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On the Bruce in a Meltemi storm

Oct 1, 2014
Big Sky, Barb and Con Sprenger’s Nauticat 51 at Milos in Greece.

Big Sky, Barb and Con Sprenger’s Nauticat 51 at Milos in Greece.

To the editor: Big Sky pulled violently at our Bruce, five meters below us, like a puppy with a sock. Thirty minutes earlier, we’d tucked into a semi-sheltered bay of fickle depths just as the sun was setting. We were cruising in the Aegean Sea on our Nauticat 51 Big Sky, and had been on our way to the Sporades islands when we realized we needed to find shelter. We touched the bottom twice before securing Bruce, our 50-kilogram anchor, on a 130-foot leash of 3/8-inch chain.

Angry, dark Meltemi clouds blindsided us, loudly roaring through our rigging on its way out into the open sea behind us. These are the winds that keep mariners checking over their shoulders at the clouds from mid-May to mid-September. Bruce had sucked snugly into the mud and we tossed like a rubber duck, pulling hard on every millimetre of scope. Jagged rocks were to the north and east, shallows to west, and the open sea to the south.

Con retrieves the Bruce anchor, well-packed with mud.

Barb Radu Sprenger

For two days, we jerked and swung like a wild ride in an amusement park. At 0200 on the first night, the wind blew a steady 50 knots and, to our disbelief, we watched the wind speed indicator gust beyond 60. Big Sky responded, heeling at a 20° angle on her hook.  Hurricane winds are clocked at 65 knots. We were in a “very severe gale.” My husband, Con, remained vigil throughout the rest of the night, standing watch to make sure our anchor didn’t drag. By morning, the wind still hadn’t blown itself out — that happened sometime the second day.  The silence woke us, and we looked out at a bright blue sky, with temperatures returning to a delicious 84° F.

“My eyesight has improved, Con,” I joked. The blow cleaned the dust particles out of the sky, leaving a crispy-clear view — Mother Nature’s way to sweep up the house, so to speak. We could see the beautiful Sporades islands 35 nautical miles away, as clear as a realist’s painted work of art.

With some trepidation, we prepared to depart, not at all sure how easily we’d lift Bruce since it had been planted so securely. Con pushed the “anchor up” switch at the bow, and Bruce rose to greet us, looking grand and proud for having done its job. Okay, let’s not get carried away — it was muddy.

Barb Radu Sprenger is a freelance writer, and retired Founder and National Executive Director of the Kids Up Front Foundation of Canada. Since 2007, she and her husband Con have been voyaging on board their 51-foot Nauticat sloop Big Sky. They’ve sailed in and out of 31 countries so far. Her book “Sailing Through Life…with Attitude” is available on Amazon and in bookstores. 

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