Travels with S/Y Thetis


Thetis only

2003: Levitha to Fourni

This web page contains the log of the fourth leg of a sailing trip that I took with S/Y Thetis in the Greek East Aegean. During this leg I was accompanied by my wife, Alice Riginos. The leg covers a period of 7 days of sailing from the island Levitha to Fourni via the islands of Leros (Xerocambos), Archangelos, Lipsi, Patmos, and Marathi. Most of this time Thetis sailed together with the US flagged Turkish S/Y New Life. The log is illustrated with photographs and maps, it also includes some historical and geographical descriptions of the places visited as well as several links to other related web sites.

Route from Levitha
Route from Levitha to Fourni

Saturday June 28, 2003 Day 25

We slipped the mooring at 0730. While in the bay, we raised the mainsail and shook the reefs. The wind was 12-23 knots from the NW. We had a very pleasant sail, with both sails, all the way to Xerocambos, Leros. As we were approaching Leros we got back the GSM signal, which we had lost few miles E of Amorgos, and contacted Turgut on New Life. They were in Kalymnos’ main harbor, Pothiá. We agreed to meet at Xerocambos. Three dolphins crossed our bow but did not linger with us. We arrived in Xerocambos [37° 06.5' N 26° 52.4' E] (also written as Xirocambos) at 1130 after 21.7 delightful miles.

We anchored at first but there were 3 other S/Y at the permanent moorings and I was afraid that, to prevent swinging too close to them we could not allow sufficient amount of chain. So we took a mooring also. I snorkeled to inspect the moorings. Ours was a barrel full of concrete, the one next to us was a large windlass, and another was an engine block. Despite the strong gusts, up to 21 knots, we put up the tent. I finished reading Sailing to the Reefs by Bernard Moitessier and started the Nautical Chart by Antonio Revérte in a Greek translation.

Later, New Life arrived and I helped them catch the “windlass” mooring. The whole family, Arzu, Dilek, and Orhan, in addition to Turgut, was aboard. It was great to see our friends again. The last time we were together was at the Hisaronü in Turkey, last September. We had to catch up with lots mutual news.

In the evening we all went ashore for a walk to the chapel and then to the Aloni taverna for dinner. Lefteris, the proprietor, was glad to see me again and to meet my wife and friends. We had a nice meal. However, when we later went to bed, we were attacked, in the early hours, by the most vicious mosquitoes.

Eating at Aloni in Xerocambos
Eating at Aloni in Xerocambos
Turgut, Dilek, Orhan Ayker, Alice Riginos, & Arzu Ayker

Sunday June 29, 2003 Day 26

This was a fairly slow moving day. In the morning two Turkish gulets came into Xerocambos. This is a new development because until last year you very seldom saw them in Greek waters. There are two problems with Turkish gulets: their passengers tend to be young and very noisy playing loud “disco” music into the late hours, often with blinking strobe lights, and their anchoring technique leave something to be desired i.e. they are liable to drag and drift threatening nearby lighter boats. After some debate between Thetis and New Life, we decided to move to Archangelos on the north of Leros.

We cast off at 0920. The wind was 12-20 knots from the N, so we motored the 10.3 nM along the W side of the island with the tent on. The waves were not too bad although there was some mild banging. We arrived in Archangelos [37° 11.9' N 26° 46.3' E] at 1130. We anchored and rafted the two boats.

We had a pleasant swim that was followed by lunch, served in New Life’s cockpit with contributions from both boats. After lunch everyone took a long siesta.

In the early afternoon our little paradise was shattered. Two of the gulets that had chased us away this morning from Xerocambos now arrived here in Archangelos. Not wanting to spend the night next to them, we un-rafted, raised our anchors, and moved to the small cove a little SW of the tiny church. Here, once again, we were all by ourselves. It was a very wise move because, even at a distance, we could hear all night rowdy screams from the gulets.

For supper we had two kinds of pasta with tomato sauce: one from New Life and the other from Thetis. These we ate sitting on deck chairs on the spacious New Life’s front deck where earlier we had enjoyed some wine. After eating we sat there in the darkness enjoying the stars while soft Turkish music was playing in the background.

Monday June 30, 2003 Day 27

Thetis left Archangelos at 0905. There was hardly any wind. We motored for 5.7 nM N to Katsadia [37° 16.8' N 26° 46.2' E] (also referred to as Lera or Lira), my favorite anchorage in the small island of Lipsi, where we anchored at 1015. Shortly afterwards New Life also came. They did not anchor but as we had pre-arranged they came along side Thetis and picked Alice and me up.

