by Capts. Dave and Desiree
We had been fortunate with our sailing travels thus far. We had closely followed the weather, no matter how short a passage. We either had checked the forecast at a marina or the internet, but most recently we have come to depend on downloading weather reports from our single sideband radio.
We had decided to move from Mikonos to the islands of the eastern Sporades. The weather report we had downloaded said we would have winds from the northwest, about 7-15 knots (Force 3-4). From our anchorage, we left under power as there was very little wind. Truthfully, there was not a breath of wind outside the harbor.
We finished breakfast, dishes were washed, and schoolwork was under way. Suddenly, the wind picked up. We put the sails up, and for some reason Dave said to put in a double reef. The winds were at 20 knots. The wind steadily was increasing. We seemed also to get quite an additional wind effect from the island, a katabatic wind coming down the mountains of the island. When the winds exceeded 35 knots, we felt we should put in a third reef. The problem was, our main sail was never rigged for a third reed. So McGiver (Dave) became creative once more.
The wind was really blowing now. Dave was up front near the mast and I was at the main halyard. The wind was so intense that words would be lost. With a look in the eye from Dave, I knew it was time to lower the sail. He then rigged the sail to a more manageable size. The boat was now easier to handle and less overpowered, and less likely to tear a sail. Our winds peaked at 44 knots, a Force 9. Hurricane winds are rated a Force 12. Dave steered the boat manually, rather than stressing the autopilot. A broken autopilot would be a real challenge to repair out here.
Our intention had been to sail further, but we anchored in the first safe haven off the island of Ikaria. We put out extra chain to weigh down the anchor in hopes of good holding. I snorkeled the anchor and it was perfectly set, ready to ride the wind. There were 40 knot gusts throughout the night. Although the boat rocked through the waves, we held our position well. It blew for 30 days and 30 nights....OK that's an exaggeration... but it was 3 days before the wind settled to a brisk force 6 and we could continue on our way.
Greek legend tells us of Icarus, who was trying to escape the island of Crete. He fabricated wings from feathers and wax, but then flew too close to the sun. The sun melted the wax and he crashed into the sea near here. Dave and I subscribe to the view of Rod Heikell, author of our "Greek Waters Pilot” book. He feels Icarus had his feathers blown off here near Ikaria, and the sun had nothing to do with it!
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