Travels with S/Y Thetis

Thetis only

2006: Syros to Samos

This web page contains the logs of a 23 day singlehanded sailing trip that I took with S/Y Thetis in the Aegean in Greece. They cover the second leg of the trip, a period of 13 days of sailing, from the island of Syros in the Cyclades to the island of Samos in the East Aegean via Paros, Schinousa, Nikouria, Levitha, Leros (Xerocambos, Partheni), Archangelos, Lipsi, and Marathi.

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

Friday August 18, 2006 Day 11

I was not waken by the alarm but much earlier by bloodthirsty mosquitoes. As there was no wind at the time, despite the forecasts that called for force 5 on the Beaufort Scale, I decided to depart as soon as I was ready. I raised the outboard, uncovered the main, etc. By 0210 we were on our way. We slowly headed out of the bay after raising the mainsail. It was very dark and I had to rely on the radar. The green navigation light did not work and I had to use the masthead tricolor.

Satellite view of Paros

Outside the bay the wind was about 10 knots from the N. I unrolled 50% of the headsail and motor-sailed for a while. When we were almost 4 M away from Syros the wind increased to 20 knots and I was able to turn off the engine. The wind stayed most of the time in the 15-25 range but there were periods when it rose to 38 knots. During those periods Thetis reached a speed of 7 knots. The direction of the wind was from the quarter so it was benign and we had a nice fast sail for over 15 M. However, the sea was very rough and irregular resulting in an unpleasant cork-screw motion. Near Paros the wind went down and I had to turn on the engine and finally roll-in the sail. Entering the bay of Naoussa was like magic. All of a sudden it was dead calm. I anchored near Ayios Yiannis [37° 08.6' N 25° 13.9' E] in 4.5 m of sand at 0715.

Helicopter In the mean time, the weather service was now issuing gale warnings for Kafireas and N. Ikario. I may be here for a couple of days. Here it was hot. I put up the tent and went to sleep. I slept until 10. There were many sailboats and several motor-cruisers, the latter with shore lines to the rocks. Up the rough hill there was even a parked helicopter most likely belonging to one of the cruisers, very useful if you need to go back to your office and attend to business, and then in no time return to your boat. Very practical! I must get one! Many nations were represented by their flags: Belgium, Germany, UK, Norway, Holland, and of course Greece.

Despite the forecasts that were issuing gale warnings, here it was fairly calm but hot which meant frequent jumps in the water. I later replaced the burned bulb of the green navigation light and then started cooking a pork roast that I had bought in Ermoupolis. I cooked it in the pot with wine and fresh tomatoes. Being fairly large it will provide several meals of leftovers.

In the afternoon I slept some more and then I swam and checked the anchor. It was nicely set in the sand. Later the predicted wind did come with 28 knot gusts. I let out some more chain with a total about 50 m. Thetis was steady at 3.8 m depth. I spoke on the GSM phone with my brother Nikos. He was with the Faneromeni in Symi. There was almost no wind there.

In the evening I made some spaghetti to go with the roast. Nice meal. I went to bed early and fell asleep right away.

Saturday August 19, 2006 Day 12

It blew fitfully all night. According to the latest internet forecasts it will continue to blow until Monday morning. I suppose that I am stuck here until then.

Cape Korakas After getting organized I went ashore for a long walk while the sun was still not too strong. I wanted to walk to Cape Korakas and see the lighthouse. In past visits here I had attempted to do so but did not find it having climbed to the wrong peak. Yesterday morning while sailing I paid attention to the lay of the land from the sea and noticed that there were some power lines leading to the light house. So, today I followed the lines and indeed found the lighthouse. It is very impressive and was freshly white-washed but it was locked. On the way back I took several pictures of the Ayios Yiannis Monastery which did not seem to have any resident monks.

I spent the rest of the day aboard. The wind was, most of the time, dead calm but then it would howl gusting to 30 knots for half an hour and then go back to almost none for an hour or two. The sea was mostly calm. It was hot.

