Travels with S/Y Thetis

Thetis only

2000: Samos to Leros

This web page contains the logs of a five day solo sailing trip that I took with S/Y Thetis from the island of Samos in the East Aegean to the island of Leros in the Dodechanese where she was hauled out of the water and where she will spend the winter. Along the way we stopped in the islands of Arki, and Lipsi. 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.

September 27 to October 8, 2000

The Cliffs in Mon, Denmark

While Thetis was resting in the Pythagorio Marina, I took the plane to Athens and on the next day flew to Copenhagen. I met my daughter Cynthia at the airport. The purpose of the trip was to collect samples of mussels form various spots on the North and Baltic seas for her research in evolutionary genetics. Back in her lab she analyzes their DNA to determine how related organisms spread and eventually become separate species. She rented a car and we drove NW to Rotilde where we stayed at a hostel right next to the Viking Museum. Right away we went to the docks looking for mussels and to her delight she collected several samples. In the evening I was introduced to the fine art of mussel dissection. Pieces of mussel flesh were stored in tiny labeled sample bottles filled with alcohol and another fluid suitable for DNA analysis while the shells were cleaned and also labeled.

The next day we drove further N on Zealand island, stopping several times to collect mussels, until we reached Helsinor where we visited the famous castle. For the night we returned to Rotilde. On our third day in Denmark, we drove S, always collecting. The furthest south that we went was the island of Mon where we walked down from the cliffs to collect more mussels.

On our last day in Denmark, we drove N, back to Copenhagen. We spent the afternoon waking in the city and visiting the Carlsberg Glyptotek Museum.

Looking for mussels in Finland

The next day we took a flight to Helsinki, Finland. Again Cynthia rented a car and we drove E to Provo. We looked in vain for mussels in the vicinity but we could not find any. Cynthia theorized that the water was too brackish this far east into the Baltic.

The following day, we drove W, past Helsinki to Hango where we collected more samples. From there we went N to Rauma on the SW coast of Finland. On our last day, we drove back to Helsinki. We walked around the city and took a ferryboat to a harbor island. Next morning Cynthia took a flight back to the US and I to Athens via Copenhagen.

I spent the following day in Athens and then flew back to Samos.

Thetis was fine, save a small scrape and the loss of a fender cover.

Route to Leros
Route to Leros

Monday October 9, 2000, Day 1

I am back on Thetis. Everything is fine except there is a general strike on Samos to protest the appalling lack of enforcement of safety rules on the ferryboats. I just managed to buy some bread and water before all the stores closed. I could not get to the bank. All banks were closed.

The wind was strong from the SE and the Navtex forecast called for force 7 southerlies for the Sea of Ikaria and Samos Sea. I decided not to leave today but wait for a more favorable N wind. The radio/CD player did not work. I called Jensen, its manufacturer, but they did not have any constructive suggestions. I disconnected it from all power and left it in the hope that it might reset, since its problem seemed to me to be firmware related.

Storm Clouds coming

A sailboat flying the US flag came in the Pythagorio Marina. I went and helped them with the docking lines. She is the S/Y Que Sera Sera form Ohio. Her owners, a middle aged couple have sailed her from Ohio via canals and the US Intercostal waters to Florida. From there they sailed to Bermuda and South America. They sailed round Cape Horn to Pickairn island and to the Marquesas. Then into the Indian Ocean. They loved Thailand where they spent some time. Eventually they made it here to Samos via the Suez Canal. Despite all this heavy traveling since they left Ohio in 1997 the boat is immaculate and looks very freshly varnished. I never got a chance to learn more of their fascinating story. Our conversation over a glass of wine was abruptly interrupted by a most violent downpour. All the hatches on Thetis, on the other side of the marina were open. I had to run. We never got a chance to exchange addresses. May they fair well while they continue their circumnavigation.

Darkness came swiftly. All night we had violent squalls with heavy showers. I cooked some pasta and retired early. My sleep was frequently interrupted by severe thunderstorms accompanied by the most dazzling shows of lightning.

