Difficult approach to the Corinth Canal

In mid August of 1998 we were returning from a cruise of the Ionian Sea. On board with me were Rozina Kastrinaki and my faithful companion Argos. We had overnighted in Kiato and from there we departed on August 18 at 06:45, heading to the Corinth Canal.

After about 10 nM, when we were almost abreast of the harbor of Corinth, a violent squall with very strong winds and torrential rain developed rapidly. Because the weather was calm up to that moment we were motoring with the tents on.

The wind was so strong that the autopilot was not able to control the boat. To bring the boat back under control I had to disengage the autopilot and ask Rozina to hold the tiller. The next step was to take down the tents. Un-der normal circumstances this is a two person job. But now, with the wind howling, the knots of the cords that held the tents were too tight to untie. Without a further thought I took the knife that I always keep handy in the pi-lothouse “just in case” and cut the cords. After this I removed the tents, but with great difficulty.

The removal of the tents eased the load on the boat. Immediately after that I took hold of the tiller and headed toward the canal entrance. Due to the torrential rain and waves with spray whipped up by the very strong wind, the visibility was severely reduced. At that time the boat did not have a ra-dar, which in these circumstances would have been a great aid.

The wind and the rain grew stronger. Conditions were deteriorating. Visibil-ity was reduced to about ten meters. We were navigating only by compass. I was very aware that, on the one hand, we were close to the canal en-trance and, on the other hand, that other ships would also be converging. I became very concerned, to say the least. Added to this increasing concern was my worry about the decreasing depth as we approached land. So, once again, I asked Rozina to take over the tiller and try to hold the course by means of the compass. Easier said than done, given the conditions! I al-so asked her to keep an eye on the depth sounder. I then went to the bow and tried to discern if there were any ships ahead of us or if we were near-ing land. I could not see anything and the weather conditions were getting worse. I reduced the engine RPM so that the boat had just some headway. In the mean time, Rozina was drenched from the spray and the rain but she was steadfast to her duty.

I knew that we must have been near the entrance, but I could not see a thing. My unease increased further as Rozina kept calling the decreasing depth sounder readings.

I began to think that it would be prudent to turn around and head away from land and to abandon our attempt to reach the canal.

At that very moment I saw, just a breath away from the “Faneromeni’s” bow, a ship’s mast. I immediately screamed to Rozina to reverse in order to avoid the impending collision. Indeed our boat reversed and the collision was avoided. Rozina then put us in neutral and I tried to make out the other craft’s heading. I then noticed that she was not under way and to my great surprise I realized that she was not a craft after all but the small beacon at the entrance of the canal’s outer harbor!!!

This was a temporary relief. With great care and caution we slowly entered the small harbor of Poseidonia at the entrance of the canal and hailed the control tower on the VHF, asking for instructions. Their response was: “You cannot transit at this time but stand by and hold your vessel’s position with the engines until further instructions.” They apparently thought that we were a larger ship with twin engines. I responded: “we are a small caïque with a single engine and I have a great difficulty holding her position due to the extremely violent wind.”

At that time “Faneromeni” was traveling with her passarella (gangplank) at-tached to her stern, extending toward the sea and suspended from her aft mast by wire cables. This is a fairly common practice in many boats as it allows the passarella’s easy deployment when mooring stern-to. As the above dialog between myself and the control tower was taking place on the VHF, an extremely violent gust lifted the heavy passarella, as if it was made of cardboard, right over our heads and landed it right on the tiller, enmeshing both me and the tiller in the wire cables. As a result the boat was now completely out of control. In the mean time, the strong wind was pushing the “Faneromeni” towards the quay at great speed. Her imminent destruction was a matter of only a few seconds.

Full of fear, I screamed to Rozina to immediately drop the anchor. The an-choring procedure in “Faneromeni” is a fairly complicated one and usually takes two experienced people. The fact that Rozina, all by herself, man-aged to drop the heavy anchor, something that she had never done before by herself, is almost supernatural.

In the meantime, the boat, propelled by the strong wind, was only a few meters from the concrete quay. In this short time I had not managed to dis-engage myself from the passarella cables. Then the second supernatural miracle occurred: as soon as the anchor was dropped it caught and within seconds stopped the boat dead--just about one meter away from the hard concrete quay!!!

“Faneromeni”, perhaps due to the miraculous intervention of Her Grace, Our Revealed Lady, was saved from certain destruction!!!

 

“Faneomeni’s” course from the harbor of Kiato to the outer harbor of Poseidonia, the western entrance of the Corinth Canal.
For a larger view click on the picture, for a more detailed view click on Google.