Travels with S/Y Thetis


Thetis only

1999: Mitilini to Istanbul

This web page contains the logs of a-six day voyage with S/Y Thetis from Mitilini, the capital of the large Greek island of Lesvos, to Istanbul, Turkey, on her way to visit the Black Sea. The places visited along the way are: Ciplak Adasi, Ayvalik, Poroselene (Maden Adasi), the island of Tenedos (Bozcaada), the straits oft he Dardanelles, Çanakkale, the island of Pasalimani in the Sea of Marmara. 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.

Note: A portion of his passage is also described by my brother Nikos Riginos in his Faneromeni website. Nikos had traveled in the Black Sea in the summer of 1998.

Route to Istanbul
Route to Istanbul

Our stop at Mitilini (Μυτιλήνη), Lesvos was not scheduled. We stopped to change crew. My daughter Cynthia Riginos and her husband Scott Shomer who had been with me on Thetis since Samos were leaving to go back to their studies in Arizona and my old schoolmate from Athens College, Manos Castrinakis, and his wife Mary were joining me.

I had not seen Manos since our high school years, but in the spring while planning the adventure to the Black Sea we met and renewed our friendship. Manos has an advanced degree in naval architecture but he has been working in the past years with the European Community in Brussels as a technical advisor. This year he is on a sabbatical and he had been on the faculty of ALBA, an independent school in Athens that grants an MBA degree to its graduates. He has lived many years in the US where he learned to sail and participated, as crew, in several races out of Annapolis. Mary Castrinakis is American and has studied languages and history. They have two daughters about the same age as mine.

Monday July 19, 1999, Day 7

The Castle of Mitilini
The Castle of Mitilini

It was not a good night. The road traffic was continuous, and the numerous motor bikes were particularly obnoxious. I woke up at 5:00 AM. After coffee, I went ashore for some light shopping, bought some fresh bread, and called Manos and arranged to meet them at the customs area.

At 0800 we cast off and motored for 0.5 nM to the other end of the harbor and re-docked at the customs area: the “Περίφρακτος” (fenced) area that the Coast Guard officer was talking about last night. Fenced it was but the gates were wide open, day and night, and no one was guarding the area so the whole idea was a farce anyway. We then waited for Mary and Manos Castrinakis to arrive so that we could do the clearances all together. They showed up at 9:00. Immediately Manos, Scott, and I went to the office of the passport police where we were greeted by a pleasant young lady. After we explained, she understood the situation and after asking for a crew list she quickly stamped Scott’s US passport and examined our Greek ones. She, like her colleague in Pythagorio, pointed out the irregularity of my passport but it did not deter her from completing the formalities. We were out of her office within minutes and we went to the adjacent customs office. There was some confusion as to which officer was the “designated” one (“αρμόδιος”) for clearing yachts. Eventually a middle-aged man appeared and took our passports and ship’s papers. He also looked at my major equipment list, duly stamped by customs at Pythagorio. He asked for a crew list and gave me a form to fill out. This form was different from the one I filled in Pythagorio a few days ago. He also solemnly asked if we had aboard any narcotics, fire arms, or compressed air tanks. He carefully noted my negative answer by long hand, and I mean long, on one of his forms and asked if we had anything else in addition to the items in my equipment list to declare. We said that we had 2 cameras and 2 portable computers. He started to add these on the list and asked for the computer models. On hearing that mine was a Macintosh Power Book he brightened up. It seems he is a Macintosh fan. From this point on, I had a hard time keeping him focused on clearing us, all he wanted to do was talk about the Macintosh operating system. Finally all forms had been stamped but he was not done with us. He wanted to come and inspect the boat. The last time that a Greek customs officer actually boarded Thetis was in Samos, 10 years ago. Anyway he did come aboard, with his hard shoes on, he poked a little, and then looked at my computer. Back at his office he gave us a form for the Limenarchio and wished us a good trip.

