Category Archives: Fletcher 165GTO Diary

So on the water, what happened how did it go? Read to find out how I survived engine failures, getting stuck in low water(!!) nearly running out of fuel and also epic 110mile days around the Isle of Wight!

Around the Isle of Wight 2010!!

The plan: To meet up with the chaps from from Sport Boat & Rib forum at Cowes for a trip around the IOW! (video at the end)

Please note, some of these pics are not mine, but I’m sure the others won’t mind me using them I can’t remember who took what now.

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This is what running a boat does. We usually share the cost between people on the boat. This time we went with a full tank of 90 Litres on the boat and two jerry cans with another 40L just to be on the safe side.

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£1.20/l here. Rate its going up will be more soon I bet.

A new slipway this time, we launched from Hamble point. The idea of this trip was to raise money for the RNLI. This was done by donations from each boat attending (us included).

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Crossing the water to Cowes was amazing. We followed the route of the Wight Link ferry. I remember once in late teens thinking how cool it would be to have a boat and cross on the water. Today as we passed that ferry I kind of achieved that goal. Amazing!

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The first of the SB&R crew come into view.

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So this is what we look like. Have to admit the lines of the boat do look awesome. It does sit so low however.

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All ready now. So the first port of call is to head off West in the direction of Yarmouth.

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Where we waited just a sec for a forum member, but it gave us a some time to take a few shots like the one above!

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Under way again, this time in the direction of the Needles. I have to mention now that cruising in company is fantastic. Its so much fun. these guys were great too. It brings a whole element to the boating experience. Fantastic stuff!

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The Needles coming into view now. I’ve only ever seen them like this on postcards. This is for real!

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Check out how calm the sea is too. Clear blue skies, we really couldn’t have picked a better day. I’m told that apparently it gets quite rough here, hard to believe – but that’s what planning and getting the tides right is all about.

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And time again for some more pictures!

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And back under way again. This time travelling South East.

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This was the first time I opened up the throttles. A good bit of fun, and to show the others what this little Fletcher is really capable of, haha to our amazement we pulled away from everyone, and just to make matters worse took a big loop around them and caught them up again. Great fun

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Next in the distance is St. Catherines Light house – our next point on the trip.

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This marks the half way point! Again we stopped for a few minutes to have a look around. One of the others refuelled and then we carried on towards and past Ventnor, and towards Sandown.
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Stopping at Sandown we all rafted up. This was interesting in that its the first time I’d done such a thing. It worked fine however and all attached to one anchor we sat and had lunch.

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Which was a good time to show of the new dash I had done!

Fed and watered the next part of the trip was in to more familiar waters passing Whitecliff Bay and then into Bembridge. Again this was the first time I had been here since a holiday trip with friends years ago.

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Spot the small blue boat?!

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Steve it turned out also had his uses…

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This seemed like a good opportunity to take a group picture!

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All ‘massive and crew’! Err London speak…

Still with plenty of time after this we decided to all head back a bit around the island to Whitecliff Bay for some more water sports type stuff. It had to be done, the weather was just too good to ignore.

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Finally and amusingly if you look at the GPS track below (see the cluster of movements around Whitecliff!!!) after messing about here we all headed back. Only one concern, FUEL. Having poured in all the remaining fuel we had the gauge was looking worryingly low Fortunately we did make it back, and the others had spare should we have really needed any.

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And finally some videos to finish the day:

Finally the days statistics:

Distance covered 110 miles.
Fuel used 117 litres.

10th trip – time to try some water sports!

Ok I realise that an inflatable ringo isn’t exactly ‘water sports’ but I don’t have any good pictures of the knee boarding that went on!

Having returned from Cornwall a weeks or so ago, and with the summer now nearly in full swing, it was time to try out a few new things. Armed with an inflatable ringo and also a knee board we headed down to the coast and then to our now favourite spot at Whitecliff bay.

After a few failed attempts at getting started on the knee board (you have to pull off fairly quickly then back off once up to speed ~20mph ish) we began to get the hang of it. Knee boarding is a mad thing! Definitely worth a go if you have not before. Just remember to lean back and try to lift the front of the board up. You’ll then be fine!!

