Sailing Saetta: summer holiday from Edinburgh (Scotland) to Kristiansand (Norway), Part 1

The trip to Norway was an adventure that began a few weeks prior to departure. It started when the boat came out of the water for a new paint undercoat and anode replacement. Things went well and the boat was put back in without incidents. A week later we were about to leave for a weekend trip away in preparation for Norway. As I put in reverse to get out of the berth, the engine barely worked. Also, reverse is used as a brake when motoring, so not having it is a big deal as you can easily hit other boats in the marina. The boat had to get out of the water again. A few hours around the engine and the problem was found, and better yet, it was an easy repair. Great! The very next day, the boat went back in but at the end of the day I got a call from the mechanic: ‘we need to talk when you get here; we discovered a problem’! The exhaust pipe is very corroded and there is a small leakage of smoke and water.

I tried to get a replacement but they no longer exist. I found a company with experience with these engines that agreed to make something up quickly. The new part arrived two days before the trip. That night I tried installing it. First I did not have the right tool. I asked other skippers and got what I needed but even with their tools, the pipe would not budge. Through the years of use, the rubber pipe that connects the exhaust pipe to the box got welded to the part. My dad and I tried prying it off with screwdrivers, pliers, and everything we could to force the pieces. Nothing worked. Early the next day, the day before we are supposed to go, I went to the mechanics for help. For the first few hours, it came to nothing. They decided to take the whole assembly out and separate the parts at the workshop. They attached the exhaust to the vice and rotated the rubber pipe. The whole thing cracked in half! Whatever, the piece needed to go anyway!

The second step is to install the new part. It is after 3 pm, and after much struggle, the mechanics were able to install and test the new part but it leaked like a sieve (as seen by the white foam).

At that point, I was ready to cancel the trip. But the mechanics proposed they would make a replacement part. I accepted the offer. It was already the end of the day. I was not too hopeful but I stocked up with food, just in case. The next day around lunch, they came to install the newly made part without a hitch. Well done and just in time; the rest of the crew arrived at the boat.

The crew was me, Saskia, Vieira, Martin and Stephen. I started briefing the crew, where things are, how to work with the boat equipment, etc. Shortly after 3 pm we were finally on our way. With a good wind and tide, we managed to make good time.

The first 2 days were phenomenal! The wind always behind (which for those in the boat feel that there is only a breeze), clear skies. I could only be in shorts, sunbathe and we had dolphins jumping beside the boat! All photos were taken in these two days. Then things started to go wrong… 

First, the wind reduced so much that it was necessary to use the engine. At about 6:30 Martin and Stephen were on watch turned the engine on, and within 5 sec accelerate to the maximum. I was in bed and decided to accept the abuse of the engine. But soon started to smell something burning. I’m being paranoid, I told myself. But a few minutes later I could still smell it and I decided to get out of bed and have a look. When I open the engine cover, I first can barely see due to the cloud of smoke and then notice parts steaming. I yell to turn off the engine and just stare at the engine; I need to calm down because if I look at Steve or Martin, nothing good will come out of my mouth. I start troubleshooting and figure out what happened. It was clear: they overheated the engine. The combination of the cold engine and the new part does not allow revs to be raised the way they did. I went back to bed to let the engine cool. After 4h I tested the oil, checked the coolant level, and started the engine slowly. The pressure and temperature hold ok, so I do not think we destroyed the engine. 

At the beginning of day 3, the wind begins to rise, and with it the waves too. At least it kept coming from behind. By the end of the day, with the increased swell, Saskia could not move, eat or drink without vomiting soon after. Stephen was not much better but tried to do the shifts and help what he could. The winds were now over 50 km/h and the waves at 4m. During the night the wind continued to rise. Stephen was now too sick and scared to function. We are down to 3. From this point on, I would sleep harnessed in the cockpit. Vieira did the same. On the 4th day, the wind was over 80km/h and the waves reached 8m. Vieira and I would not even talk. We just looked around at the waves that were giant mountains of water! The colour of the water was gorgeous, but the anxiety and fear of what would happen if one of the waves crash on the boat did not allow us to enjoy. Later we got used to the situation and began to exchange a few sentences to take our mind off the wills we did not write. A few hours later and we are joking around! But not even on the fifth joke and two waves shook the whole boat. Back to silence as not to disturb the sea anymore. Hours and hours and hours and hours battling the water in silence and looking at the map and feeling that we were never arriving… but we made it… eventually. Just before dawn, we arrived at Kristiansand. The marina was very easy to dock and the piloting was easy too. We survived!

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