Sail away with Paul Chopin.
A blog highlighting the steps taken to purchase a yacht, getting out to sail her and the adventures, not to mention the cost(!) in putting her to sea.
Taking Electron to England from Greece.
Well, having got back to the UK at the end of July I was thinking whether I ought to replace 'Electron' with a new boat. During this trip she had cost quite a lot in maintenance and repairs and as she is getting on (aren't we all) she was only going to need more and more work doing to her. I had had an email from Clipper Marine during our holiday informing me of their latest summer offers,cone of which was a Bavaria 37 Cruiser. Slightly smaller than Electron and has only one head, but twin steer, larger cabin space - at the cost of storage, and NEW. I was tempted, so tempted I got in contact with them and, to cut a long story short, decided to buy. The only problem was getting Electron back to the UK. One suggestion was to trailer it back and bring out the new one. UK to Slovenia return £17000. Too expensive.the only other option was to sail her back. A professional crew, including me, worked out to be around £5000 plus fuel, food and whatever. (Not quite the Donald Trump quote). I went for this as it would give me the opportunity to gain some experience from the skipper; provide me with 'tidal miles' when I try for my Yacht Master offshore exam,learn how to use the radar correctly, experience long distance sailing and poor conditions (Bay of Biscay) in preparation for any future trips (such as ......round the world!) So, back in Kilada, getting the boat prepped for going in the water tomorrow, Thursday 13.08.15 with a planned departure on Monday 17.08.15. Fuel tank topped up, new sail drive seal replaced, stern glands checked. Hopefully the engine will start - with a quick squirt of easy start, it will just be a case of waiting for the team to arrive for our departure.
Thursday 13.08.15: Boat in the water and replacement seacocks checked for leaks. Looks good. Engine started - with a squirt, tender in the water and outboard attached. Managed to depart on my own without assistance. Headed for usual mooring spot on the pier. Same space available so need to prepare mooring lines,cooperate remote anchor myself and hope someone will catch my lines. Didier available so reversed into the spot. Remote difficult to use as not sure how much chain has been laid, 25m, which should be enough if wind doesn't change. No shore power as two power boxes not operating. Bag of ice bought instead. At least I can rest the beers on the top so they will be chilled. Turtle seen but nothing else of interest.
Friday 14.08.15: Generally just pottering about, trying to see the day through with little tasks; head sail sheets, head sail trim sheets, jack stays and replacing an inner tube on Helens bike - and then fixing a puncture as the tyre still had a shard of wire in it. Met an Italian called Joseph who helms a tender which is the size of my yacht. The yacht itself, Wally Beam, is 33m in length. Will have a meal with him tomorrow.
Saturday 15.08.15: Clothes washing done and put out to dry. Shouldn't take too long in this heat. Have planned to meet the 'new' crew at the Corinth canal on Tuesday so planning the passage. Will do in two legs as the journey is about 75nm. Will meet up with Terttu and Heikki later today and the dine with Joseph. Turtle seen again, usual spot.
Sunday 16.08.15: last few jobs to complete, bring outboard engine on the pushpit bracket and get tender on the boat. Met up with Terttu and Heikki at Retro beer house for a couple of refreshing cold ones. Back to the boat for a bit of supper and an early night.
Monday 17.08.15: left Kilada at 06:00 en route for Aigina. All going well for first six hours then weather changed and seas became lumpy. Decided to go to Perdika but no spaces available. Tried two other places to anchor but unsuitable on my own. Headed off for New Epidavros. Arrived and was directed to go along the wall at the fuel station. Little did I know that there were protruding metal rings on the wall, and as the assistant pulled in my mooring lines my galley window caught one of these and cracked. Not ax very good start and would only get worse!
Tuesday 18.08.15: headed for Corinth canal to meet the crew, Ross, the skipper and Henry, the gofer. Once on board and discussions concluded we headed through the canal to moor in the harbour the other side. Went out for a meal that night.
Wednesday 19.08.15: left the marina just before six heading for Messolonghi. Too far so we tried to moor in Navpaxtros but too shallow so continued to Patras. Once we got into our berth we noticed that the gearbox wouldn't select neutral and the tick over was too low and cutting out. Another engineer to call out tomorrow. Another meal in Patras.
