Travels with S/Y Thetis

Thetis only

2007: Samos to Leros

This web page contains the logs of the fourth and final leg of a 48 day sailing trip with S/Y Thetis in the Greek Aegean. This leg was 12 days of singlehanded sailing from the island of Samos in the east Aegean to Leros (Blefouti, Partheni), where she was hauled out for the winter, via the islands of Agathonisi, Arki, Marathi, Lipsi, and Archangelos.

The logs are illustrated with photographs and maps and they also include some historical and geographical descriptions of the places visited as well as several links to other related web sites.

Route to Leros
Route from Samos to Leros

Thursday October 11, 2007 Day 1

After finishing with the laundry, closing both houses in Kalami, and some shopping I arrived in the marina for my final departure from Samos this year.

I left the marina at 1245 heading for Agathonisi. I have until October 22 to get Thetis to Leros for her appointment with the travel-lift. Very light wind, 10-14 knots WNW, I motor-sailed with 40% of the headsail. On the way I stowed my luggage, clean clothes, and provisions. Also during the rough beat of last week some water had entered the bins of the front cabin. I emptied the bins, spread all the wet items in the sun to dry, and sponged all the water off the bins. By the time we arrived in the lovely cove of Gaidouravlako (Γαϊδουραύλακο) [37° 27.2'N 26° 57.7'E], in Agathonisi (Αγαθονήσι) at 1555 everything had dried and had been re-stowed in its bin. We had come 18.2 M.

I anchored in 5 m depth letting out 25 m of chain and then I took a line from the bow to a rock on the S ashore. Thus keeping the boat in the middle of the cove.

This is a lovely cove which I had all by myself. There was no a soul here but there was a sign on the beach: Απαγορεύται ο Γυμνισμός (Nudism is Prohibited). These signs have proliferated in recent years in isolated beaches of the Dodecanese. Well I, for one, am very glad that finally the authorities have realized that nudism is by far a much more serious problem than pollution, cleaning the polluted beaches, controlling the ugly architecture, attracting quality tourists, and other lesser problems. Now there is high hope that, at least in the Dodecanese, the scourge of nudism will be eradicated.

For dinner I made pasta served with a fresh tomato sauce that Alice had made during the summer from our home grown tomatoes and had left it for me frozen.

Friday October 12, 2007, Day 2

I spent the day here in Gaidouravlako. In the morning I got into the dinghy to go to the next cove and from there to walk to the village but I turned back because the outboard was overheating and started loosing its RPM. I suspected that either the gasoline-oil mixture was too lean or that its pump was defective. On the way back the RPM increased back to normal but I did not want to take a risk and I returned to Thetis. I put a small amount of oil in the outboard’s tank and tried it. It worked fine, normal RPM, but I still think that it was overheating.

In the evening I started cooking a beef roast that I got in Samos. I cooked it in the pot with garlic and lemon and a very small amount of olive oil. After drinking a pleasant glass of ouzo with some bread and olive spread I made some rice to go along with the now ready roast. They went down well helped by few glasses of Mavrofilero red wine from Boutaris.

Saturday October 13, 2007, Day 3

The forecast called for light SW winds but increasing and becoming northerly by tomorrow. I decided to head to Arki. It took some time to remove the shore line and to stow it. At any rate, we departed at 0945. The wind, once we out of the enclosed area, was 2-8 knots ESE. We motored, then as the wind increased somewhat I opened the headsail and we motor-sailed for approximately 5 M. Then, the wind backed W and I had to roll in the headsail. During this time I also ran the water-maker and replenished the water supply.

We arrived in Arki (Αρκοί) at 1210. I headed for the cove Steno (Στενό) [37° 22.6'N 26° 44.3'E] where last year I had been told by the local taverna that they had placed a mooring. I usually prefer the adjacent Glipapas (Γλίπαπας) cove but with the W wind I was afraid that after anchoring Thetis may drift too close to the rocks. We moved slowly into Steno and headed to the mooring. They were 3 moorings altogether but the other 2 were in too shallow water for Thetis. I caught the 3rd mooring with out any trouble. But, even this outer mooring, was at only 1.9 m depth. We had come 13.5 M from Agathonisi and the time was 1210.

