Wow!! 60 knots of wind!!
We had no idea…
but now we do.
I’ve wanted to talk about this day for a while now, well ever since it happened really. It was such a crazy moment in time.
What do you do…
Hmm where to start in our little story?
Let’s start with the wind, the antagonist.
It’s not just “wind”
Something interesting we’ve come to appreciate from the med is the wind. Surprisingly not surprisingly, just like everything in the med, there is a wealth of history behind every nook and cranny. As it turns out, the winds are no exception. There is way more to this mediterranean wind than we first realized.
We started to catch on just how woven into everyday conversation the wind really is in the mediterranean culture early on. For example, during an impromptu street-side conversation with a person tending to her flower pots one day, she spoke about the sirocco (hot, muggy winds from Northern Africa) in her apology for being so sweaty (so sweaty, omg). She also knew for how many days it would last. Just the wind, not talking about rain or sun, just the wind.
It’s not just in conversation either. The wind is a way… The winds are a feeling immersed in mediterranean culture… extended to foods, music…. it’s a mood, an attitude, a spice… it’s even on t-shirts!
Winds are people too
We also found it interesting the Mediterranean people always speak of the winds by their proper names, some of which are derived from the gods (of course). Stories are written of the glory of the heroes and champions who friended the wind and tales are told over drinks of the scorn of its enemies. The winds are a part of legends!
Now, Matt and I are from the United States, sadly a place where the winds have no name (Did you think of U2, I did, dive deeper…). For us, the wind is just the called the wind. It is only described by its direction. The winds here don’t honor the gods or describe anything at all. They don’t accent our culture at all.
So, these new facets to the wind brought on a sense of romanticism…
ahhh, such is the med.
But Greece specifically
Greece, among other hotspots, are specifically known for its great winds. In Greece, the windiest region is right down through the middle, called the Cyclades. We weren’t sailing through this region during its strongest months, June through September, which was somewhat comforting. We were, however, going through this region in the non-advisable change of season months. Meaning everything is up in the air. You get what you get and without much warning.
Plus the wind does funny things to these islands. We won’t go into these now, but for you googlers, katabatic winds and venturi effect are fun. Let’s not forget to mention the current wrapping the islands… then wind against current, not just the magnitude of wind. Well, it just makes for an interesting sailing region, that’s all.
We made a plan
It just kept on getting later and later in the season and the Peloponnese was getting hit with one large storm after another. We were getting pressed to move on. You see, we were making our way east to Turkey and needed to cross the winds of Greece to get there.
The wind was forecasted to come from the south-southeast, varying between 5 – 25 knots, I believe, all week. Nothing all that special.
The one hang up was a rain system coming into our picture from the west, behind us. Because of this, we were being more cautious than usual. We had just repaired Sea Odyssey from a proximity hit from lightning in Croatia and were a bit sky shy, lol. It was slim pickings but we carefully chose to anchor in a small cove, Mandrakia, on the north side of the island of Milos to wait it out.
Now all this is well and good and what prudent sailors should be doing… taking themselves out of harm’s way, as we are no match against the storms of the sea.
~~ What we didn’t anticipate was the rain cell had its own wind orientation which was not the overall wind orientation forecasted. That was the problem.
Meanwhile in Milos
For the several days we were there, some swell had ricocheted around from the southwest into the cove. Sea Odyssey rode it well, as catamarans do, but it was definitely noticeable to say the least. This prompted us to take Penelope (our dinghy) to check out the swell in the neighboring cove which was also recommended to us to bare the coming storm.
We wound up staying where we were though, despite several islanders saying it was “no problem”. It was a little too shallow and there were some bombies (what we call underwater rocks) scattered around. Plus, we had more scope (length of anchor chain out) in mind than the Greeks are used to, lol.
Later on, we were surprised to see and happy to share our little cove with a small local fishing boat, who anchored a lot closer to the shore, and yes, with very short scope. Maybe they knew something… we were somewhat relieved.
Why didn’t we go to a marina and dock
The island of Milos is in the shape of the letter C but with the opening to the northwest. (You can see in that map above.) There were warnings posted on several websites not to dock inside the island during anything coming from the west. The marinas wouldn’t even recommend themselves! The water must just bounce around in there like the sides of a bathtub, idk. So that was out.
Strangely, there was also no established manmade place of security and wellbeing on the north or anywhere else on the island really that was suitable. So that was out. The surrounding islands for whatever reasons at the time were also just as unfavorable. So they were out.