In the afternoon a Canadian flagged catamaran came and anchored near Thetis. After an hour or so they started fussing with their anchor and finally re-anchored. They did this for three more times and then they finally left. An hour later they were back. After two more unsuccessful anchoring attempts they left for good. It was not clear to me what was their problem but I was relieved not too have them near Thetis. Just to make sure I snorkeled to the anchor. It was still nicely buried in the sand.

Cape Korakas Lighthouse

The Lighthouse of Cape Korakas

Ayios Yiannis Monastery

Ayios Yiannis Monastery

For dinner I made rigatoni tricolore with tuna, capers, onion, garlic, and lots of Parmezan cheese. After dinner I spent over an hour watching the stars and identifying constellations: Big Bear, Small Dipper, Cassiopeia, Cepheus in the N, Scorpion, Sagittarius in the SW, Cygnus, Lyra, and Aquila overhead. I used a wonderful program for this that runs on my Macintosh iBook. Even in an anchorage like this which is not too far from a town one can see a lot of stars and the galaxy in a moonless night but also see the dark sea and feel the wind. It may not be as dramatic as it was during the Atlantic crossing but it is deeply satisfying nevertheless.

Sunday August 20, 2006 Day 13

Once again, it was a windy night. The morning Navtex forecast still called for N winds of force 8 affecting the east Aegean and the sea of Ikaria but it seemed that the wind will be less strong here than it was last night.

I walked ashore and inspected the helicopter and the little shipyard near the monastery. Behind the monastery, there were the remains of a broken traditional wooden Greek caïque. This unfortunately a not an infrequent sight. There are almost no traditional shipbuilders left in Greece so the remaining traditional boats are irreplaceable. Despite this, they are deliberately broken by their owners in order to receive an EU incentive payment to retire them from fishing. This is a well meaning program to reduce fishing in the overfished Aegean. But instead of encouraging the diversion these beautiful boats to other usages it insists that they must be destroyed. It is a shame that by the stroke of a bureaucrat’s pen these traditional boats are disappearing for ever. What will our children see when the last Greek shipwright dies? After returning back onboard I finished reading Patrick O’Brian’s The Surgeon’s Mate. Later I went snorkeling and re-checked the anchor. No problem there.

Later in the evening the wind started blowing again 15-30 knots NNE. A dinghy without an engine and 4 Italians from a charter boat got into trouble. There were unable to row against the wind and were drifting away. I went with my dinghy and towed them back. It is good that I did so because I was soon re-paid for my good deed.

One of the motor cruisers somehow decided to relocate and came very close to Thetis’ anchor and dropped theirs. It did not hold. For ¾ of an hour they were hovering revving their engine forward and reverse. Then they left. But they must have upset my anchor because although earlier, when I checked it, it was well embedded in the sand, now it dragged. By that time the wind was gusting to over 30 knots. I started the engine and began to raise the anchor. I nice man from a nearby Greek sailboat the Natalia II swam to Thetis and came aboard to help me re-anchor. After that there was no further problem.

Monday August 21, 2006 Day 14

In the morning I checked the forecasts again. They all predicted 4-5 NNE falling down to 4 by the afternoon. I left Naoussa Bay at 0915 and headed for Schinousa. I raised the mainsail and headed out. The wind was about 25 knots and it was slow going while exiting the large bay and clearing the reefs and islets to the NE. By the time I turned S in the Paros-Naxos channel there were ideal sailing conditions: NNE wind about 15 knots. We sailed broad-reached in total bliss for 1½ hr. Then the wind died. I started the engine. 15 minutes later the wind came back and I turned off the engine again. Then it grew stronger and stronger about 35 knots gusting up to 55! Thetis was racing, at one time doing 8.5 knots. It was a little scarry but also exhilarating going downwind that fast.

Myrsini, Schinousa’s main harbor was a zoo. It was full of boats many of them cruisers. I headed to Tsigouri [36° 51.9' N 25° 30.9' E], the next cove E, we had come 25.4 nautical miles. At 1415 I dropped the anchor in 4.5 m depth over hard sand.

