Travels with S/Y Thetis


Thetis only

1999: Limnos to Samos

This document contains the second leg of our return trip from the Black Sea. The leg, all within Greece, is from Myrina on the island of Limnos to Pythagorio, in the island of Samos with stops at Ormos Thanos in Limnos, the island of Ayios Efstratios, Sigri in the island of Lesvos, and Salagonas in the island of Chios. It is illustrated with maps and photographs, and also includes some historical and geographical descriptions of the places visited as well as several links to other related web sites.

Myrina to Sigri
Route from Myrina to Sigri

In Limnos Andonis and Jane Ephremides left Thetis. Their place was taken by Corinna’s friend from Brown University, Mark Dembitz.

Mark’s parents are ethnically Hungarian, although his father grew up in England. Mark was born in France but has grown up in Switzerland. Thus he speaks fluent English, French, and Hungarian. In high school he learned German and has since held several jobs in Germany. Mark is now learning Chinese at Brown, where he is an East Asian Studies major. He is also a very good fencer and member of the Brown Fencing Team.

Friday August 20, 1999, Day 38

This was a slow day. It started with a walk to the banks. I tried to change my left over TL (Turkish Liras) into GRD (Greek Drachmas). No, none of the banks changes TL. Corinna and I walked to the Olympic Airways office to inquire about Mark’s incoming flight late at night. It was a long line, but eventually we got the information. They are expecting his flight at 2320 and there is an airport bus that leaves Myrina for the airport at 2230.

Back on Thetis I used the water hose to fill the tanks and wash the boat very thoroughly. It was very hot, and we kept wetting the tent to cool the boat off. Andonis and Jane packed their things and left Thetis for a more comfortable air-conditioned room in a hotel. They were flying back to Athens tomorrow morning. I paid the harbor attendant 2,000 GRD for the water and electricity connections. I had a haircut and bought some fruits.

Corinna was still not feeling very well. She continued, for the third day now, to have stomach cramps. We ate a salad, bread and cheese for lunch in the cockpit. Inside the boat it was 33° C (91° F), the relative humidity 60%, and the barometer at 1011 mB. We put the outboard on the zodiac and rode a little out of the harbor for a swim. The water was very refreshing and clean. Nice to be back in the Aegean again. After we returned to Thetis we called Alice in Washington.

When the sun was lower in the horizon, Corinna and I climbed up on the Byzantine Castle. On the way, whom did we meet? Andonis and Jane. It took me a while to recognize him, then I realized that he had actually shaved. They had already been to the Castle and now they were returning to their hotel. They “may” or “may not” join us for dinner later tonight.

Next to us there was a Hallberg Rassy 35 sailboat, Second Life, with a German flag and an elderly couple. They were agitated because an officer from the Limenarchio had come by and asked them to bring their boat papers at 10:00 tomorrow morning. They had been planning to leave earlier. I advised them to ignore the Limenarchio.

While I went to a store and bought supplies, including a quantity of Limnian wines, Corinna cooked some plain rice for us. After eating, she caught the bus for the airport to meet Mark. I had a hard time waiting for them because I was very sleepy. Eventually they did come. We installed Mark in the front cabin, Corinna had been using the left cabin and I the right. It was still hot and Mark decided to sleep on the deck.

Saturday August 21, 1999, Day 39

We all slept a little late this morning. After we got more or less ready to leave, I walked to the Limenarchio to pay the harbor dues and recover my passport. After some intense computation, the officer presented me with the bill. It was way too high, three times higher than the rates that I was charged in either Pythagorio or Mitilini. After I pointed this out, he consulted with one of his colleagues and admitted that he had made an error. However, he had already written the erroneous amount on the mighty form! “What is written cannot be unwritten.” He offered to pay the 1,000 GRD ($3.10) error from his own pocket. I counter offered that we split the difference. Bureaucracy, with a slightly human form.

Before going back to Thetis I bought some wonderful fresh bread while Corinna topped the water tanks. We cast off at 0850. There was no wind. We motored for 5.5 nM south to Ormos Thanos [39° 50.4' N 25° 04.7' E], where I had spent a very windy evening last year, arriving at 0955.

The water here was again very clear with a beautiful sand bottom. We all jumped into the water for a good swim. I put on a mask and a snorkel and scraped the bottom of the boat free of all the barnacles that we had accumulated in the Black Sea and Istanbul. Corinna was still not feeling completely well. We had a light lunch and rested under the tent.

At 1455 we raised our anchor and departed from Ormos Thanos, heading for the small island of Ayios Efstratios. This is one of the few Aegean islands that I had not visited. There was a very light, 4-6 knots, breeze from the NNE and we motor-sailed with the genoa while keeping the tent on. The scraping of our bottom from the barnacles has given us an extra 0.5 knots. Amazing! Also, for the first time in a long while we did not experience any current. Both the GPS and the log agreed as to the distance traveled. I noticed that the charging rate of the batteries was unusually slow. All this motoring and we still had not recovered the power that we had consumed while under anchor.

