Feeling like a bit of a plonker!
So wondering what others would have done in the following circumstances.
To set the scene, I took the opportunity yesterday to take the RIB out onto Southampton Water. Launched at Warsash as normal and intended to be out no more than an hour, primarily to check that the longer pitch prop I'd fitted would correct the issue of the engine hitting the rev limiter well before WOT was reached. It did, sitting around 5900rpm at WOT and registering 35mph on the GPS as I headed up Southampton Water.
Happy with that, I turned and started back. Without any warning, and whilst at WOT, I lost all power. And I don't mean a reduction, I mean complete loss, engine stopped, as if the killcord had been removed - but it hadn't. Control panel showed no ignition. Battery isolation switch was on. Checked whether any power to engine mounted trim switch, but nothing.
I was mid channel, directly between the Fawley Refinery jetties and Hamble point. Just prior to this sudden stop I'd passed the inbound Red Funnel ferry, but as I assessed my situation an outbound RedJet was approaching at full chat on a course that took it not too far wide of me as I drifted.
The next few considerations were...
a) Is there another boat within hailing distance that I could call to assist? Nothing.
b) Do I drop an anchor while I try to identify the problem? I decided anchoring in the main channel wasn't an option on either safety or practical grounds (the latter due to depth of water and rate of tidal flow at the time).
c) Can I safely try to trace the problem whilst drifting? Being alone on the boat I would not have been able to keep lookout whilst doing so, and drifting in the main channel was no safer than being anchored?
After removing and replacing the killcord, isolator key and ignition again, with no change in the result, I called a Pan-Pan.
The rest happened very quickly, with Solent Coastguard responding and dispatching Hamble Lifeboat. Another RIB, 'Pride of Dartmouth', also heard my call and responded as she was nearer, albeit en route to Yarmouth, and towed me clear of the main channel (massive thank you if the skipper is reading this). Hamble Lifeboat then arrived to take over the tow back to Warsash slip, and saw me safely onto the jetty.
Whilst we awaited the HMCG officers to arrive from Lee, I manged to lift the console far enough to remove the top of the battery box, and to see that the negative terminal clamp had come off. Though I'd not have been able to secure it without spending several minutes releasing the console properly (it in fact took me 15 minutes when I'd got the boat home), it was none-the-less embarrassing to think that I'd called a Pan-Pan for something relatively minor.
Suffice to say, with only 3.9 hours on the clock since the engine was installed, I'm not too thrilled with the installer, but I have now taken steps to make the battery housing and terminals more easily accessible should the need arise again in the future.
Should I have done anything different, or was Pan-Pan the right call?