Dublin, Ireland. I’m cheating. I admit it. Today (which is actually tomorrow), we’re travelling to Corfu and on to Nikea, who is in Vliho. As we’ll be travelling for most of the day, I’m cheating by writing this blog post the day before. Yes, it’s true, it’s actually still Monday evening as I write this.
We have a flight at 06:15 out of Dublin. Yes, that’s AM. From there we’re off to Corfu. It’ll be late before we get to Nydri and the boat, as I mentioned in an earlier post.
If there’s one thing to put the fear of some sort of deity or another into you, it’s the thought of stern-to mooring, with a cross-wind, in a busy harbour. There are countless Youtube videos which cover the ins and outs of it, and here are a couple of my favourites:
My worst experiences have been in Kalamos. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, by the time I usually arrive, the quay wall is pretty busy. Secondly, the wind seems to swing around from the North or thereabouts, to form a nice, strong cross-wind. This usually happens just when I’m driving into the harbour. Of course, there’s usually a large audience as well, to make matters worse.
George, the unofficial harbour-master, likes to pack in the boats, and sometimes when you pop out like a cork the next morning, you leave behind a space which wouldn’t fit a dinghy. You’ll generally find you’ve either fouled someone else’s anchor, or they’ve fouled yours. Either way, there is plenty to do in Kalamos.
On one trip, there was quite a lot of room (which is unusual), and a strong cross-wind. I reversed back at a good clip, so as to stay upwind of the neighbouring boat (where George had decided I should moor alongside). The prop-walk on Nikea is quite severe, and she will crab significantly to starboard. On this particular day, I had the tiller all the way over to starboard, to bring the boat down alongside my neighbour (on the port side) but she still managed to work her way upwind. I could have eased off and allowed the wind to drop us down, but I was paranoid about dropping down too much and not being able to work back upwind. We ended up about three “slots” higher than where we were supposed to go, and George had to warp us back.
On another occasion, we were coming back fairly fast, again due to the cross-wind, when I instructed the person on the anchor to stop laying out chain. We stopped abruptly and yawed through about 50 or 60 degrees, managing to come over the anchor chain of our nearest neighbour. They were pretty nice about it though. Turns out they’d arrived earlier than anyone, and their anchor line wasn’t quite perpendicular to the quay wall, which meant the rest of us managed to lay our anchors over their chain. It wasn’t quite obvious as I was coming in, but when we were against the quay wall, it was pretty obvious that the line of our anchor chains was not parallel. We waited as long as we could, the next day, until most other boats had left and had sorted out their own anchor tribulations, before we left. Amazingly, we had an easy exit.
Ultimately the problem with stern-to mooring, is that most of us do it a handful of times, once a year. It’s like climbing into the cab of an articulated truck, and trying to double-park. If you do it four times a day, every day, you probably get pretty good at it. If you do it a few times a year, well, it’ll be a challenge.
Some places are pretty easy to moor. One of these is Spartochori. It’s too shallow to bring the stern that close to the shore without damaging the rudder, so we moor bows-to. They also have a lazy line system, so there’s no need to drop the anchor. In fact, I’ve moored here single-handed. I came in, found a spot, drifted around while I dropped the fenders out and arranged the lines, and then drove Nikea into the chosen slot. Thankfully there are always people around, particularly the staff at the local taverna, who will take your lines, feed them through metal hoops on the quay wall, and hand them back. This makes life much easier.
Also, there’s always the beauty of an anchorage. You can find a space to yourself, drop a lot of chain out and for extra protection, take a line ashore. This helps to keep the boat pointing in the same direction, so there’s no risk of the anchor being pulled out if the boat swings through 180 degrees and pulls the anchor from the opposite direction. The other nice thing about anchorages is that you can swim off the boat. Once I’m happy that the anchor is set, my next step is to dive off the boat and cool off, as soon as I can. The down side is you need to take the dinghy ashore, usually. Although, there was one time in Marina Cay in the British Virgin Islands, when we all swam ashore, but that’s a story for another day.