Sunday, November 18, 2018

2017 & 2018: In the Yard & Keeping Cool

I've written heaps for 2017 & 2018 years largely because we started in Aug 2017 and remained overseas well into 2018.  Our usual seasonal schedule was out the window, over-ruled by the need to cross the Atlantic again.  I started back in Lagos, Portugal and was unaccompanied for the first several weeks as I wanted time to be able to work on the boat by myself without having to work around other crew, (namely wife/ GS aka galley slave), on board.  I was able to do heaps which was just great and it didn’t matter how messy the boat was.  Sopromar is a great boatyard, well resourced for boating spares, helpful technicians and staff and also in a great location, just a short walk away from supermarkets, restaurants and shops.

I had a couple of major projects planned and as always there's ongoing maintenance.  I also needed to check on all our safety equipment to make sure we were prepared for the voyage ahead.  Given that there's quite a bit to cover and I was busy doing a lot of the work myself, I didn't get round to taking photos.  So, lots of words without the visuals for the time being.  So, let's begin:

Dirty Boat.  The boat was filthy when I got back to it having been on the hard for some 10 months or so.  It took several days and washes before it was back to any decent level of cleanliness.  Nevertheless it had to be washed down every week, such are the prevailing conditions around the Sopromar yard.  There is a dirt car park just in front of the boat and winds/rain loaded with Saharan sand blow across the Med to Portugal.  Nothing you can do about it, just clean, clean, clean.

New Awning.  It was quite hot when I arrived at the boatyard in mid August, so I immediately started work on a new awning to replace the original, which was falling apart.  The fabric was sun shade material which was purchased in Greece many moons ago but for the past few years it was not so slowly falling apart.  I had tried to patch it up using contact glue, which was okey for small repairs or I sewed it using my on-board sewing machine.  Anyway, it was time to replace it and so I brought some sun shade material from Oz.  

I pulled the old awning  apart and used the ‘framework’ of sunbrella material which never seems to deteriorate at all.  I simply used the old shade cloth as a pattern and cut out the new one to the same size (mostly).  Amazing how you think you have accurately copied the old onto the new but, alas no, as you need to be able to stretch out the new cloth so that it is pretty tight before marking the pattern.  This was something I was not able to do well on the yard's cement, try as I did.  So there were a few bits and pieces that had to  be lopped off the new shadecloth when it came to sewing the new shadecloth to the old ‘framework’ sunbrella.  

Anyway, despite these few annoyances and some slight readjustment of lines to various tie down points on deck, it all worked out well.  So we have a nice new strong awning  that takes no more than five minutes to put up and does a great job of keeping the sun and heat off the deck/coachouse.  Took about a week to do, longer than I anticipated but isn’t that always the same with boat jobs.

Companionway Steps.  These steps had been annoying me for years.  It wasn't too difficult to remove 6 timber steps which were badly scratched and showed it.  I sanded them back using the high speed grinder sanding attachment, then applied three coats of water based varnish.  Improved them 1000% and applied each coat immediately after the previous one as they dried very quickly.  Easy quick job that improved the interior of the boat remarkably.

Friday, November 16, 2018

2016: We Continue to Float...

Finally, and a whole month later, we were able to throw off mooring lines and move on from Greece.  We made for Sarande, with an increasingly nasty swell kicking in from the west.  Although we’d planned a two day stopover in this pleasant town, our feet rarely touched ground.  In the conditions, poor WJ3 was driven against a large concrete dock, eventually losing a guard rail in the battle.  Our fenders did a sterling job though and only one was lost in the line of duty:

Damaged Fender.  We left the boat briefly whilst dockside in Albania.  When we got back we found one of our fenders had been used on another boat.  Our local agent at the dock (a public one) at Sarande had another boat bouncing against the dock.  Like us, the crew was away for the day.  The agents “borrowed” one of our fenders, returning it at the end of the day.  However it was pretty squashed due to its heavy pounding against the concrete dock all day.   The agents reimbursed us the cost of replacing this fender which was good of them.  The old one’s still usable, to an extent.  Anyway, well managed by our capable and friendly agent, Agim Zholi and his super team.
We had company and pleasant weather for the crossing to Sicily
Now, we had only two months to cover Malta and Italy, plus get WJ3 hauled out and put to bed.  Something had to give and a stopover in Tunisia, perhaps not the safest of options anyway, was struck from our list.  Stops along Italy’s heel and toe were also given a big miss as we made the most of a few days of good weather to cross to Sicily.  Syracuse was delightful.  Initially we anchored until THE plan was modified, yet again, to include a dash for Malta on public transport and a few short excursions locally.  The Syracuse Marina had a vacancy for us, so we felt comfortable leaving WJ3 on her own for a week whilst we escaped to Malta.
We had an excellent vantage point from the marina in Syracuse to watch the world go by
Before I finish with Syracuse, let me comment on Chandlers.  On arrival, we began to understand that life here was somewhat laissez-faire for travel agents and chandlers alike.  There are only two chandlers in Syracuse.  The one closest to the marina did not have all that we wanted.  Another is a bit of a walk out of town.  After locating it, we entered as the door was open and asked staff, who were clearly working behind the counter, about the part we needed.  Language difficulties aside, we were informed that it was their lunchtime and to come back in 45 minutes.  We never did…
Boat life went without a hitch after that, except for a struggle in the Aeolian Islands to free our anchor.  It had managed to wrap itself around large rocks and grumpily refused to budge.  Just as we threatened to launch the hookah unit (diving without tanks), it freed up.  Not without wafts of an overheated anchor winch filling the bay.  Lucky on two accounts – not to have burnt out the motor or to have lost the anchor!

