Katomeri and a spot of technical assistance

With the storm gone, Sunday was a lovely calm day. We decided to go for a walk up to the village of Katomeri. It is a kilometer or so up the hill from Port Atheni.

Katomeri is a simple island village and although we walked around it we didn’t manage to find a ‘centre’ as such. There were a few shops and tavernas but being Sunday the shops were closed and we weren’t hungry or thirsty enough to stop in a taverna.

There was little to see but the walk was pleasant. It was an entirely uneventful trip ashore, until we headed back to the boat.

We were anchored in a bay on the north side of the inlet leading to Port Atheni. The bay is divided from the inlet by a shallow spit of less than 2 metres depth. The shallows are marked with white, fender type, buoys. One is at the outer end and the other marks where even a tender would run aground.

Heading home we found a 50 foot Beneteau yacht sitting at a jaunty angle between these 2 markers. It was obviously hard aground as some of the crew were standing waist deep in the water just ahead of the yacht. I tutted to Valeria about charters but as we passed them they waved at us, hopefully. We went over and they asked for my help, admitting they were at a loss.

Trying to hide my surprise my initial suggestion was to ring the charter company. They might have another yacht in the area to help pull them off the shallows. How much fun that would be to watch! But the ‘skipper’ asked if I could help them re-float themselves. I agreed but first I had to take Valeria back and set up the BBQ.

Returning with a mask and snorkel I asked how fast they had been going when they ran aground. I was told ‘2 or 3 knots’. Hmm. My regular reader will know that Charter boats do not travel at ‘2 or 3 knots’. Their engines appear to have only 3 settings. Full Ahead, Full Astern and neutral. The only time you see a charter boat traveling slowly is if they have left the hand brake on!

I went for a swim and found the keel, of the type with a large ‘foot’, was well and truly wedged up on the sand and rocks of the shallow bar. They had a spare anchor so I showed them how and where to lay it out to try to pull themselves off. It was a Mud Anchor and not much use for the stony sea bed they had to work with. It did cross my mind that I could bring my bigger spare ‘plough’ anchor across. That would take a great deal of setting up and, subsequently, I was glad I didn’t get that deeply involved.

It took a couple of goes before their anchor actually set and they could winch on it. Encouragingly the boat moved fractionally. The crew was comprised of 10 Hungarian youngsters so, telling them to think heavy thoughts I had them stand on the ‘low side’ of the boat as ballast to encourage it to tilt further and lift the keel. That also had a slight effect.

I then gave the ‘skipper’ a detailed briefing on heeling the boat over and thereby lifting the keel. They could pull the mast down and even swing the boom out and have a couple of heavy guys hang on that! Heeling the boat over, heaving in on the anchor and using the engines might do the trick. There were only 2 new concepts to grasp as the full astern position on the engine was one he was conversant with. The ‘skipper’ assured me he’d got the idea and I reminded him that he should contact the charter company as even hitting the bank at only ‘2 or 3 knots’ might have damaged the hull. At this point he asked me to come and look at something inside the yacht. ………..

Lifting the deck boards in the cabin he showed my the bilge pump completely submerged in water. Salt water. The pump didn’t seem to be working automatically so he turned it on. But with the bilge pumped out the water was coming in at an alarming rate. My fear was that he’d done some serious damage below the water line.

He then said that perhaps it wasn’t too bad as the water only came in to a certain level then stopped. Counting to 10 I pointed out that the water could only come in to sea level and being aground that level wouldn’t change. But, and this was a big BUT, once he re floated the water would keep coming in to sea level until the bilge pump couldn’t cope. That process was called ‘sinking’.

I told him the best place for him was sat on the bar as he couldn’t actually sink, and with no real tide he’d stay upright. I stressed that he had to call the charter company as his yacht was taking water and I was absolutely sure that they would have contingency plans; he promised he would. There is only so much advice you can give.

On the way off I was presented with a bottle of Irish Whiskey for my services. I tried to decline but apparently it is a Hungarian custom. Being out numbered 10 to 1 and late for my BBQ I accepted and, wishing them luck, left them to it. An hour or so later a massive shout rolled across the bay and it appeared that ‘pulling the mast down’ with their tender had worked and they re-floated themselves. Soon after that they were headed off out to sea.

The shallow bar is charted, marked with buoys and described in all the pilotage information. The weather was flat calm and visibility excellent. Cause of the grounding? Fifty foot yacht with a five foot driver.

And then, after a delicious BBQ, I changed the watermaker filters, replaced the thermostat on the freezer and repaired Valeria’s favourite lipstick. Not bad for a day of rest!

The Audience. Port Atheni anchorage on a busy Sunday afternoon.

Sailing south ….

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