Ayios Efstratios
Ayios Efstratios

We arrived at Ayios Efstratios [39° 32.3' N 24° 59.2' E] at 1755, having covered 19.6 nM. The harbor is attractive but it was full of many fishing boats. Near these boats there was a strong unpleasant odor of stale fish. Also, a number of them had their VHF continuously on and piped through loudspeakers. It is best to stay some distance from them. The German yacht Second Life that we had met in Myrina was here also. We moored stern-to next to her without any trouble. They too were going tomorrow to Sigri, Lesvos. The cacophony of the VHF’s however, spoiled the otherwise pleasant harbor.

Ayios Efstratios (Άγιος Ευστράτιος) is a small and isolated island of 250 inhabitants, definitely off the beaten track. The island has been inhabited since the Mycenaean times and on the island’s north coast are still the ruins of the original Mycenaean settlement. The recent history of the island is rather infamous. Starting in 1936 the fascist dictatorship of Metaxas used the island as a place of exile for the undesirable communists, a practice that was resumed by the junta of 1967. In 1967, a strong earthquake devastated the houses of the little port village. Fishing and low-level tourism are the main occupations of today’s inhabitants.

We all three walked to the beach, which is right across the harbor, for another swim. The water was clean and attractive. The little town has some charm. There are two bars and one restaurant. We had a drink in one of the bars but since Corinna did not feel totally well we decided not to eat out. We made a fairly simple pasta with garlic and ate onboard. It would have been very nice but for a fishing boat that came very close to us and had a very strong fishy smell and for the noise of the people waiting the arrival of the small ferry-boat.

It was quite late when the fishing boat left to go fishing and the ferry-boat arrived and unloaded its load of cars and people. After that the crowd dispersed and we could sleep in peace and in clean air.

Sunday August 22, 1999, Day 40

The alarm woke me up at 5:30. By this time all of the fishing boats had already been replaced by at least 10 fishermen who were fishing from the quay with long fishing poles. Some were equipped with thermos bottles and transistor radios. All were smoking cigarettes. Corinna soon joined me in the preparations for our departure. The Second Life, which was going to Sigri, had already left.

We left Ayios Efstratios at 0645. The wind outside the harbor was a fairly strong 20-30 knots from the ENE with gusts reaching 50 knots! We definitely had a problem with the charging of the batteries. I tried to adjust the regulator but the voltage out of the alternator could not be raised any more. It was way too low and nowhere near the value it used to be. The problem was either in the regulator or in the alternator itself. I replaced the regulator with a spare but the problem was still with us. We raised the zodiac and lashed it on the deck, and then raised the main sail, reefed it to the 1st reef, and partially opened the headsail. We sailed in a broad reach until we rounded the southernmost point of the island, overtaking Second Life. We then reduced the headsail some more. When we were about 7 nM away from our destination the wind dropped to less then 10 knots and we had to start the motor.

Sigri from Meganisi
Sigri from Meganisi

We arrived at Sigri [39° 12.7' N 25° 50.8' E] in the island of Lesvos at 1635. The distance over ground from Ayios Efstratios was 49.3 M but our log indicated 52.6 nM, so we were experiencing some opposing current. We had a little trouble on our first attempt in anchoring off-shore but on our second the anchor caught well. Corinna verified this with snorkeling.

Right away we launched the zodiac and drove it to Meganisisi, right across from Sigri. I wanted the kids to see the petrified trees and also, if possible, to visit the lighthouse that I had missed last year. As we were tying the zodiac we met the lighthouse keeper who had just returned with provisions from Sigri. He gave us a guided tour of his lighthouse. The old clockwork mechanism, the old oxygen-acetylene light source, and the Fresnel lenses have all been replaced by a new electric motor and a halogen electric powered light source, which are much more compact. It is now powered by AC electricity from the shore which is fed to an AC-DC converter. Batteries are now used only as emergency power. Fortunately for me, most of the old system was still there. It was a mechanical wonder of 19th century technology. The light keepers had to climb up the hot housing every evening and raise the weight which, by slowly descending, activated the clockwork mechanism that rotated the beacon. They then had to light the arc. Now, it is all automatic. All the light keeper does is replace parts whenever there is a failure.

The Lighthouse of Meganisi

The Lighthouse of Meganisi

Inside the Lighthouse

Inside the Lighthouse

The Old Clockwork Mechanism
The Old Clockwork Mechanism

After our visit to the lighthouse, we walked to the area of the petrified trees. While walking we saw Second Life approaching the anchorage, two hours after Thetis. We reached the petrified trees as the light was fading but there was enough to see them. By the time we made it back to Thetis it was dark.

After washing and changing clothes we all went ashore. We were starving. Corinna felt much better. We had a fairly nice dinner at the Kavo Doro restaurant right by the little square and next to the fishing harbor. This was our welcoming dinner for Mark.

