A Bit Of Everything

Written by Pieter Jan on Oct 3, 2019 — 4 min read

From: Panagoula bay, Proti island, Greece
To: Katakolo, Western Peloponnesos, Greece

Be careful what you wish for, it may come true. Yesterday I wished for more wind. I should have specified the exact amount, as well as the resulting wave height.

The day started, like almost every day here, quite promising. The 8 knots in the protected bay where we spent the night increased outside to the expected 15 knots. Coming from the south-east behind us, no less! Up with the Code D and we were humming along at 6 knots. We set sail for Zakynthos, some 60 miles away.

When we came from behind Proti island, wave size increased quite suddenly to a meter or so. A bit of a rougher ride, but not too uncomfortable. Then we saw a squall on the horizon. It looked dark, menacing and it was making a beeline to our boat. Then it grew tentacles. The tentacles developed into waterspouts.

Cloud tentacles
Cloud tentacles

Waterspouts are a tornado’s little cousin. Not as dangerous, but they can still mess up your day if you catch one. We took in all the sails, I zipped the sail bag of the mainsail, we lowered the daggerboards to decrease windage and did a 180 just to be sure.

By the time the squall got to us, the waterspout had disappeared and all we got was a steady 15 knots and a few fat raindrops. All the better. We continued until the next squall.

This time I had only put the smaller genua up and left the mainsail inside its bag. The wind increased steadily to over 20 knots, and another tentacle appeared, undulating as if were searching for a juicy, succulent boat to feast on. Waterspout are really quite fascinating to observe. I was slowly getting hypnotized, like Mowgli in Jungle Book.

Thirsty for water. Hungry for boats.
Thirsty for water. Hungry for boats.

The spout also dissolved before it reached Vite & Rêves. The spell was broken and I could tend to the sails again.

In the distance I saw sunny weather. I thought, “The wind will probably decrease once the sun comes out.” It steadily increased to 30 knots and shifted to the west. By now the waves had also built to about 1,5 meters.

On the horizon appeared a long, grey cloud. A front. It was rolling towards us straight from where we were going. And it was rolling fast. When it hit us, the wind jumped instantly to over 40 knots. Somehow, we were ready. We furled in our sails, turned on the engine and set course for the nearest safe harbor, Katakolo. 4 hours away. Wave height had increased to 2 meters.

But as fast-rolling fronts do, it rolled quickly past us. The wind decreased again to 30 knots. This felt almost quiet by now.

The wind had also steadily been shifting to the north. Our course became untenable with no mainsail up. The main also acts as a steering vane. With only the foresail, it’s difficult to keep a course close to the wind. I clambered up the roof, held on to the boom with all available limbs, kept one eye on approaching rogue waves and unzipped the sail bag.

With the main up, we were making progress. But the wind kept shifting. By now it came from east, the direction of Katakolo. So we set course for Zakynthos again. And then Vite & Rêves could finally start flying. Quite literally sometimes, because although the wind had abated, the waves had not. There was a big leftover swell that left us frequently weightless as Vite & Rêves plunged into the next trough. One glass got broken.

After an hour of very fast sailing, the second-best hour of the day, the wind decreased to less than 10 knots and had shifted to the south-east. We had not enough wind to fight the big swell anymore. At this speed, Zakynthos was still 5 hours away. But wait! We were just passing Katakolo and the wind would be good enough to get there in 2 hours. Furthermore, it would be sailing with the swell, not against it. You got to seize an opportunity when it presents itself.

Thus started the best sailing hour of the day. I rolled out the Code D and Vite & Rêves started surfing, with speeds exceeding 10 knots in 15-18 knots of wind. No too shabby!

And so we finally, finally got what we wanted: 15 knots on the beam with following seas. Glorious!