If you've been keeping up with our blogs and YouTube videos then you'll be aware of how stressed we've been during the past few months with getting A B Sea put back together and made seaworthy.
After we splashed and didn't leak below the waterline that was a welcome relief. We were still concerned about the engine performance and I knew that I'd be babysitting it for at least a week. But we had high confidence that everything would be okay.
When we were a few days into our passage back east towards Turkey I could feel the stress, tension and worry slowly being lifted from me as each nautical mile slipped under the hull without issue.
But then on day 6, as we dropped our anchor in another beautiful Greek bay, Aannsha, who had jumped into the water to visually check that our anchor was set, spat the end of the snorkel out of her mouth and said "The prop shaft anode is not there." Bugger.
As usual I'm getting ahead of myself and I'll come back to the missing anode later in this blog.
The morning of day 4 back in the water we raised the anchor at 07:30 hrs and as there was no wind began motoring in a generally easterly direction out of the northern part of the Evia channel towards our destination which was the Greek island of Skiathos.
The 7 hour trip was uneventful and like an overly concerned parent I went below every hour or so to listen for unusual noises and to visually inspect the various parts of the engine we'd worked on, check that the bilge was free of water or oil and keep tabs on the engine coolant levels. Each inspection increased our confidence level as there were no problems to be seen.
The early start also allowed me the opportunity to gauge roughly what time our solar panels became effective at supplying enough power to counteract what our onboard systems were drawing from the batteries and at what time of the morning the solar panels actually began recharging our house batteries.
The solar panels only recharge the 3 house batteries. The alternator on the engine recharges the house batteries, the starter battery and the bow thruster battery. Looking at the numbers on the electrical panel at the nav station I had a niggling thought in my head that there was an issue with either the alternator or the connection to the batteries, as they didn't seem to be charging correctly. This is an issue I'll discuss in detail in a later blog.
Over our time spent on A B Sea Aannsha and I have managed to get our anchoring technique pretty good. Before we leave wherever we are, we sit down and via a combination of Google Earth, Rod Heikell's pilot guide and Navily we scope out our preferred anchorage plus a plan B and C anchorage options if our plan A doesn't pan out.
Once we're on our way and 'Ray' the autopilot is handling the steering we find our three anchorage choices on the chart plotter and mark each one with a way point, so there's no confusion when we reach our destination.
Arriving at Skiathos we were pleased to see that there was plenty of room at anchorage A and that the bottom was a mix of sand and weed patches.
With Aannsha at the bow and everything ready to go, I slowly crept A B Sea into a depth area of around 5 metres (16 feet) and over sand and instructed Aannsha to "Drop it." Following RYA guidelines we never put out less that 4 : 1 scope and if there's enough swinging room between us and other anchored vessels we'll happily scope out to 7 :1. That way we get a good night's sleep even if the wind does pick up. Anchor chain is of no use to you sitting inside the locker.
Once the anchor was on the seabed I began motoring A B Sea very slowly backwards laying the chain on the seabed as straight as possible. Meanwhile Aannsha payed out more chain and told me visually and audibly when 10, 20 and 30 metres of chain were out.
At 30 metres we stopped and allowed A B Sea to settle into the wind direction. Depending on wind speed this could be a wait of a minute or two. At this point the anchor and chain were simply sitting on top of the sand, next we needed to set, test and dive the anchor.
With the bow roughly lined up and pointing to where we dropped the anchor I began reversing and slowly building up the engine RPM. This straightened out the anchor chain which began to pull the anchor back. The tip of the anchor bit into the sand and then dug the whole of the anchor in.
At this point Aannsha was giving me visual signals as to how she sees the process progressing from the bow, I'm looking for reference points on land to see if we're dragging and as the engine RPM reach 3,000 and we haven't moved we can be very confident that the anchor is set and tested.
The final step involves Aannsha putting on fins, mask and snorkel and swimming over to the anchor to see how it looks. If we've done it right then the only parts of the anchor visible should be the roll bar and the tip of the shank where it connects to the chain.
If it's all good we snub the chain to take the strain off the windlass, note our time of arrival in the log book and open a well deserved beer.
We are always amazed at the generosity of our viewers, subscribers and patrons. One day just before we left the boat yard we received a notification that we had a message and payment from Heather and John Drummond (aka The Old Travel Bums).
The message said "Here's a gift so that you two can treat yourselves to a restaurant meal and some nice wine when you get to your first anchorage."
Our first anchorage, although pleasant, was not very inspiring and we didn't go ashore, so we saved our treat for when we reached Skiathos, which is a really special place.
Wandering around the seafront at Skiathos the first thing we noticed was how empty of tourists everywhere was. This was the middle of July and it should've been super busy, but Covid travel restrictions had led to a very quiet summer season.
All of the restaurants and bars were open and set up for business, but only a handful had a few customers. We certainly had no trouble getting a table for dinner. Our choice finally came down to one restaurant owner telling us that he had a special on crispy fried anchovies, we both love them and that sealed the deal.
Along with the anchovies we had a Greek salad to start and then shared a seafood platter for two all washed down with a very nice bottle of white wine. Thanks Heather and John. We hope that sometime in the near future you two will be sitting with us enjoying a wonderful meal at a restaurant with a view.
After dinner we were very full and feeling sleepy after a long day so we went back to A B Sea for an early night in a very peaceful anchorage with a great sunset.
What about the anode?
Yes back to the anode saga.
I'd very securely attached a new anode to the prop shaft in the boat yard and in theory the usual lifespan of an anode is 12 months. There are of course a lot of variables which can shorten or lengthen the lifespan. But 6 days seemed a little odd to me.
Luckily we had two spare shaft anodes on board so it was simply a case of putting on my scuba gear and putting a replacement anode onto the prop shaft.
It's a simple but fiddley job trying to hold the two halves of the anode on the shaft while also trying to put a nut and bolt through two holes and tighten them up. Ideally you need 4 hands. But with only two hands this is how it goes.
One arm draped over the shaft to ensure that as the boat swings at anchor, you swing with it. The hand of that arm holds the two pieces of anode on to the shaft. The other hand gets the bolt through the two holes and the thumb of the first hand holds it in place. You do not want to drop any of these pieces into the sand or weed below, it would likely be impossible to find them.
The second hand now has to get a small nut started onto the thread of the bolt. These are nylock nuts which means you can only finger tighten them so much before you need to use a tool. The tool in this case is a #5 Allen key. It's a delicate operation and there's a huge sense of relief once the first nut and bolt are firmly secured. The second nut and bolt are a breeze after that.
Enough of the 'how to fit a prop shaft anode' lecture. Let me tell you about the other thing that was causing me great concern.
The very first moment I wrapped the two halves of the new anode around the shaft they began fizzing. Similar to dropping an Alka-Seltzer into a glass of water but with very fine bubbles. That's not good.
It looked like we had a DC current leak at the prop shaft.
Climbing back on board and removing my scuba gear my mind was racing and once again my stress levels were through the roof. One part of my brain was reviewing every job we'd done over the winter to see if electricity was involved. Another part was doing calculations on how many anodes we had on board and how often they'd need replacing and where we could buy even more anodes. Yet another part was figuring out time and distance to known places where we could enlist the help of an expert in marine electronics, this was certainly above my pay grade. And finally I was thinking of the cost, not just monetary, of literally losing the prop and prop shaft to galvanic corrosion.
Our planned slow trip east across the Aegean Sea had suddenly turned into a race against time.
To watch the video that accompanies this blog click here.