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Old 08-11-2007, 12:29   #1
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Hard to believe we got away with this one.

It was the spring of 1970. We were only young with 2 small children but had bought a 42ft Motorsailer in Malta.

After a year there we set off for our first real cruise.

We spent the night moored to the quay in Porto Azurro on the east coast of Elba. We had been having a little trouble with dirty fuel, but had managed by draining the bottom of the tank and emptying the glass filter before the fuel pump.

As it was a beautiful calm morning we decided to motor round to Porto Ferraio to take on a full tank of fuel. The barometer did seem to have dropped but nothing had changed otherwise.

Elba has a very prominent headland in the extreme north east of the island and after rounding that we needed to change course by nearly 180 for Porto Ferraio.

We rounded too close in of course and as we were off the headland the wind came. Force 7 directly onshore.

A steep chop came so quickly and must have churned up the sediment in the fuel tank, so the engine stopped and refused to restart in spite of draining the filter.

In a complete panic I raised the sails but we were then on a losing tack and getting ever closer to the steep cliffs of the headland.

Being an old motorsailer, the only way to get on the other tack would have been to turn downwind and gybe, but by then there was not enough room before disaster.

In desperation I dropped the CQR followed by all 60 fathoms of chain and still it didn't find the bottom.

Amazingly the drag of the anchor and chain pulled the bow through the wind and we were able to slowly, so slowly, claw our way away from the headland.

We finally sailed into Portoferraio exhausted but so so relieved.

I know well what we did wrong, but the surprise came later, when I discovered that the fuel drain cock was connected to a tube 2 ins above the bottom of the tank. Of course the fuel supply to the engine came from the very bottom.
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Old 08-11-2007, 13:07   #2
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Great story -- and 60 fathoms of chain...
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Old 08-11-2007, 13:59   #3
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Originally Posted by dcstrng View Post
Great story -- and 60 fathoms of chain...
I didn't measure every inch of it, but there was twice the normal amount of 30 fathoms, that is what I do remember. It was 20 tons of old wooden boat with a long iron keel and 39ft 6in on the waterline, so could carry that in the locker.

I do not have a chart of the area now and certainly didn't have any time to check the depths shown until afterwards, being rather occupied at the time, my wife being below preparing the children, who were only 5 and 6 years old.

Hopefully someone can confirm the depths off that headland. The cliffs were incredibly steep and high and I was convinced the anchor never touched the bottom.
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