Our only alternative option was to just sail on through Greece totally. Since we thought it was only going to get up to 25 knots and we really wanted to see Milos and Santorini, we stayed and felt pretty ok about it.
Let me show you around the place
What it feels like in 60 knots of wind
Imagine you’re a bug just chillin on the windshield of a car. You’re all relaxed and enjoying a bit of sun. Suddenly you see a human approach, but it stops and gets behind a solid see-through material. You are aware the person is there but feel safe enough… you feel pretty ok.
Then your chill spot starts to get windy and things start moving around you. So you hunker down. As it gets windier and windier, you start to wonder just how long you going to be able to hang on here. It’s so windy now you can’t even see. You start to lose some grip. Now you are just dangling in the wind, barely holding on, bouncing around, until pewww! … you’re gone.
That’s it… just hang on till you can’t hang on anymore.
Our day was beautiful, just chillin on the boat, enjoying a bit of sun. Looking at the sky, we started to feel a little duped. We had planned this for a week, essentially waiting here for this to pass so we could continue on our way to Turkey.
As promised, as dusk started to approach, the clouds started to make their dark appearance. We were by no means feeling duped anymore. Even though we were aware the storm was coming, we felt safe enough. We were in a good spot with lots of scope and we prepared ourselves the best we could.
We thought we were ready… we were feeling pretty ok.
Keep in mind we are on anchor. This is much like, well exactly like, 15 tons of something tied to a ‘string’ with an engineered ‘shovel’ at the other end dug into… beach sand.
It ain’t great.
What really happened
Idk what happened, the wind just picked up. We were in the salon talking and worrying about the fishing boat that was bucking like possessed rodeo bull tied on a short leash catapulting itself over the waves, when I casually mentioned to Matt, hey look at the wind gauge. In that second, we watched together the dial on the wind gauge go from green to red. No sooner did we look out, the rain was so dense it was impossible to see.
We both looked at each other for a split second, eyes as wide as our mouths, with a quick OMG! Holy shit it’s 62 knots!!! OMG!! Let’s go! sprang to action.
Matt runs to start the engines to relieve some pressure on the anchor chain. The wind was just screaming. The rain became a blanket around the boat. The helm enclosure was trying to take off like Dorothy’s house in the Wizard of Oz.
Matt was screaming but only feet away. He said, “whaa whaa whaaaaa!” I said, “whaaa?” He again said “whaa, whaa, whaaaaaa!!!” pointing to his face. He couldn’t see. I ran for some goggles so he could open his eyes against the rain.
And there we waited, just like that, for what would happen next, in unbelief.
What do we do…
Just hang on…
I’d say it lasted at 60 knots for about 20 minutes.
It was dark. That little fishing boat stayed put, thank goodness. We worried. We lost sight several times in the heavy rain and big waves. The waves get bigger the closer to the shore you get. To look at him after, boy oh boy was he a ridin’. His boat totally disappeared with every wave! Crazy! Us too tho, ridin high!
Our friend on shore checked to see if we were still there, lol, with a flashlight, which we flashed back.
The swell settled back to come from the northeast but was very big. The wind dropped to 15 knots and switched to the north… blowing the boat towards the shore. This is doable at 15 knots but not great. The idea of the wind picking up in this position is a great source of anxiety for me, so I stayed on the couch on watch as the boat rode the waves one hull at a time… whomp, whomp…. whomp, whomp….all night. Ugh!
Next morning… pewww! We bugged the hell out of there!
So… 60 knots of wind, let’s reflect
- Most important:
We can do it. The boat can do it.
Our previous high was 45 knots. Watch Ryan and Sophie Sailing’s video Anchorage anxiety in Ibiza #40 for how well that went, hahaha not hahaha
During the storm itself, we had no fetch (waves built from the wind). The water was completely flat because of the cliff on the west blocked the water. There wasn’t enough water between the cliff and the boat for the wind to build waves. This was everything.
- What we learned:
Need to have an exit plan with zero visibility. Had the waves been high and we started to drift, we wouldn’t have been able to easily navigate against 60 knots of wind in those close quarters. Then add the zero visibility component? I don’t even want to think about it. →Take an exit compass bearing←
Rain has its own wind orientation other than the wind forecasted. →Got it←
- Next day:
Matt dove on the anchor and it reset within 3 feet, 1 meter. Good news. You want a quick reset.
Shit was unreal.
PS – Just to be clear… it was actually 62 knots, not 60 knots of wind…
I’m a rounder.