17-20 Sep 2020 In the eye of the Hurricane

Ianos approaching the Ionians

Before the storm

The last four days have been very intense!

A so called Medicane (A Mediterrenian hurricane)named Ianos has been hitting the Ionian islands and west coast of Greece with very hard winds, high waves and torrential rain.
There are several means of weather predictions that you can use as a sailor. We mostly use s k GRIB files (a special binary  format for weather data) and an app-Windy- that is using several different weather models to make forecasts and predictions. With emphasis on the word predict, because that is what it is. Even though the meteorological predictions have become so much better in later years they are by no means exact.
The intensity and the exact course of these kind of storms are not so easy to know in advance. They move with an immense speed over the water and can and will change course in an instant.
There are some people with strong opionions about what we should have done and not. And if it had been them they wouldn’t have even been in the storm. To them I say -Well, it’s a pity you were not here to help us with all your expertise then. Feel free to try it for yourself next time.
When we first knew that Ianos was probably coming our way we took shelter in an abandoned Marina opposite the city of Argostoli on Kefalonia. According to the first predictions the hurricane would pass south of us which might leave us in the outskirts of the storm. It could be bad, maybe very bad, but doable.
Instead we ended up in the middle of the storm and with the eye passing over us! and by the time we realised that, it was too late for us to move somewhere else.
Hoppetossa is a lovely ship but she is not very fast and trying to run before the wind was not really an option.

During the storm

The first part of the hurricane brought a lot of wind from the SE, a direction we were quite sheltered from by the surrounding mountains and we managed quite well considering the force. But when the eye had passed us the wind came from the opposite direction (as is the habit of hurricanes) and together with the wind, high waves from the bay went straight into the harbour.
We were smashed on to the concrete bridge and as you can see on the pictures we got some structual damage.
Another sailing boat without anyone onboard got loose and floated around hitting at least three other ships before it closed in on us.
That was the worst moment! We realised that if it hit us with full windspeed Hoppetossa might sink!😥 so we packed our backpacks with clothes, computers, passports, boat papers….and we were ready to abandon ship! It’s impossible to describe the feeling when you believe that you have to leave your ship to sink, and I hope we will never have to experience it again.
But I think we had a guardian angel with us because the boat bearing down on us became stuck in something under the water and slowed down a lot, so that when it finally hit us we were able to push some fenders in between us and let it stay alongside of us until the storm died down and we could tow it away.
We have a lot of scrathes on the side but nothing worse than that.
The ship that hit us

Our friends Andrew and Angela on their boat Millie were also hit. A motor yacht moored behind them barged into them several times and they have received quite a lot of damage, but luckily not below the waterline!

As soon as the weather gets a little bit more stable (thunderstorms are coming) they will be able to sail to Preveza and put Millie on the hard for repairs.

Thoughts after the storm

Never thought I would actually be in the eye of a storm!🙄  First total mayhem for many, many hours and then suddenly blue sky and sunshine! Confusing!

One person said that the eye was open above us for 45 min but I think the wonderful calm lasted about 1-1,5 hour. However long it lasted we got a lot of things done during that time.More fenders, tires, ropes and even planks! between Hoppetossa and the concrete pontoon. We knew that the wind, when it returned, would come from the N and NW. That was a very bad direction for us since it would push us up against the pontoon. If there had been a place on the other side of the pontoon we would have gone there, but the harbour was completely full so we just had to remain were we were. We also had time to take a necessary shower and a short nap.

Eating and drinking was completely forgotten! At one point I tried to force myself to eat a green apple-something I normally like very much. But I couldn’t manage more than 5 or 6 bites and then I had to give up. It tasted like wood and I couldn’t swallow. I think that the body can’t cope with food when you are in a fighting mode. It takes a lot of energy to digest food and you can’t afford to lose any energy at all under these circumstances. Drinking we should have been able to do, but we just didn’t and that, together with lack of sleep of course, resulted in a very bad headache for a couple of days afterward.

Sleep-As you can understand it is very difficult to sleep when the wind is howling in 60-70 knots around you. According to some people the wind sometimes went up to 102 knots in the gusts! A number I can’t even understand the meaning of!😨 And I’m happy that we decided to not look at our instruments. It would only have made us scared unnecessarily, since it is nothing whatsoever you can do about it.