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Whilst we didn’t quite manage deep water starts, we did have enough goes that arms felt a few inches longer – ouch. So after that it was time to try the inflatable!

Haha what great fun, these things could be so dangerous if going too fast. The occupants on them basically have no control and its all down to the driver to keep them safe!

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This is something I NEVER thought I’d see myself doing or eh dressed in!

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Simon giving it the thumbs up! We just need to have a look at wakeboarding now!

So a quick update but a fun one. Only pain is the damn I6 engine loves to stall when sat idle for a bit.

May Bank holiday Cornwall Calls!

Just got back from Cornwall. I thought the South East/Solent was good boating. Its nothing compared to the South West. Honestly, amazing.

I’ll quickly summarise what we did.

Arrived Thursday, Friday dry-parked the boat in Falmouth harbour office slipway. This is a place where you need to launch and recover the boat on your own each time. Its not that bad really, and does mean its easy to remove and get fuel if you wish. Its a perfect setup here, so have a proper pontoon, you can nearly do this without getting wet at all. Amazing!

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Out into Falmouth Harbour. What are all these saily things ?! 😉

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Sun (or lack of) spoils this a bit but it looked very nice!

So after a quick couple of hours we returned to land and then came out again the following day. The weather was a bit rough and several times it tried to rain, but this time we headed up the River Fal towards Truro. This is AMAZING. Possibly the best boating scenery I’ve yet seens, its nearly make believe with the trees on each side hugging you as you go up river. Cautious though, even though we were well below river speed limits the locals don’t take kindly to ANY wash at all – sorry I can’t defy physics.
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Where else in the South can you see stuff like this?

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Technology is improving! Sat nav and radio + GPS logger. Still no depth finder however. Tut tut…

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Then it started raining!!!

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Like I said already however. If you have boat. Take it here you have no idea what your missing!!

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Small cafe here its good so I hear.

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Slowly going up  river and Truro Cathedral comes into view!

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But of course on the only time I ever go up here on my boat its covered in scaffolding hahaha!

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The river stops here! There is a Tesco here as well. You can moor here if you are brave.

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Some GPS stats

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And back at base

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So the final day was a little rough but we exploded some of the rocky areas around Falmouth and then headed up river to the  famous Pandora Inn.

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And that pretty much sums up this Cornish adventure!!

New year + Half finished boat, April time to get out again

So you will know if you have read the “tidying it all up” story that I was doing a lot to the boat over winter/new year. Well April came along fast and still wasn’t quite finished, and it was a Steve’s wedding soon, so we made a trip out on the boat part of his Stag day!

So err some of the planned changes were done, fuel tank in the front, but what we didn’t know was that somehow whilst installing it a small amount of dirt got into the tank, this would have been fine except it kept blocking the fuel flow. We found a way around this but typical. This was rectified soon after buy putting a strainer in the tank to prevent anything like this again.

Other than that – successful day on the water. Getting the hang of this now!

As you can see we all looked nice and warm… But the changes to the boat did work fine!

Solent again, Quick run out and back + video

Argh ok getting cold now! Knowing that winter is closing in, any opportunity to get out was taken without hesitation. This time it was a Thursday after work. This would be the last trip of 2009. What an introduction to boating!

The plan quite simple, go to Langstone, and run across to Whitecliff Bay and then come back again.

Here is a video of this. Its a bit cheesy. Sorry about that… It is funny though as Steve does begin to look a little sick hahaha.

Solent here we come!!

A new adventure today. The first time to the Solent in fact, and for the first time, with my Dad.

After speaking to a few people on-line I was told of  a slipway into Langstone harbour, it was found opposite Hayling Island near the RNLI building. Turns out its a great slip. Quite steep so you need a 4×4 to do this safely. but it means its quite easy to launch the boat. The only thing to watch out of is high tidal current speeds.

The boat was launched without issue, the tide was going out of the harbour and the wind coming in so it was a little rough, in fact one large wave came over nearly soaking me the only problem is it did soak the controls. No issue you would would hope, except for the fact that they were obviously not very well insulated and I was then getting a shock from the ignition system through the metal handle?!!!! Anyway, covered that with a waterproof aka insulated jacket and job done for the time being!!!

