This web page contains the logs of the fourth leg from a thirty seven day sailing trip that I took with S/Y Thetis around the Greek Aegean. The leg lasted for four days and it was from the island of Skiathos in the North Sporades to the Trikeri region of the Pagasitikos Gulf (Gulf of Volos), back to Skiathos, and then to Skopelos. Places visited on the way are: Skiathos, the Trikeri Channel, the island of Paleo Trikeri, and Skopelos. Accompanying me were by my school friend, Manos Castrinakis, and Nadia Demetropoulou who departed Thetis in Skiathos. From there I singlehandled Thetis to Skopelos. At Skopelos I met with Bob and Jean Parker on their American S/Y Patient Lady, whom I had met last year in Finikas.
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.
Sunday September 17, 2000, Day 27
After a very quiet and pleasant night we got up slowly and at 0850 left Koukounaries. Our plan was to sail NW of Skiathos, go by the reef Lefteris (Λεφτέρης), and then enter the Pagasitikos Gulf and explore the Trikeri area at the “foot” of Mt. Pelion. This is the enchanted mountain where the centaur Chiron taught so many mythological heroes including Jason the leader of the Argonauts. There was hardly any wind and we had to motor.
Now Manos, whose grandfather was an admiral of the Greek Navy, had gone on several cruises, as a kid, aboard a naval ship commanded by his grandfather that supplied all the remote lighthouses with fuel, provisions, and carried the correspondence of the lighthouse keepers. He has very fond memories of these trips and he clearly remembers the reef Lefteris. This reef covers a very small area and it is very treacherous as it is right in the middle of the Trikeri Channel that separates Skiathos from Evia and the mainland. It is a very busy channel and many ships have found their doom on Lefteris. The list includes many of the ships from the Persian fleet of Xerxes on their way to conquer Greece in 480 BC. The reef then was called Myrmes.
As we cleared the westernmost tip of Skiathos we could see a ship near to where Lefteris should be. The sea was dead calm and there was no wind at all. As we approached we realized that the ship was a wreck, another victim of Lefteris. It was a very dramatic sight. We took several pictures as we circled the reef and the wreck.
By now the sun was getting strong and we put up the tent while we motored. At 1120 we stopped at a cove [39° 05.3' N 023° 07' E] about 3 nM E of Trikeri Point, anchored, and had a refreshing swim. We stayed less than half an hour and then continued motoring towards the point.
While motoring, Manos started preparing lunch. He made an elaborate potato salad with water chestnuts, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and a vinaigrette sauce, in addition to the potatoes. While he was preparing wonderful smells kept emanating from the kitchen while Nadia and I were getting more and more ravenous. We went by the traditional boat shipyard Ayia Kiriaki (Αγία Κυριακή) but did not stop. We entered the Pagasitikos Gulf (Παγασιτικός Κόλπος). It was very calm with deep clear water, much cleaner than I was expecting.
At 1345 we stopped at a mainland cove [39° 08.4' N 023°04.25' E] right across from the island of Paleo Trikeri for another swim and at last for lunch. We had come 21.9 nM from Koukounaries. The swim was nice but brief. We were all anxious to proceed for lunch. It was delicious and to Manos’ great surprise there were no leftovers. After lunch we swam some more. Nice clear waters.
We left the cove at 1500. While going by we checked the little hamlet at Paleo Trikeri island. It looked so attractive that we decided to come back and spend the night here. In the mean-time, we headed east towards the island of Alatas. By now there was a good 10-15 knots SE breeze and we opened the genoa, while still keeping up the tent. We sailed fairly fast to the island and we entered its gulf from the N side. Here we ran out of wind and had to start the motor again. There were many sailboats, small sailing dinghies and windsurfs taking advantage of gusts in a flat sea. This area looks idyllic for sailors. We removed the tent and motored to the S tip of Alatas, past the narrow channel (4 m deep) and once again opened the headsail. By this time the SE wind had reached 38 knots and we had a very fast and exhilarating sail (despite the wind the sea was very calm) back to Paleo Trikeri.
