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.
The 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 learn 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 were, 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.
With 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.
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 raises (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. As you can see, although there is not a great amount of land based interest around sheerness, there are some great waters to play in!!
We 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
Still 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 trouble 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.
So 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!!