We motored to Lipsi Harbor because New Life wanted to refill her tanks with fresh water. On entering the harbor we spotted S/Y Riks on the floating dock. We approached and I asked Mary where to get water. She told me that a mini-tanker brings water on the new concrete quay. We proceeded to the quay and moored side-to. There were water and electricity outlets but, as in so many Greek harbors, were not operational. We inquired about the mini-tanker and I actually talked to its owner. He told me that the Limenarchio (Coast Guard) does not allow him to make water deliveries anymore. I walked to the Limenarchio office and talked to the officer. Yes indeed they do not allow water deliveries because of some obscure tax related reasons. He told me to inquire at the city hall. I just love Greek bureaucracy! I walked up the hill to the city hall and I actually talked to the mayor of Lipsi. He immediately apologized for the non-working outlets. They will be operational “real soon now.” I pointed out to him that the similar outlets newly installed on the floating dock 5 years ago are still not functioning. Yes, he admitted, we do have our problems. I then told him that this situation is disgraceful for an island that wants to attract yachts. He picked up the telephone, called the Limenarchio, and told the officer that he and his tax squabbles give the island a bad name. The result of all this was that there was no water. After buying some provisions we motored back to Katsadia and Thetis. After anchoring New Life, we rafted the two boats.

The afternoon was rather windy. In the evening we (the crews of both boats) went ashore and took a 40-minute walk to the town. There at the small kafenio (café) across the new concrete quay we had ouzo with grilled octopus (I think they serve the best in the East Aegean) and a nice assortment of other mezedes (tasty appetizers). We made a whole meal of them.

Back to our boats we spent a windy night.

Tuesday July 1, 2003 Day 28

Thetis under sail
Thetis Under Sail
Photo by Turgut Ayker

This was an unforgettable day. New Life was in need of water so, we decided to make a brief stop in Skala, Patmos, get water and then proceed to Marathi. New Life left Katsadia first to be followed by Thetis at 1015. We had a fairly strong wind of 16-25 knots from the NW. We sailed fast with both sails. When we were about 3 miles from Skala we were hailed on the VHF by New Life. I spoke with Orhan who told me that New Life was taking in lots of water but they did not know from where and they were very alarmed because the water was reaching up to the engine. By this time the two boats were 2.5 nM apart and Thetis had both sails up. Unable to offer any immediate help, I advised Orhan to proceed into the harbor without any delay. We turned on the motor and hurried to Skala [37° 19.7' N 26° 32.7' E]. Of course, by the time we lowered the sails (with the wind gusting to 30 knots) and entered the harbor, some time had passed. It was almost 1330. To our great relief we saw that New Life was already moored stern-to.

Our original plan was for Thetis not to dock but to either go to the fuel dock or to anchor off. Now we approached New Life before anchoring to find out what we can do to help. As we came closer we saw two official cars and a number of Limenarchio (Coast Guard) officers on the quay in an animated conversation with Turgut. We circled until the officers left. Turgut said that he needed our help, so we prepared to moor stern-to next to New Life. It was very windy, and, as usual in Skala, it was a crosswind. We circled while we prepared the stern lines and the fenders. Then we got into position and dropped the anchor. As we were backing up Turgut told us that the problem had been solved and there was no longer any need to moor on the quay and we should after all go to the fuel dock. We started pulling up the anchor, but, what with the wind and the excitement our anchor got fouled with New Life’s chain. By the time we disengaged, a fishing boat had gotten ahead to the fuel dock. We instead anchored off. We had come 13 nM from Lipsi.

We lowered the outboard to the dinghy and went to New Life. Turgut was not there and neither Arzu nor the children knew where he was. Now finally Arzu told us what had happened. The water problem was caused by a port window that did not seal properly. Under sail, when New Life heeled the port went under water, and… After Orhan had hailed us on the VHF water kept coming in at an alarming rate and the whole crew panicked and they made a VHF “mayday” call. When they slowed down and lowered the sails the water stopped coming. As they were mooring, the Limenarchio (Coast Guard) officers descended on them and before leaving had taken all the ship’s papers with them and Turgut had to go to their office and report. We thought that that was where he was. Alice and I got into our dinghy to go and meet him. But as we drove off he returned to New Life and called us back. He had walked in the opposite direction to try and meet us at the fuel dock. It was that kind of a day!

He came into the dinghy while Alice stepped out to go shopping. We drove to the Limenarchio office and asked to speak to the officer in charge. I explained that we had already found the source of the leak and apologized for the false alarm. He said fine but we had had to see Mr. Limenarchis (the local Coast Guard chief), could we please wait until his visitor left his office. The wait was not too long and we soon were ushered into the inner sanctum. Mr. Limenarchis was fairly young and very polite. He offered us drinks, and listen to my explanations. Things were more complicated now he said. After New Life issued the “mayday”, which was received by his service, they prepared for a rescue operation. During the “mayday” call New Life did not state, as she was supposed to, her position. The young officer who received the call and was not a fluent English speaker also failed to inquire about New Life’s position. So, before dispatching the patrol boat to the rescue they hailed New Life on the VHF channel 16 in regard to her position but got no response. At this point the Limenarchio also panicked thinking that New Life had sunk. They immediately notified the emergency response center in Athens and asked for a rescue helicopter and dispatched the two local inflatable patrol boats on a search for the survivors. As the helicopter, in a nearby island, was about to take off, New Life, still not responding to repeated VHF hails, entered the harbor and at the same time informed them on the VHF that the emergency was over. Turgut explained that he was too busy lowering the sails, trying to locate the leak, and getting into the harbor to operate the VHF at the same time. The Limenarchis seemed satisfied with the explanation but now the bureaucracy had also to be satisfied with a written report. The offending port not only had to be repaired but it also had to be inspected and declared seaworthy before New Life would be allowed to depart from the port. Normally an independent inspector had to be called in. This will not only incur high cost but will cause a long delay. I explained that the “repair” was a trivial one and there could not possibly be any question of New Life’s seaworthiness. Eventually it was decided that he, personally, would do the inspection and certify seaworthiness. That should satisfy his service’s bureaucracy. We agreed to go back to New Life and make sure of the window and then call them on the VHF to come for the inspection.

