Travels with S/Y Thetis

Thetis only

2002: Leros to Nikouria

This web page contains the log of the fifth leg of a sailing trip that I took with S/Y Thetis in the Greek Aegean from the island of Leros to the small island of Nikouria, next to Amorgos. The log covers a period of 11 days. Places visited are: the islands of Archangelos, Lipsi (Katsadia, SE Cove), Samos (Pythagorio), Agathonisi, Marathi, Levitha, and Amorgos (Aegiali). The log is illustrated with maps and also includes some historical and geographical descriptions of the places visited, as well as several links to other related web sites. The usual photographs are missing because my digital camera broke down.

Route to Nikouria
Route to Nikouria

Saturday September 21, 2002 Day 31

All morning was taken by Alice’s departure. We launched the leaking zodiac and loaded it with the luggage. We then drove it to the little harbor adjacent to Agmar’s “pool”. I had brought along the folding cart which we normally use for transporting fuel jerry cans. Now we loaded it with Alice’s duffel bag and slowly wheeled it to the airport. We arrived there at the exact time that we were told, 9:30, one hour before the scheduled departure. Alice was the first passenger to check-in. So far so good, but the flight from Athens was delayed, so instead of departing at 10:25 the plane did not take off from Leros until 11:45.

After seeing Alice’s plane take off, I walked to the Agmar Shipyard and said hello to Angelos. I also gave Mary, the secretary, 3 letters with my written complaint against the reckless speedboat for her to mail to the Limenarchio (Coast Guard) of Leros, Patmos, and Lipsi. Of course, I never heard anything back from them. Also, I bought some glue for the zodiac, the right type this time, and spare light bulbs for the anchoring light. Back on Thetis I had some lunch, because I was very hungry, and I started preparing for departure. I raised the dinghy to dry before re-patching its leaks with the new glue. I then did a very stupid thing. While raising the sail-locker cover in order to stow the folding cart, I rested my finger near the cover’s hinge. It got very badly mangled. Blood everywhere. Most likely the nail will be lost.

By the time I attended to the wound and raised the anchor it was 1335. We motored the 1.9 M to my favorite cove in Archangelos island. There were at least 7 other sailboats there. Too much of a crowd for my taste. We moved to another little cove W of the chapel [37° 11.7' N 26° 46.2' E] where there was only one other boat. After anchoring I put up the tent and removed the old patches from the zodiac and applied new ones with the new glue following very carefully the instructions on the can. This is a two part glue. I then snorkeled and cleaned the hull which had accumulated some barnacles and weed. In the evening I tried the new bulb on the anchoring light. It worked well. For dinner I made pasta with garlic and olive oil sauce. Lovely night with a full moon.

Sunday September 22, 2002 Day 32

I waited in vain for a weather forecast. Yesterday the Navtex had called for S winds. These are problematic because there only very few anchorages that offer protection from both N and S winds while during the autumn you mostly need protection for the N winds. The Navtex transmits in the AM band. At the beginning of each message there is a preamble which identifies the transmitting station and the type of message. Sometimes there is noise during the transmission of the preamble in which case the receiver rejects the whole message and does not print it. This seems to be happening with weather reports because while none have been printed other reports have printed over and over again. One in particular that deals with the construction of the Rio-Antirio bridge has been printing faithfully 2 times a day since May but no weather report. Very frustrating.

At 0850 I pulled up the anchor and motored along the E side of Archangelos and then set course for Katsadia, Lipsi. The wind was a very light 4-10 knot ENE breeze. I opened the headsail and motor-sailed the rest of the 6 M to Katsadia where we arrived at 0955. There were no other boats there. I anchored in 7 m over sand right in the middle of the cove with plenty of room to swing if the wind were to change direction. Finally, I did receive a Navtex weather forecast from Limnos, which does not cover this region the Samos Sea. It called for no gale for the next 12 hours, whatever that means. Here and now there is hardly any wind.

