Crossing the Ionian Sea

We pulled off the dock at 5:45 for the crossing to Italy, and expected a few hours of smooth cruising. We underestimated the protection afforded by the narrows between Corfu and Albania. It wasn’t long before we had a current working against us and 20 knot winds to contend with. I had put a seasickness patch behind my ear at departure and it was being tested.

The winds built to 30-35 knots very early and the water was choppy with whitecaps and blowing spray. I was never concerned because we bought the biggest safest boat we could afford. It kept us warm, safe and dry. We didn’t even notice the wind as long as the doors were closed.

I am not sure what I was using as settings for the stabilizers up to now, but when I looked more clearly, it was set to max, a speed of 14 knots and the fins were centered. The rolling wasn’t unbearable but I quickly adjusted the speed to 8 and optimized roll control and the boat straightened right out. The downside is it cost us about 10-15% of our speed. Now we were travelling at 5.5-6.5 knots with 25-30 kt winds on the starboard, a current running south through the Ionian Sea and 5-6 foot waves crashing into the bow. This at 1900-2100 rpm. It wasn’t clear that we would get to Otranto before dark.

With a couple of hours remaining in the journey, we averted a minor calamity by checking my day tank. It was almost dry, and so I quickly began transferring fuel from one of the main tanks to the day tank to avoid running out of diesel. That could have been a big oops in the middle of a passage. I also discovered that my port side stabilizer has a leak in it. I have not sought the cause or effect of that yet, but I will be looking during the rain over the next two days.

By 3 pm, the seas had calmed down and we turned the stabilizers off to make speed. This is when I realized we were 10-15% slower with the stabilizers on. Now our speed increased to 7.0 kts, and I ramped the engine up to 2200 rpm to get 8 kts. We made it by dark, but just barely.

Now things started to go wrong. The harbour master gave us a mooring but it was too narrow, the winds were still very heavy, and my fuse on the bow thruster popped. We gave up on the med mooring and choose instead to anchor out. That worked well! Jinhee is a bit worried, so I built the second anchor and dropped that one too.

We enjoyed a simple dinner and then Jinhee checked our position and we had moved substantially (Jinhee is quick to remind me that her worrying compensates for my laid back attitude). Now we started to scramble to get the boat in a better position, but that second anchor was wrapped around the main anchor. By the time we figured all of that out we had been within 20 feet of the rock wall four or five times. (The winds were still very strong at 20 kts or so and the anchorage was at the entrance to the bay).

We decided to tie up to the wall for the night and see what the outcome was. Here I sit writing and waiting for the harbourmaster again as the coast guard (Guardiera Coastale) has told us to move this morning as the wall is only available to commercial ships. We will move soon and wash down the boat to get the salt off of everything.

It is worth noting the reason we want to stay here. Beginning tomorrow there is a sirocco coming through for two or three days with winds up to 40 knots and this looks like one of the best protected harbours for winds from the south. Worst case we head to Santuario di Leuca if there just isn’t any room here. It is only 25 miles away but not as well protected from southern winds.


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