Speaking of statistics (see last blog), last Saturday morning the levels on the three fuel tanks read 10.5, 12, and 12.5 sixteenths respectively. This corresponds to approximately 58 gallons of diesel since the tanks, all together, hold 80 gallons. After doing the math, there was room to siphon 20 gallons of fuel from the five jerry cans carried on deck. Deciding to do the transfer that day turned out to be a fortunate decision.
We could have waited to transfer the fuel until reaching Baiona, where the conditions would have been calmer, but decided to go ahead and get it done. There’s always the remote concern of a leak developing in one of the five-gallon container as it rubs against its lashings. That, and each container is approximately 30 lbs. of weigh along the starboard rail. With strong winds from the east, the boat was already heeling well over to starboard. Transferring fuel from the rail into the bowels of the boat would shift the weight and help the stability. After transferring four containers, the three tanks were more than full at 17/16 each.
Since the winds were strong in our favor and the sailing excellent, we only ran the engine for a couple of hours for housekeeping for the rest of Saturday and Sunday. However, come early Monday morning, the winds had dropped and what little wind there was came straight on our nose. There were less than eighty miles to go to Baiona. Based on the weather forecast, the wind on the bow was only going to get stronger by night fall. The sooner we could get to the harbor the better. We brought in the sails and motored the rest of the way …dropping anchor off the Baiona marina shortly before sunset amid a dozen other blue water cruising boats, flying flags of a variety of countries.
Shutting off the engine with a sigh of satisfaction and relief at having arrived and being secure on the anchor, I was surprised to see that the harbor was not pristine. There was an oily film in the anchorage. Peter and I looked down at the rainbow colors and then he said, “that’s us!” We’d been trailing an oil slick for an unknown number of miles, unnoticed until we stopped. I immediately went below and looked at the gauges. Tank number 1 was completely empty and tanks 2 and 3 had barely 3/16 each. We had less than 10 gallons of fuels remaining. Our 17 hours of motoring since topping off the tanks would have consumed only about the same number in gallons. We’d leaked nearly 60 gallons of diesel into the ocean.
Once again, the feeling of misfortune was mixed with gratitude for the good fortune that had come with it. We’d made it to a safe harbor. If we hadn’t topped off the tanks on Saturday, the engine would have quit somewhere off the coast of Spain. And if the leak had occurred earlier in the passage from Ireland to Spain, or back when crossing the North Atlantic, no amount of jerry cans would have allowed us to motor to land.
I should point out that the Lillian B is a sailing vessel. I point this out, in part, to reassure various wives to continue to allow their husbands to join as crew. In any case, running out of fuel in a sailboat is not as critical as, say, running out of fuel in an airplane. We would eventually have sailed our way into Baiona bay and dropped anchor. Sailing boats have crossed oceans for centuries without an engine. Reportedly, Christopher Columbus’ first mainland landfall in 1493 after returning from the New World was here in Baiona. I don’t think he had a motor. Looking at the replica of the Pinta over on the next pier, if that ship could get to Baiona under sail alone, the Lillian B should have no problem doing the same. However, having a working engine is very useful and even essential for things such as maneuvering into a tight slip. With the invaluable help of Pete’s Spanish to secure a berth, we did just that this morning and are now securely docked at the Monte Real Club de Yates yacht club, with access to all that the marina and the city offer.
But the fuel problem is not fixed. The remaining fuel has leaked into the bilge and all tanks are empty. We are without an engine. The bilge pump is now turned off to prevent further polluting the marina. I called Jonesy last night and again today and he’s been helping analyze the problem, but it’s going to require finding a local mechanic and boat yard here in Baiona that can do the repair. What that involves is not clear at this point. It might be as simple as replacing a fuel line or as extensive as replacing the tanks. And how that might impact the plans for the Canaris is unclear. We’ll know more when we find a mechanic. But for now it’s 10 pm and I’m sitting below deck enjoying a little Bushmills, imported by sail from Ireland (with a little help from the engine), so … hasta mañana.