02/05/2013, Puerto Calero, Lanzarote
We are putting our new blue engine in tomorrow under the careful watch of several pairs of eyes. Then we have to link up the electrics, the water, exhaust, fuel, control cables and somehow put the floor back. It never rains on Lanzarote, which is a great boost.
Update: Engine now in place after a lot of heaving and shoving, screwing and bolting. Should be ready to fire up at the weekend.
01/31/2013, Marina Puerto Calero Lanzarote
Pic shows the old diesel on its way up and out at Puerto Calero
We certainly chose a beautiful day to remove the 26 year old Yamaha diesel from Saraoni. It might still have had more life left in it, but constant blown out gaskets, poor starting and intermittent and mysterious water in the sump was just getting a bit too much. Any raw water cooled engine is slowly and insidiously corroding away in its internal passage ways without any way to be properly repaired.
As if to say "help", the engine started well on its last day and we managed to motor without a glitch into a berth at the far end of the Puerto Calero marina. And then, on dis-assembly, we noticed sea water in the exhaust manifold again - maybe a worn gasket from being used too many times, but it could have been a symptom of a crack in one of the cylinder heads or the manifold itself. We've seen it all before in our first engine, and now have no patience for old, unreliable motors.
No one had any interest in taking it off our hands in the rather somnolent varadero here. Perhaps they are more used to millionaires than ordinary cruisers. Maybe, a long wait for spare parts and a total rebuild might have prolonged its life some what. But every time we switched it on we always felt it was going to suddenly die on us at the wrong time.
The weather is just perfect here. It hardly rains in Lanzarote and at this time of year it's not too hot to stop work. With sales tax at only 7%, we probably couldn't do much better on engine cost and weather conditions.
Now we have a rather grubby hole where the old engine was situated so no doubt we will spend longer deciding who is going to clean up all the gunge than the job would realistically actually take to complete.
As so often before in our boating lives, we have learned to do as much of the work as we can by ourselves. The boatyard here doesn't really sell its services and we are wary of the "labour charges" so easily added to the bill just about anywhere in the world. Before we came here we asked about cutting a 1m by 50 cm hole on our fibreglass cockpit floor to be met by rolled eyes and a murmured "Que fea" (sounds nasty), followed by a phone call to a "specialist". In the end. we just used our 25 dollar jigsaw and cut the hole out ourselves, in under forty minutes, on the same day we came onto the marina pen that had been allocated us near the boatyard.
We've done about as much with a diesel engine as any amateur can ever have done in our boating lives - changed the pistons, rings, cylinder liners, valves, injectors and main bearings. We even carried a whole cylinder head in a back pack on a plane from Cairns to Port Moresby and installed it anchored in one of the world's most beautiful anchorages, sheltered by Saraoni island in PNGs Milne Bay.
In the Torres Strait we tacked across from Horn Island to Thursday Island to escape a monsoon storm with our 2 cylinder Kubota actually sitting in the cockpit!
But we've never installed a new engine, so the next few days should prove a new challenge, albeit an expensive one - 7800 euros for the engine plus whatever else we have to pay for!
The new Nanni diesel engine should arrive tomorrow, so we can then do the final measurements aligning it to the propeller shaft and fixing the whole thing down properly next week.
Pic shows Spain's highest mountain - Mt Teide - in the middle of Tenerife.
We are back in Arrecife on the island of Lanzarote after a brief, but fruitful trip to Tenerife.
We are glad we made the long ferry trip. Tenerife is worth seeing in its own right and like a lot of the Canaries the best bits are well away from the coast. The Canaries are not a great cruising ground for yachts - no natural anchorages and the coastline has been ruthlessly exploited for the tourism industry, but there are many beautiful areas inland with plenty of walking and cycling opportunities.
We were very impressed by Tenerife's Teide National Park - Spain's biggest, with its highest mountain - Mt Teide, still actively volcanic. The huge mountain dominates most of the island and itself sits in a massive collapsed caldera with some amazing lava flows.
Also lovely was the Anaga mountain area in the North East with its misty laurasilva forests.
Tenerife was a mas island - more mountains, more frighteningly narrow, twisting, hairpin roads clinging to the sides of hills, greener, cloudier, sunner, more crowded, more traffic, quieter and more spacious - just mas!
