Quick Reflex

»«August 2010

And so the Kings set off for their traditional two weeks of idyllic summer cruising. The aim was to get to Fecamp and maybe Deauville - further if possible. We got to Ramsgate safely, though it seemed much further going via Princes Channel as the Sunk Beacon route was out of bounds since we hit it...

Day Two and we set off for Eastbourne. Another long day but worth doing if we were to achieve our aim. Wind was on the nose so we motored. "It's ok, we have half a tank of fuel" says Graham, "but we will fill up at Eastbourne."

It was a bit rough, blowing Force 5, wind over tide but Quick Reflex was going well and the new regime on board of 'one hour on, one hour off' watch during the day was working well. We got to Dungeness and rounded the lighthouse. The cliffs were looking good (we had missed them last time because of the thick fog), and then the engine gave a cough and seemed to lose power. We listened, we thought, and then Graham said "I think we're running out of fuel" and went below to investigate. "How much left?" asks Sue. "Can't tell" says Graham. "It fluctuates between empty and half full!"

The decision was taken to switch off the engine so we would have fuel to get into Eastbourne and we started to sail, tacking, close hauled towards Eastbourne. It took us about five hours and it was dark by the time we got to the red and white buoy off Sovereign harbour. We radioed to ask permission to enter and then went to start the engine. It wouldn't start! We radioed again to ask for assistance and the harbour master asked us to wait - then got back to say there was no one available and so we would have to call the lifeboat out. Sue was all for calling as she was tired and hungry and wet and cold but Graham would not have it. "Our lives are not in danger - we are OK." Personally I think HIS life was very much in danger if I could have taken my hands off the wheel...

He decided to anchor south of the Harbour entrance and informed the lock keeper. The wind had calmed down and was still off the land so it seemed OK and the lock keeper was happy as long as we stayed out of the channel and displayed the correct light and ball. We sailed slowly into the shore and despite the confusion of the shore lights managed to anchor safely. We had a bite to eat and then Sue went to sleep. Graham was up every hour checking the anchor setting - he never trusts the anchor watch on the echo sounder!

Day Three and the mission was to buy a can, find diesel and make harbour. A friendly fisherman did offer to help but we thought we could manage. Graham blew up the dinghy and motored off. Sue sat down to read her book! But.....

It proved impossible to buy a fuel can of any description at chandleries, petrol stations, supermarkets or marine engineers - he did try hard! Nor did the lock keeper have one, but luckily, another yachtsman heard of Graham's plight. He agreed to lend a can so Graham came back with five litres of fuel. Into the tank and ..... nothing. So he set off with the twenty litre can.

Meanwhile Sue had texted Anne Heasley about her 'Journey from Hell', who advised, "Arthur says you will need to replace the filter". Too late - Graham was back with the fuel which he tipped in and then off to return the can. When he tried to start the engine....nothing. Sue passed on the tip from Arthur so Graham left once more into the wide blue yonder to buy filters, while Sue read another chapter.

After lunch, and the reading of his 'Everything You Wanted To Know About Diesel Engines' book, Graham set to work to clean and/or replace all pipes and filters. He worked away whilst Sue read her book - and made tea! Then he tried to reprime the system. This is easier said than done and the little lever for doing it was just not up to the job. Graham blew and sucked and pumped and we tried to start the engine and ...... very little! A cough and a splutter only.

We decided to eat and go to bed on it so there was to be another night at anchor. After dinner, we realised that the anchor had not reset when the tide had turned - we were, luckily, drifting out to sea so we slowly sailed back in and put out the heavy anchor. At least it was daylight this time.

Next morning, Day Four, having both slept well, Graham decided to use a little suction pump we have on the filter's bleed hole and it pulled the fuel up through the whole system. We went to start the engine and .... it worked! Straight into Eastbourne and two nights' rest. Graham was really pleased to have saved two nights of marina charges but, somehow, I don't think it will cover the Caribbean holiday it has cost him!

Sue King