Chinitsa

Every year at the end of the summer I usually stay in Porto Heli where I spend several days relaxing from the rigors of the summer cruise.

Note: At the bottom of this webpage there is a map that shows in detail the route of “Faneromeni”.

In September of 2000, returning with the “Faneromeni” from the summer cruise—that year in the Dodechanese and the Cyclades—I stopped for the night in the cove of Molos at the island of Hydra. The next day, at noon, I headed for the harbor of Porto Heli. On board were Rozina Kastrinaki, Mirka Simeonidou, and, of course, my steadfast companion Naxos. After we arrived at the cove, which is formed by the islet of Chinitsa (1.5 nM from the harbor of Porto Heli), we decided to stop for lunch and a swim. The weather was very good, sunshine, summer. We anchored off in the cove at 13:30. Usually in this cove there are a fair number of boats because the water is very attractive. Ashore there is a fish taverna that is located literally over the sea.

We swam for a while around the caïque and then went ashore with the dinghy to have lunch at the taverna. The distance from our boat to the taverna’s small dock was less than 100 meters. Next to our table at the taverna, also having lunch, was a group of Greeks who live abroad. They expressed an interest in the “Faneromeni” and so we began a conversation. While we were eating, although until that time there was sunshine and no wind, I noticed that clouds were gathering from the west. By the time we finished our meal and asked for the check, a light breeze had developed and from the west and the sky was getting cloudy. After we settled our bill we went to the dinghy intending to return to the caïque.

Our friends from the next table came to bid us good-bye and asked us if they could take a picture of us so that they could remember our meeting. And so we delayed our departure just a little for the photograph session. During those few minutes, the wind started blowing fitfully, as if the god Aeolos had pushed a button and all the winds hermetically contained in his skin bag struggled to escape all at once. I have never seen such a phenomenon: the wind reaching such a fury within seconds! And in the meantime, the sky became very dark and the sea full of waves.

The large umbrellas shading the taverna tables were lifted up and together with the plastic chairs were flying all over the place. We immediately started the dinghy and headed for “Faneromeni.” She was, as I have already mentioned, just 100 meters away. During the very short time it took us to cover that distance, conditions deteriorated and there were now substantial waves. The waves created such a swell that the ladies could not climb back onto the caïque because of the violent motion and the spray. Eventually, crawling and with the risk of falling overboard, they managed to climb on board.

During the fairly brief interval while all of this was happening the heavy, 50 ton caïque had turned around 180 degrees, had dragged her anchor, and was being pushed by the wind toward the rocks. Right away I started the engine and asked Mirka, who is a very hands-on sailor, to raise the anchor with the electric windlass. I also asked Rozina to untie and collect the tents because in this very strong wind they were acting as sails and helping to push the caïque forcefully toward the rocks.

By that time the waves had grown so large that they were drenching the caïque and us, of course. Mirka shouted that the windlass did not have enough power and was unable to raise the anchor. Rozina shouted that the cords holding the tents were so taught that she could not untie their knots. By that time “Faneromeni” was on her side and practically touching the rocks, maybe she was already on them.

As this hellish scenario unfolded and I realized that at any moment now the large waves and the incredibly strong wind were going to crash the caïque on the rocks, I decided to reverse while pushing the tiller full left. This maneuver risked damage to the propeller on the rocks, but there was no choice. I had to take the risk. The boat, however, did not budge. I increased the throttle. Nothing. I then pushed the throttle all the way to full RPM (revolutions per minute)–– which is never recommended for any boat. The engine roared and the caïque started to shake at an alarming rate, but, almost imperceptibly, she began to respond, slowly turning her stern and heading to the wind.

A great sigh of relief!

I continued pushing the throttle and indeed the boat slowly, ever so slowly, moved astern. Soon her stern was facing the wind and the waves––the waves were so large that they were now breaking on her deck. The anchor was still in the water and we were dragging it, but in the opposite direction, away and not towards the shore. We continued this way until we were far out at sea and at a relatively large depth where the anchor now hung vertically. At that point Mirka managed to start raising the anchor. I then reduced the RPM, engaged the engine forward, and headed the bow to the wind.

When the caïque was stabilized, heading against the waves, and had moved further out to sea, I asked Rozina to hold the tiller and Mirka and I, working together, managed to raise the anchor. This is not such a simple task in the “Faneromeni” because the anchor, after breaking the surface, has to be lifted by a davit and secured on the gunwale. This is a tricky and hard task even under favorable conditions.

With the anchor up, we tried to untie the cords holding the tents so that we could remove them. This was in vain because with the strong wind the knots had seized and could under no circumstance be untied. Without any further thought I took out the knife that is always handy in the pilothouse and cut the cords. We then managed to remove the tents. It took over an hour to complete all this and to enter the safe Porto Heli cove, a distance less than 1.5 nM. Under regular conditions it takes no more than 15 minutes!

“Faneromeni” has never (in my hands, at any rate) come so close to her destruction, except during the the difficult approach to the Corinth Canal, eleven years ago, in August 1989.

 

The route of “Faneromeni” from Molos, Hydra to Porto Heli. For a larger view click on the picture, for a more detailed view click on Google.