We had one of Spain's best public transport trips to and from Santa Cruz - €28 each way on the very comfortable ferry with plenty of leg room and uncrowded decks and free wifi. On the outward route we were able to coast along Lanzarote and then Fuerteventura on the way to Las Palmas where we swapped ships. We also were able to rent an apartment for less than €30 a night on the island while we were there - brand spanking new and all in white - not our best colour as we have a tendency of dropping stuff everywhere.
The Nanni agent at Playa San Juan, Gilberto, was at the ready with a friend who had lived in London and could speak pretty good English. Even though we have some Spanish between us, understanding engine lingo ends up in charades but having the English speaker helped emphasise the do's and don'ts which probably between us we will remember.
They can get the engine over to us within a day, so we only have to get Saraoni 10 miles down the coast to Puerto Calero, where we can get the boatyard to haul the old Yamaha out, we clean up the mess underneath, do the final measurements and adjustments for the new engine and hopefully install the new one. Quite a bit of thinking and Googling involved and now we are up to the gear lever stage wondering whether the old one will work with the new mechanical gearbox.
01/15/2013, Arrecife, Lanzarote, Canaries
We are off to Tenerife (by ferry) in search of an elusive new engine. A strange tale. We didn't intend coming anywhere near the Canaries when we left Gibraltar, but our Yamaha has gasped its last breath right here in Arrecife, or at least will not be revived without major open heart surgery. We soon realized that with the plethora of marine services and a low tax rate, the Canaries might very well be just the place where we put our hands deep into our metaphorical pockets and replace the ailing iron mainsail, which has done such gallant service up to now.
Lanzarote seemed the least likely island at first sight to make the change, but that's where we were. We soon dismissed the Yanmar and the Volvo (too pricey), the Spanish Sole (too fat), the Dutch Vetus (too long), but no sign of the two Kubota add ons : the French Nanni (about right) and the British Beta (but it wasn't better!)
The Nanni was in Tenerife, the Beta in Malaga - not in Arrecife. Blow!
The recession has hit the Canaries almost as much as the mainland. It wasn't quite so obvious when we first arrived in this strange place of barren lava fields, volcanos, whitewashed houses and even more whitewashed Northern European tourists, but after a while the same pattern of closed businesses, a somewhat melancholy air and perception that not everybody is benefiting from Lanzarote Inc. is noticeable
We are lucky to be better off than usual, precisely when Europe is plodding economically. Work orders pour in to our little cyber office:from faceless men and women around the world who want their websites revamped. We can hardly cope with demand, which is just as well as our bank account will be emptying faster than we can fill it soon.
While we contemplate the changeover, the most expensive project we've had since leaving NZ 6 years ago, at least the weather has been fantastic. Not a drop of rain since leaving Gibraltar and mostly blue skies and just the right temperature. Since removing the old engine and inserting the new one will mean physically sawing a great hole in our fibreglass cockpit, that is good news!
Arrecife might have an air of depression about it but not so far along the coast are Playa Blanca and Honda bursting at the seams with the not so young European sunseekers cycling, walking, zimmer framing and the like and sitting supping cheap Spanish wine. Definitely a place to steer away from but it does have a good 10 km bike track which is how we caught up with the other side of Lanzarote. Meanwhile, Lanzarote Marina, right inside Puerto Naos is surely going to be one of the best marinas for shelter and services when it's complete very soon judging by the effort going into putting in the pontoon installation.
There are still anchoring opportunities available in the inner harbour beside the container port which is well sheltered from all but southerlies winds and with good access to town via a sandy beach and a walking/cycling track. Virtually everything can be bought in Arrecife, except a diesel engine that will fit Saraoni! There is a Lidl, Hyperdino and Spar supermarkets plus a couple of well stocked hardware shops with plenty of marine accessories.
12/31/2012, Lanzarote, Canaries
Arrived in Arrecife, the small capital of Lanzarote in the Canaries from Agadir. We departed Agadir after the policeman stamped our passports; however we had to wait until he finally woke from his slumber in the port office. We clattered and clanged for the first 5 hours using our weary motor, - no wind of any significance in Africa's lee. Then, with true ocean predictability the wind came with a bang and we galloped along with reefed sails at between 5.5 and 6.5 knots and 18-25 knots of wind, at first on the beam, then slightly abaft on the starboard quarter. Good, fast sailing at last!
