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 Towards Gibraltar




(map of the planned and actual routes from Aprilia Marittima to Gibraltar)

September 1st, 2007:

An unforeseen event (the change of our main home) has heavily delayed our preparation for departure; only by late August we have returned to Aprilia to put Shaula3 back in the water and to make the final, rather hasty, preparation.
Obviously, in the meantime weather conditions have deteriorated!

Our initial programs for a leisurely cruise along Croatia and Greece were obviously doomed, due to the fact that we had to sail the 2000 miles to Gibraltar in little more than 6 weeks; arrival in Gibraltar by mid october was really mandatory for the preparatory phase of the Blue Water Rally.

The first leg was 300 miles, over a period of 54 hours (not bad!) down to Vieste, a place that we never visited before, so a stop was in order.

A moment of concern when entering port was caused by the engine, suddenly not responding properly to the throttle, combined with a fresh cross-wind; all went well anyway, and later the fault was traced to a loose nut in the throttle control leverage.

The town is not bad at all, and there are a lot of shops and stalls selling local products: we did not resist, and stuffed the already overfilled storage spaces with lots of good-tasting stuff!

Weather deteriorated in the meantime, forcing us to stay several days as it will happen again and again during our voyage west.

September 9th:

Finally we set sail, thinking of going directly to the Messina straits and then the Eolian islands: over 400 miles, which we should have been able to cover in about 4 days.

The next day, we were already stopped in Marina di Brindisi: the engine, few hours after our departure started again to loose revs and not respond to the throttle control, so we decided to stop in the hope to have it checked by a professional.

Despite promises, we were unable to get the attention of a mechanic, so after a number of routine checks we did on our own, we decided to take advantage of a forecast for favourable winds to set sail again.

The sailing towards the Aeolian islands has been tough: the first two days, we had F7 winds initially on the back and then on the beam, with rather big waves which occasionally managed to flood the cockpit.

Shaula behaved very well and we were better accustomed to the boat's motion, but when we reached the Messina straits the wind fell altogether and the engine started acting-up again: the passage along the straits has been rather unnerving, with no wind and the engine which at best was running at idle speed, plus all sorts of ships running along the Straits, oblivious of our problems...

Once entered in the Tyrrhenian sea, due to the total lack of wind, we made a series of rather desperate interventions on the engine, which somehow allowed us to reach Stromboli island.

We moored to a buoy in front of the village of Scari, and after a deep sleep we went ashore to have a look to the place, which we had not visited since more than thirty years.

On the way again after a good meal, we have been treated by the volcano to a show of flying rocks being thrown down the hill just while we were passing-by (TOO CLOSE, maybe?  Well, it missed us after all!), and in the evening we were safely berthed in Lipari, where we planned to spend a couple of days to reorganise ourselves a little bit.

It's been about thirty years since our last visit to Lipari, so the stopover has been a pleasant opportunity to refresh memories.

We departed from Lipari.... TWICE!

Yes because a couple of hours after having departed, while we were toying with the idea of anchoring in Salina for a plunge, the engine packed up again.
Having considered the alternatives, we decided to return to Lipari, hoping to find a good mechanic who could find out what the hell was the problem with our engine; after having moored, with the help of the staff at "La Buona Fonda" who pushed us around with their RIB's, we called Biagio.

Biagio showed up at dinner time, with no other tool than a multi-tool, and worked around the engine for about an hour repeating more or less the same checks that we had already done several times.
At the end he leaved recommending to do a test the day after, because he did not find anything obviously wrong.
He added an outboard-motor style hand pump on the fuel pipe though ("this has saved more than one situation", he claimed)

We left port, quite unconvinced, the next morning and the engine ran, and ran, and ran, it really seemed to be back to its good, normal self!
Now there are three explanations:
1) Biagio is very well connected with the God of mechanics (who will that be? Given where we are, Vulcan would be quite appropriate!)
2) By sheer luck, this time the problem has been removed for good (probably some dirt in the fuel pipes)
3) The hand pump is really useful (or, more likely, the non-return valve which is in the pump): if this is the case, there is room for an additional investigation.

Fact is that the engine allowed us a rather uneventful passage to Favignana, where we even found a berth at the local Circolo Nautico: not as easy as it sounds, because there was a series of regattas ongoing, and the small port got fully crowded in few hours: we literally got the last available place!  (and Baby even managed to get - for free - a regatta official hat from one of our neighbours!).