I have to admit that up to this time and for the past 15 years all my dealings with the Limenarchio (Greek Coast Guard) at various locations in Greece have been cordial and reasonably efficient. So all I expected now was a brief formality. How wrong I was! We walked the few blocks to the office. The Limenarchio in Mitilini is large and employs many people in many offices. After we were directed to the appropriate office we were given a form (totally different from any other I had seen before) to fill out. This Manos and I did, and the officer stamped it together with a crew list. We were then directed to another office. Here they produced a new form. This one was incredible. It was a photocopy of a bad original. At least half of the questions were illegible. We had to ask what they were. Each time we did the officer had to consult with several of his colleagues and each one gave a different and conflicting opinion. Consensus was hard to arrive at and it took a long time. By the time we filled the bloody form we realized that it asked for no information that was not already provided in my clearly printed crew list. Again, this form had never been produced before, not even at this very office. Then we were given a third form, a health declaration stating that we had no communicable diseases. More stamps, more crew lists. I lost track. Next we were directed to yet another office. This one was presided over by a 4-striped petty officer. The minute we entered, he started a tirade about our “committing an extremely serious infraction, last night, by stepping ashore before we cleared customs.” He went on, and on, without listening to my explanation that we did so, only after obtaining permission from his colleague and superior officer. When he caught on to that, he changed tack. “Didn’t I realize that the climate between Greece and Turkey was very tense and that any vessel repeatedly traveling to Turkey was automatically highly suspect?” Eventually he ran out of steam, stamped one of the infernal forms and sent us on our way back to the first office. The officer there was fully occupied with another victim, so we had to wait. Manos fell asleep on a chair, Scott had long gone back to Thetis. Eventually our turn came and the officer started filling out yet another form. This one was for the harbor dues. He did not seem to know how to calculate them so he rammaged in a closet, which was kept under lock and key, until he found a similar form to use as a template. I tried to be helpful by giving him our old form from Pythagorio but no, he wanted his own. With great difficulty and many false starts and plenty of scribbling on scrap papers, he computed the princely sum of 470 GRD (about $1.50). Now he sent us back to the third office to get a “permission to sail” form. Our friend the lecturing petty officer, however, declared that we did not need this form, since we were a Greek flagged vessel. Back to the first office. No, we needed the form. Now a long vocal argument was started across the corridor between the two officials. In the end, the petty officer said that he is going to find out. He left his office and disappeared for over 20 minutes. When he came back, he said that yes, he was wrong, and we do need the form. This costs us another 300 GRD (about $0.95). While filling this one, he noticed that I live in the US. This started him on a new tirade about the US foreign policy. The US is pretending to be an ally to Greece while in reality it favors Turkey and massacres the Slavs. I must admit that by this time, I was ready to agree with anything as long as I could get out of this stuffy, hot, smoke-filled version of hell. At last they seem to have run out of new ideas and gave us the “permit to sail.” With this in hand we triumphantly emerged into the fresh air and started walking to Thetis.

This elation was not to last. A new customs official had come to Thetis and asked that the skipper go back to the customs office before departing. Having no choice, I did so. By this time Manos had also dropped out. The new man, a bald headed gentleman with a very thick Lesbian accent, so thick that I had a very hard time understanding him, went over forms signed earlier by his computer-loving colleague. He declared them inadequate. We should have declared ALL personal items, including clothes, shoes, etc. Then, he said, because the boat is a professional one and derives some tax benefits, we should have filled a declaration, at the Limenarchio, that she was not under a charter. He called them right away and started shouting at the phone. It was a long and animated call but due to the accent I did not get all the fine nuances. The gist of it was that I need to be protected from being taxed for an imaginary charter. I am not sure he knew charter income is not taxable! After hanging up the phone, he told me that now they were checking at the Limenarchio whether in fact we needed this declaration, and when they fouind out, they would call back. We waited and waited. I politely pointed out to him that the weather, which seemed to be acting independent of the Greek bureaucracy, was deteriorating and we needed to depart before it got any worse as it was already blowing at a near gale force 7. Finally, after several more calls, he relented and said that I could go, but the risk was mine and he was only trying to protect me.