Tuesday October 10, 2000, Day 2

Rainbow, as we are leaving Pythagorio

During the night the Navtex printed a new, much more benign forecast: no gale and force 5-6 SW winds soon becoming W with their strength attenuating. Based on this report, and after looking at the waves over the mole, I decided to depart Samos for Arki. One has to be extra careful with these southerlies because they can increase very quickly and most of the coves are not well sheltered from them.

I cast off all the lines except one which I doubled around a bollard to steady the boat but unfortunately I must had not secured one end properly and it dropped into the water while its other end was still on the bollard. So, I had to make a new approach to the quay and with the hook I recovered the line. All is well that ends well! It was 0815.

Outside the marina, there were sizable waves and the wind was coming from the SW at 10-20 knots. We motored for about 7 M to Samiopoula island where, as usual, the wind veered WSW which allowed me to raise the main and motor-sail. Both the main and the genoa have gotten a beating from the last passage. On the genoa’s clew one of the straps has come unstitched and I was reluctant to use the sail. I also noticed a tear on the main, near the pocket of the second batten.

As we were approaching Arki, both the wind and the waves diminished somewhat. We arrived at my favorite cove in Arki, Porto Grosso or Glipapas [37° 22.5' N 026° 44.5' E] at 1320, after 24.6 M. The cove was well protected from the W wind. I anchored without any problem over a sandy patch. The only flaw was that the sky was overcast.

After a light lunch, I fell asleep while reading in the cockpit. When I woke up more refreshed I tried to repair the sails but the genoa canvas was so thick that after breaking three needles I had to give up and just patched things with sail tape.

By late afternoon there was at last tranquillity. The wind had died out completely and the sky had cleared. There was lovely sunshine for about an hour and then a very colorful sunset to the accompaniment of the music from the sheep’s bells as they were returning from their pasture to their drinking cistern.

Before leaving Samos, I had precooked some turkey breast cutlets. Now I prepared one of them in a wine and mustard sauce with capers, olives, onions, and balsamic vinegar. I served it on a bed of rice. Delicious fare to a hungry sailor. This was consumed, along with a Santorini wine, in the cockpit, illuminated by the nearly full moon which was reflected in the mirror-calm sea to the sound of Tsitsanis and then Bach. This is sailing…

Wednesday October 11, 2000, Day 3

This was a very lazy day. During the night, the very light W wind changed to E and as a result Thetis drifted slowly towards the shore. The weight of the considerable length of chain prevented her from drifting too close. Since I wanted to go for a walk and I was not comfortable leaving her drifting to the shore, I re-anchored. I prepared the zodiac which had been lashed on deck from before my trip to Scandinavia. It needed a lot of air. Its persistent leak was a total mystery. It had been leaking since August, yet I had been unable to locate the damn leak.

Glipapas, Arki

I went ashore and climbed the hill until there was a reasonable signal on the cell phone. I sent a message to my wife Alice in Washington, D.C. and I called Agmar Marine (renamed Moor & Dock) in Leros to make sure that they can schedule Thetis’ haul-out and the fiberglass work needed for the windows. It looks like I better get to Leros by Friday. I also called Mr. Anagnostopoulos, the window man in Athens. He promised to come, next week to Leros and re-install the windows. The whole affair of wintering Thetis in Leros and taking care of everything before leaving for the US is a big question mark and a source of some anxiety, but if it works well it would be much less expensive than wintering in Athens and much more closer to our house in Kalami, Samos.

After taking care of all the pending business from the temporary office I established on top of a rock, I was free at last to take a nice long walk. At the end of the walk I ended in the harbor of Port Augusta. There I was greeted by Mr. Yiannis, my friend from Pythagorio. He was skippering one of his boats on charter to a group of very loud Americans. At the entrance of the harbor there was a very large floating crane. They are making a new dock for ferryboats and hydrofoils. After having a coffee with Mr. Yiannis, I walked back to my cove and rowed the dinghy to Thetis.

