Travels with S/Y Thetis

Thetis only

1998: Poros

This document contains the logs of a brief trip with S/Y Thetis from her base in Glyfada, near Athens to the Saronicos Gulf island of Poros and back. The logs are illustrated with maps and photographs, and also include some historical and geographical descriptions of the places visited as well as several links to other related web sites.

Route to Poros
Route to Poros

September 23 - 29, 1998

Being in the home marina, and having a few days to kill is a rare opportunity for maintenance that I usually do not have. I am not sure what I would have done without my brother Nikos; he had already alerted the electrician and the Autohelm dealer while Thetis was still at sea. As luck would have it, they came at the same time.

Dinnos, the Autohelm technician, after a long debate, finally agreed with me that the SeaTalk problems were caused by low current through the narrow leads of the bus and not by faulty equipment. He checked the radar, which he was suspecting, and thank goodness he found it of sound health, and dropped his proposal of replacing an expensive PC board. He connected an extra power line from the navigation instruments to the autopilot, contrary to its manual instructions, and the problem of the true mode on the wind instrument went away. Also, after this connection, the autopilot was getting data from the GPS via the NMEA/SeaTalk bridge, and the autopilot illumination problem was also gone. However, the new alarm sounder does not seem to activate any more. He was not able to explain this problem or to do anything about it since there was no other alarm sounder available in Greece. He also installed a RF filter between the power line and the Navtex receiver, because it did not receive when the engine was running. Maybe this will fix the problem.

Mr. Petros, the electrician, had finally brought with him the now repaired Jabsco fresh water pump. To his great surprise I insisted that he re-install this pump in place of the Johnson pump that he had sent me to Patmos, but he did so without any arguments. He then, at my request, replaced the cables from the starter push button to the fuse, and from the fuse to the starter solenoid. This was a preventive step, because I had some problems in that area while departing from Sigri. We also removed the wind generator so that I can take it to the US for repairs. He then replaced the cables from the base of the generator pole to its top.

While the Autohelm technician was working, we had turned on the various instruments including the GPS. I, unthinkingly had not turned them off while the electrician was working on the various DC circuits. Somehow during this work, the power to the GPS was cutoff then restored. Alas, the Magellan NAV-6500 GPS did not work anymore. It would flash and then freeze. I tried every trick that I could think of but I could not get it past that point. Mr. Petros was very distraught thinking that he was responsible, and I was furious at myself.

We then focused on the problem with the deck light. This is a flood light ¾ of the way up the mast. My nephew Nicky had tried to remove its bulb when we were in Fourni but was unable to. Now, Mr. Petros said that there is no bulb, but it is a sealed beam, like the head light of a car, and it is just held by a stiff rubber enclosure. The problem was that Mr. Petros suffers from acrophobia and loathes climbing on masts. Well, since I wanted everything repaired, there was no choice but for me to climb. Rohalio, the man that has been doing the regular maintenance for both Thetis and Faneromeni, hoisted me aloft, while Mr. Petros shouted instructions on how to remove the flood light. After some doing, the deed was done. I did not, however, have much time to gloat on this triumph. The leads coming out of a small hole in the aluminum mast were not secured now that they had been disconnected from the flood light. To my horror, I helplessly watched them slipping and disappearing down the mast. This led to an over 2 hours adventure with me dangling from the bosom’s chair up on the mast watching, and sometimes shouting instructions, to Mr. Petros and Rohalio who were trying to fish a thin weighted line that I had fed from the now gaping hole, from a small opening at the base of the mast. Finally, with great perseverance they succeeded and tied the electric wires that had dropped to the line, and I ever so gently pulled it up and thus recovered the wires. Now, much wiser, I tied some tie-wraps to prevent them from going down the hole again. The next day, Mr. Petros returned with a new flood light which was easily installed.

I spent one day with Nikos, first tracking down the recalcitrant GPS to Mr. Filippakis, the Magellan dealer and then visiting several battery factories. We were in search of deep cycle service batteries to replace the aging one in both our boats. These kind of batteries are considered exotic in Greece and they are not widely available. We had a most informative day and met with several experts. We finally settled on purchasing new and larger batteries from Mr. Christodoulou in Piraeus but in the Spring of 1999, not now.