Later I snorkeled and looked at the mooring and Thetis’ keel. The mooring looked secure but the keel was just 10 cm above the weed.

I cleaned the cockpit and vacuumed the cabins. In the evening, I went ashore for a walk at the end of which I ended in the taverna. Already there was a family group from Leros. They had come with a small motor cruiser and a large inflatable. Kyria Angeliki, the proprietress, definitely remember me and Alice. She served me a small dish of kolokythokeftedes (zucchini balls), a delicious local goat cheese, eggplants, and cucumber. These were followed by the main dish: γίδα βραστή (boiled nanny goat) in an avgolemono soup (a soup thickened with eggs and lemon) with potatoes, zucchini, parsley, and a chunk of meat. It did not sound very appetizing, and I had my doubts. But, in fact it was delicious. All in all the meal was only 12 €.

Sunday October 14, 2007, Day 4

I was woken at 5 AM by a thunderstorm. Heavy rain and lots of lightning strikes. The wind was from the N and Thetis settled in a more comfortable 2.5 m depth. The storm did not last more than 1 hour. The barometer which for 2 days now had been falling from 1012 had reached 1007 mB during the storm and immediately after it rose to 1008, and after a few hours to 1010.

After things calmed down I started thinking about food. Manos had bought in Amorgos the ingredients for making his wonderful lentil salad but he never got around to making it. I have never made it but it would be a shame to waste the ingredients. So, here is my attempt: First, I put 1½ cup of lentils with 2½ cups of fresh water and ½ a cup of sea water. To this I added 2 table spoons of olive oil, a table spoon of balsamic vinegar, a bay leaf, pepper, and a crushed garlic clove. These I brought to a boil and then added 3 chopped carrots and a chopped red pepper. I simmered them for 1 hour. I ate some of it for lunch under the tent. It was very, very good. In the mean time, the sun had made its appearance and it had become a glorious day.

I finished reading J. P. Hogan’s The Anguished Dawn. This is the sequel to Cradle of Saturn that I had read earlier.

The Navtex forecast, I could not receive a GPRS signal here hence no internet, predicted strong N winds reaching force 7 to 8. I was uncomfortable with the small depth margin under the keel, so I decided to move across to Marathi where the moorings are secure and at a reasonable depth. Also in Marathi there is a GPRS signal and I could better monitor any weather changes.

At 1515 I let go of the mooring and slowly motored the vast distance of 0.9 M while running the water-maker and towing the dinghy, still with the outboard on it. The wind in the channel was 15-20 knots N. We arrived in Marathi [37° 22'N 26° 43.6'E] at 1530. It took me two tries to catch a mooring.

After the boat was secured, I connected the MacBook to GPRS and looked at the weather picture. Indeed just west of the Arki/Lipsi area it forecasted for tonight N winds of force 8 and for here force 7.

The days now were appreciably shorter. Dusk comes around 6:30 and by 7:00 it is dark. I went ashore for a walk and to Pandelis for dinner. I had their standard salad, octopus as an appetizer, and a small but exquisitely grilled τσιπούρα (tsipoura - gilt head bream). Eating at Pandelis were the crews of two other S/Ys. One was a charter boat with 4 Germans. They had lost their one and only anchor and wanted to sail directly to Kos for a new one. The other boat, the British flagged, Lode Star was crewed by a Swiss couple. I believe I had met them before, possibly here in Marathi.

By 10 PM I was in my berth and the wind was up.

The Anchorage of Marathi

Monday October 15, 2007, Day 5

Katina's Garden
Katina’s Garden

The wind howled all night. There were gusts from NE to NW of 20-30 knots. Fortunately Thetis was in over 7.5 m depth so that worry was out. The Navtex was now issuing gale warnings but predicted a decrease of the wind by tomorrow. The barometer was still rising from yesterday’s low of 1006 mB to today’s morning high of 1016. By the afternoon it was up to 1018 and it was still going up. The day was sunny but cold, with a high of only 21°C (70°F).

