[Kensblog#5] Sometimes you need a Plan "C"



At the end of my last blog entry, we were anchored off an island called Kythnos in a miserable swell.

We departed at 6:30am, headed to the nearby island of Hydra, only 50nm away.

Hydra has only one town, known as “Hydra Port” and survives primarily on tourism. One unique thing about Hydra: there are no cars allowed!

Neither Seabird nor us have ever cruised this area before. We have access to cruising guides, the Internet, and Google Earth, but we still seem to get surprises when arriving at anchorages. One of the primary reasons we usually depart early is that it allows us time to reroute when things don’t go as planned.

Surprises can come in many forms. The wind is often an issue. For example, in a north wind, you would normally want to be in a south-facing anchorage, so that the land can shelter the boat from the wind. That said, in some cases the terrain acts as a funnel, increasing the velocity of the wind. In other cases, wind turns out to be the lesser evil, when a strong swell comes into the anchorage. I have had situations where I arrived at an anchorage, only to find a large fishing platform set up in the center of it. Or many times, the anchorage is simply “taken” by other boats.

On Hydra, we had identified two possible anchorages. The first, Mandraki, was very close to port, but we were worried it would be crowded, or too exposed to the wind. Instead, on arrival, we discovered that the back half of the bay was buoyed off as a swim area. In the remaining space there was perhaps room for one of us to sit at anchor, but there was no way we both could anchor.

This brought us to Plan B; an anchorage called Molos another hour run along the coast of Hydra. Our charts were giving virtually no depth information for Molos, and it looked tight, but the cruising guides said it was a large, well-protected anchorage.

Here we see the port of Hydra, viewed from the boats as we passed by, headed to the Molos anchorage. We would have loved to go into the port, but the cruising guides said the port was small, and that tangled anchors were a common occurrence.

Whereas the cruising guides had described Molos has a pretty anchorage, when we arrived there was a barracks-looking military building on the beach, some fishing pangas, and a few houses around the bay. Worse yet, it looked too small for our two boats, and we had poor chart coverage for depths in the anchorage.

We have sonar on Sans Souci, a piece of equipment that gives us some ability to scan depths around the boat, under the water. Sans Souci entered Molos first, because of our sonar, and called Seabird on the radio, “I’m not sure about this, Steven. It looks tight. Plus, on the sonar, I can see a rock that could be a problem. One of us might be ok, but we should consider going elsewhere.” Steven responded, “Let me know if you decide it can work, but I’m not optimistic. I’m already on the way to Poros.”

It wouldn’t work. We need room for two 500 foot circles (the swing circles for our boats.) One of us, at most, would fit.

Sans Souci and Seabird at anchor in Poros Bay. In the picture it looks like Sans Souci is poking too far out into the main bay. This is because I moved from my original anchoring position to move further away from an anchored sailboat. He said he had no plans to move, so I moved. The next morning, the sailboat was gone, but I decided not to move back in closer to shore. I like plenty of room around us, and it gave us a bit more privacy. I light the boat up like a Christmas tree at night, so I wasn’t worried about anyone bumping into us.

We had teed up a Plan A, and a Plan B. Now we needed a plan C. Once Mandraki hadn’t worked, we had immediately started trying to find a Plan C. We found an anchorage on a nearby island called Dokos, but it also looked tight, and there was nothing there. It would be a long tender ride to Hydra. We identified a large bay, farther away, with a cute town called Poros. It would have fast hydrofoil service to Hydra, and plenty of places to anchor.

In any event, we needed a “sure thing.” Plan C had to work. The sky was darkening, and a squall was coming. Poros looked like a sure thing.

As we were on our way to Poros, we found ourselves in a thunderstorm, with intense winds and rain. It didn’t last long, but was not fun. Few things on a boat frighten me more than lightning. Roberta wasn’t much help when she said, “Get used to it. Where we are going there will be a lot of these.”

Plan C was a bay called “Russian Bay” at Poros. As we entered the bay, we discovered that Russian Bay was smaller than it had looked on the chart, and besides, it was already taken by several boats. This was not a problem as the entire three mile wide bay around Poros was wide open, had ok depths for anchoring, and offered a multitude of anchoring possibilities. We were soon quickly, and happily, anchored.