The day was gorgeous. Sunshine and calm. I had a long swim, and then lunch. I decided to spend another night in this wonderful cove and go tomorrow to Lipsi. I felt very lazy. I started a new book: η Πάνω Μεριά του κόσμου - i Pamo Meria tou kosmou by Kadio Kolymba. It is based on the diaries of her grandmother Kadio Sigala-Nomikou. She was from present day Oia (Pano Meria) and the daughter of a captain. She was married at the age of 15 and although she had a minimum of education she became a widow while still young but managed the family afairs and amassed one of the greatest fortunes in Greece. She was the matriarch and head of the Nomikos ship owner family that has dominated modern Greek merchant shipping. Despite her wealth, all her life she remained a simple and kind woman equally at home in her kitchen as well as at the Piraeus headquarters of her empire. What a woman! The book is so fascinating, written in a rich Santorinean dialect that I could not put it down. I finished it by late afternoon.

After another glorious sunset, I cooked some fettucini with a tomato and tuna sauce. It was very good. Once again it was a lovely evening. I started a new book: Top Hat, Gray Wolf, and Crescent: Turkish Nationalism & The Turkish Republic (in Greek) by Hugh Poulton.

Thursday October 12, 2000, Day 4

Thetis left Arki at 0815. There was almost no wind (5-6 knots E) and the sea was very calm. I motored to the S side of Arki and checked the Tiganakia area. This is a very attractive region of many small islands but it is too shallow and not well charted for a singlehandler to anchor. I did not stop. While motoring, I ran the watermaker to replenish the fresh water supply.

We continued south and entered Lipsi harbor. The S cove in the bay looks like a very good refuge from the S wind. Again, I did not stay but proceeded to S side of Lipsi to my favorite Papandriá cove.

We arrived in Papandriá [37° 16.8' N 26° 46.2' E] at 1040, 10.5 M. I anchored at my usual spot, behind the Lira island with no difficulties. I had a nice swim in the emerald water while checking the anchor. The day was getting fairly hot and I put up the tent.

Katsadia in Lipsi

After lunch I took a light nap and read. Unfortunately this blissful state did not last. It was shattered by news from the outside world. First, the cell phone rung. It was my brother Nikos with terrible news. He was leaving his house to attend the funeral of our cousin Maria Dara. Maria, a few years my junior, was one of my favorite relatives. We had spent a lot of time together as kids in Samos when we were both visiting our grandmothers. She grew up into a gorgeous very idiorythmic red-haired woman. She had a successful career as an architect but gave it up to pursue her real interest photography. She had many exhibits. All the time, she absolutely refused to get married, she valued her independence too much. Nikos did not know any more details. These news completely shook me.

Bad news always seems to arrive in clusters. I had hardly put the phone down when it received an e-mail message from my wife Alice in Washington, D.C. Our feisty parrot, Caesar, was found dead in his cage. He had been part of our lives and family for the past 15 years. I cannot honestly say which of the two deaths has upset me most Maria’s or Caesar’s. Whenever I think of either of them, tears come to my eyes. The world will be a poorer place without them. Both were quite unique individuals in their own way. I feel a great void in this idyllic anchorage.

Later I went ashore and walked the 30 minutes to the town where I had an ouzo with the usual excellent grilled octopus. I then went to the main square and had some chicken souvlaki. I then walked back to Papandriá and to Thetis.

Back aboard I ate grapes that I had brought from Kalami along with some sweet Samos wine. It was a lovely night with a full moon but my heart was not in it. I really could not enjoy my last evening afloat, my mind kept coming back to the lost ones who from now on will live only as memories. Never will I forget Caesar’s squeaky voice announcing “elephone” whenever the phone rang. Nor could I ever forget my beautiful cousin and her laughter.

Friday October 13, 2000, Day 5

Although the day was not auspicious being Friday the 13th (Greeks consider this day rather Tuesday the 13th as bad luck), everything went rather smoothly. Despite or maybe because this was my last day afloat I had a late start, I was not very anxious to leave this nice anchorage. We did not get under way until 1100.

The wind was 15-25 knots from the N which gave me a last treat. I was able to have my last sail for the year. We sailed the 6.6 M with both sails straight from Papandriá to Partheni in Leros.

