Thursday, August 20, 2009

The perfect storm

Before leaving Israel, my skipper insisted to make it clear - this is not going to be an all fun & play cruise, this voyage will not compare to the easy sailing I used to have with my father on those sunny Saturdays. Choosing to sail the Mediterranean, in this season, in that direction, could lead to some stormy situations, as I was soon to find out. After a week of sailing on a sea, that seemed to look like a big-flat-oily-mirror, I was actually wishing for something to happen - every documentary needs it's drama.

& then, just a spit away from Crete, the gods of wind decided to test the strength of Black Dolores & her crew. While we were sailing along the east coast of the island, the wind started to grow & the sea began to feel like a huge washing machine.

It wasn't too long before monstrous waves were braking on Dolore's walls, spraying buckets of sea into the cockpit. I remember looking at the wind speed meter, asking for it to settle. As the captain would later proudly tell everyone, the pick of the storm was 49 knots (while the wind forecast maps usually top at 50 knots). The fact that the land was so close was not very helpful – on the east side of the island there are no marinas. The first marina on the north coast was not very far, but the wind was so strong, it would not let us to keep our course. As there where no other options, we had to go with the wind back east, while trying to climb as north as possible, before tacking back to the island. This maneuver had to be done quite a few times in the following day & night.

The captain & his first mate, Yaron, started that day early in the morning & finished it, soaked & tired, the morning after.

When we finally landed in the marina of Ayios Nikolaos & after exchanging some of our battle stories with the locals, we have come to understand that it's very common to encounter strong winds on north-east corner of Crete, but no one could remember a storm this strong for the past 20 years.

I guess when I wished for drama, I got more then I bargained for - this storm was not fun for one moment, but I think I will always be somewhat grateful for that extreme experience.

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