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For the first time I had a GPS with me. Ready for a new adventure we headed off to the Isle of Wight, to find Wight Cliff Bay. This was somewhere I was familiar with having visited on holidays in the past.

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And there it is! Be warned, there are some very rough rocks to the East corner of the island. They surface at low tide. I know this as I nearly hit them on this first trip with a new prop. Just BE CAREFUL around here if you don’t have a chart. In fact the locals (or somone) has put plastic barrels tied to something that float around the area. If you see them I advise to keep away unless high tide.

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Safe and sound we found our way to the beach.
Lesson no2 of the day!!! DO NOT drive up onto a beach if the are infrequent rolling waves coming in. This will result in water swamping the transom and entering the boat. Again learnt the hard way…

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How cool is this? haha

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After this we headed up in the direction of Cowes, and headed in to Portsmouth. We had a quick (distant!) look around at the military stuff – get close at your peril, and then headed back across the Solent back in the direction of Langstone. It was here that I could for the first time record a top speed run! We saw 50.12 on the GPS.

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Then we arrived back at Langstone, check out this water!! Amazing!

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Perfect! This is what it is all about, who would have thought so late in the year too!

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And finally a cool video of the day!

3rd time unlucky! First “epic” trip.

Well today was one not to forget. Oh my god.

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We arrived at about 2pm. Typically in true English September weather it was not good again. Not in anyway put off we managed to set off from the slip way with a tank full of fuel and 20 litres spare and stopped over on a near by pontoon to work out our plan.

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We decided we would head out to the south east side of the island and take a look, turned out it was really rough and uncomfortable. Worse still Steve was driving and we kept bumping into the bottom of the sea in the waves (surprising how shallow it is around here). Attempts to raise the trim of the engine didn’t work. The trim again had stopped working. With steve still at the controls I looked at the fuse box and saw that both trim pump fuses had failed. Ah that would be the problem then. We found out this happened when you held the trim pump still on after the ram had run out of travel essentially putting massive load on the pump, thank fully we had spares and shortly after we were on our way again.

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Check out the water behind us. not exatly calm, and we were getting soaked! It became obvious that to stay out here would be at best stupid so we headed back behind the island. Still loaded with plenty of fuel we decided to check out the river Medway. We followed the route other boats were taking on the assumption that they knew better than us. It was becoming ever more obvious that the whole of this area gets very shallow, but this was better, in fact it was great fun. Now sheltered by land we headed up river passing  lots of strange small islands in the channel. Quite a mad place.  Also passed some kind of fort (Fort Darnet, and also Fort Hoo)

You can read more about these forts here : http://beno.org.uk/forts/.

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Beyond this we turned to port (Left!!)

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And then passed Upnor Castle. This is a Tudor castle some 450 years old! (as of 2009).

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Getting further up river, we passed Rochester..

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and again another Castle, this one called Rochester Castle.

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By now we were heading untoward the M2 Motoway bridge and HS rail crossing which we could see in the distance.

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And soon also passed under. Modern bridges are strange. They are so square purposeful and usually of no character at all. You almost feel like you shouldn’t be there as they are just industrial.. anyway we carried on…

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The scene changed totally here. It was as if civilisation was left behind at the bridge, now tall buildings were replaced with pylons and fields. I’ll be honest here we had no idea of speed limits, so we sat at a speed that felt efficient and comfortable and just continued our way up stream, carrying on and on. We twisted around bend after bend. It was like a scene from James Bond..

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But things were about to change!! What we hadn’t realised of course was that the river water would be getting shallower as we went further up stream.  What I remember went something like this…

Coming around a few more bends near Alyesford Priory we then passed the Wickford Lodge where people were sitting at the tables having a pint – (reminder we felt like ultimate cool dudes here!!) then rounded another couple of corners with the M20 bridge in sight and in fact even saw the Allington lock in the distance.

Still with no intention to turn around we just about made to the bridge and THUD – CRUNCH – SCRAPE.. rapid deceleration!!!

What the hell was that? The boat ground to a stop I put it in neutral as quickly as possible, and looked over the side of the boat…

I’ll never forget this! We were in about 8 inches of water!!!! The tide had yet to get this far upstream and we were now all but sitting on a bed of stones. Err Problem. So the engine was trimmed up a lot, but the boat was still sitting on the floor so we all had to move to the front of the boat, where it was possible to slowly edge the boat backwards into deeper water. WOW

BIG Lesson of the day. DEPTH sensors are ESSENTIAL.