Before leaving, I had called Agmar Marine and advised them of our ETA so they were expecting us. Sure enough as we entered Partheni [37° 11.31' N 26° 48.02' E], still under sail, I could see the travel-lift and its operators on the “pool.” I lowered the sails, prepared 4 docking lines and a few spares, and put up the fenders. As I approached the “pool,” I could see that the travel-lift straps were already in the water. The two attendants caught my lines and Thetis was gently guided over the straps, it was 1240. They asked me where exactly to place the straps but I was not sure. I frantically looked in the boat’s manual but there was no information. Because I was afraid of causing damage to the rudder and propeller shaft, I dove with a mask and snorkel into the clear water and guided the placement of both straps clear of shafts and throughulls. After that, the operation went very smoothly. Thetis rose slowly and before I knew it she was out of her element.

Thetis out of the water

The travel-lift then drove Thetis slowly to her winter resting place. The attendants placed 3 metal stands and she was lowered. I was very favorably impressed with the careful attention paid to all details of this operation. I spoke with Mr. Angelos Gaitanidis, the shipyard manager and partner. The rate for haul-out and haul-in together with winter storage was most reasonable. I connected AC to the battery charger.

My plans were to sleep in Thetis for tonight and rent a car and move to a hotel tomorrow. The windows will be removed on Monday. To be ready for their removal I need to remove all the stuff from the main cabin and protect what cannot be moved.

I started bagging and moving things but by evening time I was rather tired and stopped. There was a strong N wind and it felt as if the boat was moving but it was of course an illusion, a left over from being so long at sea.

I had an ouzo to celebrate the successful haul-out and then I cooked my last turkey cutlet with my last fresh tomatoes, and onions in a wine sauce. A had a nice dinner in the cockpit pretending that we were still afloat. I slept well, not having to worry about the anchor dragging.

The total distance for this short trip was 41.7 M in 9.2 sailing hours all of which were solo.

Saturday October 14, 2000

Thetis at her winter place

I started work early. First I packed all my clothes and most of the stuff that I will be taking with me to the US, these I will move to the hotel. Then I removed all the blankets, dirty sheets, cushion covers (20), and curtains. I packed all these into plastic garbage bags. I removed the rugs (6). I packed all the books that will stay in Thetis and the ones that I will take next year for storage in Kalami.

By that time Mr. Vasilis Paraponiaris, the second Agmar Marine partner, arrived I was almost ready. He drove me and a few duffel bags to the Hotel Marilen where Angelos had made reservations for me last night. The room was large and had a small kitchen and a refrigerator. Soon the rental car that Angelos had also reserved was delivered. A tiny Twingo for 10,000 GRD/day.

I drove the car to the yard and loaded it with all the blankets, covers, curtains, and rugs that were for cleaning. I drove these to Lakki, about 8 km from Partheni. The dry cleaner was very pleased to receive these but he said that he could not do a good job on the rugs. He suggested that I take them to certain gas station that does car rugs. Since I did not know where this station was, he closed his store and he came with me to show me the way. Nice people here. He then pointed out that several hooks on the curtains were broken. He directed me to a near by notions store where I got the plastic hooks, and he said that his wife will sew them. He promised that by Tuesday everything will be ready.

Before leaving Lakki, I bought several more plastic bags and some bread and cold cuts for lunch. Then I drove back to the yard in Partheni. After lunch I loaded the two washing machines with my laundry and attacked the zodiac. I took me until 5 PM, but I cleaned it thoroughly with soap. I also washed the sun-shower. By that time I was too tired for more work. I had a cup of coffee and left for the hotel.

Sunday October 15, 2000

More work! I cleared the shelves from the main cabin, moving everything in bags and into the bins in the front cabin. I hosed the deck and cockpit and washed all the running lines and the primary anchor and its chain. I took all the deck cushions to the tiled area as well as the tent, and spray hood, and washed them. Then I spread them on the clean deck to dry. I covered all the inside cushions with plastic so that they will stay clean while there is fiberglass work on the windows. When dry, I stowed the deck cushions, tent and spray hood in the left cabin, after bagging them. Now Thetis is ready for the window work.

