Travels with S/Y Thetis


Thetis only

2008: Leros to Samos

This web page contains the logs of a singlehanded sailing trip that I took with S/Y Thetis in the East Aegean in Greece. The logs cover a period of 12 days of sailing from Partheni in Leros, where she was launched, to Samos (Klima, Mikri Lakka, Samos Marina) via the small island of Archangelos, Lakki, the main harbor in Leros, Lipsi, Marathi, and Agathonisi. The logs 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 May 16, 2008, Day 1

What an exciting day! First thing in the morning, I started the new engine. It purrs! I also started the water-maker to test it. It works fine and I ran it for 30 minutes.

Manolis, the head mechanic, arrived with Yiorgos, his helper, and modified the heat exchanger plumbing. This took about 1 hr. Now none of the valves vibrate and Mastro Michalis after inspecting everything was satisfied.

Satellite view of Partheni I also got Agmar’s final bill. It was substantially higher then what I was led to expect. I simply did not have at hand all the funds to cover it. After scrutinizing it I did find a few mistakes. I pointed these out to Angelos, Agmar’s owner, who not only acknowledged them but also gave me a discount. Altogether I paid ⅔ of the bill.

When I returned from the office to Thetis Panayiotis, the electrician, was waiting for me and for Mastro Michalis so that he can calibrate the tachometer. While waiting, he helped me install the headsail which is a 2 person job. After Mastro Michalis came, he and Panayiotis calibrated the tachometer with the use of a laser strobe instrument.

By 1300 all that was needed to be done on Thetis was done, and at 1305 I cast off. We did not go far, just to nearby Archangelos [37° 12' N 26° 46.3' E] (Αρχάγγελος), 1.65 nM away. I dropped the anchor over sand in 5 m depth, and I let out 45 m of chain. A small step but a very exciting and satisfying step. No problems so far.

My plan is to stay in Leros, maybe go to Lakki tomorrow, until Monday so that I can make sure that everything is working properly before heading north to Samos.

I inflated the dinghy and tested the outboard. It started right away but after 5-10 minutes it stalled. It took me some effort to re-start it, but then it worked fine. Maybe there was some dirt in its fuel line. I will have to test it again, just to make sure but now I was too tired.

I luxuriated with a hot shower, I mean hot, and from the water-heater not from the sun-shower I have been using in the past 24 years. Then, refreshed and pleased with myself I had my first ouzo afloat this year. I made some pasta with a fresh-tomato and mushroom sauce. It is wonderful to be swinging on the hook.

Saturday May 17, 2008, Day 2

It could be that this is the first day of cruising for the year. The night was quiet with just a mild variable breeze of 1-8 knots. After coffee, I spent about 1 hr installing the mainsail. Again, no problem. I then put the covers on the fenders.

I had some problem connecting the MacBook to the internet via GPRS. It seems that Vodafone has changed the password sequence and at the same time the last system upgrade of the computer to Mac OS 10.5 has changed the connecting procedure. I am not sure which of the two changes caused the difficulty. After some hacking I did connect. I just hope that I have saved properly what I did and next time the connection will happen without my intervention.

I tested again the outboard. It worked well. I looked but could not find the straw mats for the dinghy. Then I remembered. They had been swept overboard when the dinghy capsized on the passage between Syros and Rhinia last year and I had ordered new ones. I called Agmar but they could not locate them nor did anyone there remembered receiving them. I guess that my brother Nikos had not sent them to Agmar as he had told me.

After lunch and coffee I prepared to depart for Lakki. I raised the anchor at 1500. Not being used to the new gearbox and its controls instead of increasing the engine RPM while keeping it in neutral (I do this to provide current for the power hungry windlass) I had it engaged to slow forward. Fortunately I soon caught on to my mistake and no harm was done. The weather was calm, 5-10 knots NW and it allowed some motor-sailing.

I turned on the water-maker but in a few minutes its circuit-breaker tripped. I tried resetting it but it tripped again. I looked in its pump compartment and to my horror it was flooded with salt-water, the pump’s motor was half submerged. I emptied the water but the water-maker would not start.

Satellite view of Lakki

We arrived at the Agmar Lakki Marina tools.wmflabs.org37° 07.7' N 26° 50.9' E] (Λακκί) at 1645 after 8.2 nM. We docked without any difficulty with the help of Kyriakos, the attendant, who handed me the mooring line. I connected the battery charger to the AC.