After numerous calls to Mr. Filippakis, I was unable to find him and I learned that he was away on a trip. So, I took a taxi to Piraeus and retrieved the GPS with the intention of taking it back with me to the US. To my amazement and delight, after reconnecting it, I found that it now worked.

Wednesday September 30, 1998 Day 1

Having done all the things I had to do in Athens, and having flown for a couple of days back to Samos to take care of business there, I still had several days to kill until my flight back to Washington on Monday October 5. So, I ended up with bonus time on Thetis. I took her out for a few days in nearby places which was much better than cooling my heels in Athens and Voula. Once again, I was singlehandling.

Thetis under sails
Thetis under sails

We left Glyfada at 1250. The wind was from the W at 15-20 knots, and was expected to diminish and veer to NW. It was a lovely autumn day, very, very clear following yesterday's heavy rainfall. The visibility was exceptional. One could easily see from Glyfada, not only Aegina, but both Hydra and Poros, where I had decided to go first. It was a very nice sail for the first 10 nmi but then the wind diminished and kept constantly changing direction, and I was forced to motor-sail. It feels good to be aboard on my own again.

We arrived in Poros (Πόρος) at 1740 with 25.6 nM under our keel. I did not want to go to the bustling harbor but wanted to be in a quiet spot, so I chose the lovely Russian Bay [37° 31.1' N 23° 25.96' E], where I anchored at 6 m depth, near to the British catamaran Irene IV. Tony, her owner immediately rowed over in his dingy and asked if I would like him to tie a shore line (cavos) to a rock for me. Which he did.

Map of Poros It is always wonderful to see how this small community of serious cruisers help each other in both big and small ways. How many nice and interesting people have I met in the past few weeks! I invited Tony and his wife to come in the evening aboard Thetis for a “Lesbian” ouzo and “Samian” olives. They live on Irene IV for the better part of the year. They started 4 years ago from Wales and sailed first to the Caribbean and then to the Mediterranean. They have now been in the Aegean for 2 years continuously. Now, they are on their way to Porto Heli where they will winter, anchored off-shore, and they may, if they find someone reliable to look after their boat, fly back to England for a month to see their grandchildren. They are both very personable and they hope to visit the US some day. We exchanged addresses etc.

I spent the rest of the evening quietly onboard. It was great to once again cook for myself and not to feel any pressure whatsoever to do anything more ambitious than enjoy this calm, if a little bit chilly, night.

Thursday October 1, 1998 Day 2

Two years ago on this day, Lewis and I were sailing from Malta to Cagliari. Last year, I was moored in Souda Bay, in Crete, and was trekking the Samaria Gorge. Now in Poros, I was contemplating whether to move to Ermioni or stay here. The Navtex called for south winds and possible rain on the weekend. I was tired from my days in Athens and did not feel very ambitious. I was just happy to be aboard.

I went ashore and took a long walk, 1½ hours, to town. I had a fresh orange juice but felt too tired to walk back, so I took a taxi. I guess all the hassle in Athens, particularly Tuesday’s exercise on the mast have taken their toll. I decided not to sail any further but to stay in this tranquil anchorage, relax, and enjoy myself.

I slowly started arranging things for the winter. I was happy to take care of all the little details on Thetis, yet I could not help myself from wondering about the future. But, before these wonderings could depress me I remembered Nikos Kazantzakis:

Live as if this is your last instant on Earth.
Plan as if you are an immortal.

In the evening, I went to town with the zodiac and bought a few fruits and gasoline for the outboard. When I returned, Tony and Jane invited me on Irene IV for ouzo. We exchanged travel stories: Greece, Turkey, Sardinia, Malta, Tunisia, the Balearics… They too were in the Black Sea a year ago. They did not like the harbors there but did like the countryside. They also confirmed that July and August are the better months for the Black Sea. They highly recommend Tunisia.

I spent the evening quietly alone. It was a peaceful night, very calm and warm enough to sit in the cockpit. I listened to music while eating. The water was glassy but occasionally a wake of a passing ferry would hit a constructive interference pattern, in this completely land-locked bay, and there would be a considerable amount of swell for a while, then the water would settle down to being calm again. The cove is called Russian Bay because in the last century there was a Russian naval base here. The ruins of their storage facilities, ashore, can still be seen.

