Experience: Misadventures in the Med

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After crossing the Atlantic in 2011 and spending two leisurely years crossing the Med, I found a homeport for my Crealock 34, Panope, in Cyprus. In 2000, we had completed a villa in Tala and the little pleasure/fishing port in Latsi was a scenic 40-minute drive away.

The Chrysochou Bay was an immediate attraction, and a dozen anchorages and swimming spots dotted the coast to Cape Arnaoutis. Around that headland, however, was the western coast of the Akamai peninsula, a totally undeveloped national park that offered exploration.

I recruited for my passage there a Greek Cypriot—George Georgiades—a traditional potter in nearby Lemba, who’d expressed an interest in learning to sail. George, a fisherman, knew the Akamas from the land, and I prized local knowledge of a coast only roughly charted and little visited from the sea.

We set off on a Saturday afternoon in early July intending to explore the coast, spend the night there and return via some remote beaches that promised driftwood for my wife’s garden. PredictWind promised westerlies of 15-20 knots, and our first afternoon was comprised of a long tack first to the northwest and then southwest, skirting the reefs that lie about two miles off Cape Arnaoutis.

Upon our arrival, however, a problem was immediately apparent. With westerlies predicted through the weekend, there was precious little protection for an overnight anchorage. Initially, we scouted the lee of several islets, but rough waters promised an uneasy night. With darkness approaching, we had to decide whether to carry on with our search or double back around the cape where several popular anchorages existed. Fortunately, George had fished in a protected bay a bit farther on, and local charts showed an inlet as did our iNavX chart software, albeit with some rocks. Eventually, guided by iNavX, we located the mouth of a lovely little inlet well protected from the west by Geranissos, or “Old Island.”

Exploring cautiously, we found no shoals and dropped anchor on a rocky bottom. Because we were now only about 20ft from some cliffs where waves were breaking, I decided to drop a second anchor (a Delta) about 60 degrees from our best bower, a CQR. In the fading light we continued to monitor the situation as I prepared spaghetti bolognese. It was a fitful night as the wind clocked 180 degrees, but the anchors held. Collecting them in the morning only required a slight maneuver to uncross the rodes, after which we were on our way.

Next we intended to anchor off a remote beach that promised the aforementioned driftwood. The CQR held immediately, and we launched our Trinka tender and rowed (old school) to shore. Waves that had appeared to break slightly were an adventure in an 8ft boat. But while we were tossed about somewhat, we made shore safely, and in a half hour we had a respectable collection of driftwood and were ready to head back. Unfortunately, riding the waves in proved to be child’s play compared to going out, and we were soon swamped and overturned. Collecting ourselves for a second try, I discovered we had lost an oarlock. I attempted to fashion one from a line, but it failed and our second attempt aborted, as did a third.

If we could swim to the boat, I reasoned, we might recover the dinghy by leading a line back to shore and winching the boat through the surf. Reasonably strong swimmers, George and I had little trouble swimming to Panope where we had fortunately left the swim ladder deployed—our only practical means of boarding.

I connected the stern anchor rode to a long line used for mast climbing. George donned flippers and started his swim back to shore. I was surprised that 300ft of rode combined with the other line only reached half the distance, and started scampering to attach other lines as quickly as possible. Meanwhile George reached the shore, collected the dinghy and our clothes and signaled for a tow. Initially, the system worked. But then I felt the resistance drop off and realized one of my hastily tied knots had failed and that George was on his own. Resourcefully, he detached all but the stern anchor rode and began swimming with the tender in tow. Impressively, he towed the tender through the surf and back to Panope. Surely, I thought, we could now relax.

With that in mind, after laboriously stowing the tender back on the foredeck, we prepared to weigh anchor and proceed back to Latsi. Unfortunately, while all went well as I took in the rope rode, when I raised the chain part, I was stymied, as the 30ft of chain, now rising directly from the bottom, wouldn’t budge. Using the natural swell of the waves to produce upward pressure didn’t help. Nor did riding over the anchor or pulling from various directions. With daylight fading and miles to go around the cape and to port, our options were now fading as well. Of course, had we known the bottom was rocky and rigged a trip wire, we might have pulled the plough from an advantageous angle, but I had assumed a sandy bottom. As time ran down, I decided to detach the chain and mark the abandoned anchor with a buoy. That way we might return with a diver. We recorded some landmarks and took a GPS location.

Finally freed, we headed around the cape, taking a shortcut inside the reef offshore because we were confident we had no less than 14ft of water for a boat that draws about 5ft. Surely now our problems were behind us!

Suddenly, though, George called out as gray smoke began billowing from the exhaust—apparently our prolonged efforts at trying to dislodge the anchor combined with our speedy departure had overloaded our Yanmar. Shutting down the engine, we unfurled the jib and used the now weak westerly to continue making slow progress toward the port. I judged the wind too weak to support the main on a run.

With George steering, I started to work on the Yanmar. We confirmed a weak stream of water continued to be propelled out the exhaust. I inspected the raw-water strainer, which was clean. My manual said the air filter might be a cause of our problems, so I changed that as well. Many of the other problems listed on the trouble-shooting list—like faulty injectors—were beyond our capability to address.

With daylight fading, a phone call from my neighbor John presented an opportunity. My wife was with him, and I asked that they drive to Latsi and contact Tom at Latsi Water Sports to see about getting some help. Forty-five minutes later, Tom called and informed us that they would deploy a safety boat at the harbor entrance to provide assistance. Meanwhile, with a cooler engine and my minor repairs, we re-started the Yanmar. Some water was being ejected, and the smoke had lessened considerably. We proceeded gently. The sun set and night fell as we finally reached port. We rendezvoused with the assistance craft, but felt we could proceed in under our own diminished power if they accompanied as a safeguard. In 10 minutes, we slid into our mooring handily: a welcome—even stylish—end to a cascade of misadventures. 

What we did wrong

1. We underestimated the challenges of waters with unknown bottoms and exposed beaches and anchorages.

2. We landed our dinghy in surf and found it’s a hell of a job rowing back out through waves to calm waters.

3. I tied lousy knots.

4. With an unknown bottom, we should have rigged a trip line to the anchor. (Although the diver who eventually recovered the anchor reported it so fouled even a trip line was unlikely to resolve the problem.)

5. We overloaded the engine in futile attempts to dislodge the anchor.

What we did right

1. Crew compensated for the lack of reliable published information with local knowledge.

2. Crew’s strong swimming made it possible to recover dinghy, and the deployed swim ladder enabled boarding.

3. Resting the engine and perhaps repairs underway allowed us to limp home.

4. Arranging a safety boat allowed us to enter the harbor responsibly.

Retired diplomat Edmund Hull has spent much of his working life around the Mediterranean 

Got a good story to share? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com

November 2018

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