I tried turning on the water-maker but still no joy. I am afraid that its motor, an expensive replacement, is burned. I went ashore for some light provision shopping, mostly vegetables and fruits. When I returned I found out that the head pump was not working either. Not happy with these failures.

Later Anastasis and Moo came with their car and we had a very enjoyable meal at the Petrino. When I returned back to Thetis and tried the head pump it still did not work but to my delight the water-maker did start. It does, however, leak very badly hence the flooding. I suppose its motor dried out and that is why it now starts. Will have to deal with these problems tomorrow.

I finished reading Alexander Mccall Smith’s The Good Husband of Zebra Drive on my new Kindle reader and started the last Harry Potter book. The Kindle was a Christmas gift from my long suffering wife who got tired of me traveling to Greece every year with a suitcase full of heavy books. The Kindle, which is the size of a pocket-book can easily accommodate 200 books.

Sunday May 18, 2008, Day 3

My first priority after coffee was to repair the head pump. I disassembled it, always a most delightful task, and sure enough found a string fouling its macerator. I removed it but the motor was stuck. I used a pair of nose pliers to rotate it. I then turned it on. It worked. I reassembled the pump and tested it again. Everything normal now. Next, I tightened the bolts of the water-maker’s housing of the its piston pump. I started the water-maker. While it was at the “Prime” setting there was no leakage but when I switched it to “Run” it started leaking like the proverbial sieve. I thought that maybe if I took it to Agmar they may be able to repair it, but after studying its manual I came to the conclusion that it will need special new gaskets and “O” rings. These would have to be ordered from the manufacturer. Later I thought, that if I opened the pump and and following the manual’s instruction greased the gaskets on “O” rings with high vacuum silicon, which I had, it may fix the problem. It took me over an hour to do so. After that the pump still leaked but the amount was substantially less. This will have to do until I can get new the gaskets and rings. In order to avoid any of the leaked water reaching the water-maker’s motor I drilled 3 holes at the floor of the compartment thus allowing the water to drain into the bilge. After that, I ran the water-maker for about 45 minutes. The compartment, while moist, was certainly not flooded.

Later I connected the water hose to the marina’s outlet. First, I washed the deck and the cockpit and then I filled the water tanks.

In the evening I met with my cousin Maritsa and we had a drink together. Then, I went for dinner back at the Petrino.

Monday May 19, 2008, Day 4

In the morning I started preparing for departure. The forecast calls for SE winds of force 4-5, locally 6. I decided to go to Lipsi harbor and anchor off. I collected the water hose, disconnected the shore AC, removed the tent, and substituted the chain-spring docking lines by rope double lines. I took in the passarella and stowed it. By 0850 we were off.

Satellite view of Lipsi Harbor Outside Lakki's inlet the wind was variable but mostly from the SE. I opened the headsail but only managed to motor-sail for a mile or two. I had to motor all the way to Lipsi (Λειψοί). The maximum engine RPM, after the tachometer calibration, is 3600. The engine’s manual advises to cruise, at least for the first 50 hours of a new engine, at no higher than 3100 RPM. Now, at 2850 RPM Thetis was going at 6.8 knots. Great! We arrived in Lipsi harbor at 1120 after 14.2 nM. I anchored S of the harbor [37° 17.6' N 26° 45.8' E] in 7 m depth.

I received an e-mail from my brother Nikos, he has found the dinghy mats, he never sent them to Agmar. Near Thetis, also anchored off is the French flagged S/Y Solea. She was also in Archangelos few days ago. She is inhabited by an attractive family. The father, Yiorgos, is a French-Greek and speaks very good greek. His grandfather moved from Kalymnos to Marseilles and established there a sponge store. The mother is from Melanesia. The third member of the crew is a good looking and very active 5 year old girl. The father told me that he has recently retired and sold their house. They bought the boat and plan to make their way slowly to the Pacific.

Thetis was not at anchor very long when a row boat came and told me as well as S/Y Solea that a big ship was expected in the night. Both our boats, where they were presently anchored, would interfere with the maneuvers of the big ship. I was not particularly pleased with this but I moved Thetis about 20 m to the SE.