I ran to the boat before he changed his mind. In a hurry I hugged Cynthia and Scott and untied the lines. Thetis started moving away from the quay. We had not gone further than the middle of the harbor while Manos and I were collecting the lines and fenders with Mary holding the tiller, when we heard on the VHF the Limenarchio asking someone to go tell S/Y Thetis to come back as they needed to fill a declaration. Whoever was addressed in the VHF responded that he was too busy and they should send someone else. I asked Mary not to look towards the shore while Manos and I frantically raised the zodiac. Thus we departed Mitilini for Ayvalik. The time was 1140. We were under bureaucratic torture in this Greek version of hell for almost three hours. I have never, never been subjected to this nor have I heard of another Greek yacht having a similar experience. The only theory I can formulate is that they have been trying to discourage boats from visiting Turkey.

The wind outside the harbor of Mitilini was 19-27 knots NNE, completely against our course, but the waves were not very large. While Manos was eager to sail, I was too tired and hot to be tacking so we motored and kept the tent. At 1415 we had reached Ciplak Adas [39° 16.9' N, 026° 35.6' E], just before the entrance to the Ayvalik Channel. We anchored for a rest, lunch, and a refreshing swim. It was very attractive and isolated.

By 1535 we were on our way again. The narrow shallow channel is marked by not-so-well-colored buoys which do not seem to conform to any international standard. We reduced our speed to under 3 knots and proceeded very carefully. After exiting the channel I hailed the Ayvalik Marina on channel 73 on the VHF. They responded immediately that they were expecting us. The marina is operated by the Setur company and is very efficiently run. We arrived at Ayvalik [39° 18.9' N 26° 41.3' E] at 1655, our distance from Mitilini was 19.7 nM. At he entrance of the marina we were met by an attendant in a Joker Boat (a Turkish inflatable) who directed us to a pier. Although I had to maneuver Thetis forward and reverse several times to coax her into the narrow space, we docked without any problem as there were several people ready to catch and tie our stern lines. The minute we were docked we were asked whether we needed water and electricity, to which we were immediately connected. I gave the helpful attendant one of the small ouzo bottles I had brought for such occasions.

Thetis in Ayvalik Marina
Thetis in Ayvalik Marina

At the marina office they filled, as expected, a new transit log, but it was too late in the day and the official offices were closed; they would not open until 9:00 tomorrow morning so our log may not be ready until 11:00. This did put a damper on our plan to sail tomorrow for Tenedos. As it was we were one day behind schedule, wasted on checking out of Turkey and going to Lesvos. Now, thanks to the delays caused by the Greek bureaucrats, we were put behind another day. This delay consumed my safety margin and now we would have to rush to Istanbul for our rendezvous with Andonis Ephremedis and for Mary to meet her flight back to Athens.

The staff in the office were very attractive and helpful and also spoke excellent English. But what really delighted me was that washing machines and dryers were readily available and were operated by tokens which one could get, for a price, in the office. I washed all my dirty clothes plus the linen and towels from Thetis.

The Castrinakis are slowly settling in. They will use two cabins: Mary will use the front cabin and Manos who is a large man will use the rear left. I, as always, am using the rear right. By now most of their stuff has been stowed.

When the sun went down and it became cooler, we all strolled into the pleasant town and had a light supper of pide and wine. Back on board we spent some “pleasant” time making the berths with the fitted sheets. This is always a challenge as no two sheets are the same and it is not always easy to decide which side goes to the front and which side is up. Fortunately my daughter Corinna had marked them with India ink which is a great help but one has to remember to re-mark them as the ink fades with each successive wash. Making the berths took about 20 tense minutes. At last the berths were made and we all went to sleep.

