September, 2010 browsing by month


Monday Sept 20 A rough night

Monday, September 20th, 2010

The weather changed after 8 days of hot nice summer weather. A thunderstorm came through in the late afternoon. But then the nasty strong Easterly started blowing. And I got very little sleep. The way I am parked I got the full brunt of about 30 mile winds straight off the Danube. I am attached to the back of the pontoon and right against one of the steel wire ropes that holds it to the shore. The wind is so strong that it pushes the boat hard against the steel wire rope and on top of it. I had to get out several times and try to push the fenders back between the rope. But the waves would just lift the boat right against the rubbing wire rope. At day break I managed to get a 150 foot line to shore to try and take some of the pressure off and I rounded up a used tire that works better than the fenders.

The ocean is a piece of cake versus the physical abuse I have had in the locks, at anchor that one evening and this experience. “Fleetwood” is so beaten up by the Danube Destruction Derby that I most likely have to haul her out in Salina before continuing on to the Black Sea and Turkey. And I have no idea when I’ll be able to get out of Calafat. So, there is a good chance that I may need to winter the boat in Salina and that will change a lot of my plans.

I did not dare to leave the boat tis morning. Part of the spare part for the engine were sent today from Ireland. The rocker arm was to be sent from France as well, today.

I am mending from a cold. It started 5 days ago with a horrendous sore throat. But contrary to the usual sequence I did not have the many nights of coughing. Just one night. It probably is the healthy food and fruit I can get here at the market. All vine ripened tomatoes, grapes. peppers, etc. Lettuce and cucumbers are a rare find here.

Yesterday I cleaned off the black soot off the transom and washed the ensign where the white stars and stripes had turned grey. And did a little hand laundry. I had my last shower on September 1st in Budapest. None anywhere to be found since then. But I manage to stay clean with a bucket in the cockpit. I have to wait till dark, to avoid a spectacle, and work fast to compete with the mosquitos.

Sunday Sept 19

Sunday, September 19th, 2010

I tried the newer Eastern Orthodox church this time. But there is very little that I am able to get from the service besides the usual pictures for the blog. Again the entire liturgy is sung acapella with a small choir and the priests. This time the priest had a very beautiful bass voice which was enhanced by the acoustics in the sacristy dome. Everyone makes the sign of the cross about every ten seconds and there is a constant coming and going of worshippers to light candles and kiss a number of the icons. It is an odd experience to approach the church and imagine there is no service because there are no cars or bicycles parked. But there are no parking lots necessary since most people still have no cars here. The minimum wage in Roumania  is $ 200 per month. And unemployment is high. There are very few restaurants here and in the few cafes people spend little more than a cup of coffee. The most discouraging sight here is that of the older people who live on next to nothing. I started seeing it in Slovakia and gradually got worse the further east I came. I tried the soft fresh pretzels this morning. Looks and smells good but it is like chewing bread crust. Not my idea of a snack.

I have been here now 8 days. The parts for the engine shall be sent from Ireland and France on Monday. There is still some mystery as to why the rocker arm broke. Stay tuned.

Saturday 18 September. Progress!!

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

With the combined efforts of the Diesel Gurus we have figured that all we need is a new rocker arm and head gasket, which are on order. The mechanic, Marion, was here this morning and carefully checked for any other reasons of the broken rocker arm. And there is agreement that the water most likely was forced in that nasty Friday night. 

It remains dry and hot but there is an overcast now. I sleep under a mosquito net, just like in the tropics and by midnight it cools off enough to crawl into the sleeping bag.

Friday Sept 17 Waiting Game

Friday, September 17th, 2010

I have nothing better to do than wait for answers from Amsterdam as to what I should do next on the engine. I had hoped to be able to get any parts ordered before the weekend.

September 16. Possibly better news on engine

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

I took the head off today and recovered the broken part of the rocker arm in the exhaust manifold. There was no damage to the head gasket. And the pistons seem to be turning o.k. So, now is the question, what did the black smoke and the water in the engine have to do with this?  I am waiting for my Dutch Diesel Doctors to read me the analysis. If it is just the head gasket and a new rocker arm I may not be here too terribly long.

There is an outside possibility that the water was forced into the engine through the exhaust when I was dragged all over the river last Friday night by the helpful Border Police. They pulled me from the stern because I had asked them to try and circle the boat back out of the wrap around the keel. But they did not understand and started dragging me to deeper water at great speed, from the stern. I was sure they were going to break my rudder. But why would I not have checked my oil level before I took off two days ago after I thought I had solved the problem, as dirty fuel.

