This web page describes the ninth and final leg of the third 1997 sailing trip with S/Y Thetis in the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean. It covers the solo sail from the island Milos in the Cyclades to Marina 4 in Glyfada. Along the way, we stop at the Cycladic islands of Sifnos, Serifos, Kithnos, and on the island Aegina in the Saronikos Gulf. The web page is illustrated with photographs, also included are historical and geographical descriptions of the places visited as well as several links to other related web sites.
Monday October 6, 1997 Day 60
During the night the wind died down completely. The weather report called for force 4! The sea in the morning was perfectly calm. I went ashore to buy some bread and fruits. As I was getting back on the zodiac I was stopped by some people from a chartered sailing yacht. They wanted to know if I had a weather forecast. They came from Belgrade and this was their second year chartering in Greece. They have been chartering in Italy before. They spoke very good English and were very enthusiastic about sailing in the Aegean, but apprehensive of the weather. After receiving the morning Navtex report, I hailed them on the VHF and reassured them that there would be very mild weather for the next few days.
By 9:00 the anchor was up and we were motoring away from the harbor. The wind was from the North at 8 knots. After clearing the bay and heading east toward the island of Sifnos, I raised the main sail, with no reefs, and unrolled all of the genoa. The wind was almost 50° from our course and we had a lovely, smooth, easy sail for about 7 nM. Then the wind diminished and shifted to 30° from our course. I had to roll-in the genoa and motor-sail the rest of the way to Vathi (Βαθύ), Sifnos (Σίφνος). I made an omelet for lunch and I ate it while enjoying the ride.
I dropped the anchor [36° 55.7' N 24° 41.2' E] at 13:20, having covered 21 nM. The water in the cove of Vathi was like glass, very different from how it was 3 years ago when Alice and I were holed in for three days during a force 8 meltemi. The only problem was that, despite it being a brilliant day, not a speck of a cloud on the sky, it was cold. In the cove it was warmer than out at sea.
I went with the zodiac across the cove to the sand beach and had a pleasant, if not too warm, swim and lay lazily on the sand reading my book. I was in the perfect anchorage! The peace of the perfect anchorage was not to last, however. A large cruiser anchored off shore launched two infernal jet-skis which kept on buzzing every boat and every swimmer until 5:00 when they were collected and the cruiser left to go and disturb another place.
For the first time in several days there was hot water and I had a thorough shower, which was followed by an ouzo. After that I went ashore to the little hamlet and ate dinner at the Tjikali (Τζικάλι), the same place where Alice and I had eaten so well before. They had revithokeftedes (similar to falafel), kopanisti (a hot cheese spread), and κατσικάκι τής κατσαρόλας (kid goat roasted in the pot), all for only 3,500 GRD. Everything was delicious. At the table next to me there was a party of Americans who were with a large sailboat chartered from Vernicos Yachts. They had a skipper who was a Briton, not a Frenchman please, a real character. They were an attractive group and they had been having a good time.
Tuesday October 7, 1997 Day 61
Today I complete two continuous months on Thetis, the longest I have ever managed. I love it! There is nothing to compare with life afloat. Only I do wish Alice or one of the girls were here with me, but not all together. I received the report from the Navtex. It is unbelievable: no gale anywhere, force 4 winds, and no change is expected for the next 36 hours. This is more like the weather one expects in September and October in the Aegean.
I went ashore and took a two hour hike; I guess I had by now recovered from Samaria. The hills of Sifnos were beginning to show signs of fall coming and were very pleasant.
Back on board I had a swim and a snack and took it easy. It was another gorgeous fall day. Brilliant sunshine but not hot.
At around 13:30 I pulled the anchor and headed for the island of Serifos (Σέριφος). There was absolutely no wind. We motored the 22 nmnMi and by 16:20 we were anchored off-shore in Livathi (Λιβάδι - meadow) [37° 08.6' N 24° 31.2' E].
Other than the shower water not being hot, everything was very good. I went ashore and took a small walk. I called Byron. He is back from Italy but he is too busy and cannot join me for the weekend as we had talked about before. He may or may not be in his house in Kea.