Tuesday July 20, 1999, Day 8

A week has gone by since Thetis left Samos. In the morning, while waiting for the new transit log, we cleaned the inside and hosed the deck of the boat and topped the water tanks. We then put up the tent and sprayed it with water to keep the boat cool.

I asked at the marina office if they could contact the Atakoy Marina in Istanbul for me and confirm that they have a berth for us for our expected arrival on July 24. I have sent them repeated e-mail and fax messages about the availability of a berth while we will be in Istanbul but they have never replied. This is in great contrast to the various Setur marinas which have always replied to my inquires very promptly. The pleasant young lady at the office telephoned Atakoy but they are filled and do not have a berth. This despite me first contacting them a few months ago. I asked her if she could contact the other marina in Istanbul, Kalamis. She informed me that Kalamis has been recently acquired by the Setur company and she called them right away. Yes, they would be glad to reserve a berth for us for July 24 to 25 and again from August 14 to 15 and further confirmed these reservations with a fax. Much better!

We decided that although going today to Tenedos would be too far (as we will not be able to depart before the afternoon), we will be leaving Ayvalik and spend the night at a nearby anchorage after clearing the Ayvalik Channel. This would give us a head start tomorrow.

The Fruit Market at Ayvalik
The Fruit Market at Ayvalik

In the mean time, we walked to town where we bought supplies, mostly fresh fruits. Manos located a real bakery where we got some fresh crusty bread. In the past few years real bakeries have become rare in Turkey, instead there is a soft insipid manufactured bread that is the same everywhere. Stores that look like bakeries, and perhaps once were, are actually selling the same tasteless bread as the supermarkets and other stands. We wandered around, taking in the colors and the odors of this nice non-touristic town. We stumbled on a wonderful dry fruit stand: chick peas, pistachios, hazel nuts, etc. The man spoke some Greek as his ancestry was from Crete. We bought several nuts and later wished we had bought more.

Olives
Olives

We went to a bank, and Manos changed some money. Now that he has Turkish liras we established a common kitty where I put ⅓ and he ⅔ of the funds. We then can pay all common expenses from the kitty and when the funds run low we can replenish them by the same proportions. I have found that this system works very well when cruising with friends because it avoids accounting and lapsed memories. Manos assumed the office of the treasurer and from now he paid all common expenses such as grocery shopping, restaurant bills, fuel, and docking fees.

Back at the marina, the transit log was waiting for us. While preparing to leave, a large departing Austrian catamaran caught one of her trailing lines in her propeller and started drifting out of control towards other boats. As I was getting ready to launch the zodiac to go and help, the marina attendants arrived with their power Joker boat and made my help unnecessary. We left our berth and went side-to at the fueling dock where we topped our tanks with 33 L of Diesel fuel. So far we have not used any of our spare capacity. Mary and Manos are both very comfortable and experienced in helping during maneuvers.

We left Ayvalik at 1540 and motored our way out of the channel for 8 nM to the small uninhabited island of Poroselene (Maden Adasi) which is NW of the channel at [39° 22.6' N, 026° 35.6' E] where we arrived at 1715. The sea was calm and the wind a variable 8-25 knots mostly from NNE. We anchored at 5 m depth. The bottom is loose mud and weeds but our anchor held firmly. It is a very pleasant anchorage.

We had a swim, rested by reading, and later in the evening we had an ouzo to celebrate our first anchorage. This quiet time gave us a chance to get to know each other better. It was a very convivial evening in a lovely place. I cooked a pasta with a sauce made from the last fresh tomatoes from Kalami, and we had a nice dinner in the cockpit.

