[KensBlog 2014-Entry 6] We’re having a SWELL time

Welcome to Ken’s Blog! (top)

Greetings all!

First off, I would like to apologize for the length of this blog entry. We’ve been busy traveling and I haven’t found time to work on my blog. Going forward, I’ll try to produce shorter blog entries, and send them more frequently. That said, it never seems to work out that way. One tip for this issue of the blog: make sure you read the section on Scario. It describes a scary event!

As I am typing this, Sans Souci is on the west coast of mainland Italy, in Salerno (about 150 miles south of Rome)

Here’s an index to this issue of Ken’s Blog:


Journey Map (top)

This map shows Sans Souci’s route over the two-week span covered in this blog entry. As you can see, we’ve been moving!


Taormina (top)

At the end of my last blog entry Sans Souci and Seabird were working our way north along the east coast of Sicily. We had expected nice calm seas but were instead pushed around by lumpy seas. Our problem wasn’t as much the rough seas, as it was that we had no idea what would be waiting for us at arrival. The east coast of Sicily has only a few anchorages, and other than Siracusa none offer protection from rough seas or swell.

The major topic of discussion was, “What happens when we get there?” The cruising guides are quite explicit in saying that there is no anchorage at Taormina except in “settled conditions.” We could see on the chart that the anchorage was exposed to the sea and that there were no other anchorages. Nor were there any others anywhere close. We identified one that “might” work, right at the Messina Strait (the narrow channel between Sicily and Italy) but that would mean getting beat up for an additional two hours, only to arrive at a dubious anchorage.

Another Nordhavn owner had recommended we try the mooring buoys at Taormina, which were placed in the most protected possible location. We were aware of these, but had written them off as impractical. Generally, it is impossible to know what is under the water on these mooring buoys, or the condition of the line that attaches the buoy to the bottom. However, with a bit of googling I found a website that had this to say:

“… Taormina Moorings are situated at the south side of Capo Taormina and are sheltered from North, North East, South West, West and North West winds and swell. The 11,000 square metre area is private and offers 20 dead weight moorings. Each concrete block weighs 5000 kg to which large orange fender buoys are attached via a 26mm rope and a 30mm chain at the base. These moorings offer a perfectly safe day and overnight anchorage for yachts up to 43 meters (140′) in length. …”

(http://www.yachthotel.it/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=47%3Ataormina-moorings&catid=72%3Ayacht-hotel )

Interesting! I didn’t like the idea of being in what was effectively a “boat parking lot” but we were in no position to be picky. If the mooring buoys could hold us, we wanted them! The price looked outrageous – 120 euros (about $180 USD) to tie to a little orange ball for the night, but…what was our other option?

The seas stayed rough up to within a mile of the moorage, then suddenly flattened out. Just short of the mooring buoys we saw water flat enough to drop our anchors, and probably could have, but we were in the mood for a “sure thing” and the mooring buoys had captured the best possible (most protected) location.

About the time we finished tying up the wind dropped. Suddenly it was flat in every direction. Our moods brightened and we were instantaneously transported to paradise! A flood of other boats came in and we looked around and realized we were in a great place under a very cool, cliff-hugging town .

The best of all: Taormina is near the base of Mt Etna, an extremely active volcano. We were close enough to easily see the lava flow – at night. How many people can say they had dinner on the back of their boat while being entertained by an active volcano at the base of cliffs, holding a hillside city?

Taormina Moorings. An incredible place to be! George, who runs the place takes good care of you, and is always available to run you to the town for exploring, help you with taxis or restaurant reservations, make deliveries and take away your garbage.

Imagine this: dinner on the back deck watching the lava flow on an active volcano. How great is that?

Looking down at our boats from the hilltop town of Taormina.

Taormina — fun to explore, and we even discovered a really good sushi restaurant.


The Messina Strait (top)

After a few spectacular days at Taormina the time had come to head north. To do this we would be passing through the Messina Strait.

The Messina Strait is a narrow channel separating mainland Italy from Sicily. If you think of Italy as a leg with a boot at the bottom, then Sicily would be like the soccer ball that is about to be kicked by the “toe.” We’d be passing in the narrow gap between the toe and the ball.

