Kurukulla at Anegada, BVI

Friday, 24 September 2010

OPDEF RECTIFIED – Sea trials successful!

By Friday evening the new engine was in place, set to work and all the paperwork for its export from Croatia was complete. What a bureaucratic nightmare, but that is another story! That done a short sea trial was conducted whilst moving from one section of the marina to another to make way for the returning charter hoards. If you need engineering support in this part of Croatia I can recommend Petar Vrvilo, at Kastella Auto, agents for Volvo Penta, Sole and Steyr but not limited to those marques. +385(0)21 238467, excellent service and ever willing.

Friday night was yet another end of charter dinner with the other boat crews, this time at a restaurant called “The Ballet School”! Nothing to do with the diners but a reference to the previous use of the building. Then on Saturday all went their separate ways including David Ashby in Camilla, who set off on a rapid transit to Brindisi to lay up and then travel onwards to UK by air.

In the meantime I set off for the western anchorage at Trogir for a single night; I had to remain near the airhead as I had inherited two of Davids' crew who were not departing until the Saturday night and Sunday morning. Once they were landed I headed off for the anchorage at Uvala Razetinovac, one of the best sheltered anchorages in the area. Just as well; after arriving I decided to install the replacement inverter under the chart table, awkward but do-able; that is until I put my back out for a second time! This time I felt it going and although painful I was able to shift position quickly and persuade whatever it was trying to make a bid for freedom to go back into place. Two days rest and it was on the mend.

On Tuesday afternoon I was joined in the anchorage by Michael Forest, and his crew Pablo, in his new boat Mitigator, (AKA Contessa Maria II) a Contessa 32. We dined onboard Kurukulla, breakfasted onboard Mitigator, (during which time we serviced Mitigator's primary winches which had been giving trouble) and then set off for an early afternoon cruise in company to Necujam in Solta. I arrived first, anchored Kurukulla with stern line ashore, and then welcomed Mitigator alongside. This morning, with a forecast of gale force southerly winds, I decided to stay put and not put my back to the test. Michael and Pablo needed to renew Mitigator's cruising permit and therefore had no choice but to set off to cruise southwards. Before departing we agreed to meet up in Mljet where my nephew is joining and has agreed to bring out some spares for Michael.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

What is history?

The BBQ was a great success despite the need to try to find all the gear we had taken ashore in the pitch black of a moonless night. Next day we Sailed off the anchor and headed into the eastern anchorage at Trogir to pick up three of the following week's crew, Melvin, Mike and Tim, and four of David Ashby's joiners, Mike, Steve, Kelsey and Julian. With this crowd onboard (excluding Tim who was scheduled to arrive later in the afternoon) we waited for David and Francesco to arrive. David was returning to Croatia from the UK via Brindisi where he had left Camilla.

Camilla duly arrived at about 1500 and Tim by 1630. From here we all (14 of us) set off for Necujam, in Solta for a departure/arrival celebration supper in the restaurant there. With the large number of people to land and only two 4/5 man dinghies it was always going to be a logistical challenge; when David's outboard decided to refuse to participate, the challenge turned into a nightmare. Suffice to say we made very few friends in the anchorage with the number times we passed to and fro with Kurukulla's dinghy towing Camilla's. With all back on board, by midnight'ish, the late night revellers decided that the night was still young. Next morning however we all felt our age! A swim in the cool waters of the anchorage was the only cure.

From here we had to be in Rogac, only one mile away, for the 1530 ferry departure; to dispatch Chris, Martin, Dom and Pete back via Split to UK. We arrived at 1200, refuelled, watered and the enjoyed a final goodbye lunch at the local restaurant before seeing them off on the ferry. The remainder of us set off for Luka Tiha where we planned to meet up with a large group of sailing friends who had chartered several boats from Kastela Marina near Split. Kastela was a place I was to get to know very well before many days had passed! Another late night party ensued and another early morning swim to clear the head!

Next morning we set off for Viz via a lunchtime swim stop in the St Klement Islands. Jerolim is slowly recovering from last year's fire. Amazingly, whilst at anchor, who should turn up but Michael Forest, a sailing friend from UK, in his newly acquired Contessa 32; this summer has been full of such co-incidences. Following lunch onboard Kurukulla, with Michael and his crew Pablo as guests, we were forced to leave them and set off for our overnight venue of Viz; they were destined for Split.

