After spending a romantic sailing week on a glassy sea with my beloved wife we picked Shpongel up and a gang of 19 y.o. men ready to embark on their first ever sailing adventure. Shpongel and I have thousands of sea miles sailed together and he is always there when the going gets tough. The young lads are my Nephew Eden and his friends Tomer and Itay.

The weather is forecasted to become stormy in the next few days and we should be in Athens in a weeks’ time. So we took a short sailing day up to Ithaki for the newbies to get their sea legs.We were planned to leave early next morning to avoid the stormy weather.

We left Ithaki around noon and the weather started to deteriorate, Rachel (our yacht) was bouncing around and we tacked in order to gain seaway. The crew was seasick, all but Seagal, and we seemed to make a good headway. Until…the wind shifted, not according to forecast and the seas got higher than expected.

Sailors know the feeling of idling at one spot in a bad weather especially when you see a land mark almost at the same position for a long while. So we approached the entrance to the Corinthian gulf  where we should be protected, but we still seem to idle around the same spot. The sea is more confused and the wind starts to howl. Rachel is bouncing around and there is no right heading for a comfortable sailing. We are floating inside a washing machine. My mind is not at ease as I am thinking of what if… What if the engine stopped working right now? There are rocks not far to our port side, but we are not in a real danger and we can use the sails to make a long rough sail back and forth. We can also go with the wind back to the stormy Ionian sea to seek shelter, but this is not the right heading. After a long and rough sailing (we are all alone out here) we reached the entrance to the gulf and guess what? the weather is only a little better.

Stormy is a term that is given to our interpretation by the size and strength of a boat, the captain’s self confidence and experience and the competence of the crew (and the actual sea state). Captain Bear have been in much worse sea states and trusts himself to ride safely in this situation, the crew feels seasick but I know Shpongel is always there when I need him and Seagal is helping me sail the yacht and treats me with storm munchies. Our boat is new, she seems to be seaworthy and the propulsion is all new. The engine has been treated a few days ago and the new rigging is what I fear.This is because I have had a bad experience with new rig failure.

I am tired and exhausted but also pumped with adrenaline. night has fallen and we are all alone out here, except the notorious Greek ferries. the crew is sick and there is no safe harbor on the horizon. Shall I continue sailing with Seagal all night? I try to rest at the cockpit, but my mind is not at ease and Seagal can not navigate all by herself yet.

consulting the pilot book I found a small harbor called “Messolonghi” not far to leeward (the side where the wind pushes us to). The entrance to this port is dangerous by night, there is a long passage through a very narrow and shallow channel and we can not trust the guiding lights to guide us in. I am tired, but for our safety we’d better keep sailing. Rachel continues to bounce around on the waves and we continue to dodge ferries and ships. Later on we advanced to a calmer sea, the waves were of a very short period, but coming from only one direction and the wind eased a bit.

As we approached the famous Rion bridge I found out that our pilot book was dated to the times before the bridge was built, so we don’t have the vhf channel by which they operate. we need to contact the bridge control 5 miles in advance to be guided on where and when to pass under the bridge. thank Poseidon we had one phone connected to the internet…

0200 AM, a few miles past the bridge, to our north-east lies the port of Nafpaktos, this is hopefully the place where I can lay my aching bones for the rest of the night. I can see in the pilot book that there is a small beautiful fort-port with just the space for a few yachts. I know for a fact that the port has been there from medieval times, way before our pilot book. I am tired and choose to believe the pilot book about a place for yachts inside. I also know that there is a good anchorage outside the port in case we don’t have a berth inside and the weather is good now.

Coming up next: a night entrance to the beautiful port of Nafpaktos: a single-yacht harbor and not for the faint hearted sailors. Thunder storms in the Corinthian gulf at autumn and the spooky island of Trizonia.

Lessons learned:

  1. If you know there is a storm approaching, better wake up before dawn and set sail with the first light to gain precious hours of comfortable sailing.
  2. Check the if the vessel’s pilot book is up to date. If not copy the relevant pages for your trip and of course the pages of safety anchorages along your way.