I had dinner together with Katina, Pandelis, and the Swiss couple from the Lode Star, family style. We were all Pandelis’ guests. Katina had prepared a terrific spanakopita (spinach pie) but not with the usual phyllo dough but with homemade sfoliata (pastry wrapping) made with olive oil, wine, and yoghurt in addition to the flour. It was topped with sesame seeds. Then, there was a young goat avgolemono soup (thickened with eggs and lemon), also very good.

When I returned to Thetis it was still rather windy. While the gale warning forecasted force 9 in the sea of Cythera, they called for only force 6 N wind for this area.

Tuesday October 16, 2007, Day 6

The morning was cold, the temperature only 16°C (61°F) and the barometer had reached 1020 mB. It was still very windy, and Thetis gyrated around the mooring. The forecast called for NNW wind of force 6 but diminishing by the afternoon down to 4-5. I decided to wait here for a few more hours and then go on to Lipsi.

Later in the morning when it got warmer I went for a long hike around the N side of the island. On the way I noticed that the wind was already weaker. Before returning to Thetis I stopped at Pandelis to say goodbye to these good people. We had a cup of coffee and a nice chat. Katina pressed on me one of her loaves of bread. She apologized that it was baked yesterday and not today. They are in the process of winding down their operation for the year. After kissing and wishing each other a good and healthy winter I returned to Thetis.

I slowly prepared for departure. I left in the mooring at 1325. Outside the cove the wind was a variable 10-13 knots coming from anywhere between N and NE. It was too irregular for sailing. I opened about 75% of the headsail and motor-sailed to the S side of Lipsi, on the way charging the batteries and running the water-maker. The sea was rough but manageable. The visibility, however, was incredible: Samos, Fourni, and Ikaria to the N, Agathonisi and the Turkish coast to the E, Lipsi, Leros, Kalymnos, and even Kos to the S, and to the W Levitha and even Amorgos. Rarely it is that clear and crisp.

We arrived in Papandriá (Παπανδριά) [37° 16.8'N 26° 46.2'E] at 1455 after 8.9 M. It looked that there were now 4 laid moorings in the adjacent Katsadiá (Κατσαδιά) cove. I will investigate them tomorrow. I anchored in 4 m depth over sand, letting out 35 m of chain. Then, bracing the cold, I snorkeled to check the anchor. It was nicely set.

Later, as the sun was going down the new moon, a tiny sliver, was rising in the E. Up until then Thetis was the only boat in the cove. But a S/Y, obviously chartered, arrived. They had the hardest time anchoring. Usual problem, moving too fast, not letting out enough chain. Clearly these people have never learned basic physics in school.

For dinner I made potatoes, first boiling them in seawater for 40 minutes and then, after peeling and slicing them, finished them in the oven with a little olive oil, oregano, pepper, and garlic. I ate them with left over pot roast.

It was still windy at night, and I did not sleep as well as I hoped. Some slight noise, I suspected from the chain vibrating on the chain locker, kept me awake.

Papandriá, Lipsi

Wednesday October 17, 2007, Day 7

 Water Papandria
The Beautiful Water in Papandriá

The forecast called for NE wind of force 4-5. It was calm here and the wind was 8-13 knots from the N. It was a lovely day. I went ashore in the morning and walked to the village (40 minute walk) where I bought some fruit and fresh bread. While going ashore with the dinghy, I checked the new moorings in Katsadia. It seems they belong to the restaurant which was now shut. I will have to snorkel and check if they are secure before trusting them.

Like yesterday, the visibility was superb. Mt. Kerkis in Samos seemed almost next door. Then, to the W one could see Patmos with exceptional clarity and further out Levitha, Kinaros, and even Amorgos were very visible.

By evening time more yachts had arrived. There were now at least 5 including Thetis. Most of the new arrivals were populated by Germans and had a very hard time anchoring. The exception was a yacht crewed by several middle aged ladies. She was handled exceptionally well and anchored with great ease.

