This year’s plans were very ambitious. They were dominated by a planned trip to Tunisia.
Thetis spent the winter in the island of Leros under the care of the Agmar Shipyard located in Partheni where all the regular maintenance was performed. Other than the regular maintenance (hull, engine, sails, winches, windlass, woodwork, rudder, etc.) they were to install new windows to replace the abomination of last year. To do so, they had to rip apart the main cabin and re-do a lot of the fiberglass foundation. Taking advantage of this, I also had them replace the ceiling upholstery that had begun to show Thetis’ old age.
The other winter activity had been bureaucratic. I started a process last October of changing Thetis’ status from a professional boat i.e. a boat that gets chartered, to a private pleasure boat. In theory this should have entailed only a payment of the VAT tax (about $4,000) but in practice it proved to be a Kafkaesque process with infinite paperwork and long delays.
Wednesday April 25, 2001, 6:45 PM
I am on a ferry boat heading for Leros where I had left Thetis last October. As far as I know she should be almost ready for launching. The ferry left Piraeus 30 minutes ago. I arrived in Athens on Monday afternoon. From that time until now I have been focusing on one problem only: how to get Thetis’ papers out of the clutches of the bureaucrats and my agent Mr. Bibis who nominally works on my behalf but I suspect that he is one of them. As of Monday, the process which was started last October had not yet been completed so that Thetis could not legally sail and certainly could not leave the country. After endless phone calls to Leros to have the fire extinguishers inspected, a certificate was issued and faxed to Mr. Bibis (why these could not have been done all these months?). Eventually he called me and told me that the papers were ready and in his office. This was not totally correct: about 20 minutes before the ferry was due to depart I was still at Mr. Bibis’ office in Piraeus waiting for the final paper delivery. Now I have in my possession:
- The old owner’s certificate stating that the boat has professional status.
- A new certificate stating that the status of the boat has been changed from professional to pleasure.
- The old inspection certificate with a new official note that it is valid until December 2001.
- A new usage certificate for the VHF.
Certificates 1 and 3 need to be re-issued but we have miraculously run out of time. Mr. Bibis has assured me that Thetis is legitimate and will have no legal obstacles leaving Greece. When I return from the trip to Tunisia, I will just have to send him these certificates and he will have them replaced in no time. Ha!
Accordingly, my plan is to prepare the boat, launch her, provision her, and start the trip to Malta and Tunisia around May 7 with estimated arrival on Malta by May 14 where I will meet my wife, Alice. Before that I will be met by my friend Manos Castrinakis who will sail with me as far as Malta from where he will fly to Brussels on May 18. Alice and I will sail to the Italian island of Lampedusa and then to Tunisia. On June 5 we will be joined in Tunis by my nephew Nick Iliades and Alice will fly out of Tunis for Athens and Samos. Nick and I will the sail Thetis back to Samos, Greece. Somewhere along the way we will be joined my cousin and Nick’s father Chris Iliades. We will see.
I am carrying with me several duffel bags with spare parts, a new autopilot, clothes etc. I am also carrying 3 new jerry cans to allow Thetis to carry extra fuel.
The ferry is due to Leros at 4:00 AM.
Friday April 27, 2001
I woke up after a long sleep. I slept in Thetis but I am surrounded by chaos.
The ferry arrived at 5 AM yesterday. I was savvy enough not to carry out of the ferry my heavy luggage consisting of 3 duffel bags, a knapsack, a camera bag, and 3 empty jerry cans. Instead, the minute the ferry docked, I ran out and secured a taxi, then I painfully and slowly carted my luggage. By that time there was such a shortage of taxis that mine had acquired 2 more passengers. Its trunk was overflowing and held by bungie cords. Off we went into the bumpy roads, bags, falling off (not mine), discharging passengers until we reached the shipyard at Partheni. It was dark. I climbed inside Thetis and struggled in the dark to turn on the lights. The handles of the circuit breakers were not there and I had to grope in the pitch darkness to locate a spare handle before I could turn on a light. Everything aboard had been bagged and stowed away. I really ought to carry a small torch.
The new windows look great! While I excavated the lockers trying to locate some coffee, Mastro Michalis, the yard foreman, arrived and offered me coffee in his office. We discussed the work left to be done. Not much, just several odds and ends before Thetis can be launched.
Later the secretary, Ersi, made arrangements for me to rent a scooter so that I can run errands and be able to go to restaurants. The scooter was delivered to Thetis the cost a reasonable 2,000 GRD/day including delivery.
All day, work went on inside the boat. Varnishing, trimming, cleaning etc. I had to wait until all the workers left for the evening before I could install the berth and cushion covers and make the bed in the right cabin.
Although I am surrounded by chaos, work is progressing and I can begin to unpack and re-stow things in their place. I have high hopes for a Saturday launch.
Saturday April 28, 2001
The miracle has happened! Thetis and I are in the Lakki marina, about 10 M south of Partheni.