By the afternoon the wind was down to 10-15 knots. In the evening I went ashore, up the hill to the village where I had a good fresh fish at Kyria Pothite. The night was quiet and calm.

Tuesday August 22, 2006 Day 15

We departed Schinousa at 0745. The wind was from variable directions 8-16 knots. I raised the mainsail, opened the genoa and for a while I had a wonderful slow sail but it did not last as the wind shifted. I started the engine and kept adjusting the sails and the engine RPM. The sea was calm. At 1145 after 21.6 M (nautical miles) we arrived in Nikouria [36° 52.9' N 25° 55.1' E], the small island separated by a narrow channel from Amorgos. I anchored in front of the little chapel in 6 m depth over a sand patch. I only let out 35 m chain afraid that with the variable winds Thetis may drift uncomfortably close to the rocks.

The sea in the cove was very calm but the cove was more crowded than I have ever seen it before. There were 5 motor cruisers of various sizes, a catamaran, 4 other sailboats, and several large inflatables. These were in addition to two local day-trip boats that kept bringing and taking bathers from Aegiali and Katapola.

I have to admit that I am prejudiced against motor-cruisers. This is not, I believe, because of the use of engines instead of sails. After all, here in the East Mediterranean one is lucky if he manages to sail 50% of the time. In fact I am rather fond of motor trawlers. It is not even because I do not like their shape, which seems to me out of proportion, or because of their space-like curvy windows not appropriate to sea-going vessels. These are aesthetic considerations. My prejudice stems from the usual behavior of their crew. Typical of this, an archetype even, was the crew of a large cruiser, a small ship actually, that anchored with 2 anchors and 4 shore lines, about ¼ M away from Thetis. During the day they never stopped terrorizing the rest of the boats in the cove by their 2 jet-skis and one high speed inflatable that kept buzzing us. Swimming, even near our boats, was too dangerous. This, in addition to the disturbing noise and wakes. At dusk this activity blissfully diminished but it was replaced by extremely loud “music.” This was not Bellini’s arias nor Bach’s cantatas. It was thumpy, like small explosions, disco/rap. As soon as darkness came their boat was lit with flood lights like a stadium, the whole bay was awash by their glare. The cove was transformed to a small town. Late at night finally the “music” stopped but their generators did not, they ran all night long. Their buzz together with the glare totally ruined a lovely and peaceful anchorage. Motor cruisers are fine but not in my neighborhood!

In the afternoon I washed down the deck and the cockpit. I also whipped several docking likes whose ends were frayed. For dinner, I had left-over roast with rice.

Wednesday August 23, 2006 Day 16

Sunrise over Nikouria & Amorgos
Sunrise over Nikouria & Amorgos

I woke up fairly early and by 0650 we were on our way to Levitha. While in the cove, I raised the main. At the beginning the wind was variable around 10-15 knots and we had to motor-sail. But after leaving behind us by a few miles Amorgos the wind got steady from the NW at 15-25 knots which allowed me to open the headsail and turn off the engine. The view of Kinaros was very dramatic. The island was covered by a cloud and looked like a miniature version of the famous Table Mountain of South Africa. We kept on sailing nicely the rest of the 27.5 M to Levitha [37° 0.1' N 26° 28.1' E] where we arrived at 1200. I easily caught one of the moorings.

I replaced the line that I had tied to the mooring with one ending with a chain and a metal cleat. This way, even if there is a blow the line will not get frayed as it did last year in Emborio, Kalymnos. There was one other yacht here the Greek flagged S/Y Donna which had arrived just minutes before Thetis. She is a new 42' Elan and belongs to Spyros and Donna Papadakis who with their friend Alexandra are from Crete and were on their way back home after a few weeks cruising in SE Turkey. I met them over dinner. He is a glass artist and has a shop in Heraklio. Donna is from Ireland and speaks excellent Greek.

I finished reading a book, O Navarchos Miaoulis (in Greek) by Spyros Melas, about the greek nautical hero of the 1821 War of Independence admiral Miaoulis. I started a new book O Markos opos ton gnorisa (in Greek) about the famous bouzouki composer and player from Syros Markos Vamvakaris.

