Log #33q Liveaboard life in our winter marina

December 1, 2004 in Log Series 30-39, Logs by Series, Series 33 Turkey - Greece to Rome, The Logs

Ostia, Rome, Italy

Dec. 1, 2004

Hi Folks,

This will probably be my last log for a couple of months, as we leave for Toronto in two weeks, and won’t be back until Feb. 1st. However we will still be receiving and sending E-mail, and hope to hear from you, especially those who have not yet contacted me and wish to continue getting my logs, as I will be making a new mailing list in the new year.

This log details aspects of liveaboard life in the marina. It is still an enjoyable part of the cruising lifestyle, including the opportunity to tour Rome and Italy, and especially the chance to enjoy the company of cruisers from all over the world.

All the best,


Log #33q  Liveaboard life in our winter marina

Ostia, Rome, Italy

Nov. 28, 2004

Life is quite comfortable in a marina with all the facilities of shore power and water at the dock, with washrooms for showers and laundry washers and driers. We do not have to be as frugal with our use of water or electricity, as both are readily available with our hose to a dockside fresh water tap, and our battery charger is always powered by shore electricity. We still have 110 volts coming into the boat via a transformer which steps down the local 220 to 110. Our small ceramic cube electric heater is sufficient to keep the boat warm on the colder nights, but we do not expect frost or freezing temperatures here on the Italian coast of the Mediterranean (Tyrrhenian) Sea.

Unless we have a specific task or commitment, we get up around 0800, get coffee, tea, and whatever we are having for breakfast started, before listening to our cruisers’ net at 0830 each day except Sundays. After the net, I go for an English language newspaper, either the Times of London, or the International Herald tribune at the local Tabbachi (tobacconist) at the end of our dock while Judy finishes getting breakfast ready. We then after listening to the 0900 BBC news on our short wave receiver, leisurely enjoy breakfast with several cups of tea and coffee as we read the newspaper or other novels until about 1000. Rough life! Retirement is great!

That is the only routine we follow, as every day is different. Some days we stay on board to write up my logs and complete the many maintenance tasks that need to be done. Other days we walk or I bicycle over town (Ostia) for groceries, or take the train into Rome to do some touring. Judy, still the avid reader, can go through two or three books on a lazy rainy day.  However we have organized a book exchange over at the Planet Foods, so she can get access to all the novels she wants, and does not have to clutter up Veleda with books read or not yet read. Occasionally we rent a car to explore further afield. One or two evenings a week are taken up with social activities for the liveaboards in the marina. And … since I have found a video rental store, we can enjoy DVD movies on our laptop (with extension speakers) for only € 3.00 a night.

Maintenance tasks are many, confirming Judy’s maxim that, “the cruising life allows us to do maintenance in exotic locations.” Before we arrived in Ostia, we had problems with our engine water pump, and the seals were worn, letting the pump spray salt water all over the engine compartment. The residual salt has caused accelerated corrosion, resulting in one of the electrical leads shorting out. We didn’t realize this until we noticed the fuel gauge light on our engine instrument panel was on continually. A few days later we noticed on our Link 10 battery monitor that we had 4 amps running from our batteries even though all electrical systems were shut down. As we checked the engine compartment we noticed our 100 amp alternator was quite warm. This alarmed us; if the problem was not fixed the wiring could start a fire. We started hunting.

We also noticed the red and green lights illuminated on our Alpha Regulator (which controls the charge rate from our engine alternator only when the engine is running). So there must be a current draw some place from the batteries into the alternator.  The culprit was corrosion inside the regulator, shorting out a circuit. Once this was cleaned, the lights went out (the ones that should have). But in checking we became aware that the red live wire going into the Alpha regulator had corroded, and was detached from its connector. Nothing is ever simple. It was a now fractured crimped fitting inside a harness collar, housed inside the regulator. Judy tried unsuccessfully to solder it back. We consulted Claes on Casa Diva, a Swedish boat across from us, who is a mechanical engineer and builds PC’s as a hobby. He helped us identify that the collar could be removed (we were afraid to try forcing it for fear of damaging it further), stripped the wire, and crimped on a new fitting to successfully reattach it in the harness. Thanks, Claes.