Sunset at Poroselene
Sunset at Poroselene

Wednesday July 21, 1999, Day 9

Thetis at Tenedos
Thetis at Tenedos

We left Poroselene for Tenedos at 0620. The sea was very calm and there was no wind. After about 8 nM the wind come up at about 16 knots from NNE. This allowed us, to Manos’ delight, to sail with the main, still in its first reef, and the full genoa. Thus, we blissfully sailed in peace and quiet for about 10 nM until we rounded Cape Baba Burnu at which point the wind backed to NNW. We managed to sail for a few more miles, but then the wind diminished and we had to motor-sail for a while until we were about 3 nM from the harbor of Tenedos (Bozcaada, or Τένεδος in Greek), when we were able to sail again. We entered the harbor [39° 50.1' N 26° 04.6' E] under sail at 1530 having come 50.8 nM. We collected the sails and motored to the quay where we docked side-to without any problems.

There were no problems as far as the boat was concerned. The crew, however, was another matter. Shortly after we left Poroselene Manos received a call over the GSM phone. His mother has been admitted to a hospital and may need an operation, in which case Manos would not be able to continue to the Black Sea as we have been planning but would have to fly back to Athens from Istanbul with Mary. We will have to wait for developments and see. Mary in the mean time, yanked her back in the bathroom and by the time we arrived in Tenedos she had considerable back pain.

After docking, we put up the tent and swam in the crystal clear waters of the harbor, jumping right off Thetis. Later a 30' Turkish built Jeanneau, the ST DENK, with a singlehandler came in the harbor and docked next to us. He had come from Istanbul and reported that the Sea of Marmara and the Dardanelles were very calm. She was followed by another Jeanneau Sunshine with a crew of 3 men. They have sailed non-stop for 36 hours all the way from Kusadasi. They reported very large seas and head winds.

View from the Castle of Tenedos
View from the Castle of Tenedos

When I was in Tenedos last year with Nikos, the castle was closed and we did not see it. Now, it was open and Manos and I were able to visit it. It is a nice large castle with a lot of restoration. Inside there is a tiny museum that houses some Hellenistic lamps, 18th century sea trunks and copper utensils, two pre World War II radios, and other assorted bric-a-brac.

In the evening we all, Mary with some difficulty, walked to the tiny fishing harbor and ate at one of the pleasant restaurants there. Instead of main dishes, we made a meal out of mezedes (tasty morsels). We retired rather early. I was not able to make contact with our Greek friend from last year, Panayiotis, because we were tired and now with Manos’ concerns for his mother we wanted to push on and if possible make up for our 2 day delay in Lesvos.

Tenedos
The Castle of Tenedos

The Castle

The Fishing Harbor in Tenedos

The Fishing Harbor

Thursday July 22, 1999, Day 10

Last year on this day Thetis was in Fourni with my cousin Nicky Iliades and his friend Ben. I was thinking of this as we were getting ready in the early morning for our passage to Çanakkale. The plan was to get there early and maybe visit Troy, which Manos and Mary were very eager to see.

Approaching the Dardanelles
Approaching the Dardanelles

We left Tenedos at 0640. It was a very misty morning with terrible visibility. For the Northeast Aegean the forecast called for force 4 to 5 NE and for the Sea of Marmara 2 to 4. We were experiencing 10-16 knots NNE. The traffic to and from the Dardanelles was very heavy. At one time we had at least 9 very large ships on the radar or on visual. We were overtaken by 4 ships, one of which came so uncomfortably close to us that I had to alter our course. The current in the Dardanelles was at times over 3 knots. Our progress, under motor, against this current was slow and it took us until 1330 to cover the 26.4 nM over ground, 39.3 nM over the water. During this time, Mary’s back deteriorated to the point that she could only lie down and had no more desire to visit Troy. I felt very sorry for her, she was so excited yesterday about Troy. Manos had managed to call his mother’s doctor on the GSM phone and was now convinced that she will be operated on. So he made a reservation to fly back to Athens from Istanbul on Saturday. I will do my best to get them there on time. I was very sorry for these developments because they were both wonderful sailing companions. I was also very glad to have the GSM phone. It really had paid back by allowing us to communicate with Athens. Thetis was not a happy ship when she arrived at Çanakkale.