In the afternoon 9 more boats arrived. All, with the exception of a German catamaran with an elderly couple, had tremendous difficulties catching a mooring. Just watching a boat with a large crew missing time after time a mooring and dropping their hook into the water gives me an ego boost.

In the evening I went for dinner, together with the crew from Donna, to the Kambosos family hamlet. The Kambosos family have been the sole human inhabitants of this island for several generations now. They mainly raise livestock. They have cleared large grazing areas of rocks and have built around them stone walls. They have placed and maintained several moorings in this hard to anchor cove for which they collect a 7 € fee. In their immaculate hamlet they operate a small restaurant for yachties where they serve simple but tasty fare. Now the whole family was there: paterfamilias, mother, 2 sons with wives, daughter, and a score of grandchildren. They were glad to see me. They knew that I had not been here for 2 years, and the mother was asking about Alice. “What a nice lady!”

When we returned from dinner I had trouble starting the outboard and Spyros towed my dinghy back to Thetis. I had this trouble also in Paros but after several pulls of its cord it started.

Thursday August 24, 2006 Day 17

This is Alice’s and mine 39th wedding anniversary. How fast have all these years gone! Even Thetis is now 22 years old. I miss Alice, we had such a good time here in Levitha 3 years ago. But I will be seeing her next week in Samos.

While I was preparing to depart, Donna left waving good-bye. I tried to start the outboard but after a several attempts I gave up and lifted it aboard Thetis. I cast off the mooring at 0810. While still in the cove, I raised the mainsail and then headed out. Destination Leros. In the open sea the wind was 15-20 knots from the NW, a broad reach. I opened the genoa and turned off the engine. We had a fast sail often doing better than 7 knots. As the wind increased first to 25 and than to over 30 knots I reduced the headsail eventually to 20%. It was a very lively ride. While stowing a coffee cup in the galley I lost my balance when a large wave hit the boat and I fell across the cabin. The wind was knocked out of me and I had to lie down for a few minutes to recover my breath. Now my ribs hurt but I do not think there is any serious damage.

We arrived in Xerocambos [37° 06.4' N 26° 52.4' E] in the S side of Leros at 1200 after 22.6 M. There were many boats here and there was only one mooring left which I caught. After covering the sail and putting up the tent I looked at the outboard. I disconnected its fuel line and drained some fuel, hopping to clear any dirt, and reconnected it. The trick seemed to work. The outboard started purring.

I noticed that among the moored boats was the S/Y Gordian Knot belonging to my friends Mike and Nicola Millington. I went to her with the dinghy just as Mike was getting aboard. We were both very glad to see each other since I missed him in the spring when launching Thetis at Partheni. Nicola is in the UK but will be back in 2 weeks. We agreed to get together for dinner tonight.

The afternoon was rather windy with gusty winds 15-25 knots yet, it was very hot. I spent it mostly reading with frequent jumps into the water.

In the evening, as arranged, I went ashore together with Mike and we had dinner at the friendly Aloni restaurant. Again, the proprietors Lefteris and his Greek/Canadian wife Evelyn were asking about Alice. She seems to be very popular in the islands. Mike and I exchanged our news for the past 3 years. He promised to sail to Samos next month. As usual in the Aloni we ate well. Mike, who in addition to his boat has a car in Leros, kindly offered to drive me tomorrow morning to Lakki for provisions.

The Anchorage of Xerocambos

Friday August 25, 2006 Day 18

As we had arranged, Mike drove me to Lakki and I bought some needed provisions. I had not made up my mind whether to spend another day in Xerocambos or to push on further north and be closer to Samos. But the decision was made for me by the outboard. When we returned with the provisions it once again refused to start. At the beginning, it did nothing but after 30 or so pulls of the starter cord it started to cough, then it sputtered to life and died. Eventually it did start. Since this was the third such event, and since I was close to the Agmar Marine shipyard, I decided to go there and have the mechanic take a look at the outboard. I called Angelos, the director-owner, and made the arrangements.