We arrived in Paleo Trikeri (Παλαιό Τρίκερι) [39° 09.2' N 023° 04.6' E] at 1845 (39.4 nM from Koukounaries). We asked a local fisherman if we could moor side-to the quay. He told us it would be all right because the ferryboat had just left and there was no other ferry due until Wednesday. We rigged the fenders and lines and approached. A local lad came and helped us with the lines. No problem!
After showers and dressing, we went for a walk and checked the two restaurants: the Diavlos and the Skala. Unfortunately, we were told that while no ferryboat was due the hydrofoil was scheduled to stop here at 9:00 PM. This caused us a great amount of agitation because we were not sure whether Thetis was on the way, in which case we had to move her, or not. It turned out that we did not interfere after all, and the hydrofoil came and then went on her merry way. After all this excitement we went back to Diavlos and had some wonderfully grilled crayfish and chicken. This has been a most satisfactory day.
Monday September 18, 2000, Day 28
Before leaving the island of Paleo Trikeri we took a 15 minute walk up the hill to the Monastery of Panayia. It was built in 1829 and it is very well maintained. The monk/priest came over and introduced himself. He was born in Evia but he had been a priest for over 40 years in Canada. After his repatriation in Greece he was assigned to Paleo Trikeri where he has been for only 4 months. He is a sharp and very ambitious fellow and wants to make many changes. He walked with us back to the harbor and he invited us to join him for a cup of coffee. On the way down we met a very frisky young donkey who, after I petted him, took a great liking of me. He followed us almost all the way to the harbor.
We left Paleo Trikeri at 1030. The wind was a very light breeze of 2-10 knots SSW and we were forced to motor. We decided to follow the north shore of Skiathos and go to its main harbor in the evening. After motoring for 20.4 nM we stopped in the lovely beach of Mandraki (Μανδράκι) [39° 10' N 023° 23.8' E] at 1350.
Skiathos (Σκιάθος) is the most touristically developed of the Sporades. As a result in the past several years it has been cursed by many large and ugly new buildings, especially along its southern shores. By nature, Skiathos is a beautiful island, mountainous and very green, with large trees, and its reputed 62 beaches are of stunning beauty. Unfortunately very few have been left in their natural state. Most have been “developed” which translates into bars, blasting loudspeakers, umbrellas, cigarette buts, beach chairs, plastic wrappers, and many other non-natural elements.
To my mind, as to the mind of most people raised and educated in Greece, Skiathos is synonymous with the archetypal Greek island. This is because of our early introduction to the vivid short stories of Alexandros Papadiamantis which all take place in Skiathos. Papadiamantis is maybe Modern Greece’s pre-eminent short story writer. He lived and wrote in Skiathos. His stories are populated with local characters who move along the countryside and gaze on the sea and its waves braking on the rocks. He wrote in an archaic form of language, catharevousa, that no one uses any more and is hard to read, but the characters all spoke in the vernacular dialect of the island. Despite the language barrier these stories are totally absorbing. The modest house where Papadiamantis lived and worked is now a museum. My inner vision of Papadiamantis’ Skiathos contrasted with the modern polyglot reality is stark.
The history of Skiathos is almost identical with the history of Skopelos. The small fort, Bourtzi, between the old and the new harbor was built by the Venetian Gizzis. Many of the island inhabitants are descendants of refugees from Evia who settled on Skiathos in 1790.
We had a nice long swim in the emerald green waters after which Manos made us a most excellent omelet with potatoes that he had brought with him pre-cooked from Athens. He served the omelet with the left-over tuna-tomato sauce from two evenings ago. He also made a salad with fresh tomatoes and artichoke hearts.
