Lesvos (Mithymna, Cape Petinos, Sigri) and Chios (Elindas, Limenas, Kato Faná).

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 to Samos
Route to Samos

Thursday June 22, 2006, Day 12

Approaching Mithymna
Approaching Mithymna

Before I knew what was going on Alice was shaking me to wake up. It was time to go. Alice raised the anchor and we were under way by 0630. At first, the wind was 10-18 knots ENE, a little too close for sailing without tacks. Nevertheless we raised the main and motor-sailed for a few hours. By 1100 the wind had changed direction slightly, now coming from NNE and we were finally able to turn off the engine. We opened all of the genoa and had a great sail until we were about 12 M from our destination Mithymna, the harbor of Molyvos in Lesvos. At that time, the wind freshened to 28 knots with gusts reaching 38. I kept reducing the headsail until we stabilized at 30%. We continued sailing all the way to Mithymna [39° 22.1' N 26° 10.1' E] where we arrived at 1725 after 66.7 miles over the water but the actual distance is 57.6 M. The difference is due to opposing currents.

The situation at the little harbor was not very good. There was on-going construction on the jetty where yachts moor. It was being paved, which is to the good, but in the mean time the jetty was full of loose concrete and fine cement dust. In addition, the jetty was occupied by several large rusted fishing boats and two yachts, with German flags, the larger side-to leaving no room for a newly arrived yacht. The smaller yacht was at the edge of the jetty and appeared unoccupied. In the larger one there were several gentlemen drinking beer. As we approached I asked them nicely if they could please re-arrange their lines and move their boat about a meter or two forward so that Thetis could squeeze, stern-to, between the two yachts. They were very reluctant to do so. After several more polite requests I finally told them that I was going to hail the Limenarchio (Coast Guard) and they surely were going to direct them to move stern-to and not to occupy so much space but if they would just move their boat in the end they would save themselves much extra work. After this they promptly complied. Alice dropped our anchor and I backed in the narrow space between the two boats. The German gentlemen actually did help us with the stern lines and were now very polite. As we were about to deploy the passarella the owner of the other yacht came and he, without being asked, moved his boat forward so in the end we were a comfortable distance from either yacht. He is Greek from Kaloni but lives in Germany. He was expecting some German guests.

As we were sailing all day in the sun without a tent we were both very tired. So we had showers and went ashore where we had a drink in a bar. Then we walked a little up the hill in the picturesque but very touristic village of Molyvos and then we sat in a roof restaurant. The place was clearly a tourist trap with a totally uninspired menu offering among others “lamb rips.” We made a fast retreat. We ended in a more upscale but actually less expensive restaurant the Archontico (tel. +30 22530 72 1600) where we had a very nice meal of an assortment of their specialties along with a chilled Limnea Ge white wine. We liked everything but we overindulged. When reached Thetis I was so tired and sleepy that I instantly fell asleep.

Friday June 23, 2006, Day 13

This was a day of many small mistakes. We originally planed on staying here for a few days and rent a car to explore Lesvos by land. But, because of the concrete work and the cement dust we changed our mind and decided to leave heading S towards Sigri. We assumed that the workers will not start work before 8 AM, so I hooked up the computer to check for e-mails and the weather via the Internet; mistake #1. At 7:30 the workers came and started work. We abandoned the computer and prepared our lines for a quick departure. I removed the stern lines with their metal springs and put light double lines. While doing this I accidently dropped into the water a stainless shackle; mistake #2. I then was about to remove the passarella when an attractive and very polite lady officer from the Limenarchio (Coast Guard) came. She wanted me to bring the ship’s papers to the Limenarchio office at the other end of the harbor and pay the harbor dues. So, with this extra delay we totally missed our cement-free departure. I walked with her to the office and watched her make laborious calculations ending at a final figure of €4.33 for the privilege of spending a night and getting covered by cement dust. I am always amazed by how backwards the Greek bureaucracy is. It would had been so simple and less painful for all parties if the officers were given a chart for the harbor dues in round numbers based on boat length and then be able to collect them on the spot sparing everyone the calculations, the scrabble for change, and the visits to offices.

At any rate, by 0830 we were free of the land. There was no wind! We put up the tent determined to at least be under the shade. We motored slowly SE along the coast looking for a nice secluded beach to stop for lunch and a swim. We ended in a wonderful cove [39° 16.2' N 25° 52.7' E] S of Cape Petinos (no GSM). We anchored in 4 m depth at 1145 after 18.5 M from Mithymna. While anchoring, however, the engine sputtered and stalled. I then realized what had happened. In the excitement of discovering such a nice cove I forgot to shorten the dinghy tow line which was now wrapped around the propeller; mistake #3. Fortunately the anchor held and after a number of dives I was able to free the line. We swam, had a nice lunch and a nap.

