Travels with S/Y Thetis

Thetis only

2011: Samos to Levitha & back

This web page contains the logs of a sailing trip that I and my wife Alice took with S/Y Thetis in the East Aegean in Greece. On this trip we were accompanied by my cousin, Connie Newcomb, and her family who chartered a sailboat from Samos. The logs cover a period of 10 days of sailing from Samos Marina and back along the islands of Marathi, Patmos (Livadhi tou Geranou, Skala), Levitha, Kalymnos (Emporio), Leros (Vromolithos, Archangelos), Lipsi (Papandria), Tiganakia, Arki, 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 from Samos to Levitha & back
Route from Samos to Levitha & back

Thursday June 2, 2011

The Newcomb family, consisting of my cousin Connie, her husband Jim, their daughter Margaret (23), and son Andrew (21) arrived in Samos. I met them at the airport and took them to the Doryssa hotel where they checked in. Jim is a medical doctor, Andrew, who is very musical, is finishing college, while Margaret is a young and aspiring opera singer.

They had reserved a 49' charter boat, the King Polycrates, from Yiannis Tsaparikos of Samos Sail for a 10 day cruise starting the next day. I have known Yiannis for over 20 years and recommended his company to Connie and Jim.

At 1020 Jim, Andrew, and I took Thetis outside the Samos Marina and I gave them a private lesson in anchoring and driving the boat in reverse, preparing them for possible stern-to moorings. This technique is very rarely used in the East Coast of the US where they learned how to sail. After I showed them the techniques, they took turns–one driving the boat while the other tended the anchor. They both caught on very quickly. We then returned to the marina at 1210.

In the late afternoon they visited their boat King Polykrates, already in the marina, and met Yiannis and his son Grigoris. The Newombs were able to move some of their belongings on board.

Friday June 3, 2011, Day 1

While Jim and Andrew were given an orientation of their Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 49 Connie, Margaret, Alice and I did some provision shopping in the marina’s market.

Satellite view of Arki & Marathi
Arki & Marathi

When the orientation and the shopping were completed, Thetis departed from the marina at 1140 with Alice and me, followed by King Polykrates with the Newcombs. We were heading for Marathi. The wind was 10-18 knots from the NNW. We headed for the southern tip of Arki, first motor-sailing with both sails. Soon the wind was from the NW, and after turning off the engine we had a very nice broad reach, sometimes doing 8 knots. We saw a school of dolphins who followed us for a while. King Polykrates was some distance behind Thetis.

We arrived in Marathi [37° 22' N 26° 43.6' E] at 1545 and we easily caught one of Pantelis’ moorings. Immediately after mooring we lowered the dinghy and were ready for the arrival of King Polykrates. I went to another vacant mooring and was ready to hand its line to Andrew at the bow while Jim was driving the boat. It took two attempts, but it is not easy to learn how to approach a mooring with such a large and unfamiliar boat without bow-thrusters.

In the evening we all went ashore for a walk and ended up at Pantelis’. I had called Pandelis earlier and we were expected. They had put aside for us 3 large and very fresh sargoi - σαργοί (White seabream - Diplodus sargus). We first had octopus with caper leaves, Katina’s salad with local soft cheese, and fried fresh squid. These were followed by the fish grilled to perfection. It was a very good meal and a good ending of the first day of our 10-day cruise.

The Grilled Fish
The grilled fish
Courtesy of Margaret & Connie Newcomb

Saturday June 4, 2011, Day 2

Satellite view of Patmos

After a good night’s sleep and a slow morning start, we left Marathi at 1140. Our destination was the cove of Livadhi tou Geranou [37° 20.7' N 26° 35.3' E] in Patmos. We had a very nice NW breeze of 15-19 knots and were able to sail with the full headsail and the tent over the cockpit. Although King Polykrates left after Thetis, they put up both sails and overtook us near Patmos.

Before our departure Jim and I figured out (there was no manual) how to place and receive calls with the DSC of King Polykrates’ VHF. This way we were able to communicate while underway and I was able to warn them after they overtook us of the nasty reef at the cove’s entrance. DSC is a great feature, underused by most boat owners. When you place a call to another boat also equipped with DSC, the unit makes a loud sound and after acknowledging the incoming call automatically switches to a working frequency.

Thetis under sail
Thetis under sail
Courtesy of Margaret & Connie Newcomb
King Polykrates under sail
King Polykrates under sail
Panayia Geranou
The family at Panayia Geranou

We had a nice swim and an afternoon rest. In the late afternoon we took both dinghies to the Panayia Geranou cove, about 1 mile to the E, and walked up the path to the small chapel.