By the time we had this wonderful lunch and were ready to sail it was 1610. By this time there was some wind (8-18 knots SSW) and we managed to sail with the genoa but did keep the tent up. We went past Kastro, the old capital of the island. The sail lasted until we rounded the island when we faced a stiff headwind and we were obliged to roll-in the genoa. We motored the rest of the way to the Skiathos Harbor [39° 09.9' N 023° 29.6' E] which we entered at 1830 after 31.6 nM from Paleo Trikeri.
There have been some changes to the harbor since my last visit. There was now a new floating dock to which we moored stern-to without any trouble despite the cross-wind. The only problem was that with the swell the dock was undulating. Walking on the dock almost made me sea sick.
I prepared a crew list with me as skipper and Manos and Nadia as crew and charter papers: Manos is chartering Thetis for 3 weeks! (I needed this for the bureaucratic paperwork). We then all walked to the Limenarchio (Coast Guard) and had all these papers blessed with the official seals. I will be mailing them to Sophia (Thetis’ accountant) tomorrow.
Later, we went ashore and walked to the old harbor where we had an ouzo with octopus after which we had a very good dinner at the upscale Family restaurant near the Clock Tower. They have an extensive selection of wines from small Greek vineyards and their food was superb.
I called Alice, back in Washington D.C., on the phone. There has been some disruption with the Panafon e-mail server and she had not received the e-mails I had sent her for the past week. She was very worried. I called Panafon and they verified my diagnosis. Now the server is back and the e-mail seem to go through. Computers! The Panafon service, when it works is great. It allows me to send from the cellular phone (GSM) a small written message (SMS) to their server which forwards it to any valid Internet e-mail address. Conversely, anyone can sent a short (160 characters including address and subject headings) e-mail to me, via the Panafon server which converts it to an SMS and forwards it to my phone in real time. Best of all, the service does not cost anything extra.
Tuesday September 19, 2000, Day 29
Manos and Nadia took the 8:15 hydrofoil back to Ayios Konstandinos where they had left their car. They will be going back to Athens and the land of the non-boat people.
I had already made up my mind to stay at least for today in Skiathos and devote myself to various household tasks. First of all, I siphoned the contents of the two spare jerrycans into the fuel tank. I must admit that the new siphon pump makes this disagreeable chore almost pleasant. I did not spill a single drop! I had already inquired in a nearby day-trip caique about fuel deliveries. They told me that the fuel truck was due anytime now and that they would send it to Thetis. While waiting for the truck I started sorting the great amount of accumulated laundry: whites and colored into separate bags. After an hour of waiting for the fuel delivery I gave up.
Giving up on the fuel, I took the clothes to a laundry the Χιωνάτη (Chionati - Snow White) I had spotted last night on 13 Filocleous Georgiadou street, the inner street paralleling the harbor. The young lady promised to have them ready by 8 PM. As I was going back to Thetis, I saw the fuel truck and spoke to the driver. “He will come…” I bought some fresh bread and went back to Thetis to wait for the truck. While waiting, and since the day was getting hot, I put up the tent and read for a while. I finished reading Τό Τέλος τής Σιωπής - The end of Silence (in Greek) by retired Greek Admiral Petros Arapakis about the last days of the Greek Junta. No truck!
Finally, I decided to take matters on my own hands. I walked across the dock and rented a motor-scooter for 4,000 GRD which I used to drive the jerrycans to a gas station, about 5 minutes drive, and refill them with 44 L of Diesel fuel. After driving them back to the boat and stowing them I had a quick lunch. Since it was too hot to go anywhere with the scooter, I read a little under the tent and took a nap.
Later, taking advantage of the scooter, I rode it to the N side of the island, wanting to visit Kastro. It was a wild ride in a very rough but scenic dirt road. At the end of the road, I took a short foot path to the chapel of St. John the Beheaded (Άγιος Ιωάννης Αποκεφαλιστής). It is shaded by large cypress and sycamore trees and it commands a wonderful view of the sea. A spring in the yard gushes clear ice water. Very nice.
