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Barry's Blog #107 - Controlling stress at a snail's pace

A quick calculation indicated that we weren't going to make it. We simply didn't have enough fuel.

Luckily we did have enough fuel to reach a marina just 2 hours to the north and they had a small fuel dock. That was our first priority when we left the anchorage at Sounion Bay on the southern tip of mainland Greece as we began our journey northwards to our winter haul out destination.

I'm always a little stressed about taking A B Sea into confined places we've never been to before. I think about things like how much wind and wave action will there be? How wide and deep is the entrance channel? How much other boat traffic will there be? How easy is it to get onto and off of the fuel dock? Will the wind be with us or against us when we tie up alongside?

That was stressor #1. But I'm getting ahead of myself again.

The other problem

When we left the Greek island of Poros, to the south west of Athens Bay, we'd been motoring because there was no wind. Two hours into the trip east and cruising along at a steady 5 knots through dead calm water, I noticed a sudden change in the engine sound. A glance at the instruments showed that the engine revs had dropped and we'd slowed down by 0.7 of a knot. My first thought was that maybe we were dragging a submerged 'something' with our keel or maybe a discarded fishing line or rope had become entangled with our prop. Bringing A B Sea to a standstill in the water and then putting her into reverse to see if I could clear and obstruction seemed to 'fix' the issue and we were soon happily cruising along at 5 knots again.

The exhaust elbow of A B Sea

But with that being said there was still something else niggling in the back of my mind. It was the diesel exhaust soot issue, in the engine compartment, that I told you about in last week's blog. I suspected that A B Sea was slowly beginning to choke on her own exhaust emissions. That could lead to the engine shutting down and probably when we needed it the most. That was stressor #2.

What a difference a day makes

An hour after the 'slowing down' incident we motored into Sounion Bay and where there had been 20 or 30 yachts anchored a few weeks ago, now there was only us and one other. Despite all anchoring options being available to us I chose to anchor in the same spot we had done on our two previous visits because we knew that our anchor would set the first time and the holding was very good in sand. A handful of other yachts came in to anchor as darkness drew closer, but it certainly wasn't crowded.

After a very calm night and a good sleep we got up early and with seemingly no wind we motored slightly east and then north to go around the tip of land where the temple to Poseidon stood majestically high above the sea.

temple to Posiedon at Sounion

Rounding the corner we were a bit surprised to be met by 15 knots of wind right on our nose. As we only had an hour to go to reach the marina where we planned to refuel, we decided not to tack but instead to motor straight into the wind and just get there. The expected hour turned into two hours as the wind slowly picked up strength and was a steady 30 knots by the time we got to the Olympic Marina entrance.

Before we entered I called them up on the VHF radio asking permission to enter and tie up at the fuel dock. We received an instant response from the marinero who said "Okay Captain you're clear to enter." What he failed to do was to radio the fuel dock guy to ascertain if the fuel dock was available.

Entering the protection of the small marina the wind force lessened and the water calmed. That helped reduce my stress somewhat. I successfully negotiated the mooring pontoons, anchor chains and lazy lines. Stayed out of the shallow water sections and finally spotted the logo of the fuel supplier at the dock ahead of us. However when we got closer we saw that there was already a large yacht tied up and taking on fuel. There was also not enough room for me to bring all 14 metres (46 feet) of A B Sea alongside too.

With no other choice, I turned A B Sea around in the tight turning area and headed back out of the marina entrance. Now with lots of manoeuvring space I could make a plan, which was to go back in, pull slowly up to the yacht at the fuel dock and simply ask how long they expected to be there. If they were going to be a while we could find somewhere to drop anchor and wait.

I pointed the bow of A B Sea back into the marina and as we rounded the end of a mooring pontoon we saw the other yacht coming out in the opposite direction. The fuel dock was now free and a few minutes later I brought her alongside quite easily despite the steady wind.

How much fuel?

The fuel guy helped us to tie off and asked "How many litres? More or less." To be fair I didn't know exactly. We did have a log of our engine hours since the last time the fuel tank was completely full and I do know that in calm conditions A B Sea will consume 4 litres (1 gallon) per hour. But conditions had not exactly been what you would call calm since we'd last filled up and I hadn't looked at the hours log and done any calculations.

There is a fuel gauge at the helm position and it gives us rough idea of how much we have in the tank. I say rough because if you'd care to read about the time we did run out of fuel, you can click here to read Barry's blog #46 which talks about how that happened just 12nm from our destination at Corfu, Greece in September 2018.

I told the fuel guy "100 litres… Maybe more." Either way a full tank would definitely get us to our final destination with plenty of fuel to spare. He filled the tank and announced "188." Both Aannsha and I were a little taken aback by that. We have a 205 litre (54 gallon) tank capacity on board A B Sea and the thought that we'd been down to our last 17 litres (4.5 gallons) was cutting it fine to say the least.

He then followed up with "123 litres." Then the penny dropped. The price for the refill was 188 Euros for 123 litres (32.5 gallons) of diesel, so we'd still had 85 litres (21.5 gallons) remaining. Plus the 40 litres (10.5 gallons) of diesel that we carry as emergency reserve strapped to our stanchions.

Time to tack

Feeling less stressed now that the fuel tank was full we headed out of the marina and turned north. During the time we'd been in the marina, the wind strength had dropped to a more reasonable 20 knots but it was still blowing directly from the north. We decided to bring out both sails and as we had plenty of time up our sleeves, to reach Porto Rafti, we planned on tacking to get there which would also mean we could turn the engine off and save fuel. Just 20 minutes into the first tack the wind dropped even further.

This is what happens when the wind drops. First off we lose speed and if it drops to around 2 knots then I lose a lot of steerage and it becomes difficult to keep the bow pointed where I want it to be in order to keep what little wind there is filling the sails.

Our speed drop added to the fact that we are tacking now turns a 1 hour journey into 4 hours. This is where I had to make a decision and because I could see the wind dropping all around us I made the call to furl in both sails and motor in a straight line to the anchorage at Porto Rafti.

Once we were settled at anchor we got a message from Rita and Sten Mathews who we'd met up with for dinner when we were anchored at Varkiza. They were also heading north up the Evia channel to their chosen winter haul out destination and they were planning on anchoring at Porto Rafti that evening. Perfect, another chance to catch up and this time we would enjoy sundowners in the cockpit of A B Sea.

Rita and Sten left the anchorage the following morning, but we were staying one more day to catch up with Nikos. It's always great spending time with him as we never know where the conversation will go because he's so knowledgeable on so many subjects. The next hop

The next day was another windless day and we made good time heading north east through the southern section of the Evia channel to drop anchor at Strongilo, a small bay with good holding on a sandy bottom and water so clear that we didn't need to dive the anchor to check if it was dug in. A quick look over the side rails and we could see what remained visible of it buried in the sand 5 metres (16.5 feet) below A B Sea.

After a good night's sleep we began preparing the boat to move to Eretria and as I was setting up the GoPro camera at the bow, ready to film the anchor coming up, I dropped the lens protector plastic cover overboard. It wasn't the floaty kind of plastic but the kind that sinks very slowly. Luckily there was no one else around to witness me stripping off to dive overboard and recover it.

Without further incidence we upped anchor and once again motored north through the dead calm waters of the Evia channel with the small harbour of Eretria as our chosen destination.

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