Back in Kalami, Alice had prepared a chicken roast along with potatoes. We took this catered meal to King Polykrates where Alice warmed the potatoes in the oven and made a Greek salad. We also brought 4 bottles of Kalami 2009 wine. We all had a very pleasant dinner in the spacious King Polykrates’ cockpit.

Sunrday June 5, 2011, Day 3

Thetis left the cove at 0918 and motored, towing the dinghy, for 3.5 M to the harbor of Patmos Skala [37° 19.7' N 26° 32.7' E] where we arrived at 1020. We anchored and moored without any trouble stern-to since the dinghy was now at the bow and we were able to deploy the passarella. It took Jim two attempts to moor King Polykrates, also stern-to. This was remarkable considering that it is such a large boat and since he had never before performed this maneuver.

A sign in Skala
An interesting sign in Skala, next to Thetis

It was too late for a morning visit to the Monastery of Saint John which was going to close at 1:30 PM. But we confirmed that it would open at 4:00. At 3:30 we called for two taxis. We were at the monastery’s door at exactly 4:00 PM (but it actually opened at 4:15). Nevertheless, we had a very pleasant visit since there were only just a few other visitors besides us. Margaret and Connie loved the icons in the museum. The monastery was immaculately clean. After the monastery visit we walked down the path towards Skala. We got a little lost but eventually we did find the Grotto of the Apocalypse (Revelation) which is situated about halfway down the hill. It is completely enclosed by a church.

On the way back to our boats we made a reservation for dinner at the Tzivaeri restaurant which had been recommended to me. The restaurant is situated on a balcony overlooking the sea. I did not regret at all trying this new restaurant! The food was excellent, especially their dolmades, and the moussaka was outstanding. The service, too, was very attentive. And the reservation was absolutely essential. The Tzivaeri was packed!

The only problem experienced on the second day of our trip was the head pump in Thetis which was not drawing water again. I had to bleed it twice before it behaved.

The Tzivaeri restaurant
The Tzivaeri restaurant

Monday June 6, 2011, Day 4

Our plan was to leave Patmos by 9 AM and sail to Levitha. Before 8 I went shopping for fresh bread and some light provisions. Around 8:30 I started preparing for our departure, that is I removed the tent, set a temporary double mooring line (bidemi - μπιντέμι), took in the passarella, etc.

Departing from Skala
Departing from Skala

By 0910 Thetis was outside the harbor and we stopped to raise the dinghy with the new davits. Our technique can be improved and needs some refinement. Eventually the dinghy was up but King Polykrates’ anchor chain was fouled by the anchor of another boat. We went back and offered some advice on how to clear their chain. After some time they disentangled their chain and were free. Another first for the Newcombs. What with one thing and another, we did not depart from Skala until 1020.

We headed downwind and raised the mainsail, after which we opened the full genoa. The wind, however, was light and we had to motor-sail for the first 1½ hour. Taking advantage of running the motor, we turned on the water-maker. Eventually the wind increased to almost 20 knots from the WNW, and we were able to turn off the motor and had a great sail. While sailing we saw a sword fish leaping out of the water.

Satellite view of Levitha
Satellite view of Levitha

Near Levitha we had two close encounters. First with a container ship heading NW and then with a tanker heading SE. In both cases we were warned, with a good margin, by the AIS of the impending collision. I tried hailing them using the DSC number shown on the AIS, but neither ship responded. I then hailed them on the VHF channel 16 using their name, also shown on the AIS, and in both cases there was a response and the ships agreed to course corrections.

We arrived in Levitha [37° 0.15' N 26° 28.2' E] at 1425 after 26 M. We easily caught a mooring. In the meantime King Polykrates, coming behind us at some distance, increased speed and succeeded in entering the Levitha fijord ahead of a catamaran also heading for the entrance. King Polykrates very luckily caught the last available mooring.

The protected anchorage in Levitha
The protected anchorage in Levitha
Courtesy of Margaret & Connie Newcomb

Following our arrival we put up the tent, swam, rested, etc.

In the evening the crews of both Thetis and King Polykrates went ashore and trekked to the Kamposos family hamlet where, after we exchanged greetings with the whole family, we had a pleasant dinner. The little taverna was as crowded as I have ever seen it. We were served, with plenty of red wine, grilled cheese (saganaki - σαγανάκι), stifado - στιφάδο (a stew with wine and onions), lamb grilled patties, and pot roasted goat in tomato sauce katsikaki kokinisto - κατσικάκι κοκκινιστό (young goat). These were followed by spoon sweets of candied lemon and seville orange (nerantzaki - νερατζάκι).