Since I do not have much better to do here then wait for advice I started on some projects. The dry warm weather is ideal for recaulking some of the worn teak deck seams. So I am caulking or Kalafatern, in Calafat where the word originated…. I also had some weather damage from the snow standing on the deck this winter. I hand sanded in the heat for hours which would have taken me an hour at moist with a machine, and primed. But I have not much better to do here. I finished “Shantaram” . This book has made a pronounced affect on me. It will probably remain the best writing, story and message by far over anything I have read. Find out for yourself!

Tuesday Sept 14. Bad News.

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

What a difference a day makes!!

I took off this morning. Beautiful morning. But I did not get far. The exhaust was again spewing crud and I was losing power. Back to the same spot in Calafat. I figured it had to be more bad fuel. I checked the filter and indeed there were some nasty things floating in the bottom. So I drained the entire tank. Filthy job. Would have been easier before I added the 5 gallons yesterday. Then I checked the oil level and I had a nasty surprise. Water in the oil. Another filthy task hand pumping the water and oil out. Then I called for the mechanic. Took the rocker head off. One busted rocker arm …. and most likely a busted head gasket and possible damage to the cylinder head and/or valves. So, this will take time and money. After all the rain and dark skies and stormy weather it has now turned to ideal boating weather. I’d better get settled in here and by the time I’m done here I might know every one in Calafat  by their first names.

Second post Monday 13 September. Good News

Monday, September 13th, 2010

It turned out that the engine problem was mainly due to bad fuel. The Racor filter was full of nasty grey sludge. I replaced the filter and after bleeding the lines a couple times the engine finally cranked back up and the exhaust water is now much clearer. So, I am off early in the morning and I will most likely not be near an internet for the next days. It will mostly be in anchorages.

I might still end up having to drain the entire diesel tank, if the problem reoccurs.

The harbor master, Florian,  did not want to charge me for moorage for the three nights that I was here. He was also the one who came to the boat this morning and suggested that I first check the filter. I had drained the filter only a week or so ago but not replaced the filter. I dragged another 5 gallon Diesel from  a 3 kms away filling station to the boat, with the bicycle. I ran into a very pleasant Australian couple, from near Canberra, Mike a retired Airforce flyer and Vicky a school teacher. They are cruising all of Europe in a camper van that they keep in England during the winters.

The weather has finally turned to warm sunny weather in the mid seventies with cool nights in the low sixties. Buying groceries in the markets and stores is much cheaper than Western Europe. A beer in a restaurant in Calafat is about $ 1.30 , yesterday in Bulgaria I paid about 65 cents.

Monday Sept 13 Vidin/Calafat

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Sunday afternoon I took the ferry across to Vidin in Bulgaria. This city was founded in 300 BC by the Celts. It is a much bigger city than Calfat and I was looking at it as an alternative to check my engine problems. But the moorage possibilities did not seem to be as good as what I have here in Calafat. I had a reply from my brother in law, Herman, in Holland about the possible causes of the engine problem. He is an expert on large ship diesels but has on many occasions come to my rescue and knows my engine well. He feels that it it is not time yet to exchange the engine and he has given me advice as to what I should be doing to remedy the problem. I have a lead here for a diesel mechanic to assist. Yesterday I managed to restart the engine after several tries but this morning it started up normally. So, there is hope!

There is a whole lot more to do and see in Vidin. It is very nicely laid out along the Danube with promenades and parks. But all is still a bit dilapidated from the isolation and neglect behind the iron curtain. The one picture below shows a minaret in the background. This is the only left of 28 during the Turkish occupation period. But the unusual aspect, that the picture barely shows, is the fact that instead of having a half moon on the top it has a heart shape.

The wait for the return ferry was long but I had a nice conversation with Lucca, 21, and Julian, 20, Romanian students on their way back from an international chess meet. He placed third. Lucca was once European junior chess champion.

Sunday 12 September Calafat

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

First a bit of trivia about Calafat. This is where the German word “Kalfatern” and Dutch “(Op)kalevateren” originates. And apparently even the English “Caulking” (Breeuwen). The Genoan traders, already in the Middle Ages, brought the pitch from Calafat to use in the ship building for caulking the the seams in the hull and deck planking.

I tried starting the engine this morning but it did not turn over. I am waiting to hear from my Dutch Diesel experts on what kind of problem I might have. But if there is anyone else out there who might have a suggestion. Here are the symptoms: The engine is 30 years old and had little action till the four trips up and down the ICW and now this 2000 mile Amsterdam- Black Sea voyage. It is a Renault 16. Parts are only available in England and they know it. Last September I paid theequivalent of a good down payment of another engine to replace the head gasket to them. So, it might be time to replace but this is not a good spot for it. So, I am hoping to be able to get at least to Galati another 650 kms down river, where the mast needs to be restepped and where there is a good ship yard. The exhaust had been emitting a small amount of diesel/oil? for quite some time. But I did not use any oil till very recently. When I left Amsterdam for the Rhine and Danube I started having black smoke and the transom was constantly black. Then two days ago when I decelerated before entering the last lock it sounded/felt that the engine was going to quit, it spewed out a bunch of black soot. I slowed down from then on but made it yesterday to Calafat, running the engine slower. I did not seem to have lost power but was leaving more diesel/oil? on the water from the exhaust and the soot is now thick on the transom waterline. 