Buoyweather predicted the stronger winds quite accurately. but the rolling and tossing, jolting and jerking meant that neither of us could sleep for more than 30 minutes at a time.
We arrived outside the port of Arrecife in the dead of night and managed with a lot of verbal abuse to swerve across big swells and then negotiate the lights and make our way into the peace and quiet of the container port anchorage.
We are in the Canaries to replace the dodgy diesel after much soul searching. The engine - a raw water cooled Yamaha, installed in Australia - needs substantial rebuilding after 7000 hours and 26 years of life. Yamaha no longer makes diesel engines and parts are hard to get and expensive, making a replacement with another, more modern engine the more realistic alternative. Whether we have time to source what we need, get the installation done and still get across to the Caribbean before the 2013 hurricane season kicks in is not certain yet.
12/24/2012, Agadir marina
Arrived safely in Agadir marina. Beautiful warm, sunny weather. As the area was destroyed by an earthquake in the 1960's, the city seems more Mediterranean than African with its relatively new white washed apartments and hotel complexes. The marina is situated within a man made apartment complex but the continuous swell outside, even though certainly no worse than Finike in Turkey and Aghios Nikolaos in Greece, manages to invade the area but only so much that the mooring ropes creak and groan. There are very few transient yachts here and certainly none that are Caribbean bound like ourselves. We have decided that we will leave when we are ready and unless we feel we have a pressing need to do any more preparations for the Atlantic we will go down the coast of Africa and then sidle off towards Sal in the Cabo Verde Islands and not go to the Canaries.
12/22/2012, Off the Moroccan Coast
Just 10 miles from Agadir on a warmish, sunny morning. The wind has disappeared and, now in the lee of Cape Ghir, the big swell of yesterday has almost gone too. Dry, scrubby hills line the coast - quite different from the flat, built up agricultural and industrial landscape between Rabat and Casablanca.
The SailMail saga was solved when it was discovered that the new serial port to usb cable we had bought in Gibraltar was faulty. Luckily we had two old but still serviceable cables bought in Auckland 10 years ago which still work well. Now we have discovered that connection is good at almost all times of the day - this might seem trivial, but it is our only way of weather forecasting when on the longer ocean trips to come.
The only radio net we know of - (there might be more), which has so often served the trans Atlantic cruising community was suspended early this year when the few people using it arrived in the Caribbean, so we have no other communication with the outside world.
12/21/2012, Off the Moroccan Coast
The north easterly did arrive - not that much - 10 knots or so, but enough to set genoa and mizzen and we are now coasting down between Safi and Essouaira. The North West swell has grown to about two and a half metres, again as predicted. Sailmail has been working ok from time to time. We used a Canadian station last night - Nova Scotia, then Belgium came back quite strongly. Not sure what the problem is as there seems to be enough interference now and again for the computer to freeze up.
Clear blue sky with the sun shining nicely. It was cold in the night, but ok in the daytime if you can sit in the sun. A few gannets around and 2 sets of dolphins glided passed in the night. Identifiable by the sounds they make gulping air.
Las Palmas Port Radio, via Arrecife in Lanzarote is now booming in from time to time on Ch 16. Last night a ship got to within half a mile of our stern and then did a sudden shift to clear us - seemed a bit bad tempered when we called him up to tell him he was breathing down our necks. We guessed he must have seen us and was probably trying to avoid us as he resumed on his previous course once he had passed. We had spotted him on the AIS and he didn't seem to be too close. A few ships around as we passed El Jadida / Jors Lasfar Ports, now nothing.
Another 24 hours till we round Cape Ghir for the last stretch into Agadir.
12/20/2012, Off the Moroccan Coast
Everything going smoothly on SV Saraoni, although the breeze is too light to turn the motor off. The Northeasterly should fill in tonight if the forecast is correct. Should be in Agadir by Saturday noon, then it is southerly again for two days. Plenty so see from Agadir, including Souss-Massa National Park, so will stay a few days before venturing further South towards Sal in the Cape Verde islands, off Senegal. Sailmail not good enough for a radio signal, except at night, so are using up last bit of Spanish modem time!
