Travels with S/Y Thetis

Thetis only

1996: Glyfada to Pylos

This web page describes the first leg of a 7 week trip with S/Y Thetis in 1996 from Greece to Malta, Sardinia, Ustica, and Calabria in Italy, and back to Greece. The leg described is within Greece and it is from Glyfada, to Poros, Ermioni, Yerakas, Monemvasia, Elafonnisos, Porto Kayio, Methoni, and Pylos. It is illustrated with maps and photographs. Also included are some historical and geographical descriptions of the places visited as well as several links to other related web sites.

Route to Pylos
Route to Pylos

Friday September 13, 1996 Day 1

I took a taxi from Athens to the marina in Glyfada at 9:00. I unpacked my things and stowed them. This is much easier to do when there are no other people in the boat. The weather was very bad with strong South winds, the forecast from the VHF channel 86 called for force 7 to 8 on the Beaufort Scale.

My brother Nikos and Lewis showed up late, after 12:00. Nikos wanted me to go with him to the Pisteos bank in Voula (a suburb of Athens) and close our old joint account and open a new one because of some not well understood advantages. After the bank we went back to Glyfada and got a new camping gaz canister and a Maltese courtesy flag. Then Lewis and I went to the coffee store and got a large supply of filter coffee and on to the Vassilopoulos supermarket for lots of provisions. All of this consumed a great deal of time. Nikos meanwhile attended to several errands on his own. After we finished shopping we called him and he came to pick us up and to drive the provisions to the boat. We all then went for a late lunch at around 4:00 PM. After that to the Λιμεναρχείο (Greek Coast Guard) for the inevitable απόπλους (permission to sail from the port). We were only going to Poros but I had to sign an υπεύθινος δήλωσις (legal declaration that they are not responsible for any damage we may suffer) because the wind was at least 7 on the Beaufort Scale. There was no time to top the fuel tanks. The main tank was ¾ full and the jerry cans were empty. But since we were heading for Poros there will be no problem refueling there.

At last, we sailed at 5:00 PM for Poros (30 M). The wind instruments, despite another attempt by the local Autohelm dealer still gave a low reading for the wind velocity. The hand-held wind meter confirmed wind speeds up to 32 knots while the Autohelm showed 18! This is a problem that has been plaguing me for the last two years. We were going straight against the wind (ortsa - όρτσα) and there was considerable spray, no chance in raising the sails in this direction and it was already too late to start tacking. We managed to install the spray hood and to put on the storm gear. It was just bearable but not comfortable. Lewis declared that this was the worst weather he had ever experienced in a boat. He seemed to be preoccupied with the height of the waves, he estimated them to be at least 4 ft. Wave height must be something American or Atlantic ocean sailors are concerned about because in Greece no-one talks about it.

We were averaging about 3.8 knots, maybe we should have raised the sails and tacked. The good news was that Lewis was a good sport and did not get seasick. This was something that I was very apprehensive about, because although I had known Lewis for a long time and I was very fond of him, I had never seen him in a boat before. As we came across the island of Aigina it got very dark and there was no moon. The radar was very reassuring. Several large ships, including one from the Greek navy, were on a collision course with us and we had to dodge them.

After long hours we arrived in the main harbor of Poros (Πόρος) [37° 30.2' N 23° 27.21' E] at midnight. We were wet, tired, and very hungry. Fortunately we found an open restaurant. After eating I called Alice to let her know that we were on our way. Back in the boat and after struggling with the fitted sheets we fell asleep but not before we discovered that the bolts which hold the head (toilet) were loose and could not be tightened.

Poros is a small island in the Saronic Gulf and it is separated by a narrow channel from the Peloponnese or Peloponnesos.

Saturday September 14, 1996 Day 2

[Map of Poros] First thing in the morning we made a sling for the passarella (gangplank). This passarella arrangement is new, it has wheels at one end and mounting brackets in the other. We had only used it once this summer in Patmos, but it lacked a sling to hold the wheels off the ground. Then we found Mr. Eliades, the fuel man, and we topped the tank and filled the jerry cans. After that we zeroed-in on the toilet problem. Lewis was very creative in devising a scheme where we injected epoxy into the worn bolt holes with a large hypodermic syringe, which we bought for 130 GRD. from a drug store. We shaped the holes with a bundle of toothpicks held together with scotch tape. While waiting for the epoxy to set we bought some fruits, bread etc, and had lunch. Unfortunately the epoxy was not totally set and was still pliable by 2:00 PM.

[Picture of Poros]
The Poros channel

As it was getting late, we propped up the toilet bowl with an old towel and departed. Again we faced strong head winds, slightly less strong than yesterday. We managed to raise the main sail but even with the sail and the motor we could not do better than 4 knots. There was no way that with this wind and our late start we could get to Yerakas as I was planning originally. So we tried for Porto Heli, but again it was getting late and the head was still loose and we were afraid of stripping the thread of the remaining bolts. So we went to Ermioni instead which was closer.