Viz has never been a favourite with David and Camilla and after this visit I doubt he will ever set foot on the island again. Having squeezed himself into a tight anchorage, requiring a line ashore to arrest the swing, a local fisherman took exception to the arrangement and cut David's shore line. Not surprisingly an altercation ensued between David, who is of not insignificant proportions, and the one armed local fisherman. Following interventions by harbour authorities and local police peace was restored but due to the low value of a mooring line (and one suspects the fact the fisherman was local) no further action was taken despite the potential for extensive damage to be caused by such recklessness!

By our arrival in Viz I was becoming increasingly concerned by the volume of oil appearing in Kurukulla's wake. Not unburned fuel but lub oil! Up until this season her engine has never consumed excessive oil. We were pinned down in Viz for two days by the Scirocco (strong south-easterly wind) but eventually left in a boisterous east wind and very lumpy sea to head for the eastern end of Brac. Departure was accompanied by the usual oily wake and I decided that over the next two days I would have to make my way back to Split and find the cause. After a brief look in Bobovisce, searching for a potable water supply for Camilla, we sailed down to Milna where I anchored in the roads to avoid having to run the engine whilst Camilla again went in in search of water. After an unsuccessful half hour they to anchored in the roads for the night, near us.

Next morning we sailed off the anchor and headed north. After talking to the various agents ashore, drawing heavily on the local knowledge of Velko, (a local friend who taxi drives in his spare time and has helped me considerably, last year and this, with getting crews to/from the airport to the right place), I decided to head for Kastella Marina. On arrival we were met by Velko and the local Volvo Agent, Petar; from there the saga started! There were only two possibilities to explain the oil loss, turbocharger or oil cooler (which for some strange reason is not on the fresh water cooling circuit!). An hour later the offending oil cooler departed in the hands of Petar and I breathed a deep sigh of relief; the much cheaper of the two potential repairs! That night 40 of us (the charter team had returned) set off for a meal in the ancient water mill at Trogir, the Mlinice Pantan, +385 21895095, to celebrate, amongst other things, Steve's 30th birthday and the prospect of a reasonably priced repair to Kurukulla. A great night was had by all with the, by now, habitual sore heads in the morning!

After a day in port avoiding the Bura (Strong north-easterly winds) and with the offending oil cooler repaired and reinstalled we set off again in the company of Camilla. No oil in the wake, not a care in the world and then …........ the engine seized! A short dying burst of black smoke, a puff of soot in the water for old time's sake and silence! No warnings, no alarms. Camilla towed us ignominiously back to the harbour entrance from where we were escorted in by the marina RIB; back to the same berth from which we had departed an hour earlier! Camilla wished us well and went on their way, there was no more they could do. Petar immediately came back onboard to discover what had gone wrong. The oil pump had lost suction and the whole oil gallery of the engine was dry. Try as I might I could not link this to the work he had done previously, this despite hours of poring over the books and diagrams. We re-primed the pump, installed an oil pressure gauge, barred over and then re-started the engine (which by now had cooled and freed up somewhat), all done with our fingers crossed. Eureka, good oil pressure, good engine response and no smoke. Breathe a second, heartfelt, sigh of relief! Next day (Sunday) Petar came down to the boat we again started the engine, all normal, idled it for half an hour and then prepared to sail for an hour long engine trial. This time our continuous monitoring of the oil pressure allowed us to stop the engine just before it seized, again. The oil pressure collapsed after exactly the same period of running and ironically in exactly the same place! The engine would turn, just, but not start! It was “un-roll the genoa”, sail back to the marina in the light southerly breeze and make another phone call to Petar, who by now was getting to know us quite well! With no Camilla, and a very slow response from the marina to our request for a tow, we sailed into the marina (maintenance area this time!) and made a gentle alongside. Out came the books and there commenced a lot of head scratching. All to no avail! By the end of the day we had arranged to dispatch the remaining crew members to join other boats who had spare places and I had “gritted my teeth” and agreed to purchase €6100 worth of new engine. In the midst of all this Melvin had also managed to blow up the inverter by plugging the vacuum cleaner into it; he was not to know we had not yet shut down the inverter and shifted to shore supply!

