Country: UK - Scotland
Boat name: Moon Raker
Make: Humber Destroyer
Length: 5m +
Engine: Honda BF 90 D
Join Date: May 2006
The Day the Engine stopped
This story may be of interest to those who haven't been following my engine problem thread. It follows on from the thread 'Help' Engine stopped with a funny smell' in 'Engines and props'.
As some of you might know, I potter about the waters of Nether Lorne, hiding away in nooks and crannies and spending nights at anchor with rib tent deployed. Last Monday was the start of a planned weeks cruise and I hoped to explore the west side of Jura. Sunday's weather had been awful and Monday's was not much better, but with a promised improvement in the afternoon and overnight it was time to go. I needed to get through Corryvreckan at slack water (just a few minutes at springs), so set off at 1600 Monday afternoon in light drizzle and viz of a mile or so and improving. By 1620 I was half way through the Gulf, visibility down to one cable with a steep building swell and westerly wind. If my timing was slightly wrong there may have been breakers ahead that I couldn't see. Enough, I turned and made for an anchorage on the east side of the island of Lunga.
Tuesday. Spent the day on Lunga, then through the Corry in the evening to explore a small bay called Uamh nan Gall, thinking I'd anchor for the night. Never having been there I sat ,just drifting for 15 mins or so, soaking up the atmosphere thinking of the forecast, the tidal gate of Corryvreckan and it didn't feel right this time - though I'm sure it would another day. So that's how I came to be crossing the Sound of Jura on a diagonal course towards the islands and bay south of Carsaig. The tide runs strongly here, 1.8 knots in the middle of the sound, but much faster close to the coast. The tidal stream seems to zig zag across the Sound and bounce off the shore just by Carsaig creating a strong flow and turmoil on the surface.
At 1840, half a mile west of Eilean Dubh, in the middle of the tidal whorls, the engine stopped.
After realising I wasn't going to get it going any time soon, I took stock. Calm sea, no danger from that. Home ten or more miles to the north. Tide setting south at quite a lick. I'm already south of the hamlet of Carsaig where there's a road if I need one, and drifting further into isolation. So, head towards Carsaig if I can. Get out of the tide, if I can and anchor for the night. If I can't beat the tide, the next bay south will be ok but more isolated. If the auxiliary won't start I can launch the dinghy and tow the rib (rowing) across tide and into that bay - or at least I can try. If that fails, well things would get more serious and I'd have to think again.
My BRP Evinrude 3.5hp aux is fitted on the transom. Getting to it isn't easy when the boat's in cruising mode. To be self sufficient for five days on a boat in this part of the world, you need a lot of kit and Moon Raker is not a large RIB. There's hardly a space on deck. The dinghy, in calm weather stowed athwartships and upside down, takes up all of the space between console and engine. (You'll get the idea from the picture). The trick is to slither over the bottom of the dinghy, hang on to the A frame and kneel on the tube right by the transom.
I usually take a very jaundiced view of that engine. Its shaft is too short, I'm not convinced of the strength of its mountings, and it's earsplittingly noisy, but it was new and a gift so there it is. In that swirling tide my gaze was rosy and warm as I lowered it into position, gave it a good shake to stir up the fuel (When did I fill it? How much is in the tank, I know it's not full? Where's my spare can? How much is in that? Did I put oil in it? How old is it?) turned on the tap and started to pull the string. Six pulls and at 1845 we were off in a short lived cloud of blue smoke. Before I engaged gear we were doing 2 knots away from the anchorage. Gradually speed decreased to zero then, nailbitingly slowly increased again, this time in the right direction. Half a knot, one knot, even one and a half at times in a favourable eddy, we crept northwards. I felt there'd be less tidal flow really close to the shore of Eilean Dubh, so slowly eased nearer, working the eddies where I could. We began to make headway.
