November and Abemama is still afloat in Darthaven Marina. It is the latest she has been in the water since we bought her in September 1988 and we had hoped to have her ashore outside The Cobb Arms in Lyme Regis by now. Unfortunately, this Summer’s bout of mechanical hiccups has worsened to a chronic illness and even some very clever ‘doctors’ have been unable to diagnose the cause.

We are lucky enough to have a super engineer buddy – John Thorpe – who spent many hours determined to get us going reliably again – and did so, much to our surprise. He phoned to say that the BMC 2.2 was running happily on a temporary, clean fuel supply. An hour later, he called again to say that it had inexplicably stopped on tick over and had locked up. He could not move it but confirmed that it was not the (another £250) refurbished injection pump. Inexplicable.

So, we now have a mystery on our hands. If anybody has a valid theory, they are welcome to air it with us at

Because of our fuel problems, we had already decided to renew the main tank, which can only be removed from beneath the cockpit floor by lifting out the engine. On the Colvic Watson, this is not easy, because the wheelhouse door does not line up with the engine bay. Darthaven’s crane staff had to fiddle us out in two lifts. The retrofit nightmare begins!

We are also fortunate enough to have a proper harbourside marine engineer able to give good advice and willing to charge fair prices for outboards, inboards and general engineering. ‘Burt’ has been great in finding solutions to the problem of taking the engine apart so that it was small enough to get out and – amazingly – when ( after 3 hours) of pumping out 35 galls of diesel and removing struts we found that the tank was still too large to remove, he chopped it up in situ and we took it out in bits.

So we have decided to bite the bullet and treat ourselves to ( approx ) £6500 worth of new 50hp engine. My desk is littered with brochures. We are looking at Beta, Lancing, Lombardini, Mermaid, Nanni, Thornycroft, Vetus and Yanmar. They all seem to be good engines, but choice is a matter of researching exactly what you get for your money with a ‘bobtail’ engine. It is a jungle of what will fit the space and align with the propshaft. I have a good gearbox. Can it be tested and used? I have an alternator and a spare which match my Adverc battery management system. Can it be used? I have good VDO instruments. Can I use them? Will the Halyard Aquadrive coupling match a new motor? What about exhaust system, cabling and prop? What can we salvage from the old engine?

On this last there is a glimmer of light. We have discovered an excellent, small company who realise that there are still hundreds of BMC engines in use, but the source of spares and refurbishment are not abundant, so they are increasingly specialising in this marque and other retrofits. They are also very pleasant people to deal with. If you want a contact address, try Stephenson Marine, Lapthorne Farm Estate, Ipplepen, Newton Abbot, Devon TQ12 5TN Tel/fax 01803 814011. Ask for Eric Stephenson.

In the meanwhile, we shall go on reading brochures and have set ourselves a target of getting the boat home before London Boat Show. Watch this space and for the total story, whose perils and pleasures and financial facts we cannot avoid publishing in PBO Liveaboards Diary.