[Picture of Poros]
The harbor of Poros

We arrive to Ermioni (Ερμιόνη) at 8:00 PM after 24 M. We anchor off-shore [37° 23.2' N 23° 15' E] without any problem. The epoxy was now quite hard, the toothpicks came off easily and with the bolts we re-threaded the epoxy. The repair was a great success! We then started assembling the zodiac so that we could go ashore to dinner. Alas the electric air pump did not work, so we inflated it the hard way with the hand pump. The outboard was working fine. At the end of this exercise, we went out and had a nice meal of fresh fish. Lewis was very pleased with everything.

Sunday September 15, 1996 Day 3

We departed at 8:00 AM for Yerakas. The wind was down and we motor-sailed with both sails up. The watermaker gave us a hard time: it did not prime. But after several raised buckets of water fed into the cleaning line it primed and worked well and it begun to replenish the water tanks.

We stopped in a nice cove North of Yerakas [36° 47.66' N 23° 05.32' E] for a swim and lunch. Lewis is not much of a swimmer and while we were under way he wore a life belt which inflates from a CO₂ cartridge. So although he enjoyed the cove and the lunch he did not fancy the swim all that much which was a shame.

Lewis repaired the compass whose lens over the years had become scratched and hard to read, especially at night. He polished the lens with toothpaste! Now the compass was almost as good as new.

We entered Yerakas (Γέρακας) [36° 47.07' N 23° 05.45' E] at 5:00 PM after traveling 41 M. Yerakas is located in a deep inlet and had been used over the centuries by pirates. It is a spectacular site. Over the cliffs there is an old Byzantine fort. We anchored αρόδο (arothdo - off-shore) without any problems. We then installed the EPIRB on the bulkhead of the front cabin and the wind generator switch that I had brought with me from the US.

We then went ashore and took a nice walk up το the Byzantine fort. Lewis, it turned out, had acrophobia and as a result he could not really enjoy the spectacular view. Back on the boat we took lukewarm showers and then went ashore to dinner. We ate at the Μεζεδοποιείον (mazedes maker - tasty snacks maker) the same restaurant that Corinna and I had dinner two years ago. Amazingly they still remembered me and indeed we had very good mezedes.

Later, onboard Thetis Lewis was very distressed because he could not find his electronic address book. We looked everywhere! I called Nikos to see if he had left it in Voula but he was not in so I left a message.

Monday September 16, 1996 Day 4



We left Yerakas for Monemvasia (Μονεμβασία) (8.5 M) at 7:20 AM. Monemvasia is a Byzantine town build on a small peninsula separated from Peloponnesos by a narrow neck. The town is built by the sea and is enclosed by fortifications. A large fort is at the top of the peninsula. The castle of Monemvasia was famous in the middle ages because it was never sacked. The famous Madeira wine originates from here and its name, Malmsey, is a corruption of the name Monemvasia. Today there are many people from Athens who have bought old houses and have restored them and Monemvasia is a fairly fashionable place. As there was no wind we motored.

In Monemvasia we moored sideways [36° 41.4' N 23° 02.5' E] and went ashore to visit the town and its lower fortifications. Lewis took one look of the upper castle and the path leading to it and declared that he had no interest whatsoever in going there. As we walked at the ramparts of the lower fortifications his acrophobia took hold of him and deprived him from any enjoyment. The visit of the fort was not very successful! In the town we bought some supplies, and left a message for Nikos to check the Glyfada restaurant where we had lunch before leaving to see if Lewis had left his electronic address book there. It was very hot in the town.

We left Monemvasia at 1:30 PM heading for Elafonnisos. Still no wind so we motored all the way to Cape Maleas. Near the cape the wind increased to 25 knots and changed direction to SW. So we manage a nice sail for a while. The sea became quite rough near Elafonnisos. Lewis said that this was the roughest sea he has ever been in. We arrived, after 31 M, at 7:45 PM.

Elafonnisos (Ελαφόνησος - dear island) is a small island NW of Cape Maleas. It has a small village at the North end but the rest is uninhabited and has a good number of lovely coves many of them with large sand dunes. We anchored αρόδο (off-shore) in Lefkí (Λευκί) on the SE cove [36° 28.7' N 22° 59' E], however it was already too dark to go ashore. I cooked spaghetti “ala Thetis” which was eaten with great interest. After dinner we watched the new moon setting over the island, it was very beautiful.

Tuesday September 17, 1996 Day 5

We woke up early. The sunrise over Cape Maleas was fantastic. On the west were dark ominous clouds moving quickly SE, we could hear distant thunder. Lewis was very scared that we may encounter a thunderstorm, and I must admit I was not too thrilled at that prospect either. We waited for the heavy storm clouds to move over the island of Kythera before departing at 8:40 AM for Porto Kayio.