I was nervous about the strait, and kept googling it on the internet, trying to figure out whether there would be heavy currents. The Messina Strait turned out to be anti-climactic. I had expected a narrow channel, like the Corinth Canal (Note: If you haven’t seen our video of going through the Corinth Canal, check it out by clicking this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6KjXNYiXfo), but whereas the Corinth Canal was only 75′ wide, the the Messina Strait is 1.5nm wide at the narrowest. There were currents, but with so much maneuvering room they were a non-factor.

There are a few interesting things worth noting:

  • In the narrowest part of the channel, fishermen were everywhere in little (Approx. 4 meter) fishing boats. They were hard to see at times and I have to believe one gets hit from time to time. At one point I was dodging two ferries zig-zagging around them, while being passed by a cruise ship!
  • The currents were strange. I had downloaded a program for my iphone which was a current table for the Messina Strait. It claimed the current would be 1 knot with us, but for most of the run it was three knots AGAINST us.
  • Apparently the area is known as a place where swordfish boats hang out. Sadly, we weren’t able to see one.

    Here’s a fun article talking about why these boats are SO interesting:


    Swordfishing boat at the Messina Strait. Look at the length of the bowsprit!


The Aeolian Islands – Vulcano (top)

Anyway, the real excitement didn’t begin until we reached the Aeolian Islands (north of Sicily). They are a series of volcanic islands, and we wanted a spot to drop anchor for the night. Unfortunately, there aren’t many places, and on a nice Sunday afternoon in high season, room to anchor is rare.

The islands drop vertically into the sea. By the time you are 100 yards offshore the depth is easily 300 feet or more. At Porto Levante, on Vulcano Island, which was our first anchoring effort, the closest I could come to anchoring was a narrow shelf in 124 feet of water. We searched for an hour for a place to drop the anchors, and finally found a very nice place in 50 feet of water on the west side of Lipari Island.

Sans Souci and Seabird at anchor on the west side of Lipari Island. The anchorage was crowded during the day, but by the evening we were almost alone. You can see the volcano on the right side, on nearby Vulcano Island.

While sitting at anchor I was shocked to see the strangest looking airplane I had ever seen land in the water right next to Sans Souci. Or, at least that’s what I thought! It appeared out of nowhere, and was HUGE. I immediately ran to the radio to tell Steven (on Seabird). “Steven! You aren’t going to believe this. A plane just landed next to me!”

Steven took a look and immediately recognized the strange beast. It was a solar-powered boat! Steven had seen it in Thailand as it was circumnavigating the planet. Take a look at it, and you’ll see why I was confused:


After one calm night at anchor, we had no choice but to move around to the east side of Lipari and go into a marina at Lipari Town. There would be a strong west wind coming for the next 48 hours, and we needed to be somewhere safe.

Sans Souci approaching the Aeolian Islands

You should see a video above. That said, if you received this blog entry via email you may need to click this link to see the video:



Lipari (top)

As we were on route to the town of Lipari Roberta once again grabbed the video camera, and shot this video of us following Seabird around the island:

Sans Souci circumnavigating Lipari Island

You should see a video above. That said, if you received this blog entry via email you may need to click this link to see the video:


A marina had been recommended to us in Lipari Town (the main town on the island of Lipari.) We knew that Lipari was a small island, and weren’t expecting much for a marina, but the marina was even smaller than expected. It was just a large pontoon, with no breakwater, open to the sea. We knew bad weather was coming, but weren’t too worried. The wind would be coming from the west, and we were on the east side of the island inside a bay. We would be protected from the wind and swell by the island.

I had heard that the restaurants in Lipari weren’t very good, but Roberta and I had great luck and went to two different restaurants we thought were very good: La Conghilia, and La Anfora.

There’s one “cultural detail” that should be mentioned about restaurants here in Italy. People eat late! Roberta and I usually eat early, like 6:30 or 7:00 pm. In Italy, restaurants don’t even start opening until 8 pm. Above are before and after pictures showing the restaurant La Anfora: Roberta and I at 8:30 pm, dining alone. The “after” picture shows the restaurant full at 10 pm when we were leaving.

Our “marina” at Lipari was actually a long pontoon. We were tied up at the end of it. I worried we were too heavy for it. Overall though, it was a very nice place, and the owner, Pierro, took very good care of us.

Seabird and Sans Souci were tied, side by side, at the end of a pontoon. With the high winds we were constantly moving side to side. Sans Souci uses inflatable fenders, and at times there was so much pressure between the two boats that I expected a fender to pop at any time. We had twelve large fenders separating our boats. Even this wasn’t enough and Steven purchased a large “ball fender” at a local marine store for extra protection.