I greeted the sunset with a glass of ouzo. The half moon was visible in the W. I finished re-reading Ramage by Dudley Pope. I was by now almost running out of books.

For dinner I made an omelet with the last of the fresh tomato sauce from Kalami. I also made a salad with Kalami tomatoes, onions, and garlic, plus feta cheese. It was a pleasant and quiet night.

Thursday October 18, 2007, Day 8

It was a lazy morning at anchor. The sea was very calm and lovely. All the other yachts had left and Thetis was once again the mistress of the cove.

Dump Papandria
The Eyesore of a Car Dump despoils Papandriá

Later a fishing caïque came and laid their nets. After a while, they anchored and started puling the nets. I watched the process. Just as I was enjoying myself watching and expecting the outcome, they threw overboard a plastic bag full of trash. I got mad and went over with the dinghy and after collecting the bag, gave them a good dress down about polluting the very sea that feeds them. They did not say anything. I hope next time they feel the urge to through trash overboard they may think again.

I finished another book, admittedly small: J.P. Hogan Outward Bound. A coming of age story in the 21st century of a young man migrating from Earth to the moons of Jupiter.

The sun now sets early and by 7 PM it is dark. Just before dusk, I walked to the village and sat in the usual establishment the little ouzeri (ouzo serving establishment) by the harbor (no name just blue chairs and a striped blue and white tent). Once again I had a wonderful grilled octopus with my ouzo. When I got ashore in Papandria, I noticed that it had become a car dump. At least three rusted cars including the cab of a truck had been abandoned there. I do hope that the mayor of Lipsi after solving the admittedly more serious problem of the foreign nudists, throws all his weight and energy to fight the despoilment of his island’s beautiful beeches. On the way back, there was a lovely half moon.

I reduced the chain by 5 m afraid of the wind changing to the SW direction and the boat drifting toward the shallows.

Friday October 19, 2007, Day 9

At about 4:30 AM, the wind woke me up. We had drifted close to the rocks and were in 3.8 m depth, but there was no real problem, however, I could not go back to sleep.

The GSM/GPRS signal (Vodafone) here was weak and intermittent. In the past the signal here was good.

Later in the morning, I opened the stern battery compartment to check if the float cups really work, because since installing them the batteries have not required any fluids. To do so, requires to open both sail lockers, remove the life raft cover, remove the life raft, and then unscrew the compartment lid held by 10 screws. To check the batteries you need a flashlight and a mirror. They seemed full of electrolyte, so I just sprayed all exposed metal with Vaseline spray and closed the compartment.

I departed Lipsi at 1055. While raising the anchor the windlass started to lift but would not stop. I ran to the engine room and tripped its circuit breaker. I then replaced the windlass controls with a spare. No problem after that. There was no wind and we motored to Archangelos (Αρχάγγελος) [37° 11.9'N 26° 46.4'E] at 1200. There was no one here but there was a 4-8 knot breeze from the SSW and it was a little choppy. I anchored in 8 m depth over sand and let out 50 m chain. That should be OK.

Same problem here with the GSM signal (Vodafone), it was weak and intermittent this time although other years it was nice and strong. Not sure if this was a permanent or a temporary problem.

I called Agmar Marine (now called Moor & Dock) and confirmed our appointment with the travel-lift for Monday morning.

Later I snorkeled and checked the anchor. It was nicely set. The water temperature was pleasant and I had a nice long swim, coming out of the water was, of course, less pleasant with the breeze. It was chilly.

Despite the breeze and the chop, I had in the evening a pleasant glass of ouzo. For dinner I had rice with 2 slices of the roast along with a red Merlot from Boutaris. A pleasant night afloat.

Anchored in Archangelos

Saturday October 20, 2007, Day 10

I had trouble connecting to the internet because of the intermittent signal. Finally I got through and received the forecasts, they called for fairly strong S winds for tonight of force 6 but also possibly of force 7. With this information I decided not to stay here which is somewhat exposed, although I love the place, but to go to Blefouti in Leros instead. It is after all just 4 M from Partheni and more pleasant.