All day Friday and Saturday morning there was frantic activity at the shipyard. They finished the final touches on the windows, they varnished the tiller, oiled the cockpit, the outboard stand, the passarella, etc. I installed the instruments and checked them. Everything worked fine, including the autopilot, except that the wind instruments were mis-wired but this was quickly fixed. The windlass, which was removed for service, was not connected but soon Thomas, the German mechanic, had re-connected and tested it. I also replaced the burned bulbs of the red and green navigation lights. After some agitation, the fire extinguishers came from service (Agmar sends them out). All together I am very pleased with Agmar. All the personnel that I have come into contact are competent, always pleasant, and accommodating. The foreman, Mastro Michalis is a solid man, and the owner/director Mr. Angelos Gaitanidis, although very frazzled, is doing his best to satisfy a very demanding lot of sailors who are all very anxious to have their boats ready for launching.
I repaired the autopilot bracket that was twisted by last year’s force 9 gale and checked the new actuator. Both the old and the new unit work. I cleaned and cleaned and stowed all sorts of items: spare parts, sails, covers, outboard, zodiac. The only problem that has not been resolved is the wind generator. I had spoken with the factory and they had given me a procedure to clean the possibly corroded slip rings. Unfortunately, after I had it removed with the help of the crane and its operator, Pandelis, I was not able to open it. The screws sheared off! So, this will have to wait for another season.
Two birds, sparrows I think, had made their nest inside Thetis’ boom. I could hear the chirping of their chicks. The parents were very agitated by my presence and I tried, by making lots of noises and banging of the boom, to persuade them to relocate their nest. Instead they seemed to get used to my presence and fly very close to me.
By noon, all these activities had converged, Thetis was ready. Ersi, Angelos’ helpful secretary, called the rental company and they came for the scooter while Angelos inspected Thetis for the last time. The only thing from the yard that was not ready yet was the final bill. Nevertheless I gave Angelos a 1,000,000 GRD check as partial payment.
Thetis was launched today at 1545 without any hitch. No leaks, the engine works smootly, everything is onboard. The only bad thing was that the bird parents had not followed and the chicks were still deep inside the boom. At 1617 we motored out of Partheni where Thetis has been since October 13. There was hardly any wind, just a mild 2-5 kn NW breeze. The sea was flat. Since the sails have not yet been installed there was no choice but to motor the 9.7 M to Lakki. Everything on Thetis was working properly. We arrived at the Agmar Marina in Lakki [37° 07.7' N 26° 51' E] at 1820. Mr. Vasilis Paraponiaris, the other Agmar partner, was at the pier waiting to hand me the mooring line. The only problem was that the sun was low on the horizon and made it very hard to see the pier but soon Thetis was moored.
The first order of business after docking was to connect the water hose and fill the empty water tanks which I had earlier cleaned with chlorine and flushed. Connecting to AC electricity was left for another day since the batteries were full. My immediate plan was to take the hydrofoil and go to Samos for 2 days to check on our summer house. On my return, to wash the boat, install the sails, take on fuel and provisions, and, weather permitting, sail away from Leros by the end of next week heading for some island SW towards my linking with Manos at Kythera or Milos.
I had a wonderful dinner at the marina restaurant together with Michalis, the shipyard foreman, Vasilis, his wife Litsa (Vasilitsa), and two older Italian sailors, one a retired Swiss Air pilot, who have houses here in Leros. It was a jolly crowd! The food was prepared by Veli’s wife. Veli is the very personal Bulgarian assistant to Argyris the man who does all the fiberglass work and who installed the new windows on Thetis. Other people at the Partheni yard are: Michalis the carpenter assisted by his nephew Antonis, Pandelis who operates the travel lift, and Thomas the German mechanic who services the engines, does electrical work etc. As it was getting late and I was tired, I made my excuses and went back on board to sleep.
I received a message from Bob and Jean of S/Y Patient Lady who are now in south Turkey and a call from Turgut from S/Y New Life. Life is picking up and soon I will be in cruising mode. The chicks are still with me. I hope another bird may adopt them but the prospects seem bleak.
Friday May 4 2001
Last Sunday I re-oiled the teak in the cockpit, the hand rails, the passarella, and the outboard stand. I also applied another coat of varnish to the tiller and the companionway covers.
Later in the morning I took the hydrofoil to Samos. My intention was to stay there one day and then take the hydrofoil back to Leros on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately the weather changed and a force 9 gale grounded all boats. The best I could do to get back to Leros was to take a flight to Athens on Wednesday and then another flight back to Leros.
After my return I continued with the preparations for the trip. I applied another coat of oil and varnish, and then I washed and scraped the deck and cleaned all surfaces. I bought lots of provisions and stowed them. I replaced a corroded T-joint on the watermaker plumbing. I also installed, by modifying the fresh water pipes, a new water counter that I had bought in Athens. This will allow me to monitor precisely the water consumption. The only problem is with the zodiac which despite the repairs still has a slow air leak.
I took advantage of the marina facilities and washed all my dirty clothes. I discovered that the emergency flares have reached their expiration dates. I found replacements for all but two and I asked Manos to bring these two with him.
Taking advantage of light winds and with the help of the owner of the French sailing boat Sirena, I installed the sails.
Finally I settled my Agmar bill and I am ready to go.