We spent one afternoon exploring the streets of Lipari with the dogs.

As Roberta and I were walking up our dock I noticed that many of the boats were charter sailboats (flying a banner that said “Yacht Week”). I mentioned to Roberta that I felt sorry for the people who rented the boats after flying many miles to enjoy a week in the sunshine, only to find themselves pinned down by weather for several days and being bounced around in the wind. Sans Souci is an extremely heavy boat. We were moving somewhat, but nothing like the little sailboats tied to the dock. They were moving so much that I could envision almost anyone getting seasick just sitting at the dock!

As the evening went on, the weather didn’t improve, but a “spring break” atmosphere took over the dock. No one looked like they were suffering too bad, making the best of it, although I bet there were some people who had headaches the next morning.

During the worst of the wave action I noticed a couple of young ladies swimming in the tight space between their sailboat and the dock. I was afraid that one of them was going to get badly hurt should the sailboat (or the dock) crash into them. I was probably overly sensitive because of an incident Steven and Carol witnessed in May while in Sibenik, Croatia, waiting for us to arrive. During a wild party at a nearby dock someone went overboard, only to be fished out of the water next to Seabird the next morning. A very sad, mortal event. Although I didn’t say anything to the girls I couldn’t stop myself from approaching the captain the next day to warn him to keep a closer eye on his passengers. He didn’t stop them swimming, but did move his boat farther off the dock creating a larger area behind the dock, so that his passengers could swim safely.

A VERY short, but very interesting, video showing our pontoon moving in strong wind

You should see a video above. That said, if you received this blog entry via email you may need to click this link to see the video:



Panarea (top)

After three days hiding from weather at the dock on Lipari the weather improved and we were able to move the short distance to another island in the Aeolian group: Panarea.

Panarea is a tiny island with a huge anchorage in front of Panarea Town. The enormous size of the anchorage has made it popular with the megayacht and jetset crowd. There’s kind of a St Tropez ambiance on the island, with the nightlife to match.

Sans Souci at anchor at Panarea. We anchored farther than I liked from town, but it was BEAUTIFUL!

As much as I was looking forward to visiting Panarea, there was another reason to be there. We had been trying to cross paths with Nordhavn 76 owners, Laust and Monika Sondergaard, who had been cruising further north and were working their way south. We had never met, but had corresponded from time to time.

Nordhavn 76 – L’Adagio

Owners, Laust and Monika, were kind enough to give us a tour of their beautiful boat. We invited them over to Sans Souci for a tour, but after seeing how perfectly clean their boat was we asked them to give us a couple of hours to tidy things up first. We’ve been living on the boat full-time for more than two months without crew, and, though we are tidy people, it sometimes comes down to: do we take much of our time cleaning the boat inside and out – or go sightseeing and have fun? Fun often wins! We have decided that one important thing that crew does (“crew” meaning one or more persons) is to keep the boat constantly clean while the owners get to go out and have fun! Roberta envied the fact that L’Adagio had one crew member.

In this picture Laust is trolling for sharks with his son and son’s friend, beer bottles in hand. The young men joined us for dinner later in the evening, so the sharks must not have been biting.

Party on Sans Souci!

Sans Souci’s upper aft deck is a wonderful place for an afternoon gathering. Here you see the guys huddled at one end of the table looking at their phones (Laust from L’Adagio, and Steven from Seabird) while the ladies are at the other end of the table gossiping about us (Carol from Seabird, Roberta from Sans Souci and Monika from L’Adagio).

Ken and Roberta Williams with the Sondergaards. One of the sad things about boating is that you meet amazing people for a day, then you sail on and may never meet again.

Panarea is famous for its nightlife. Roberta and I bailed early wanting to get back to the dogs waiting for us on the boat. The tender ride to town, which, in the light of the early evening, took only 15 minutes, lasted over 30 minutes for the return trip. By then, it was pitch black, with many boats to zig-zag around, plus a large area with blinking mooring balls, some lit and some not. We were very happy we weren’t trying it after a longer evening spent enjoying the nightlife.

Nordhavn 76 – Nordhavn 68 – Nordhavn 62

This picture took some work to make happen. L’Adagio (Monika and Laust’s N76) was anchored a mile away. In order to take this picture Laust re-anchored his boat in a cramped location near our two boats. We then had to be creative in maneuvering the tenders in order to get the three boats lined up.


