This web page contains the logs of the first leg of a 26-day solo sailing trip that I took with S/Y Thetis to the Sporades and the Cyclades in Greece. The logs cover a period of 14 days of sailing from the island of Samos (Samos Marina) to the island of Tzia (Koundouros) via the islands of Chios (Salangonas, Limnia), Lesvos (Skala Eresou, Sigri ), Kyra-Panayia (Planitis, Kyra-Panayia), Skopelos (Staphylos, Panormos), Skiathos (Skiathos Harbor, Koukounaries), Alonnisos (Votsi), Peristera (Peristera), Skyros (Sarakino), and Evia (Karystos). The logs include some historical and geographical descriptions of the places visited as well as several links to other related web sites.
Wednesday July 27, 2011
In the morning we prepared to leave from Kalami for a few weeks. Alice will fly to Athens and tomorrow to Washington, D.C., while I will move to Thetis and sail tomorrow north, probably to the Sporades and meet with my brother Nikos who is sailing there with the Faneromeni and then on to Kea and visit my younger brother Byron and his wife Ivi.
While the sun was low in the morning we carried a load to the car, up from our path to the road. I had already shopped for boat provisions on Monday and Tuesday. Also I had installed a new flux gate compass, bypassing the old one in the hope that it was the source of the autopilot problem.
We left Kalami around 3 PM for the airport where we were in time for Alice’s 4:20 flight. After seeing Alice go through security I drove to the marina. Fortunately, yesterday I had put up the tent and Thetis was not as hot as she could be. She was nevertheless hot enough, 32° C (89.6 ° F) inside the cabin. I arranged my clothes and stored the provisions.
Around 6 PM I met Dr. Eleni Skouta at the marina café and we were soon joined by her husband Dr. Stamatis Skoutas. The Skoutas are neighbors from Kalami and Stamatis is a fellow sailor. Eleni thinks that she and her environmental organization may be of help with the sewage pollution problem. I promised to write her a brief description of the problem and its history and e-mail it to her along with some photographs.
I contemplated departing for SW Chios tonight but I was too tired. Instead I went to the marvelous outdoor movie Cine Rex in the village of Vourliotes. The movie is in a nicely planted yard decorated with old agricultural implements. It has tables with armchairs around them. You can buy beer and other drinks and take them to your table. Before the performance a very tall young girl comes around and takes orders for a pizza. During the first part of the show (there is at least one intermission) the pizza that you had ordered is brought to your table. Then, at the intermission the girl and the owner, Mr. Orestes, comes and collects the 7€ per pizza price. After the intermission on the second showing, Mr. Orestes and his father bring you loukoumades - λουκουμάδες (fried “donuts” with honey). These are on the house. The film shown was Pirates of the Caribbean.
Tuesday July 28, 2011, Day 1
I woke up around 5 AM, not having slept very well. I had a cup of coffee and prepared for departure: I collected the water hose and the shore power cord, replaced the heavy lines with springs at the bow with a temporary doubled line, took them in and secured the passarella, etc.
I cast off at 0606. As soon as we cleared the marina I calibrated the newly installed flux gate compass. This is done by making several 360° turns at a speed under 2 knots. It had a large deviation of 50°. But, after this the autopilot still exhibited its erratic behavior by causing large swings on the course. I adjusted its gain to a lower response which somewhat lessened the problem.
The wind was a light 10-18 knots from the WNW but a headwind to our 290 heading for Chios. There was no chance of actual sailing. We motored with the tent. There was a bad and rather uncomfortable chop. Around 1200 the chop increased and the wind strengthened. It was a slow passage and now there was spray and I had to open the spray hood. I occupied my self with reading my Kindle. I finished reading the The Arabian Nights Entertainments (1001 nights) which I had started 2 months ago and began reading the The Girl Who Played with Fire.
Finally we arrived at Salangonas (Σαλάγονας), Chios (Χίος) [38° 13.3' N 25° 54.8' E] at 1915 after 81.2 sea miles but 70.5 actual. It was calm inside the cove where there was another sailboat with the British flag. I dropped the anchor in 4.5 m depth on a patch of sand and let out 35 m of chain. I then lowered the dinghy from the davits. This freed the swimming ladder and I was then able to snorkel and check the anchor. It was nicely dug in the sand. After that I had a hot shower and an ouzo. I was too tired to start any elaborate cooking. I just boiled some pasta and served it with some fresh tomato sauce which I had brought from Kalami wine.
By 10 PM I was on the front cabin berth. It was nice and cool with neither lights nor mosquitoes. I slept like a log.
Friday July 29, 2011, Day 2
This was a pleasant day at anchor. First thing in the morning while it was cool I went ashore and walked up the road until there was a GSM signal so that I could check my e-mail and get a forecast. Also I sent an e-mail to Alice advising her that I was safely here. The forecast called for force 4-5 NW winds from the NW. There was no message from Alice that she had arrived in Washington, D.C. There was only an SMS from London that she was about to board her next flight.