We left this wonderful cove at 1720. On our way to Sigri we entered the lovely Faneromeni cove so that Alice, who had not been here before, could see it. We then, since we were now a crew of two and one can be on the bow as a lookout, entered Sigri Bay from the narrow end shallow (max depth 3 m) northern channel. We arrived in Sigri [39° 12.5' N 25° 51.1' E] at 1820 and anchored in 5 m depth without any further mistakes. We had come 23.8 M from Mithymna.

After enjoying the sunset while sipping ouzo Alice prepared our dinner: spaghetti with sautéed red and green peppers which we ate with a liberal topping of Parmesan cheese.


Saturday June 24, 2006, Day 14

I got up at 5 and prepared for departure. The plan was to go to Limenas, the harbor of Mesta, in Chios. There maybe we could manage to rent a car and drive around the island for a day or two.

I raised the anchor at 0540 and headed out of the bay. The wind was 10 knots from the N. I raised the mainsail and motor-sailed as the wind was not enough to give us any speed. We proceeded in this way motor-sailing while Alice and I were seated reading under the shade created by the sail. I was still reading the wonderful autobiography of Oliver Saks’ Uncle Tungsten. It relates his childhood in London and his fascination with chemistry and photography and has many well crafted digressions into the history of science. It is amazing how much of this reminds me of my own childhood and my love affair with experimental chemistry and the photographic darkroom combined with a profound lack of interest in competitive sports.

Around 1300, after we had a pleasant lunch and as we were approaching the bay of the Ayia Markella Monastery in Chios the wind came suddenly with a vengeance. First it blew at 25 knots from the N, then it reached in the upper 30s WNW with gusts to 45 knots. We turned off the motor and sailed but I will not describe it as a comfortable sail. We constantly kept adjusting the sails and we were either overcavased or undercanvased as the wind kept changing speed and direction.

At 1510 we reached the cove of Elindas [38° 23.5' N 25° 59.4' E] in Chios where we anchored in 10 m depth. It was calm in the cove but the water was not so clear. After swimming and resting we departed at 1640. We motored to Limenas [38° 17.4' N 25° 55.8' E] where we arrived 1640. We had come 62.8 M from Sigri. Despite the 27 knot wind we managed to moor side-to without any trouble other than some black marks from the ugly car tires they use here as bumpers.

A few minutes after we had moored, too late for any help, a Limenarchio (Coast Guard) officer arrived. He requested that I bring the ship’s papers to his nearby office. I pointed out to the officer the horrible tires and the black marks that they left on the hull and complained that paying a harbor fee for the dubious privilege of being marked was unfair. I also told him that I had similarly complained two years ago to the then officer. While the officer had been replaced the tires still remain. As he seemed very polite I asked him if he could help us find a car to rent. He promptly called the proprietor of the Stergis restaurant who, to his knowledge, had helped other yachtsmen before.

There was a reasonable GPRS signal here and we were able to connect to the Internet but the GSM voice signal was very weak. After showers we walked to the Stergis restaurant and had an ouzo and some very tasty grilled pork chops. The proprietor informed us that the car will be delivered here at 9:30 tomorrow morning. As we were tired we went to bed early.

The Cove of Elindas

Sunday June 25, 2006, Day 15

True to their word the Sixt car rental company delivered the car at 9:15. The rate was 35€/day plus a 30 € delivery fee. We packed a bag and some cold water and off we went. Our first stop was Nea Moni the very famous and oldest Byzantine, 9th century, Monastery of Chios. Unfortunately however, the reconstruction of the main church which started 3 years ago was still going on and we were not able to see the magnificent mosaics. The only thing open to the public was the modest museum.

We then drove to the town of Chios and visited the Archaeological Museum. This is housed in a large modern building and has many exhibit rooms The displays are organized by the site that they were found and within each site by chronological order. They were well labeled and illuminated. I had not realized before how many objects have been found in Kato Faná. All together the museum is impressive although there are only two really sensational pieces: a miniature ivory horse and a gold and silver gilded tiny figurine from Kato Fana. These two are exquisite.

