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January 9, 2018 at 5:27 pm #9394Anonymous
Story of narrow escape for young family
[ Extract from Yachting World ]
A sudden squall appeared out of a clear blue sky to scatter a fleet of Snapdragons as the 25 ft.
yacht were approaching Ithaca, legendary home of the Gods in the Ionian Sea of Greece. Mike
Johnson (editor of Yachting World) holidaying with the Yacht Cruising Association, spoke of his
terrifying experience when he finally tied up in the harbour.
“We were bowling along in fine form in a stiff breeze. Anne, my wife was playing dolls with Lucy (4)
and Hannah (2) in the cockpit when suddenly I became aware of cloud rolling over the top of a
mountain island to starboard. Almost immediately the boom swung over with a loud crack of the
sail, the boat heeled sharply. I hurriedly dispatched Ann with the girls to the relative safety of the
cabin whilst releasing the sheet to take the pressure off the sail. To my horror, as the sheet
streaked out it flew into a knot and jammed in the cleat leaving the gale force wind doing its best to
turn the boat over. The only thing to do was to cut the sheet. I thanked my lucky stars that I always
carry a very sharp clasp knife in my pocket when sailing. A quick slash and the boat immediately
righted itself with all the sails flapping. I have never been so frightened in my life. I would never
have forgiven myself if anything had happened to Ann or my two small girls.
Ian Frazer, the professional skipper leading the flotilla said that he had just tied up to the quay
when he noticed the approaching squall. “One minute the lovely sight of white sails against the
brilliant blue, the next, black sky and howling wind accompanied by heavy rain and hailstones with
boats scattered in all directions. A couple of the yachts with obviously more experienced skippers
** had managed to get the sails down, but others were in trouble.
Had not Mike been able to cut the sheet, it could have been a disaster. The whole thing was over
in ten minutes, but it took the best part of an hour for the rest of the fleet to limp in. “Everything
ended happily on this occasion”. said Ian, “but I cannot emphasise enough that one should never
relax one’s vigilance in these waters. *
Notes by Frank Harbud
* If in trouble and a local fisherman is in hailing distance ask him to contact Mike. This was the
instruction to fleet skippers. The fishermen knew that they would be rewarded for doing so.
** That included me as I had experienced catatonic winds before, and knew the signs which are
cotton wool clouds rolling down the mountain flanks of the adjacent shore., but others were in
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