Back on Thetis I transferred 2 jerry cans of fuel to the main tank. We had burned a lot coming from Samos. I was concerned about the autopilot. I then repaired various odds and ends on the boat. I also started cooking a small pork roast I had bought in Samos. I cooked it in the pot with fresh lemon sauce.
I swam and cleaned the hull from the weed accumulated in the marina. I also changed the Greek flag that had become tattered and torn. Now Thetis is looking like a proper cruising boat. I then did a lot of pleasant snorkeling. During which I met John and Angela, our neighbors with their S/Y. They invited me for a drink at 6 PM.
When I went to the neigboring S/Y a drink I found that John and Angela, despite their French flag, are from Melbourne, Australia. They had bought their aluminum sailboat 5 years ago in France. She was custom made for a cruising couple with occasional guests. I had a very nice visit with them and by the time I returned to Thetis it was almost 10 PM. I was glad that the pot roast was already cooked. I made some rice to go with it.
There was a lot of swell during the night.
Saturday July 30, 2011, Day 3
I was not sure whether to stay here today or not. But because of the bad GSM signal, the swell, the need to get some fuel, and tomorrow being a Sunday I decided to depart and go to Limnia on the NW of Chios. I raised the anchor at 0748 and left the cove.
I tried to recalibrate the flux gate compass but did not succeed. The autopilot still seems to prefer turning to starboard. I checked all the cables and connectors to its controller, but they all seemed fine. This erratic behavior happens regardless which flux gate compass, each with its own cable, is connected. So, there is no answer yet as to the cause of the autopilot malfunction.
After we motored for a while we got a strong GPRS signal and I was able to check the e-mail. Still there was no message from Alice. I also ran the water-maker. It works properly. I then checked the bilge while the water-maker was operating since last time there was water in the bilge only after the water-maker was used but otherwise not even a drop. Now there was indeed a small amount of water. I checked the intake water hoses and those under the sink were indeed moist. I tightened all their clamps and sponged all of the water in the bilge. We will see after some more water-maker operating time.
There was no wind and I was frustrated having to motor all the way. We arrived in Limniá (Λιμνιά) a little before noon and I entered the harbor but there was no room to moor side-to. I tried to call the fuel station in Volissos but there was no answer. So, at 1150 I anchored outside the harbor [38° 28.3' N 25° 55.4' E]. We had come 19.8 nM from Salagonas.
I lowered the dinghy and then jumped in the water to cool off because it was very hot. I then went with the dinghy to harbor to get some information. I asked at a bar. The 3 young ladies there were very helpful. First they gave me the correct number but still there was no answer. They then told me that now there is another fuel station. They called it and spoke to a Mr. Markos (they also gave me his mobil number). He promised to deliver fuel at 2:30. I then went back to Thetis and swam some more. After that I raised the anchor, and towing the dinghy, moved into the harbor [38° 28.2' N 25° 55.1' E] at 1310. There was no-one there to help with the stern lines but I managed to moor stern-to all by myself.
After another cooling-off jump in the surprising, for a harbor, clear water I had lunch while waiting for the fuel delivery. The signal here is still GPRS so it is not possible to use Skype that needs 3G. I checked the bilges and to my relief they were dry. I then called Alice in Washington, D.C. She had arrived safely and had sent me a message but I never received it. Anyways I was very relieved. She had problems with the Wi-Fi network at home. I helped trouble shoot it and get it back on line and proper internet communications were stablished.
The fuel came at 3:30. I topped the tank and re-filled the two empty jerry cans. All together I got 100 L for €150. After that I noticed the proximity of several powerful street lights near Thetis and fearing also that there may be mosquitoes I decided to move out of the harbor and anchor again at the near-by cove. So, at 1830, and after another refreshing jump in the water, I did so.
After anchoring I removed the tent and had a hot shower. Following this I had a tiny amount of ouzo and then at around 9 PM I went with the dinghy back in the harbor. I had dinner at the Favori restaurant that specializes in local grilled meats. The food was alright, nothing special, and it cost €15.
Sunday July 31, 2011, Day 4
I was woken up by the swell around 2:34 AM. Since I was up I prepared for departure: I took down the tent and raised the dinghy on the davits.
We departed from Chios at 0330 for Skala Eresou on Lesvos. The wind was light, about 5 knots from NNW, still it was a headwind and we could not use the sails. The autopilot sometimes works fine and then it becomes totally demented making wild fluctuations but favoring right turns and then it behaves normally again. I will try tomorrow to replace its control unit with an older one and see if the fault is in it. I ran the water-maker. After the tanks were full I checked the bilge for water. There was again a small amount but much less then before. I tightened all the ring clamps under the sink. Some were a little loose. We shall see.
I finished reading on the Kindle The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection which I had started back in Washington, D.C. and started Jaycee Dugard’s A Stolen Life an actual story of a kidnapped 11 year old girl held captive for 18 years. While closing in on Lesvos there was a strong 3G signal, I turned on the MacBook and checked the e-mail. I also ordered via the Internet a biocide and filters for the water-maker.
