Monday, 24 November 2014

An old story - What we did in Spain

This is now quite dated, but the story, for those who are interested, of what we did in Spain.

It is already well documented that we arrived at La Coruña with a broken engine, and limited idea of what the trouble could be. After a night at anchor in the bay with first light we sailed into marina Seca to search for mechanics – at that stage hoping for a quick fix – before we went again on our way.

Removing the old one was

Sadly nothing is so simple, and after several days - and a new set of injectors - the mechanics were utterly stumped. They explained they had no idea what was wrong with the engine. Everything seemed right to them.... but for the fact it didn't work. They offered to take it out of the boat and pull it apart in the workshop but pointed out that it would likely cost £2000 just to investigate, and in all probability they'd still be stumped, and would we possibly consider a new engine?

A piece of junk

Well, consider we did. I'm not going to say the next few days were pleasant – we were taking a decision on spending around £6000, money none of us had, and we all had our own opinions on what was the best solution. Sadly for our pockets, and happily for Beta marine, we decided to buy a Beta engine. 

Fresh from Beta marine

Even from that point it was no easy ride – it turns out you don't just order an engine. First you have to be sure it fits in the boat, which ruled out a lot of options. Then you have to consider the gearbox, which in our case was nightmare, because our old engine turned in the opposite direction to any new one. This necessitated a gearbox which was happy to run in reverse (or get a new propeller, at £300). Oh, and then you need to measure the propeller, and considering the power of the engine, work out the correct gearing ratio for the gearbox. And of course then consider the angle the gearbox exits the engine. When that is done you need to consider if the old prop shaft is going to fit the new gearbox... 

Had to have a sunset somewhere

These decisions were aided with a thousand phone calls to Beta, and a very helpful mechanic in Plymouth (who knew the old engine). I kept in contact with Giulia, who was stuck in Britain while the future of the whole trip hung in the balance and of course we each had to update our parents (who have loaned the money for this unexpected expense). 

New engine arrives...

Some tricky conversations with the mechanics, aided by a lot of miming and a helpful English/Spanish boat phrasebook were necessary to work out if they could do the job, how much they would charge, and if we could even persuade them to fit a Beta engine (they are registered Volvo and Yanmar dealers, but don't work with Beta). Even with the order placed there were still challenges, as the engine was lost in transit – the delivery company being unable to make contact with the marina, and me being unable to chase them about it, as it is even harder to cross a language barrier over the phone (no miming!). 

... is carefully manouevered...

... and is in place!

You can see it was a tough time, and I did think for a while it was time to give up and let Auriga go, fly home and work out what to do with myself. I'm writing this mere days before leaving Cape Verde for Brazil, and I'm so very glad it didn't come to that.

So after 6 weeks the engine did arrive. Fitting went smoothly, I think. On the first day I hung around looking at the mechanics work, trying to offer assistance and, if I'm honest, making sure they were being careful with my boat! They didn't take kindly to my monitoring and yelled at me to either shut up or go away. Frankly I was a bit upset with this attitude, but I can understand how some anxious boat owner asking questions in a foreign language every minute isn't helpful. I did take myself away, and a week and a mañana later our voyage restarted – with a passage to Madeira, and for those only interested in our sailing voyage the blog rejoins our voyage with Igor's description of our passage to Madeira.

On the other hand, given it took a week to order the engine, three weeks to have it delivered and one to fit it, that means we were La Coruña for 6 weeks. So what did we do? Well, a couple of anecdotes:

Igor went to carry out a delivery from Southampton to Malaga for a sailing school he sometimes instructs with. It sounds like quite a passage, and worth asking him about. I wasn't on the trip, so can only describe events second hand, but after a windless crossing of Biscay (is there never the right wind in the Bay of Biscay?) and a motor belching out clouds of oily smoke they had to beat into 40+ kts of wind down the Portuguese coast. I take it the party in Malaga was well deserved.

Myself, I took the opportunity to visit home, imposing my presence on an overworked Giulia. It was nice to see friends and family, but the trip turned a bit sour, and a short trip was extended when I lost by bag in London, containing, of all things my passport*. Overall I really can't complain about the trip though, it was a great opportunity to catch up with my parents, update our missing crew member, go to Carrie's leaving party, surprise friends from the sailing club by turning up at a pub meet and even make it to see everyone at Fox's (the marina we were at in Ipswich as we put Auriga together).

Strange art on the coast
Oldest working lighthouse
in the world

In Spain, I mostly took it very easy, reading and drinking coffee in the sun. I love the coffee shops in North Spain. The coffee, and beer, is incredibly cheap, incredibly good, and there is usually good snack food at the bar. It is, I found, much more pleasant to relax away an afternoon in Spain than Britain. Oh, and also, consider we were 500m from the beach, and you can see how I speant most of my time.

Memorably while Igor was away I decided I had had enough on my own, and concocted a plan to go on a local bar crawl, drinking one drink in every bar until I found someone who spoke English I could make friends with**. Unfortunately, it turns out in Spain it's more sensible to learn Spanish than just cross your fingers and hope English is spoken worldwide (funny, that....). The upshot is, whilst failing at my task I went to a lot of bars, and drank a lot of drinks. Long story short I got so drunk I climbed onto the roof of the ticket office of a trampoline outside a big shopping centre. Well, thought I, it's a trampoline, I can just jump down on it! The jumping worked well, the problem was, the trampoline was surrounded by a very high fence with a locked gate. My desperation to find English speakers took on a new urgency as I called out for help, and miraculously did eventually make friends with some strangers who were kind enough to go and fetch scissors to cut me free! Moral – beware the perils of drink, or, alternatively, travel foreign lands better equipped to speak to the locals.

The trampoline I was trapped in...

I did make friends with a most interesting Spaniard, who was fixing his boat next to Auriga in the yard. When he was done he invited me to sail with him home to Bilbao. The passage was uneventful, but gave me plenty of time to hear his story. As a 28 year old surfer he had wanted to surf on Pacific islands. Despite no sailing experience, he decided a yacht was the route to the islands of his dreams. He flew to America (hearing prices were low compared with Europe), bought a yacht, took a crash course in sailing (4 hours on a dingy) and teamed up with an experienced sailor to bring his new acquisition home across the Atlantic. Well, it turned out that the “experienced” sailor was a lier, and claimed experience just to get his chance to fulfil his dream of crossing the Atlantic. After a personality clash the sailor was left in Bemuda and my Spanish friend crossed the Atlantic alone. Note, crossed the Atlantic alone, with barely a month of sailing experience! Well, it seems he never reached the Pacific islands, but did spend 6 years sailing about the seas, and, some years later (now an experienced sailor fortunately) found himself cruising around Chile in the Southern winter!

Anthony, my Spanish friend

* I would like to make special mention of Adam H, who spent a night in London searching around various places for the lost bag, and gave me a place to stay when I had missed the last train.

** When he got back Igor had a better idea, and found a local English conversation group, for Spaniards who wanted to practice their English, and were delighted with two fluent speakers to answer all kinds of questions – ie. how to correctly use the word “eulogy”, which we tackled over a lot of gin.

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