New Boat joins the Fleet
When Ocean Flame III left our fleet, the balance in the Solent went with it. She was a rugged, long legged cruiser, backed up by Solent Flame IV which, in turn, provided a smaller boat ideal for coastal pottering.
We needed a compromise between the two. Something that could take a larger crew for more ambitious cruises but that could also be sailed short-handed so that a skipper and mate could take weaker crews. A boat-buying group set to work and the answer was Danser Aan See, a Bavaria 36.
The surveyor described Danser as the best example of the Bavaria he had ever seen.
We completed all the legal bits in record time – achieved by some “novel” approaches, including one Trustee driving to meet another on a peripatetic holiday in Wales to get required signatures! Then, in the middle of the holiday season, we needed to move the boat at short notice from Benfleet in Essex back to Shamrock Quay.
Alan Phillpot volunteered to skipper the cruise – despite swearing 30-odd years ago never to do another delivery cruise, it's amazing how often he's ended up volunteering - and an appeal was put out to members to help as crew. The response, at short notice, was amazing and he ended up having to turn volunteers away.
Everyone had to make their way to Benfleet. Having to bring cutlery, mugs, saucepans, first aid kit, life-jacket, etc. made us all realise just how convenient turning up to a GSA cruise really is. Four of us came by train and it made for some interesting packing.
Generally, we knew little of each other – a couple of crew had sailed together some years earlier but, other than that, we were little more than a bunch of people who had perhaps met on a pontoon on a changeover.
We did what we could to learn our way around this new-to-us boat and then walked up to the pub for a meal. In the pub, Alan outlined his plans.
Gary, the previous owner, had offered to guide us down the creek at 0500 on Tuesday morning. One look at the creek at low water gave a clue why Gary's offer was so welcome. What you can't see is how much the channel meanders even when watered!
This timing coincided with the tide ebbing from the Thames estuary and was right for rounding North Foreland and making for Ramsgate. Ramsgate was a reasonable target for early afternoon and would mean there would be time to address any issues that arose underway.
The plan was to have similar early starts for the approx. 60 mile legs Ramsgate to Eastbourne or Newhaven on Wednesday, and on to Gosport on Thursday. This would leave a shorter hop to Southampton on Friday.
Gary had said there were two things to remember – 1) release the mast-to-shore lanyard (used to stop the boat toppling over when the tide goes out) as well as the fender boards and 2) turn on the engine sea-cock.
We remembered the lanyard but were a bit slow with the sea-cock - “why isn't there water coming out of the exhaust?” , “Didn't Gary say there were two things everyone forgot occasionally?” “Oh, bums....!”
Gary turned up on time and led us down the channel until we reached a point where there was always sufficient water. We thanked him for making it easy and we were on our own.
We set course beyond Southend Pier, crossed the Thames (with small deflections to keep out of the way of commercial traffic), and, with the help of a well out-of-date chart plus a bang-up to date iPad Navionics app., set course for North Foreland.
he leg was uneventful and even included some sailing. The only concerning thing was the main halyard shackle was of the un-moused/non-retained pin kind. Very early in his sailing career, Alan had crewed along this coast on Medway Flame and, in an incident which involved a long piece of plastic wrapping itself around the prop and stopping the engine and sudden fog, a similar shackle had been lost overboard. A new shackle was purchased and fitted at Ramsgate.
Wednesday started well and ended safely – you can guess there was a bit in the middle.
We got clearance to leave Ramsgate (I think it's something to do with the nearness of France and illegal immigrants) and set off for possibly Eastbourne/possibly Newhaven depending on how things went.
We cleared Goodwin Sands, South Foreland and Dover.
Motor sailing between Dungeness and Beachy Head, we suddenly got an engine alarm. Steam, not smoke, was issuing from the engine bay.
We sailed for a while to let things cool down and then discovered that there was no water in the cooling system header tank – there had been before setting out. Trying to top up the tank, Alan discovered the reason for the lack of water. The pipe from tank to engine had split across its width near to where it entered the block.
One thing missing on board was a toolkit but, fortunately, Alan had a small set he had been given as a Boat Show inducement to take out a credit card (the quality of this freebie can be inferred). He managed to cut the reinforcing wire in the pipe, get rid of the split and make up a new joint in the shortened pipe.
The engine was restarted. 15 minutes later, it went again. There was just enough length to remake the joint once more but now it had to be sail only and keep the unreliable cooling system for essential manoeuvring only.
Eastbourne was nearest but you have to lock in and there is no waiting pontoon, nor, by the time we would have got there, was there any assistance in terms of a tow. The entrance was also not straight forward. A call to Eastbourne also suggested that there was relatively little engineering support available.
Newhaven, on the other hand, looked like it could be sailed into. Unfortunately it was the other side of Beachy Head and the tide was turning against us. It was going to be a long night.
The temptation to give Eastbourne “a go” was great but we resisted. As dawn broke and the tide was starting to turn in our favour, we called the Newhaven Port Control (there is commercial traffic) and explained the situation. We were given clearance and we sailed up towards the visitors berth of the marina.
The wind died as we got closer, so with much trepidation, we started the engine for the last 100 metres. It held, and we got in.
But for the cooling system failure, we would have been expecting to set out on the leg to the Solent at just about the time we arrived.
Anyway, we had managed to get in safely, so we should be thankful.
We contacted a Volvo engineer. They said they were busy but would see what they could do to help us on our way. Later in the morning, someone came and immediately condemned the plastic reinforced pipe – it should be rubber to resist the effects of very hot water.
The engineer took the header tank and associated piping away to do the job properly and came back within the hour. Testing the engine seemed OK but then we realised that no water came out of the exhaust if we ran up the revs.
The impeller was fine but the front plate of the housing was scored and letting in air at higher revs. No replacement was available but the existing plate was reversed after having all paint cleaned off. It was then refitted as a temporary solution and we could get on our way.
The tide was now near slack again so we swung along the coast to try and avoid the worst of the east-going tide coming our way.
The engine gave us no problems and we were able to get round Selsey Bill as the tide again turned in our favour. Night was falling and we were able pick out the lights as we approached the Solent.
It was now getting late and there seemed little point in going into Gosport so we continued to Shamrock, arriving in the early hours of Friday morning.
For reasons we won't go into – nothing to do with the boat or the marina – not much sleep was had for a second night. Fairly early, we got into our newly allocated berth and proceeded to clean the boat, make up a to-do list and generally get ourselves home.
Thanks to the crew: Bob Dallimore, Phil Jones....
..... Adam Jones, Linda Hawkins ....
...... and one, rather tired, Skipper