At 1115 and after 47.5 sea miles, but actually only 43.3, we arrived at Skala Eresou (Σκάλα Ερεσού) on Lesvos (Λέσβος) [39° 08' N 25° 55.7' E]. It is very nice, I have not been here before, and I anchored in 4 m depth letting out 30 m of chain. I launched the dinghy and swam checking the anchor. Then I had lunch and fell asleep in the cockpit. I was woken up by the roar of speed boat towing squealing children on several inflated floats. The speed boats came so close to Thetis that it was unbearable.
I was planning to spend the night here but now I decided to depart for Sigri, a few miles W from here. I was also hoping to speak to Alice on Skype but the GSM signal was only slow GPRS and not the needed 3G. I raised the dinghy on the davits, lashing it in a different way, hoping for an improvement. That seemed to work. I also replaced the autopilot control unit with an older one that I had kept as a spare. I did not connect it to the two SeaTalk cables since it has different connectors.
We departed at 1440 and motored to Sigri, 7.8 nM away with a 15-20 knots WNW headwind. I am beginning to think that I have a motor cruiser and not a sailboat! The autopilot misbehaved again but less so. Maybe the SeaTalk cables have a fault and interfere with the autopilot operation. At any rate, the controller unit is not faulty. Along the way I saw a shipwrecked freighter, and on the small island at the entrance of Sigri Bay, the remains of a sailboat that ran aground many years ago. We arrived at Sigri (Σίγρι) [39° 12.5' N 25° 51.2' E] at 1630. I anchored just S of the Castle in 6 m depth and let out 40 m of chain.
It is lovely and quiet here and there have been no changes since my last visit 5 years ago. There was a nice breeze under the tent and it was comfortable, not too hot. After checking the anchor and a cup of much needed coffee I reconnected the original autopilot controller, cleaning and tightening all of its contacts. Next passage will tell.
Once again the GSM reception was marginal. There were 2 other sailboats nearby: a Greek flagged and a German. The Greek boat left shortly after Thetis’ arrival. I had an ouzo and removed the tent so that I can see the stars during the night. I then roasted some potatoes in oven with just a little olive oil, garlic, and thyme. I ate these with a few slices from the pork roast.
After admiring the stars for a while I went to bed.
Monday August 1, 2011, Day 5
I was woken, just before 6, by mosquitoes. I burned one of the repellent spiral coils inside the front cabin in an attempt to discourage them from staying there another day. I turned on the MacBook, received the e-mails, and checked the weather. It will be cooler today with a northerly breeze.
Back on Thetis I called Panayiotis in Agmar Marine and discussed Thetis’ problems, especially the autopilot. I then called the lawyer in Samos who had made no progress toward solving the sewage pollution problem. Very frustrating!
I swam a great deal and read. I also washed the dinghy and in the afternoon transferred one jerry can of fuel to the tank. I looked at the forecasts. They are now predicting stronger winds on Wednesday. I debated with myself whether to stick to my plan and sail to Ayios Efstratios, 44 nM from here, and then to Kyra Panayia in the Sporades or to go directly to Kyra Panayia some 83 nM departing tonight. I was somewhat afraid, being singlehanded, of the small harbor in Ayios Efstratios and possible strong winds on Wednesday. At any rate I did not want to arrive at either place late so I had to depart tonight.
The new solar panels combined with the wind generator and the 15 knot breeze, have totally replaced the 45 Ah consumed during the night.
As I was getting ready for an ouzo and while the sun was sinking, a Turkish 50" Benetau came and anchored nearby.
After a hot shower I went ashore to the Remetzo restaurant overlooking the bay. My brother Nikos favors it and when he is here with the Faneromeni he takes a shore line to the small concrete pier just under the restaurant. The owner, Miltos, not only remembered him but also remembered me and Alice. I ordered their special salad with cubes of dried bread (παξιμάδι), and 4 very nicely grilled fresh barbounia - μπαρμπούνια (red mullets - mullus surmuletus). Next to my table sat the crew of the Turkish sailboat. A lady and a gray haired gentleman with an impressive mustache sat at the end of a double table. At the opposite end sat a younger man. They, too, had barbounia which they ate with great relish. We started a conversation across the tables. He is Kemal Zavaro and they had come from the Atakoy Marina in Istanbul where they keep their boat. Soon the young man, obviously the crew, left but the couple stayed and we continued our conversation. Then they called the crewman with their portable VHF and he came back with their dinghy to take them on board.
Based on the forecasted strong winds I decided not to go to Ayios Efstratios but leave right away for Kyra Panayia, Kyra Panayia (Pelagos on many charts). As soon as I returned to Thetis I began my preparations. I raised the dinghy, using the new system. This turned out to be a mistake.
Tuesday August 2, 2011, Day 6
We departed from Sigri at 0005! Thank goodness for the Radar and the GPS/Plotter because the night was pitch black and the bay is surrounded by few islands. I easily negotiated getting out of the bay into open water and assumed a heading of 273. The wind was 15-25 knots from the NNE, a reach. I opened the headsail but chickened out raising the mainsail. As it was, we were doing fine. The first 10 miles were very pleasant, but on the AIS I could see many ships ahead moving in clusters either N or S.