Stromboli – Dinner beneath an active volcano (top)

Seabird and Sans Souci share a common desire for short-distance cruising on flat, calm seas. We’re in a part of the world where the seas and winds can quickly turn nasty. The Aeolian Islands are beautiful, but they are very exposed to high wind and swell. It was time to move on.

Our next stop after Panarea would be the another of the Aeolian islands: Stromboli. Stromboli is an active volcano, and can apparently put out quite a fireworks show at night, viewed mostly from the NW of the island. The problem is that there is virtually no protection from the winds and waves at the one anchorage at the NE of the island. There also isn’t much space to anchor, and what little there is forces the boats to anchor much closer to each other than they normally would. As we were approaching the anchorage I noticed that I was still reading 350 feet of depth within 100 feet of a sailboat to which I’d be anchoring next to. But the bottom came up quickly and I was able to drop the anchor in 38 feet of water.

We never did get to see the fireworks; the crater points to the NW while we were anchored at the NE. Though we were anchored at the volcano, in order to see the show you need to wait until the early morning while it’s still dark, pull your anchor and drive around to the northwest side of the island. We felt lazy and decided to pass on that, figuring that we saw Mt. Etna in all of her glory from the wonderful viewpoint of our upper aft deck at Taormina! That doesn’t mean we didn’t have a magical time, though. From where we were sitting we could see constant smoke at the top of the volcano, and an endless stream of people hiking the switchback trail to the top of the volcano. Apparently tourists hike for hours to reach a viewing point at the edge of the crater, watch the fireworks, and then, after dark, hike back down, flashlights in hand. We were watching them through the binoculars, and, while sitting in the hot tub, we could see what looked like a lit-up snake crawling down the mountain. And to add to the surrealness, though we never personally viewed the eruptions, about every 30/40 minutes or so, we’d hear it: a loud sound like a huge jet engine!

Aeolian Islands – Stromboli

Here we are approaching Stromboli. The anchorage is on the northeast corner, where the town is located.

Seabird and Sans Souci at anchor on Stromboli

Roberta cooked an amazing dinner anchored in front of Stromboli. We spent the evening watching, through the binoculars, the hikers working their way to the top, only to hike back down a few hours later.

Stromboli – Viewed from north side


Scario – Sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes you don’t (top)

Apologies, but I have no pictures for this section of the blog, and I have a REALLY good excuse. In fact, Steven (Seabird) and I were debating whether this was our worst cruising day ever, or second worst. We couldn’t decide, but are confident it ranks high on the “day from hell” scale.

Our journey from Stromboli to Scario (a village on the west coast of southern, mainland Italy) began at 5am, as we prepared the boats for departure. We had a perfect weather forecast for a 75nm (nine hour) trip to an anchorage we had heard good things about.

The trip was every bit as calm as predicted. Zero wind and dead-calm seas.

On arrival I noticed ten or so boats anchored below some cliffs just outside of town. We had planned to drop our anchors just outside of the town but were curious why all the boats had chosen a place a couple miles out of town to anchor. (It was a great place to swim!) As we approached we could see that it was a fairly tight location without much room to anchor, but incredibly beautiful. We could drop our hooks and feel like we were in the middle of nowhere, but be an easy tender ride into town. At around 5:00 pm all of the other boats pulled their anchors, leaving our two boats alone at the anchorage.

The anchorage turned out to be perfect. We floated in the calm water and had dinner on the upper back deck. The evening was predicted to be no more than five knots of wind, and we would be moving to a city (Salerno) 70nm farther north the next day, so Roberta and I put away our flopper stoppers (the giant poles that hang out the sides to help keep the boat from rolling side to side while at anchor).

Roberta and I turned in for the night at 10:30 pm. At 11:00 pm we felt the boat roll with a swell, and assumed some big boat had passed by and we were feeling its wake. But then, the boat rolled again, and then again, and again and…

The boat kept rolling side to side making sleep impossible. By 12:30 we were rolling so that I had to lay down chairs (so they wouldn’t fall) and move computers off table tops. At 1:00 am the swell was absolutely unacceptable. It was virtually impossible to move inside the boat without falling. The strangest thing was that there was no wind. The forecasters had been right about that. But there was a HUGE swell entering the bay; perhaps seven to eight feet of swell.