This is one of the other benefits of the small town atmosphere amongst liveaboards. We have created a list of names, boat names, E-mail addresses, and areas of expertise and interests so that if one of us is having problems, we can call another boater, as we did with Claes, for help.

While cleaning the salt from the engine, we noticed the stop cable was stuck, as was the throttle. Judy thought we needed to buy a new stop cable, but we instead removed it, greased it and worked it so it slid smoothly before replacing it. The throttle problem was not the cable, which worked OK. The throttle arm itself was stiff from salt and corrosion, requiring strong pressure with pliers to move it. We were uncertain whether we should force it, or take apart the engine to get at the throttle linkage. We got on the VHF again and called Bill on K’lai, a South African boat, who came over to help. Bill was a diesel engineer before retiring. He indicated that the lever could be forced and lubricated, and if that didn’t work he would come back to help us disassemble the throttle linkage, or any other maintenance we might need to do. We worked the lever and sprayed lubricant, and got it moving smoothly again. Then I continued cleaning the engine with a wire brush and toothbrush, spraying lubricant and anticorrosion compound on all screws, nuts, hose clamps, and levers, and wiping the engine down with an oiled rag. Hopefully this will slow down the corrosion. The engine works fine now, including the stop lever and the throttle linkage.

We have put Sprite away for the winter on the Dinghy Tow, having drained the engine, run fresh water through the lower unit, and sprayed WD-40 in the cylinders and on all electrical connections. Judy made an oilskin cover out of garish table covering material so rain water would not get into Sprite. We have put clear bubble wrap between the screens and the main cabin and V-berth hatches and clear plastic outside our cabin windows to prevent condensation. We lubricated the turnbuckles and all the blocks on the running rigging, sprayed waterproofing on the seams of the dodger and bimini, topped up our golf cart batteries with distilled water. (Incidentally, our four 6 volt Trojan golf cart batteries giving us a capacity of 440 amp hours,  are six years old and still working well.) Judy made a cover for our electric windlass. We replaced the gas line for our propane stove, worked the through hull levers, changed the engine and transmission oil, oil filter, and antifreeze. Many tasks remain to be done such as inspecting and repairing the sails and sail cover, greasing the winches, cleaning all the bright work, and many more tasks, some annually, some monthly, and some daily. However we still enjoy our touring.

So far we have gone up to Assisi (of St. Francis) and the Alban Hills. We rented a car, the cost split with Strategem, a British boat who wanted a trip to Ciampino airport to fly home for a few weeks over Christmas. We dropped them off at the airport and had the car for the rest of the day to tour the Alban Hills, where we went to Castel Gondolfo, the Pope’s summer residence, and to an interesting museum for the two Lake Nemi Ships. These large 70 metre shallow draft ship hulls were discovered in Lake Nemi, a small volcanic crater lake, and dated back to Caligula’s reign around 40 AD. We couldn’t figure out why such large ships would be constructed on a landlocked small lake, less than 2 kilometers in length, with no outlet to other bodies of water. Apparently they were for a luxurious residence and a floating temple to Isis (of Egypt) to equate Caligula with a god, able to take his temple to that of Diana in nearby Nemi. It was a large museum in the middle of nowhere on the shores of Lake Nemi, opened by Mussolini to display the grandeur of Rome and Italy in 1942. However it was torched with an incendiary bomb, possibly by the Nazis in 1944 as they withdrew up the Italian peninsula with the advance of American, British, and Canadian troops. The remains are well documented, showing the advanced boat building techniques of the ancient Romans, and the road to the temple of Diana which runs through the museum.

