Captains Blog 24 – My Precious

“Good night out eh first mate?” “Yeah, excellent, but looking forward to an early one tonight.” “Yep, I agree, I’m knackered”! The day after the birthday bash and both feeling a little more fragile than usual.

Move forward 4 hours: “So, all agreed then, we’ll set off for Sicily around five.” Gianti and Nike would head out that evening despite the fact that we were all a bit rough around the edges. The weather wasn’t too bad and there was a good possibility of some extended periods under sail.

Move forward another 3 hours: “Mmm, isn’t it a bit windy?” “Nahh, it dies off a bit just after we set off, we’ll be fine.”

“You all ready Erling?” “Yes, lets go” responded Nike’s skipper. First mate had got everything ready so time to start the engine.

Isolator on, ignition on, glow plugs warmed up and press the button to start. And press the start button. Nothing, dead as a dodo. “Whoo first mate, there’s somethings wrong, nowt’s happening.” So, run through start procedure again and… still nothing!

“Let’s try starting from the leisure batteries, where are the jump leads?” “I dunno” responded the first mate, “you’ve put um somewhere!”

We searched everywhere. Under seats, under beds, in lockers in cupboards, there was stuff everywhere. They were eventually discovered under the floor in the stern cabin. The next 15 minutes were spent re-stowing all the crap that was strewn around the cockpit, deck and cabin floor.

Maybe, just maybe, I should reconsider options when things don’t start quite so favourably next time, rather than bludgeoning on as if there’s not a problem.

Jump leads connected, press start and she starts up. “Brilliant, lets release the lines and get going.” “Shouldn’t we just check that it won’t be a problem starting the engine later, if we’re sailing” suggested the first mate. “Yeah, mmm, we’ll check it when we’re on the move.”

The wind in the marina was blowing around 20-25 knots. We made it safely out of our berth then out of the harbour, straight into the 30-35 knot winds blowing south of Cagliari. It was a following wind, so we were quickly able to deploy a reefed head sail and turn off the engine.

“You’ve just turned off the engine” noted the first mate. “Yep, isn’t it great to be shifting like this with just a reefed headsail.” “Will the engine start again?” she asked. “Ahh, it’s had half an hour of charge, it’ll be fine, but we’ll give it a go.”

“Well?” enquired first mate, “yes ta” I responded. “Umm, I’ll try it again.” It wasn’t long before the jump leads were once again called on to start the mighty 30hp diesel engine. “It’ll be fine there’s only another 165 nautical miles until we get there.”

We continued under sail all night and only had to start the engine at around 12 the following day.

The second night saw the sea state get a lot rougher as we motor-sailed on towards Sicily. First mate took over watch at just gone 2 in the morning. I went into the fore cabin to try a get some kip. I spent the next 30 minutes being thrown around, achieving total weightlessness every couple of seconds, before being mercilessly thumped back onto the mattress. I realised for the first time ever, what it was to feel seasick.

I got up and went back up to the cockpit. We were being hurled around and I was starting to feel cold as well as tired and sick. I was so glad to eventually see daylight creeping up on the eastern horizon, peering pitifully from the sleeping bag I’d half slid into.

I wasn’t the only one suffering. The first mate’s phone had packed up en route and she was having terrible withdrawal symptoms. Total meltdown was only avoided because, she too, was tired and she knew that salvation wasn’t far away.

The sea state started to relent at around 10, just as we headed towards the anchorage we’d identified and we eventually managed to drop the hook towards the outer edge of the small Cala at around 11.

From that point on, various craft of all sizes began to flood in. It was getting noisier and more crowded by the second. Several sailing vessels dropped their anchors around Gianti. I just wanted to sleep, but needed to make sure the race for space didn’t end up with us being hit.

As I feared a fully crewed sailing boat dropped its anchor far too close to us. I greeted the skipper with a nod and “Alright.” “You’re a bit close!” As I expected he thought it would be okay and said he would keep watch. There was nowhere for us to move to so we were stuck next to a vessel that would collide at some point.

Sure enough an hour or so later, members of his crew were employed pushing our boats apart as they both swung together and then swung away. They continued this for the duration of their stay and I couldn’t help wonder if any of them would accept the offer of a day on this sail boat next time.

Despite the mayhem and the worries about collision I eventually got some sleep and started to feel a bit more human again.

The following day we woke in a very rolly anchorage. We didn’t mess around and headed off to Trapani harbour nice and early after starting the engine first go with our newly fully charged engine battery.

The first mate was twitching. She was rested, but the true magnitude of life without instant data was starting to impact. “Stay calm” I said, “we can head into Trapani as soon as we get anchored and have a look for a new phone.” She simply snarled, stroked her old phone, muttering “my precious” and scuttled off below decks.

We anchored by the old lighthouse after seeking permission to enter the harbour and stay a couple of nights. The anchor was well set so we quickly head into the town and found a Vodafone shop. The first mate couldn’t have been happier and it wasn’t long before she’d acquired a new phone and was buried deeply in data web world, surfacing for air only a couple of hours later.

Wandering around Trapani was a nice change and the old part in particular was well worth a look.

I’m conscious that I’ve rattled on a bit, so I’ll pick up the stuff about the storms and volcanos next time.

Ciao for now

Captain Mac

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