Thursday 20.08.15: filled up with diesel whilst waiting for the engineer who arrived about 09:30. Found out that there was little oil in the gearbox so topped that up and replaced the adjuster for throttle cable. Both jobs done we headed for Messolonghi, and another meal out.
Friday 21.08.15: Set off for Italy but wind gusting over 30knots and waves 2+ metres high. Ran for shelter at Zakinthos, a pretty little place, worth a second visit. No meal out for me tonight, just a refreshing swim in the bay.
Saturday 22.08.15: Headed across the Ionian for Messina straits. Part way across we stopped for a swim, and a little further on we came across a capsized dingy. A secuity message was broadcast over the VHF radio.
Sunday 23.08.15:Another night at sea before getting to Messina.
Monday 24.08.15: As we were approaching Reggio di Calabria the engine cut out for no apparent reason. Stopped in the marina here to get it checked out, another engineer called out and it turned out to be a blocked fuel pipe. One was swopped over with another and all was fine. Would this be the end of using easy start? Just as we left the wall the engine heater alarm went off. Oh dear, more problems. Changed the impeller and topped up the sea water intake pipe with water. Fingers crossed, all was fine. Next stop Sicily.
Tuesday 25.08.15: Stopped at Terracini to fuel up and then continued to Capo San Vito for the night. Boat cleaned down to get all of the salt water off an then went into town for a meal and wifi. Only wifi spot was at an expensive restaurant!
Wednesday 26.08.15: Left Capo San Vito heading for Vilasimius on Sardinia. As the winds were very favourable we changed course and headed for Ibiza instead. Bad move. Winds dropped and headed for Sardinia again, but this time Porto Teulada. Arrived on the 28th, quite late. Most expensive Marina yet, but aren't all Italian marinas expensive! Moored up and headed off to the Pizza parlour on the camp site.
Saturday 29.08.15: Went into town to get provisions and fuel for the next leg of the journey, heading for Ibiza, again. Heavy seas, going in our direction, and winds up to 25 knots, once again we changed course, this time for Cartegena, over 400 nm in distance - from the point of altering course whilst at sea. An eventful journey. We were discharging more power than putting back into the batteries via the wind generator and solar panels, so decision made not to show nav lights and to switch off the chart plotter and only navigate with the compass.
Sunday 30.08.15:First ship seen since Saturday. Very little wind so motoring. A total of two cargo ships, one cruise ship, a small bird and dragon fly that stopped for a rest on the guard rail wires and some dolphins seen. Another uneventful day / night.
Monday 31.08.15: Nothing to report as yet. Still some 66nm before we get to the cape before heading up to Cartegena. Light winds so motor sailing but keeping up over 6.5 knots. Might get there before midnight? Yet again another change of destination. No longer Cartegena, now Garrucha, as we weren't going to arrive in Cartegena until at least midnight! Several ships seen today, closer to mainland Spain, quite a few dolphins, and the coast guards checked us out.
Tuesday 01.09.15: A quiet night, a few passing ships and that's about it. Arrived in Garrucha just after 08:00 and fuelled up. Went into town for provisions and to get an Internet connection. Back on the boat, oil and water checked, we left Garrucha just around 10:00 heading for Gibraltar, hopefully without the need to make any last minute changes.
Wednesday 02.09.15: Well, en route for Gibraltar we had a mini fire on board. Henry had gone below to make some tea and smelt something burning. I went down to see what the fuss was, and indeed something was burning. Inside the locker underneath the navigation table, one of the previous owners had left a solar panel charge regulator wired up, no solar panel attached. Sea water had got into this locker and had caused a short, resulting in the unit igniting. It was put out quickly and no damage caused. The wires were traced back to the battery and removed. All circuits checked and all appear good. Still making good progress for Gibraltar the wind decided to die and we then experienced the current flowing against us. Speed really low, not expecting to make Gibraltar until 03:00, decided to head for Fuengirola, couldn't make that in daylight so diverted to Benalmedena instead. Managed to go bows in to a very tight mooring spot.