The next 10 miles were, to say the least, challenging. As we were nearing at least 3 ships with a small predicted closest approach, the dinghy was dislodged from its supports and started to ominously swing from the davits. I improvised extra lashing using several lines while every so often going in the cabin to keep an eye on the AIS and the approaching ships. Part of the dinghy problem was caused by my new tie-down system. It failed to keep the swinging support arms outboard and part was caused by the erratic behavior of the autopilot that did not maintain a smooth course but zig-zaged. I had to interrupt the lashing of the dinghy, keeping my fingers crossed that I will not loose it, while changing Thetis’ course to avoid collision. So went the second 10 miles. Eventually the dinghy was securely lashed and the cluster of ships went their merry way while Thetis kept moving towards her destination.
While most of the time the wind cooperated, I had to turn on the engine twice for about one hour each. Taking advantage of the engine I also ran the water-maker and filled the water tanks.
During this whole long passage there was hardly any GSM signal, so communications and forecast updates were out. I did prepare an e-mail on the iPhone to Alice advising her of the change of plans and that I will be incommunicado while in Planitis. It somehow it did manage to transmit it while we were between the islands of Piperi and Kyra-Panayia.
Finally we arrived at Planitis (Πλανήτης), Kyra-Panayia (κυρα-Παναγιά) or Pelagos (Πέλαγος) [39° 20.6' N 24° 04.7' E] at 1415 after 87.5 sea nM but only 84.3 actual. I anchored in 6.5 m depth with 40 m of scope in this calm and totally land-locked anchorage. There were several sailboats and 2 motor cruisers but all scattered and some distance from Thetis. I lowered the dinghy, took a dip in the water to cool off, put up the tent, and had lunch and a beer. After that I took a much needed nap under the tent.
I spent the rest of the day reading. Several new boats came. When the sun was low on the horizon I removed the tent, and had an ouzo. I felt rather lazy so for dinner I just made a potato omelet and then went to bed.
Wednesday August 3, 2011, Day 7
I slept very deeply and it was past 7 AM when I woke up. I had my coffee and read for a while. I have been reading Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina which is so long and convoluted that in order to take a brake from it, after a reading a chapter I read alternatively a chapter from either The Girl Who Played with Fire or A Stolen Life.
Eventually I decided to move to the Kyra-Panayia cove on the S side of the Kyra-Panayia island. There were some black clouds on the distant horizon and I could faintly hear some thunder. I raised the dinghy, this time lashing it with a new variation of the “old” system. We shall see if this is an improvement. I raised the anchor but instead of leaving directly, taking advantage of the calm I recalibrated the old flux-gate compass by making three 360° turns at very slow speed. This did it and it found a deviation of only 1° instead of the 50° from the new compass that I had installed near the keel. We departed from Planitis at 0940.
The autopilot, with the SeaTalk cables still not connected to it, worked perfectly in its Auto mode. The wind was a 7-12 knot northerly breeze. I opened the headsail and sailed for a while. While doing so I set a waypoint on the GPS/Plotter and set a course to it. I then put the autopilot in its Track mode. It tracked the course perfectly without any of the course fluctuations. Dare I hope that I am closing in on the mystery of what ails the autopilot?
While under way and before entering Kyra-Panayia, there was a weak GSM signal and the iPhone indicated that there was voice-mail. There were 3 messages: 1 from my brother Nikos and 2 from the lawyer in Samos. I was able to speak to both. The lawyer reported no progress on the pollution problem other than that the Assistant Mayor has agreed to meet with our man George. I had to get very firm with him. Nikos is with the Faneromeni in Panormos, Skopelos. He had been experiencing, in the past two days, a number of squalls and thunderstorms and was worried about me. I reassured him that I have been fine but without a GSM signal.
The bliss of sailing did not last. The wind went down to 5 knots and I had to turn on the engine. After 9.3 nM we arrived in the large Kyra-Panayia bay and anchored on its NW side [39° 19.3' N 24° 03.1' E] at 1120. There were 3 other sailboats in the small cove. I dropped the anchor in 6.5 m, some distance from them, and let out 50 m of chain, Thetis stabilizing at 12 m depth.
I snorkeled and checked the anchor. It was fine but while I was having lunch I could see thunderstorms at some distance to the S. This worried me. Yes, Thetis was well anchored for the N wind but if a squall came and the wind shifted to the S we could be in trouble. I decided not to risk it but take a line ashore to a rock on the W. I am very glad that I did so because after a while there was a complete change in the wind. It gusted from the S to the 20s and there were waves into the cove. However, between the anchor to the N and the line to the W, Thetis was held well clear of the rocks. This did not last and soon the wind was the usual northerly breeze.
Later I went ashore for a walk and to take some pictures. A 50' sailboat, obviously chartered, with 4 Greek young couples came and anchored near Thetis and took also a line ashore. It was good to see 8 young and attractive people having so much fun with the sea.
For dinner I boiled some spaghetti and served it with more of the endless pork roast.
