Monday, 16 July 2012

The stickiness of Sicily

We motored out of Milazzo at 6 am on Saturday morning. Sounds normal, bordering on dull, doesn't it? Not for us.

At the time I took this picture, we were on our way to Greece. Jubilantly so. The light was beautiful and Milazzo's vicious heat was still a couple of hours away.

We were on our way to Greece for another five and a half hours. We'd got far enough down the Strait of Messina, past the whirlpools of antique fame, that we were beginning to relax - Mt Etna was smoking like a Romantic watercolour on our right, Reggio di Calabria was slipping behind us on our left  - when the engine stopped. Abruptly, and definitively. The Strait of Messina, one of Europe's great seafaring thoroughfares, is not such a great place to lose your engine.

(At another time, when all this is over, I'll write a fuller account of what's happened to our Volvo Penta D3100 engine over the past month, and post it on our Boat page. A few of you may want to know the dirty details.)

We tacked back up the strait, against a head wind and the on-coming current, and brought Enki into  Messina's deep sickle-shaped harbour, so prized by the ancients and we moderns as a strategic haven. It seems perverse to say it, but this was a great afternoon's sailing. How much more satisfying to pit your skills against the elements than against mechanical failure. And here we are again, tied to the outside of a marina pontoon, rising and falling on the surge of the 500 shipping movements which we're told Messina harbour has a day.

Roberto from Milnautica Milazzo has been back on board with his toolkit.  It turns out that he lives in Messina. Yesterday he took out the injectors and Alex went with him to a testing centre. The new injectors are blocked. That's why the engine stopped. By the end of the morning, Roberto's latest theory was that we have dirt in the fuel. What sort of dirt can't be known unless the fuel is analysed. The closest laboratory is in Catania, further south, and analysis takes a week. Roberto advised that we need new injectors, and we need to empty our fuel tanks and clean them. Then of course we need to buy new fuel.

While we waited yesterday for events to unfold, Roberto showed us photos of his family on his wife's Facebook page. At some point, the penny dropped - we could use the computer to speak to each other too. Roberto types in Italian and Google translates it into English, and vice versa.

Today involves us spending a heart-stopping amount of money to follow through on his advice. Men will come to empty the tanks and Roberto will clean them. He'll clean the whole fuel system actually, and we'll replace the injectors a second time. We'll send the fuel away for analysis. If it proves not to be dirty, we'll be back at square one, much poorer.

Messina, for all its long history, is not a pretty town in which to pass the time of day. It was destroyed in 1908 by an earthquake and a tsunami, and then again by Allied bombs during WWII.  Its buildings are all low-rise, designed to resist future earthquakes. The fancy ones look like badly squashed sandwiches. Even the cathedral is ugly, sitting squat and compact. In Italy though there's always the coffee.

1 comment:

  1. Oy vey. But you've got a great filtering system, yes? With freshly-changed filters? So dirt could be getting through over and over again how?

    Anyway, I'm sure you're way ahead of me on thinking it through.

    Will be looking forward to the dirty details when available. Meanwhile, good luck.