20 July 2006 - Fuel, fuel everywhere........ postcard from Mags
The day we expected to leave Leros we topped up with fuel. We now have two fuel tanks, the second being the converted number two water tank; we can carry 700 litres. The first obstacle to this simple operation was getting the fuel to the boat as the diesel came in a mini-tanker and we were on a pontoon inaccessible to the tanker. Fortunately the fuel man had an extra long hose and it just reached. But then the nozzle was too big for the hole! We have met this before and have a funnel to overcome the problem but this slows up the process considerably. This time the fuel man managed to avoid the funnel by jamming the nozzle over the hole. We filled up and were ready to leave but reviewing the weather we decided to wait yet one more day. And what a day! Just checking up on our newly converted fuel tank Barry lifted the floor boards to find 10 to 15 litres of fuel in the bilges. We discovered that the leak came from the top of the inlet hose and had dribbled into the music cabinet. My new Ipod now has an interesting oily sheen inside the face and will only work if charging directly from the mains. We spent the day pumping up diesel, mopping out cupboards, drying out books and generally cleaning up. We were glad we weren't at sea.
A favourite, Lakkia marina, Leros
The following day we checked the weather again and debated whether to leave. There was a nasty "orange" patch on the weather map to get through but afterwards it seemed plain sailing. We had changed our plans and decided to sail south of west, past Thira (Santorini) and round the bottom of the Peloponnesos stopping first at Monemvasia. We set sail in a brisk wind. The mainsail came out beautifully and reefed with no problem. Hoorah! The wind got stronger and we needed to reef again. Beautiful, no hitch. It was now blowing 32 knots gusting 37 which translates to force 7/8 on the Beaufort scale, 8 being gale force. Barry simply stated, "We wouldn't have come if we had known"! Well we reefed down and with the wind on the beam we sailed safely along albeit not too comfortably. I succumbed to a bout of seasickness which was probably due to tension and I was grateful that I had prepared in advance a stew and a soup as I didn't feel like eating and Barry seemed to have retained a copious appetite. We "rode it out" and little by little the wind moderated. We did go at a spanking pace and of course used no fuel. We eventually started the engine at 1000 and arrived in Monemvasia at 1500. We anchored stern to the rickety pontoon. The marina has nothing to offer other than a rather nice atmosphere. It is one of the many marinas in Greece only half finished. This one is also falling apart and one pontoon has already been washed away. There are few visiting boats but quite a few fishing vessels. It is our third visit. It is slightly off the beaten track and there are not too many tourists despite the attraction of the walled Venetian village on the great rock, which looks a bit like Gibraltar.
Monemvasia, looking towards the rock on which the old village is built.
We settled in for a couple of nights and enjoyed the low key Greek life. Our next hop was to Pilos on the west of the Peloponnesos coast and Barry decided the distance warranted another night passage. We motored most of the way with little wind. The interest this night was the considerable number of passing cargo ships. I also looked at the coast line and wished we had some time to explore as we have never come this way before. Towards dawn I saw a ship marked UN Ro Ro pass by and felt a little nostalgic for my old employer. We arrived in Pilos at about 1000. This has another unfinished marina but unlike Monemvasia, it is stoutly built. There was one vacant place on the outer mole and we tied up there with assistance from the next door boat. Just after we arrived a fuel tanker drew up on the quay right alongside JJMoon. It couldn't have got nearer so we took the opportunity to top up again. We had deduced from our previous leak that it was caused by pressure in the delivery pipe due originally to the connections made for the new fuel tank. Being a bit of a doubting Thomas I dived below and lifted the floor boards as the fuel was being delivered. Horror! There was a torrent coming into the bilges. We stopped the fuel man and discussed what to do. He really wanted to make a bigger sale and offered to lead his hose down to the tank and pour it in through the inspection hatch (secured with twelve bolts). To his dismay we decided we had to solve the problem before taking on more diesel. So we paid him his due and sent him sadly away. Then the work started, unscrewing panels to find the cause. All was revealed eventually and it was obvious. The fuel pipe had simply slipped off the inlet nozzle. Getting it back on though was no simple job as we had to take half the boat apart in order to disconnect the pipe from the tank before we could secure it back on to the nozzle just below the deck. It took us most of the day. We also signed out of Greece with the port police, did some shopping, had a couple of beers in the market place and chatted to our German next door neighbours. The next morning we were invited on board for coffee and had a delightful chat with Sabine and Karsten. We took on more fuel from a different fuel man, I am sorry to say, and set off around midday waving a fond farewell to our new friends and to Greece.
UN Ro Ro, a ship passing at dawn
Two days and two nights of mostly motoring, brought us to the Nettuno marina, Messina, Sicily. We were given a berth and then, listening still to the VHF, discovered that we had in fact got the last one and other boats were being turned away. We were very thankful, that is until we went to pay and found it cost 100 euros a night and didn't have a lot going for it, one shower and loo, constant wash from ferries that passed less than 300 metres away and an electricity supply which didn't work the first night. Nonetheless we paid up for two nights and were grateful to be safely tied up with no watches to keep. Messina is a big city and I found I had grown very timid crossing major roads. The populace was also quite strange; joggers, exercisers! lovers, a man wearing a face mask. Cars were generally parked on the pavement forcing one into the road to be honked at by passing traffic. Back to civilisation!
Near the ferries at Nettuno marina, Messina
Amazing vessel, a swordfishing boat in the Messina straits
From Messina we did another 2 night hop to Villasimius on the south-east tip of Sardinia. We were getting a bit short on fuel again so we were really pleased towards the end of the trip to get a force 3-4 wind on the beam which took us along nicely for almost 24 hours. No trip can go totally smoothly (this must be someone's law or should we name it the Wilmshurst principle) but we were taken by surprise on my first night watch when the autopilot alarm sounded with the message "drive stopped". We could reset it but after a few minutes it would go off again. Barry dismantled panels in the aft cabin where most of the autopilot parts are installed looking for something, anything, that might explain the problem. (You may remember that the autopilot was last year's major interest and it is completely new so we did not expect problems.) Barry discovered that one of the cables was corroded which could be, but there again might not be the problem. It was now 2300 and the question was should he change the cable in a rolling boat when it might not even be the cause of the alarm? The alternative might be 36 hours' steering. We decided to wait and see as whilst he was investigating I had steered for a time and then put the boat back on autopilot which had not set the alarm off. From then on she didn't falter and we had a carefree cruise and were well received at Villasimius. We stocked up again with fuel, both diesel and food, replaced the corroded wire, had a good night's rest and then moved out to the bay and anchored to swim and prepare for a 0500 start. We were off just as dawn broke and after some motoring we had a tail wind for most of the trip and I even had us goose-winged comfortably for some time. We arrived at Carloforte on Isola di San Pietro, which has an interesting entry through shallows and we were well looked after by a vigilant "sailor" who motored out to meet us and took us to a berth. Other than being rocked by ferries it is a very pleasant marina (40 euros a night) and the town is most attractive. On our first night we had nice neighbours, a French boat which left shortly after our arrival planning to go to Tunisia and on our other side a party of young Italians with Dad, on his boat, who kept us entertained as they barbecued a large fish they had caught on a rather small barbecue. Nice people. And to really cap it all the second night we had one of the very best meals out for a long time at Restorante da Nicolo. Excellent food and a good ambiance. Not cheap but well worth the money.