SUNDAY 21ST OCTOBER
WE ARE HOME! SORT OF ??.
This year’s Med and back cruise is over, but not yet finished. A paradox.
Regulars will remember that we had been having seeming undiagnosable engine problems all along the Canal du Midi and aslant up across Biscay. The main worry was an intermittent tendency to stall when moved into neutral. Berthing and manoeuvring were hazardous and worrying. Several expensive engineers claimed to have cured the fault, but in spite of having shelled out ‘450, it was still with us.
Having been pleasantly weather bound in Camaret for 3 weeks of lows and huge winds, Friday 12th October promised 3 days of moderate |SE wind. Perfect. So we slipped at 0545 and had a pleasant run up the Chenal du Four, then settled on 025T for 120M Portsal to Brixham. We were coming home. Hooray.
The dawn and day were as pleasant as ever as we travelled in loose company with Mike and Elisabeth in Kemp’s Jig, who hoped to benefit from our radar if the viz was bad in the shipping lanes. Their pessimism was justified, but we were almost clear of tanker dodging when the wind did a 180 and started to blow almost on the nose and brought poor visibility in its wake. All through the night, in our warm wheelhouse, we felt sorry for the crew of our tail, straining to keep sight of our stern light and getting damp at their outside wheel. They did a super job.
At 0700, 9 miles S of Start Point, our BMC 2.2 suddenly died. Being certain that we could restart, we asked K’s Jig to go on ahead. Over the next hour, we did everything possible – including changing both filters – but could not bleed any fuel to the injectors. There was plenty to the pump, but nothing beyond.
Generously, our companions came back and took us in tow, but it soon became apparent that their 18hp and light weight were not enough for our bulk, so we called Bxm Coastguard and asked them to arrange a commercial tow. They elected to put out a Pan Pan and then things began to happen.
Out of the fog, loomed a huge coaster who circled us to verify that we were in no danger – we were not. We declined his offer of a tow – because he was going to Liverpool.
Next came a call from Salcombe Lifeboat asking for our position. He eased alongside and took us in tow at 6.5 knots towards Dartmouth on a warp so long that I could sometimes not see his stern through the fog. It was a very smooth ride.
At Dartmouth, the harbour staff found us a temporary berth and the next day we moved over to the safety of Darthaven Marina. Owner John Holman could not have been more helpful. He sent his dory to tow us across the river, which was exceptionally well done and even came down the pontoons to take our warps. It was all very casual, very professional and very reassuring after all our troubles.
Luckily, we have a Bxm buddy, John Thorpe, who is a first rate engineer. Firstly, he found that our lift pump was sucking as well as blowing. Dirt. So he fitted the spare. Still no diesel. John is a determined enthusiast, so he took off the injection pump and discovered that the drive shaft to the engine crankshaft had sheered. Almost unbelievable! He could not have got us going out at sea even if he had a full workshop.
A specialist subsequently found that the pump had seized up with such force that it broke the shaft and that the interior rotary parts were immoveable. It cannot be repaired. The cause seems to be a contaminant ( yes we use treatment) picked up in France. When warmed it coagulates into brown treacle. Strange.
Next week end, we hope to get Abemama back to Lyme Regis on a jury fuel system and there the tank will have to be replaced. This involves lifting out the engine. Not easy here.
Will we ever trust the engine again? When it is out, should we replace it? With what? How? How much? What sort of tank? Metal or plastic? How will that affect trim, even if we can fit it?
The whole story of the rescue and the mechanics and finance of t