Finally, well fed, we made our way back on the rough path using our flashlights. There I had some difficulty with the dinghy’s painter. Its pelican cleat was stuck and it took considerable force to clear it.

It was a windy but calm and very humid, 88%, night.

You know it is fresh
Courtesy of Margaret & Connie Newcomb

Tuesday June 7, 2011, Day 5

Satellite view of Kalymnos

Thetis departed from Levitha at 0935. King Polykrates was not ready to leave yet. We managed to sail with both sails for better than 2 hours at which time the wind dropped and we had to roll in the complaining headsail, start the engine, and motor-sail running the water-maker. Allowing for the time we ran it yesterday and the time today, it should have produced over 60 L of fresh water. Nonetheless the tanks were not full.

We arrived in Emporio, Kalymnos [37° 02.7' N 26° 55'] at 1400. We had come 25 M from Levitha. Without any trouble we caught one of Captain Kosta’s moorings, put up the tent, and waited for King Polykrates which arrived 2 hours later.

In the evening all of us went ashore where we took a long walk. We then sat at Captain Kosta’s restaurant where we had chtapodokeftedes - χταποδοκεφτέδες (fried octopus balls), Kalymnian salad (salad over hard tack), saganaki - σαγανάκι (grilled cheese), kalamarakia - καλαμαράκια (small fried squid), grilled sword fish, and tuna. We all had a most enjoyable evening.

Emborios, Kalymnos

Emborios, Kalymnos
Courtesy of Margaret & Connie Newcomb

ouzo time

Ouzo time: Margaret, Andrew, Jim, Vasilis, Alice
Courtesy of Margaret & Connie Newcomb

Wednesday June 8, 2011, Day 6

Satellite view of Leros

We first took the trash ashore and then cast off at 0918. Because of the light headwind, 8-12 knots NNW we, motored, running the water-maker, north along the east side of Leros. At 1205 and after 10.2 M we arrived at Vromolithos [37° 08.8' N 26° 51.7' E] where we anchored in 5 m depth.

View from Vromolithos
The castle and Panteli from Vromolithos
Courtesy of Margaret & Connie Newcomb

Running the water-maker for all this time, I calculated that it should had produced 80 L of water, substantially more than what we have consumed. However, the tanks were still not full. I called Mastro Michalis at Agmar Marine and told him about this. I also told him that we had been taking a small amount of salt water in the bilge near the ground-plate bolts. After a short time Panayiotis, the electrician and overall troubleshooter for Agmar Marine, called back. After referring to his notes Panayiotis told me that the valve positions for the water-maker output could be reversed. So instead of the produced water being fed to the tanks, the produced water was being discharged into the sea. And during the first 3-5 minutes of the water-maker's operation the salt water was being fed into the tanks! We shall see if this is so.

Sometime later King Polykrates arrived and anchored nearby. We all had lunch and a nice swim.

Thetis left Vromolithos at 1531 and, once again, motored while running the water-maker with its valves at the reversed position. We headed N and at 1700 we arrived in the little islet of Archangelos [37° 11.9' N 26° 46.3' E] just north of Leros. We anchored in 4.5 m depth over sand and let out 30 m of chain.This time the water level in the tanks had risen appreciably but they were still not full. Our total distance from Emborios was 18.5 M.

It was fairly calm here. After a while King Polykrates arrived and anchored not far from Thetis.

Alice and I were invited for dinner aboard King Polykrates. Connie had prepared appetizers and spaghetti with tomato sauce. We also brought from Thetis a small head of Leros krasotiro κρασότυρο (wine cheese) and grated Grana cheese for the spaghetti. Everything was consumed along with plenty of ouzo and wine.

Courtesy of Margaret & Connie Newcomb

Thursday June 9, 2011, Day 7

Satelite View of Lipsi

We departed from Archangelos at 0910. There was no wind, just a 0-5 knot variable breeze. We motored for 6.4 M to Papandria [37° 16.8' N 26° 46.2' E] on the island of Lipsi running the water-maker and charging the MacBook’s batteries. Before reaching Papandria at 1015 the water tanks were full. So Panayiotis was indeed right.

We anchored in 4 m depth over sand and let out 30 m of scope. I then snorkeled and verified that our anchor was nicely set. About 1 hour later King Polykrates also arrived and anchored without any problems. Jim snorkeled and checked their anchor. Then everyone swam and enjoyed the lovely cove with its emerald-green clear water.