I went to mass this morning at the local Eastern Orthodox church. UnfortunatelyI got littleout of it. I understood the Credo and the Pater Noster but not much else. The sanctuary is closed off from the congregation and the altar is not visible. The priest comes out on different occasions and then he closes the Dutch door again and the red brocade curtain above it. All is sung acapella by, a mostly older women, choir and the priests. The younger priest sung accompaniment in a very low voice, like the Tibetan monks.

Yesterday I wandered of into the lower rent district and was accosted by a bunch or urchins “Donne Moneta”! One grabbed my mosquito repellent out of my back pack pocket. But dropped it when I went in pursuit. Since Roumanian is a Latin language I can read a good part of it but the spoken is worse than understanding Portuguese. Right across the river is Vidin, one of the larger cities in Bulgaria. The ferry landing is right next to my moorage. A bridge to both cities is under construction. Renault Nissan produces cars in Bulgaria which many are shipped on a regular roll on roll off barge service from Vidin to Bamberg, Germany. I was locked in for a while by one of those ships earlier this week at my last Serbian mooring.

Saturday Sept 11 Calafat, Roumania

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

I came in here looking like a long distance sailor with my three day beard and bruises. The marinas and mooring opportunities are far and few between and expensive. Except for clearing in to Roumania at Moldova Veche, last Wednesday I had not set foot ashore till today. Two good anchoring experiences and, the one last night, one I could have missed. I went through the last two locks of the 67 on this 3500 k.m. journey. I am now at k.m. 795. So just a third of the 2400 k.m. left to go. But I ran into a probable serious hurdle. The engine started to suddenly spew out more black crud, just when I throttled down for the last lock, yesterday. It still works but in order to keep the crud down I had to slow the power down. I have sent for advice to my Diesel buddies. I may be able to find a temporary fix here in Calafat. If any serious work or replacement of the engine needs to be done it would suit best in Galati, which is where I plan to restep the mast at a regular shipyard where there are (west) Europeans working.

Wednesday and Thursday I passed through the “Iron Gate”. This is the narrowest and deepest gorge of the Danube. I measured depth of 250 feet. Supposedly no other river in the world has these depths. This gorge was a wild and nasty passage till the two dams were built where I passed through the last locks. It is a very impressive sight, the sheer steepness of the granite rock piles. But it was, a misty rainy day, not good for photographs. Yesterday was also very foggy and then the nasty infamous Easterly started blowing. I could not find a good anchorage after the two hour wait in the last lock and ended up in wind and current exposed anchorage. The current pushed from the stern and the gusty winds kept pushing the boat around and in the end ther boast wrapped around the anchor rode and became completely exposed to the full force of the current over its entire length. I started dragging and I had no way to get the anchor back up because the force on it. Then out of nowhere rescue came in the form of a Roumanian border patrol boat. I asked therm to unwind the wrap by pushing me back one turn. But they did not understand. It was getting dark and I was drifting to shallow ground. I ended up attaching one of my fenders to the bitter end and let the whole anchor gear go. They picked it up. They meant well but they did not know much about boat handling first they dragged me from the stern with the qanchor attached at way too much speed to deeper water. Not exactly good for the transom hung rudder, ther water gushed in over the transom. Then they started dragging my, released, anchor all over the place before they dragged it out. First I thought they were taking off with it. The anchor and chain is nicely polished from the gravel bed and I will have to regalvanize it. I reanchored in the same spot but I used my head this time and remembered the trick I learned from a Frenchman on the Rio Paraiba, in Brazil. Where there was also a lot of current and I did the anchor wrap routine. I anchored from the stern. That kept the bow on the wind and from gyrating. But I did get the rode caught in the rudder pintles a couple times and that takes sheer physical abuse to undo. But what the heck there is nothing better to do on an evening’s anchoring on the Danube. The wind calmed down some and I managed to get a few hours sleep. Right now I am on a pontoon in the river but it is on the inside and much better than the last pontoon rock and roll party.

The paperwork at the borders is incredible. To the point of bursting out laughing. On Wednesday, just paying my 13 Euroes for mooring at the private pontoon while clearing in took three complicated documents and three people involved in it. There is the police, customs, harbor master and health in some places. The building the customs was in in Moldova Veche reminded me of the dumps I saw in Madagascar. Dilapidated, dingy, dark.

I plan to go to mass here tomorrow. Most likely no R.C. rites here. My opportunity to share it with the Eastern Orthodox bretheren. And you all also pray for my tired old engine, please.