A romantic evening in a sleepy Greek bay nearly ended in disaster when two boats collided, writes George Giannopoulos

My girlfriend and I were bobbing at anchor in my favourite bay at Agistri Island in Greece, having spent a romantic evening on the cockpit of my 36-foot boat, Mezzaluna (pictured above).

Under a thick blanket of stars we’d been lulled into a comatose state by the superb local fare and a bottle of fine Italian wine.

Blissfully unaware of the danger the darkness would bring, we turned in for the night, giving the mooring lines a quick check on the way.

The wind usually picks up here during the night, but with 30 metres of anchor chain and two stern mooring lines firmly attached to the shore, I knew we were secure.

Our nearest neighbour was a French sailboat that was anchored far enough away not to be a concern so, sleepy from the wine, we retired to bed.

Rude awakening

Hours later, well past midnight, I was woken by the sound of distant shouts carried on the wind.

The bay was a peaceful one and shouting seemed unusual, so I hopped out of bed and headed to the bow of Mezzaluna to see what the fuss was about.

Directly above where my anchor should be, two sailboats were causing a commotion. They had both tried to leave at the same time but, due to the wind, had collided.

The bows were touching and their anchors were completely tangled, causing fury on either side. Both crews were furious and there was much shouting and waving of fists going on.

Reflexes made me give my own anchor chain a quick tug to check we were safe. With the strong night wind blowing against the bow it should be more firm than usual, but alarmingly I managed to pick it up easily in one hand.

A cold sense of dread crept over me as I realised my anchor had been dug out by the tangled sailboats.

George Giannopoulos

Author George Giannopoulos

Drifting into trouble

With a shock I saw we were completely adrift and heading for the rocks at considerable speed!

I rushed back to the stern, glancing over the mooring lines that were now totally submerged.

In my panic, I threw off the hypnotic haze from the wine and leapt to action with a sudden surge of adrenaline.

We were less than two metres from the jagged island cliff when I fired up the engines and pushed forward.

Sadly, luck was not on my side that night. A propeller instantly caught one of the mooring lines and started winding the rope around the shaft, pulling me further back towards the rocks instead of pushing me away.

I cut that engine immediately and continued trying to keep my distance with the other one.

With such strong winds blowing inside the dark bay, I was hesitant to hack the rope with my knife and free the propeller; trying to manoeuvre a large boat with a single engine seemed a recipe for further trouble.

Help is at hand

Thankfully, the French sailboat captain saw what had happened – he offered his help and eventually managed to get a line in my direction.

Secured to his boat, I stopped my second engine and dived into the black water with a knife and a flashlight.

It took over 45 minutes to slice through the rope which had tightly furled itself around the shaft. Not until I was back on board did I breathe a sigh of relief.

We moved to a more protected area of the bay and reset the anchor, but I couldn’t relax for the rest of the night and sat up keeping watch until first light.

These days, I carry two long non-submersible mooring lines and have invested in a heavier anchor. I’m incredibly thankful I woke up when I did.

Another glass of wine and I might not have been shaken from my slumber quite so quickly!

Do you have an unforgettable seafaring story? E-mail mby@timeinc.com and we’ll pay £100 for any one we use.