---------- radio email processed by SailMail for information see: http://www.sailmail.com
Pic shows snake charmer and cobra in Marrakech's Jemaa el Fna square
We boarded the Fez to Marrakech express at Mohammedia's posh gare and discovered that a fair percentage of Morocco's population was already on the train or had decided to visit Marrakech with us. Nevertheless with a bit of pseudo French negotiation we got two comfortable seats and watched Morocco roll by over the next four hours. The express was a little slow, as it seemed to stop in a number of towns on the way. Casablanca was first up on the coastal plain and then we made our way across increasingly undulating bare hills - green and grassy, with the occasional olive grove and wandering sheep herd.
Marrakech's beautiful new railway station was in the middle of the new town,which was easy to negotiate along wide boulevards, parks and fountains.
Then came the medina and the souks. We had booked the cheapest hotel in Marrakech online as is our normal custom - a place called Riad Dar Nael. This appeared to be on the other side of the medina from the large, chaotic and lively square called Jemaa el Fna- a fatal mistake!. We dived into the warren of labyrinthine alleyways in pursuit of the cheapest guesthouse in Marrakech - this place made Kathmandu's maze of alleyways seem positively ordered and simple to navigate. We soon learned that honey tongued "helpers" who went out of their way to lead us through the alleyways or derbs, were keen to earn a dirham or two.
We eventually arrived at an ornate door down a dark alleyway which opened to reveal our hostess clothed in full burkha with a pair of glasses peering out from her veil, ready with a welcome glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.
It was a comfortabke retreat and we did finally manage to get to and from Jemaa el Fna twice more in our brief stay, eat couscous and watch the entertainment and activity all around us. The snowy peaks of the High Atlas, including 4000 odd metres high Jebel Toukbal (North Africa's highest peak) were etched against the blue sky in the distance. If we had been in Morocco a month or two earlier then we would probably have made a beeline for the open spaces of the mountains, but time is getting on this year.
With a stroll through Marrakech's kasbah this morning and past Royal Palaces, the mellah - the Jewish quarter- we are now on our way back to Mohammedia to get the boat ready for the next leg of our Atlantic journey.
12/14/2012, Mohammedia, Morocco
Pic sows the Bouragreg river at Rabat and Rabat's kasbah
The weather is still not suitable for the run to the Canaries and southwards. Unfavourable winds with a large 6 m swell coming from a deep low off Portugal doesn't seem a lot of fun, so we are staying put until a suitable weather window appears over the horizon. Mohammedia is certainly not a sleepy fishing village - it's bustling with activity. With a huge refinery nearby and a thriving fishing fleet, there is a lot of hustle and bustle.
We are situated within a small marina, with mostly game fishing boats surrounding us and we have to show our passports every time we leave the port. The town itself is not that inspiring but has some nicely kept gardens and a fish market surrounded by small fish restaurants, very popular amongst the locals.
We took a train to the administrative capital of Rabat and had a wander round. Not a tourist in sight. We are just beginning to wonder where all the millions of tourists that come here hang out. Rabat has a nice marina, which is also a lot cheaper than the one in Mohammedia, but it is just up a barred river. We passed it a couple of days ago in flat seas, but were unsure how long it would be till we could get out again.
Tomorrow we are going to check out Marrakech by train. The fares are half the price of Spanish buses for the same distance and an overnight stay is only 22 euros so not too expensive for us.
12/11/2012, Mohammedia near Casablanca
Pod of common dolphins off the Moroccan coast
Arrived at the port of Mohammedia after an overnight passage from Gibraltar.
The port has Morocco's largest refinery, but also a little marina where we are berthed. Here for a few days while we tap away on the computers to pay for all the diesel we have just burned up and the rather expensive marina prices.
The passage was in mostly light winds as forecast, but they turned right on the nose as we left the Gibraltar Strait and headed South past Cape Espartel. We had a whole day of headwinds - fortunately not too strong before we were able to put up full sail.
Today we passed hundreds of gannets, petrel, dolphins and our first whale since the Indian Ocean - a sign that the continental shelf on this side of Africa still has plenty of marine life despite the numerous trawlers and odd assortment of fishing contraptions we have passed.
One consolation is that the diesel engine has been working well, despite an oil leak, which has now been fixed. It has certainly had a good work out.
The winds turn south westerly for a few days while we are here - and then there is a 6 metre swell forecast and the wind shifts back to the north.
Time to see something of Morocco. Bye bye Europe.