Engines, engines, engines and fixing the ****** things

June 12, 2011

They do say as no plan survives first contact with the enemy. Given that, I suppose that we shouldn’t be too surprised that we wound back in Gouvia marina again for a further week. How did it happen? Well, let me tell you the story…

Our friend, Glynis who has kindly agreed to look after the Fiat whilst we cruise this summer.


On Wednesday 25th May we waved “Goodbye” to the Ashbourne Byrnes and then settled down to 2 days hard work to get Rampage cleaned from top to bottom, stock up on all sorts of things that are cheap in Lidl and so on and so forth. Then on the Saturday we left the car with our friend, Glynis and set off on our summer adventures, intending to spend a couple of nights up the coast before calling back into Gouvia to check the post before heading on south. With me so far?

Agios Stephanos...

Our first stop was Agios Stephanos, as delightful little inlet about 9 miles up the coast. It’s a small bay, about 500 yards wide, narrowing down its length to about 150 yards, surrounded by steep hills and with a fine collection of tavernas and bars by the beach. We got there about 4pm anchored and had a great evening there.

We went ashore the following morning for a stroll and a couple of drinks before retreating on board to eat lunch and cool off. Then about 4pm a really quite entertaining wind came up and boats all around us were dragging their anchors and eventually, ours popped out as well. We decided not to bother trying to reset the anchor in the bay, as the wind showed no signs of abating and the shape of the bay was funneling it down in to the anchorage. Having decided this, we simply pottered about a mile or so west to the next bay and dropped anchor there – in next to no wind at all! Local katabatic winds are the culprit in this case we think!

... and Kerasa Bay, just round the headland

The bay we were in was wide and quiet, with just a small beach bar at one end. The only problem with it was that we caught the wash from all the shipping passing through the North Corfu Channel through the night, giving rise to a quite a bit of rolling as we lay parallel to the wakes. The next morning, we had a lazy start before heading back to Gouvia to pickup post. We intended to anchor in a bay just outside the harbour entrance and use the tender to make our way back in.

In the event, we made our way round the headland, J poised by the anchor winch to do her stuff with the anchor and I cut the engine speed before deciding where to stop for the night. What then happened put a stop to all our plans, as the engine stopped and refused to restart. J dropped the anchor and we drifted to a halt, whilst I dived down below to investigate what had happened. After a few minutes, I had eliminated the obvious causes of a problem and it was therefore clearly beyond my ability to fix it out at the anchorage.

We launched the tender, put in a spare tin of fuel and set off for the marina office. They were very helpful, sending mechanic out to look at the motor and a boat to push us into the marina. A couple of hours after asking for help, we were alongside and the mechanic later came back and removed the injector pump and injectors; taking them down town next day with a promise to be back to report progress in the afternoon. We were now stuck there until things had been fixed.

Being pushed back to Gouvia marina after the engine died

On the plus side of all this, it was much better that this happened when and where it did rather than later in the week, when we could have been miles from help and would have been really stuck. Also, one of our parcels had arrived, so I now had enough pain killers to be going on with, we have LED bulbs for the aft cabin reading lights and the fenders now have splendid new clips so that we no longer need to keep tying knots round the guard rail and the anti-grandchildren netting.

Well, the mechanic came back the following day and told us that the little diesel man would take until Friday, maybe Saturday before he could fix the recalcitrant pump and injectors. In the meantime, we had heard from our mortgage broker that he could not put the deal together for us that he’d thought he could and having chatted to the bank in UK, it became obvious that we’d have to trek back to UK to interview them and get things sorted out. Seeing as “Rampage” was firmly tied up to the quay for the next few days, we decided there and then to book a flight to UK, pick up a hire car and get back to Wrexham.

So, leaving “Rampage” to the tender mercy of the marina and mechanic, we flew from Corfu on Thursday 2nd June, arriving in UK just after midday, picked up a hire car and drove up to Mike and Jane’s in Wrexham. The following morning, bright and early, we did a mad dash round the shops for little bits and pieces before meeting with the bank manager and sorting things out with her. Satisfactory result all round!

On Saturday, we visited my Mum and Dad before driving back down to London to spend the night with Jonno and Lucy so that we could catch our flight back to Corfu at the revoltingly early hour of 0550 on the Sunday morning! We managed to get up in time and had an uneventful flight back to Greece. We found “Rampage” fine but not fixed, so had to wait until Monday before the mechanic appeared to install the pump and injectors for us. He finished the job at about 1 pm, so we did a mad dash round the place, paying marina fees, dropping of the car again etcetera and were clear of the place by 2pm – the cut off time for the marina, after which we would have had to pay for an extra day!

We picked up a nice wind as we crossed the Corfu Channel and sailed most of the way across before it faded. Then the trouble started……. Once the engine was on, we realised that there was no cooling water flowing through it, so stopped the engine immediately and I dived down to investigate. It was a little worrying, as we’d had the mechanic put in a new cooling water part. I took things to bits, ran the engine a while and the water thankfully started to flow. We decided to cut the trip short and dropped anchor in Ormos Valtrou, a lovely little anchorage just north of Igonoumitsa. I did a bit more work on the engine and convinced myself it was fixed before getting a good night’s sleep.

We left the anchorage next morning and headed to Gaios on Paxos, about 30 miles or so away. We got an entertaining set of winds during the day, with up to force 6 and varying headings from easterly to southerly by way of north and west! Great day’s sailing but the cooling water problem reappeared and had to be fixed again before we made it into Gaios. It was packed, so we moored up against the island as opposed to the mainland, taking lines ashore in the dinghy.