I used the radio to call over to Seabird. No answer. I tried the phone and woke Steven and Carol up. “Should we move?” I asked. Steven answered, “It’s bad, but we’re able to sleep. I think this is going to calm down.” Roberta and I tried to sleep.

The swell continued to worsen and was becoming frightening. At 1:30 am Steven called, “Let’s get out of here!” He then asked, “Are you sure we can get our anchors up in this?” Our bows were bobbing dramatically by this time.

It was a very good question. The bows were pitching through a five to ten foot arc every few seconds. As soon as the anchor cleared the water it could fly up like a missile.

My answer, “We really don’t have a choice, do we?” We were close to shore and I could hear waves crashing. Things were getting worse quickly. We knew we were in trouble where we were, and thought we might be in trouble out at sea. We had to pick between two bad solutions to our problem: stay, or go. We knew we couldn’t stay, so, in reality, it was an easy decision.

Pulling the anchor was not fun. It was pitch black and we didn’t want to mess up our night vision by turning on the deck lights. Roberta managed the helm as I went to the bow to try to retrieve the anchor.

The bow was pitching more than I had expected. Although I had no light, our anchor light was illuminating the waves around us, and I could finally see how much we were rising and falling. Raising the anchor went reasonably well until the end. We were apparently well stuck with the anchor buried. We had dropped the anchor in 70 feet of water. When I was on the last 70 feet of chain, the anchor stuck and wouldn’t pull up. I started pulling in chain as the bow descended, and then let the weight of Sans Souci’s upward momentum help unstick the anchor as the bow lurched up. I was worried the anchor would be trapped under some rock and that by lifting chain as the bow plummeted I’d be ripping off the bowsprit when the wave pushed the boat higher.

Suddenly, the anchor freed and went neatly into its position on the bow. I looked over at Seabird, and their anchor had come up backwards. He and Carol were on the bow using a boat hook to rotate the anchor into a proper position for lifting the last few feet onto the bowsprit. Steven mentioned later that he had been nervous hearing the waves crashing nearby. His worry was that the boat would be blown onto shore while he was away from the helm helping to spin the anchor. Once again, there were no other options. In situations like this you do what you have to do.

Finally…the boats were free! We assumed that as soon as we were moving, and got out into deeper water, the rolling would stop. Our first thought was that we had anchored in a bad location, but we quickly discovered that it wouldn’t have made a difference. I did a quick check of the weather and the report had been updated to reflect the swell being two meters (nearly seven feet) rather than the previously forecast calm.

But, now what? We were in heavy seas, with strangely no wind, and a seventy mile passage ahead of us — and, we hadn’t slept in almost 24 hours!

There was nowhere we could have anchored. It was just a surprise swell due to some unexpected weather event far away. It was what it was, and our boats are solid, so we just kept going. While underway, Roberta logged onto the internet to search for a marina further north, where we could go and safely dock.

It was a rough ride, but we’ve had rougher. The wind was only in the 5 to 15 knot range, it was the unexpected swell that was causing the problems. What made this run particularly bad was that it was pitch black out, and we had seen fish pots when we came in. Also, our exhaustion was complicating the situation. We decided that both Roberta and I would drive until the sun came out (three hours later) and then we’d take turns while one rested.

We decided to shift our route farther offshore. Originally we had routed ourselves fairly close to land, but now wanted to stay in the deep water (over 1,000 ft depth), to avoid any fish pots. We were also concerned there might be some poorly lit fishermen. We wanted as far from other traffic as we could get. The extra distance caused by rerouting turned our nine hour run into a twelve hour run.

The story does have a happy ending. The ride was miserable the whole way, and even entering the marina ( Marina D’Arechi, in Salerno) was tricky, but we were finally tied up, and ready for well-earned sleep.

And…that’s why there are no pictures! (Both Roberta and I were too busy and exhausted!)

Keeley and Toundra

The puppies have their own doghouses. When the seas are rough we need to convince them all is well and give them special attention.


Salerno – And a visit to an ancient city (top)

Our journey to Salerno was a challenge, but overall a good experience. Roberta made the comment at dinner that “It’s amazing what you can do when you have to.”