How do they deliver goods on Hydra without cars? Check out this beer delivery!

Plenty of places to anchor, plenty of restaurants, good protection from the wind, and no swell. What more could we want?

I also shot some 3d photos: ( Photo 1 Photo 2 Photo 3 )

Poros turned out to be great! There was indeed a fast ferry into Hydra. We wound up staying several days.

While we were in a water taxi, returning to the boat after dinner, Roberta shouted at me, “Ken! Grab the camera quick!” I didn’t have a camera, so the best I could do was this quick snapshot on my cell phone. I think you’ll agree it was an amazing sunset. Why were we in a water taxi, instead of our tender, you might ask? The answer is that we were worried the wind might come up, and after a glass (or, two) of wine, getting back to the boats if there were rough seas, would be a lot easier with a water taxi.

When it came time to finally leave Poros, I felt guilty, because I hadn’t thought of anything interesting to put in the blog. Thus, I decided to shoot a video showing what we go through to ready the boat for departure. I wasn’t happy with how it turned out, and even labeled it as “boring,” but then was blindsided by it becoming my most popular entry ever on Facebook:

If you don’t see a video above, you can use this link to view it:

We had a beautifully flat cruise to Athens.

Approaching our marina, there was a bit of excitement. We found ourselves in a sailboat regatta. All of these boats are moving fairly quickly, coming straight at us, and all have the “right-away.” None of them had to move to allow us to get by. Zigzagging through them was our responsibility, not theirs, and isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Sailboats around us as we approached Athens. The sailboats were actually spaced farther apart than they appeared on the radar, and there were only a couple of times we got close to them. The exciting part was Roberta and I arguing over which direction to pass them on. Roberta and I are each highly opinionated people, who do sometimes agree – but, not always. Fortunately, Sans Souci only has one steering wheel.

Our marina in Athens was picked based on finding one that would allow our boats to side-tie, as opposed to the typical Med-mooring. With only two people on each of our boats, it is much simpler to side-tie to the dock. Plus, I have an extra problem on Sans Souci: Roberta had shoulder surgery five months before the trip and it’s too soon for her to be working lines and fenders. So, I’m handling that part while Roberta drives the boat. Marinas are very understanding and would be willing to put extra people on my boat, but it’s still simpler to side-tie.

Approaching our marina in Athens
Sans Souci side-tied at the Athens Marina
The Athens Marina is accustomed to much larger boats than ours. The blue boat in this picture is 240’ long!

I phoned the Athens Marina in New Faliro (near Athens – www.athens-marina.com) and found space at a marina which describes itself as a superyacht marina. I saw this as good news, because it would mean a helpful staff accustomed to demanding customers. Their cost was half what surrounding marinas charge, which is a good thing, except that I worried there must be some “rest of the story.”



I was shocked to see this boat pull in. My assumption was that it was some sort of “party boat” but it is the 115’ personal yacht of a Greek billionaire, who is a serious art collector and wanted his boat to reflect his passion. It’s not my taste, but there is one very nice thing about it. The owner’s stateroom is the whole top deck, above the pilot house. From the owner’s stateroom (the penthouse) there is a 360 view and a private outside deck. If I were ever to have a boat with crew, this would be a great way to set it up.

In the picture above you see a stadium behind the boat, and from our boat we can see several other stadiums around. My assumption was, “The Greeks must sure be sports fans.” Then yesterday we hiked over by the stadium, called the Peace and Friendship Stadium. It is falling apart, with graffiti and trash everywhere. Beneath it was a park, filled with what appeared to be homeless people with lots of little kids. We realized this was a gypsy camp.

I did some googling, figuring there must be more to the story, and realized that this stadium — and even our marina — were once part of the 2004 Athens Olympics.

CLICK HERE for an interesting article about what has become of the Olympic stadiums

The stadium does seem to be used at times for musical venues, but is in a horrible state of disrepair.


Sans Souci is hidden on the left side of the picture, lost amongst the huge boats around us.


