Rumble: How NOT to leave a Greek harbour

Our ship, properly anchored, stern to, in Greece

As I explained in a previous post, there is a secret, sarcastic streak in every sailor as he watches other yachtsmen maneuvering in a port or at a mooring...

Back in 2004, we sailed in Greece. It was our first sailing holiday. I took all the precautions Tine, my wife, wanted me to take before she would step onto a yacht with me: I followed the RYA yachtmaster courses, did my practical test in the Solent, and with the family, we took two days of harbour maneuver courses before we left. And to play it really safe, for one week, we had a skipper on board to get us acquainted with Greek waters.

Every day, we would sail from one place to the next, and anchor overnight in small fishing ports. As space is limited in these ports, all yachts are anchored 'stern to': the ship would drop anchor in the middle of the port and reverse with its stern (the back of the ship), onto the quay. A bit of an art in balancing the right anchor chain, and pointing the stern into a free slot on the quay, in between the other anchored ships.

We would always get into port early in the evening, secure our ship, and go for sunset drinks in one of the restaurants or bars on the dock, watching the other ships get into port.

This was always the most fun part of the day, as we could watch the other ships get into trouble as they tried to moor 'stern to'. They would loose anchor, or tangle up their anchor line with those of the ships already at the dock, or worse...

One evening we watched a Dutch yacht who had been trying to anchor already several times, each time loosing the grip of its anchor. After half an hour, he seemed to be giving up, and with its anchor still one or two meters in the water, he drifted downwind onto the ships on the quay. Good enough, for most of the yachtsmen, who were enjoying their evening drink just like we were, to stand up and watch what was about to happen...

The Dutch guy panicked as he saw his ship drifting downwind onto the moored ships, and still with his anchor in the water, he revved up his engine trying to get away from the boats. Tricky to do so downwind, so he ended up in the far corner of the port, steaming full speed right in front of all the other ships.
That was when the real fun started: as his anchor was in the water, it scoped up all the anchor lines from the other ships, and we could see one ship after the other loosing its anchor, pulled by the Dutch ship. The skipper clearly did not know what was going on, and why his ship was almost coming to a halt, so he revved up his engine even more.

The sight was hilarious: there was this one Dutch guy, trying to steam out of the harbour, pulling all the boats nicely moored onto the quay with it. All the skippers around us, started shouting and cursing, racing off to their ship, trying to jump on their yacht to save their boat from crashing onto the quay, while the Dutch guy, not aware of all the commotion he had caused, trying to get out of the harbour, with the harbour master speeding behind him telling him to stop.

What one moment was a relaxed sunset evening, in an idyllic setting, turned into a turmoil of a dozen ships all with a lost anchor, tossed together in one big mess of anchor chain, fenders and shouting. It took hours before the mess was sorted out, and everyone was back in the bar.

The Dutch were not very popular that night!

More about sailing on The Road.


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