I spent the rest of the day swimming and reading. I almost finished my current book: Dorothy Dunnett’s The Game of Kings which is fascinating and well written. In the late afternoon the German catamaran S/Y Fromo with Dietrich and Monica Rohrmann came and anchored near Thetis. I had met them 2 years ago in May at this exact spot. After they anchored, they launched their dinghy and came over to greet me. They could not stay over for long because today there are elections in Germany and they wanted to listen to the results. Corinna called me on the GSM phone from Samos. She got a weather update from the Poseidon site on the Internet. There is going to be 0-3 Bft of S wind tomorrow and 4-5 on Tuesday.

In the evening I went ashore intending to eat at the taverna in Katsadia but it was closed. I walked to the town. It was a very pleasant 40 minute walk under the almost full moon. I had chicken souvlaki (shish-kebab) at the main square. When I returned to Thetis the Navtex had actually received a weather report. This one called for SW wind of force 4-5 for tomorrow, increasing on Tuesday. Here in Katsadia however there was only a very mild SW breeze of 3-4 knots.

Monday September 23, 2002 Day 33

No wind materialized during the night but nevertheless I was nervous because Katsadia is not well protected from a SE wind. No new Navtex reports were received, but the forecast broadcast on the radio at 6:30 called for SE wind. I spoke with my friends on Fromo and told them that I plan to depart and maybe go to Platys Yialos in Lipsi or to Arki. They told me that they too will follow later.

Sketch of SE cove We departed Katsadia at 0955 and motored towards Platys Yialos on the E side of the island. The wind was a faint 2-5 knot SE breeze. I ran the watermaker and topped the water tanks. On the way, I spotted an attractive cove, just N of Cape Bianca and 4.4 M from Katsadia, which seemed very well sheltered from both the SE and SW winds. I anchored in this cove [37° 18.3' N 26° 46.6' E] in 4.5 m depth over a sand patch at 1055. There was only a small fishing boat here. While the beach of the shore was polluted by flotsam, the water is clear and clean. Soon, Fromo came and anchored next to Thetis.

I spent a quiet afternoon reading. I had coffee with the Rohrmanns on Fromo and I invited them to come later on Thetis for ouzo. A young couple walked to the rocks near Thetis and after swimming proceeded to make love. Later the Rohrmanns came and we spent a pleasant hour socializing. For dinner I made rice with squid (from a can) with a fresh tomato sauce. Not bad. Finally a Navtex forecast did come: gales in the Ikaria Sea but only force 5-6 SE winds in the Samos Sea. We shall see. I may or may not leave for Samos tomorrow. The sea here is calm.

Tuesday September 24, 2002 Day 34

I got up early to listen to the AM weather forecast at 0630. It was encouraging, calling for the Samos Sea force 6-7 SE wind, increasing later. Here the wind was 12 knots SSE. I decided to depart for Samos. I had to get to Samos to make arrangements for rebuilding a wall collapsed on our properly in Kalami during the recent rain storms. I raised the anchor at 0830. The wind, once we were in the open water, was 10-28 knots SSE. I raised the mainsail and set it to the 1st reef and opened about 30% of the headsail. It was a fast and lovely sail, at times doing better than 8 knots, but there were large seas. We arrived in Pythagorio, Samos, at 1245. The harbor was not crowded and there were several free berths but there was no one there to help with the stern lines and there was a cross wind. Nevertheless, I dropped the anchor and made a perfect maneuver letting out 58 m of chain and bringing the boat in position for me to jump ashore and tie the stern lines.

I felt tired. It took me hours securing and tidying up the boat. I took a taxi for Kalami where I did all the accumulated laundry.

Wednesday September 25, 2002 Day 35

The day was spent in Samos, depositing money in the bank to cover the repairs of the wall, shopping etc. It was nice to see my daughter Corinna. She may come to Leros when I pull Thetis out of the water and help to winterize her. I also bought a ticket for my return to the US next month. The price, $450, was substantially lower here than prices I found on the Internet from American companies, where the best was for a round trip at $590. Made arrangements with our caretaker Yiorgos for repairing the collapsed wall.

