Some ancient Greece
04 December 2021
We found time for some exploring and with a hire car first we drove to Lefkada, Nidri and Vasiliki. What a shock. We were last in Levkas over 25 years ago with a charter boat and there were just a couple of other boats on the town quay, but now hundreds if not thousands.
Nicopolis to the north of Preveza has interesting ruins, founded in 29 BCE by Octavian to celebrate victory over Antony and Cleopatra at the battle of Actium. Then to Parga which is also a delight and not changed that much in the last 25+ years but clearly easier to visit in October than August we imagine.
Mark and Pamela were also in Preveza to haul out, and we were able to hang out together again.
The series of false starts did not dent our enthusiasm and although we had what might be seen as some bad luck it did happen in the most favourable circumstances and so we count our blessings and look forward to cruising in the Adriatic in 2022.
Maybe, just maybe … and something new
04 December 2021
Our technicians returned late in September and installed the new parts. We ran the engine. Revved up, throttled back, engaged transmission, turned it off, started again … for 30 minutes … for another 30 minutes … and another 30 minutes … and crossed our fingers.
With all appearing to be well we prepared to had for Greece, stocking up with Sicilian goodies including sufficient Nero d’Avola, the famous Sicilian wine, to see us through to our return to the UK. Just before we left, we had another Avola link as the first leg of the cycle race Giro di Sicilia started there and finished in Licata – great to watch and a big deal for the town. It provided a demonstration of how seriously the Italians have been taking the prevention of Covid infections as the spectator areas were heavily patrolled by police and ensuring compliance with mask wearing – you don’t argue with a 6ft 2ins muscular 30 years old member of the Flying Squad … armed with a gun.
We said our farewells to Gaspare and Alla at the Blue Sky bar and the lovely marina staff.
However, in the meantime, we had been developing increasing anxiety about our service batteries which were not coming up to full charge. They were six years old but had only been through about 1200 cycles. Nevertheless, our optimism was undented and finally with a certain amount of trepidation we left Licata on 30th September bound for Preveza, Greece where we planned to haul out for much needed maintenance work on the hull and rudder.
With little wind, we motored the first leg of 70nm to Porto Palo at the south-east corner of Sicily which could be our jump off point for Preveza. There is an enormous anchoring area and good shelter … except from the south. After two days, during which we had a splendid lunch at one of the fish restaurants in the harbour, the wind shifted to the south making the anchorage uncomfortable. We then motor-sailed the 30nm to Siracusa which has another large anchoring area, and stayed one night. During this, our concerns about the batteries were heightened as there was insufficient power to raise the anchor using the electric windlass. However, manually operating the windlass to haul in 40 metres of 10mm chain and a 27kg anchor provided much needed exercise now that the pop-up gym was no longer popping.
A False Start (geddit?)
04 December 2021
Our technicians reappeared at the beginning of September refreshed and enthusiastic, installing a second new fuel injection pump. The engine started and was fine for 30 minutes and then the engine cut out when throttled back and would not restart. We were now on our third pump counting our original, so clearly the pump was not the problem. Much head scratching led them to determine that the problem lay with the speed governors and the fuel pump activation rod, so more parts were ordered from Volvo and a return trip would be required. And so it came to pass … but Volvo had sent the wrong parts.
Another delay, more yoga, pop-up gym and walking then … and more espresso macchiati and cannoli at Café Sant’Angelo… and negronis also at Café San Angelo. The sun shone; it was warm. We should complain?
Friends Mark and Pamela, on s/y Grace Richard, arrived for a few days and we explored, ate and drank with them, which was good.
We also joined with other cruisers in the marina on 18 September for International Coastal Clean-up Day, retrieving vast quantities of polystyrene from boxes discarded by local fishermen and hundreds of plastic bottles.
04 December 2021
The mutterings of one of the technicians about water in our diesel was a major concern, especially after we had emptied and thoroughly cleaned the fuel tank and replaced the fuel lines in January 2020, as well as installing the water sedimenter which allowed us to cycle the diesel from the bottom of the tank and back in at the top. In addition, we had poured in a liberal dose of diesel bug treatment along with fresh diesel.
We took a sample to a petrochemical lab in Augusta and made a trip of it, staying overnight in Ortigia, Siracusa which is a fascinating and charming Sicilian gem. The Duomo di Siracusa is a ‘must visit’ with the great Greek Temple of Athena having been built in the 5th century BCE on even older foundations, then incorporated into the cathedral in the 7th century CE, converted to a mosque in the 9th century and back in the 11th century when Norman additions were made. Then further Baroque renovations in the 18th century make it such a marvellous patchwork of styles.
An old friend George on s/y Rio had made his way from Thailand to the Mediterranean via the Red Sea and he was visiting Siracusa so we were fortunate to have the opportunity to meet up. There was much to yarn about and the craic was mighty.
The results of the fuel analysis were good, showing water content of 108ppm and the international maximum standard is 200ppm.
We settled into a regime of yoga; pop-up gym on the boat using dive weights, exercise bands and the companionway steps; and long walks. There is a convivial community of cruisers in Licata, though with the British contingent now much depleted because of the Schengen rules, and excellent staff at the Marina di Cala del Sole. An on-site chandlery can get pretty much everything a cruiser needs and there are cafes for relaxation.
There are two downsides to Licata: a lack of waste recycling and collection and the feral dogs which make their presence known by requiring pedestrians to be very wary about where they step.
A holiday in Licata
04 December 2021
With three to four weeks to spare we settled in to enjoying Licata. The climb up to Castel Sant’Angelo (130 metres above sea level) provides panoramic views over the harbour, the marina and along the coast as well as very good exercise. A walk along the cliff top leads to narrow roads reaching down to the wide and soft sand beach, bordered with cliffs riven by water-eroded gullies, and the opportunity to swim behind the rock barrier protecting the shore.
The Baroque part of town has cafes, restaurants and the character that comes with faded glory. Our go-to bar was Blue Sky where Gaspare and Alla made us most welcome and the adjacent pizzeria served up abundantly topped pizzas for a song.
Best laid plans episode 3,728
04 December 2021 | Licata, Sicily
For most cruisers, the whole Covid pandemic meant delays and we were no exception but finally we got away in mid-July. We had the PCR tests and left York for Gatwick with fingers crossed that our results would both be negative and arrive in time for our flight to Catania. Both came good. Gatwick was like some post-apocalyptic wasteland as our train arrived at South Terminal and only North Terminal was open – this was just before the easing of travel restrictions.
Minnie B was in good shape apart from the coating of Sahara dust. Prudence was our guide so we took engine precautions, cycling the diesel through our new water sedimenter, draining off about a fifth of the diesel and replacing with fresh, replacing the impeller, refreshing the oil and hauling out to change the leaking propeller shaft seal and grease the propeller. The sails were bent on and she was prepared for cruising.
The entry requirements for Malta were completed and we were ready for an overnight sail to Valletta. Engine on and Norma let go the bow lines, I let go one of the stern lines, ready to let the other line go, and throttled back to engage transmission … and the engine cut out … and would not restart. Quick scramble to secure the boat, checked fuel to the injection pump – OK; checked the fuel to the injectors – nope. Oh dear, a second false start but once again lucky that it happened while we were in the marina.
This was Sunday 31 July and the technicians arrived on Tuesday to diagnose “oops, Volvo have sent us a faulty fuel injection pump … we will get another one … but it will be the end of August because our firm closes for the Italian August summer holidays …. but it could be water in your diesel”.
The company were sympathetic and apologetic but it was all out of their control, they said.