Our problems started when we filled up with diesel in one of the Islands West of Italy. Around the world, especially in smaller places there are often fuel stations where they sell to both cars and boats. This station was one of those. It was on a road alongside the quay and served cars one side and boats on the other, from the same pumps.
We had heard that Bio fuel was being added to most diesel in Europe, but like most sailors and the authorities, did not realise the problems that would result from putting it in our tanks.
Within a few hours after the fill up, the engine started running strangely. Suddenly slowing then picking up again and generally running rough.
A filter change did little to help and eventually, several anchorages and much head scratching later, Ti Gitu was in the very deep anchorage at Capri. Several boats started to drag anchor as the wind changed, which quickly included us. The crew of an enormous motor boat scrabbled around with fenders to hold us off as we dragged and we just missed them. They did enquire about our engine and kindly offered us a tow but by then we were passed and so quickly hoisted sail and sailed out of the anchorage.
Ti Gitu gently headed East and I attempted to fix the problem. It totally baffled me. I tried everything I could think of, eventually giving up on fixing it at sea.
Looking at the chart we saw that Salerno which is a big commercial harbour was an overnight sail away. There would surely be a diesel workshop there. In the strong breeze we made good progress until the wind turned off in the middle of the night. That was when we really appreciated our junk rig which by holding the sails flat allowed us to sail very slowly on, sometimes just making half a knot. But it was progress.
Realising that despite Salerno being an enormous harbour we may have problems, we telephoned our insurance to let them know what was happening and seek advice about the possibility of them covering us to be towed in.
The lady at Piatkus was marvellous, giving sound advice and yes we were covered and would we call as soon as we were safely in harbour.
What a farce followed, but that is another story. We did get in at about eight in the morning and telephoned to let Piatkus know that we were safe.
By pure chance Mo asked what we were covered for and we found that if - as by then I was suspecting – it was bad fuel then we were covered for everything except replacing the fuel.
Our next problem was that it was the holiday season and Italy had virtually closed down for the month.
Due to the holiday it proved impossible to have things repaired locally so Piatkus covered us to have a replacement injector pump flown out from the UK and for injector servicing and tank cleaning.
This did not entirely cure the problems, although things were better and I started researching what could possibly be wrong.
What I found is that there are enormous problems with adding Bio fuel to Diesel. So much so that the UK government has acknowledged this and it is now possible and perfectly legal to buy and use Bio free diesel in sea going craft in the UK. This is known as FAME FREE fuel and is the only fuel that should be used in sea going craft.
To find out the type of problems that will be caused by this Bio Fuel read part 2 of this ‘Problems with Diesel Fuel’ post.