Mal de mare and engines.

November 11, 2016

Blog 9 Nov 16
As readers of this blog will know, winds is what dictates where you go and when you go in a sailing boat. Also, how fast you go and how pleasant the voyage is. So you will, appreciate the fact that this is a tail of the winds and the seas and just how not nice things can be.
I flew out of Newquay on Friday 4 November to Gatwick, spent a not unpleasant night in one of the Premier Inns there before catching the 0630 flight to Corfu on 5 November. I met the third member of our crew, Bob Bickerdike, in the check in queue, although we were not seated together. We were both expecting to spend a few days in Lefkas before setting off as the weather forecast was not looking good, with high winds from not really the right direction.

Waiting for the winds of change…

However, we emerged from baggage reclaim to be greeted by Steve and the news that he intended to set off that evening. Looking at the forecasts, it seemed likely that we could head to Messina and beyond on a single long tack from Lefkas. This would at least get us moving and put a few hundred miles on the clock before the weather truly clagged in.
So, after a trip by ferry and car (via Rampage to collect stuff) we were ready to depart by about 5pm, setting off south about between Lefkada Island and Meganisi. There was no wind (as expected) and we headed south, past the northern end of Kefalonia, where we picked up some wind. Holding as a course as far south as possible, we soon had two reefs in the main and genoa, heading somewhat further north than ideal but making anything up to 8.5 knots. The waves continued to build, as is to be expected. Moving on to two hours on watch and four hours off, we continued through the night.  
With the boat moving as much as it was, I would, normally have taken some sea sickness pills. However, I’d neglected to pick any up from Rampage and it turned out that there were none aboard Tantrum. So, as dawn broke, I was feeling rougher and rougher until finally I succumbed and started being sick. That continued for the next day or so… I spent my time lying on my bunk waiting to die, the falling asleep, waking up, being sick and repeat… Not much use to anyone 

Ferries and petrochemical works: the less picturesque side of Milazzo.

By about midnight on Sunday, the wind had started to ease, the motion of the sea had abated and I was about to rejoin the living. With the wind disappearing, we continued under motors. Then the port motor died. And restarted. And died. None of this was apparent to me in my befuddled state but things were made clear when Steve appeared in my cabin, summoning me to sort the engine out.
The sight glass on the fuel line was mucky but didn’t seem to be the dreaded bug (which tends to produce a sticky black grunge rather than the suspended crap in the sight glass). So, full of hope of a simple solution, I removed the fuel filter from the engine. I was slightly puzzled to hear a hissing noise for a few seconds but thought little of it. Then I found that the filter was empty. I fitted a fresh filter and tried to prime it with the lift pump, to no avail. At this point, my stomach was declaring revolt and I gave up for the night, reckoning that it was probably the lift pump that was the problem.
After a brief visit to the bucket, I retired to bed whilst we made slow progress under sail and motor towards Messina. The sea was calming down nicely and by mid morning I was approaching something like normal. I even managed to keep a Mars bar down. Result.
I was then pointed at the engine again. Thinking it through, the hissing noise from the night before showed a vacuum between the engine and the fuel tank. That could only be down to one thing: a blocked fuel pipe. So, after checking the pipe run and making sure we had some spare rubber fuel pipe aboard, I cut through the rubber pipe linking the tank to the copper pipe and used the scuba regulator as a source of high pressure air to blow through the pipework, both back into the tank and along through to the engine. This worked just fine, albeit that Steve was in the engine bay and got a bit of diesel spray. Once connected up again it took a few minutes work to prime the system with the lift pump and we had two engines again.
After a quick discussion, we agreed that if the port engine behaved itself, we’d carry on beyond Messina to Milazzo on the north coast of Sicily. If it didn’t, we’d go into Messina to get help in repairing it. 
In the event, the engine behaved itself and we passed through the dogem car ring that is the Messina Straits between Regio de Calabria and Messina. I think we must have timed our arrival to coincide with the departure time for a whole bunch of ferries because it was really quite exciting.
The winds round the northern end of the straits were, as they often are, confused and strong. We’d been carrying the mainsail up but had to drop it in a hurry at this point. The intention had been to sail but the waves left over from the previous days winds made being too far offshore uncomfortable, so we gave up on sailing and motored, arriving into Malazzo about midnight.
The CA Captains Mate app gave us some information on Malazzo. It advised us to try for a berth on the inside of the pontoons so as to avoid the wash from the ferries which use the port. No chance of that! We found a spot on the outside of the pontoons, moored up and had a bite to eat before getting some sleep.

The nicer side of the place! Town hall and Coast Guard station.

The following day (Tuesday) was spent going over the boat and sorting out anything that’d failed to work as expected or had got broken or worn during the trip. The sailbag had got a rip, which Steve repaired. The furling line for the genoa had broken, so it was replaced with a new one (its now a dyneema one, as that was the only 8mm rope to be had in Milazzo) and we sorted out some chafes on the reefing lines.
So that’s us up to date. We’re looking closely at the weather forecasts, trying out various passage plans. In an ideal world, the best plan would be to sail from here to Sardinia and then on to the Balearics and Spain. However, we may yet have to settle for a quick dash to Palermo on the western end of Sicily, wait there for a few days and then head either direct to Mallorca or to Sardinia. Whatever we wind up doing, we are stuck here for the next few days: Friday is the earliest we might be able to move.
Well. I thought that was to date but things never go smoothly do they? Having checked the filters for crud, we found them still contaminated. Clearly too much crud not to do something about it, so on Thursday a gang of Italians came and pumped out the tank, cleaned the fuel and put it back into the tank. Sorted. We thought. Then the starboard engine quit on us under test. Tried the remedy as before. Failed. Gave up in disgust at about seven pm. Luigi and his gang summoned for this morning.
We will escape tomorrow. On to Palermo then probably Mallorca if the weather holds.

Oh, and sea sick pills?  Found a tub of them in the bottom of the bag I picked up from Rampage!



  1. Love your choice of food after 36 hours of sea sickness!

  2. I love that dry ship!! Missing u, well done all of you!!! And the word “summon” Duncan that’s not in Steve’s vocabulary….HUM!!! Xx

  3. A Mars a day helps you work rest and play, not my first choice either!

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