We also toured a Capuchin monastery whose Cardinal brought Christianity to Ethiopia in the late 1800’s, well before Mussolini’s invasion of the 1930’s. Tusculum, another historic site visited, was a fortress city in the Alban Hills since destroyed, razed and now being excavated. We have made a few trips into Rome visiting the Forum, the Palatine, the Coliseum, and down the Capitoline Hill to the Carcere Mamertino (the Mamertine Prison) where St. Peter was allegedly imprisoned. We spent one day at Ostia Antica, an extensive city and the original port for ancient Rome with 2000 year old remains rivaling that of Pompeii. This is only two train stops from our marina in Ostia, and we have intentions of visiting it a few more times as there is so much to see. There is much more to visit in Rome, but we have all winter until mid April to do so.

We have onshore gales with 40 to 50 knot winds howl through for two or three days every week or so, bashing waves over the breakwater, and coating the boats, including Veleda, with salt spray. It is fascinating to hear the winds screeching through the rigging of the boats, heeling them over, and causing them to dance together back and forth with the wind and surges. There is no real danger as the boats are well secured and the surge is not too bad. We feel a sense of contentment and relief that we are in a secure marina, rather than hanging at anchor, worrying if our anchor might drag. However we have to watch the lines to ensure that we do not pound into the dock, that they are not fraying, and that our passarelle is elevated and not grating on the dock. After each gale I have to hose down the boat to get the salt spray off the rigging, sail cover, bimini, dodger, vinyl windows and deck.  We have put up our side curtains now, so our cockpit is fully enclosed. However, next dry spell I have to finish coating the bimini and dodger with waterproofing to ensure their integrity. The seams are fine since I did them.

We have many social activities each week, including quiz nights, Happy Hours, occasional pot luck lunches, women’s coffee mornings, and disco parties. However, now many cruisers have gone home for the Christmas holidays and won’t be back until January or February. Last week we held an American Thanksgiving Dinner / Harvest Festival for 17 of us at the Planet Foods pizzeria/cafeteria here in the marina. It was an interesting experience to get the Italian cook to understand how a full turkey was to be roasted, with stuffing, pan gravy, potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pies, all foreign to Italian cooking. The chef speaks no English, but his wife, the manager, speaks high school French, so we explained the recipes and procedures for a traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner to her. They had two turkeys, only partially plucked. At least the head, feet, and innards were removed. In Italy turkey is sold in sections, breast, legs, etc., not the whole bird. A couple of the liveaboard ladies went over in the morning to complete the plucking of the turkeys, stuff them and have them put into the oven in sufficient time for a 1430 sit down meal. Janet on His and Hers prepared the pie crusts as the chef had not done so before. Laurie on Horizons made the pumpkin and apple pie fillings, and both pies were put in the oven with the turkeys.

The actual meal went not too badly. The table was set for our group with a candelabra and floral arrangement (no pumpkins, squash or traditional harvest decorations), and two six kilo (13 pound) whole roasted turkeys in their sumptuous brown skins rested on platters awaiting the other dishes. They included what we thought was squash soup, but turned out to be puree; very pureed potatoes; cranberry sauce, which was actually blueberry sauce; and delicious beans almandine. There was also some very good thick pan gravy. However, the turkey was not carved, but hacked into four quarters through the middle. We had to scoop the stuffing out from the insides of the turkeys as we carved off meat for the assembled cruisers. It was quite tasty, and an enjoyable Thanksgiving for the 17 cruisers from the US, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Britain, and Australia.

There was food left over and we brought the leftovers of turkey, dressing, potatoes, and pumpkin pie for a next day hot turkey dinner for Horizons and His and Hers on board Veleda. We still had leftovers which we gave to Greip, a Swedish boat with two small children aboard. Since Planet Foods has experience with this Thanksgiving turkey, perhaps the boats remaining here for Christmas may wish to set up a Christmas turkey dinner.