But at mid-afternoon suddenly the clear sky became overcast and a stiff SW breeze arose. It was cold in the cockpit under the tent without long sleeves and pants and the SW breeze blew the boats towards the shore. They were, however, still secure–if not too comfortable. Then, at around 6 PM the clouds left us and we were once again bathed in glorious sunshine.

All 6 of us landed ashore with the dinghies and walked for about 45 minutes to the town and sat at the Nick’s & Louli’s taverna, formerly known as simply the “Blue Tent Café,” where we had lots of ouzo and perfectly grilled sun-dried octopus, as well as other mezedes (tasty appetizers). Following this we went to the bakery that stays open in the evening and bought fresh bread and indulged in some pastries. Then, the long walk up and down the hill to our cove and boats. Alas, an appreciable SW swell had developed and as a result we had a rolling night.

Nick's & Louli's Café

Nick’s & Louli’s
Courtesy of Margaret & Connie Newcomb


Enjoying the mezedes: Andrew, Aliki, Jim, Connie, & Margaret
Courtesy of Margaret & Connie Newcomb

Friday June 10, 2011, Day 8

Satellite view of Arki & Marathi
Arki & Marathi

At 0900 we left Papandria, Lipsi. Now the wind was 5-11 knots from the WSW. We motored north running the water-maker along the east side of the island. We arrived at our destination, the Tiganakia [37° 21.6' N 26° 45' E], at 1040. Tiganakia is a group of islets S of Arki and SE of Marathi. The water here is nothing short of fantastic.

We anchored in 4 m depth over the clear sand and let out 25 m of chain because there was limited swinging room. We had come 7.9 M from Papandria. The new solar cell panels were performing very well, exceeding my expectation. We have not had any need to run the genset since we left Samos a week ago. The only possible problem with Thetis was that a small amount of water, about ¼ of a liter per day, seemed to collect in the bilge. I will be observing this.

King Polykrates soon arrived and anchored not too far away from Thetis.

Later a helicopter arrived and landed on a very small flat spot on the islet near us. Right away a jet-ski from a large motor-cruiser anchored about a mile away sped to meet the helicopter. The single passenger with a duffle bag climbed on the jet-ski and was taken to the cruiser. The helicopter’s pilot in the meantime covered the tips of its blades and tied them down to stakes that he hammered on the ground. By that time the noisy jet-ski was back and took him to the cruiser.

The beautiful water at Tiganakia

The beautiful water at Tiganakia

Cruiser with Helicopter

Cruiser with helicopter
Courtesy of Margaret & Connie Newcomb

In the evening the crew of King Polykrates came aboard Thetis and we all had an ouzo. Then we all boarded our dinghies and after a somewhat wet ride arrived at the Steno cove in Arki where the Apolafsis - Απόλαυσης taverna is located. The owner, his wife, Isidoros–their grown son who runs the taverna–were delighted to see Aliki. Several years ago she had given them anti-mosquito bracelets and they have never forgotten it. We had a fairly good meal. The usual mezedes: grilled calamari (large but very fresh squid), local hard goat cheese, Greek salad, fried zucchini, and beets with skordalia - σκορδαλιά (a garlic and olive oil spread). Then Aliki and Connie had very good pork chops while the rest of us had pork souvlaki (kebab). Everything was good. To top it all off, at the end we were served, gratis, freshly made loukoumades - λουκουμάδες (dough fritters) with plenty of honey.

The ride back to our anchorage was uneventful and dry despite the forecasted 10-15 knot NW wind.

Wet dinghy ride
The rough dinghy ride to Steno
Courtesy of Margaret & Connie Newcomb

Saturday June 11, 2011, Day 9

We had a quiet night and slept well in the enchanted anchorage of Tiganakia.

In the morning I connected to the Internet and received several forecasts. They all predicted light NW winds, less than force 5. We debated whether to put up the tent before departing since the prospects of actual sailing seemed rather remote. Finally we decided to wait until we reached open water and then see. We raised the dinghy. Our technique for raising the dinghy to the davits keeps improving but it was still not perfect.

By 0915 the anchor was up and we were underway. Once we had left the sheltered area the wind was about 10 knots from the NW and sailing looked possible. We uncovered the mainsail, raised it, and opened the small bimini under the boom. After that we unfurled the headsail to about 75%.

For a while we had a very nice sail but the wind increased to 20-25 knots and it was very gusty and not always from the NW. The autopilot in its track mode had difficulty maintaining our course to Agathonisi. I reduced the headsail to 50% and we sailed nicely for a little more. But then the gusts were reaching into the lower 40s.