Thursday August 4, 2011, Day 8
I washed the cockpit and prepared to depart. First I untied and stowed the shore line and then raised the dinghy. The modified “old” tie-down system seem to be an improvement as it both ties the dinghy down securely and yet allows me to see that its keel rests on the stands.
We departed at 0850. The autopilot, not connected to either SeaTalk cable worked perfectly. I re-calibrated the speed log to correspond closer to the SOG as shown on the GPS.
After we exited the bay there was a reasonable GSM signal and the iPhone indicated 3 voice mails. Two of them were from my brother Nikos. He wanted to know how I did during the thunderstorm yesterday. I called him back. He will be moving the Faneromeni to Agnontas to get some water. I will be going to Votsi in Alonnisos, but we agreed to talk again later. The other message was from the Turkish couple I had met at Sigri. They too wanted to know how I had been during the strong wind on my passage on Tuesday. They tried calling but could not get through. I sent them an SMS thanking them for their interest and assuring them that both I and Thetis are doing alright.
The wind was very light and I opened the headsail, but the wind decreased and I had to motor-sail. After a while the sail started flapping and I had to roll it in.
Around 1145 we reached Votsi (Βότσι), Alonnisos (Αλόννησος), but it was very crowded with sailboats in two tiers. I called Nikos. They were still in Panormos but he urged me to join him in Agnontas in Skopelos (Σκόπελος). Now Agnontas is a small harbor, and when I was there several years ago there was an extremely noisy establishment playing “non classical” music. No way I would go there. I headed to Staphylos (Στάφυλος) [39° 05.1' N 23° 44.9' E] just about 2 nM east of Agnontas. I suggested to Nikos that we meet at the nice restaurant Terpsis about ½ hour walk from Staphylos that specializes in slowly cooked chicken in wine. He will confer with his friends and call me back.
We arrived at Staphylos at 1300 and anchored in 7.5 m. We had come 23.2 nM from Kyra-Panayia. It was very nice and pleasant here.
Nikos called back and we were to meet at Terpsis at 9:30. I had a shower, removed the tent, and had a small ouzo. Around 9 I went ashore and walked the steep uphill to the restaurant. None of Nikos’ party were there yet, but they soon arrived. They were Nikos, and Rozina, her sister Tonia, Tonia’s husband Elias, their two charming daughters Irene and Ariadni whom I remembered as little girls performing in school ballets, a friend of Ariadni, and two couples friends of Tonia and Elias. Altogether a large crowd. The chicken was delicious.
By the time I walked downhill and got aboard it was past midnight.
Friday August 5, 2011, Day 9
Today is Corinna’s (my daughter) birthday. My plan for the day is to sail, if possible, to Skiathos Harbor, do some provision shopping, and most important, have my sunglasses repaired since my glass repair kit has ran out of the tiny screws.
I put up the tent, raised the dinghy, etc. The anchor was up by 0930. We motored to nearby Agnontas (Αγνώντας) and I spoke with Nikos and then headed for Skiathos (Σκιάθος). The wind was a light 5-10 knots from the ENE. I opened most of the headsail and motor-sailed. It was pleasant enough. After 16.3 nM we arrived in Skiathos Harbor [39° 09.9' N 23° 29.7' E] at 1220 and anchored off in 5 m depth with 35 m of chain.
Here there was good 3G signal. I went ashore and found an optical store. The nice lady repaired my glasses and refused any payment. I then located a butcher where I bought some ground meat, then a baker for bread. Near where I left the dinghy I bought some bottled spring water (I do not drink the tasteless water from the water-maker), some fruits, etc. I also inquired about getting some fuel. I spoke to the man with the fuel truck and he assured me that he will be at the harbor at 6 PM.
In the afternoon I took the 2 empty jerry cans and refilled them from the fuel truck.
In the evening I went ashore again and had a nice long walk including a stop at an ATM machine. I ended in the roof-top Mediterraneo restaurant where I had a cray-fish pasta. It was pretty good but not sensational.
By 11 I was back on board Thetis. At that time there were some tiny clouds, but I could see not so distant lightning and heard the thunder so I expected a possible storm. I was not too worried since the anchor was holding well and I had let out plenty of chain. The only small worry was that the wind might shift and that the boat might drift too close to a small row boat on a mooring. I closed the hatches and went to sleep.
It turned out that this night was one of the worst that I have had on Thetis. Around 12:30 I was woken up by a horrible noise. I jumped out. It was raining, not too heavy, and indeed we were very close to the row boat. I put two fenders just in case. But the noise was like continuous thunder, even to my bad ears. It came from a “club” with flashing lights not too close to the boat. That was inside the boat with the hatches closed; outside the sound was painful. There was not much I could do. I went back to bed. But I kept being woken up by a combination of mosquitoes and the “thunder”. I lit a coil for the mosquitoes and put on my hearing aids, without turning them on, to lessen the noise. But even so it was hard to sleep. I thought of moving the boat few miles S to Koukounaries but I did not want to venture this in the rain and possible squalls during the night. So, I greeted my teeth and tried to sleep. Almost as soon as I fell asleep I would wake up fearing that the storm had come but it was the infernal “club.” The noise did not stop until almost 6:30 AM. Then troops of people left the “club.” How did they stand it? Will they have any hearing left? And how about the local residents with nearby houses? How do they sleep? Why are they not taking legal steps?