Approaching Çanakkale
Approaching Çanakkale

At the small marina [40° 09.3' N 26° 24.3' E] there was no sign of an attendant to tell us what to do, but there was a fairly brisk cross-wind. Fortunately I was familiar with the marina having been here last year with the Faneromeni. I prepared the anchor, the fenders, and the stern lines. I maneuvered the boat and Manos dropped the anchor and payed out the chain as I was backing to the quay. I was getting ready to jump ashore with a line when an attendant wearing a green “BP” shirt came and caught the line. However, he directed us to raise the anchor and use one of the permanent moorings. These did not exist last year. He handed as the mooring line which was tied ashore and we cast off while raising the anchor. Maneuvering back with the cross-wind in the narrow space, while raising the anchor and holding on to a mooring line was not easy. Nor was it easy to go astern without the benefit of an anchor to hold us. We managed on our second attempt. As soon as we were secured we launched the zodiac so that we could open the main cabin hatch and put up the tent as it was very hot.

Manos at Çanakkale
Manos at Çanakkale

I suggested that we find a doctor for Mary but neither she nor Manos were very keen on the idea. Some thought was given to her taking land transportation to Istanbul, but after learning that it was a 9 hour drive the idea was dropped.

Manos and I went ashore first for Manos to change some travelers’ checks (he did not have an ATM card) and then to buy some muscle relaxant for Mary. These days in Turkey, travelers’ checks are not as convenient as using an ATM machine. The first bank we went to did not honor them, nor did the second one. To our relief the third one did. We then went to a drug store where we managed to get some pills for Mary. As we were coming back to the marina we saw a sailboat with an elderly couple coming in. Now there were two attendants: Hulis (with the “BP” shirt) and Aydogan. They helped the sailboat dock to our starboard without any difficulties, while we moved our zodiac to our port side so that it would not be in their way. In the meantime, a large Turkish-flagged motor cruiser with two elderly gentlemen had entered the harbor. They were too impatient to wait for the attendants to finish with the sailboat and proceeded, very inexpertly and with violent maneuvering, to moor to our port side. They came at full speed astern straight at Thetis’ bow. It took the combined effort of myself fending them off with my feet and Manos lifting the zodiac straight out of the water to avoid damaging Thetis and smashing the zodiac. We came off lightly. They only destroyed our red navigation light which I replaced by a spare. “Atzemi!” exclaimed Hulis (the Greek word for inept is atzamis).

Zodiac to the Rescue
Zodiac to the Rescue

The next incident concerned a kitten rescue operation. We could hear a kitten crying, the sound seemed to come from a water tunnel under the concrete quay, connecting the marina with a small fishing boat harbor. I tried to reach the kitten with the zodiac from the marina side but was blocked by some thick water pipes inside the tunnel. In the mean time, several people had gathered including the marina attendants. They were all very keen on rescuing the kitten. They asked if they could use our zodiac. Then 3 or 4 people lifted it out of the water and carried it to the other side of the quay into the fishing harbor. From that side the zodiac could squeeze into the tunnel. Two rescue workers and the zodiac disappeared into the tunnel but it was too dark and they could not see the kitten. I gave them a large flashlight from Thetis and once again they disappeared into the tunnel. After some time and commotion (as by now there must have been over 15 people watching the spectacle and offering advice) they re-emerged very crest-fallen. The kitten, scared from the commotion and light, ran into a small hole way inside the tunnel and was unreachable. Her cries were very strident. Someone had an idea and explained it to the crowd with many animated gestures. Quickly two long planks of wood were brought and nailed together. They formed a long narrow floating raft. Then the zodiac crew placed one of its ends near the hole and its other outside the tunnel. The idea was that when everyone leaves the kitten will not be scared and she could walk on the raft out of the tunnel on her own and join her anxious mother who was hovering on the quay issuing long cries. Indeed, a few hours later they were no kitten cries. I was very impressed at how involved the people were at the plight of a little kitten.