That night we all re-grouped at Trogir for a dinner to mark Mike and Steve's departure. Our return journey to Kastella was nothing if not by good fortune. In the absence of any taxis we had walked to the bus station in order to attempt to catch a bus along the coast and we were rewarded for our efforts when a bus arrived very shortly after us; our elation however was to be short lived. It was the last bus to arrive at Trogir that night and the driver informed us in a mixture of broken English and Croatian that it was not going anywhere until 0400! With a beaming smile, he then announced that he lived in Kastela and would give us a lift. Amazing kindness and a sense of humour to boot; not commonly found in Croatia, they are a very serious people!

Yesterday morning the others departed Kurukulla to join other boats. By mid-day the new engine (a Sola diesel, Mitsubishi made) had been sourced and Petar and I set about removing the old engine; by evening it was ready to sling out. This morning I received a reply to my cry for help and advice to “Marine Engineering Looe”, Plymouth Branch; they offered a diagnosis of the problem, a failed “O” seal in the oil pump suction line; deep in the engine. One of their engineers had seen this problem before! Petar was “off the hook”, nothing to do with his earlier repair, pure coincidence. I was reminded of that great line in the film “The History Boys” …......... “ Do you know what history is? It's just one f....ing thing after another!” In the past few days the history of Kurukulla has been exactly that! To save my sanity the MEL engineer also said that repairing the old engine was not a sensible option. It is verging on obsolete, no longer supported by Volvo spares, and would cost 80% of the cost of installing the new engine. Phew, at least I got that decision right! Anyone with a Volvo Penta engine with problems, go to Marine Engineering Looe. +44 1752 226143. I certainly can't thank them enough for their helpful support. The situation now is that we are having the best sailing weather seen in the past fortnight, the old engine is sitting on the jetty and a shiny new one is residing in the engine bay waiting to be bolted down and connected up. Where do I remember doing this sort of thing before? Could it be in the RN? Further OPDEF Sitreps to follow. (For the non RN amongst the readers OPDEF is an OPerational DEFect signal.)

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Pag to Primosten

Our first stop in Pag was Uvala Jurjevica, a swimming bay on the west coast of the northern end of the island. Two hours sunning and swimming, whilst waiting for the wind to return, was pleasantly passed away but to no avail. At 1700 we ghosted out of the bay under Main and No 1 Genoa but less than 30 minutes later we were forced to hoist the “iron foresail” and motor south to our chosen overnight anchorage at Strasko; a somewhat open anchorage, off a camp-site, but in the prevailing settled conditions perfectly tenable.

Next morning dawned equally windless so we contented ourselves with a visit to the camp-site ablutions (free hot water showers!) and a purchase of essentials from the shop. We then set off for Molat and the Kornati Islands. En route we anchored for lunch and a swim in Uvala Juzna Slatina; it is listed in the pilot as one of the nicest beaches in Croatia but really nothing to rave about. After an hour and a half we set off again, in a now brisk wind, for the island of Skarda where, on the southern coast, there is the most delightful inlet, Uvala Griparika; very quiet, despite the laid moorings with lines ashore, with a sole fortified house at the head of the inlet. We tacked up the inlet, sailed on to the mooring and were enjoying afternoon tea by the time the adjacent yacht, who had motored in ahead of us, had managed to sort out his lines, very satisfying. The moorings cost 11Kn per night per metre, very reasonable for high season.

At the start of the following day we motored to the head of the inlet to satisfy Dom's photographic yearnings and then headed out to beat southwards in a fresh breeze to Molat where we planned to take a lunch break and find water. Two and a half hours later and we were sitting at the restaurant on the quay at Molat eating Calamari Fritti and supping a beer, after which we had to wait until 1700 for the water man to reappear (he does not work the afternoons); we occupied our time with a walking tour of the village. After watering we set off, again on the wind, for the anchorage at Planatak. This we reached at 1930 just as the wind was dying and the light fading. There were two other British yachts in the anchorage and one small German but plenty of space for all of us inside the protecting islands. Supper of Pasta Carbonara, served on deck, followed by a film night brought the day to a close.