Later I went ashore with the dinghy to buy bread. The outboard worked fine. In the afternoon the wind reached 14 knots SE but by 6 PM it was down to 2. I went ashore and had an ouzo with the wonderful grilled octopus at the blue-shutter kafenio (café-bar) of Mr. Nikos. Yiorgos from S/Y Solea also came and along with a German couple from a catamaran, anchored near our boats, we had a nice conversation. They had bought the their catamaran in Malaysia and sailed her to the Aegean, via the Red Sea, 4 years ago. Amazing how versatile and fascinating the cruising community is.

Back on Thetis I spoke with my wife Alice on the GSM phone. She has had some medical tests but the results will not be in until tomorrow.

Tuesday May 20, 2008, Day 5

It was a slow starting day. I worked on the computer. Yiorgos from S/Y Solea came with his dinghy and I gave him a copy of the Thetis CD (now most of the information of the CD can be found on line at the Cruiser Wiki, an international cruiser’s guide) and we discussed all the near-by anchorages.

Satellite view of Marathi I tried to raise the anchor but the windlass refused to work. I isolated the problem to the controller. After replacing it with the spare the windlass worked fine. I raised the anchor at 1040. The wind was 2-7 knots from variable directions. We motored the 7.1 nM to Marathi (Μαράθι). The water-maker, once again, refused to start. Not sure what is the problem this time.

We arrived in Marathi [37° 22.1' N 26° 43.6' E] at 1200. I caught, with some difficulty, one of Pandelis’ moorings. There was only one yacht here with a German flag. Soon she left to be replaced by 4 others, also German.

I spent the afternoon quietly reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. In the evening I went ashore to a warm welcome from Pandelis and Katina. After some talk, and before dinner, I went for nice hike. I was very restless waiting for the time, allowing for the time difference, to call my wife Alice in the US. Here I only get a GSM signal on the boat but not while I am on the island. After the walk, I went back on board and tried to call her but her phone was off, and I just left her voice mail.

Back ashore at Pandelis I had a wonderfully grilled fish, mayiatiko, along with zucchini and their salad of fresh caper leaves and fresh soft goat cheese. But although everything here was cooked to perfection, I could not really enjoy myself. Back on Thetis I called Alice again. This time her phone was on. Unfortunately the results of her medical tests are not good. As she was about to board a plane she could not give me all the details but promised to send me an e-mail.

Wednesday May 21, 2008, Day 6

I could not sleep, I got up very early and checked for an e-mail. Sure enough there was the dreaded message from Alice. Not really sure where we stand, she may need to have a long treatment, I may need to fly back to Washington, D.C. I was distraught.

I started preparing to depart for Samos. While doing so, Pandelis, who although is a year older than me, swims every morning a long distance, stopped by on his way back to inquire about my news. I promised to let them all know how things are with Alice.

I cast off at 0725. I made a bad mistake. While I did set a course on the autopilot I did not set in Auto but left it in Standby and went inside the cabin to look at something. Suddenly there was a bang and Thetis stopped. We had hit the little island off Marathi. I jumped out and put the engine in reverse. Fortunately we were not moving fast, and we cleared. The only damage I could see was that one line of the dinghy’s towing sling was cut. It was most likely caught on the propeller while reversing. I also had the impression that the engine was delivering less power than it is normal for its RPM. We proceeded slowly and after clearing the Tiganakia islets and were in open sea I stopped the boat. I put on my mask and flippers and jumped into the 15° C (59° F) water to assess the situation. Sure enough a portion of the cut line was wrapped around the shaft. The keel was only scratched. It was a lucky escape, I guess. I took a knife and cut the line, freeing the shaft.

After that, we proceeded uneventfully to Samos. The wind was 4-16 knots SE and I opened the headsail and motor-sailed for a while but then at 1000 the wind dropped to 2-8 knots SW and it impossible to even motor-sail.

Plan of Samos Marina We arrived in Samos Marina [37° 41.5' N 26° 57.4' E] at 1130 after 24 nM. I had called the marina yesterday advising them of Thetis arrival and I had also hailed them on the VHF channel 9, so they were waiting for me at the fuel dock. I topped the tank with 39 L of fuel and filled all 4 jerry cans. The total bill was €180! Fuel now is very expensive. After re-fueling I was helped into Thetis’ old berth, C11. Everything on the boat was fine with the exception of the water-maker that trips its circuit-breaker. To my amazement, after connecting the battery charger to the shore AC electricity, the water-maker did start. Just in case, it does not work again, I filled it with the biocide solution needed for periods of inactivity in excess of 3 days.

