Storm Ioanis

The bad weather expected was a very deep depression due to pass well south of us, crossing right over Zakinthos. As the storm moved east then south the winds would be strong from the south, back to the east and then around to the north. The north winds were likely to be the worst of the three.

Choosing a hiding place was a challenge. We didn’t want anywhere open to the north. Vliho, although appearing sheltered isn’. It suffers badly from strong north and south winds being funnelled into the bay by the hills each side. If there are lots of boats there it only takes one badly anchored or moored to start dragging and chaos ensues. We settled on Port Atheni on Meganisi.

Port Atheni itself is at the end of an inlet about a half mile long. It is little more than a couple of restaurants above a short quayside and was crowded the with approaching bad weather. At the entrance is a bay on the north side of the inlet. We’ve been here before with our friends Graham and Jane and know we can tuck right onto the north shore using our anchor and shore lines.

Initially, we’d be facing the southerly winds with our anchor holding us off the shore, the bay giving us some protection. As the winds backed and increased in strength we’d be exposed briefly to the north easterly winds and then be sheltered under the lee of the land from the north winds which would be from behind us and holding us off the shore on our long mooring lines. That was the theory.

Wednesday, 16 Sep.

We arrived on Wednesday in light southerly winds as high clouds began to creep up from the south. We anchored, I swam our long lines ashore and then I spent the afternoon putting the bathroom back together and cleaning it. Wednesday night was partly cloudy and flat calm.

Thursday, 17 September.

In the wee small hours we found that a neighbouring boat was dragging its anchor towards us. In only 25 knot winds that was worrying as they couldn’t have been anchored properly in the first place. They abandoned their shore line and disappeared into the night. In the morning, with lighter winds, I took an extra line ashore on what would become the windward side of the boat. We have a spare anchor and so I used the chain as a strop around the rocks and the rope cable to attach to our bows.

As we watched the weather forecasts it became obvious that there must be at least 4 different storms because the 4 forecast models each had a storm 4 different locations and going in 4 different directions.

The version which turned out to be more accurate had the storm crossing Cephalonia, rather than Zakinthos, then hitting Ithaca before turning south to Zakinthos and then the main land. This meant that we would be just 20 miles from the storm centre rather than over 50. It also meant that our position was now very exposed to the easterly winds which, as the storm was further north than expected, would be the predominant winds we’d experience. Being securely moored and in rising winds with no shelter elsewhere we had no option but to sit it out.

As the wind moved around one of our shore lines was slack and as night fell we found it had got caught against a rock. That would cause us problems later as rocks and mooring lines don’t mix. I had no choice but to swim ashore and reposition the line. That involved shifting the other line to take the strain, repositioning the chafing line and then putting the first line back in place. Valeria held our big powerful diving torch, a retirement present from colleagues, to light my way as I scrambled, ‘mountain goat-like’, across the rocks as the waves washed over them. It was almost completely dark by the time everything was secure.

The storm crossed Cephalonia and them promptly stalled over Ithaca. The north easterly winds would not only be much stronger than anticipated, they would also be of longer duration as the storm had stopped moving.

Friday, 18 September.

From 8pm on Thursday to 4pm on Friday we were battered by north easterly winds averaging 30 knots and gusting to 46. The winds were from our port side and although we’d twisted the boat slightly on the moorings to try to have the wind and sea on the bow rather than straight on the side, it was still a very rough ride. What would have been our sheltered anchorage was now about the worst position to be in, tied onto a lee shore in storm force winds. We had a very anxious, sleepless 36 hours.

By 6 pm the winds finally backed round to the north, giving us our planned shelter, and dropped away to an insignificant 20 knots and less. It was like a mill pond by night fall.

But the anchor and moorings held. We didn’t budge an inch, well not horizontally anyway. The only damage we suffered was to the bow roller for the anchor which now needs repairing. But the battering that took was enormous. Again I am so happy I bought our nice big Mantus anchor last year. Once set, it holds. We’ve had winds of 50 plus knots last year in Croatia and now Storm Ioanis and it has performed amazingly.

Saturday, 19 September.

The sky is blue, the sea is calm and the only sign of the storm, apart from our damage is a rather incongruous bit of sea weed caught on one of our mooring lines.

It transpired that a couple we’d met in Rocella, Paul and Gabby in Bella Nova had taken shelter on the Port Atheni quay. We took the tender in to meet them in one of the two restaurants for a Storm Ioanis Debrief. It appears that their biggest problem was with other yachts, badly moored, dragging their anchors and having to reposition themselves in strong cross winds. But everyone survived unharmed.

Unfortunately others were far less lucky and Facebook posts of sinkings and strandings and chaos on shore began to circulate. (Below picture is from the Kefalonia Pulse website)

Sailing south ….

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