Thursday September 26, 2002 Day 36

I returned to Thetis full of clean clothes and provisions, but I found her deck covered with black soot. It turns out that last night there was a fire near Pythagorio which fortunately was extinguished in time and did not spread. I went to the Limenarchio (Coast Guard) to get the apoplous (permission to leave port). The officer was very chatty. Amazingly for a Greek official, he had been to the Kusadasi marina and he was amazed by the number of yachts with foreign flags that were there. He also noted the number of services offered to these yachts. He hopes that the new marina here in Pythagorio will be operational next year and offer similar services. It also surprised me that he voiced the opinion that the Greek bureaucracy does act as a deterrent to yachts visiting Greek harbors. I wish that more of his colleagues shared such enlightened opinions.

By 1135 everything was stowed and I cast off. There was almost no wind, just 0-2 knots from the SW. I motored outside the harbor and then spent over half an hour drawing bucketfulls of water and washing the soot from the deck and cockpit. We motored slowly to Agathonisi. The sea was very calm. We arrived after 17.9 M at 1450. I went to the first cove [37° 27.3' N 26° 57.8' E] SW of Ayios Giorgios. Another small sailboat, with a British flag, was already there. I dropped the anchor in 7 m and let out only 45 m of scope to avoid drifting too close to the other boat.

It was very pleasant in this cove. I snorkeled and checked the anchor. It seems that the other boat is also a singlehander, we waved to each other but there was no further contact. I re-arranged all the equipment manuals into new plastic files that I got in Samos. I swam some more. For supper I made turkey cutlets with a mustard-caper sauce. The wind in the evening was very light, 0-6 knots, but from all directions. There was though considerable swell entering the cove and Thetis was dancing around. As the night progressed the wind increased to 15 knots. I got a call from Manos Castrinakis. He may come sailing on Thetis for a few days. We agreed to meet in the Small Cyclades.

Friday September 27, 2002 Day 37

After hearing the weather report which called for force 5 SW winds to which this cove is exposed, I decided to depart for either Arki or Marathi. I pulled up the anchor at 0940. The wind was 8-12 knots SW, a headwind. We motored for 13.7 M and arrived in Marathi [37° 22' N 26° 43.6' E] at 1220. To my surprise the familiar catamaran shape of S/Y Fromo belonging to my German friends was there. I got a mooring, with some difficulty because Thetis had too much speed. Fromo was getting ready to depart for Leros because she was due for a haul-out on Monday, but since I arrived they decided to spend here another night.

It was very calm in the anchorage. I swam and cleaned the horseshoe life savers. These are made of a plastic which when exposed to strong sunlight deteriorates and oozes out a disgusting brown substance, very hard to clean. I cleaned one of the horseshoes as best as I could, the other will have to wait until tomorrow. Next year I will replace them with ones that have a removable canvas cover. The good news is that the zodiac leaks seem to have been fixed. I have not re-inflated it for several days now. Dietrich swam over and invited me over to Fromo for a drink. After drinks, we all went ashore and had a very nice dinner at the Pandelis restaurant.

Saturday September 28, 2002 Day 38

Fromo left early. I have not received any messages from Alice since she left Athens and I was somewhat worried. There is no GSM signal here, so I went ashore and took a good walk to the top of the island where I might have a signal and be able to send e-mails to Alice and Corinna. As soon as I reached the peak, I received an SMS from Alice. She has a sore throat and is having trouble with her computer in Washington, DC. I hope she recovers on both fronts. I sent the e-mails. By the time I got back onboard Thetis, the Navtex had received a forecast. More SE wind. This would be not too bad for my planed passage to Levitha. I was not sure whether to leave for Levitha today or not, because with a SE wind this anchorage may develop a bad swell. Inertia won. I stayed. Should the swell become uncomfortable, I can always go across to Glypappas in Arki.