I cast off the mooring at 1100. The wind was 10-18 knots from the NNW, right on our nose. We motored along the E side of Leros and after 11.7 M we arrived in Partheni at 1315. I anchored in front of the yard in 6 m depth.

Panayiotis, the mechanic, took the miscreant outboard to the shop and opened its carburetor. There was indeed some dirt in it. He cleaned it carefully and reassembled it. The motor worked fine in the test stand. I hope that this has done the trick. Only time will tell.

It was kind of late to go very far by the time the outboard and I were back on Thetis. So, I decided to just go across to Archangelos. We departed at 1515 and motored the 1.6 M to the anchorage of Archangelos [37° 11.9' N 26° 46.3' E] where we anchored in 5 m at 1535. Unlike other times, the cove was far from empty there were: a British motor-cruiser, 3 Italian sailboats, and a large British sailboat with 6 Italians. The last one was broadcasting very loud music. Fortunately after an hour or so they departed. They were replaced by a Turkish gulet. To my great relief and surprise neither the cruiser nor the gulet were noisy.

We had a nice quiet evening. After the necessary ouzo I baked some baby potatoes, brought from Kalami, which accompanied more of the left-over roast. After dinner I enjoyed the stars. There was no wind.

Saturday August 26, 2006 Day 19

I decided to move further N. So, at 0940 I raised the anchor. Since there was hardly any wind we motored 5.7 M to Papandriá [37° 16.8' N 26° 46.2' E] my favorite anchorage in the S side of Lipsi arriving at 1045. There were several sailboats there of various nationalities: Italian, Austrian, German, Swiss, Belgian, and Greek. Assuming the prevalent NW wind I anchored in 4.5 m over sand. This turned out to be a mistake.

I put up the tent and enjoyed swimming and reading. I finished the Vamvakaris book and started Norman MacClean’s Young Men and Fire, a story of a of 1940 fire in Montana where 13 young firefighters who had parachuted on a mountain fire were killed.

A Chapel in Lipsi
A Chapel in Lipsi

In the afternoon, while I was sipping a cup of coffee a familiar silhouette entered the bay and anchored across in Katsadiá. It was the M/S Vassiliki belonging to my friends Anastasis and Moo Raftopoulos and their large Newfoundland dog Serio. They did not see Thetis but after they had settled down I took the dinghy and paid them a visit. They were all three there and also there was Anastasis’ sister Danaë. They were very glad to see me again and Serio was very demonstrative, he licked me all over. Moo and Anastasis were also demonstrative but more reserved than Serio. We agreed to walk in the evening together to the town for dinner.

So far, the outboard has been on very good behavior. After I got back on Thetis I replaced the worn out insulation on the cables of the auto-pilot and the windlass control. I also replaced the tape that prevents water from entering the rear navigational light.

In the evening, as we had arranged, I met with the crew of Vassiliki and we walked for 30 minutes to the town where we sat at the blue-tent café at the waterfront and had ouzo along with their sensational grilled octopus and few other mezedes (tasty appetizers).

During the night a substantial swell developed and a 5-10 knot SW breeze. This made me uncomfortable because Thetis drifted too close to the rocks although she was in no danger.

Sunday August 27, 2006 Day 20

In the late morning I moved Thetis to nearby Katsadiá, less than 0.2 M. I dropped the anchor in 6.5 m depth over sand and let out 45 m of chain. This time allowing enough swing room for either N or S winds.

I had lunch aboard Vassiliki, a wonderful salad. In the evening the crews of both boats walked again to the town. We ended at the same café and once again had ouzo with grilled octopus, maridakia (fried tiny fish), and fava.

My ribs which were hurt from the fall I had 2 days ago are better but now I have developed a lower back pain with very painful muscle spasms. Finding a comfortable position while lying down is hard. I think this is related to the fall.

Eating in Lipsi
Eating in Lipsi—Danaë, Moo, and Anastasis

Monday August 28, 2006 Day 21

I woke up fairly early because of the pain in my back. Later I had a hard time moving around the boat and putting up the tent. The forecasts called for light SW winds of force 3-4.

