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July 2000 Diary

July 30th 2000 Since about one week, Ninas mum, Renata is on board. Nina and me yearn for our home just for us alone. We found out that we like to have guest, but just not longer than a week. We feel constricted in our little home.

After two days in Gerakas we left for Monemvasia. The little town Marina was destroyed from one of the last winter storms and the left over places can be used free of charge. The island Monemvasia with the old town and castle is really beautiful. We were walking along the alleys of the old town and up on top of the mountain, where old ruins of a yet older town stand.

When we left Monemvasia for our next destination, the island Elephanisos, we had to round Cap Malea. Cap Malea is called the Cap Horn of the Mediterran, because it is famous for it's fast weather changes. A stranded tanker at the Cap reminded us emphatic about it's story. We knew from our sailing friend Georg, who lost his main sail, that we should be very careful. We were a bit more lucky and reached the island Elephonisos safely later in the afternoon.

The very next day we sailed to Gerolimani, passed the second cape of the Peleponnes. With little wind we had to motor a lot, but "Otto" our diesel engine decided this time not to make any trouble. Shortly after we made curse for Longo, on the island Sapienza. With this we would have rounded all of the Peleponnes. We sailed early in the morning with very light winds, but as soon as we came close to our last cape, Rassmus the god of the winds, decided to change his mind and strong westerly gales made it impossible for us to round the cape. As we changed our course to the northerly situated town Koroni the wind force dropped as soon as we had the cape behind us. In the end we had to motor again. But Koroni was worth the change of course. We anchored directly under the historical venetian castle. As we climbed the hills to the top we enjoyed the view down to AMBERELLA.

July 20th 2000 Now I have delayed my writing for almost 3 weeks. The time passed so quick and a lot of events happened that I have a hard time to reconstruct all of them.

First of all, after our latest report, we did not leave Iraklion after another 3 days. The gear box rebuild with new seals and gaskets was leaking worse than ever. Frantically me and Georg, our guest on board, were looking for a mechanic who could help us. We put the gearbox on a lathe and had a better look on it and saw another gasket leaking. After the change we had the gearbox running on the lathe for more than one hour and everything seemed fine now.

During this time in Iraklion we used the longer stay with excursions into the country and along the northern coast of Crete. The woman and the children were se nt to Knossos, the famous Minoan palazzo, while George and me zipped around in town in order to fix the mechanical problems.

Because of the time we lost, Georg and Barbara, our guests had to arrive in Kalamata within 10 days, we changed after some discussion our plan to sail along Crete. The prevailing winds in northern Crete introduced this decision, we hoped for better winds further north and set sails for San Thurini. Late evening we left the harbor. Out side was still quite some swell and it was not very comfortable to sail.

Our luck was even worse, because just after 3 hours during a tacking maneuver our jib tore open and we had to take it down immediately. The wind was to strong for the bigger Genoa and to less for the smaller jib. So after 6 hours we did not make any course good. Later in the night the wind increased and we finally sailed the right course. The next day and afternoon we had very light winds and again our diesel engine "Otto" made the work. But after 3 hours it stopped. I checked for fuel problems or air in the fuel but could not find anything. The engine would start easily but after a few turns loose power and die. I could not find the reason for the problem and at the very end the starter motor burned out, which made it impossible to start the engine at all. While AMBERELLA sailed with light winds, I was trying to fix the starter. On coal was burned out, but I did not have a spare, so I was soldering something temporarily. This job took about 2 hours and after 4 starting circles the starter died again. There we were, no engine and the unknown anchorage of San Thurini ahead of us. This volcano island has little good protected anchorage's and even if we were able to anchor a sudden change of weather would arise in more trouble. But tried it anyway. Just south of the outer rim of the volcano were a few beaches with moderate holding. The wind decreased to nil and for the last 200 meters AMBERELLA was pulled by our 3.5 hp outboard engine.

AMBERELLA news letter wrote:

N 36°20.8
E 25°23.9
AMBERELLA arrived in Santhurini Island (Thira Island,) a still active volcano.
It is 60 nm north of Iraklion Crete.
Our bad luck is not yet over.
After we spent a lot of effort and time with the leaking gear box, which seems fine now, our diesel stopped again and I could not find the problem yet. Finally the starter motor was burning out and that was the end of trying to start the engine
I fixed the starter on the way, but it burned again, so we anchored AMBERELLA for the first time without engine.
If we can not find a service in Thira, we have to sail back to Iraklion.

