The powerful Bora winds
After Sailing to the end of the Adriatic Sea and having stayed in Trieste for a week visiting family and getting the equipment for our new boat projects delivered it was time to leave. The forecast was about to change and some of the infamous storms that hit this area of the Mediterranean and Adriatic were making their way.
We returned to the top of Croatia and started making our way towards the South end of Istria seeking for a protected anchorage to hide out from the expected worst blow we were to ever experienced at anchor. As we were still hoping down the coast our eyes were glued to the weather and on what was already happening in the area between Venice and Trieste. Big downpours, with large hail and strong winds.
We got to Medulin, right on the Southern tip of Istria and found our spot in the deep bay, protected from the outside sea from all directions (from South East to South West the bay is protected by all the small coves, from the South the small islets that spread across the entrance provide the final protection), we dropped our anchor in around 7 meters depths in the mud with about 35m of anchor chain and started preparing for the Almighty Bora.
We’ve had experienced 50 knots winds many times during the winter in Tunisia with our solar panels, Bimini and full enclosure in place without problems but since arriving in Croatia the forecasts for bad weather had been wrong by around 10 knots, the perspective that the 50 knots forecasted could be 60 knots or more was disconcerting.
After all, this is the zone of the infamous Bora winds that can reach frequently speeds of around 50 knots (93km/h) and sometimes even more than 100 knots (185km/h)!
The forecast for the first days of July in our area!
“...threat for severe storms, capable of producing severe damaging winds, very large to locally giant hail, torrential/excessive rainfall and tornadoes. A robust convective activity is expected with widespread storms, including intense supercells to develop by the early afternoon (...) Strong (40-50 knots) bulk shear overlapped with strong to extreme instability (...)will support well-organized supercells with threat for very large and possibly even giant hail (8-10 cm in diameter) locally, as well as tornadoes”
With the above Severe Weather EU forecast in mind, we decided as a precaution to take down the solar panels and Bimini, clear the cockpit of anything that could fly, stow away the SUP (stand up paddleboards) and other toys, cook dinner in advance, drop some more chain and wait.
With unlimited internet and good 4G signal we were keeping track of the progress of the storm on the Windy app (a weather forecast application that also has Radar features providing information on storm cells with a delay of around 5-10 minutes), we could see the intensity of how it was hitting Venice and then how fast was tracking south without losing power. It was a matter of hours until it reached us and soon enough we started seeing the lightning strikes in the distance.
Shortly after we were able to distinguish the edge of the storm cloud, at very low altitude but with a huge vertical sheer edge, rolling towards us. Words cannot do justice to the fury packed within them
On the other side of the bay, we could still see the little marina about 1km away, the water in the bay calm like a pool. We knew that the moment the storm hit the Marina we would have an idea of how bad things were going to get and as expected the bay went from silent to noisy with the insane rattle of the halyards of the docked boats, we saw the calm waters rising and moving across the bay, in what it felt like a slow-motion movie the storm was on top of us showing us all its fury.
The winds went from a very light breeze on less than 10 knots to 40 knots, The Dream was caught by the wind sideways and dragged across the anchors' swing circle until the chain finally stretched dragging and swinging us violently into the correct position.
We got Ella inside just in time, feeling the storm approaching she was already in the cockpit prepared to hide with us.
Once inside, Ella went to hide in her bed under the salon table, pretty much in the centre of the boat, the most comfortable spot to be in bad weather. Closed her eyes and pretended to sleep, probably muttering in her thoughts “this will finish soon”.
Seconds after being hit by the wind, the downpour began together with the insane lightning and thunder. This shallow bay where the deepest spots are around 7 meters quickly developed half-meter choppy waves, the rain was so strong we could barely see the marina on the other side of the bay, the wind noise was so loud we could no longer hear the halyards of the boat’s docked in the marina rattling.
John remained on watch and ready to start the engine under the protection of the Sprayhood while I sought refuge below decks to monitor our position on Navionics on the iPad (software application that allows us to see the charts with our position received through GPS in real-time) and confirm we were not dragging. With reduced visibility due to the intense rain and the violent swings, our visual bearings were no longer very useful they were actually non-existent.
For one hour we stayed prepared to jump into action in case we dragged. But our trusty 85lb Mantus anchor held us in place as expected, with reduced windage (because we had removed the Bimini and solar panels) The Dream behaved much better than usual in strong winds, and as the storm front passed and things calmed down a bit, we relaxed.
If we hadn’t dragged by now with winds over 40knots (top speed seen by john was 47knots) we weren’t going to drag in winds in the 30’s knots range. The lightening carried on well into the night with a brilliant light show.
John came in, dried himself and we sat for dinner. My birthday dinner.
With the worst of the storm gone Ella decided to move to her bed in our bedroom in the bow and went to sleep.
As the hours passed we saw the storm move south still carrying lots of power, wreaking Havoc in the not so protected anchorages.
The images shared on social media were brutal. This had been an extremely violent storm that had tracked down for an unprecedented distance.
Below report and analysis of this storm:
***In the spirit of sharing our dreams and experiences we have shared this blog post in the NOFOREIGNLAND.COM website sailors community.