Week 85 - Emergencies then splash!

The end of the delivery and after four months on the hard, we’re back to cruising the Mediterranean on our boat Matilda. Splash down!

Week 85 - Emergencies then splash!

After four months on the hard, we’re back to cruising the Mediterranean on our boat Matilda.

On the long list of emergencies that you don’t want to experience on a boat, I’d put these three somewhere near the top:

  1. Engine Failure.
  2. We’re sinking.
  3. We’re on fire.

Yeah…. so it’s been quite a week 🤣

Monday and Tuesday for me was continuing the boat delivery. After leaving Mark at Koroni (no, not a stranded crew mate, he had to catch the bus to Kalamata to fly home), Elizabeth, Ian and I continued our journey around the bottom of the Peloponnese. After a week of mostly motoring, the winds finally behaved and were in the right direction for us to sail which we really enjoyed.

We managed one very long passage on a single tack, heading in exactly the right direction, which for a sail boat is unusual! It was fun being out there, powered by the wind and rediscovering the joy and simple pleasures of sailing. And of course, Dolphins!

A still from a video I took of Dolphins chasing the boat

After a night on the island of Zakynthos (which has one of the least impressive tourist traps of a main town I’ve seen on an island yet), it was time for our final passage to our destination port of Sami, Kefalonia, a relatively short one of about 35nm.

Almost 9 knots speed over ground.

The start was amazing. The winds kicked up to around 20 knots and we were making 8.5 to 9 knots of speed — faster than we could motor. After a fast and exhilarating crossing between Zakynthos and Kefalonia , we came up alongside the SE tip of Kefalonia and the winds died. Time for us to put away the sails, fire up the motors and cruise the last 2 hours to Sami.

The weather was not always the warmest!

Immediately after we start the motors an engine alarm goes off! The motor is overheating, so I put it in neutral, call up Elizabeth who had gone down into the cabin to make lunch and then we cut the engines and put the sails out again. We’re not going fast at all, roughly 1–1.5 knots in a very light wind, but at least we are making some motion, we can control the boat and we’re heading away from land.

After some basic checks and a call to the mechanic, it’s apparent that the sea water pump impeller has failed. This is critical for pulling in the sea water used to cool the engines and without this, we can no longer use them without seriously damaging them.

We make the call to sail to the nearest port, Poros which is about 10nm away. With the light winds and a current against it, it’s takes us almost three hours to go the 2.5 nm we have to make to clear the point and round the corner towards Poros and then thankfully the wind picks up again and we make the last stretch in just over an hour.

Of course, the wind is a mixed blessing! With no (or very limited) engine, we need to sail into the port and now we’re going too fast… so we have to put the main sail away, come in on the genoa and then drop it as we enter to lose speed. We’re able to start the engine (which had now cooled down after several hours) for the two minutes we need to get on to the dock and we’re finally safe back on shore.

Docked safe at Poros in Kefalonia

A mechanic meets us there and quickly confirms that yes, the impeller has failed, it’s completely destroyed. The best guess and most likely cause is we sucked in a plastic bag or fishing line that’s pulled through the sea filter and then wrapped the impeller and quickly melted it with friction.

With a new impeller in, the engines run fine and after watching bits of the old impeller and something looking a lot like melted plastic bag spit out the exhaust the mechanic says we’re good to go for the last 10nm journey to Sami. The engine is going to need some further maintenance and checks, but there shouldn’t be any issues with that short run and it’s better for everyone to have the boat back at the base.

A few minutes after we pull away from the dock, I’m down checking the engine and I notice that there is water coming in to the bilge. Probably a flow of almost 2 cms across, very constant. I head up to the deck and tell the crew, “looks like we’re taking on water” and we turn around and head back to Poros. We make it fine, dock the boat and the mechanic comes back.

Turns out that when the motor overheated it melted the exhaust water lock — this is basically a big one way valve at the back of the engine that takes the engine waste water, the engine exhaust, combines them and then diverts it out over the side of the boat, without allowing water to come back in. The heat had created several holes in it and some of the cooling water was entering the boat instead of going over this side. As soon as the engine is off, the water stops coming in.

At this point, we declare the boat delivered. It’s safe and on the right island and clearly needs more parts and a more thorough check before continuing on its way. The whole delivery experience was a very rewarding one. At times challenging, but I learnt a lot and am thankful that I’ve had some good training over the years and could handle all the curve balls as a well as a great crew who took everything in their stride and handled it all with aplomb.

While we’re busy dealing with boat issues, Karina headed into Athens for the day to meet with Maya and inspect the progress on the apartment. The rough in is complete and the plaster board is up, now it’s time for measuring cabinets, starting to fit toilets etc. Overall it’s progressing well.

On Wednesday the crew and I headed to the airport on Kefalonia and home! Of course, Wednesday was a national transport strike. Planes flew, but there was no metro and no ferries, so I stayed in Athens on Wednesday night before heading to Aegina on Thursday morning to meet Karina.