We can see the Acropolis from our boats! (Although, this picture was taken while at dinner nearby.) At this point, I would like to say that Roberta and I had come to Athens years before and had already ‘done’ all of the tourist sights: the Acropolis, museums, Delphi, etc. As a consequence, we decided not to see them again (been there, done that). So, I apologize for not covering the very interesting historical aspects of Athens, which are impressive. Steven and Carol, on Seabird, had never been to Athens, and so they have been doing the “tourist thing.” I’m sure that they will cover those aspects in their own blog: www.seabirdlrc.com.


Four fuel trucks, one super yacht

As long as we were at a marina, we decided to get the boat cleaned inside and out. Three girls showed up, and worked HARD for two days, in extreme heat and wind. They charged 700 euros (around $900) which seemed a little expensive at the time, but it felt a lot cheaper as I watched how hard they worked. Sans Souci is a larger boat than she seems, and it is common for the cleaners to “under-bid” the project. I think of Sans Souci as “the largest 68-foot-boat in the world.” In this picture we see two of the girls (a mother and daughter) celebrating having completed the job.

The marina is great and the staff is amazing. I now understand the low cost, as the marina is out of town, with nothing around but the Peace and Friendship Stadium. It is a long, but manageable, walk into Piraeus (Athens’ main port) and taxis are easily obtained, picking you up at the boat. The marina staff is amazingly helpful, and very nice to work with. In Piraeus we even found — Starbucks!

Yesterday, I watched as one of the super yachts was taking on fuel. They consumed the contents of FOUR large fuel trucks!

Which, reminded me of a conversation with Steven on the way to Athens…

During the run, we were passed by an 80’ yacht moving at 34 knots, to our 8.5 knots. I commented to Steven on the radio, “See those bubbles behind his boat? Each of those is one gallon of fuel.” We speculated on his fuel burn, and were guessing it was over 200 gallons per hour, as compared to Steven’s six gallons per hour, or my eight gallons per hour. I speculated, “Wouldn’t you think that trawlers would be much more popular here in the Med, with fuel costing $8 per gallon?” After thinking about it a bit, Steven said, “Not really. When you look at the total cost of owning a boat, fuel is a minor cost, and that guy is probably still working, and only has weekends to go places. On Fridays, he needs to get on the boat, get to the islands, and get back to port in time for work on Monday. For him, speed is critical.”

Steven makes some good points. Trawlers aren’t for people who are in a hurry. That said, anyone who reads the blogs of trawler owners will tell you that they are amazed at how quickly, how far and often, trawlers move around.

And, some things for the boat-geeks

This is the first time Sans Souci has needed electricity since starting our trip from Turkey. We’ve been on our generator 24 hours a day for nearly a month.

Last year, I asked the Turkish mechanics to create “pig tails” for me. I had to explain what I meant to the mechanics, as it seems to be a unique concept, although I believe it is something that every world cruiser should do.

My shore power cables are permanently affixed to the boat, and are deployed electrically (I push a button to pull out the cords or push them in.) As we travel around the world, each region has their own standards for shore power connectors. In some cases, individual marinas have their own standards.

32 amp three-phase electricity at the pedestal

The normal process, when entering a marina with the wrong connector is that someone (often me) has to install the local adapter to the end of my shore power cable. This means removing the existing adapter and attaching a new one. Sometimes, it means cutting the cable a bit shorter, to have good clean wire to attach to. Over time, this process shortens, or at a minimum ruins the ends of the cables.

Instead, what I prefer is to have short cables made up, which have a female version of the American-style connector, that is at the end of my cords, and at the other end a male version of the local adapter for the country. By having a collection of these short (I call them) pig tails, I usually have the correct adapter already wired for each country. I also like to carry a collection of short pig tails, which have only bare wire on one end, so that when I encounter a new shore power connector for the first time I can buy one, and be all set to go.

Anyway, to make a long story short, somehow I now have dual 63 amp European style connectors on the end of my shore power cables, which was not my intent. The first slip the marina assigned to us to had only 32 amp connectors (three-phase.) I wasted an afternoon running around Piraeus trying to find extra 63 amp and 32 amp connectors, plus the right wire, to make up new pig tails, with no luck. I know they are here, but it’s a problem trying to communicate with cab drivers.