Monday August 23, 1999, Day 41

During the night the wind increased and it started blowing furiously. We had to get up and collect all the towels and bathing suits, lest they be blown off. In the morning I overslept, it seems that the alarm was not set properly and it failed to ring. When I did get up, I went ashore and got some fresh bread. Then, when I got back I raised the zodiac, lashed it, and removed the sail covers while the kids were asleep. The Navtex forecast called for northerly winds of force 7, increasing slightly.

To Samos
Route to Samos

By the time that everyone was up and we raised the anchor it was 0730. We were heading for the SW corner of the island of Chios. While we were in the relatively calm bay we raised our mainsail and left it at the 1st reef. Outside the bay the wind was gusting to 30 knots but averaged around 18 knots from the N. The down wind sail between Lesvos and Chios was fine but we did experience fairly large waves. Near Chios, the wind was averaging about 16 knots but we had an occasional gust of over 40 knots. We estimated the wave height to be 4-5 m but every so often a much larger wave hit us. Mark, not only was not bothered by this but he seemed to enjoy it. The temperature inside the cabin was 25° C (77° F) and the barometer had dropped by 1 mB since yesterday down to 1007 mB. By this time the Navtex was predicting 5-6 for here, the NE Aegean and for the Samos Sea with no significant change expected for the next 36 hours. I did not believe it, I somehow thought that we were due for a gale.

After we rounded Cape Mesta (the most SW point in Chios), the waves diminished but the wind increased to 38-40 knots, very gusty. We kept on sailing right into the lovely cove of Salagonas [38° 13.2' N 25° 54.8' E]. Our arrival time was 1840 and we had traveled for 64.5 nM. Without wasting too much time, we anchored. After snorkeling and checking the anchor, we launched the zodiac and went ashore for a much needed walk. It was still daylight as the sun did not set until 1957.

Back on Thetis Corinna made us ziti with a fresh tomato sauce which we ate with a nice red Limnian wine. The view of the stars in this wonderful cove was as spectacular as usual.

Tuesday August 24, 1999, Day 42

Corinna woke me up at 3:30 AM so that we could leave as early as possible because of the long passage ahead of us for Pythagorio, Samos. By 0430 everything was ready and we raised the anchor. There were some clouds which hid the moon but the stars were all shining. It was lovely. The wind was 10-16 knots from the N. We raised the main, still on the 1st reef, and opened the genoa. We sailed very nicely for a while. The sunrise was at 0640 and we all enjoyed it.

After sunrise the wind freshened to 27 knots and I started reducing the headsail. I suppose that I was not very careful in securing the roller-reefing line because while I was trimming the sail because the line came loose and all of the big genoa was unwound and started flapping into the gusty wind. When I tried to roll it back-in the roller was jammed. The line had not wound properly and there were overrides which caused the jam. It took the combined effort of Corinna and me, Corinna at the end of the line pulling and letting go at my hand signals, while I was at the bow with a large screw driver un-jamming the drum. All this in fairly rough seas which drenched me while the genoa was flapping with an ear splitting noise. Mark slept through the whole episode.

When the headsail was all rolled-in we had a slow sail but I was too tired for hard sailing. After some rest, we opened some of the genoa. Now we were doing better than 7 knots. I left Corinna to watch and I slept for a while. When I woke up I made a potato salad for lunch despite the large waves and the motion of the boat. By this time, we had a solid 40 knot wind with higher gusts, this is a force 8 gale. After reducing the main to its 2nd reef the ride was less wild and we enjoyed our potato salad. We had a nice fast broad reach sail.

Since today is our 32 wedding anniversary, I called Alice. She was glad that we were on our way to Samos. I did not mention gales to her. As we were approaching Cape Prasso, the easternmost point of Samos, the wind increased to 45 knots with gusts over 55 knots. Now we were in a force 9 “strong gale.” Thetis, as usual, rode the waves beautifully. Of course, had we been sailing against this wind our life would be very miserable. Before rounding the cape we rolled-in the headsail and continued with the main alone. At the other side of the cape the waves disappeared but the wind if anything increased. At Cape Gatos, at the entrance of the Mycale channel, we were facing severe headwinds with violent gusts but we kept on sailing. I just kept my hands on the main sheet line continually adjusting it by easing during the gusts. The going from the channel to Pythagorio was tough with lots spray as the waves increased again after exiting the channel.

We arrived at Pythagorio [37° 41.2' N 26° 57' E] after covering 78.2 nM at 1750. Although the harbor was crowded, we managed to squeeze between two boats. The delivery skipper of one of these, a 55' Beneteau from Vernicos Yachts, was in a hurry to leave and catch a plane but he agreed that I could adjust his docking lines to make room for Thetis. Slowly we edged our way to the quay. We had arrived. During this whole voyage we had not experienced any major failures other than possibly a bad alternator. Not bad!

At the Limenarchio they wanted to know all about the trip to the Black Sea as this is to them a very exotic and distant destination. They were also particularly interested if we had seen the solar eclipse and how about the earthquake? …

The total distance we traveled from Myrina, Limnos to Pythagorio, Samos was 220 nM and 38.4 travel hours.