Wed 2nd March
Domenico brought me to the Massera just for the day, to finish off
the treehouse. On the way we discussed his website; he wants to
greatly expand the content of my prototype, so more to be done there.
At the Masseria, I met the polish man (Paolo) who he is now hosting
there, and when I finished my work for the day I also met his wife, who
according to Domenico, spoke Russian. However she was either too
shy or really didn't remember any Russian, I couldn't communicate with
her at all! I sat at the table with Paolo as she made and served
us food and wine, he and I attempting to converse in a mix of Italian,
English and Russian. He's trained as a cabinetmaker, has been in
Italy (on and off) over the past 1.5 years, and speaks (with Domenico)
what sounds to me like pretty fluent Italian.
Thu 3rd Mar
I really slept well last night, having the physical exercise
yesterday did it. Today it was sunny and warm; I took the little
guys to the playground for a while before going home for a snack.
then went indoors for a while at Lorella's so I could get some web
development work done.
Suzie arrived from her walk and I took the
guys to pick up Eli and Rosa, and we all went off for a picnic in the
harbour. We must have been there 2 hours, just hanging out and
playing in the sun. Two men who were throwing a stick for Cal
watched the kids play with an old doll they had found in the water.
The men headed off and then returned with a brand new teddy bear for the
kids, who were delighted!
Our engine has arrived in Northern Italy
from the UK. It's been sent on to me so we hope to have it by
I have the feeling of things beginning to complete: I've
finished the treehouse at the Masseria and have taken away most of our
things we had stored there. The camper should be (fingers crossed)
sorted next week. The web development stuff I'm doing with Mickey
in Ireland is in pretty good shape. We have a party/Irish seisun
planned here with all our friends before we leave. We're beginning
to get more clear information on camping and ferries for Croatia.
The engine is here! Unfortunately it is raining so I only got
to do a little bit of work on it. Just as I was packing it up some
town workers came to do something on the square so I got them to help me
load the new engine into the van to keep it safe. Also the
instruction booklet included is the wrong one.
I spend most of the day today at the engines, cleaning the shrouding
and components that were to be moved over, cutting off broken bolts from
the shrouding, moving over components etc. As expected the
shrouding is the most hassle: it is mucky, bent and has a couple
of frozen screws that snapped when I was removing it from the old
engine. I hope to reuse this stuff; a new set is another 100 euros
at least, but we'll see how well it fits and then I may decide to get
new ones if I think they won't cool the engine well enough.
the new oil cooler was damaged in transit and VEGE were excellent on the
phone, apologised and said they'd get another one to me tomorrow.
Also said they'd email me the new instruction booklet. Had to
pause in the morning during a rain shower and later William came over
and gave me a hand. It was much easier doing the work with him,
particularly discussing ideas or approaches to things. At the end
of the day we had the old engine ready for shipping in the metal frame
the new engine came in, and had the distributor, fuel pump and clutch
installed, though I couldn't measure the torque of the clutch bolts so
had to wing it. Also I adjusted the valves (some of which were
very loose; I tightened them up but still left them on the loose side
for now; will re-do them very soon after trying the engine in the car
anyway). Turning the new engine over by hand, you can feel and
hear the amazing amount of compression it has, compared to our old one.
One problem I found was that the oil pressure sensor doesn't easily
screw into the hole in the new engine; the hole seems slightly too
small, so that I could force it in but it might mess up the threads.
I think it needs a new one with the correct size, but the JK catalogue
shows only 1 version for all air cooled engines. Will have to ring VEGE.
Also the round oil sump (is that the term?) at the bottom of the new
engine has no hole for an oil drain plug! I assume I should just
swap this with the one from the old engine, but it is strange they left
it out. Maybe it's safer to ship it that way?
Finally the engine
support bracket is mounted to the engine in a different way on the new
engine; the old one had a swivel and two fixed points, one at the centre
and one addtional bracket on the right. The new engine uses 3
bolts, no extra bracket. It is definately a stronger connection
but is not adjustable like the old one; I think but am not positive the
bracket will meet its attachment points in the car when I install the
Stopped work about 4 or so and cleaned up and took the kids
off to the post office, where I tried to get a customs docket for a
package I was shipping to the USA but just could not get her to
understand what I wanted! Then on to the ferramenta (hardware
store) for some bolts and grease for the engine. And finally to
the pet shop; the owner is the guy who recommended the vet to us; he
said he felt we had paid too much for the vet for poor Cal, saying that
vets were expensive in this region.
Council worker told us someone had rung complaining about my doing
mechanic work on the street, but then went on to say he personally
didn't care, he was Francesca's cousin and it was fine by him. We
basically said I was waiting on a part and would be done soon.
walking downtown with my work stuff on, lots of funny looks!
Italians, even working men, don't walk around in grubby clothes!
Got a lot done on the engine today, to the point where it was ready
to go into the car. Weather turned threatening but Suzie, William
and I got the engine lined up and took ages trying to get it in.
