The Mighty Sirocco
By now it seems we only write about storms but the reality is that there aren’t many other situations that impact so much our lifestyle and that at the same time have been giving us such a steep learning curve.
The fact that we are sailing in the Northern Adriatic Sea is contributing to this learning curve more than we expected.
The winds characteristic of this area can be brutal, it’s the home of the Powerful Bora winds and where’s the Sirocco wrecks havoc after running parallel to shore for such distance creating waves with great fetch. The surrounding topography although stunningly beautiful creates katabatic winds and acceleration zones everywhere, sailing in between the Croatian Islands can make your heart race. In one minute you’re working hard those sails to capture every light breeze to keep sailing while in the next you’re fighting to control them due to a sudden wind change, a katabatic wind or an acceleration zone.
The weather system we were about to endure was a strong Sirocco so the most important aspect finding a protected anchorage was being able to hide from the crashing waves that would raise when the strong winds pushed the seas north. The seabed in the Northern Adriatic progressively loses depth the further north with the area in Istria having maximum depths of just 20-30 meters.
We found a little island surrounded by slightly bigger islands to the South, where we could tuck close to shore, the fact there’s a marine farm there gave us some reassurance that it would be at least reasonably protected from the waves.
On approach, we were happy to find that the marine farm was further away from shore than on the charts and that the depths marked on the charts were completely wrong. The entire area that on the charts was marked as being only half a meter deep was in fact around 5-6 meters and the distance 5 meters from shore was still 3 meters deep this would allow us to get closer to shore and be more protected. John sounded the entire area on the dinghy with a depth sounder and we were comfortable to anchor there.
The winds started to pick up, but we could barely feel the real strength that was blowing over the ridge of our little island. We could see the white caps building on the waves passing on the narrow channel between our little island and the bigger neighbouring island.
For a couple hours we watched the storm pass us by, until the thunderstorm cell passed over us, with lightning and thunder directly around and over us, we felt the wind getting sucked by the weather front (suddenly little or no wind at all) and as we came to the cockpit to check what was going on with the wind speed and direction there was only time to grab the wheel as a violent gust of 54 knots hit us from a completely unexpected direction, completely the opposite direction leaving us in an uncomfortable lee shore position, the back of the boat was very close to shore. The winds delivered a couple of gusts above the 50 knots mark but soon it settled between 35-40, still, an uncomfortable situation considering it was coming from the opposite direction forecasted and that we had been experiencing for the last couple of hours.
One hour later the wind was completely gone, the storm over and life back to normal.
even if we can go closer to shore it might be better to not push limits just in case the wind decides to blow from the opposite direction than supposed to.
If there’s a thunderstorm passing over the wind gusts will be around 10 knots more than predicted.