Nearby was one of the fortified submarine bunkers, excavated directly into the cliffs, so to start the new day with a piece of history we weighted anchor and ghosted over to it for a closer look before setting off south again. Slowly what wind there was died and we were forced to intermittently resorted to the the “iron foresail” during the next three hours. Finally we entered Sali, a very attractive port, despite the fish packing facility on the foreshore, where we were able to water again, victual and enjoy a lunchtime beer. A Med. moor, under engine, on arrival but departure under sail was the order of the day. From here it was a spinnaker sail down through the Katina passage (very short,tight gap; only 10m wide) and then onwards to the restaurant Beban in the bay at Koritnica on Otok Kornat. The bay, as an anchorage, I would heartily recommend for reasons I will explain later. The restaurant not so. Last year the food served was good and the service average; this year the food was very expensive, only average and the service poor. I will not be returning! We were there in the calm before the storm! Towards the end of the meal the wind and rain started; Granny (a restaurant family member) made a hasty grab to rescue her plant pots arranged along the window sill, Dom and I made a hasty departure for Kurukulla, fitted the engine to the dinghy, then he went back to retrieve the others whilst I prepared Kurukulla for the coming storm. They got back just in time, seconds before the heavens opened. Throughout that night we had winds gusting up to 70 knots from both South and North, repeatedly turning us through 180 degrees; of the five boats in the anchorage only two survived the night, three others dragged off into the middle distance, including one “super yacht”. Our anchor held firm, in fact so firm that it was one heck of a job to extract it from the mud and sand next morning. It was buried without trace!

The following day it was as if nothing had happened, sunshine and a moderate breeze! We sailed off southwards on a close reach in the 15 knot NE breeze and headed for the anchorage at Kosirina, Murter, a brisk sail and completed in less than three hours. A dinghy ride ashore for a beer or two in the local camp-site bar and then in was back to the boat for a roast chicken supper.

Dawn was not welcoming, grey and miserable with a forecast of much worse to come. I decided therefore to head for Sibenik and the Krka River and go upriver to see the falls; thus sheltering from the worst of the winds. Having entered the Kanal Sv Ante, and reached Sibenik, the heavens opened. Hence the first part of the passage up river saw me break out the foul weather gear for the first time this year. The others sheltered below! The scenery was spectacular but as we had to return downstream via the same route it was not worth getting soaked for! We anchored overnight at Rasline, two thirds of the way up river, watched a film and then enjoyed a relatively early night. Next day we set off moderately early, having avoided worst of the Bora (strong north wind) overnight, to motor up to Skradin. Once there we anchored opposite the town and set off in the dinghy to view the falls. Half a mile upstream there is a relatively low bridge and an out-post of the park police. This was as far as we got! We were informed that not even an inflatable dinghy was allowed up river beyond this point! (Despite the fact that the pilot says it is possible). The only way to see the falls is to board one of the tourist boats and, of course, pay..... 90Kn (£11) for the first leg which is not so bad until you realise that the best falls are further upstream and for those you pay a further 110Kn..... We decided to put the 200Kn per head it would have cost us towards our lunch! A much better idea and we found a restaurant to be highly recommended, the “Bonaca”, excellent food, friendly service, and enormous fillet steaks cooked to perfection. After lunch and a quick swim we sailed off the anchor and set off downstream sailing all the way back to the entrance to the Kanal St Ante but here the wind deserted us and so forced into an hours motoring to reach the overnight anchorage in Magarna on Otok Zlarin. A fabulous cove with deep water right to the edges. We anchored with a line ashore for the night. A quiet night passed without incident and we were well into the morning routine of breakfast with a swim when the wind shifted and, despite having dug the anchor in well, as we thought, the anchor tripped out resulting in a rather more hasty departure than we had planned! Martin swam ashore to recover the two shore lines that we had been forced to jettison.

From here we sailed the 7 miles to Primosten, on the wind again, in light winds and there we anchored and went ashore for a stroll around the town. So impressed were the others with Primosten, plus the prospect of a band playing in the town square that night, that we decided to stay overnight and had a pizza ashore followed by a glass of wine or two at the local ethnic wine bar and finished off with an ice cream served by a fellow who was a natural entertainer, juggling with the ice cream and joking with every customer, so good was he that Dom attempted to sign him up to come to work in England!

Another quiet night was followed by a quick watering stop on the Primosten jetty and then we set sail for Solta. After 5 hours on the wind, as seems usual, we anchored in Uvala Livka on the southern end of Solta and set up for a BBQ ashore.