The Bad News

Aleta is on the hard – again. Here’s why: after six months of sitting around at dock, we finally had some necessary repairs done to her engine’s cooling system. Once the cooling hoses were installed and antifreeze topped off, it was time to start Aleta up. She turned over immediately. A good sign. Probably resulting from fully charged batteries and recently cleaned electrical terminals. To stress test the repairs, we decided we’d head to a snug bay just around the corner from Cartagena for a couple of nights. Moving more than 12 miles from ‘home’ port wasn’t allowed by the Spanish authorities, yet.

Thursday, June 4 broke bright and sunny. This is summer in the Med, after all. The wind was fresh out of the east and built gently during the day. We had high hopes for a getaway and shakedown before sailing away in earnest a couple weeks later. It was not to be.

What’s That Pouring Into the Bilge?


Motoring out of the harbour and just passing the headland, I went below to check on the status of our repairs. When I pulled back the companionway stairs that serve as our engine’s cover, the coolant level looked fine, but another pink liquid was pouring out of the front of the engine. Transmission oil! “Shut her down! Shut her down!”, I shouted to Carol at the helm. Explaining the situation a moment later when all had gone quiet.

Luckily, the wind was up and we were a mere three miles from the marina. Traffic on the water was scant. That gave us a chance to practice short tacking Aleta, something we generally avoid because it feels like work. As we zigged and zagged our way into the wind, we appreciated that Aleta is many things, but a pocket cruiser for week-ending on a gusty lake ain’t one of ‘em. Nevertheless, we pulled within hollering distance of our hearty marineros under sail. They kindly towed us in and tied us up to a T-dock directly across from the boat yard for the weekend.

Come the following Monday we agreed to have Aleta hauled a week later, conveniently only a couple days after our monthly contract with Yacht Port Cartagena expired. Mentally doing the math, we tried calculating how much of the summer the broken transmission was going to eat up. Carol, the optimist, suggested a week or two. I was more pessimistic. Note: the transmission is just over a year old. The original died and was replaced in Grenada. Factoring in an Italian warranty, covid delays, and general brouhaha I figured three weeks. Probably longer. I was right: our latest estimate is mid-July at the earliest.



ASCAR is Cartagena’s primary small boat yard. Its contractual priority is keeping the local fishing fleet fishing. Between maintenance projects they service and repair sailboats and moderately sized Gin Palaces. ASCAR has a good reputation and based on some earlier fiberglass repairs for our dinghy seat, their work is first rate.

Catering to a wide variety of boats means their boat hoist is as big as any we’ve experienced. When she was half out the water, the hoist driver skilfully inched Aleta forward allowing us to step off her bow and onto dry land. Then he hauled her straight up, then forward, and nestled her into a waiting cradle. Inspecting Aleta’s underwater parts was encouraging. After a year in the water she looked clean. Sure, the zincs need updating and the prop cleaning, but the roll-on bottom job I did in Grenada seemed to have worked.

Lesson Learned

A word of advice: if you’re having your boat hauled, close the seacocks for your sink drains. Why? Because if you don’t, the zealous pressure washer dude will blast your drain holes and blow chunks of god-knows-what back up the pipes and splatter that gunk all over the galley and head. Visualise Jackson Pollock decorating your front hall through the letterbox.

Onto the Good News

With no boat and only a rental car, just what were we going to do? Head for the hills of course! Find out more in Part 2 – coming soon!



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