I met, next to where I had left zodiac, the wooden Greek sailboat Ihake owned by a Greek: George Antoniou. This is the only Greek owned sailboat populated by Greeks other than Thetis and the Faneromeni that I have met since leaving Samos. He has a new Autohelm autopilot but he does not have the manual and does not know how to calibrate it. It is the same model as mine, which I had just calibrated after replacing its control unit. I promised him to bring my manual and let him copy it.
After I got back onboard Thetis, and since the VHF was within receiving range of Hellas Radio, I called Nikos. He is with the Faneromeni in Aegina. Maybe we will meet during the weekend in Poros. I made supper using the last of the pot roast and hilopites (Cretan noodles) and ate aboard as I did not feel like going to another restaurant.
Wednesday October 8, 1997 Day 62
The Navtex predicted no significant change in the weather: calm and low wind. I wanted to take advantage of this good weather window and move further north so that I can easily get to Glyfada in one day. I went ashore and bought some bread and drinking water. I also took the autopilot manual to the S/Y Ithake and explained to George how to perform the calibration. I actually did most of the calibration for him and he took copious notes on how to do the rest underway. While doing all these the Briton skipper whom I had met in Sifnos came along. George knows him very well. He has been in Greece for over 20 years. Both the Ithake and his boat are going later in the day to Poros. Maybe we will meet again.
By 10:20 there was a slight favorable breeze (5-10 knots SSW) and I left the harbor. I raised the main and motor-sailed north past the northernmost point of Serifos. After rounding the point I turned west toward Kithnos, my destination. The breeze had freshened and I unrolled the genoa and turned off the motor. I was able to sail with the main and the full genoa at the low gentle speed of 2.5 knots to the southernmost point of Kithnos. Then, after turning north toward Fikiada, sailing became hopeless so, I rolled in the genoa and motored to Fikiada with the main sheet pulled very tight.
While the VHF could still reach Hellas Radio, which most likely it could not from within the Fikiada cove, I called Alice in Washington with the Autolink. She was under the impression that I am flying to Washington on the 15th of the month and not on the 16th, which was my impression. After the call I dug out the ticket and verified that I was to fly on the 16th. I then tried calling Nikos but there was no answer.
By 14:40 and after 25.1 nM we were in Fikiada, Kithnos (Κύθνος) [37° 24.7' N 24° 23' E]. The cove, as usual, was very nice. After anchoring, and a cup of coffee, I had a nice but cold swim and checked the anchor with the mask. The water from the sun-shower was not even warm and I skipped the shower as I was not too warm either.
I studied the Navtex and the GPS manuals and figured out that I ought to connect the NMEA data bus from the GPS to the Navtex. This allows the Navtex to “know” the location of the boat and, by using this information, to be more smart in automatically rejecting, if so desired, signals from distant stations, and thus conserve thermal paper. I took the panels apart and made the appropriate connection using the soldering iron. The operation was successful and the Navtex worked like a charm. It not only stopped printing the unwanted information, but it logs on the paper the current position of the boat.
For supper I cooked spaghetti with tuna fish and capers.
Thursday October 9, 1997 Day 63
It is hard to believe that in one week I will be flying back to Washington! The day started with cleaning the boat both inside and outside. The inside, since now almost every day I am eating inside because of the cold, gets dirty very quickly. The outside still has wheat germ from Souda.
After cleaning, I wanted to go for a walk. Since the sea was perfectly calm and there was no wind, I did not bother to lower the outboard on the zodiac but started rowing. I had not gone very far when a fishing boat came and asked me, very very nicely, if I could please move Thetis further within the cove so that they could cast their nets without risking fowling them on my anchor. Since they asked so nicely and I had no pressing engagements, I went back, started the motor, raised the anchor, moved 20 m away, and re-anchored. Now I did not want to go very far for a while since I wanted to observe the anchor. I snorkeled and looked at the anchor, sunbathed, and watched the fishermen. They cast their nets, enclosing a large circular area. Then they anchored and had a bite to eat. About an hour later, they pulled the nets down to the last sack with the fish. After they pulled the fish onboard their boat, they left without ever thanking me.