Thetis departed Archangelos at 1045. The wind was 10-20 knots SE. The SE wind is the notorious Sirocco. It is the most treacherous and least predictable of the winds in the Aegean. We motored and ran the water-maker. We arrived after 3.1 M in Blefouti (Μπλεφούτι) [37° 11.4'N 26° 49.1'E], Leros (Λέρος) at 1125. I anchored in 6 m depth on a sandy spot and let out 35 m of chain. I tested the anchor by strongly reversing and it held. The boat settled in 8 m depth.

By the afternoon and evening there was indeed a strong 18-27 knots SE wind but the anchor was holding.

Later I went ashore for nice hike. For dinner I made pasta with oil and garlic. I ate and went to bed.

Thetis anchored in Blefouti

Sunday October 21, 2007, Day 11

Sometime after midnight I was woken up by the sound of the wind that had reached a crescendo. Thus begun a night from hell, that special hell reserved for the single-handed sailors.

The anchor was holding but I thought that maybe now that the wind was gusting above 30 knots that I did not have enough length of chain. I had anchored in 6 m depth and had let out about 35 m of chain. Now I thought that if I let out 10 more meters it will be better. I should have followed the old engineering principle: “don’t fix it if it isn’t broken.” At any rate, I did let out the extra chain.

As soon as I got back in the cockpit I saw to my great consternation that we were now in 4.5 m depth instead of the 8 that we were before I let out the chain. There was no way that the 10 extra meters of chain would had made such a difference. Also, we seemed to be much closer to the western shore then it was reasonable. Maybe, I had disturbed the anchor and it was now dragging. Indeed as I was thinking this over, the depth kept going down to 3.5 and then to 3 m.

It was time to re-anchor. Easier said than done! I turned on the engine and the deck lights, raised the anchor, and started looking for an area of sand and not of weed at about 6 m depth. It was hard to find it in the darkness and the howling wind. My first attempt was unsuccessful. The anchor held for about 10 minutes and then dragged. When I raised it, it was full of weeds. I lost count of how many times this scenario was repeated. To make things sportier the wind had picked up and it was now gusting to the middle 40s. Eventually the anchor appeared to hold. It was almost 4 AM.

Then it started to rain, strong rain with ferocious winds. It lasted for about 15 minutes. Then the wind died to just 5 knots. This was a deceptive lull despite the fact that the Athens Observatory forecast called for weak winds after 3 AM. The lull lasted for less than 10 minutes. Then it started to blow but from the N this time. Thetis moved from 13 m depth to 9 then 6 and then to less than 4. But the anchor was holding. But just in case, I started the motor. Then the wind blew from the SW at 15 knots and the rain started again. It was a driving torrential rain. Then, all the lights from the shore went out (I was later told there was an outage on the whole island). It was hard to see where the shore was. The wind, in the mean time, kept increasing to 20, 25, 35, 40, 45, then to 50 knots. The gusts were up to 60!

The anchor did not hold. I tried to steer the boat away from the shore with the anchor still down but it was hard to tell except during the lightning strikes. We were not far from the shore. I put on the autopilot and adjusted it to keep the boat heading away from the shore. I went down to the cabin to turn on the radar. The radar takes 90 seconds to warm up. I then went back to the cockpit. Another lightning! We were headed the wrong way! The autopilot was overwhelmed. I steered by hand for a while, away from the shore, engaged the autopilot and went down to look at the radar. I did not have time to do so. Another strike and I saw rocks. I run back out. It was too late! Thetis was stuck and listing along the rocky eastern shore! I had not heard any sound; I had not felt any change in motion. But we were aground all right. The boat could not move and the tiller was stuck on the rocks. The furious wind was pushing the boat sideways on her starboard side. I turned off the engine. Now I could hear her keel banging.

This is it, I thought, I lost her. I lost my boat, my friend, my home, my lover. No panic, just a sense of total loss. This did not last. Almost another person, deep inside me took over. No, I will fight for you dear Thetis; I will do all that I can to save you. I was galvanized into action. This was the end of “Hell I” and the beginning of “Hell II”.