Feeling cheesed off it was Steves turn again to take to the controls, and satisfied the boat was not taking on any water we headed back down stream deciding now was probably a good time to go home. One slight problem however. The boat had developed a heavy list!! the prop was so badly damaged it was twisting the boat as we went, as seen in this pic below!

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The journey back was slow. Fuel began to concern me and I said perhaps we should put the 20l spare we had in the tank, but it was easier said than done. We continued on. Eventually a couple of hours later even, we made it back to the slipway where with the fuel gauge showing nearly zero and within touching distance of the ramp the engine ran out of fuel. Loosing almost all my cool(!!) we all stood on the side of the boat with the fuel tank pickup and managed to prime the engine enough to  get it going and just get us back to the slipway.

Wow. What a day of highs and lows. So with that all said and done, the boat was taken back home to inspect the prop and skeg (the fin under the engine)

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As you can see the prop took a beating. Its now a garden ornament to remind me of this day! Even the skeg had a chunk taken out of it too!

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So how far did we go? Well I worked it out on google earth that the river trip was about 25 miles so that each way + around perhaps 8 miles of messing about on the island gives us around 55-60 miles easily. Not bad! but did use a full 90 litres of fuel. Not surprising given how much drag the prop had on the way back…

3rd trip 165

And they say third time lucky!! but to be fair it was an awesome adventure – and that’s what its all about.

2nd trip – uneventful, but that’s good right?!

Now the bug had bitten it was any excuse now to get back on the water.

Between this trip and the first, a few things were sorted out like the new wheels/axles and also hydraulic pipe from the trim system. I recall possibly (writing this in 2015) that may have also had to get a new starter motor gear. I remember that it was b***dy expensive for what it was!!

We launched from Sheerness again, this and just really went up and down the water around there just again to get used to the whole experience. Starting the engine again proved to be an utter pain. It was a case of removing the engine cover and spraying fuel into the carbs and turning it over until the engine started. We figured at the time that it was just a trait of these engines.

2-IMG_6546Launching was still no easier!

3-IMG_6543Classic “Tower of Power” In-line 6 mercury

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Eagled eyed people will spot this was done before the tidying up process begun!

Will it float? – 1st trip out..

So we had a boat, which now had an engine. Controls were fitted, safety gear had been purchased. Incredible. We had gone from a bare hull to an apparently fully equipped boat in less than two weeks. Not bad for a pair of dudes who had nothing more than a quick look on the internet to get an idea of what we should be doing, but we still didn’t know if it would float – and it was time to find out.

The date was set – by pure chance the forecast for the weekend was good, so off to Queenborough in Kent we went now fully fuelled up with a ready to go (we hoped) boat.

1-IMG_6423The first challenge was to get down the slip way. No kidding this is the longest slipway ever. At least that I know of.. Of course the tide was out/going out, I can’t be sure we even checked them, but its an all state of tide slipway, so we didn’t mind too much.

Somehow we managed to get the boat into the water without incident, but trying to get the engine to start was proving tricky. These old inline 6 mercury engines we were to 1-IMG_6424learn take some getting used to.  Eventually with the cover off and some fiddling the engine came to life. So first top, to the jetty to see if everything was looking ok.

It was here that the first of our amusing experiences were to begin. On this jetty we found out was part of the Sheerness sailing club. I was checking the engine over, a chap approached us and politely told us we should not stop where we 1-29082009078were, which was fair enough. Not sure why, I guess rules are rules. However he did ask if we had any problems – nope I replied just checking stuff, making sure were not sinking etc. He then asked if the boat was new to us. Yes I replied – never been on the water before, don’t know anything about it. I’m not sure who looked more worried, me about what may lie ahead that day or him staring at two blokes in a 16ft boat with a 140hp engine hanging off the back..

So with everything looking fine, we headed off from the jetty to join the main Swale channel. I began to throttle up the engine and the boat started behaving oddly, the front started lifting up at what was then a bit of an alarming angle, so I throttled back to check everything looked ok – it did. So I tried again, the boat then did the same so I applied a little more power, this time the boat climbed over this wave and we began – for the first time ever – to plane on water. Wow!!