Just as I had done three years ago, I took a couple of plastic bags ashore and started filling them with the flotsam and jetsam. While I was doing this, a gang of at least 40 large, beefy, blond men on motor bikes descended on the beach in a cloud of dust. They seemed to be associated with a large chartered Greek sailboat anchored in the cove which was displaying, in addition to the regular Greek flag, a truly huge Swedish flag. The flag was attached to the spreaders and it must have been at least half the length of the boat. The gang of Swedes organized speed races on the sand and they spent the next hour roaring their bikes and drinking beer. This was around 10:30 in the morning. Then, as abruptly as they had come, they departed in another great cloud of dust.
The day was getting warm by then and I put up the tent. This was the first time I put it up since Kastellorizo. I ate my lunch in the cockpit and then had a small nap under the tent. Later in the afternoon I called Nikos on the Autolink (I was surprised that the signal went through) and we made arrangements to meet tomorrow in a cove east of Perdika in Aegina. He is still in the Aegina harbor and will be taking the hydrofoil to Piraeus in the morning for some errands but he will be back by early afternoon and will then move Faneromeni to the cove. After that I went ashore and took a long walk to Apokrisis, the next cove to the East.
When I returned, the sun was low and I removed the tent. After a swim and a most pleasant hot shower, I was able to sit in the cockpit and enjoy my ouzo. This is one of my favorite anchorages. I do hope that the road that they bulldozed a few years ago does not end up spoiling its ambiance. While I was enjoying the sunset, a small wooden and very lovely sailboat with an American flag glided into the cove. There was only one young man on her. He expertly stopped his motor, lowered his anchor, waited, reversed very gently, and he was done. He later came aboard Thetis for a visit, seeing that I too was singlehandling. He is Larry Eaton from San Francisco. He has been in Greece for 12 of his 40 years. He is a shipwright by trade and a sailor by avocation. He has crewed on two circumnavigations and on many transatlantic deliveries. He knows my brother Nikos and the Faneromeni from when he lived in Glyfada. He now keeps his S/Y Oleidor in Oia, Santorini. She was made 40 years ago in Australia. Now he is on his way to Salamis to have her bottom cleared of barnacles and repainted. We sat inside the cabin after dark and had an ouzo together while he told me stories from his travels, which included encounters with real and imaginary pirates in the Malay and Aden seas.
By the time Larry left it was too late for serious cooking, so I just made some rice and an omelet. After eating I updated various files on the computer.
Friday October 10, 1997 Day 64
I did not get moving until 9:30. There was zero wind and the sea was dead calm. The visibility was very bad. Thank goodness for the radar! After I saw something on the radar screen I would track it and sure enough, when the distance was less than 2 nM, I would also see it with the naked eye. When we were about 12 nM from Aegina, there was a slight breeze and I was able to roll out the genoa and motor-sail at 6.8 knots. Around that time I raised the Faneromeni on the VHF but it was a very intermittent signal. I gathered that Nikos was leaving the Aegina (Αίγινα) harbor and heading toward Perdikas (Πέρδικας).
Thetis covered the 48.8 nM and arrived in the rendezvous cove ENE of Perdikas [37° 40.7' N 23° 28.1' E] at 17:15 . The Faneromeni was already there, and after seeing us Nikos came with his inflatable. After I anchored, he took a line ashore. He then came aboard Thetis and we brought each other up to date with what we had been doing.
After we parted in Kekova, Nikos and Rozina went back to Kastellorizo. However, a Greek naval ship had just run aground on the reefs and there was a bad oil spill drifting into the harbor, making the place less than pleasant. So they moved to Kalkan. From Kalkan they went to the gulf of Fetyie and from there to Simi. From Simi they went to Bodrum, where they were marooned for several days because of the gale. After the gale, they went to Patmos, where again they waited out another gale. From Patmos to Ornios, Mykonos and another gale, then to Finikas, Syros for their last gale. From Finikas they went directly to Glyfada a week ago. Rozina had too many gales and refused to accompany Nikos on this trip. So here were only Nikos and Argos his faithful dog.