The person who seemed to now possess me was a very rational being completely devoid of any emotion. While I was dazed, he gave me orders and I executed them.

  • — Need to set the 2nd anchor as a kedge to stop her from being ground on the rocks.
  • — Anchor?
  • — Yes, anchor. Get it! Lower it into the dinghy.
  • — Thank goodness the outboard is already on the dinghy.
  • — OK, now chain.
  • — Yes, the 20 meter chain you have in the left sail locker.
  • — Get it! Now rope, the 60 meter line on the right locker.
  • — Get it, tie it now on the chain and make sure it is coiled and free to run.
  • — Good, get another line, the 20 meter one.
  • — Tie both lines together. Tie the end of the 20 meter line to the cleat.
  • — Lower the chain to the dinghy.
  • — Climb down to the dinghy.
  • — Attach the chain to the anchor.
  • — Start the outboard.
  • — It started? Good!
  • — Be fast now, Thetis is being destroyed but do not panic, think every move.
  • — Untie the dinghy.
  • — Make sure the painter does not interfere with the chain and anchor.
  • — Drive the dinghy pulling the long line attached to the chain and on Thetis.
  • — Go 90° from her stern, maybe the dragging primary anchor at the bow is helping somewhat.
  • — You are at the end of the line? Slowly drop the chain, then the anchor.
  • — Quick now, drive back!
  • — Tie the dinghy and climb up.
  • — Now take the line from the anchor to the winch.
  • — Pull! Pull!
  • — OK it is tight.
  • — Now use the handle, crank, more, more.
  • — Oh no! There is an override. The winch is fouled.
  • — Quick use another small line, the dinghy towline will do.
  • — Tie a slipknot on the anchor line.
  • — Pull the towline with the starboard winch, pull, crank!
  • — OK it is holding and the anchor line is now slack.
  • — Now clear the port winch and re-wind it.
  • — Pull!
  • — Good there is tension.
  • — Untie the slipknot.
  • — Crank the winch, inch-by-inch, cm-by-cm.
  • — It is doing the trick. I can see that the stern is not grinding on the rocks anymore.
  • — OK Vasili stop admiring, there is more work.
  • — Go to the bow; pull the primary anchor chain with the windlass.
  • — Is it holding? Is it doing anything?
  • — No!
  • — Do not panic! You just have to use the dinghy and set the big anchor just as you did with the other one.
  • — Never mind that this anchor is too heavy to lift.
  • — The dinghy? The dinghy is full of rainwater; it is a bathtub.
  • — Hand pump! Use the hand pump; get it from the sail locker.
  • — Good, you got the water out.
  • — Go to the bow, raise the anchor but let it hang from its roller.
  • — Pay attention; do not let the chain pile up.
  • — Put the windlass controls so that you can get them from the dinghy on the port side.
  • — Now get into the dinghy and pull it along side to the bow.
  • — Lower the anchor! Use the controls.
  • — Good! Now the chain, lower it into the dinghy with the down button.
  • — Yes, it is slow, but keep going!
  • — 15 m down, then 20, 30, 35.
  • — Need more! Keep lowering.
  • — Do not panic, the stern is being held.
  • — 40 m down, 50, 60.
  • — That is enough! Start the outboard.
  • — What? It stalled?
  • — Do not panic, use the choke and start it again.
  • — It starts and stalls!
  • — Check the fuel valve.
  • — What? It is closed, how the hell did it close?
  • — Never mind, start the motor.
  • — Good! Now drive 90° from the bow, no better make it less 80°, pay out the chain, raise the speed the chain is dragging you back.
  • — Good, keep on going.
  • — You reached the end of the chain?
  • — Take a breath!
  • — Lift the anchor, lift! Thetis is counting on you.
  • — Now drop it in the water. Do not hit the outboard!
  • — Go back!
  • — Tie the dinghy and climb aboard.
  • — Turn on Thetis’ motor to give you power at the windlass.
  • — Go to the bow, no time to waste.
  • — Push the up button. Make sure the chain does not pile in the chain locker.
  • — OK the chain is now under tension.
  • — Pull some more!
  • — Good, the anchor is holding.
  • — Relax! Take a small break.
  • — What time is it?
  • — Who cares? Pull some more!
  • — Pull now the stern anchor!
  • — Go back to the bow and pull the front anchor.
  • — Now pull from the stern again.
  • — Are we listing less now?
  • — Hard to tell! The wind is now down to 20 knots. The rain has stopped.
  • — Good! Is the boat moving, even a little, from the rocks?
  • — Is the rudder free?
  • — No! What can we do now?
  • — Not much! Turn off the motor.
  • — Get the dinghy away from those rocks!
  • — Check the bilges.
  • — They are dry!
  • — Excellent!
  • — Check the engine room, any water from the shaft?
  • — No.
  • — Excellent! These are good news indeed.
  • — But there is water on the chart table; the rugs are soaked.
  • — It must be from the driving rain. The hull is intact, that is what counts.
  • — Drink a glass of water! Check the bilge and engine compartment again.
  • — Still dry.
  • — Very good!
  • — Oh there is daylight!
  • — You must call for help, you are not getting the boat out of this mess by yourself.
  • — Wind is down now to 10 knots and the sun is rising.
  • — What? It is 7:30?
  • — Turn on your phone!
  • — Any signal?
  • — Yes, but weak.
  • — Call Angelos.
  • — It rings but it stops!
  • — Call Mastro Michali!
  • — Same, it rings and stops.
  • — Go outside and try again!
  • — Good morning Mastro Michali! Yes I am fine but I have a small problem, Thetis is on the rocks and I need help!
  • — I will see what I can do. Hung up and I will call you back!

