Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Little Dutch Boy

I'm still receiving tales of boating mistakes as requested for the group writing project even though it officially closed at the weekend. Eliboat posted a story by his father at Better late then never and here's one from Robin Hunter...

Bang, crash, ouch!!

And there I was on the ground with my BMW motorbike lying beside me and a big fat Volvo estate with hardly a scratch on it.

Anyway 2 years later after a lot of paperwork, medical exams and something called a forensic accountant, I received a nice compensatory cheque for a combination of loss of earnings and personal suffering, including 3 broken ribs and a broken collar bone.

So, still being a financial advisor, I sold Panache, my little Folkboat, and decided to buy a Rival. (Those of you fortunate enough to read my previous experiences may remember that my introduction to sailing was on a Rival 34).

I looked at a number of this deep keeled, sensible boat and eventually decided on Ayton Serenade a 32 footer built in 1971 and moored at Amble – 40 miles north of Newcastle (good financial advice dictated the 32 foot version as, generally speaking, they are up to £10,000 cheaper than the almost identical 34 ft).

So, after a number of trips, some negotiation, a test sail and a full survey, I paid my money and with Malcolm, my original sailing instructor, made plans to sail from Amble to Gosport, about 450 miles, estimated time 5-7 days. The boat had recently undergone a full refit including a £3,500 engine rebuild, carried out by the Amble Boat Yard, the same people who did the survey.

And off we went at 10 am April 29 2002, weather forecast acceptable but not ideal.

And by midday the next day we were well out in the North Sea, cold, sea sick, wind hard on the nose and preparing to go round the bulge of East Anglia. And the engine stopped, just like that, no warning, no noises, just stopped.

“There’s smoke pouring out of the engine compartment” yelled Malcolm. And then a few minutes later: “And there’s no oil in the engine”.

“How can that be, we’ve only been running it for about 10 hours and it’s just been completely rebuilt – I’ve even got a copy of the original invoice”.

At that point I would have been happy to sell the boat for £5 and probably offered a 10% discount as an incentive!!

Anyway, a cup of tea later we decided that we should sail for the nearest safe haven which was the Humber Estuary where we arrived late evening. But could we find the entrance? We looked at charts, checked our numbers on the GPS, timed all the flashing lights and finally identified one of the red entrance buoys. But with the wind getting up, the genoa managed to jam itself open, we decided not to risk the estuary at night and since Malcolm was knackered after spending an hour (in a force 5-6) trying to manually furl the (very definitely non-furling) genoa, I decided to cruise up and down all night, keeping the red buoy in sight.

After a night of very interesting hallucinations – nymphs included – the wind dropped and we sailed up the Humber towards Grimsby, only to find that the radio would receive but apparently not transmit. – so much for the survey!!

Once in sight of land, and with the wind having dropped to little more than a whisper (what a grim place the Humber estuary is) we called up the coastguard to let them know our situation. And out came the RNLI with one of their huge lifeboats – one of those that go out to 500,000 tankers, not little sailboats – which towed us, very ignominiously, into Grimsby marina.

“Why did you come out to help us, we were all right”

“Yes, but we don’t like little sailboats in a large estuary with almost no wind and very large cargo boats trying to get in and out. We want you out of the way, and quickly”

So, after one of the best breakfast ever we left the boat in Grimsby and trained back home

Rather than risk any more excitement, Ayton Serenade was trucked down to Gosport where, over, the next few months including a winter ashore, things, including a new engine, were put right. The old engine was given to the Gosport Cruising Club (actually sold for a very nominal amount) and Neil spent what seemed like for ever stripping it down and rebuilding it. It now of course works perfectly, driving Lulu, the club workboat.

I sued the Amble Boat Company for my “difficulties” and they settled out of court, so at least I got some of money back.

And for the time being that was that. An uneventful trip over to France, expect that on the way over the genoa fell to the deck with the halyard up at the top of the mast. Easily solved with 3 strong French fishermen and a small son. And they took such pity on us that we lived on the fish that they gave us for 2 days.

2003 started well with a trip round to Gosport boat yard for the mast to be put up when, in a strong offshore wind and driving rain, the new engine just stopped. And so we were blown down onto the oiling berth just outside Campers.

“You can’t land ‘ere, it’s MOD property”

“Well what do you want me to do?” and with that we put out some fenders and tied up.

“The police are coming”

“Good, then they can give me a tow to the boat yard”.

Dirt in the fuel system was the problem and so a complete refreshment of the fuel tank was duly done

After that the spring and summer was spent pottering around the Solent and what luxury to be able to stand fully upright and not keep covering the ceiling – is that the right nautical term? – with blood.

And so to Weymouth. Hard work 74 miles on the water as against 54 on the chart and an average speed of 4kts. However my crew had to leave and there I was on my own. Just a doddle, I thought, provided I get to the Needles on time. And I did, despite the fact that it was pouring with rain and visibility was about one mile.

And so back onto the mooring, tired but very happy – my first single handed journey.

Oh, the luxury of a hot cup of tea, some toast and jam followed by raspberries and cream.

“I must do a couple of jobs before I leave”.

One of them was to stop the table wobbling as one stood on the floor, since, whenever there was a cup or glass on it, it spilled. And since there was a screw hole in the floor board, with no screw in it, it was just a simple matter of a new screw.

But it wouldn’t go in.

“Funny, the old screw must be broken off; I’ll just drill it out”

And I did. And water started spurting out.

From what I thought was the water tank. Only it wasn’t, it was the hull.

“Tut tut” I said, or at least that was the gist of what I said, “how can you be so silly?”

And there I was like the little Dutch boy with my finger over the whole wondering what to do? Of course with hindsight there were at least half a dozen solutions; but the one I came up with was a large kitchen match tapped into the hole and silicon plastered all round it.

Moral of this little story of course is:

i don’t ask me to do any DYI on your boat;

ii don’t do any work on a boat when you are tired.

(Incidentally you may remember the Wilt books written by Tom Sharpe. In the first, there is a description of Wilt’s father who is very keen on DYI. Wilt grew up thinking that a f..k was something you did with a nail and a hammer !!)

And that for the time being is that.


AdriftAtSea said...

That was priceless... thank's Tillerman...you made my morning...

Peter Mc said...

North Sea sailing: now you know why James Cook went three times round the world. Anything to get away from the effing North Sea. He who findeth a second hand boat with a good engine findeth a good thing, and may even wake up and find it was all a dream. Great post. Rivals: lovey boats.

Peter Mc said...

Errata...lovely boats.

Post a Comment