Here kitty, kitty ...
Here kitty, kitty …

We later got 33 L of Diesel fuel, directly from the pump to our tank, topped the water tanks, and washed the deck. Ashore, we bought some fruits and bread.

In the evening Mary seemed a little better and we slowly walked to a nearby restaurant where we had a dinner of fresh grilled fish. We all hoped that Mary would feel better after taking the muscle relaxants and a good night’s sleep.

Friday July 23, 1999, Day 11

Mary had a very rough night and was in pain, but we decided to push on. Manos and I rearranged the spring lines and added a long stern line so that we could leave without being drifted in the wind over the mooring line and foul the propeller. We left at 0606. Manos was pulling the mooring line and I was paying off the stern and spring lines, allowing the wind to move our stern away from the mooring line which was tied to the quay. When we were clear, Manos let go of his end, and I engaged the gear forward. We were off without any problems. The wind was about 10-15 knots from the NE. The Navtex forecast from Istanbul called for force 4-5 NE in the Sea of Marmara and for 4-5 NE in the vicinity of Limnos. It was very misty with a visibility of about 5 miles. We motored against the current which at times was as high as 2.5 knots at our position close to the S shore, away from ships, and away from the middle of the strait where the current is even stronger. Nevertheless while we were in the Dardanelles we did not average more than 4.5 knots speed over ground. The wind was completely against us. We labored upstream and by the time we emerged from the strait into the Sea of Marmara the wind had freshened to almost 20 knots, still against us. There was a considerable chop giving us a bumpy ride with occasional spray.

Mary’s back was killing her and the choppy ride did not help at all. She was constantly trying to find a less painful position. One of the best she found was kneeling on the floor and resting her upper body on a berth. The problem was that after a while even that position was not comfortable and she had to switch. We considered various alternatives for where to spend the night. We rejected Kemer as being too far from Istanbul, giving us too long a distance for tomorrow, which would be a long stretch. The next possible anchorage was Karabiga. Its description in Heikell was very attractive. Manos and Mary, however, were for pushing further for today. So, we decided to go to the small island of Pasalimani.

The Fire at Pasalimani
The Fire at Pasalimani

As we were entering the main and recommended cove of Pasalimani, which is full of dangerous reefs, we observed that it was exposed to the chop and it would not be comfortable. We headed S to a more settled little cove but a large billboard ashore informed us that there was a submarine cable and anchorage was prohibited. We looked at Heikell, and decided to look into the cove of Baliki, at the S coast of the island. As we were rounding the SW point of the island we saw a small fire, not too far from the cove with the cable. Within minutes the fire flared up. By the time we rounded the point there were bellows of dark smoke. The sea was uncomfortably choppy. We motored for a few miles E along the S coast towards Baliki, which did not look too inviting, when I noticed a very settled inlet not too far W of Baliki. This inlet is not mentioned by Heikell. We approached very carefully and anchored at 6 m. The inlet is located at [40° 27.5' N, 027° 35.6' E] and, at least today, it was very calm and protected. The time was 1900 and we had covered 71.4 nM. The wind was by now gusting around 30 knots but our anchor was holding, and where we were the sea was flat.

By this time, the fire was raging. It had spread and crossed the ridge. It was a very dramatic and frightening sight. Fortunately, after sunset, the wind that was feeding it quieted down and eventually the fire died out all by itself. While watching the fire, Manos speculated the following scenario. Suppose people had seen Thetis with her Greek flag approach that little cove and shortly afterwards they noticed the fire. Could they come, with the present paranoia, to the conclusion that we set it as an act of arson? I must say, that although far fetched, the idea did upset us.

Manos prepared a delicious potato salad with tuna fish, capers, and a mustard sauce. We ate it together with some left over pasta. The GSM indicated that we had voice mail. It was Alice whom I called in Kalami. It is her last evening in Samos as tomorrow she is flying to Athens and the day after back to Washington, D.C. As we were getting to retire for the night, to our surprise the GSM phone chirped. It was Andonis calling from Athens. He is flying to Istanbul tomorrow and was very glad to hear that we were also close and planned to be there by tomorrow evening.