The speedo came to life as the needle crept effortlessly past 20mph, and the boat levelled out. Playing with the trim did some strange things to the way the steering behaved, we decided that probably the best place to have the trim was what made the engine feel most neutral. It seemed to pick up a bit of extra speed too.

1-IMG_6427With little idea of our surroundings we decided to go and explore in the direction of Southend. Steve took over the controls whilst I took a look around and took some pictures.

The boat handled great, in fact with nothing to compare it to, it seemed incredible. The engine ran smooth and the power delivery was fantastic. I was an instant fan!!

We continued our way over to Southend and about 1/4 of a mile or so from the end of the pier we slowed down. It was obvious the tide was out, but we didn’t know by how much, and literally just as we had thought that the engine and boat made some odd thudding noises. Just as quickly we realised this was grounding out on the bottom of the sea, we were crashing into the  sea bed -oops!!! Engine trimmed up we turned around carefully and moved away back in the the main channel. How strange, I knew from a child that Southend pier was long for a reason. I didn’t realise however quite how shallow the water was around there.1-IMG_6458

It was mid day now, but we still had plenty spare fuel – the 90 litre tank proving to be a good choice, so we came back around the North side of the Island, and headed down towards the Sheppy crossing bridge. The picture below shows both the old bridge that 1-IMG_6480raises (also carrying trains!) and the new high one.  This is a sheltered quiet area of the Swale river, with no speed limits in this area we could have a good play about, and it was also great fun. 1-IMG_6499As you can see, although there is not a great amount of land based interest around sheerness, there are some great waters to play in!!

1-IMG_6513We now headed back towards the jetty. Seemed like a good place to stop and have a quick rest and perhaps practice boat manoeuvring.. errr, yes. Steve will remember this well. Since it was his turn. Lets remember now.. Push the controls forward you go forward, pull them back to reverse/stop… But no!! Steve approached the Jetty ever so slightly too fast crashing into it by panicking with the controls. No harm done, but our 16ft.x boat was now 16ff.x minus 1 :)

1-IMG_6502Still not content with an already amazing day and with the fuel tank still showing more available we decided to head out for a final quick blast of the day. This time back in the direction of the Medway River. This area has a huge expanse of water. Possibly a mile or so wide. It looks (and I say looks) perfectly passable, but we were right now about to run into our first real problem. Just as we left the Swale and turned into the Medway we head that familiar bumping sound from the engine we heard eariler, uh oh. So throttled off and engine trimmed up. The 1-IMG_6523trouble was we came off plane, so the boat sunk further, causing us again to stick in he sea bed. An attempt at reversing the boat did nothing, so I tried to tilt up the engine further which then stalled, then all of a sudden “bang!” well more a pop… The engine then fell back into its lowered position. What was that?! A trim hose just popped, we now had no tilt/trim. Ahh not good. What was worse the engine was now properly stuck in the mud, and the engine now refused to start, and didn’t sound good when I tried. Not good x2!! To the safety equipment!! We had oars – yes really. Oars, Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures, but lets just say even on a 16ft speed boat they are a complete waste of time. They did NOTHING!! Well that’s not quite true one got stuck in the sea bed and we lost it, but that was about as much good as they were.

So we were now stuck waiting for the tide to come in. Curiously I saw in the distance a sailing boat and a little rib. They seemed to be watching us (with amusement I guess) as we awaited the tide. about 45 minutes later we were beginning to move when I noticed this rib approaching us. Would we like a tow? Ehh Yes please! The slipway was still in sight, to give you an idea how far we had NOT gone (!!) and this kind chap gave us a tow back to it. I did in fact offer him a tip, but he point blank refused, so I thanked him again and we then went about recovering the boat (hard without a trim system) onto the trailer.

29082009079So why didn’t the engine start? It turns out that the mud had filled up the prop exit, so the engine couldn’t breathe. Trying to reverse did not work and just made matters worse. Interestingly the strange noise from the engine when trying to start was a worn stater pinion. £80 later (WHAT??!! @*@##!!) this was replaced – but that’s another story.

So our first day ever on the water. Was it what I hoped – damn right it was. It was amazing!!