By the time we left the museum we were rather hungry. I wanted to take Alice to the famous Hodza restaurant. As seen from the map it looked as if it was not too far, so we walked. After a few false starts and by asking we did find it but it was closed. A sign informed us that they were “resting” from mid May until July 7. We then walked to the waterfront. Again, this was not a straight walk in this bewildering town with its narrow curving streets and dead ends, but at the end we sat at the Petrino where we had a very nice meal of assorted mezedes (snacks) and an espresso.

On the way back we stopped at Lithi where we swam at the sandy beach. I had not realized that we could had easily brought Thetis at this little harbor. It seems very secure and there was plenty of room but more important no black tires! There are several restaurants here including Kyra Despina where I ate well 4 years ago and another which served “Lobmsters and Fresh Fishes.”

By the time we returned to our boat it was past 7 PM. It was a long but pleasant day. Since we were not particularly hungry we read and ate some fruits before going to bed.

Monday June 26, 2006, Day 16

The Icon of Ayia Markella

The Icon of Ayia Markella

Water Pump in Ayia Markella

Donkey Powered Water Pump (Maganos) in Ayia Markella Monastery

Watch Tower In the morning we drove N to Volissos and then past Limnia to the Monastery of Ayia Markella where we visited the church. I particularly wanted to photograph the icon showing the life of Ayia Markella, in gory detail, but it was covered with glass and I was not able to get a good shot. Back in Volissos town we bought some fresh fruit and bread then drove N along the dirt road but it was too hot and we turned back. On the way back to Limenas we stopped at Metochi bay. There we saw a restored watch tower and read an exhibit relating to its history and the history of piracy in the E Aegean. We then swam in the clear water of the bay. It was very refreshing and all would had been fine except a wasp stung Alice.

When we reached Thetis the wind was blowing fitfully and the boat was dancing in the swell. We had lost two of the fender covers and had received more black marks. It was not very comfortable but we did rest in the cockpit.

A British sailboat arrived and I went to help with her lines. Later when we were leaving to go and visit some of the mediaeval villages, Mastichochoria, I asked them if we could get then anything. All they wanted was a bottle of Vodka of which they had ran out of.

We first visited Olympi where we walked around the mediaeval town. Then we did the same in Pyrgi with its xista (Sgraffito) stuccoed houses. We ended in Mesta where we had a very fresh grilled fish at the friendly Mesaionas restaurant. Back in the harbor, I reluctantly paid the harbor dues for 2 days of 11.32 €. Although I was surely tempted to skip this payment, I did not want to double cross the nice and friendly officer.

Door in Olympi

Carving on a Door in Olympi

Street in Pyrgi

Street in Pyrgi

Dedication in Pyrgi
Church Dedication in Pyrgi

Tuesday June 27, 2006, Day 17

I was worried that we may not be able to depart being pinned to the quay by the strong wind. But in the early morning the wind was only 10 knots NW and we departed at 0710 without a problem. Outside the harbor the wind was 18-25 knots NW. First, we motored to clear the rocks and then we opened 30% of the headsail and motor-sailed W until we turned S and were able to turn off the engine. There were large seas around Cape Mesta. After rounding the cape we headed E to Kato Faná (Κάτω Φανά) [38° 12.3' N 25° 55.6' E] where we arrived at 0940 after 11.3 M. We anchored in 4 m depth over sand without any problem.

It was very calm and pleasant in the bay. We put up the tent and rigged the dinghy. We then turned our attention to removing the horrible black tire marks from the hull. It took some time and a lot of scrubbing. The 4 fenders, however, that came in contact with the tires were all black. It was hard to remember that 3 days ago before we went to Limenas they were white. We towed then ashore to the beach and after applying gasoline and detergent and a lot of scrubbing they began to resemble their former self. The whole cleaning operation took more than an hour.

Kato Fana
View of Kato Fana from the Temple

When these unpleasant tasks were done we walked to the site of the Apollo temple. Even Alice, a trained archaeologist, could not make much sense of the site. The best guess she could make was that originally there was a large archaic temple over whose foundations the Apollo temple was built. It was this later temple whose columns and capitals we saw at the museum. Over this later temple there was built an early Byzantine church and on top of its foundation was built the small chapel of Ayia Markella that stands today. Very confusing! Each successive temple and church incorporating materials from its predecessor.