The wind was favorable, from the SW and we had a very nice fast sail with the first reef. Soon we were caught by the next heavy cloud but we only received some rain, with no problem other than some water leaking into the left side of the main cabin. Later the wind died out completely and we had to start the motor. I noticed that the nut which holds the main bolt of the boom was missing, fortunately I had a spare and the problem was fixed right away.

[Photograph of Porto Kayio]
Porto Kayio

We arrived in Porto Kayio (Πόρτο Κάγιο) (26 M) at 1:20 PM, and we anchored arodo(offshore) [36° 25.8' N 22° 29.1' E] with out any problems. Port Kayio is a natural port, near Cape Matapas, protected from all directions except from the SE direction, the dreaded Sirocco (Σιρόκος). Porto Kayio is surrounded by tall mountains and has a few tavernas. It is a very beautiful anchorage. After anchoring we attended to several maintenance chores while watching an occasional new arrival having great difficulty anchoring. We replaced several spray hood snaps that were broken and also caulked the left main cabin window to stop the water leak. We then started installing the new radio/CD player that I had brought from the US. This took forever although Lewis had done something similar before, otherwise we would had spent the rest of the day at it. The radio worked except for the left speaker which seemed to be out of commission.

After a hot shower we had a nice ouzo while listening to several CDs that Lewis brought with him. Among them are: Hanza El Din’s music from Nubia, and Miles Davies’ Echoes from Spain. These we used to listen to when we were sharing an apartment in Thompson street, in the Greenwich Village of New York back in 1964. Later we went ashore to eat. We had a most delicious meal with μαρίδες (marides - tiny fried fish), octopus, and grilled λούτσος (loutsos - a thin long fish) which is a local specialty. The very pleasant young man who served us told us that he had heard a weather forecast which called for increasing SE wind reaching 7-8 on the Beaufort Scale by Thursday. He then went on describing the effects of similar Sirocco winds last year and the number of boats lost etc. We, being in a rather susceptible state, were suitably alarmed.

Wednesday September 18, 1996 Day 6

First thing in the morning we listened to the weather report which is broadcasted on the AM radio every day at 6:30. The forecast said for today winds of force 4-5 from the SE, and for tomorrow increasing to force 5-6, a far cry from what the young man was saying last night.

We left Porto Kayio at 7:40 AM but before leaving, just to be safe, we siphoned 22 L of diesel fuel to the tank. We then rounded Cape Matapas without any problems. These two capes, Maleas and Matapas, are notorious for their bad weather. So far so good! I was planning to go, weather permitting, to Dyros so that Lewis could see the famous cave, but if we were to do so we would reach Methoni late at night and should the SE weather deteriorate and make Methoni undesirable we would not reach Pylos before 11:00 PM. Since I have never been to the Pylos harbor, I decided to skip Dyros. So we headed straight for Methoni. The wind was favorable and we were sailing downwind with both sails up, the genoa poled out and later set wind to wind. This was nice while it lasted but when we were ¾ of the way to Methoni the wind died out and we had to motor the rest of the way. The sea was very calm now with a very light wind of 1-5 knots.

[Photograph of Methoni]

We arrived in Methoni (Μεθώνη) [36° 48.89' N 21° 42.47' E] at 4:45 PM, total distance from Porto Kayio 52 M. During anchoring offshore, the boat touched lightly the bottom although the depth gage was showing 3.1 m (Thetis draws 1.85 m). It was a local sand bump not shown on the chart. We easily reversed away from the bump. Other than that there was no problem with our anchoring. Methoni is the site of a large Venetian castle and has a large natural harbor surrounded by the castle on one side and large sandy beaches on the other. Like Porto Kayio, it is only exposed to the SE winds. Again it is a spectacular site.

Since we had arrived early, we took the zodiac to the beach and had a nice swim, at least I did. Either way it was very refreshing. Back in Thetis we took nice hot showers, plenty of hot water this time, and had a sip of the special Scotch whiskey that Lewis had brought. Later we went ashore and I called Nikos from a card phone. He was not in. I then called Pitsa and asked her to call Nikos and ask about Lewis’ address book. I also asked her to see if Nikos can get an extended forecast for the sea between here and Malta from the Internet.