Saturday August 6, 2011, Day 10
I did some computer work while the cabin was cool and then departed, towing the dinghy, at 0920 for Koukounaries. We motored slowly, just doing 4.5 knots, because the outboard was still on the dinghy. After 6.1 nM we arrived in Koukounaries (Κουκουναριές) [39° 08.8' N 23° 24.1' E] at 1050 and anchored in 8 m depth with 45 m chain scope.
Koukounaries is a gorgeous place but from noon to past 8 PM there was constant water sport traffic: water skiing, jet skis, towing of all sorts of contraptions, you name it. One ski boat in particular had 4 loudspeakers that did no stop blasting the sea at a very high volume. In the meantime, the four shore-based establishments did their best to compete with the ski boats and each other playing loud “music,” not classical, and of course different from each other. The cacophony and the constant wakes did not stop until 8:30 PM. I fantasized sneaking to the little harbor ashore early in the morning armed with a wire cutter and sabotaging the the ski boat’s loudspeakers.
After the place, a nature reserve mind you, was restored to its natural state I cooked the ground meat I had bought yesterday into rageú with fresh tomatoes and wine. This I put in the refrigerator. For dinner I warmed the left over pasta in the oven after sprinkling it with Parmezan and ate it with the last of the pot roast.
It was very nice here after all the concessionaires had left. I suppose that Skiathos must have a bipolar personality: the harbor is nice during the day and a noisy hell during the night, while Koukounaries is the opposite a paradise turned into hell during the day and very tranquil during the night.
I went to bed by 10:30.
Sunday August 7, 2011, Day 11
In the early morning while, having my coffee in the cockpit, I saw at a distance a dolphin swimming very slowly back and forth at the entrance of the bay. After coffee I went ashore and walked in the thick pine wood along the brackish pond. I saw some swans at the other end of the pond and some geese, but they did not look wild because they were white. I also saw a number of hares. This area, as the prominent sign at its entrance proclaims, is one of the three unique and protected water habitats in Greece. And just as another of these, Marathon, was raped, despite worldwide protests from archaeologists and environmentalists, in 2003 to make a rowing pool for the 2004 Olympics, this too has been violated in the interests of the almighty profit. Five different concessions are allowed to pollute the air with noise (the sign says that noise is prohibited), spoil the beach with chairs, umbrellas, and bars with their inevitable trash that is not diligently collected. What a shame!
I had another problem in Koukounaries. In order to drown the cacophony I turned on the radio/CD player that interfaces with my iPod and attempted to play some classical music. But a very powerful local radio station interfered and was the only thing the radio would play. Neither the iPod nor the CD player, nor the radio (no mater where tuned) will play anything else. I supposed that one of the concessions had a powerful re-transmitter. After we were about 2 nM away from Koukounaries the radio worked normally again.
We departed from Koukounaries heading for Panormos in Skopelos at 0810. The plan was to spend a few hours there and then meet the Faneromeni that will by then have departed from Agnontas. The wind was very light just 2-6 knot ENE but a head wind. We motored and ran the water-maker.
We arrived, after 13.7 nM, to the lovely enclosed cove of Panormos (Πάνορμος), Skopelos [39° 06.3' N 23° 39.7' E]. I had already spoken with Nikos and we had agreed to meet in the cove of Peristera located on the similarly named island south of Alonnisos. He was to call me when the Faneromeni was underway. Panormos had a number of boats, all anchored and with a shore line, but I drove Thetis deep into the cove and managed to anchor in 6 m depth without the need of a shore line. The time was 1030.
My plan was to spend a few hours here and, after Nikos’ call, to sail to Peristera. It was fairly hot here despite the tent that I had rigged while underway. I had to lower the dinghy to have access to the swimming ladder so that I could swim and cool off. This way I spent a few hours and had lunch.
By the time Nikos called that Faneromeni was underway there was a stiff breeze that promised a good sail to Peristera. I made a last jump into the water and then raised the dinghy on its davits and removed the tent. But we could not leave the cove for some time because we had to wait while another sailboat made repeated attempts to anchor and take a line ashore. On her was a gentleman, a lady, and a child. The lady handled the anchor while the gentleman handled, unskillfully, the wheel all the while screaming a torrent of instructions to the lady. Eventually they succeeded and we were able to depart from Panormos. The time was 1350.
I raised the mainsail. The wind was anywhere from 2 to 14 knots and from the SE to the NE. I repeatedly opened and closed the headsail and turned on and off the engine. Near Alonnisos we crossed paths with a regatta consisting of over 30 sailboats. I had to alter Thetis’ course several times to avoid interfering with the race. Most boats had 8-12 people crew.
