Monday, 2 July 2012

All he wants for his birthday...

Italy is experiencing a heat wave. Or at least I hope it's a heat wave. If this is summer in the Med, please please may we never again break down and be marooned under an active volcano on a day without wind. Yesterday we were slow roasted, in body and in mind.

Enki anchored at Isola Vulcano, north of Sicily
You'll notice I said Italy. You may also notice I said break down. Again.

We left Gaeta on Friday afternoon, bound for Greece. So sure were we that we were leaving Italy that Alex and I stocked up on Italian wine in anticipation of not wanting to do the same in Greece or Turkey. The wind was fresh, and then gentle, but Enki, as we've come to realise, needs barely any encouragement to scamper along at about 7 knots. It wasn't until the sun had set and we were about to cross the Bay of Naples that we gave into the inevitable and started the motor. See how easy it is to say it?

We motored for the next 24 hours. Usually, there's some grumbling on a sailing boat when lack of wind forces long stretches of motoring. Not among this grateful crew. It was enough to be on the water; as frolicsome as the dolphins in our bow wave, we felt. Plus, we were heading in the right direction.

Stromboli Island, and oncoming traffic
By general consensus, we decided to stopover at Vulcano, the southernmost of the Aeolian Islands and make an early start the next morning to catch the tide going through the Strait of Messina. From there, Greece in 40 hours. Too easy. Though there was no wind forecast, and we expected to be motoring most if not all the way, it was all in a good cause. We were up for it.

The next morning, the unthinkable happened. The engine didn't fire. None of us were ready for it, least of all Alex. He, like me, was deeply disappointed. "You've got to trust people, don't you?" he'd said to me in Gaeta where we were blinded by our lack of Italian. And on Friday, we thought that trust had been well placed. We had a solution, an expensive one, but nonetheless, we were on our way. As it turned out, we didn't have a solution; we still had a problem. A little Italian goes a long way in an ordinary situation, but not nearly far enough in a complex mechanical and electronic situation. The same will apply everywhere where English is not spoken.

So yesterday, we were back to square one. At anchor, with no engine, on an island - except unlike Ponza, this one smelled bad - "like a urinal," said Dave - and on the beach, instead of topless beauties, there were crowds of bodies caked in volcanic mud. I couldn't bring myself to go near the beach.

By evening, Volvo Penta's emergency call centre in Belgium (yes, isn't Europe wonderful?) had located a mechanic for us in Lipari, the town on the next island of the same name. Guiseppe in Gaeta would organise for him to speak to Antonio and Claudio about what they'd done, and then we'd take it from there. That's as good as it gets in the circumstances. It was Sunday, remember.

This morning, in the absence of wind, we accepted a tow (please don't ask how much it cost - beggars can't be choosers, especially in July in the south of Italy), and here we sit, in a marina waiting for a mechanic, again. He's a tall young man called Massimo, and he comes, thankfully, with a sparky little girlfriend called Claudia, who speaks a bit of English and has a pretty good understanding of engines too. We're hoping that when they come back from lunch, they'll unravel this little mystery of ours. It's boring us too.

It's Alex's birthday today, and all he wants is a new back (that old chestnut). Failing that, a Volvo engine which starts when he turns the key in the ignition. That'd make him smile tonight.

1 comment:

  1. HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALEXANDER...hope all is resolved and the birthday fairy granted both wishes. Lots of love and thinking of you (and enjoying the blog immensely - thank you Diana)