Nikos was expecting a friend of his, Costas Negrepontis, with his family in their sailboat from Vouliagneni (a suburb of Athens). While waiting for them, I took advantage of the water heated by the sun and had a very satisfying shower, after which I sat in the cockpit nursing my ouzo, contemplating that the end of my sailing days for this year was getting near. The cove we were in has been one of our favorites because, while small, it is well protected from the NE meltemi, and it is relatively isolated with a few villas on the sloping hills, yet close to Athens. Also it is very near the to the charming little town of Perdika. Here we were on Friday evening, only our two boats in the cove.
The Negrepontis’ S/Y Evrika, flying the Greek flag, arrived at 8:30. She is a custom made aluminum hull 47 ft boat with steel rod stays and everything first class. She anchored and then rafted with the Faneromeni. Thetis had some separation, as I prefer to be more private. Besides Costas, who is an Olympic Airlines pilot and lives in one of the apartments in the Voula complex, there were his wife Guilia, their 17 year old son Alexis, and their 16 year old daughter Christina. Both kids are good sailors and like handling the boat.
Shortly afterwards, Nikos, the kids, and I got on his inflatable while the senior Negrepontis followed in theirs and we all went two coves to the West to Perdika for dinner. We went to our friend Mr. Nontas and we had a most enjoyable seafood dinner of shrimp balls, grilled cheese, fried red mullets (μπαρμπούνια) and other delicacies all washed down with plenty of good wine. The company was convivial and we all had a wonderful time. As is not unusual when a large group of Greeks (παρέα) gets together for dinner, they eat a lot, talk a lot, and it gets late. By the time we were back on our boats it was past 1:00 AM.
Saturday October 11, 1997 Day 65
I had a fairly lazy start on this day. I puttered around the boat doing a number of tasks to prepare her for being left unused over the winter. It was another gorgeous day, without even a hint of wind.
Finally I launched the zodiac and rowed to the other two boats. They were all up and about except Christina. Nikos and Alexis went spear fishing and Costas gave me a guided tour of Evrika. She is a very comfortable boat. Costas has owned her now for six years since he purchased her from her original owner. Before he had a smaller Carter 34. The kids, just like ours, have practically grown up in and out of boats and this accounts for their ease and love of the sea. Guilia has recently had a terrible car accident and has a great deal of pain. Her left hand was almost non functional. She had undergone several operations already and more were scheduled in the future before she wiil be well again. By this time Christina, too, had woken up and joined the group.
A large motor cruiser came and anchored in the cove. It was preceded by two crew men in a large inflatable that roared into the cove and inspected the area at great speed. After the cruiser had anchored, the inflatable took her lines and tied them ashore, again at great speed. Costas was very annoyed and made some loud remarks about professional crews not being aware of wake and speed laws within anchorages. His remarks must have had an impact because after that they operated at much more gentle speeds and they did not disturbed us anymore. They sent the inflatable to Perdika for a newspaper for the owner. After an hour or so they left.
When Alexis and Nikos came back from fishing at around 2:00 PM, they had caught several fish and two octapi. We decided to grill them on charcoal ashore. Nikos provided the charcoal and the grills and I the oil, oregano, and my lighter. Alexis and I cleaned the fish while Christina beat the octapi on the rocks. In the meantime, Nikos was gathering driftwood. We lit the fire, and when the charcoal was ready we grilled the octapi lightly and sent them aboard Evrika to be further prepared by Costas. We then grilled the fish. They were done to perfection. While we were grilling, Guilia had made a salad.
We then all assembled aboard Evrika and had a feast of the octapi, the fish, stuffed tomatoes and peppers which Guilia had brought from Voula, and the salad. We were having a great time. While we had such a good time eating, drinking and talking, the wind started first as a gentle breeze and then a much fresher blow from the West and our boats, which were anchored on the SE side of the cove began drifting toward the rocks, the shore lines being ineffective against the West wind. By the time we became aware of this situation, Thetis which was the closest to the shore, had already drifted dangerously close to the rocks.
Our first thought was to move the boats and re-anchor them on the west side of the cove. I rushed to Thetis and started the motor while Nikos and Alexis untied the line from the shore. I moved to the west side and re-anchored while Evrika was raising her anchor. By that time the swell had increased to uncomfortable levels and the West wind kept on freshening. After some more consultations among the three boats, we decided that, if we were to stay in the cove we would be at best uncomfortable and at worst we might have to move later in the evening. So while there was still daylight we decided to all go to the Aegina harbor. The time was 18:40.