Thursday 03.09.15: Left Benalmedena a bit later than we wanted, by oversleeping! Heavy going against the current, journey likely to take between 12 and 15 hours, depending on what the weather is going to do. Oh dear, yet another problem. Engine cut out. Think it must be the same problem as before, blocked fuel lines. Skipper made a decision to go to Puerto Bajadilla for repairs. We called ahead for assistance, saying we would sail in but needed a tow to get to the quay. When we got there, no tow boat to assist, decision made to moor under sail by going alongside. In doing this the bow hit the wall and has caused some gel coat damage. Not sure if claim to be made under my insurance or the professional skippers? Mechanic not available until at least tomorrow morning, so we're sitting this one out for the time being.
Friday 04.09.15: Phoned the office to see when the mechanic would be coming to the boat, told no one available until Saturday. Nothing for it but to catch a bus into Gibraltar to get tobacco for Helen. What a way to spend ones birthday! Left my phone back on the boat charging. When I got back I was told that the engineer had turned up, at 16:00, had cleared some of the diesel bug and started the engine, but I needed to get the boat to Puerto Banus for the tank to be cleaned 'thoroughly' (!) in the evening went out for a celebration meal and a few drinks.
Saturday 05.09.15: Left Bajadilla for Puerto Banus at 07:30 to get there before 09:00. Engineer started to clean the tank and all was completed by 13:00 - at the cost of €400, still it meant that we could be on our way to LA Linea. Got there about 19:30, moored up and walked into Gibraltar for provisioning and more tobacco for Helen. This weekend the Gibraltar Music Festival was on, with acts such as Kings of Leon, Madness, Kaiser Chiefs and the like of today's modern ensemble!
Sunday 06.09.15: Back into Gibraltar to see if I could buy any fuel filters, just in case. The chandlers were closed on Sunday's so back to the boat, paid the marina fees (cheapest so far) and headed for the Atlantic, possibly first port of call, Lagos. When it came to switching on the nav lights..... the steaming light wasn't working. Not sure what the fault is but covered up the stern light and put on the anchor light in its place.
Monday 07.09.15: StIll heading for Lagos, it's 16:10 (Portuguese time) and we have about 24nm to go. Just going to call in, pick up a couple of pre fuel filters and some fuel set - diesel additive (both very expensive), fuel up and then head for Cascais, which is a further 125nm up the coast, close to Lisbon. Just checked out why the steaming light isn't working. There is no steaming light! The head sail must have snapped it off when tacking at some point in the previous day!
Tuesday 08.09.15: quite foggy passing Cabo de Sao Vincente. Radar switched on but not having been on a course to learn how to use it, it's like scratching around in the dark! Seas and wind very weak, at 08:08 we probably have a further 12 hours of this at least. Spoke too soon. Wind and waves in the opposite direction to where we want to go. Speed down to under 4 knots and journey to Cascais going to take even longer. Arrived in Cascais just after 21:00. Moored up on the reception pontoon for the night. A quick trip into town for provisions, a pint and to check emails. Not sure why, out of the 54 I received only 2 required any response from me. Also getting another crew member, Rosy, to make up for Henry's lack of drive.
Wednesday 09.09.15: had to make some running repairs to Electron. The mast head steaming and deck light were broken and this had to be replaced. Once up the mast it became apparent that this was not the first time a repair had been made. Dropped the deck light, smashing it but at least we now have a working steaming light. The main sail also required stitching up. Five tears along the leech had to be sown up, a task completed by Ross and Rosy. Fuelled up, marina fees paid, a bottle of wine received as a 'thank you for staying' we headed off for north west Spain, about 380nm up the coast, which is about a three day trip. Weather benign at the moment so just motoring. Hopefully we can get the sails out at some point along the route!
Thursday 10.09.15: Got quite busy around the two islands off Cabo Carveiro last night with many ships passing around us. Winds and waves against so boat bouncing up and crashing back down. Speed dropped to below 3knots at one point so we tacked and this gave a better line of approach along the coast and a bit more speed. Not much seen during daylight hours, a couple of trawlers, a merchant ship and a couple of yachts, all going in the opposite direction. Oh, and a few dolphins but no whales to date.