I washed the other horseshoe and polished the railings. In the afternoon it started to rain. At the beginning it was just a drizzle but later it was a downpour. By then several other boats came into the cove. I went ashore to Pandelis for dinner. By that time it was raining very hard and we had to eat indoors. They served me an exceptionally good salad and homemade bread. Mrs. Katina, Pandelis’ wife, turns out to be related to Mrs. Kamposos of Levitha. Now after she heard that I planned to go there, she gave me a butane stove lighter to take for her cousin. It rained all night. The forecast for tomorrow, from Limnos, now calls for force 4-5 SW, but it does not have details for the Ikaria Sea. I have not received a Navtex transmission from Iraklio that covers this region.

Sunday September 29, 2002 Day 39

I listened to the AM weather broadcast at 729 MHz. This broadcast is at 6:30 AM on weekdays and at 7:00 AM on weekends. There were few surprises. It called for 4-5 Bft SW with possible thunderstorms. Here in Marathi it was calm. I made up my mind to leave for Levitha. I let go of the mooring at 0810. After we cleared Arki, the wind was 12 knots from the SSW. I raised the mainsail and motor-sailed for about 2 hours at which time the wind veered SW at 15-20 knots. I opened about 40% of the headsail and turned of the motor. After 2 more hours of sailing the wind backed again SSW and I was forced to motor-sail without the headsail. It was a very rough passage. We arrived in Levitha [37° 00.2' N 26° 28.1' E] at 1340 after 26.4 M. I had some trouble lowering the mainsail because I waited until we were inside the cove where it was calm but the cove is too small and by the time I managed to lower and tie down part of the sail we were out of room. I had to turn, head towards the wind, set the autopilot and lower some more sail. This procedure had to be repeated several times before all of the sail was securely tied to the boom.

After the sail was in, we headed for the moorings. A fellow yachtsman from the German S/Y Kobenz saw that I was alone and came with his dinghy. He helped me pass a line through the buoy’s ring. This was very nice of him. I put up the tent, had lunch and then rested reading in the cockpit. I started a new book Οι Μάγισες της Σμύρνης (The Witches of Smyrna) by Maria Meimaridi. It is a fascinating story of a mother and daughter who were practicing witchcraft in Smyrna at the end of the 19th century. Later one of Mr. Kambosos’ sons came and collected the E6 for the use of the mooring. In the evening, I went ashore and after a long walk ended up at the “taverna” for dinner. I gave the butane lighter to Mrs. Kambosos who was delighted. Unfortunately for them, although there were 10 yachts in the cove, there was only a German couple besides me having dinner there. There was not a great choice of foods but the salad and the fresh calamari were, as usual, very fresh and excellent. I have never had a bad meal in this place. By the time we three finished eating it was very dark. It was good that I had a flashlight with me.

Route to Nikouria
Route to Nikouria

Monday September 30, 2002 Day 40

It rained a little this morning. My plan was to stay here in Levitha and leave tomorrow morning for Amorgos, crossing the Ikario Sea, and head towards Naxos. Our arrangement with Manos is to meet on the 5th of October, either in Naxos or in Amorgos wherever Thetis is at the time, but there was no GSM signal here for any further communications. The AM weather report called again for force 4-5 SW winds.

I climbed up to the ruins of a castle which dominate the entrance of the cove. It rained while I was climbing. The rain produced some wonderful smells. Small flowers and grasses were already sprouting. There were partridges calling to each other and flying away, scared by my footsteps. I am not sure of the castle’s age. It could be ancient or it could be from the middle ages. It was built with local large stones. From the castle’s vantage point I observed the sea all the way to Amorgos. Contrary to all the forecasts the sea was flat and there was no wind. I made up my mind right there that my best strategy was to leave for Amorgos immediately rather than risk the passage against a W wind tomorrow.