Monday October 16, 2000

Another long day. I washed all the docking lines, long shore lines, the secondary anchor, and its chain, fenders, and fender covers. While all these things were drying on the deck, I siphoned fuel from the jerry cans into the tank so that it will stay full. I also put fuel conditioner in the diesel tank and in the outboard gasoline tank.

In the afternoon the yard removed the windows. The fiberglass was a mess. It was miracle that it held over the gales and a window was not completely blown off. Had that thing happened Thetis would most likely have sunk. After seeing the work and quality of these windows I did not want the same outfit touching my boat again. A much more radical solution was called for rather then re-installing them again.

Tuesday October 17, 2000

Argyris, the fiberglass specialist at Agmar, continued cleaning and smoothing the horrible gaps made during the window installation. After the whole mess was exposed there were many lengthy discussions between Angelos, Argyris, the carpenter, and myself. I also consulted by phone with my brother Nikos. Finally the plan of action was agreed:

  1. The fiberglass will be restored to the original size window openings.
  2. The inside wooden panels will be replaced with marine plywood and with the same veneer as the original.
  3. Stainless steel frames will be fabricated for the inside openings.
  4. Plexiglas panels, 4 per side will be installed on the outside, These will be bonded to the fiberglass with sicoflex, and their attachment screws will be attached to threads on the steel frames, thus distributing the load evenly.
  5. The curtain rails and straps will be installed in such a way as to accommodate the existing curtains.

Now Angelos was making a budget for my approval. I was afraid it will be expensive. On the other fronts, with the help of Thanasis, Vasilis’ son, I removed the sails and I folded them with the help of the lady from Gorgeous Lady, a truly gorgeous Swiss boat.

Bob and Jean arrived in Partheni with their S/Y Patient Lady and anchored off-shore. I took the afternoon off from my tasks and we drove around the island sightseeing taking advantage of the rented car.

In the evening we drove to Lakki and had a very nice dinner at the Petrino restaurant which was well recommended by Angelos.

Ayios Isidoros in Leros

Wednesday October 18, 2000

This day was dominated by the sails. First thing in the morning I rinsed the genoa and then with the help of a friendly sailor form a Dutch boat and the halyard winch, raised it up on Thetis and draped it over the lifelines to dry because it was too windy to raise it on the mast. That would had strained the boat high on its stands. By that time Bob from the Patient Lady had also come to help me.

Later Bob went back to the Patient Lady, they were getting ready to depart from Partheni, so we all said our good-byes. Maybe we will meet again.

In the mean-time, Michalis the carpenter started removing the damaged interior wood panels which will be replaced. What a mess! While he was working inside Thetis, I drove to Lakki and picked up the rugs and all the other items from the cleaner. They were all nicely bagged and ready to stow. I also bought a ticket for flying to Athens on Friday.

Back in Partheni, I lowered the genoa on the tiles and folded it. It was not easy because of the wind. Then I spread the main and rinsed it. Using the halyard and the winch, and with the help of Thanasis, I raised it and spread it all over the deck to dry.

I had a long conversation with Angelos about the work to be done on Thetis over the winter. He is very reassuring but time will tell if he is also reliable.

With the help of Nick from Poco Andante I folded the genoa and raised it up on Thetis. By that time it has late night and I was very tired.

Thursday October 19, 2000

I bagged both sails which are to go to the sail maker for a thorough washing and repairs. I then washed the horseshoe life preservers. In the meantime Argyris started draping the main and rear cabins with plastic as a protection from the messy fiberglass work.

I drove to Lakki where I made copies of various documents. I am planning to change Thetis’ status from a professional boat to a pleasure boat, this will mean heavy paperwork.

When I got back to Partheni, and after the workers left, I cleaned the refrigerator and the stove. Now I am more or less ready to leave Leros and Thetis tomorrow. I will miss her.

The 2000 statistics are:

2000 Statistics
Total Distance 1272 M
Time at Sea 71 days
Engine Time 225 hr
Solo Time 257 hr
Fuel Consumed 236 L