Friday 11.09.15: Busy night with fishing trawlers and trying to avoid them. All night long we had dolphins swimming alongside the boat and most of the morning after daylight. Very little shipping activity all day and just a couple of sailing yachts seen. From 11:30 we were being pushed by the current,which, with no sailing wind was very helpful. Hopefully this will last for the remainder of this leg, to Camerinas, north of Cape Finistere, with about 18nm still to go. Got in about 21:00, just in time for a shower, some beer and fish supper.
Saturday 12.09.15: left Camerinas at 10:45 with the intention of trying to get to the UK in one go. Checked weather forecast and strong but favourable winds from the late evening. Set off under power and after 80nm started sailing. However, it wasn't to long before the weather changed for the worse.
Sunday13.09.15: I took over the helm at 02:00 and initially things were fine. Strong winds but manageable. It wasn't too long that these strong winds became untenable, with wind strength up to 48knots. The head sail had already been reefed once but a bit more was taken in. Even this was too much so the engine was switched on. Within a few minutes the boat was being pounded from all sides and waves crashing all over her. The skippers life jacket (the one I lent him!) went off.... So they are fully automatic. The boat was broached, water was coming in from every possible place and the inside was getting flooded. Trying to manage this whilst on the move was nigh on impossible but we had to attempt to dry out what we could! Decision made,as we had no steering due to the wind and waves was to lie to hull. Finally got on the move around 09:30, still trying to get there in one go. However, with the aftermath of the storm came the confused seas so it wasn't easy going, speed down so skipper mad a decision to divert to "................." Later on that afternoon we again got hit by a further storm, this time I saw 56 knots on the wind speed gauge, a violent storm. Trying to take in the head sail caused it to tear and just before 21:00 the engine alarm sounded. Not going to well! Not sure what the problem is but can only sort it out in daylight, so boat lying to hull again and early night for all.
Monday 14.09.15: Unable to sort out engine problem. Changed the impeller, checked all lines leading from sea water cock to exhaust elbow and couldn't find what the issue was, other than no water coming out of the exhaust manifold. Not good, but we needed some speed so main sail put out. Very slow speed but we couldn't do any more until daylight. We gambled on putting out the main sail, but in one gust topping over 60 knots another rip appeared. Again bare bones.
Tuesday 15.09.15: Sails taken down and stitched, engine looked at again, tried to over ride the sea water filter and the anti syphon valve, both making no difference, still no water coming out of the exhaust manifold. We continued cautiously with both sails, heading for Brest, hopefully making there some time tomorrow morning, if the wind speed keeps up.........to a manageable level and no further issues with the sails. It's likely we will have to inform the coast guard of our engine problem on our arrival. It is possible to run it under low revs for about 15 minutes but with very strong tides this is not going to be ideal. Later that night the wind direction changed and we were pushed west, away from our destination. We tacked but this just sent us back in the direction we had come from. Nothing more to do than lay to hull and wait for the wind direction to change.
Wednesday 16.09.15: Up at 02:00 as the wind had changed in our favour. Sails out and we were off again. Our destination kept changing. Was it Brest or some port closer? It was some port closer as the repairs to the sails were torn open again. When the wind had dropped the sails were lowered and this time, part of the material from one of the spray dodgers was used to strengthen the tear. At the same time I had another look at trying to sort out the water cooling system. Still no good. We had finally made contact with a passing merchant vessel who were able to provide us with the latest weather forecast and to let the French coastguard see aware of our situation, just in case it got worse! It would appear that the VHF radio only had an operating distance of around 7nm!!! Once the sails were hoisted it was time to go, but the wind had died and we were just gently rocking our way towards Guilvinec, our new destination. Later that afternoon the wind strength increased and we were on the move again. Wind strength up to 35knots and repairs still holding good. Later on that evening when we were in VHF radio range of shore we contacted the coastguard ourselves, requesting a tow into the port. When I was able to get a mobile phone signal I received a couple of text messages from Helen. Little did we know that the Spanish and French coast guards had sent out alert messages to passing ships to look out for us as they had not heard from us for 'several' days. At just after 23:00 we were met by our towing vessel and taken into the port. No sooner had we arrived when the customs police made a call and checked over the boat.