With Friday designated as launch day for Matilda, there was a lot to do onboard to prep. One of the most urgent jobs was pulling up the anchor chain and anchor which had been stored on land. It was a timely reminder of the ever expanding nature of boat tasks! What in theory was a 15 minute task turned into a two hour chore as we realised that the tape we’d used to secure a cover over the windlass had left marks, that had to be removed, then the stainless where the anchor runs on the bow sprit needed to be polished and finally we could pull up the anchor — but not until we had to do some research to remember WHICH roller it went over!

Karina spent time unpacking a lot of things and starting to reorganise cupboards now we know more how we want to use things and I inflated all the fenders. By around 4PM on Thursday we were ready! Only one major chore left, inflate the tender and otherwise we were good to go.

Friday morning came around, we took the last two bags from the apartment out to the shipyard, inflated Tilly the Tender and then waited on the shipyard to be ready for launch. Eventually they come by, put Matilda on to the truck, drag her to the launch slip, put her up on the slings and then… we stop.

We were in the shipyard chatting with Marcus and enjoying a coffee when the boat suddenly started banging and moving — they were lifting her while we were sitting on board!

It’s too choppy to launch safely, so we call a two hour delay and walk the dog, get some lunch and eventually make it back in time for everyone to declare that yes, we can finally launch!

The launch went very smoothly, everything checked out fine and the mechanic, Lucas, travelled with us to Aegina port to monitor everything and show us how some of the new systems work.

And then we were there. Anchored up, in the sun and enjoying life aboard. It’s such a wonderful feeling. Matilda is home, we’re both excited to have access to our things again and to have our stuff around — we dressed up for dinner (because we could) and we’re enjoying not having to pick from the same two pairs of jeans and four T-Shirts we’ve had for the last four months.

It’s funny how many things you forget too. Which two switches have to go on for the shower to work (three if you want hot water). Where are the light switches? Where did we store something — or did we move it and forget where?

The plan now is to stay here in Aegina for the next 6 days while we get adjusted back to life on board. There’s a lot of little chores to do, things to be updated, cleaned, polished, tidied, moved, removed etc. as we set up for the season and the first night we tried to cook aboard was a very good reminder that a shakedown period is to be expected.

Karina started the gas burner and it made a very strong hissing sound then the flames shot up around 30 cm or so out from the burner. She turned it off and called me — I had a look and it did the same for me. I tried adjusting the valve at the tank to make sure it was on tightly and that there was no air in the system, then I lit it again and this time, the flames wouldn’t go out. Flames started licking up and around the counter and there was fire coming from the sides of the stove top as the gas was spilling out everywhere. It was quite scary and could very quickly have turned into a disaster.

I yelled at Karina to go and switch the cutoff up top while I grabbed the fire blanket and threw it over the flames. The fire was out and fortunately no damage done except a few soot marks and some scorched egos. It was also an excellent reminder of the value of preparedness — when we moved aboard the fire blankets were stored in cupboards, but we thought they’d be better hanging on the wall in the kitchen, even at the expense of a couple of holes in the wood. I’m so glad we did — it was right there to hand when we needed it.

We tried to work out what possibly happened, I thought perhaps the LPG tanks which we’d sent to Athens to be refilled were filled with the wrong gas. So we went to the store that arranged it and asked them. He called us back a bit later and said that “oh yes, they mentioned one tank they overfilled, the pressure is too high”.


I switched the tanks and the stove works properly, so that’s definitely the issue . When we sent the tanks to be filled, one was half full and they’ve just jammed the same amount of gas in each instead of measuring them. We (fortunately in some respects because now we know the issue) just happened to hook up the high pressure one first.

That aside, everything else has gone smoothly. We’re settling in, remembering things like the importance of sun screen when you’re on a boat all the time. We’re adjusting to the noises again (oh yeah, the freshwater pump) and the lack of noises (no more bilge pumps now all the leaking freshwater has been repaired). We’re loving the energy of being right on the port with people and boats coming and going all the time.

If you’re interested, here’s a rough list of what we had done on Matilda over winter:

  • Engines — Major service, new impellers, new sea water pumps, alternators reconditioned, water cooling system inspected and flushed, fuel tanks inspected, new belts, new exhaust elbows.
  • Water system — Remove old stainless tanks which were leaking, replace with food grade plastic tanks, ceramic and carbon filters fitted in the kitchen (so now we have drinkable water on board!!!), all the taps replaced, water maker added (so we can convert sea water to drinking water underway) and fitted with a shore attachment (so we can convert crappy island water to drinkable water in port).
  • General Maintenance — New sliders for the captains door, reseal all the external windows, reseal the kitchen, revarnish all the external wood, fix the door lock, new anti-foul.
  • General upgrades — New stainless steel “upside down” refrigerator! New battery control panel and updates for the inverter (now we can see how much energy is going in and out of the batteries). New Air Conditioner (this one is ongoing, waiting on parts, but the vents are fitted).

Want to see where we are now? Check us out on NoForeignLand https://www.noforeignland.com/boat/matilda

Until next time,

Tim & Karina