We finally departed Almerimar Marina around 11am once a light easterly breeze had filled in, we raised the main, poled out the headsail and even rolled out the staysail too, just to make sure we caught all of the breeze that was coming our way. It was a beautiful day, this is how it is supposed to be, blue skies, almost flat seas, light winds, snow capped mountains in the distance and even the occasional dolphin. But of course good things never last, the wind either dies or you get beaten up, at least today we weren’t due for a beating! We sailed for as long as we could, but the wind just died away and with over 40 miles to cover to our anchorage we had to eventually give in and we ended up motoring for 5 hours.
We were headed for Herradura , one of the few bays on the coast and we hoped we would be able to tuck into the corner away from the ever present south easterly swell. Just after 8pm we passed the nearby Marina del Este, rounded the next headland and pulled into the bay. With the engine in very low revs we slowly nudged our way in towards shore looking for the best spot to anchor the night, and then the unthinkable happened, Olive our trusty Volvo engine just stopped without even a hiccup of a warning. So without any further debate we decided that where we were was by far the best spot to anchor, and over it went!!
Now attached to the bottom, it was time for skipper, Mark the Mechanic, to get the engine going again. After owning Balvenie 8 years now and undergoing most of the maintenance and repairs ourselves, there is really not much that Mark does not know about Olive (his other woman!), but this time she had us totally stumped, the engine would turn and turn, but just would not fire. So after checking everything at 11pm we admitted defeat and headed for a much needed sleep.
We awoke the earliest we have in ages, even managed to check into our morning Cruisers Net for a change and say hi to a few friends dotted across the Med. Then with crossed fingers toes and everything else and hoped for an overnight miracle. But it was not to be our lucky day, still plenty of rrrrrrrrr’s but the ole girl just would not start. More checks were done, fuel filters changed, engine bled, air filters changed, then tried with no air filter, lift pump checked (for the technical amongst you) engine bled again and again….. but no joy. Nigel Calder's “Boatowners Mechanical and Electrical Manual “ (otherwise known as “what does Nigel say??) was consulted yet again, and still we came up with no answer.
Plan B was to wait for the wind or afternoon sea breeze to arrive then hoist some sail and sail the 2 miles into the marina. Skipper was itching to give it a go…after all… he’d done it before… yeah right, but that was a 34 foot race boat with half a rig and 6 blokes on board (you know who you are). I was not quite so enthusiastic. My built in alarm system, honed over the past 7 years, was ringing in my ears. Skipper is the first to admit that he has a propensity to turn a bad situation into a very bad and expensive situation if given too much scope to act unsupervised. However, as the morning progressed the wind just would not fill in.
Plan C was to call the nearby marina to see if we could arrange a tow, they were extremely helpful but unfortunately their own tender is only for use within the marina complex and they were not able to find anyone else that could help us. Coastguard could come and get us, but for the 2 miles it would be €300 – we would save that as a last resort. Our dinghy with its small outboard just wasn’t up to the job of towing nearly 20 tons so we decided to sit and wait, hoping for the wind to finally fill in so we could sail around to the marina entrance then be assisted in by the marina tender.
While we waited skipper kept trying. We phoned Volspec in the UK, we have purchased several spares and our new turbo through them so thought they may have a technical side that could help us. They were excellent, and spent nearly an hour on the phone with Mark, talking him through several options, most of which he had already tried. Although they could not shed any light on our problem either, we found them extremely helpful and appreciated the time and advice they gave us.
And so we waited, but the wind didn’t blow – so the boat wouldn’t go – we definitely needed a tow. Just before 3pm a large local inflatable came into the bay and we managed to wave it over. With a little persuasion and enough euro's to fill his petrol tank a couple of times, it was anchor up and off we went. We called the marina and they were ready for us when we were towed in, our little towboat did a great job and we got tied up on to the fuel dock without incident, phew.
Within minutes the marina had organised mechanics and they arrived within an hour. And so the tests started over again, but still Olive refused to start. With all options exhausted, the air filter was removed and a can of miracle spray produced, one squirt straight into the turbo fan was all it took and we were back in working order, absolutely amazing – we want some of this stuff!!!! It creates a mini explosion in the engine and fires the pistons … so I’m told. They tell us it should only be used when everything else has been eliminated, for obvious reasons.
We moved over into a berth for the night, Olive was starting well but she wasn’t running smoothly, the cavitating revs we had experienced before arriving in Cartagena in October had returned. We had hoped the new Turbo and cleaned injectors had solved the problem, but clearly it hadn’t. It was time for the fuel injector pump to be removed and serviced, it was last done over 4 years ago in Singapore after our engine problems in Indonesia, but that was many miles and engine hours ago. We will stay a few days and get it sorted here.
For Cruising info on Herradura and Marina del Este click here to go to our Balvenies Cruising Info blog