Sometimes I have to remind myself of the fact that this is really what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be.
At anchor in the comparatively protected bay of Porto Heli I had received a warning of a thunderstorm with strong winds so I prepared for the worst. I took the bimini down and let out more chain to 40 meters. The sky darkened and the wind got up, but not so bad. Suddenly a very strong gust sent the boat flying backwards at an alarming speed. The anchor had apparently lost its grip. I started the engine to try to keep Aquarella in place by driving forwards, increasing the revs to almost full speed to keep in the eye of the wind. Over and over again the boat kept bearing away and I had to turn a full circle. I couldn't leave the helm for a second and therefore had no way of getting the anchor up with it's 40 meters of chain. With clenched teeth and a dry mouth I went  on and on frantically turning the wheel to and fro for three hours. My dinghy with it's engine on flew upside down twice and finally settled with the bottom up and the engine underneath. In the meantime, over the noise of the wind howling in the rigging, I could hear on the VHF radio a panic stricken voice screaming Mayday,mayday,mayday! I never heard what happened, I had my hands full trying to stop Aquarella from colliding with the other boats at the anchorage.
In the end, in the middle of a turn, the steering stopped responding and I realised the anchor had taken hold again. The boat came to a standstill even though the wind was still strong at force 7.
Although this was an experience I'd rather have done without, it was yet another lesson learned of trying to cope alone.
The outboard engine on the dinghy was now flooded with salt water so it couldn't be used without a major service operation. The oars and the seat were gone too so I had no possibility of getting ashore. On top of all that my phone had run out of credits so my only means of communication was by email.
The lessons I learned were obviously to empty the dinghy before the wind gets too hard or to hoist it on deck. Another lesson is the importance of being able to communicate. I couldn't use the VHF radio to ask for help in this case because of the ongoing mayday rescue operation in progress. My greek phone can only be topped up with credits at the nearest seveneleven and not over the internet so I have to remember that in time.
I had always thought I'd be able to get the anchor up and move out of harms way if conditions got rough. I thought by driving the engine slowly forward and keeping on course with the autopilot, I could be able to go on deck and lift the anchor with the electric windlass. But reality is different than theory and the fact was I had to stay at the helm to steer all the time and a slow speed wasn't enough to keep the boat under control. I am now contemplating a different anchor and thicker chain.


  1. I'm very glad you got through that rather violent thunderstorm so well...hope the dinghy's engine will be OK after its bath. You handled yourself and your Aquarella very well indeed and I hope you are proud.

    I also enjoyed the video, "sailing on, single handed," and found it damned inspiring. I hadn't thought of going to sea very much the last few years, but you may have changed my mind.

  2. Wow great survival story! Thank you for sharing, so much to learn and these realistic happens are imperative notes for my noggin.