Travels with S/Y Thetis

Thetis only

1998: Preparation

Tuesday May 26, 1998

I am on a BA plane, flying over the Atlantic, on my way to Greece and eventually to my beloved Thetis. It was a long, long winter and for a while I did not think that I would ever see my boat again. It all started on December 13 when out of the blue I had a really bad heart attack. It was terrible! I was taken to the emergency room in an ambulance with, as it later emerged, two almost completely blocked arteries. It was a very strange sensation: no pain but a very heavy, choking weight on the chest, pressing, pressing relentlessly. Time stood still and I was convinced that this was the end. Two thoughts predominated in my mind while I was being carted around the hospital:

  1. how lucky I have been in my life to have many loved ones, a wonderful wife, two lovely daughters, a good boat with several worthwhile sailing trips, and a challenging creative work. I have had a good life, and if this was it, I had no regrets,
  2. what a bloody shame to end it all under the glaring lights of this ugly, sterile, impersonal hospital instead of in the clean salty sea and what a pity not to have realized my childhood dream of crossing the wide blue Ocean.

Well, thanks to modern medical technology, I underwent emergency angioplasty, had metal reinforcements (stents) placed in the arteries, and I survived. Recovery, however, was very slow, agonizingly slow and it was complicated by a bout of influenza. I was weak and dizzy for months, so weak that I seriously doubted that I would ever be able to sail again, not to mention singlehandling and crossing oceans. I went onto a very strict diet, I exercised daily, and with the great help of my wife Alice, I slowly ever so slowly regained my strength so that now I feel almost normal. Am I, really? Or am I deluding myself? I will know the answer in a few days. Will I have the old stamina? How will I feed myself under the new eating rules? Time will tell. Just the fact that I am even seriously contemplating an attempt to return to my sailing life is exiting enough.

My short range plans are simple. Get to Athens, and prepare Thetis for summer cruising. Then fly to Lesvos where my brother Nikos is waiting for me with his Faneromeni and we will sail to Ayvalik in Turkey and then to the Dardanelles and Istanbul. On June 9, I will fly back to Athens and meet Alice and the two of us will slowly sail Thetis, testing the waters so to speak, to Samos. Then we shall see…

Wednesday May 27 - Saturday May 30, 1998

These have been some frantic days devoted to preparing Thetis for the summer. She is in good shape, all electrical systems are working except for the re-wired wind generator, whose wiring was not completed. Also during the spring my brother Nikos purchased for me a new Yamaha Malta 3 hp outboard for the zodiac to replace the old Evinrude that was failing last year. I met Mr. Petros, the electrician, and he promised to complete the wiring next week. Also it appears that Thetis almost sunk. When she was taken out of the water in the Olympic Marine shipyard at Lavrio, they removed the knot meter plug to air the hull. However, when they re-launched her they forgot to replace the plug, so she flooded. By the time they plugged her she was full of water. In a typical Greek fashion once the immediate problem was rectified no one thought of removing all the wet items, rinsing them in fresh water, and drying them. As a result I now found most of my spares and tools rusted and the electric drill inoperable. The fresh water pressure pump was also destroyed and had to be replaced.

For 3 days I ran all over Glyfada, Voula, Kalamaki, Athens, and Piraeus, replacing items, re-fueling, carting gear from the storage room in Voula to the boat, and buying eating supplies. With the help of Rohalio, who takes care in the winter of of both my Thetis and my brother’s Faneromeni, I installed the sails, rescued as many spares and tools as I could and by Saturday evening the boat is ready to sail again.