We then walked to town looking for Harilis. Harilis is an old friend from the underwater excavation in Kenchriai, in Corinth that Alice was working for several summers and I participated in the summer 1968. He started his carrier in underwater archaeology in the early 60’s when the pioneer of underwater archaeology Peter Throckmorton hired his caïque as a diving platform during his exploration of the Methoni harbor. Harilis, after watching the divers come and go from his anchored caïque got bored. One day, the divers noticed that there was an extra diver swimming with them. It was Harilis who after donning the wet suit and the scuba gear dove off the boat to join the fun. After this he became a bona fide member of the diving crew. When the excavation in Kenchreai was planned Harilis was asked if he wanted to participate with his caïque. He accepted but did not know how to get there. His grade school son, however came to the rescue. With the school geography map they navigated around the Peloponnesos to the Corinth canal and finally to a triumphant arrival at Kenchriai. During our dives together Harilis had taught me how to eat oysters underwater.

We had met Harilis again 2 years ago when we were at Methoni with Thetis. Since I could not remember his last name, I asked in his favorite καφενείο (bar/coffee house), “he has just left but the lady at the store across the street maybe can help you.” Indeed, the lady turned out to be his daughter, the pretty little girl that was in Kenchriai in 1968. When she heard who I was she got very excited, asked about “κυρία Αλίκη” (Mrs Aliki) and telephoned Harilis. He came right away and insisted on taking us to dinner, although he had just eaten. He has had an operation but he is now recovering. After several glasses of ρετσίνα (retsina wine) and many reminiscences we parted.

When we got to where we had left the zodiac we found that the SE wind had increased a lot. A French gentleman with a large inflatable was very excited and angry because our zodiac was bumping onto his. I offered my apologies but he kept on yelling so I just ignored him. Thetis fortunately was well protected by the jetty so we had a peaceful night.

Thursday September 19, 1996 Day 7

We woke up at 6:20 to listen to the AM radio weather forecast but we could not receive it because another station was blanketing the AM transmission from Athens. There were many black clouds and thundering from the north. I managed to raise Hellas Radio and they gave a weather report: 4-5 on the Beaufort Scale from the SE. We left at 7:00 for Pylos, motoring all the way and we arrived at 8:45 after 9.3 M. Pylos is a fairly modern town located in the deep bay of Navarino where there was a very famous naval battle of the British, French, and Russians against the Ottomans in 1827. This battle devastated the Ottoman fleet and led to Greek independence since the Turkish-Egyptian troops were totally cut-off and at the mercy of the Greek rebels.

The marina [36° 55.1' N 21° 41.9' E] is very new and not quite finished yet. It has no water yet but also, thank goodness, no lights either so we should be able to sleep well tonight. There was plenty of room but it was dusty and a fair distance from the town–which other than a rather nice πλατεία (town square) is not very attractive. Next to us was a large sailing boat with the French flag which looked very familiar to Lewis. After inquiries he ascertained that she was indeed the very same boat that he, Joshua, and Inga had charted few years ago, under a different owner, in the Caribbean.

Later we went straight to the Λιμεναρχείο (cost guard) for the paper work. Their weather forecast was 4-5 NW! Not sure who was right, they or Hellas Radio—we had no wind coming here. At the πλατεία we met a Swiss gentleman who was singlehandling to Messina. He was charged a docking fee at least 5 times more than we were. The explanation given was that Thetis is a Greek professional boat while his, under Swiss flag, was from a non-EU country. I called Pitsa but she was unable to find Nikos. I called Voula and got Mary (Nikos’ Philippina housekeeper) who said: “Sir, sir is not here; he is in Ameriki”??? I must say I was totally puzzled. I then called for a fuel delivery following the instructions posted at the marina. Back at the boat we got 86 L of fuel.

Back in town I managed to telephone to the Greek weather service and got an extended forecast for the Southern Ionian sea and the Malta Channel. They predicted force 4-5 SE for today turning to 4-5 NW tomorrow and increasing to 5-6 NW after 2 days. We decided to go. Since we had the rest of the day we looked to rent a motor scooter, but it seemed there were none to be found in Pylos. It was a strange place. We found a dry-cleaning store that agreed to do our laundry and have it ready by tonight. Back to the boat, we got the laundry, back to town, and gave it to the store. I called Alice, she was having problems with e-mail, she could not find the password, and she sounded a little wearied. I think that I told her where the password was, I promised to call her as soon as we are in Malta. She too had no idea what in the world Nikos was doing in the US and why he went there so suddenly. Lewis tried calling Joshua, his son, but he was not there either; he left a very long message. He then called his wife Inga—he must had been on the phone for over ¾ of an hour.

Ιn the afternoon we went with the zodiac out of the marina for a swim. The water in the bay of Navarino was not very attractive, however. Later we filled the shower bag with water and bought groceries for the trip. I disassembled the zodiac and stowed it in the sail locker. We walked to the town and got the laundry back and after a very nice dinner called my co-worker Pei at the office. So far, no problems have been reported by EUTELSAT.

We were ready to go! I was very excited. I have been waiting for this for years. I was also a little scared, but mostly excited. Tomorrow will be a pivotal day!