Sunday, August 28, 2005

Arrival at La Coruña

Only once before have engine problems meant that I've suffered the humiliation of asking for a tow into a port. A couple of years ago we were sailing my old boat Tilly Witch along the south coast of England and the engine failed to start when arriving in Brixham. In these (fortunately rare) occasions the old sailing skills come to hand and its quite possible to pick up at mooring buoy under sail or even go alongside a pontoon - providing there is enough space and there's some wind. The fix wasn't immediately obvious and rather than getting the engine looked at in Brixham we decided it would make sense to sail Tilly back her home port at Walton-on-Naze where we could repair at our leisure. For me the trip back without engine seemed like a chance to sail as people used to - a return to a purer form of sailing. My romantic notions of sailing without an engine quickly vanished when we spent a night off Beachy Head making no progress against the tide. The frustration was a prefect anchorage awaited as round the corner where we could have safely rested and had a good nights sleep - but couldn't make it without the engine. Eventually we were forced to ask for a tow off Dover when fog descended, the wind vanished and we were left helplessly drifting off one of busiest harbours in the UK hearing fog horns bearing down on us, powerless to get out of their way. Even in this situation I reluctantly called for help - We're out enjoying ourselves - if we get ourselves into difficulties we should be competent enough to get ourselves out of them. Which brings us to our Arrival at La Coruna.

Wednesday (24th) started as a cloudless day with a good WSW Force 4 wind and a smooth sea. Perfect sailing conditions with the Spanish coast in sight. The only slight issue was that during the night when the wind had died we thought we'd motor for a couple of hours. When we went to start the engine, instead of the roar of the diesel bursting into life we were greeted with grinding of cog teeth as the starter motor failed to engage with the engine. A brief correspondence with my engine expert suggested turning the engine over manually, and hitting the starter motor gently with a hammer. Despite both suggestions failing (and a third of kicking the engine) our mood was ecstatic - I was looking forward to a celebratory beer in La Coruña and cracking open the Champagne. We continued our preparations for arrival with a hastily sewn Spanish courtesy flag in anticipation of an imminent arrival

I called the local coast guard to let him know that we'd need a tow into the marina and be arriving around mid-night. All was arranged, however by 10pm the weather had deteriorated, with cloud covering any light we might have had from the moon and occasional rain reducing visibility further. Additionally the wind became light and variable although seemed to be predominantly in the direction were trying to head. After a night of dodging fishing boats, rocky shores and shallow banks, often drifting with little wind, we made it behind the breakwater and into sight the marina. At 7am we dropped anchor and 7.30 got a tow into the marina, both exhausted and frustrated that with the engine we could have made it for 11pm the previous night.A new starter motor arrived on Friday. Saturday I set about replacing the old one only to discover that one of the securing nuts had dropped off, once this nut had been replaced the engine started immediately. The repair took 10 minutes.

1 comment:

ianmcg said...

Wasn't that in Griff Rhys Jones' book?