When the pilot guide states that the second most southerly cape on mainland Europe has ‘a fearsome reputation’, there is nothing more guaranteed to put the wind up two recreational sailors!
To add to the angst, there are no weather buoys in the vicinity so we had no guide to potential weather or wind on the cape.
Rod Heikell, the writer of the guides, tells of various scenarios on leaving his safe anchorage on Nisos Elafonisos. On one occasion he had left in no wind and then was met by 40kt gusts off the cape. So bad was it that he returned to the island. On another occasion, he had left in strong winds, with two reefs in his main sail and a pocket handkerchief of a jib, and then had to motor round the cape.
Our experience this morning was mixed.
We set off with light winds. We put up the main for stability in the swell. We began to turn more to the east and the wind freshened behind us. We put out the head sail too. We approached a steep bluff towards the tip of the peninsula and the wind picked up to 25kts in the blink of an eye.
We eased the main to spill the wind, rounded up a little and reeled in the headsail in. Being stuck between the busy shipping lane and the coast we had little room to manoeuvre.
The AIS alarm alerted us to a ship approaching from around the corner which as yet we could not see. We were on a collision course in approx 19 minutes, when it would be precisely 89m away.
But, we needed to keep our course!
As we gained some distance from the peninsula the wind calmed a little and we were able to put a reef in. The cargo ship sidled past steering well clear. Then the wind died completely…so I decided it was time for a coffee.
I heard the engine start. All was calm. Coffee making was almost complete and then I heard a shout.
‘We need to put another reef in!’
I brought the coffee up on deck and set it down so that if it did spill it wouldn’t be a disaster.
We set about bringing the sail down a bit. Just as we were pulling in the reefing line when the block holding the line on to the sail broke with a dull but meaningful thud. Ian replaced it whilst I held the boat to wind.
All was fine, and so we decided some headsail was appropriate but not all of it. However, the wind had other ideas and whipped out all the sail and we were flying along in 18kts of wind.
We were leaning over at such an angle that my cushion was sliding off the seat in the cockpit and was glad that I had shut the seacocks in our bathroom. (We were subsequently to discover that the solar shower bag had silently slid off deck and into a watery death at this time, too.)
Within minutes there was a bang, followed by disconcerting flapping at the front of the boat. The shackle holding the headsail up had sheared in half and the halyard was no longer holding the sail in place. Ian went to the front to haul down the sail and lash it to the deck.
Whilst he was doing this he noticed that the anchor had bounced off its place on the bow. He pulled it back and tied it securely to the roller.
After all this we looked down to see that half our coffee had slopped out over the floor and it was less than hot. On top of that, Ian had somehow found time to scoff all the remaining biscuits.
We had an interesting day…and it was still only 1230h!