Ten minutes later he called. Good man! He is on his way. He has also called Nicholas who will find a caïque. There is nothing more I can do. The inner voice has stopped ordering me around. While waiting maybe I can make a cup of coffee maybe I can even eat a cookie.

A car is coming. It is Mastro Michalis! He walks on the rocks and looks. He can see the rudder but not the keel. He does not see anything wrong on the boat’s side. He asks me for a line. He ties the line on a rock, some distance ahead of the bow, and I winch it from the stern to relieve more pressure from the keel. We wait! The caïque with Nicholas is coming. I prepare a line from the bow to the stern to act as a sling for the towline. We discuss strategy with Mastro Michalis. The tow must pull about ¾ of the boat length toward the stern to avoid damage to the rudder. The caïque approaches. Nicholas attaches the towline. First try! Nothing! Second try! Snap! The towline breaks. Fortunately I had the good sense not be near those lines. Another attempt! Nothing. Try ½ boat length. Snap! The second tow line parts. They need a stronger towline. I release the line from the stern and Mastro Michalis unties it from the rock. It is stout. I pass it to Nicholas. Another attempt! Nothing! Mastro Michalis gives instructions to the caïque. He is good:

  • — Try again but closer to the stern.
  • — Yes, there is some action. Grr, grr, Bang! OK the rudder is free. I can turn the tiller now.
  • — Try again, now closer to the bow, not at the bow but about half way.
  • — Good man Nicholas this is the place. Now give it power, more power!
  • — We are moving! Slowly. The rudder is still free!

I turn on the engine and engage it forward to prevent the rudder from hitting the rocks again as Thetis rotates.

  • — More power from the caïque!
  • — More power from Thetis!
  • — My goodness she is afloat! She floats!

I check the bilge. Dry! I check the engine room. Dry! Now I check the anchors. The caïque undertakes to raise the stern anchor. I raise the bow anchor with the windlass. Oh no! No! The stern is moving back to the rocks after the stern anchor is released. I ran to the cockpit and engage the engine forward. Then, I ran back to the bow and lift some more of the chain. Now the caïque is back and they attach the towline and tow Thetis from the bow. We are definitely clear from the rocks now. I raise the anchor. Relief, Great relief!

