A day from hell!!
On Saturday 18th we motorsailed down to Cala de San Pedro to what we expected to be a sheltered and quiet bay for anchoring. The bay had a number of campers and people who had taken over some ruined houses and made them into shelters, complete with solar panels to provide some electricity. It was also a nudist colony although only about half the people went about with no clothes. We anchored well off the beach, but later found that northerly gusts came down off the hills and we had a very rolly night.
At 6.30 am we were both awake with the strong gusts and decided to get up and get ready to leave at first light, heading for a nice sheltered marina at Almerimar. By 7.30 we were ready to go and I went to start the engine, however it would not start. I had opened the stern fuel tank on Saturday night as the main tank was getting pretty low and when I checked the first small fuel filter it was gunged up with diesel bug!!. I changed this filter and tried to bleed the system, however the engine would still not start, so I then changed the second engine filter. After bleeding the system again the engine would still not start. I then decided I would have to take out and filter all the fuel in the tank, about 250 Litres. I used our new fuel transfer pump to extract the diesel into our jerry cans, then filtered about half the diesel into our third tank. I then opened the valve to allow the diesel back into the empty main tank and again replaced the first filter. I then bled the system and the engine started this time. By the time we cleaned up it was about 3.0pm, too late to head for Almerimar, which was 60 miles away. We decided to head for San Jose, to a small harbour which we hoped we could fit into.
We motored down to San Jose as the wind was directly behind us and we needed to keep things simple. On the way down we noticed that the engine battery had a very low voltage and the alternator didn’t seem to be giving any amps, but we felt that we could manage to get to San Jose and sort out the problem there. We called the Capitania and he confirmed that they had a suitable space for us, so we headed in with winds of 15-25 knots. We were just inside the harbour, turning into the allocated berth when our steering failed, nothing happened when I turned the wheel. I reversed and managed to get out of the harbour with a mixture of going forward and reversing, although I had no way of controlling our direction. We managed with a large amount of luck and some good judgement to avoid the rocks and get far enough out of the harbour to drop our anchor.
The harbour entrance and dreaded rocks!
We then discussed our problem with the Capitania and a skipper of another boat and they made some good suggestions. I decide to get out our emergency tiller, which I had not used since I had it made in 2009. We managed to find the bits and tools needed and to actually fit the system, however as you will see from the pictures I couldn’t steer the boat and work the engine throttle so Susan had to control the engine throttle. We warned the Capitania that we were short-handed and he managed to allocate a berth alongside one of the harbour walls so that we could go alongside and he arranged help to catch the lines. As I hadn’t steered a boat with a tiller for several years we were a bit nervous of how controlled we would be, especially in the very strong winds. We lifted the anchor and headed in and in fact we managed fine and got safely in without hitting any other boats, although there were a couple of nervous skippers on their boats, who had heard of our problems. Once the guys on shore had secured our ropes Susan jumped ashore and hugged the Capitania and the Mariniero.
Steering from behind the mainsail.
The tiller fitted into the hole above one of the stern lockers.
The tiller pole going down through our bedroom onto the top of the rudder quadrant.
Enchantress safely tied up to a small wall in the harbour/marina.
The day from Hell had ended well and we were secure. Once we had booked in and said thanks to the capitania with a bottle of Chianti, we had a very welcome drink – a wee dram for me. In hindsight, after a drink or two, it is probably a good thing to have properly tested out the emergency tiller – I think!
We have now fixed the steering, the wires had loosened off and had come off the steering quadrant, so it was pretty easy to fix. The battery and alternator problem has mysteriously disappeared and I can’t think of anything I have done to fix the problem, however it is working. We still have a problem with our autopilot and we are in discussion with the manufacturer, it looks like the clutch is the problem, but we also have contaminated fluid so will have to flush the system. We could really do with Paul from Jackamy on this problem. We are ready to proceed on our journey tomorrow morning and will be well rested after 2 nights in this small and very friendly harbour/marina.