Back aboard Thetis I prepared for the departure. I released the mooring at 1010 and motored away towing the zodiac. I was no more than a couple of miles away from the cove when I was caught by a low cloud which carried the most violent rainstorm. It only lasted for 15 minutes but during this time the visibility went down almost to zero. I turned on the radar but a lot of good it did. I was blind. There was no wind, however. So much for the forecast! The colors, after the rain, were magnificent. Dramatic clouds on the horizon, and the sheer rocks of Kinaros and Amorgos were glistening. I wished once more for my camera. We motored the rest of the way in very calm sea arriving in Aegiali, Amorgos [36° 54.2' N 25° 58.6' E], after 28.2 M, at 1430.

I anchored off in 6 m depth. In the evening I went ashore and did some shopping. There was a very beautiful sunset over Karos. Since I had forgotten to string the anchoring light and it was getting dark, I went back on Thetis and set it up. Now I had a debate with myself whether to go back ashore and eat in a taverna or stay aboard and cook. In the end I went ashore. I avoided the Korali where we had a bad meal 2 years ago and went to the Limani on an inner road. It was a good choice. They served me a plate of black-eye beans cooked with local wild greens. It was delicious and so was the homemade black bread. The beans were followed by a kakavia, a fish soup made of a variety of fish, something like the French bouillabaisse, which was also delicious. Unfortunately, though, by the time I returned to Thetis a most uncomfortable swell had developed. It lasted all night.

Tuesday October 1, 2002 Day 41

After a rolling night and after listening to the forecast (force 4-5 NW starting tomorrow) I decided to move to Nikouria where I will be more comfortable. But first I went ashore and bought a fresh loaf of bread. I raised the anchor at 0920. and motored via the shallow Kakoperato Channel, towing the zodiac behind, to my favorite anchorage in the bay of Nikouria. I had to pay close attention to the passage because the maximum depth is only 4.7 m. After clearing the narrows, I headed for the little church in front of which there is a sandy spot where the anchors hold. Everywhere else there is weed and the anchors do not hold well.

Alas while approaching the church disaster struck. I was too focused on the church and the sandy spot, as well as another sailboat approaching it, that I failed to see the half submerged nets. Thetis went right through them and her keel got totally entangled. Fortunately I did see them in time to turn off the engine and engage the gear so that the propeller stopped spinning. This prevented the nets from fouling the axle and the propeller. However, Thetis was stuck. I tried all sorts of tricks to disengage but to no avail. I put on my bathing suit, mask, snorkel, and flippers and jumped into the water to inspect the situation. The keel was completely surrounded by the nets. By this time one of the fishermen from the trawler came over with a row boat. He was apologetic for not properly marking the nets but he was also very concerned less they got damaged. I tied a stern line and gave it to him and he rowed, easing the Thetis’ drift caused by the wind while I dove and pushed the net down and under the keel. It took a great deal of effort but at last Thetis was freed and the nets were unharmed. Chastened and tired I anchored [36° 52.9' N 25° 55.2' E] in 3.8 m depth. The time was 1025 and the distance traveled a mere 3.2 adventurous miles.

It was fairly calm and I spent a lazy afternoon swimming and reading. Occasionally there was a gust but mostly there was no wind. I went ashore and climbed the hill to a spot where there was good GSM reception. I called Manos. He and Nadia will meet me in Naxos on Saturday. They will come with the fast ferry which departs for Naxos at 7:00 AM. He was not sure exactly what time it arrives, probably by noon. I told him that barring some really bad weather I will be there. On my way back to Thetis I was invited by a charter boat anchored not too far from Thetis to come later for an ouzo. On board her were two elderly German couples, very personable with a considerable knowledge of Greek. They have been cruising in the Aegean 30 years now. They were impressed by my singlehanding but then they muttered “you are, of course, only 61!”

After I returned to Thetis I made dinner. Another turkey, cutlet with spaghetti and fresh tomato sauce. These I ate along with some home made wine, last years, from Kalami. Before going to bed I took a pain killer because my shoulder (arthritis?) was hurting. I slept very well.