I called my friends in Aramis and they me brought a car. I loaded all the dirty clothes and went to our house in Kalami.

May 22 - 23, 2008

I stayed in Kalami, Samos. The bad news from home are definite. I have to fly back to Washington, D.C. by the end of next week. I am not sure when I will be able to return to Samos and Thetis. All our wonderful summer plans are now sunk. As a small consolation, decided to take Thetis out for a few days and enjoy her while I still can. I washed her down and topped her tanks with fresh water.

Saturday May 24, 2008, Day 7

Satellite view of the San Giorgio Bay, Agathonisi

We departed from the marina at 0950 without any misadventures this time. We headed S towards Agathonisi (Αγαθονήσι). The wind was at first 3-6 knots SW and there was no choice but to motor. We met a large group of dolphins, 4 large and 3 or 4 small ones. They played with Thetis for 10-15 minutes. Lots of fun. At 1030 the wind picked up to 5-10 knots from the west. I opened the genoa and motor-sailed at a nice 6.8 knots. As we were approaching Agathonisi we had a close encounter with a fishing boat that suddenly changed course. The wind increased to 12 knots and after rounding the island I had to roll in the headsail. We arrived in Gaidouravlako (Γαϊδουραύλακο) [37° 27.2' N 26° 57.7' E] at 1245, having covered 17.6 nM. I dropped the anchor in 5 m depth and let out 35 m of chain.

It was nice and quiet. Only another boat the S/Y Atlantic with the Netherlands flag. The water temperature was cold, just 18° C (64.4° F) but I jumped in and snorkeled to the anchor. It was fine.

Later I started thinking about the water-maker problem. It worked when the boat was connected to shore power and the batteries were being charged but not when it was connected just to the battery. When the battery is being charged it has a higher voltage then when it is discharged even when it is full. So, the water-maker circuit-breaker trips when the voltage drops. It has to be defective. I disconnected it and tested it with the multimeter. It does not work. I replaced the faulty circuit-breaker with a spare one and lo and behold the water-maker came to life. Maybe the circuit-breaker is for a 24 V circuit and not for a 12.

With the water-maker mystery solved I turned my attention to making a new towing sling for the dinghy to replace the old one that was mangled by the propeller. That took some time but it was fun, I like rope-work. Full of energy, I re-arranged the left cabin and started a pot-roast to slowly cook.

In the evening, after the sun was down, I had an ouzo and in general enjoyed myself listening to some music. After the roast was cooked, I had my supper. It was very good and there were plenty of it left for more meals. With my supper I had some red wine, home made in Kalami. This year’s wine is better than drinkable. It is the best we have made so far. The night was rather windy.

Sunday May 25, 2008, Day 8

It was a very windy night with gusts over 25 knots. This continued in the morning. I decided not to take any unnecessary chances and took a shore line from the bow to a rock on the W side of the cove. I finished the dinghy tow sling. I was very sleepy and took several small naps. It was too cold for swimming but I put up the tent while keeping the spray hood as a wind shield.

In the afternoon I tried to turn on the genset, mostly as a test, but it would not run. I turned on the engine and run it for about half an hour. This not only charged the batteries but made some deliciously hot water for a pleasant shower.

In the evening I took the dinghy to main harbor San Giorgio about 1 nM away. I took a nice long walk up the steep hill to Megalo Chorio and back. After the walk I sat at Glaros restaurant and had an ouzo followed by a salad and two very fresh and perfectly grilled small lithrinia (red snappers). A simple but delicious meal. What more can one ask?

Back aboard Thetis it was still windy but less that it was in the afternoon.

Monday May 26, 2008, Day 9

This was a nice and pleasant day. In the morning I went ashore, here in Gaidouravlako, and took a long hike up the hills. Later, despite the cold water 16° C (61° F), I swam for some time.

I had brought from our garden in Kalami some tiny zucchini and young potatoes. These I sliced and and with some onion rings, thyme, and olive oil I arranged in a pyrex tray and baked them in the oven. This is a traditional Samian dish called tourlou (τουρλού). I had it for supper and it was great. Good food, good wine, soft music, and a brilliantly lit starry sky, can a sailor ask for more?