I dropped a second anchor with the dinghy and after I was comfortable we went ashore. The search for an electrician and a mechanic began. The electrician was found the next Monday very quickly and within hours we had a repaired starter motor again. But still the engine would not work. The power dropped as soon as the alternator kicked in.

I met Michel, SV Nomad, who was sailing for 12 years around the world. He wanted to have a look at the engine at the afternoon. We sent all crew ashore and unpacked the tools. First we checked again the fuel system, but even Michel could not find anything. The fuel was flowing smoothly. Than we checked if something blocked the exhaust system. That was a mess. We took a big pipe and made up a secondary exhaust system. But the result was the same. The engine had no power. My worst fears, bad compression, came in mind and after we answered the glow plugs Michel was quite sure this was the problem. The cylinder head gasket seemed blown. He ask me if I was prepared to unscrew the cylinder head, a big operation. Well what could I do, the engine was not running and I had to fix it, because here in San Thurini, a tourist island, was nothing for yachties. I was prepared to sail back to Iraklion without the engine, but why not give it another try. And in the end I would learn something about my engine from Michel, instead of sending a mechanic who would be expensive.

So we took of the cylinder head, but were surprised that the gasket looked fine. After 1 full day of work we put the head back and now what. For this work I could organize a torque wrench, which a local mechanic would borrow free of charge. After all the refit the engine would not run! We checked here and there and finally I decided to take the brand new fuel filters out of the system and bingo the engine run fine !! What a relieve and what a big mess for such a simple problem. Michel and me were laughing, but just a little later we had another problem. Now there was water in the oil. We had to change the oil and the filter. Another nerve breaking hour and finally we had hopes that we could leave the island with a working engine.

The next destination was Milos, some 55 nm North west. The night sail was uneventful, I checked regularly for the engine and we had some good hours of sailing. Nina and me like Milos a lot. The beach was shaded by olive trees and we wanted to stay a little longer to have a break. But our guest Barbara and Georg run out of time. Their Flight from Kalamata to Germany would leave in 55 hours and we had to sail 95 miles to reach at least the main land. Kalamata was to far away, but a bus or ferry would bring them in time to their destination.

We had a few discussion with them, about what to do, because me and Nina were not prepared to hurry in another bad weather situation. Nina and me found that, despite all the bad luck with the mechanic on AMBERELLA, some responsibility for our situation was on Georg. He convinced us on our change of course away from Crete, where we would have only small legs to sail. Nina did not like the idea to sail a 3rd leg in the row by night, while it would have been possible to plan smaller legs. But now with all the delays and the different route we had to sail long legs.

And as if to top all those trouble of the last days we run into another bad weather situation. When we left Milos, everything seamed fine and the weather forecast sounded okay. But after 10 hours at sea the wind picked up to force 7 and high step waves made the ride uncomfortable. We had more than half of the distance behind us when the wind changed a few degrees more on our bowl and we had to beat against the sea once again. The climax of the situation and bad mood on board was, when after reefing the main sail tore into an beyond repair piece of rubbish. I was devastated and wanted just a few hours of sleep and nothing around me. A new main sail is just not an option for our money situation.

When at night the wind dropped, we run the engine for a few hours, but early in the morning I saw water in the oil again. The oil was almost white from the boiling water iside. That was it. I had enough. For a few minutes I was thinking about the reason of so much bad luck. I was so angry at this diesel engine and decided to run it anyway. I concluded that the water did not come from the cooling system, but from the outside, when the bilge water stirred from the boats motions swapped into the oil control inlet. I had to change something about This must have been the right decision, because the water evaporated after 6 hours of running the diesel and finally the oil looked fine and clear again. If I would have stopped the engine, the water in the oil would change the oil to a muddy solution.

July 2nd 2000 Again I have limited time to write an update. AMBERELLA will finally leave Iraklion, after 8 day of fixing a few problems. The outboard engine was repaired, the main sail is patched, the gearbox and the starter motor seam to work again. I had especially bad luck with the gear box. The parts I ordered from USA arrived, but I could use only one set of gasket and oil seal. The prize for the parts was 53 $ and the shipping with UPS was additional 89 $. I could not believe my ears when I heard it. All the other parts were for a different model. I had to cut the gaskets myself and was able to find imperial sized oil seal in Iraklion. So I spent 150 $ only in order to learn another lesson. I hope I have no oil leaks any more. At least I would like to have a break.

On board arrived new crew. Georg and Barbara are crew members for 2 weeks. We will sail western Crete and the Peleponnes until Kalamata.


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