Lessons from Pythagorio this week.
- It’s not all sunsets and sailing
Monday I pulled into the municipal harbor of Pythagorio, the oldest man made harbor in all of Greece, in order to be ready for three friends who were coming to visit from the States. As I approached the concrete sea wall, where I would attempt to drop my anchor and back up to the wall without damaging my boat, another boat or myself, Island Girl began to billow horrific white smoke and sputter like the engine was going to stall. The plume of exhaust blanketed the open, seaside restaurants directly behind where I would tie off. It was embarrassing and disturbing as I tried to balance delicately in a very challenging maneuver – backing the boat while dropping the anchor located 31 feet away – by myself.
The neighbor’s boat was saved by some helpful Swiss sailors on the boat that I was pulling in next to. They tied me to the sea wall and advised me to quickly shut off the engine before I “irritated the locals”. Chuckling I let them know that I was much more concerned with running into something than upsetting someone, however I hesitantly complied and felt thankful to be at the dock and no longer out on anchor.
At that point I had two choices. I could try to diagnose the engine issues myself like my best friend Ellis would have done, or I could recognize my severe handicap when it comes to mechanical things and call a professional. Ellis was a power boater in Florida when I met him in the spring of 2012 and was one of those guys who would give you the shirt off his back. He’s been known to take a day off of work to help a friend who’s boat broke down thirty miles from home, and the countless hours that he spent helping me with projects on my sailboats can never be repaid. Well…. I did eventually convert him to sailing, which may even the score a bit. So even on a tight budget, I knew the second choice was the smarter of the two and that I needed professional help.
My father, Charles, was a “Jack of all trades”- carpenter, electrician, mechanic, plumber – but since he died when I was ten, he had very little time to teach me. At one point I recall someone saying that there wasn’t anything that my dad couldn’t fix and, from what I witnessed as a boy on our small farm in Idaho, I believe that. However, I am not a mechanic. I know this and recently have embraced it. By the same token, I am not a doctor, lawyer or engineer, so coming to terms with my mechanical limitations has been an important reality check for me as I sail solo around Greece and Turkey. Dabbling with minor electrical or mechanical issues on my sailboat is fine, but major projects are best left to someone with the proper tools and aptitude to get the job done correctly.
Wednesday morning a mechanic, called by one of my new friends here on Samos Island, came by the boat. Within five minutes, he had diagnosed two issues. One of the lines carrying diesel to the engine had failed and was leaking like crazy. The second was that someone had put three times more oil into the engine than it needed….ooops…“Did I do that????” Yep…sure did. Two fairly easy fixes and a professional to tell me what to do with the oil, while he went looking for the replacement fuel line. Fifty euros, a few hours of work and a lot of soap to scrub all the oil off me after extracting the excess lubricant and the engine was purring like a kitten with no pungent exhaust fogging out the neighbors.
So…lesson number 2….don’t overfill your diesel engine with oil.
Most importantly though…. DON’T WAIT. If I had waited to move onto a boat until I had the mechanical skills….well I’d still be riding a recliner in Lewiston, Idaho, watching re-runs of Law and Order and I would probably weight 300 pounds. If I had waited to sail until I had all the skills, training and proficiency that some advise…well I’d probably still driving a 14 foot laser. If I had waited until I had the pile of money, every day charted and planned out and the perfect circumstances to sail my boat in the Greek Islands…well I would still be doing day sails on the muddy St. John’s River in Jacksonville, Florida.
Don’t wait. Buy the boat. Overfill the oil. Set the sails wrong. Bash your toe. AND LIVE.
Find your life out loud and don’t wait.