From there, I took the long path to Kastro. The whole scene reminded me of Mystras. A whole abandoned ghost village. Many churches, some restored. The village is perched on top of rock surrounded by the sea on three sides and separated from the rest of the island by a narrow bridge, overhanging the cliff. It is a lovely if haunting scene. I was the only person within sight. I was very pleased not to have missed this enchanted place.
I walked down from the Kastro to the beach down the cliff. I had a swim. The day was getting on and the sun was out but the water was clear. Again, despite a small restaurant, I was the only person in the beach. A seagull flew and landed right next to me on the sand. He let me approach him to less than half a meter, he then leisurely walked away keeping his distance. I think he was planning to roost for the night. Maybe it is late in the year, but I did not expect such wonderful and isolated places in an island with so much tourism as Skiathos. It was a wonderful surprise.
By the time I rode the motor-scooter back to Thetis it was dark. I took a shower and had a bite to eat and then checked on the laundry. It was not ready. I went to the outdoor movie and saw The whole 9 yards, it was OK, nothing great. By that time the laundry was ready. Both tonight as well as last night there was a strong sea breeze while both days had almost no wind.
Wednesday September 20, 2000, Day 30
I received an e-mail from my daughter Cynthia. She just got her Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology this spring from the University of Arizona. Since then she received a post-doc fellowship from Duke University. Her current project is the analysis of DNA from mussels to determine the distribution of related species in various places. She was now asking me to join her for a week-long sample collecting trip in the Baltic Sea, along the Danish and Finish coasts. I asked her to investigate the cost of flying from Athens to Copenhagen and back, while I will see where I can safely leave Thetis. She took no time at all and informed me via e-mail/SMS that it would cost about $600. Most likely I will join her.
After giving the mater some thought, I had come to the conclusion, that if I were to go to Denmark and meet Cynthia, I must leave Thetis either in Chios or even better in Samos. To this end I planned to depart later today from Skiathos and go to Panormos in Skopelos. Somewhere on the way I hoped to meet with my friends of the American S/Y Patient Lady, Bob and Jean Parker whom I had met last year in Finikas. They have been sailing in northern Greece and we have been planning to meet somewhere in the Sporades. Their last SMS message indicated that they will be heading towards Kyra Panayia. I sent them a new SMS informing them that I will be heading later today to Panormos and that I may not have too many days at my disposal.
Before leaving Skiathos, however I wanted to make one more land exploration taking advantage of the scooter which I did not have to return until late morning. So in the early morning I rode it to along the road to Koukounaries. The scenery could once had been beautiful but I found it too built up for my taste. Hotel succeeded hotel, every beach has at least one drink stand and is covered with beach chairs. At Koukounaries I parked and walked in the forest with its magnificent trees. Then I walked to the Banana Beach. Contrary to its description in the tour guides, it is not pristine, it is a lovely beach, but it is littered with empty bottles, food wrappers and a very ugly food/drink stand. Too many people, too much “civilization.” Skiathos is a lovely island, but …
After I returned to the harbor, I did some provision shopping and returned the scooter. I tried to visit the house of Papadiamantis but it was too early and it had not opened yet. Back on Thetis, I checked the e-mail. Yes, Cynthia has been very active. She has already made the travel arrangements for me to fly from Athens next Thursday, September 28. Now I must really hurry to get to a safe harbor either in Chios or in Samos and make my arrangements to fly to Athens.
I untied the dock lines and raised the anchor at 1120. We had hardly left the harbor when I got a reply from Bob that Patient Lady is now in Peristera but they will meet me this evening at Panormos. There was no wind and I had to motor. I put up the tent and headed towards Glossa in Skopelos. We entered Glossa’s harbor Loutraki (1240. 6.85 nM) but did not stop. We just circled and I took some pictures. Things have changed here since 1992. The concrete quay has been completely taken over by commercial vessels. Now there is a small floating dock but it is totally occupied by a flotilla. One could still, however, anchor off-shore.