Before getting back to the boat I stopped to draw some cash from an ATM. Turgut wanted to do so also and try his credit card. In it went and he entered what he thought was his correct password. The machine rejected it and demanded the correct password. We had a few very tense moments with me frantically punching various buttons before we extricated his credit card.

When we reached New Life we were met by a Limenarchio official on a motor scooter. It turned out that they forgot, while we were in their office, to stamp New Life’s transit log and to charge her the harbor fee. Could we please go back. I forgot to say that the day was very hot despite the wind. I tried to talk him into taking the transit log himself and give it his officer when he would come for the inspection but he did not bite. We ate a light lunch in the cockpit and waited for the arrival of the inspection team. Soon the Limenarchis and another officer arrived with an official car. They boarded New Life with their dirty shoes (I did not dare antagonize them by asking them to take their shoes off) and inspected the port. All was fine. Now they gave us a ride back to their office where the transit log was duly stamped and the harbor fee of €4.7 was paid. At last we were free to depart from Patmos.

Arzu on New Life, Thetis under sail
Arzu on New Life, Thetis under sail
Photo by Turgut Ayker
Arzu & Dilek Ayker in Pandelis
Arzu & Dilek Ayker in Pandelis

We went back to Thetis and raised the anchor. It was 1600. I raised the mainsail but expecting high gusts, I did not open the headsail. We had a fairly nice broad reach for 10.2 nM to Marathi; but near Grillousa, the small island W of Marathi, we experienced gusts reaching into the low 40s. We arrived in Marathi [37° 22' N 26° 43.6' E] (or Marathos) at 1810. We caught a mooring, but with some trouble because of the strong wind and the low angle of the sun which was in our eyes and hence we could not see well. New Life was already there and moored.

Later we all went ashore and had a great meal at Pandelis. Turgut and Dilek ordered crayfish, large as lobsters, the rest of us an assortment of mezedes (appetizers), salads, and Greek specialties along with home baked bread and wine. This was the ending of an endless day. We unanimously decided not to move the boats tomorrow but stay here.

Wednesday July 2, 2003 Day 29

Turgut & Vasilis
Turgut & Vasilis

This was a peaceful day. The wind was down and it was very calm. We did some walking and lots of swimming and reading.

In the evening we all enjoyed some wine on New Life’s deck and I played backgammon with Orhan. I was soundly beaten. Afterwards the “grown ups” went ashore to Pandelis’ and had a nice supper. This was our last evening together with our Turkish friends and we made the most of it. Tomorrow they will be heading towards Chios and Çesme while Alice and I plan to go to Fourni. Kyria Katina, Pantelis’ wife, kindly gave us two loaves of her wonderful bread, one for each boat, to take for our trips.

Thetis in Marathi
Thetis in Marathi
Photo by Turgut Ayker
New Life & Thetis in Marathi
New Life & Thetis in Marathi
Photo by Turgut Ayker

Thursday July 3, 2003 Day 30

We woke up early after a sound night’s sleep. Our plan was to leave early but to our amazement New Life beat us to it and left even earlier while we were having our coffee. The 0630 AM radio forecast called for force 3-4 NW winds. There was a lot of humidity, the whole deck was soaked. We cast off the mooring at 0705. There was almost no wind and we motored for 17 nM to Fourni. At least we ran the water-maker, replenished our fresh water supply and our batteries. We arrived at Petrokopio [37° 33.6' N 26° 29.2' E] at 1020. We anchored over sand in 5.5 m depth. I later snorkeled and checked the anchor. It was fine.

It was very hot, it got up to 32°C (90°F) inside the cabin while the radio announced that in Athens it was 40°C (104°F). We kept on swimming to keep cool. I took a long nap under the tent while Alice slept in her cabin.

In the evening, after it had cooled down, we went ashore and walked up the hill and into the quarry. We collected fresh thyme for cooking. There was absolutely no wind and the sea was like glass. After our return to the boat we had ouzo in the cockpit and later a nice dinner of spaghetti with tuna fish, garlic, and capers. It was a very quiet night.

Friday July 4, 2003 Day 31

The radio forecasted another hot day with Athens reaching 42°C (108°F). We decided to just stay here in Petrokopio. Here too it was hot and we did not do very much other than keep on jumping into the water to cool off. Several day-trip boats brought some bathers who only stayed on the beach for a few hours. Two Swedish S/Y came but we did not speak to them.

In the evening I swam for a long time. For dinner we ate rice with fresh tomato sauce.