Roberta had her own personal battle bringing the boat into the marina. She had shoulder surgery a year ago and now doesn’t like to work the lines, fearing to hurt her shoulder again. These days, I’m the one who fenders the boat, handles the lines or lowers the anchor. As we approach marinas or anchorages, she drives while I work outside. Entering would normally be easy, but that big swell was relentlessly pushing us through the marina entrance with a tight turn just inside. There were a couple of boats exiting the marina at the same time and she had to dodge them just as the surge was pushing Sans Souci toward them. She isn’t accustomed to driving the boat in those conditions — but, she rose to the occasion and stayed calm. We entered the marina perfectly. When I took over, the Med-mooring went smooth. It’s always a bit of a struggle to convince the marina staff that I need someone on the boat to help work lines as this is a big, heavy boat and there is no way I can get it Med-moored without someone helping Roberta. Normally Roberta drives while I fender, but then I take over driving for the actual docking. Roberta is proving she can maneuver the boat more than she thinks she can, so…my next goal is to get her to drive while Med-mooring, so that I can assist the marina staff with lines while tying up.

Marina D’Arechi

Sans Souci and Seabird, at Marina D’Arechi, a huge new marina near Salerno, Italy. I can’t say we really loved the town of Salerno, but it was a convenient place for land touring.


This is my favorite picture of the trip! It was taken at the small town of Vietri Sul Mare, near Salerno, while Roberta and I were exploring. It looks like a painting.

Our primary reason for visiting Salerno was to see Herculaneum, a town which was destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius at the same time as its more famous counterpart, Pompeii (79 AD.)

Herculaneum had been a port town where the wealthy lived. Roberta and I toured Pompeii years ago, and had heard that Herculaneum, though much smaller than Pompeii, was much better preserved.

I’ve seen more than my fair share of historic sites (pyramids, many ancient walled cities, ancient temples, etc.). I’d say that I am tough to impress these days. That said, Herculaneum blew me away. The place is well enough preserved that you feel like you are really in a town, walking the streets. You can go into houses and actually feel like you’re in someone’s home, and know where the gardens were, where the fountains were, where the bathroom was, etc. You could also sense how the city was laid out; the streets are all there and very well made. For example, there was a “restaurant row,” and streets with shops and a couple of bakeries where the oven is still there…and probably still usable.

Click this link to see a 3d picture of just one room of one building:



A wealthy waterfront town, destroyed by the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD.

After a couple of hours of exploring Herculaneum we came across a particularly sad sight: At the front of the town are the boat storage areas (this was a waterfront town, now set back from the water by about a thousand feet due to all the tremendous ash fall.) Where boats or marine equipment would have been stored are a series of arched vaults. There, many of the town’s inhabitants went and huddled while waiting to be evacuated by boat or to hope that the large vaults would provide some protection from the eruption. They didn’t make it. Three hundred exceptionally preserved skeletons were found in those boat storages– mostly women and children. Quite a few men were found outside on the beach, not far from those boat storage vaults. It is theorized that the men had the women and children go into those large, protected storage areas, then went to the beach to….die????


Over 300 skeletons were discovered huddled together in vaults at the waterfront. One poignant scene: a mother, clutching her little boy, who, in turn, was holding his dog in his arms.


And, something for the techies… (top)

This has been a fairly calm time for mechanical problems with the boat.

Watermakers – New Membranes

In Lipari (Aeolian Islands) our mechanic from Siracusa drove for hours and took a ferry, to bring new watermaker membranes. They seem to have been part of the problem, but were not the total solution I had hoped for. Four new membranes were installed, and my salinity numbers got better, but were running in the 700s (too high!) rather than the 300s I had hoped for.

His and my best guess as to what is happening: There are O-rings which seal the membranes. Paolo (the tech) believes that the O-rings have failed and are letting seawater pass, contaminating the filtered water. My next step will be to replace the O-rings at the end of the season and hope that the situation improves.

Marina Shorepower

At Marina D’Arechi in Salerno, electricity was a challenge. Steven (Seabird) needed an electrician to come to his boat to figure out the power. And, I had a problem that sent me back to the office a few times.

The marina issued me a “key” (a computer chip basically) that I could use to activate the electricity. I then purchased 50 euros (about $65 USD) of credit that was put onto my chip. Back at my boat I selected a nearby meter (pictured) and turned on the electricity by transferring the 50 euros of credit from the key to the meter. Finding a meter (power pedestal) was not easy. The marina seems to have different connectors at each pedestal. I found four different connectors at the nearby pedestals, none of which matched my cable, and none of which matched any of the various adapters I carry. I almost gave up but then found a pedestal I could stretch my cord to that had the 63 amp connector I wanted.