The captain of the caïque wants to tow Thetis all the way to Partheni. I disagree but he continues towing. What the hell! We did not go very far and then: crash! grr, grr! I almost fell down. Thetis was stopped dead! Thetis has hit a reef! Doesn’t the idiot know that a sailboat has much deeper draft then a caïque? They release the tow and come back. They throw the line to me and I attach it to the stern. Then they pull: Grr, again and we are free. No way I am letting them tow me again! After some arguing back and forth they release the tow. I move slowly. Put on the autopilot and turn on the GPS/Chart plotter. We move slowly, carefully, looking at the detailed charts. We are also towing the dinghy with the outboard still on it. I dare not go over 4 knots. I look at the bilges again; they are dry, same for the engine room. Slowly we arrive in Partheni [37° 11.23'N 26° 48.3'E]. Nicholas tells me to tie on one of the marker buoys that mark the entrance to the lifting area. They have good moorings he tells me. I do so. It is almost noon. Perversely it is a beautiful day, calm, sunshine, warm, and no wind. Thetis may be scratched, may need some work, but she is sound and alive. I too am bruised and feel muscle pains all over, but I am alive and I still have my boat.

It was a night and a half-day of hell, well maybe it was purgatory, time will tell.

Now that the danger is over, I must reflect on what mistakes I had made and what I had done that was right:

  • I should not have been in an anchorage with so much weed where it is hard to re-anchor at night, especially while expecting strong winds.
  • I should had deployed the second anchor while there was daylight.
  • Once the anchor started dragging and the weather deteriorating, I should have left the anchorage for a safer one. After all Partheni was near by.
  • I should, at that point, had turned on the radar and the GPS/Chart plotter.
  • When the squall hit I should had headed out to the open sea. I did not do so because I was afraid of the reefs at the entrance of the cove but I could have followed the route stored on the GPS/Chart plotter.
What I did right
  • I did not panic, or at least my alter ego did not.
  • I turned on the engine when the squall hit, although the anchor was holding.
  • I deployed the anchors to keep the boat from being smashed on the rocks. This, most likely, saved her.

The rest of the day was singularly uneventful. For dinner I had rice and leftover roast. I finished the red wine and made libations to Poseidon and to the goddess Thetis to thank them for Thetis’ delivery.

Monday October 22, 2007, Day 12

Thetis was hauled-out this morning at 1005 at the Agmar Marine shipyard, while a force 9 southern gale raged, and she is now on her stands. Her keel is scratched but nothing serious. There is one mark, one, on her right side, and her rudder is badly scraped at its bottom. But it is wood and it can be easily replaced. The mechanical part of the rudder is sound.

Thetis Side

Damage on Thetis’ Side

Thetis Keel

Damaged Rudder

Tuesday October 23 to Saturday October 27

It has been raining on and off for the first 2 days here in the shipyard. On Monday evening, there was another of the torrential downfalls that I am becoming so familiar with. It did wash-down the deck but it has been hindering the rest of the outside work.

I am fine and have rested and recovered from the recent shock. The first day I rested and did not do very much. The damage is minimal, not even worth making an insurance claim.

The other good news is that I have found a helper, Greek this time, the brother in law of the caïque owner who towed me. He will work for me for 3 days starting on Wednesday morning. I now hope that the weather improves so that the sails and ropes dry and are folded by Friday. I still hope to leave on Saturday morning.

We washed both sails and the headsail (the larger sail) was now bagged and on the deck. The mainsail was still drying. All the cavoi (lines) are washed. Today I will pickup from the cleaner the covers, rugs, etc., the man will be washing the dinghy, and then we will fold the other sail. These will complete all the heavy tasks and leave minor small things to do in the cabin and on deck.

By Saturday all work was done and I flew to Athens. No more sailing until the spring. Good bye Thetis.

2007 Season’s Statistics
Total Distance 1189 M
Time at Sea 79 days
Engine Time 242 hr
Solo Time 51 days
Fuel Consumed 487 L
Water Consumed 1554 L