"It depends on how well we are protected from there," our English neighbor explained as he pointed to one of the mountains on the small island of Meganisi.
Like us, he had seen the message that Hurricane Ianos would reach us within 36 hours.
“We were here during a storm a few years ago. I think we will take the chance and stay put "he continued and added" if you plan to, you may want to go and talk to them now ".
We walked into the taverna. Here sat the son-in-law. He was in charge of the pontoon.
"No, all booked" he replied without looking up and in such a dismissive voice that we did not even consider asking what we should do next.
We went back to Heron to discuss our options.
The wind would begin from northeast. That meant a no-go to Nidri, where we had been the day before.
Syvota, where had we been two days earlier? Surely the bay was well protected, but would the pontoons be able to withstand gusts of up to 47 m / s? Maybe. Maybe not. We did not want to try.
Then there was Lefkas. Here was a large and well-protected marina about two hours sailing away.
Encouraged, we called the marina.
“We are very busy right now. Everybody is calling. We're fully booked. Try to book on our website ” it sounded not very encouraging from a clearly stressed female voice.
How about anchoring in one of the many bays in the area? It would be easy to find one that provided shelter. But would the anchor hold in a hurricane? What if other boats in the bay started drifting? And would it even be possible to sail over to another bay when the wind changed its direction with the forecasted 90 degrees? There were too many unanswered questions for us to have the courage to pursue that opportunity.
What about Cleopatra Marina on the mainland?
"Let me see" a woman replied and asked "how many days did you say?"
"Four," we replied, as humbly as we could.
“Four days” repeated the voice and added "11 meters. Let me see, let me see ”.
There went what felt like an eternity. Then there was a liberating “That's ok. Be here before two o`clock. Look forward to seeing you ”.
Seeking shelter from Ianos
We were not the only ones seeking shelter from Ianos. As we sailed out of the bay we saw a small armada of sailboats in the narrow waters between Lefkas and the mainland. All on a northbound course. Away from Ianos, or the spinning bass, as it very de-dramatizing was called on facebook.
When we entered the Lefkas canal, large parts of the armada gathered. Some had been lucky and got a berth in Lefka's marina. Others, like us, were forced to seek shelter further north. When the bridge finally opened, we were in the middle of the fleet of the many northbound boats.
The bridge was opened and we sailed up the coast on the mainland towards Cleopatra Marina.
An hour later we reached the two buoys that marked the entrance to a lagoon with the difficult name Amvrakikos.
The lagoon is one of the largest wetland areas in Greece and is protected under the provisions of an international convention. Here is a rich wildlife with, among others, sea turtles, rare dolphin species and close to 300 bird species, several of which are endangered.
Two rivers have their outlet in the lagoon, which is protected from the Ionian Sea by a narrow strait. This and the relatively low water depths make the water here warmer and less salty than out in the Ionian Sea.
Here is also - as one of the few places in the Mediterranean - tides that create a current in the strait of up to 3 knots.
We sailed between the two buoys and headed into the strait.
Here sailed one of Rome's dictators, Marcus Antonius, and his ally Queen Cleopatra of Egypt on the morning of September 2, 31 BC. Their fleets had been in the lagoon for several months and were now forced into the Ionian Sea, where Rome's second dictator Gaius Octavian and his general Agrippa were waiting for them. Over noon, the naval battle between the nearly 800 warships began. It ended the same day. Gaius Octavian won. This ended the civil war that had begun after the assassination of Caesar. The republic became an empire with Gaius Octavian changing his name to Augustus as the first emperor. For the next many hundreds of years, there was peace in the areas around the Mediterranean, which the Romans called Mare Nostrum, which means Our Sea.
On our port side lay the town of Preveza and to starboard Cleopatra Marina. Behind the marina we saw several thousand masts. It was boats on land on the three large yards.
When we got ready to dock, the tide was turning and we could dock and moor without having to take into account a transverse current.
It is coming
Over the next day, the marina began to fill up.
“I was at the town quay at Preveza. It was terrible. I havn´t been sleeping at all ”told our Italian neighbor before he red-eyed disappeared below deck to get some of the night's sleep.
We had had a completely quiet night. Cleopatra Marina had been sheltered from the strong south-easterly wind that had blown right towards the town quay in Preveza on the other side of the strait. Less than a quarter of a mile from us.
During the afternoon, dark clouds began to pull up across the sky from the south.
The flow of boats seeking into the lagoon through the strait stopped. The boats that were now entering the marina received the message “Sorry. Fully booked ”, even though there were still vacancies. (Later we learned that the pressure on anchors for pontoons and hauling lines can become so strong that they risk drifting if the marina is completely filled up). Extra moorings were laid out, sprayhoods and biminis dismantled, dinghies rolled up or extra well fastened and loose objects lashed or laid down below deck.
"You need to get further away from the pontoon" said the harbor master and before we really knew it we had him and three other men on board. They loosened the aft mooring lines and pulled Heron a few feet further out into the basin. Then they asked us to start the engine and reverse at full power. When we were again barely two meters from the pontoon, they fastened the stern mooring lines. Heron now lay completely tight with the same pressure on all lines.
“You never know. Better prepared for the worst, ”laughed the harbor master, before he and the three men left us to secure the mooring on our neighboring Italian boat. But it was not just us and our Italian neighbor who had our lines looked after. The mooring lines on all the boats in the marina, manned as unmanned, were checked by the four men. On the manned they politely asked permission to go on board, and on the unmanned, they simply went on board.
When it got dark, it started to rain. Cats and Dogs. It continued as we went to bed.
As it was getting lighter, we woke up by howling in the rig. No doubt. Ianos had come and blew from the northeast. Cleopatra Marina was no longer sheltered. But there were no waves. Heron lay well and solidly in her tight mooring lines in the strong wind. We fell asleep. When we woke up a few hours later, the wind had died almost completely. All day and night it rained, rained and rained. Early the next morning the wind came again. This time from the northwest. Same speed as the day before and again no waves. During the morning it stopped raining and in the late afternoon the wind completely died.
Ianos had passed us.
We had been lucky and only been on the edge of Hurricane Ianos.
Just twentyfivenautical miles further south, they had been less fortunate. Here Ianos had passed with full force and had caused great destruction. People had died. Houses flooded, villages buried in meter-thick layers of rock and mud. Trees had been knocked down. Cars and houses destroyed. Half a hundred yachts had sunk in its moorings and an unknown number washed ashore.
The Mediterranean is not just sun and azure sea, one wrote on his blog.
… We could not agree more.