When we returned to our boat the Navtex was issuing gale warnings for the next two days. Not sure if we will be leaving for Samos tomorrow as we were planning. We spent the rest of the day in this idyllic cove. There were a few bathers in the afternoon but in the evening we had the cove all to our selves. All was fine except for the wind now reaching 18-25 knots and more gale warnings. I finished Uncle Tungsten and started a new book: Dudley Pope’s Ramage. This is the first of a long series of the adventures of a British captain during the Napoleonic wars.

Door of Ayia Markella
The Door of Ayia Markella Chapel in Kato Fana

Wednesday June 28, 2006, Day 18

Strong wind was blowing all night but our anchor with 40 m chain was holding very well. In the morning we went ashore and cut some wild thyme grown among mastich bushes. We had a very nice swim. The day was windy but less so than yesterday. The forecasts were still issuing gale warnings but for the Central Aegean, where we are, they predicted that the wind will go down by this evening to only force 6. A pleasant day in a good spot to be marooned.

In the evening we packed a boat bag with glasses, a bottle of ouzo, and various mezedes (snacks) and went ashore. We walked to the Apollo temple and after offering to the god proper libations we helped the sun set by sipping ouzo and nibbling. What a treat!

Route to Samos
Route to Samos

Alice made supper: pasta with fresh tomato sauce and Parmezan cheese. After eating we prepared to depart. A fishing caïque had come into the cove and anchored not too far from us. We warned them that we were about to raise our anchor as they were almost over it. They were on the alert while we raised it and although we came very close to her the two boats did not touch. The time was 2240. We raised the mainsail and set it in its first reef. The wind was 14-18 knots NNW and we motor-sailed towards Cape Masticho. As we approached the cape the wind increased to 36 knots with gusts into the 40s. We took in another reef. As we cleared the cape and set course for Cape Praso in Samos the wind decreased to 15 knots.We opened half of the headsail and turned off the motor. Alice went to bed.

Thursday June 29, 2006, Day 19

We kept on sailing rather nicely although the wind speed kept changing some times reaching 25 knots and other times down to 12. I kept adjusting the size of the headsail so that the boat maintained a speed of 6 knots while not being overwhelmed.

I saw two very bright lights a few miles ahead of us but right on our course. At first, I could not see any targets on the radar but as we came closer I did see two faint blips, 10 M away. We kept coming closer but they did not seem to move. When we were within 4 miles I could see then with the binoculars. There were clearly two largish separate vessels each illuminated by very powerful white flood lights. At 2 miles I still could not distinguish any color lights neither fishing lights nor navigation lights. If they had any, they were totally blanketed by the flood lights. But we were clearly on a collision course and they seemed to be stationary. Looking at the radar it appeared that we may be overtaking them but with a closest approach of less than ¼ M on our leeward side. That was not a comfortable margin especially since I did not know what they were doing and if they were dragging any nets. I changed our course by 35° downwind and started the engine so that we had maximum maneuverability. We were doing over 6 knots. Half an hour later our distance from them, according to the radar, was still 2 M. This made sense only if I assumed that they were moving at the same speed and heading as Thetis. Clearly we were not going to overtake them. I made a 70° turn to upwind (port). Yes, now we were overtaking them but the separation between the two mystery vessel was also increasing. Slowly we came closer to them first within 1.5 M then 1 M. Now I could clearly see their silhouettes. They were indeed large but had no visible signal lights. At 0.8 M we finally started leaving them behind. What a relief!

The rest of the sail to Samos was uneventful. We rounded Cape Praso, and at 1110 after 66.7 M we anchored in Mikri Lakka [37° 45.5' N 27° 01.6' E] just W of Mourtia. When we did so there was a slight N breeze but soon the breeze came from the S and Thetis drifted too close to the shore for comfort. We had to re-anchor.

In the evening, in preparation for a long layover at the marina, I lifted the dinghy on deck and lashed it down. We ate leftovers clearing the refrigerator.

Friday June 30, 2006, Day 20

We woke later than we planned but we managed to get going by 0800. We headed to the Pythagorio Marina. On the way, I covered the dinghy, ran the water-maker and filled a few bottles with clean water. I will use this water to make a biocide solution and fill the water-maker for the layover. In the meantime Alice packed our clothes.

We arrived at the marina at 0925. Right at the quay we were greeted by our Turkish friend Önder Yildiz of the S/Y Pandora. He and his attractive family have been visiting Samos for several days now. He helped us with the docking line. As soon as we moored the rental car that I had ordered yesterday from Aramis arrived. This was as smooth and efficient arrival as anyone can wish for.

Now Thetis will have to patiently wait for our next trip.