Favignana is still a "genuine" place, unaffected by the pressure of modern life-style and one must adapt to the local rythm and to the limited choices available in local shops, but any such problem is more than compensated by some of the best food we experienced during the voyage: an exceptional bread, "arancini" (stuffed rice balls, a Sicilian speciality) and other delicacies, plus of course delicious ice creams and "granite" (flavoured ground ice)!

September 23rd:

We have reached Carloforte (San Pietro island, Sardinia) after a rather quiet passage from Favignana; we even allowed ourselves a night at anchor in an harbour near Golfo di Teulada to allow Lorenzo his first (and only!) swim and barbeque.

 Sunday evening in Carloforte we treat ourselves to a lavish dinner at the "Castello" restaurant, which we discovered last year; monday is spent recovering (and in the meantime the expected rain arrived...) and Tuesday was the day for Lorenzo to return home with an 8-hour voyage by ferry/bus/airplane.

In the meantime, weather has deteriorated all around Europe: floods, weather forecasts calling for "winds force 8-9, locally 10 (!) and seas 7 (!!!! 6 METER-HIGH waves???!!). Needless to say from WHERE the wind is blowing: exactly from the west, where we should go!

After several days, the expected improvement finally came and we set sail; good progress until the second day when the engine decided to pack up again!   The symptoms point clearly to a lack of fuel, with air in the inlet pipe.
While Baby was attempting to sail without wind, I performed a mechanical high-surgery, exchanging the two pipes between tank and engine, in order to have a surely-good pipe for the inlet.

After this intervention, the engine ran for 20 consecutive hours, giving us reasonable (but alas, unwarranted) hopes of having finally fixed the problem.

On arrival in Palma, a bad surprise: here it's still high season, and all marinas are full: at the end of a long search, we found a berth on a small mole (Pier 46) a bit run-down and deprived of any services, but near the town centre, just in front of Palma's gothic cathedral.

Bad weather again, so we have been forced to devote few days to sight-seeing and generally enjoying ourselves.
















Hurricane!!! When weather was apparently improving and the sky has returned to light-blue, in a short time a black cloud covered the sky again and hell broke loose.

We witnessed only few gusts between 50 and 60 knots, which were scary enough as we were not very confident on our moorings, but later on TV, which continued the whole day to show the damage caused by the storm in the area of Palma, hurricane-force winds of up to 95 knots were mentioned (well within the limits for an hurricane, although the term was obviously mis-used in this case).

The next day, the weather had slightly improved but forecasts were not good, so we decided to stay one more day and went sightseeing again: we planned to reach the Bellver castle, but when we reached the gates we found the place closed due to repair works made necessary by the previous day's storm!
Returning towards the city centre, almost by accident we found the "Pueblo Espaņol", a sort of walled village where all typical architectures of Spain have been reproduced: a fake then, but rather well done and realistic.

October 6th:

Departure at last; Gibraltar is still far away!

After 50 hours, many of which spent motoring, we anchored in an innatural silence in Cala Genoves, a cove on the eastern end of Cabo de Gata, the promontory marking the border between Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca.

Only 170 miles to reach Gibraltar, where we had to be by the week's end.
We intended to do a last stop in Almerimar, and from there do the last jump to Gibraltar.

The engine had still given problems, although less dramatic than before: it was by now quite obvious that the problem was related with the fuel flow, and the last check still to be done was to open and check the fuel tank for the possible presence of dirt blocking the pipes.   A definitely unpleasant work!

Almerimar is very popular with long-distance sailors: I counted more metal-hulled boats here than in the whole voyage.  All sorts of boats can be seen, from modern, well-equipped ones to real rust-buckets and home-made funny-looking boats.

We took advantage of the fuel tank being nearly empty to open and check it, hoping to solve the engine problems once and for all. Bleah! Nasty job!!
Probably, we found the problem: not, as we thought, dirty fuel, but a lot of metal remainders (probably residues of drilling jobs done in the yard, 6 years ago) which have accumulated around the inlet pipe, nearly blocking it.
We consoled ourselves thinking "better now than in the middle of the Atlantic", and hoped to have finally solved the problem.

October 12th:

Gibraltar, at last!

Most Rally yachts were already there, of course, although several were empty, with their crews having flown home and going to return just in time for the Rally's preparatory activities.




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Last Update: 21/09/2014

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