It turns out the transmission had sagged a bit over the week so it was
lower than it should have been for lining up. Anyway we were in
the midst of this when rain anbd then sleet started coming down on us!
It continued and we still couldn't get it right, I was crawling around
under the car from side to side, getting soaked as the water pooled
underneath us. Eventually we got enough bolts on to secure the
engine and we quickly cleaned up. I came into the house shivering
and with some fingers numb, but the engine was in.
11 Mar (Fri)
Started late today as I knew it was a less daunting job. Few
problems, Frank hung around helping and watching. Tried to turn it
over but didn't catch. Connected the second battery and it went
perfectly first time!
Tried a drive around and the clutch is very soft
so will have to look at that. Also need to revisit the bellows
thermostat as it doesn't seem to be opening up when the engine gets hot.
I may have to position it permanently open (which will keep the engine
cool all the time, making it warm up a bit more slowly in the morning).
12 Mar (Sat)
The clutch adjustment is supposed to be a simple turn of a wing nut,
but ours was rusted frozen, and because its in an awkward place it took
me ages to get it to turn. Finally got it though and the clutch
was much too tight so I loosened it loads and it seems much better.
Tried relaxing and then tightening the throttle cable; tighter the
engine runs better but I think that's masking another problem, tho not
sure what it is.
14 Mar (Mon)
Suzie test drove the van yesterday and today, and with a lot of
playing with the valves, points and timing I couldn't get it really
I was hoping the valves had loosened or something after
driving it a bit, so after the car cooled down later in the day I did
the valves, points and timing again. Nothing was dramatically
wrong. Then I decided to do the timing by EAR instead of staticly,
and found that the best position was a good distance away from where
static timing would dictate.
Suzie booked and paid for the
ferry today, a bit scary in terms of the car!
We drove together to
Molfetta, both on the open road and in traffic, and engine seemed fine.
Roberto's (Tony's partner) father is a mechanic and Suz has arranged for
him to call by tomorrow to have a look.
Had William Jane and
Alice Rose over for late food and drinks.
Roberto's father was supposed to arrive at 10, but it was an Italian
10. Anyway he had a look at the engine and tried to adjust the
idle by turning the adjuster screws in the carb which I had carefully
*never* turned. Oddly, the adjusters did nothing. I'm not
sure what that means, but he said it was all fine except that it was
idling a bit fast so would burn more petrol. He also tried timing
it by ear and came up with almost the same setting I had; he had it
slightly less advanced than me, possible to compensate for the high
idle. So overall he pronounced it fine, which was nice to hear.
We gave him some Guinness which he didn't want to accept, but it was a
small price for reassurance (mainly Suzie though it was good for me too
to get the thumbs up).
16 Mar - leaving
This is the day. When I woke up (early) I couldn't believe we
really would be leaving today. We got some done in the AM then I
went with William and Sammy to get some bits at hardware shops, in
particular brake fluid as it was low. When I got back it was
getting very close to time to go, I was stressed over it. During
the day several of our friends visited and we had some more goodbyes.
I really hope they show up in Ireland some day, I'd hate to think we
won't see them again.
Newbie is fully laden, bikes on the back, roof
rack full, inside full, and we worry for our new engine. We drive
slowly and get to Bari port about 6, when we were told to be there.
The ferry doesn't leave until 10pm. Signposting is unclear and the
place is dark and feels unsafe. We drive past the ferry terminal
and come back into a long disorganised queue which is for all cars to
several destinations. The port isn't secured, so street vendors
walk along the row of cars. Suzie goes off to the terminal to
check we're in the right place, and to find Chantelle who has rung us as
we arrived. They come back together and we talk for a while before
our goodbyes. I get back to the terminal to queue for checkin and
I understand why they make us come so early. Already I feel like
i'm in the eastern bloc, the amount of time and paperwork for each
person in unbelievable. I am standing there with Sammy for more
than 15 minutes with no movement in the queue when Domenico shows up, so
we walk him back to the car and talk for a while until I see the line of
cars has started to move. I rush back into the terminal and the
queue looks about as bad. It proves to be so, and my wait is very
long. At the last minute when I'm next a man tries to cut me and I
have to practice being assertive in Italian, which works fine, and the
fellow behind me backs me up. Suzie rings me on the mobile and has
to pull out of the car queue while I wait, but I finally get our tickets
and we are ready. A cursory check and we drive to the "last boat"
where a crowd of passengers in standing on the ramp, but not a single
vehicle inside! The boat lads are amused by Newbie and direct us
into a corner because they say some buses and trucks are expected.
At least one is very friendly with very good English.
our time getting ourselves organised since we have a cabin.
Upstairs the main bar/lounge/reception area is pretty small and run
down. Friendly crew guide us and give us our keys, all in English.
We worry about them being sticklers for 6 people in a room for 4 but
nothing is said. Our room is fine, and I take the older two for a
brief tour of the boat, then Suz and I have showers before going to