At 1710 we entered the Peristera (Περιστέρα) cove [39° 10.2' N 23° 58.2' E] after 19.7 nM from Panormos. The Faneromeni was already there and had taken a line to a rock ashore. After some maneuvering I anchored in 14 m depth and backed Thetis alongside the Faneromeni. Nikos and his crewman Renaldo passed a stern line to me and I passed them a bow line. Renaldo then took another shore line from Thetis’ stern to a a rock ashore. Both boats now were rafted and secured.
For the first time I did not have to lower the dinghy. I could jump into the water and climb out from the Faneromeni. Also I did not have to put up the tent because Nikos and I could sit comfortably under Faneromeni’s tent. I spent several hour, talking with my brother. Later Nikos came to Thetis for an ouzo which was later followed by pasta with meat sauce cooked by Renaldo aboard the Faneromeni. We had a very pleasant time.
Monday August 8, 2011, Day 12
It is amazing how long the days are when you are cruising, this is so because a lot of things happen during that time. Today was a particularly long and busy day. I slept well during the night; no lights, no discos, no swell. Just a lovely peaceful night in a cove.
In the morning I connected to the Internet and checked the forecasts. They predict for the central Aegean northerly winds of force 5-6, possibly lessening by tomorrow and strengthening on Thursday. My plan was to go from here to Skantzoura (Σκάντζουρα) and if conditions are good to continue on to Skyros and then tomorrow, if possible, transverse the infamous Kafireas.
I departed from Peristera at 0855 waving goodbye to Nikos. Just outside the cove I raised the mainsail. The wind was 9-17 knots anywhere from the NNE to the NNW. Either way it was a broad reach. I turned off the motor and opened the genoa. It was a nice gentle sail doing between 4 to 6 knots. When we reached Skatzoura, very reluctantly because I wanted to stay there, I decided to keep going. After reaching Skyros (Σκύρος), once again, skipped my favorite Ayios Focas (Άγιος Φωκάς) and the harbor of Linaria (Λινάρια) and continued to another favorite, the lovely cove on the little island of Sarakino (Σαρακινό) [38° 45.1' N 24° 36.9' E] that is at the SW of Skyros. By that time the wind had strengthened 20 knots N with gusts up to 40 knots. Just outside the cove I rolled in the genoa and lowered the mainsail. We arrived at 1655 after 42.9 nM.
I anchored in 5 m depth and let out 35 m of chain. After lowering the dinghy I snorkeled and checked the anchor. It was as well set as one could desire. Other than Thetis there was a small motor cruiser with a young couple and a child. The man swam and talked to me. He lives in Skyros but has done a lot of sailing and 20 years ago had crossed the Atlantic as a crewman on a sailing yacht. Soon they left and Thetis was all by her self.
I swam some more but decided not to put up the tent because the sun was getting low on the horizon. I transferred one jerry can of fuel to the tank and checked the bilge. It was dry. I cleaned under the shower floor where some scum had collected over the last 12 days where the shower water collects before being pumped out. Just before our arrival at Sarakino I managed to send and receive a few e-mails with the iPhone. Then, being somewhat paranoid, I snorkeled and checked the anchor again. I did not like it at all this time, it had moved. So I re-anchored in 4 m depth and let out again 35 m of chain. Thetis is now stable in 5.7 m depth. The wind now, 8 PM, is 10-15 knots from the N. I raised the spray hood and had an ouzo.
For dinner I cut two potatoes into slices and after coating them with olive oil and sprinkling them with thyme, I cooked them in the oven. When they were done I made an omelet with a little of the ragù that I had prepared two days ago.
Tuesday August 9, 2011, Day 13
During the night I woke to go to the bathroom. I noticed that it was near 3 AM, so I decided to depart and get the dreaded Kafireas behind me. I had a cup of coffee and then made the needed preparations. We departed at 0420.
The wind was 10-15 knots from NE to NW. During my preparations I had already set the mainsail on its first reef. Now I raised it, but our course of 175 was almost dead downwind. I set a preventer line to avoid unscheduled jibes. I also opened part of the headsail but it was very unhappy and soon I had to roll it back in. There were substantial waves tossing the boat left and right, and they made actual sailing rather difficult so I motor-sailed.
When we were about 10 nM from the Kafireas Point, a yellow warning window appeared on the AIS display. It said:
“THETIS please contact Rafina Traffic Control on Ch 11”.
I did so. All they wanted to know was our last port, our destination, and the number of passengers and crew. They were aware that this was a sailboat. After I answered their questions, they wished me a pleasant trip. All the conversation was conducted in Greek. This was a first, but it is a good indication that Thetis’ AIS is transmitting properly and that the authorities do monitor congested areas.
The waves were very large and confused and by about 1100 the wind freshened to 15-30 knots ENE and Thetis sailed fast enough without the help of her engine. But the autopilot exhibited again its erratic behavior and had trouble keeping a good downwind course without jibing. I had to hand steer for about ½ hour. At 1214 we turned the corner from Kafireas to our destination Karystos (Κάρυστος) where we arrived at 1315 after 56.8 nM. I anchored at the same place I had in 2009 just S of the harbor and near the castle [38° 0.7' N 24° 25.3' E]. I dropped the anchor in 4.5 m depth and let 30 m of scope, but later when the wind came from the NNW at 10 knots I let out 10 more meters of chain.