The weather remained somewhat challenging during the remainder of our time in Italy.  Add to the mix, heat and crowds on holiday in August.  All these “challenges” added further delays to our tight and ever-varying schedule.  Let’s just say, we arrived in Portugal with enough time to request a visa extension. 
The anchor winch might have been overheating;
at least Vesuvius was not...
Another lesson learned is how much easier it is to prep the boat in a marina rather than a boatyard.  So we moved into Lagos Marina for a couple of weeks of chores then hauled out in Sopromar Boatyard before flying home.  After all the dithering, excitement and stress, we've decided to say “Ciao, baby” to the Med (after a wonderful 6 years) and began to prepare for a dash back across the Atlantic in 2017.  
Heading out of Lagos Marina to Sopromar Boatyard for haulout & home

Thursday, November 15, 2018

2016: Run for Cover...

The anchoring field was busy in June
The plan for this year was to cover Italy and Malta.  First stops were ports we missed on our 2015 “round the Adriatic tour”, then cross to Malta, head up to Sicily and finally meander up the Italian west coast taking time to hit all THE tourist spots.  Haul out decisions would be made on the fly; hoping for somewhere along the French or Spanish coast.  Big plans and bigger problem - namely our limiting 90 day visa!  We’ve moaned about this before on the WJ3 blog but the difference with the middle section of the Med is that there is nowhere “close” to run and hide.  

2016 began with the usual boatyard chores in Aktio - two weeks of hard slog, but who can deny it's a pleasant life.  WJ3 was treated to a professional polishing, the shower sump was unblocked, the anchor line replaced, rusty bicycles serviced and bow thruster batteries sorted out (they had not charged in our absence).  We needed an electrician to sort the battery issue out.  Finally, WJ3’s rigging was inspected – an insurance requirement.

On splashing, the engine started…that was good, but the generator again chose to be obstinate.  Hmmm, something to look at whilst on anchor, we thought.  Launching Bruce (the dinghy) too was something of a concern as the outboard stubbornly refused to function and more alarmingly, began to fill with water.  Drat!  Someone had stolen our dinghy bung – and of course, it’s a US fitting in an EU world.  To add to post-launch miseries, the bow thruster continued to be obstinate, crying out for even more professional help.  So there we sat, afloat with not much working.  Sound familiar?

Within a day of splashing, we moved into the Preveza Marina and so our precious Visa Days ticked by whilst we attended to:

Generator Coolant Pump.  It was leaking and I wasn't sure how to remove it as it's part of the engine, not a separate item like the saltwater pump.  I had a local German mechanic look at it (we’d used him before) and, on inspection, he pronounced it dead.  It was badly corroded and needed to be replaced with a new one.  This was at the start of the season at Preveza, Greece, and so we had to wait three weeks for the replacement part to be quoted, ordered and then delivered – from the US of course.  It took about an hour to put the pump on.  The generator ran fine thereafter.  I won’t mention the cost except to say that it was enormous, even the mechanic was embarrassed to tell us.
Time for a last swim at Jumping Fish Bay
Outboard Motor Not Starting.  Again, right at the start of the season, the outboard wouldn’t start, even though all was working fine at the end of the season when I run it until the carburetor ran out of fuel.  In hindsight, I should have run it in the yard before launching, but didn’t; an oversight on my part.  Anyway, after trying for some time I pulled the carburetor apart and inspected it for cleanliness.  It looked clean, but after I put it back on, it still wouldn’t start.  A kindly fellow on a nearby boat came over in his dinghy and freely offered advice, but despite his remedies, it still would not start.  Time for some searching on the web!  One useful piece of advice was that “a clean looking carbie does not necessarily mean it IS clean”.  This YouTuber advised to clean it to be sure, especially by inserting a thin wire into every orifice possible.  Well, I did this and the outboard started just fine.  So, big lesson here is that just because a carbie looks clean doesn’t mean it is and so do what I eventually did.  I’ll freely admit I did not see anything suspicious as I prodded and probed with my fine piece of wire.
Refrigerator Re-gassingAhhh, yet again we had to have the refrigerator motor/evaporator re-gassed with the unusual hard-to-locate gas required for our Grunert 110 volt fridge.  Our reliable mechanic, although licenced, was not available so we contacted a local guy recommended by the marina.  Short story is he tried to rip us off by quoting and then trying to raise the price on the day.  Also, he tried to convince us to do more modifications than necessary.  Anyway, the fridge worked once it was re-gassed.  This little episode, apart from expensive now annual re-gassings, prompted much discussion on “a better way” to refrigerate given that our little WAECO battler was working brilliantly and running diligently on 12 volt sunshine power.

AIS.  We had purchased a GME AIST 120 and I fitted it next to the chart table, connected to our laptop via the program CD that came with it, and yet another antenna was fitted to the pushpit.  It works okey but we have since passed a number of ships at quite close range and there has been no signal received from them at all.  I certainly would not rely on it. 

There's more to follow....
Sad to be leaving our favourite Taverna over near Aktio