Disappointment in the industry professionals and the storm of my life (Part 2)
The thunderstorms in Croatia carry a name “Nevera or Neverin” and are the most frighting thing that can happen to you on sea. The story behind it is that it develops on the western side of Apenine peninsula above Tyrrhenian Sea and while everyone on Adriatic doesn't even expect what will happen, it crosses Italy and with a sudden drop of pressure is sucked in over Adriatic, sucking even more humidity, developing power and rushing quickly to the eastern coastline.
We weren’t so far from Vis, maybe 5 nM, when it hit us. The sky from a lovely blue in seconds turned black, there were lightning strikes everywhere, the sea raised so high I did not even believed that it is possible in Adriatic and the sounds were so loud, like the nature itself is angry and yelling at us with the most terrifying roar and rain that seemed more like a water curtain instead of drops of rain.
It took us more than 2 hours to reach Vis, with full power and there is a lot you learn in those two hours. The most valuable experience of life.
The waves were so big, while falling between it’s amplitudes I would not see out and because of the short distance between them (like a never ending rows of hills) we were catapulted out and sucked back in every couple of seconds. No time for fear, not time for panic, you could feel your brain releasing all the neurotransmitters that exist and you find yourself in a kind of ease, mixed with thrill, telling yourself that it could be the last day for you.
I did not feel the pain, the cold, the fear, I was like a wild animal filled with all the potential and instinct to survive. The feeling was that I could move the mountains to save myself. I did however remember captain Dan in the Forrest Gump movie and thought what a bunch of bullshit is that. Hahahah, to scream is this all that you can do? Only in movies.
Jumping up and down constantly I managed to address my clients and noticed that Grandpa is missing, so I asked (with a really loud yell) my quite calm crew where is he? They have replied that he must be inside. Probably drunk dead sleeping, and everything will be just an unbelievable story for him.
At one point, when the boat started to dive, the anchor was catapulted up in the air, I saw it as it would be frozen in the air and it seemed like seconds and when the wave launched the boat back up, the anchor flew over the rail and fell on bow’s net. The thought went through my mind, as I couldn't see the net, because of the steering position and helm, if the old man was for some reason up there, I might have killed the guy.
Let us go back a little bit, like in the Quentin Tarantino movies….
Remember the short stop for swim? Grandpa was lifting the anchor. I could hear the windless working and when it stooped I looked in front and asked with the thumbs up if the anchor is up, Grandpa gave me the thumbs up right back. Later I found out that he thought that I showed ok to him and he with his thumbs up kind of asked me if it is ok? Conclusion is, never trust mimics, unless you can do complete sign language and always, always recheck after your clients!
So, I was approaching Vis, not really sure if I killed a man or not, but I didn’t had time to wipe my face from all the rain let alone stand up leave my position and check. Even if I would be crying and crying like the biggest baby on the face of the Earth, nobody could tell it.
The entrance to the gulf of Vis from both sides has two rocks, one is named Bik (Bull) and another is called Krava (Cow). As the wind and waves always additionally pick up just at the point of entrance it made a hard navigation even harder, but I really wanted to get in as I could see much calmer situation within the gulf.
But I was probably cursed and the thoughts of Jonahs did cross my mind. Suddenly there was a bang behind me, I looked back quickly and saw that one of my dinghy carriers have snapped, half dinghy fell into the sea, grabbing the sea as it would be a storm anchor and slowing me down. I had to calculate quick and as we were coming really closely to the “Cow” and I saw her as our imminent death I had to do a quick turn to cut the waves on the opposite angle and tried to escape, which seemed to last for hours. We were jumping on and off the waves and looking at them, how they with a devastating force, smash on the Cow. The guests were now in panic as it was probably the closest that they come to death in their nice French and Canadian lives. The Polish guy was constantly calling me and pointing what has happen and at one point he wanted to stand up. I just screamed at him :”I fucking know and there is nothing I can do about it, so sit the fuck down”. It is amazing how eloquent you can become in this situations and even with good raising, the swears just come in natural.
When we got to the safe distance, we turned the cat downwind and waves and just surfed down behind the sheltered side of the island.
As soon as we reached calmer waters, Grandpa stood up! That lunatic spent the whole storm, jumping and splashing up front and not to mention the anchor that landed just half a meter from his face. He looked at me with almost demonic ayes and gave me:
Hahahah. It was a ride of my life, but it must have been he’s as well. That guy was delighted as a kid which would go to a fun park for his first time.
We anchored, I took the guys to the close by village, where the locals picked them up for dinner which we had reserved and I went back to check the poor and tortured boat.
My lovely Lagoon 400, had a life raft on inox holders between its sterns. It was tightened with ordinary strap. These kind of life rafts are used in case that the boat is going down and when activated, there is a nice 200 bars bottle that will blow it up on a safe distance in a matter of seconds and maybe 10–12 people will survive instead of drowning immediately. For some reason, our life raft activated and exploded underneath our boat.
I called in the base and said to the base manager what happened. The guy without asking if clients are ok, if I am ok, said coldblooded:
“You have insurance? We have to order them in a pair. The cost is 7000 eur.”
I went mad, it was just a final push that I needed. I asked him what kind of human he is and said different other things which I do not remember now, among them that he can forget about my insurance, then hanged up.
When my clients came back from one of the best culinary experience in Croatia, they were very happy, drunk and I will never forget their remark.
“We would never cut the lamb that way! But it was ok.”
With all the natural stimulants released in my brain it was obvious that I wont be able to sleep. I had the night that somewhat appeared like a sacred ritual, but I was the only one joining in, dancing in my head, between the thoughts of death and life. I remembered my father and asked him if he had anything to do with it.
Strange things can go through your head when you are alone in the night, with the brain that can’t shut down.
I smoked everything that I had to smoke that night, drank everything that clients had bought, waited for them to wake up and took them to Vis next morning on a very nice 30–40 kts Tramuntana shifting to Bura.
We got the mooring without a problem, that one was sure from the beginning. I reported the damage to the harbor captain, who excluded me from navigation for 48 hours and asked me why did I sail out when they have sent a warning around 05:00 p.m. I just replied, “well yes, but the storm hit me at 03:00 p.m.” He just looked at me, kind of embarrassed and lowered his look down to some papers without saying any further words.
I had a very nice two days in Vis. The Polish and I checked everything and we couldn't believe the design of the carriers and anyway they did look like some cheap Chinese production and not inox worth 7000 eur. And the design, with a lever, who ever designed it wasn’t too good in static and mechanics, I was wondering why they didn't pulled that lever to the base. The raft remained unsolved mystery.
The thickness as on photo is maybe 1 mm, but when they are not cracked it seems that they could carry a jumbo jet!
After 48 hours I sailed out and after 1 hour the whole boat started to tremor. It was coming from the engine that was “serviced” a couple of days ago. I called that “humanist” in the base, told him to give us another boat, as they should in the first place and when they refused I insisted that they send another skipper as I was done with them all.
Any boat must be seaworthy. Even if this cat jumped more than any other boat that I sailed on, we would manage to get to Vis if the raft would not explode, which probably did a lot of pressure just above where the carriers were and dinghy was secured and fastened. Attitude of the base personal was very disappointing as it shows again that money has greater value then life or just a well being of any poor soul in this world.
For safety, we have great applications now that allow us to track lightning storms, much before they even get to Adriatic. For me it has become the most necessary check.
Thank you for reading. I hope you liked it.