September 7, 2016
Most of the summer in the Ionian we’ve been able to look at the weather forecasts and say, “Well, yeah, whatever…” That season came to an end last night. Kalamata was hit with a violent 18-hour thunderstorm that flooded the city, generated winds in gusts of 30 knots or more, and built up big waves that worked their way into the marina. It was a big enough storm to have covered most of western Greece.
It began here around noon Tuesday with gusty winds ahead of tall clouds in the distance, and distance flashes of lightning followed by thunder. (By the way, if you don’t already know, sound travels at 1,126 feet per second in air – or 343 meters per second – so if you count off the time between seeing a flash and hearing the thunder, five seconds equals about a mile, and 3 seconds a kilometer.)
But it wasn’t distant for long. Pretty soon the flashes and the booms were nearly simultaneous, the wind began to seriously howl, and a tropical downpour began. This continued off and on all afternoon and evening, and hit peak intensity about 4:00 in the morning. At that point, most everyone on a boat in the marina was up and about, adding extra mooring lines, or just watching and worrying from safely below decks. This morning the marina offices and restrooms were flooded. On the other hand, Serafina is very, very clean.
We’ve been thinking about our friends at anchor, Morten and Anne-Inger on Zakinthos. While being anchored out in conditions like we had last night is certainly possible, it can be very uncomfortable, even downright frightening. The key strategy to cope in those conditions is to let out lots of anchor chain, and hope like hell that your mast doesn’t get hit by lightning.
The good thing is that the unsettled weather was forecast. So the excitement last night was an excellent early reminder that the seasons are changing (along with the climate), and that it’s time for sailors to take advantage of the weather resources we have today, including increasingly accurate computerized forecast models.
Still, there’s only so much you can do if you’re at sea, and the forecasts are not 100% accurate for all places and all times. “Take care of the boat, and the boat will take care of you,” the old wisdom goes. And when thinking about the boat’s equipment, it’s always good to remember that whatever can break, eventually will. Simple things that are easy to fix are always best.