Thursday 17.09.15: Formalities completed it was now into the early hours of the morning. A beer, some scotch and a bottle of wine later it was time for bed. Up at 12:00 it was time to find that engineer and sail repairer. With my limited French both could be difficult. I found an engineer but I'm not sure if I'm getting through to him what the issue is. He's now gone off to get another person! Thought that the sea water intake could be blocked. Diving gear put on. Clear! The second person checked the sea water filter, decided it was blocked (it didn't look it) and then started the engine. It pumped water out. Problem fixed. Next issue was to get the sails down and to the sail repairer. When I went to start the engine the starter switch packed up. Couldn't turn the boat about to face the wind so had to do it with wind behind and hopefully not damage the sails any further. Sails taken to the repairer. Next task was to find a pair of deep cycle batteries. Thought the chandlers would have them but they are more into tourist items rather than marine parts, so no batteries nor a starter switch. It would appear that all crew are leaving tomorrow.
Friday 18.09.15: Crew abandoned me - and at the same time my IPad went missing. Phoned up the co skipper and he replied that neither he nor the other two crew had it. Fortunately I had made good friends with the harbour master who was willing to drive me around the area. Sails collected from the sail repairer. Replacement battery found, not quite the deep charge battery that I was looking to buy but it would do, and a new replacement VHF radio. It didn't dawn upon me at the time but the reason why the VHF radio was not showing our Lat and Long was because I had tried to change the MMSI number that I had received when I registered the boat with the MCA. Also, with the new radio I was still unable to get it linked to the very old Garmin 126 GPS!
Saturday 19.09.15: Arrangements made to get a replacement crew. Thankfully was able to persuade my brother (a sailor), Kevin, who had assisted me in taking the yacht from Italy to Greece to join me with the sailing back to the UK and Andy to drive my new crew from England to Le Guilvinec, and then return home with some of my surplus equipment. The next few days I was just kicking my heels waiting for them to turn up.
Thursday 24.09.15: New crew arrived, fed and watered and ready for an early start the following morning to catch the tides. Repaired sails bent on - despite facing the wrong direction.
Friday 25.09.15 - Wednesday 30.09.15: Cooked breakfast for everyone. Andy headed off home by car, we left Le Guilvinec under engine until we were clear of all the low lying rocks before setting sails. The timings were spot on and we made good progress until a check of the bilges showed a lot of water coming in. Having stripped down the cooling system when the alarm sounded some time ago - back crossing the Bay of Biscay, I noticed that I had only replaced one jubilee clip rather than the recommended two on the exhaust water pipe. This done the problem was solved. we continued making good progress until we crossed the shipping lanes in the English Channel and we were beating again wind, tide and current! As we approached Weymouth we were down to less than 1/4 tank of diesel and I had used up all of the reserves. I contacted the Coast guards to find out when the tides would be in our favour due to the fuel situation and they decided to send out the life boat. Not again! They escorted us into Weymouth harbour where we spent the next two nights. Fuelled up, Kevin had to make his way back to Plymouth so Michael and I made our way off to Swanwick. Timing it with the tides and the firing ranges we made it back out into the channel in the early evening. The winds got back up, Michael's back was playing up so I made the decision that we should head for Poole. Despite pointing the boat in the direction of Poole the tide and current were pushing us towards the Needles, which is where we intended to sail for, so we left it like this and headed between the mainland and the Isle of Wight. Once through the shallows we got stuck by the tides again and couldn't move forward, nor even make it up the estuary towards Lymington. Nearly six hours later we were on our way again, and got into Swanwick just before 09:00. What a journey!!! Just a note of caution, Don't employ Pete Green as your delivery company.
Crossing the Bay of Biscay in gale force winds. Over the three nights the wind speeds started at 48kts, then 56kts and increased to 63kts. At the time the sails were shredded and due to the sea state the water filter got clogged with seaweed, setting off the engine alarm!