Tuesday May 27, 2008, Day 10

I woke up fairly early. After a cup of coffee and checking the e-mail I started preparing for departure. I had to loosen the shore line, go with the dinghy to the rock that it was tied, untie it, coil it and stow it in the sail locker. Then the outboard had to be raised and the dinghy tied with its new sling. Then the anchor had to be raised. By the time all these were done it was 0800 and we were on our way.

The wind was a brisk 20-25 knots NNE. Alas, once again not favorable. Just as well, because I really wanted to give the new engine a thorough workout but I did miss sailing nevertheless. After rounding the SE cape of Agathonisi we had some choppy seas with spray and banging. But, the new engine running at 2800 RPM kept the boat speed, most of the time, at 5.8 knots. Occasionally two or three short waves would combine and brake Thetis down to 4.5 knots but she soon recovered her speed. This behavior is definitely better than with the old engine, or so it seemed to me. It was not the most comfortable ride but I have been in much, much worse conditions. While we were banging, I noticed that one of the dinghy’s oars had come off its oarlock and was dragging in the water held only by its elastic retainer. I immediately stopped Thetis, climbed into the dinghy and retrieved the oar before it got lost. This was the only exciting event of the passage.

Satellite view of East Samos By 1000 the wind was down to 10-15 knots NE and Thetis was moving at 6.5 knots. We arrived in the cove W of Klima (Κλήμα), Samos [37° 42.4' N 27° 02.3' E] at 1130 after 19.3 nM. I dropped the anchor in 6 m depth over sand, avoiding the weed, and let out 35 m of chain. After shutting down the engine, I snorkeled and checked the anchor, it was nicely set. I put up the tent and had lunch.

Today was the hottest day since I arrived in Greece. In the afternoon the cabin temperature reached 29° C (84° F), 30 % humidity, and 1009 mB pressure. Later, after the obligatory ouzo, I went ashore to eat at the Kantuna restaurant. The owner, few years ago, before the marina in Pythagorio was usable, was kind enough to look after Thetis when I had left her anchored off for a few weeks while I was with my family in Kalami. I did have a nice meal of grilled octopus followed by katsikaki tou fournou (baked young goat) along with a bottle of Ageri dry Samian white wine. The shock, however, came with the bill: €39! Good grief!

I had a peaceful and totally uneventful night afloat.

Wednesday May 28, 2008, Day 11

After waking up I raised the outboard and pulled up the anchor. It was 0830. No wind at all. Once more it was motoring. We motored 5.6 nM east, past Cape Gatos to Mikri Lakka (Μικρή Λάκκα) [37° 45.5' N 27° 01.6' E] where we arrived at 0940 and anchored in 8.5 m depth.

The day was already getting hot so I put up the tent. There was no one else here, just splendid isolation. The most exciting thing that happened after I swam in the cold 16° C (61° F) water, was the arrival of a large blue-gray heron. It stayed ashore not far from Thetis from for 2-3 hours and I had a good chance to observe it with the binoculars.

In the evening I had to re-anchor because in the strong afternoon breeze, reaching 18 knots, the anchor had slowly dragged. After the sun went down I removed the tent and in preparation of leaving the boat for an extended and unknown period in the marina, I raise the dinghy on deck. This operation takes about one hour. First you remove the oars and tie a line on one side and lead it around the bottom of the dinghy to the other side. Then, you bring the dinghy along side and with the halyard tied to that line raise the dinghy enough so that you can flip it, still in the water, upside down. You then bring it back to the stern and climb on its keel where you attach a 3-point sling. To the center of the sling you attach a block and tackle. Then, you bring the upturned dinghy once more along side and attach the halyard to the block and tackle. At this point, you can easily raise the dinghy by a combination of the block and tackle and the halyard and its winch.

For dinner I boiled some spaghetti and ate it with left-over roast. It was a very quiet night.

Thursday May 29, 2008, Day 12

I woke up early and started collecting and stowing things in the boat in view of her long stay in the marina. Departed Mikri Lakka at 0710. The wind was from the SE anywhere between 5 and 16 knots, we motor-sailed again with the genoa fully opened. I lashed down the dinghy on the deck and covered it. We arrived in Samos Marina at 0850 after 9.2 nM.

I collected my things, closed Thetis and left her. Who knows how long she has to stay? Who knows when I will be back?