Twenty minutes later we were just clear of the islet north of E. Dubh and heading north of E. Traighe and the tidal flow was easing and speed was 2.5 knots in the right direction. Only half a mile to go to the anchorage. What about fuel? Will it hold out? If we stop now we'll be back out in the Sound before I can refuel. Concentrate on getting there. Will the engine to keep going. These thoughts ran circles in my mind as we inched closer to the goal. And then we were east of Carsaig Island and I could move from my cramped position, and in 6 metres depth at 1925, let go the anchor onto firm sand. Phew! 1.2 miles over the ground in 40 minutes. Safe for the night, but not home. There was much to think about and things to do before then. The passage home would need some planning.
I checked the fuel left in the aux. just after we anchored. I couldn't see any! We had only just got there. The spare container was half full.
The morning forecast was E-SE 3 to 4 occ 5. Offshore, so there'd be little sea apart from that created by the big spring tide at the northern end of the Sound of Jura. Our goal was my mooring in Loch Craignish, a tad north of the yacht moorings. It's about 10.5 miles and our course would be parallel to the coast for most of the way. Though probably quite gusty, especially across the mouth of Loch Crinan, the wind wasn't likely to be a problem if I kept close inshore. The tide would be running north from midday onwards. Provided the little engine kept going there would be no hazards on the way. If it gave up the ghost (had I not praised it just the day before?), then the worst case would be to be blown out into the main tidal stream which, around a mile offshore, splits and sets more NW'ly towards the west side of the Sound - and on to the Gulf of Corryvreckan. If too far to the west when off Loch Crinan, then a trip through the Dorus Mhor would be likely. Refuelling, a necessity, would have to be quick and efficient.
My spare fuel for the aux. has always been carried in one of those green 5 litre containers. Don't know about you, but I find the spouts a sod to fit and they leak badly. Trying to fill a small outboard in an awkward position over the transom with one of those in any sort of sea is just too hard, even with a funnel. I wasn't sure that 5 litres, plus the 1.5l in the engine tank would be enough to get me home anyway. I needed more containers. Luckily, they were aboard. I carry my fresh water in used 1.5 litre fizzy water bottles, stowed in those plastic bottle holders the Co-op supply. How to get fuel into them from the main engine tank was a problem. At first I opened the drain of the water separator, but the flow was just too slow. Lacking any sort of syphon pump or pipe to get it from the filler, I had to pull the main fuel pipe off the separator. Gravity soon filled the bottles. I always have a bottle of two stroke oil with me for just such emergencies. Good job I had. Finally had 8 litres, two bottles and the can and 1.5 litres in the engine. Reckoned that may be enough.
I wasn't about to spend hours kneeling on the tubes holding the vibrating aux., but it needed some weight aft to keep its propellor deep enough. I moved everything I could as far aft as possible. I could then lock the aux steering and sit at the console to steer with the main engine.
At 1145 we set off northwards, making 3.3 knots at first with the tide. 1245 had to refuel. A doddle from the bottle using the funnel. No spillage, 2.9 miles. Under way again in two minutes. Exactly an hour later, off the southern tip of Island Macaskin, another 1.5 litres went in. 3.1 miles that time. After a stop at Gabhar Island for lunch and decant from can to bottle, just one more refill got us home. 5 hours including the stop. No events.
Things to remember.
If there's even a hint if a whiff of something unusual coming from the engine, find out what's wrong before charging off to one of the most isolated areas in the uk.
Around here it takes an hour for any help to arrive, so be prepared to help yourself.
Take an auxiliary engine. Even a small one can help get you out of trouble. Make sure it's full of fuel. Make sure your spare can is full. Make sure you can fill the outboard with it. Take some two stroke oil. Have a way of getting fuel from your main tank.
My 3.5 hp engine gave me 2.8 knots at threequarters throttle, with much ventilation of the propellor because it's not deep enough. It did 2 miles per litre. In rough water it's likely it won't be very effective, but it might be. I turned into the wind blowing out of Loch Crinan, a good F4, maybe more. The boat slowed down only a little, the propellor stopped ventilating and became more efficient and we kept going.
Don't panic. Think. Work it out. Don't give up.
Get as much information about the waters you are in as you possibly can, and carry most of it.