Friday October 2, 1998 Day 3

It was an uneventful night. The sea was very calm, save for an occasional wake. The sunrise was glorious, it painted the Peloponnesos mountains, which were reflected in the calm bay, rose. “The Rose Fingered Dawn.” The Navtex predicts winds of force 6 SW for the Saronicos Gulf. I had not made up my mind yet whether to sail back to Glyfada this afternoon, or tomorrow morning.

There were myriad things to do on the boat to get her ready for the winter: remove the batteries from the flashlights, cover all exposed electrical contacts with Vaseline, clean the batteries, wash the storm gear, etc. I attended to most of them.

I went briefly to town to get some small things. Now that the new outboard had been broken-in, I was able to open the throttle and plane the zodiac. So this expedition did not take too long.

While washing the storm gear, the newly installed Jabsco pump failed again. I replaced it with the Johnson very quickly, less than 15 minutes, since by now I had become an expert at installing fresh water pumps.

In the afternoon, there was some breeze but it only lasted until sunset. A large sailboat flotilla (16 boats) came and moored across the cove but they did not disturb us. However, a very large motor cruiser, almost a small ship, had anchored earlier nearby. Now, they launched a jet-ski which, while it raised the noise level, thankfully did not come too close. Alas, she was joined by a smaller motor cruiser, which also promptly launched its own jet-ski. This one was driven by a young punk who immediately set himself the goal of terrorizing all boats anchored in the cove. For at least 2 hours he drove his infernal machine to within meters of us, not only shaking the boats with his wake, but actually spraying us. I could almost touch him. Finally not being able to stand this torture anymore, I blew my air-horn and threatened to call the Limenarchio (Coast Guard). He pretended not to hear, but he did not come close to either Thetis or any other boat anymore. Eventually both cruisers left, and once again tranquillity was restored and we all were able to enjoy the magic hour when both the sea and the mountains are painted in hues of gold by the invisible magician.

This is really my last night with Thetis. It is a gorgeous night. The moon, now almost full, is casting its silver light at the still waters and it is illuminating both the island and the mountains. The only sound is the occasional sound of a wake as it hits the rocks. It may be the last night, but at least it is a perfect night on the water.

I plan to leave early in the morning. The forecast is favorable: 5-6 WSW. As I was making my supper I could hear the songs of the flotilla crew, who must have had several drinks and are getting rowdy, but they did not disturbed as they were at least ½ mile away.

I had absolutely no wish to waste this night by sleeping. I lay for hours, before going to bed, in the cockpit watching the stars, the moon, and the water. Most of all sensing the boat under me. There are times that I think the boat is a living organism.

Saturday October 3, 1998 Day 4

I woke up at 6:45 and started, right away, to prepare for departure because I wanted to be in Glyfada before all the stores closed for the weekend. I untied the shore line, removed the outboard, raised and lashed down the zodiac. At 0725 the anchor was up and we were moving. There was no wind so we had to motor. After clearing out of the narrow bay and we were in the open between Poros and Aegina, I started packing the laundry, my clothes, and everything that I wanted to take to the US.

As we approached Aegina, the wind picked up a bit, about 10 knots SSE, and I unrolled the genoa and motor-sailed. I called Nikos on the Autolink and let him know of the estimated time of arrival. I hoped that he would meet me at the marina. By the time we reached Aegina the wind had become a more boisterous 25-28 knots and I turned off the engine. Sailing for the last time! The wind kept increasing and we sailed with the main and genoa all the way to Glyfada. The waves were quite large. By the time we reached Glyfada the wind was over 30 knots.

At the entrance of the marina [37° 52.3' N 23° 43.87' E], I started the motor, lowered the sails, prepared the docking lines, tied the fenders and motored into the marina. The time was 1150. The bad news was that there was no sign of Nikos. The good news was that Thetis’ normal berth was unoccupied. Nevertheless, I had a very difficult time squeezing her into the tight spot, while managing to keep the propeller free of all the lines. As luck would have it the owner of another boat was there and he caught one line and together we pulled Thetis bow-to.

This is the end of this year's journey. Today's distance was 25.9 nmi. The total distance traveled from Glyfada to Poros and back was 51.5 nM in 9.2 hours of traveling.

1998 Statistics
Total Distance 1122 nM
Time at Sea 64 days
Solo Time 130.9 hr

Good-bye dear Thetis, I hope to see you again next year, as early as possible.