It was around 1000 when something very strange and unexpected happened. The autopilot again had trouble keeping our course and I decided to reduce some more the headsail. This was the last thing that I remember. I suddenly found myself totally dazed and very disoriented on top of Alice. My left ear was bleeding profusely and there was blood all over. Alice, who was looking towards the stern at the autopilot, said that I had fallen with my full weight on her face. It all happened very quickly and neither of us knew exactly what had actually happened. We surmised that when I got up to reduce the sail the boat lurched, I lost my balance, fell possibly either on the winch or the top of the companionway where I struck my ear, lost consciousness, and then fell on her. I simply had no memory of this.

Satellite view of Agathonisi

Alice got paper towels and pressed them on my ear which had what appeared to her a large laceration. I also had several smaller cuts and bruises elsewhere on the left side of my head near the ear. While pressing the paper towel on my left ear, I reduced the headsail and we continued, somewhat shaken, sailing to Agathonisi.

About 1 hour later we were close to our destination. We rolled in the headsail and lowered, not too neatly, the mainsail. At 1110 we were at the Gaidouravlako (Γαϊδουραύλακκο) cove [37° 27.2' N 26° 57.65' E] in Agathonisi. I dropped the anchor in 3 m depth over a patch of sand and let out 30 m of chain. I was still bleeding. We had come 13.4 eventful miles from Tiganakia.

After a while King Polykrates arrived. By that time we had already lowered our dinghy. We directed them where to drop their anchor on the same sandy patch so as not to foul it with ours. It was calm here but gusty.

As soon as King Polykrates was secured we called for Jim, who is a medical doctor, a radiologist, for his expert help. I went with the dinghy and brought him to Thetis. In the meantime Alice had dug out our very complete medical kit, a suitcase with both medicines and first aid equipment. This kit was professionally prepared for extended voyages and we have almost never used it in the ten years we have owned it. After taking stock of what was actually packed in the suitcase, Jim found almost everything he needed, especially a kit for stitching lacerations and an anesthetic spray. After cleaning the blood and disinfecting the area, he put four stitches in the horizontal cut on my ear. Even after he dressed the wound there was still some bleeding. He assured me that even if I had a mild concussion now I was OK. He said that the cut was consistent with a blow from a blunt object and that having some amnesia was not abnormal. We were extremely lucky to have had Jim with us. Not sure what Alice and I would have done otherwise. Probably go on for 17 more miles to Samos and then seek medical attention.

After lunch, because the two boats were swinging uncomfortably close to each other with the, by then, even stronger gusts, Jim and I took a long line to a rock and tied its other end to Thetis’ bow. We then tied a shorter line also from Thetis’ bow to King Polykrates’ stern. These two lines completely stabilized the boats.

In the evening the King Polykrates’ crew went ashore to San Giorgio for dinner but Alice and I decided that we had had too much adventure for one day and stayed aboard Thetis where Alice made some rice with tuna.

Despite my wound, which was hurting, I slept surprisingly well.

In Agathonisi
Both boats safely secured in Gaidouravlako, Agathonisi
Courtesy of Margaret & Connie Newcomb

Sunday June 12, 2011, Day 10

This was the last day of our cousins’ charter. They will be flying out of Samos tomorrow morning so they must return King Polykrates to the Samos Marina by tonight. They will sleep aboard and take a taxi in the morning to the airport.

Mycale, Samos

We prepared for departure. First we untied the line between the two boats, then the shoreline, and then raised the dinghy. Thetis’ anchor was up by 0940 and we motored the 19.1 M to Mycale Bay in Samos. The wind was 10-18 knots NNW, a headwind. We ran the water-maker and filled the tanks. We had also put up the tent so we were rather comfortable. We arrived at Mycale Bay [37° 42.1' N 26° 58.8' E] at 1300 and anchored in 4 m depth.

While we were having lunch King Polykrates also came and anchored nearby. Swimming was out of the question for me. I took a nap. Around 6 PM I started preparing Thetis for the marina and King Polykrates departed for the fuel pump. Thetis took her time and did not leave until 1900. We motored the 1.5 M and by 1910 we were moored at our berth in the Samos Marina (Σάμος Μαρίνα) [37° 41.45' N 26° 57.3' E].

After an emotional good-by to our lovely cousins, Alice and I left for our home in Kalami. Despite my wounded ear it was a very nice cruise. Certainly memorable!