Saturday July 24, 1999, Day 12

I was woken up by the alarm that I had set for 0340. When I got out of my cabin, there was poor Mary, all dressed up, standing by the galley. She had a most miserable night. I made coffee and raised the anchor without disturbing Manos. We were on our way by 0415. It was fairly calm and the wind was low. By daybreak we were just W of the NW corner of the Erdek peninsula. A school of dolphins of about 5-6 individuals came and played with our bow wave. These were the first dolphins I had seen this year, and I took it as a very good omen.

After rounding Erdek the wind rose to a brisk 18 knots NNE, a head wind of course. The waves were now very choppy and made our going very uncomfortable, as we were banging and spraying. On we went. Mary was in agony. As we got away from the peninsula, the wind diminished to 6 knots and the sea flattened. We attempted to sail, but to do so we would have to point way off our course and tack. This would get us to the harbor late, and we wanted to get there as soon as possible on the account of Mary. We motor-sailed at a good clip. As it was getting hot, we lowered the main and put up the tent. As the wind died out completely we rolled in the genoa also. Manos prepared bread-cheese-tomato-mustard sandwiches which we ate at the cockpit table. It was very pleasant but the visibility was less than 5 nM. We were constantly consulting the radar for traffic.

Approaching Istanbul
Approaching Istanbul

When we were about 25 nM from Istanbul the wind began to freshen and the sea became choppy once again. As time went by both the wind and the chop increased to a very uncomfortable level. The main cabin windows were leaking. This has been a chronic problem on Thetis. Every year the windows have been repaired to no avail. Four years ago they were replaced but the leaks, if anything, became worse. The wind increased to 24 knots and we removed the tent. We were not making good headway and we were banging and spraying. I opened the genoa and changed course off the wind to the S. This improved the ride and our speed to 6 knots but we were not going directly to our destination. About 6 nM from the Kalamis Marina, the chop was smaller and we rolled-in the genoa and headed directly for the marina. There was heavy ship traffic. Andonis called us on the GSM phone. He was now in Istanbul. Manos asked him to see if he could reserve a room for them because it might be better for Mary to be in a room and possibly see a doctor in the morning. He called right back and confirmed that a room was waiting for them.

As we were getting closer to the marina, I hailed channel 73 on the VHF. They responded and directed us to use channel 72. We announced our arrival and there was a response but it was not very clear. We arrived at the marina entrance [40° 58.6' N 29° 02.2' E] at 1930, having traveled 82 nM. I hailed the marina again, but no response this time. The entrance was very tricky because there were two unmarked posts. I waited and observed another boat exiting before attempting to enter because I was not sure which side of the posts was danger free. This entrance was shown neither on our charts nor in Heikell. As soon as we entered we were met by an attendant in a Joker boat but he did not speak any other language than Turkish. With gestures he directed us to a berth and gave to Manos, who was at the bow, a mooring line. I backed the boat, while Manos was slowly slacking the mooring line, and when close enough I threw the two stern lines to the two waiting attendants. This is getting me spoiled: No anchoring, a crewman on the bow, an attendant with an inflatable ready to push, and two more attendants ashore. We had arrived in Istanbul.

As soon as we had tied our lines we received a call from Alice who was in Athens, and another from Manos’ mother. Manos packed their bags and I helped them to a taxi. Mary could hardly walk. Their ride to the hotel was a torture for her. I spoke to the marina office. The young man did not speak very good English and he indicated that there was nothing I could do tonight about our transit log that according to the rules, needed an amendment to reflect the change of crew. All this had to be done tomorrow.

I was very tired, too tired to cook. So I went to the restaurant within the marina. The food was excellent but a little pricy. Back aboard Thetis I crashed, despite the multitude of mosquitoes.

Total distance from Mitilini, Lesvos to Istanbul 272 nM, 49.8 travel hours.