Luckily, the next day, another boat moved, which was using the pedestal that has the 63 amp connectors, and we were able to take their place.

The electricity here is 400 volt 50 hz three-phase AC current. I believe it should be 380v, but is testing as 400v. Thanks to my Atlas shore power converter a single 63 amp cable is able to provide the boat something like 25kw of electricity! I’m careful not to overload it though. My shore power cables are only rated to 50 amps, not 63 amps, although, theoretically, I’d blow a breaker on my boat before burning up the cables. Seabird, which does not have an Atlas system, is using the same electricity, but with only two of the three “hot” lines connected, giving them something closer to single-phase 240v electricity. Personally, I’m amazed it works, but Seabird is running fine, air conditioning and all.

Mechanical issue of the week

Since we’re in port I changed the oil on the generator. I also decided to inspect the bilges and found more water than I liked in one bilge that is supposed to be dry.

Replacing the manual bilge pump

I noticed a couple of times this week that my midships bilge pump was running. Whenever the boat senses more than an inch or two of water in the bilge, it is automatically pumped overboard, and an alarm sounds in the pilot house. 99.9% of the time this is no big deal, but alarms always merit further investigation.

Roberta and I spent an entire afternoon trying to track down the source of the water intrusion and finally discovered it was from a very unlikely source. The manually operated bilge pump, which is our backup bilge pump system if we lose all power, was allowing water into the boat. I tried operating the pump handle to see if that would help, and moving the handle accelerated the flow into the boat. I asked the marina if they could refer me to a mechanic. I had a rebuild kit on board, but preferred letting someone with more experience than I have fix the pump.

Within an hour two VERY competent mechanics showed up, and immediately took the pump back to their shop for rebuild. Both they and I traced the tubing trying to find the thru-hull that the bilge pump dumps to, but couldn’t. Instead, we installed a new cut-off valve in the hose. In under three hours they were done. Now we have a nice dry bilge.

And, lastly…

Next up – The Corinth Canal!!!

We depart tomorrow morning for the Corinth Canal. I’ll do a special report about the trip through as soon as we make it. This will be our big transition from the Aegean Sea to the Adriatic Sea!

Thank you,
Ken Williams
Nordhavn 68, Sans Souci

Plus: Daily (or, most days) posting on Facebook, at: : http://www.facebook.com/kensblogdotcom

5 Responses

  1. Ken, I had to laugh when you described how you and Roberta argued over which side to take the sailboats. As you probably know, the San Francisco Bay is packed with sailboats on any given weekend, and they always seem to beheading straight for us. Eve and I routinely bicker over which side to take them on, whether they are likely to tack or jibe directly into us, and whether speeding up or slowing down is the best option when the CPA reads zero.

    I was confused by your comment about the bilge pump. Why would you need to know where the through-hull is to remove the pump? Isn’t the hose to the through-hull clamped to the discharge side of the pump?

    Really enjoying reading about this year’s cruising. Thanks!

    ———— Response by Ken 06/29/2013———–


    Good question. Similarly, why is water able to flow backwards to the pump at all? I would think there should be a check valve, but instead there is an anti-siphon loop, which isn’t working. I am having a new anti-siphon valve sent over and think I have now found the thru-hull.

    In case I’m not being clear, the sequence past the pump is: manual bilge pump -> anti-siphon -> new valve that I installed -> Thru-hull. The thru-hull is below the water line, so it brings water into the boat, and is connected to a fairly wimpy hose. There really should be a check valve, and perhaps there is and I haven’t found it –but, I don’t think so.

    -Ken W

  2. Roberta and I are each highly opinionated people, who do sometimes agree – but, not always. Fortunately, Sans Souci only has one steering wheel.

    Can we expect some deadliest catch style captains view of her discussing the finer points of your charting abilities?

  3. Have you ever thought about tying up together in tight areas. For instance, if you are on the stbd side facing the weather, you would drop your anchor 20 degrees to stbd of the weather , and Steve would drop his anchor 20 degrees to port of the weather . Then you two back up and raft up ?. No swing and–Party Time!!!

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