We dosed off for 10-20 min or so whenever we could but more than that was not really possible. After 10-12 hours with 60-70 knots  I looked at my weather app on my phone , saw that it was “only” 48 knots in the gusts and thought “Oh that’s good, then I can sleep a bit”! And I did! Everything is relative!😏

Being outside-Apart from the wind there was an enormous amount of rain coming down on us. As soon as we stuck our heads outside we were instantly drenched through to our skin. Rein tried to put on his heavy weather sailing gear but it was too bulky and heavy to run around in. So at the end of the storm we had about 12 sets of soaking wet clothes laying and hanging all around the boat! What a mess!

You would think that the strong wind and the rain would make us cold! Especially as the wind was sometimes so strong that we couldn’t stay upright, but it was really warm outside. We were running around in t-shirts and thin trousers even when the wind did it’s very best to blow us away! And the rain was lukewarm and actually salt except for one time when it was hailing. So you realise that the hurricane is constantly feeding itself with the warm ocean water so that it can spew it out on you! Bastard!

You might also wonder why we even went outside in this insane weather! Quite often we had to check on the ropes and see to it that the fenders were evenly distributed to take the pressure away from the boat as much as possible. Two fenders just exploded and one rope broke. As soon as the eye had passed us the low pressure in the storm made the water in the harbour rise about 2 dm, so we had to lower all the fenders and tires that we had tied to the side. And when the drifting boat hit us in the side we had to rush out to put out fenders between us in order to stop it from making holes in our hull with it’s anchor.

Slow Hurricanes-Ianos was moving quite slowly and that makes the devastation in it’s path so much worse! Gives it more time drop water and blow extremely strong winds at you. This one was raging from Thursday to Sunday before it finally died down.

The scientists are debating about what makes some of the hurricanes slow moving. They think it has to do with a weakening in the jet streams (fast flowing air currents in the atmosphere) because of the increasingly warmer poles. And we will probably see more of this kind of hurricanes in the future.

After a good nights sleep and some food we were feeling much better, although a bit emotional!😓
Wandering around in the harbor, seeing the devastation, the sunken and demolished ships and the fallen trees made us realize what we have been through! And how lucky we actually were!
Even though it has been the worst 48 hours or so in our lives, we are happy that we stayed on Hoppetossa because I’m sure we saved our ship!
Her damage is mostly superficial and we have some cuts and bruises, but it could have been so much worse!
A beautiful Najad with two elderly gentleman was anchored just outside in the bay.
But their anchor couldn’t hold them so they tried to go into the harbor, and then their engine stopped!😨
They ended up crushed against the pontoon, their lovely ship in pieces, but at least they managed to get ashore and luckily they are not hurt!
The damage on the rest of Kefalonia and the nearby islands of Ithaca and Zakynthos is immense.
The capital of Kefalonia, Argostoli, opposite were we are seems to have managed quite well though.
You can’t see much damage there. It was protected from the NW winds in a good way.
The only problem is that, as on the rest of the island, the electricity has been gone for a couple of days so the food stores have run out of fresh meat and dairy products.
But the beautiful villages Assos, Fiskardo and Sami are really damaged. I’m so happy that we visited these places with our friends just the day before Ianos hit!
Assos, a small village situated on a narrow peninsula in the NW, was completely buried under tons of rocks and mud when the mountainside and roads collapsed.
Nobody can leave because the 25 cars that the villagers own are buried under the masses.
But luckily enough, there seems to be no seriously hurt or dead people on the islands.
When Ianos hit mainland Greece the winds had died down a bit and it was mostly the amount of rain that was damaging, as it created massive floodings.  8 000 people are homeless and 4 people killed or missing when the water entered their houses or took their cars with it!😔  One village in central Greece were totally cut off without water and electricity for three days when the roads collapsed and the people had to be rescued by helicopters!



Yesterday (23 sep) we had a surveyor from the insurance company here. A very nice man from Athens that checked Hoppetossa over and gave us clearance to continue to Kalamata for repair. Today Rein is patching her up but the weather is so unstable at the moment so we will have to remain here awhile before we leave.

As if it hasn’t been enough with Ianos-Tonight we were hit by a Supercell thunderstorm, also called a Mesocyklon. It brings with it a lot of lightning, thunder, strong winds and hail! Heavy sigh! Well, at least it doesn’t lasts for 4 days! It will only take about 2-4 hours before it’s gone, but another one will probably be here on Saturday, so we will wait until next week before we leave Argostoli.

Having our dear friends Andrew and Angela here has helped us enormously❤  We have treated each other to dinner and drinks when we have not been too tired to move! And having someone to talk to about what we have all been through together is really helping us to process it.

Writing this has also been a kind of therapy, so thank you for listening🧡