"Rampage" alongside the town quay at Preveza.

The next day, (Wednesday 8th) we moved on to the quay, got a resupply of water from the tanker and I did a bit more work on the engine. That evening we ran into friends tied up further along the quay and had a very pleasant evening. On Thursday, as left on the motor, all seemed well. We headed south for about an hour to Antipaxos, the smaller neighbour of Paxos, where we anchored in Emerald Bay and had a swim before pressing on to Preveza on the mainland. Preveza is a proper town, about the size of Corfu town, where you can moor up to the quay right in the heart of the place. Seeing as the wind had got up to about force 6 as we made our entrance into the narrow channel, it was great to get round the headland into calm water and tie up alongside.

Cats on the quayside at Preveza, hoping for a share of the catch

However, we soon discovered the downside to the town quay – all night music from the bars along the sea front, not to mention an unpleasant pong from a sewage discharge pipe somewhere in the area! We won’t be staying there again any time soon. We had a quick look round Preveza and shopped for bread last Friday morning before setting off down to Lefkas, about 7 miles south.

Entering the Levkas canal - floating bridge on left

Lefkas is the main town of the island of Lefkas, which is separated from the mainland by a canal, which has a swing bridge across it at the northern end. The bridge opens on the hour for about 10 minutes to let boats transit, so we motor-sailed down there at about 6 knots, carefully watching distance to go versus the time. We got there at about 5 to 10 and only had to wait for a few minutes before the bridge opened and we could enter the canal.

The canal is about 4 miles long and we were soon through it and once in the open sea we could put the sails up again and make progress towards our destination of Tranquil Bay, Nidri. The wind round here is very peculiar, as it is affected by the high mountains on the island, which come down almost to the shore line. There are gusts as valleys funnel wind down them, there are place where the wind disappears completely as you enter a wind shadow and then there are places where curving valleys in the mountains produce complete reversals of the wind direction! It all makes for very entertaining sailing, with much adjusting sails to account for the changes – no sitting back on a long reach with a book round here!

Approaching Nidri

Anyway, we made it to the entrance to the entrance to Nidri and started the engine – no water again. Signal for a frantic skipper fiddling away below to get the thing sorted whilst the first mate looked on anxiously. It took about 10 minutes but the engine finally decided to behave itself and we motored into Tranquil Bay and dropped anchor. As we did so, we noticed Sanuk, our neighbour from Gouvia also anchored in the bay.

Having taken a deep breath and relaxed, I came to the conclusion that I’d have to strip the cooling system on the engine and clean it out properly, as it was clear that something was blocking the cooling water flow. So once the engine has cooled enough to work on, I bravely started ripping the thing to bits, hoping that I wouldn’t discover a broken bit that I would find hard to replace. In the event, all I found was lots of debris and a very choked valve where the cooling sea water enters the exhaust pipe. So, I pinched a correctly sized pair of knitting needles from J (they come in all sizes, including one that fitted the pipes in the heat exchanger to perfection) and she and I then spent a happy half hour clearing all the little pipes by pushing the needles through them. The reassembled engine works fine, with more water emerging from the exhaust than has been the case for some time now!

We got together with our friends Bern and Alan from Gouvia that evening. They’ve based themselves here in the anchorage since they left Gouvia last month and have been having a great time pottering about the area, but Alan fell ill a few days ago and had to spend some time in the local hospital. He hadn’t enjoyed the experience but is now on the mend, although Bern is making sure he keeps drinking enough water…….

As we made our way across from the anchorage to the town that evening, the outboard suddenly started to go slower and slower; I looked at it and realised that there was – wait for it – no cooling water flowing out of it! Cue a short row ashore and a tow back at the end of the evening!

Duncan and Alan celebrate after a day spent fixing the outboard

Alan had also had the same trouble with his outboard (the same type and vintage as ours) and he had had to strip it right down and rebuild it to clear all the blocked waterways in the engine. He kindly volunteered to come across yesterday and help me do the same for our motor. We worked away steadily all day, removing a lot of corrosion, scale and debris from the engine before rebuilding it. It started easily, with lots of water flowing through it and has been pronounced a success. Meanwhile J spent about an hour and a half cleaning the waterline which had an amazing amount of new growth in the relatively short time since “Rampage” went back into the water in March. We took Bern and Al out to supper last night as a thank you for their help.

Today has been spent doing some food shopping before we set off for Fiskarda tomorrow. We aim to go from there to Poros and then on to Zakinthos, arriving there by Thursday to pick up Jinny, who’s spending a week with us aboard “Rampage”.

Now you can see why the post has been called “Engines, engines, engines and fixing the ****** things”. If nothing else goes wrong, our next post will be when Jinny gets out here – she doesn’t have to be the last visitor this summer you know!




  1. Glad it’s all fixed and you are still on track for meeting Jinny. Would love to get out if I can. We found direct flights so need to chat to you about dates xxx

  2. Help! You have had a torrid time with your engine. Admire the coolness under pressure. David has renovated our heads – a long sweaty but not actually scary procedure. We got blown out of Patriti by a thunderstorm so still no fish dinner. Say hi to Bern and Alan. Love from Gouvia, Heather and David

  3. Katabatic wind sounds uncomfortable, so I’m glad to hear your painkillers arrived.
    Reading about the unpredictable winds around the islands makes sense of those ancient Greek myths about sailors upsetting the gods and encountering storms or being becalmed, doesn’t it?
    May your pumps flow freely… xxx

  4. What fab pics J, they took me right back into the sun. Its not very warm here but the sun is supposed to come out and be hot for a couple of days……. we shall see

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: