Monday, 26 November 2007

An unintentional Odyssey of our own

Tuesday 6 November, 1200
With a forecast for a NW 3-4, it looked like we’d get a good sail to Frikes on Ithaka. According to the pilot book Frikes provided good shelter though the pilot book warned of NW down-draughts off the mountains.

There was quite a swell to the north of the islands and we were rolling a bit under motor as we sorted out the sails. Once the sails were up it was much smoother and the wind was lighter than forecast and we headed to Ithaka under full sail. It was the best sail we’d had so far – the boat felt perfectly balanced and glided across the water. It felt really natural rather than forced – I’m finally getting the hang of it.

As we approached Frikes, we could see wind on the water ahead caused by the down-draughts. We started to take the sails in, got caught by a couple of hard gusts, but nothing to worry about. As the sun slipped behind the mountains, we motored into the tiny harbour and the place instantly took on a more sinister air as the gusts increased. There were two pontoons which, strangely, were not connected to the shore and the power boxes seemed to have taken a battering, some lying on their sides and dented. However, with no obvious space elsewhere in the harbour and a “Berth alongside here” sign pointing to the pontoons, we decided to go for it.

We hadn’t gone alongside before (not that common in the Med) and space was tight so Tim attempted to crab the boat into position – not an easy manoeuvre with very strong gusts coming off the mountains and onto our beam. I jumped onto the pontoon – a fair leap with our high topsides (worth remembering) – and judgement had to be spot on as if I missed, I’d be Squires pie, as by that point the gusts were considerable.

Anyway, all seemed good. We secured the lines, turned off the engine and congratulated ourselves with a job well done though there was a slight feeling of unease. There was something a bit weird about that pontoon. As I got back on board to grab a beer, a huge ferry wash came out of nowhere and appeared to pick up the pontoon and throw it towards our hull. We, in turn, rolled violently in the other direction, then both us and the pontoon swung back to collide. Utterly stunned, we jumped into action – me turning on engine and grabbing a fender; Tim shoving a tyre he’d just found between the boat and the pontoon – all the while the swell was being amplified by hitting the inside of the harbour walls and bouncing back. It was a very surreal moment, seeing Tim and the pontoon jerking violently one way whilst me and Monty B lurched hard away then towards it. This chaos lasted no more than 2 minutes then died down. We let go our lines, Tim jumped aboard and we took off out of the harbour. Both a tad shook up, with darkness falling, we tried to calm down before re-entering the harbour to attempt a plan B.

We re-entered the harbour and looked at all the possible (impossible) options while we kept the boat circling – very difficult with strong gusts and limited room to manoeuvre. Moving astern was going to be very difficult in that wind, the only space to med-moor was tight with another vessel alongside who we were worried could surge into us. Some locals were attempting to shout stuff to us in Greek from the north wall of the harbour. What little we could hear, we couldn’t understand, most regrettably as it turned out. We decided we had to go elsewhere. The preferred option was back to Fiscardo as we knew it was safe and well-lit so easy to moor at night. This was the only sensible idea we came up with and with clear skies and a chart plotter, once we were away from these gusts, we thought we would be okay.

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