We continued motoring to Panormos [39° 06.5' N 23° 39.6 'E] where we arrived at 1335. The distance from Skiathos was 11 nM. I anchored on the SE cove at 6 m and took a stern line ashore, orienting Thetis so that her bow was facing NW.
I made myself a light lunch and relaxed under the tent reading. I finished the book Μια αγωνίστρια απο το Άνω Βαθύ Σάμου - A lady freedom fighter from Ano Vathi (in Greek). Although the title had intrigued me enough to buy the book, I found it badly written and very repetitive. I doze into a nap. While I was asleep Patient Lady must had entered the cove because when I woke up I saw a familiar looking sailboat anchored some distance away from Thetis. After looking with the binoculars I verified that she was indeed the Patient Lady. While doing so the cell phone beeped with an incoming SMS. It was Bob asking where Thetis was. I hailed him on the VHF. They were somewhat tired and planned to have a nap but invited me later for dinner aboard Patient Lady.
I had a swim, read some more, listened to music, had a hot shower, and then took the zodiac to the Patient Lady bringing alone some wine from Santorini. Jean had made a wonderful dinner with grilled (on charcoal!) pork-chops, roasted potatoes, and a salad. We had a great time bringing each other up to date with our sailing activities since last year.
They had wintered in Ayios Nikolaos in Crete, It was an interesting experience and they even had a chance to be at distillation event making tsikoudia (a strong drink like un-aromatic ouzo ), with continuously sampling of the product along with live music from lyra, violin, and lagouto, and dancing.
They had some difficulty with the new Greek law concerning foreign yachts. This law was enacted early this year and it is nothing short of a disaster. It taxes all non-Greek yachts with a fee of 2,000 GRD per meter for a stay in Greece of up to six months, unless they are permanently berthed in Greece in which case they pay on a yearly basis. Now, should a boat leave Greek waters and re-enter within 2 months, it is levied a new punitive fee of 15,000 GRD per meter. Not only this is an outrageous law designed to discourage foreign yachts from visiting Greece but it also happens to be a flagrant violation of the EU (European Union) treaty which stipulates complete freedom of movement of EU vessels within the EU. A German yachting club is already challenging this law in the European Court and it looks as if Greece would not only have to give refunds but may have to pay a stiff fine. In the mean-time, as would be expected, fewer and fewer yachts have been visiting the islands with the resultant loss of income. To make matters worse, the application of this ill-advised law has been confused and capricious, some harbor masters charging more than the 2,000 GRD/m, some less, and some ignoring the law all together. By the end of the summer, the law had stopped being enforced. But Bob had to pay a stiff fee in Crete before he was allowed to set sail for Turkey.
On their way from Ayios Nikolaos to Datça they were hit by a gale and had to take refuge in Tristomo, Karpathos. They were holed-in for several days but they did not mind it very much because a fishing boat from Kalymnos kept supplying them with gifts of fresh lobsters. They entered Turkey in Datça and then sailed north to Ayvalik and from there to Istanbul. They spent couple of months in Istanbul. On their way back into Greek waters they visited Mitilini, Plomari, and Sigri in Lesvos. Then they headed north to Limnos, and Porto Karas in the Chalkidiki peninsula where they left Patient Lady and rented a car to visit Pela and Vergina. From Porto Karas they sailed south to Kyra Panayia, Peristera, and finally here to Panormos.
The Parkers are very nice people and we share many common likes and dislikes. We like to travel and meet new people, yet dislike crowds and noisy places. They too prefer anchoring off-shore rather than being docked in a marina. Above all we love the sea and sailing. It was past midnight and several bottles of wine had been consumed. It was time to say good-bye and fair winds. Maybe we will meet again.
The total distance for this leg was 77 nM in 11.6 sailing hours out of which 2.25 were solo.