Evrika left the cove first, followed by Thetis and the Faneromeni. The short 5.1 nM trip was difficult because there is a narrow and shallow channel between Aegina and the small Moni Island near Perdika, and closer to the Aegina harbor there is another shallow shoal extending from the Metopi Island which, while closer to Aegina, it is also shallow. These problems were further compounded by a considerable, by then, headwind and spray. It took an uncomfortable 1 hr and 10 minutes with my eyes glued to the depth sounder to get near the harbor’s entrance [37° 44.7' N 23° 25.7' E].
The approach to the harbor was not very well marked, and as it was already dark and I had never been there before, I radioed to Nikos to go ahead of Thetis, as Evrika had already entered. Faneromeni passed us and we followed at a comfortable distance. At that moment the ferryboat from Piraeus also arrived and was too impatient with our cautious approach. It came right behind Thetis’ stern and started hooting and flashing at us with her flood light. The Faneromeni entered the harbor opening and turned to the right to the “new” unfinished harbor with Thetis following and the ferryboat dangerously close but eventually turning left to the commercial area. By this time it was dark!
The very narrow harbor was packed! No slips were available, and to make matters worse, two sailboats were anchored right in the middle with hardly any swinging room. Evrika was still maneuvering and there was hardly any room for either Faneromeni or Thetis, while the wind was coming with great gusts, threatening to drift us right onto the other boats lining the jetties. It took another hectic hour before everything sorted out. Evrika finally anchored and tied a line on another boat, already docked stern-to, whose owner was Costa’s friend. Nikos with the Faneromeni who, during this time, was trying not to lose control of the boat, also anchored and reversed next to Evrika and, with the help of Alexis in Evrika’s inflatable, tied one line on Evrika and another ashore between two docked boats. During this time, I was making small circles around the two anchored sailboats, trying to stay clear of the maneuvering boats, the anchored boats, the shallows, and the docked boats, all very nearby. My hands were so full that I could not even prepare the lines and fenders. After the Faneromeni was secured, I too anchored, backed next to the Faneromeni and, with Nikos’ and Alexis’ help, tied two lines on the Faneromeni and a third on another docked boat. What an evening!
After all was secured and while their parents were getting ready to go ashore, the two kids visited Thetis and inspected everything most carefully. They particularly liked the chart plotter on the GPS and the radar. They played with them for some time. Nice to see young kids interested in boats! It was already past 10:00 PM when we all, including Argos, went ashore with the inflatables. We walked to a very attractive restaurant some distance inland from the harbor where we ate a variety of mezedes (small dishes). We then walked back to the harbor and sat in one of the waterfront pastry stores and had a most excellent galactoboureko (a castard, filo, and honey desert). It was past 1:30 when we got back onboard.
Sunday October 12, 1997 Day 66
After I got up, I rowed the zodiac ashore and went for a walk. The Aegina harbor is a busy but pleasant harbor. There are many fishing caiques and fruit selling caïques. I bought some pistachio nuts and fruits from one of them. As I was strolling, I bumped into Nikos, who was also out for a walk with Argos.
Because the weather was not very good and the forecast was less encouraging, we decided to call it quits and head back to Glyfada. Both Thetis and Faneromeni left Aegina at 11:20. Evrika had already left earlier. The wind was a brisk 20-27 knots from the SSW. I was able to sail all the way to Glyfada with both sails. As the day progressed, the wind kept getting stronger and I had to keep reducing the genoa until it was very small. It was a very nice sail. Thetis arrived at her home port, Glyfada, [37° 52.3' N 23° 43.87' E] at 16:55 after 29.8 nM.
At the marina, there was the usual chaos. My regular spot was occupied and I had to use another slip, which was not very well provided with adequate mooring lines. But, like everything in Greece, things are never as they are supposed to be, but eventually everything sorts out somehow.
Thus ends the nice voyage.
Total distance for the round trip: 1405.1 nM in 257:30 hrs at an average speed of 5.46 knots. Of these 585.7 nM and 106:15 hrs I was by my self.