This was just after our hellish arrival into Salerno, and I was not in the mood for problems. All I could think about was going to sleep.

About 90 minutes after going to bed I woke sweating. The air conditioning had gone off. Shore power had quit.

I went out to look at the meter and it was showing no electricity. I pressed my key to the meter and it said “no credit.” It had been a long day and I was not in the mood for more problems. I started the generator on the boat and hiked back to the marina office.

They explained that I needed to buy more credit. I explained that my 50 euros had been used in 90 minutes. The office staff wanted to help me, but cross language the message wasn’t getting through. One person asked if I was running air conditioning, and when I said yes, everyone nodded like, “Well, there’s the problem.”

Sans Souci is a power pig. We do use a lot of electricity. But, that said, I run the boat with a 20kw generator, which is under-loaded most of the time. And, that includes watermakers, laundry, air conditioning, electric stove, etc. Most of the time the boat uses only 5kw, with spikes to 18kw when everything is running at once. On average we run somewhere around 8kw per hour.

I asked the office staff what the price per hour, per kw, is. Back came the answer: “.27 euros” (around 40 cents). So, if Sans Souci averages 8kw, at 40 cents per hour per kw, then we should be spending $3.20 USD per hour on electricity. That’s a bunch of money, but it would be 50 euros a day, not 50 euros an hour. I was being charged ten-fold what I should be.

I just explained all of that to you in written English, and it took a couple of sentences. Try explaining it to a rookie office staff who speaks Italian, in pigeon verbal English, hastily sketched diagrams, and hand gestures. Not easy. And, perhaps impossible.

They did suggest a solution: “Buy 100 more euros and try again.” I did that and hiked back to the boat. In 10 minutes, 5 euros were gone. Over the next two hours, 25 euros more had bitten the dust. I was spending about $30 USD per hour for electricity. Being a long day, I turned off shorepower, turned on the generator and went to sleep.

After a day running the generator, I decided to try a different power pedestal. I wanted to give the local electricity another chance. I bought 250 euros MORE electricity, bringing my total to 400 euros! The marina said they’d send an electrician.

An hour later, back on the boat, Roberta shouted, “The electrician is here!”

This began a long session (spanning over an hour) with the electrician, with him trying to convince me that I was being correctly charged. We did a variety of experiments, turning on and off the electricity, wholly and partially. Roberta was cooking dinner at the time, and was not happy that we kept turning off the power. We were also turning on and off the air conditioning while she was working at a hot stove and oven, which was further dropping my popularity.

Finally, the marina electrician decided I was being billed correctly, and that I was consuming 49kw! I knew this was hogwash, but didn’t know how to communicate it. We average only 8kw, with air conditioning. At 49kw my shorepower cable would melt, and 99% of the time I run the boat on my 20kw generator, which is under-loaded 99% of the time. I liked that the marina electrician had at least now settled upon a ludicrous position.

The electrician backed down fairly quickly when I got out my calculator and started multiplying amps times voltage and computing kilowatts. One of the marina staff was watching as we worked and finally conceded that I was being billed incorrectly.

I don’t think the marina was being sneaky. It’s just a new marina and they had their billing algorithms wrong in the power pedestals. To make it fair, the marina gave me free electricity for the balance of my stay, two more days.


And in closing… (top)

And, that’s it for this issue of KensBlog… Thank you for following along on our big voyage!

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Thank you!

Ken and Roberta Williams
MV Sans Souci
Nordhavn 68
PS – In case you haven’t figured it out, clicking on any of the pictures above will give you a higher-resolution (bigger) version of the picture.

One Response

  1. SUBJECT: Anchoring into waves and/or swells

    Hi Ken and Roberta,
    A method that has worked for me on boats up to 50 feet, when caught anchored in beam seas, is first, set a stern anchor. Assuming the boat was originally moored head to wind and the seas were tolerable the ideal thing now is to turn the boat as much as possible into the oncoming seas. This is accomplished
    by attaching a line to the bow rode, about a quarter of the way down and attaching the lazy end as far aft as possible, ideally to a winch. As the line attached to the bow is tightened the stern rode should be slackened some and the boat will begin to position toward the advancing seas thereby changing the angle of the boat from the bow to anchor to more like beam to anchor. Perhaps this is a procedure you can test when anchoring in calm seas. Hope it works for you!
    Thank’s for sharing your adventure.
    Neil Small

    Sent from my iPad

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