Cyclone ‘Zorba’

Arriving in Sami with Ana and Charlie our attention turned to the weather; there was a storm brewing to the south and the winds were due to start building on Tuesday afternoon.

To avoid them and the ‘rush hour’ in Lefkas we slipped from Sami at 5.30 am in the pre dawn light airs.  The passage from Sami to Lefkas was 30 miles or 6 hours and, apart from one unlit yacht visible only on radar, we had a straightforward passage in slowly building winds, arriving in Lefkas by 1 pm.   The quay was happily almost deserted and we slotted ourselves in close to the Contact Yacht Services building; they were to do our machinery service and some other bits I want doing.

Unfortunately there was no one around to take our lines and no bollards to ‘lasso’ so I had to put the back of the boat against the quayside so Valeria could step ashore and tie us up; we plan to have big bumpers fitted while we are here for this very purpose!

Our timing was perfect as the forecast wind arrived a few hours later.  Then the winds that weren’t forecast joined them.   The wind speeds built all through Tuesday night, steadying at about 30 knots from the north-east.  This was directly on our beam and it was as the wind speed increased I found that our anchor was no longer holding properly; if I pulled it in to pull us off the quay the anchor simply dragged. Slightly worrying.   So I put out a couple more lines, securing one to a lamp-post; the small mooring ring on the quay looked suddenly very small and insubstantial.   Our neighbours on a small mono hull called ‘Rusty’ put on Face Book that they were ‘sheltered by a large cat (that was us) tied to a lamp-post’. This confused their non-sailing friends who were appalled any one would tie a cute little pussy cat to a lamp-post in such weather …..

And the wind built further. Still rather concerned about our anchor and the starboard hull in heavily fendered contact with the quay Valeria and I stayed up most of Tuesday night, just in case. Although strong, 30-35 knots, the wind was pretty steady and there were few waves crossing the canal so we were held against the quay without moving around too much.

But panic set in further up the quay side and a group of boats let go and left, heading south. This was apparently a good choice as the winds on the south side of the canal were much lighter. One boat tried to re-anchor but dragged and simply ended up laying alongside the quay; luckily there was space for him to do so!

Tight squeeze ..
Tight squeeze ..

As we were sheltering ‘Rusty’, we in turn were being sheltered by a large 50 foot motor boat, until his anchor started to drag and one of his lines parted. This boat has apparently been on the quay for ages and looked rather tatty, but people did appear to re-secure it.  Had it moved much more there would have been a domino effect on all the boats down wind of it, ourselves included!

Current wind speed 43 knots. Thirty minute average wind speed of 38 knots with gusts to over 50
Current wind speed 43 knots. Thirty minute average wind speed of 38 knots with gusts to over 50.

By Thursday the winds were at a constant 35 to 40 knots and showed no signs of abating and during the evening built still further; overnight into Friday morning we actually recorded wind speeds of 50 knots, although Valeria saw a peak speed of 54!    Those are Storm Force winds. Another sleepless night. And throughout this the forecasts were constantly predicting 20 knot winds around Lefkas. We are used to having to add 5 knots to a prediction, but 30! The actual cyclone causing all this, christened Zorba by the Daily Mail, showed storm force winds hundreds of miles to the south, so hopefully they weren’t underestimated by 30 knots!

Cyclone 'Zorba' at 4 am Friday morning
Cyclone ‘Zorba’ at 4 am Friday morning.
Predict Wind ‘predicts’ 15 to 25 knots …….

By Friday morning we had news, via Facebook, that a boat further north along the Lefkas canal, by the bridge, had sunk at its moorings.

Very rough at the entrance to the channel right now!

Posted by Joseph Sandland II on Friday, 28 September 2018

Originally alongside the jetty, at some point this guy has put out his kedge anchor to hold his boat off the jetty but across the wind!

It is the dark line going into the water from his starboard quarter (right hand side at the back). But it wasn’t big enough to stop him being slammed bows-first against the quayside.

Now at N entrance of Lefkas.

Posted by Claudiu Visan on Friday, 28 September 2018

On the quay around us the wind was getting into loosely furled fore sails and ripping them to shreds and generally testing every ones nerves.

And then of course Friday is hand over day for charter boats, and the entire town quay is infested with them. It would only take one to drop their anchor in the wrong place and then dredge up one of ours and we’d all be in trouble. Happily not too many braved the conditions although the ones that did, and kept away from us, did provide some entertainment. One Charter Company boss was frantically running up and down the quay screaming instructions into his mobile phone to the charterers trying to control and anchor his boats in the harbour in front of us.

Then the wind began to die away; 30 knots seemed quite reasonable after what we’d had, but as the winds died the charterers began to return in force requiring some ‘words of advice’ to be offered by ourselves and our neighbours.

Friday evening, light winds and a beautiful sky
Friday evening, light winds and a beautiful sky!

Then calm.   Like it had never happened. As they say, what a difference a day makes