Looking at the wind prediction websites told me we were in for a rough 24 to 36 hours with winds blowing steady at 25 to 30 knots and gusting up to 45 knots. Our 39 kilo (86 pound) Mantus anchor is rated to hold a vessel of our size in constant 50 knot winds. We were about to put that rating to the test.
We'd been anchored in 10 metres (33 feet) of water just 200 metres (656 feet) from the floating pontoons of Kas marina for 5 days and the flat calm water in the well protected bay had been very pleasant, especially at night when the daytime breeze dropped to nothing and there wasn't even a ripple.
Big winds are fairly well predicted a good few days before they arrive and for the previous 2 days the coming blow was always a topic for discussion in the marina bar that we frequented. Some long time sailors raised an eyebrow when we said that we'd be staying at anchor. Newer sailors faces showed shock and horror at the very idea. All agreed that it would be an experience.
Experience was exactly what I wanted. I wanted to test A B Sea, I wanted to test our anchor, I wanted to test our preparations. But I also had a plan B, which was that if it all became too much or our Mantus anchor dragged then we would radio the marina marineros, who are available 24 hours, and get ourselves moored at a pontoon berth in short order.
The morning the blow was due to come in began with very little wind and I waited until 9.00am to have a look at the latest wind prediction updates. Nothing had changed. The wind was going to pick up to a steady 25 to 30 knots by 10.00am and the gusts were still expected to be up to 45 knots.
Generally big winds tend to blow from one direction, which is handy because a sail boat at anchor tends to point into the wind and there's a steady force exerted onto the chain and anchor which keeps the anchor dug into the seabed. However the bay in which Kas marina is situated is bordered on the landward side by steeply rising mountainsides and low hills on the seaward side. This geographical combination meant that the wind was shifting directions hourly throughout the day and that made A B Sea dance a pirouette, spinning around on her anchor which had the potential to unseat the anchor and therefore cause us to drag.
We spent the day below working and occasionally looking up from our computers and out through the side ports we could see the land either side of us whizzing by as the wind gusts caught hold of A B Sea and spun her wildly around and around. It was like being on a fairground ride that had no stop button and no way of getting off.
A predicted lull, where the wind dropped to 15 knots, came at 4.00pm and we were both thankful for the relative calm. Then just as dusk was falling the wind returned, this time much stronger than before and as one 45 knot wind gust spun us clockwise a counter gust from the opposite direction grabbed us and ferociously spun us the other way. Every sound is amplified inside a boat and the straining of our anchor chain snubber and the wind howling through the rigging had been constant all day. But as we were gripped between these competing wind gusts we heard a different sound, the unmistakable sound of our anchor pulling out of the seabed and dragging.
I dashed on deck to check our location against landmarks I'd picked out and sure enough we had moved. I estimated that we were a good 30 metres (98 feet) from where we'd been pirouetting all day. I stood at the helm and watched and waited, checking new landmarks that I'd picked out. We seemed to be holding, it looked like our trusty Mantus anchor had dug in again. But we were now a lot closer to the handful of small fishing boats that were tied up in the eastern end of the bay and that meant we were closer to shallower water.
Calling Aannsha up on deck I explained that I wasn't happy being that close to other vessels and the shallow water and asked her to take the helm while I brought up the anchor so that we could move back out near to where we were previously and reset the anchor. The whole process went without a hitch and 10 minutes later the anchor was down and we tested how well it was holding by putting A B Sea into reverse and taking the engine up to 3,000 rpm. She held well and I picked out some new landmarks.
Night fell and the 45 knot wind gusts became more frequent. Now, as well as pirouetting A B Sea, the gusts were causing her to heel over every time they hit. It was unnerving to say the least. This dance went on for several more hours and as the time approached midnight I was full time in the cockpit watching, waiting, listening and feeling each creak, strain and judder as A B Sea was thrown this way then that by the constantly changing wind direction. Aannsha still down below was quite understandably unhappy about the whole situation and had on more than one occasion throughout the day and evening suggested that we pull the hook and go into the marina. I did some mental calculations, the wind prediction websites had been spot on with wind strengths, gusts and even the promised afternoon lull. We'd been at the mercy of the wind for close to 14 hours now with potentially another 10 to 22 hours before the wind blew itself out. Knowing that neither of us would be getting any sleep I decided to initiate plan B.
We called Mike and told him that we were coming in and asked him if he wouldn't mind coming on board with the marineros. With these wind gusts I figured we were going to need all the help we could get if we were going stern-to along one of the marina pontoons. Mike said he'd contact the marineros and told us to get mooring lines ready. Firing up the engine and switching on all of A B Sea's lights we unhooked the snubber and prepared the lines. Five minutes later a dinghy with 3 people on board approached us out of the darkness. I was totally surprised as one of the marineros leapt ninja like from the bow of the dinghy onto our toe rail and over the guard rails and with a friendly grin said "OK captain, let's get you safely into the marina." Mike then came on board and I asked him to take the helm, which thankfully he did. Aannsha stood ready with the mooring lines and I went foreward to bring up the anchor. To my relief the marineros said "We'll tie you up alongside, just in front of the fuel dock. It's too windy to attempt going stern-to onto a pontoon berth tonight."
Once the anchor was up Mike expertly brought us alongside to where the second marinero was standing waiting to take our lines and 15 minutes later, after thanking the marineros for their professional assistance, Aannsha, Mike and I were popping open cold beers to calm our nerves.
By lunchtime the following day the wind had blown itself out and I headed over to the marina office to pay for our nights berth. The Kas marina (I don't know if all marinas do) calculates fees on a date basis. As we'd tied up at 15 minutes past midnight we actually got to spend 2 nights alongside, the cost for that was 375 Turkish Lira (AU$98). Our time spent alongside also afforded us the opportunity to tick off a few jobs from our big 'to do' list. We put a new swivel on the anchor, installed a new port navigation light, had our dinghy engine serviced and got the dinghy seat modified.
All in all the experience was worth it and I was happy that I'd gained a lot of knowledge about A B Sea, strong winds and our Mantus anchor. But most of all I was very happy to have the option to execute a plan B.