I went with the dinghy and said good-bye to my friends in Vassiliki. Then, at 1010, I raised the anchor and departed. I headed for Marathi. Since the sea was calm, the distance short, and my back hurt, I did not bother to lift aboard the outboard. I left it on the dinghy and towed it behind Thetis. The wind was a SSW breeze anywhere from 0 to 13 knots. At first, we motored around the S side of Lipsi then, I opened the headsail. We motor-sailed for a while, but I then had to roll it in for lack of wind. After 8.2 M we arrived in Marathi [37° 22' N 26° 43.6' E] at 1200.

Despite the 13 knot breeze into the cove and my back I caught one of Pandelis’ moorings on the second approach. I then went ashore and greeted kyria Katina. She too had a fall recently and she was now hobbling around her kingdom. Both of her children Toola and Manolis were here with the grandchildren including the newest arrival, little Pandelis 6 month old.

All afternoon I had fun watching the antics of newcomer yachts trying to catch the moorings. Many attempts, lots of shouts, and frustrations. The best was an Austrian catamaran that managed with only 4 attempts. The worst was a charter boat which after 10 attempts was about to give up when a kind gentleman from a small Swedish motor cruiser took pity on them and went with his dinghy and helped them. I too, was thinking of helping but was reluctant to do so on account of my back. By this time, I needed the help of a cane just to stand up from the sitting position. All together by late afternoon in addition to the 5 day-trip boats, there were 14 sailboats and 4 cruisers representing Austria, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Netherlands, Turkey, US, and Greece.

After a nap in the cockpit my back improved. I even felt like washing down the deck and the cockpit.

In the evening I went ashore to Pandelis and had, as usual, a great meal: their salad with caper leaves and fresh goat cheese, fresh squid, and a nicely grilled fish that was swimming in the sea just a few hours ago. It was nice to see again these friendly hardworking people who have created an oasis in this dry little island and who manage so consistently to serve such good food. Before leaving, Katina gave me a loaf of her whole wheat breads which she freshly bakes daily.

Tuesday August 29, 2006 Day 22

We departed Marathi at 0730. First we motored S around Tiganakia. Then I raised the mainsail and we motor-sailed E. The wind was 5-10 knots from the SE. After rounding Tiganakia and Arki, we headed NE towards Samos and I opened the headsail and turned off the engine. It was a gentle sail which lasted for 18 M. When we were near Samos the wind veered W but it was only 2 knots of it and I had to turn on the engine. We arrived in Klima, Samos after 28.1 M. I anchored over sand in 8 m depth in a quiet cove [37° 42.4' N 27° 02.4' E] just west of Klima at 1300. I chose to drop the anchor deeper than I usually do so that with 50 m scope there will be sufficient swinging room even if the wind direction were to change drastically. On the way to Samos I operated the water-maker. First, I filled the tanks and then I filled the water-maker with the biocide solution which it needs if it is not to be used for more then 3 days.

I covered the sail and put up the tent. I snorkeled and checked the anchor. It was nicely set. I spent the rest of the day reading and swimming. Later, when the sun went down I removed the tent and then raised the dinghy on deck. This is a lengthy procedure because the dinghy is not only heavy but it fits on deck only when it is upside down and only on one place. So, before lifting the dinghy it has to be flipped over. The flipping is done with a winch and the lifting with a sling, block & tackle, and winch.

For dinner I made some spaghetti which I served with the last of the roast. After dinner I watched the stars and enjoyed my last night of this cruise.

Wednesday August 30, 2006 Day 23

We left Klima at 0840. There was hardly any wind so we motored the 4.5 M to the Pythagorio Marina [37° 41.5' N 26° 57.3' E]. On the way, I covered the dinghy and packed my clothes and the substantial amount of laundry that had accumulated. Before our arrival I hailed the marina on the VHF channel 9 and as a result an attendant was waiting for me and ready to help with the mooring. The time was 0930.

Before I had even finished covering the winches the rental car, that I had ordered from the reliable Aramis, had arrived. This is the end of this cruise.