Here there was a good GSM 3G signal but the temperature inside the cabin was 33°C (91.4°F) and working with the computer was too uncomfortable. I finally finished Anna Karenina and started Dudley Pope’s Ramage's Signal, the 11th of the Ramage novels, while continuing the The Girl Who Played with Fire and A Stolen Life.
Later when the sun was low I removed the tent, took a shower, and went ashore. I bought some fruits and few other provisions. I then went to eat at the Γευσήπλους - Gevsiplous taverna that was recommended to me by my sister-in-law Mirka who has a house here in Karystos. Indeed everything I had was very fresh and delicious obviously, carefully made with the best of ingredients.
Wednesday August 10, 2011, Day 14
Before departing from Karystos I contemplated whether to keep the bimini open hoping to sail with the mainsail or to put up the tent, which precludes the mainsail, and be more comfortable. Finally seeing that there was very little wind I decided on the tent. We departed at 0800 heading for Koundouros in Kea (Κέα) or Tzia (Τζιά) where my youngest brother Byron and several friends have houses. We motored through the bay as the wind was around 4 knots. But, as soon as Thetis exited Karystos Bay, the wind came from the NNE at 15-20 knots. This was a broad reach. I opened 75% of the headsail and turned off the motor. We blissfully sailed for a long time. The forecasts, however, all called for very strong northerly winds starting some time after midnight and reaching force 8! Fortunately Koundouros is well protected from the N and is safe.
As we were approaching Tzia I noticed on the AIS that the “Pleasure Craft” Octopus was almost stationary, few miles west of Ayios Nikolaos, the island’s main harbor, and very close to our course. Later when Byron called me I learned that she belongs to Paul Allen, one of Microsoft’s founders. Octopus has onboard an ROV and a small submarine for 10 with which he does underwater surveys. He is currently photographing the famous Britannic, sister ship of the Titanic. The Britannic was torpedoed during WWI and now rests in about 120 m depth. Byron did not feel well and he wanted to know what was my estimated arrival time so that a friend, either Spelios Phillipou or Thanasis Yianoukos, can come and help me take a line ashore in view of the expected strong winds.
As Thetis was getting closer to Octopus I made a slight course change so that we can get even closer and then I took several photographs although there were by that time fairly large seas. About 5 nM from Koundouros I had to turn on the engine and motor-sail. We arrived in Koundouros (Κούνδουρος), Kea [37° 34.8' N 24° 16.6' E] at 1320. Thanasis was there with his dinghy to help me. I anchored in 14 m depth and let out close to 50 m of chain, and I gave to Thanasis a rather long line, about 80 m, and chain to drape on a rock on the N shore. He did so and I reversed against the wind to where he was with his dinghy at the end the long line. Unfortunately, as I was approaching Thanasis, the anchor’s chain was fouled and I could not get any closer. Thetis was hopelessly stuck. In the mean time poor Thanasis was treading water with his oars. I, as quickly as I could, lowered my dinghy and brought a fender to Thanasis to use as a buoy for the shore line. I then towed his dinghy back to Thetis. I put on my mask and flippers and I dove to see what was causing the problem with the chain. It was caught on an unmarked mooring consisting of a tangle of two anchors and chain. I took a line, Thanasis on Thetis’ bow holding one end, while I dove about 10 m and passed the other end to the mooring’s chain. After I surfaced with the end of the line I passed it to Thanasis who secured it on the bow. Then, while I was looking with mask and directing him, he slacked Thetis’ chain, but I still had to dive a second time to disengage our chain from the mooring. At last we were clear and resumed backing to the fender at the end of the shore line while Thanasis was letting out more chain. Finally the fender was caught, the anchor’s chain was tightened, and all the shore line slack was taken with the help of the winch. We were done, but it took a couple of hours! I am not sure how I could had managed without Thanasis’ help.
While Thanasis went to his cruiser Aliki, I tidied up. When he was done we went ashore and he took me with his motorcycle up the steep hill of Katevati where their houses are. I visited with Byron, and my sisters-in-law Ivi and Mirka who was there for the weekend. Tonight we were all invited for dinner to Thanasis’ and Pascal’s. Byron, who was under the weather, will be seeing a doctor tomorrow. I had a nice visit. I then borrowed Byron’s motor-scooter and rode down the hill and to the little dock where my dinghy was waiting.
When I got aboard Thetis I took a shower, changed clothes, and taking with me a bottle of 2010 Kalami wine, went back ashore and rode up the hill to Katevati. The socialization with this convivial Athenian crowd was intense. The whole local community was gathered at Thanasis’ and Pascal’s. A very pleasant evening with good food, good wine, and lots of conversations. Nevertheless I felt that I had to leave early with the expected force 8 gale. Indeed the onboard barometer had fallen to 1000 mB from the 1005 of this morning.