Friday, August 08, 2014

Bradwell and home

We enjoyed Gillingham, although it's not generally as highly rated as Chatham. It was relatively quiet, Andy managed to walk to the Historic Docks at Chatham and thoroughly enjoyed his day, although he did get a taxi home, and we found a Chinese takeaway for our Sunday dinner.

It felt a bit tame just to head home from Gillingham. Although we were reduced to three on board, as Sym had to go home on Saturday, we decided to extend the cruise with a trip up the Blackwater. At last I had an opportunity to use that almost impenetrable work of pilotage, Crossing the Thames Estuary. (I've felt better about not understanding it since Dick Durham of Yachting Monthly told me he didn't understand it either). The conclusion was that we would make the fastest passage by leaving Gillingham on the first lock opening at 0600, but this also meant we would cross the shallowest water, across the Spitway, at dead on low water. With a minimum charted depth of 1.5m, plus another 1.5m because it was neaps so the low wouldn't be very low, we would be ok but not very comfortable. So we opted to leave at 0700 instead, which also allowed us to fill up with diesel at Gillingham's handy fuel pontoon, and took us across the Spitway just over an hour after LW.

There was very little wind for the passage, mostly pretty much aft, and once again it was a pretty hot day. 'Way ahead of us we could see a Thames barge which appeared to be sailing but almost every other yacht be saw was mooring, as we were. Somewhere off Maplin sands I managed to get enough Vodafone signal to confirm that Bradwell would have space for us, and we made it into the Blackwater and then into the marina around 1500. We've been in Bradwell several times before but getting in always feels a bit of a challenge - the route into Bradwell Creek and then round into the marina is well marked but far from straight, and is accessible to us only from around HW-4h. Naturally, as we approached the marina a breeze suddenly appeared, far too late to be useful for sailing and just enough to be slightly annoying for mooring.

One thing I'd forgotten was that the surface of the pontoons at Bradwell is made of horrible expanded metal. These are marked as being "unsuitable for pets" - I'd add that they are highly unsuitable for people with impaired mobility, let alone wheelchairs. We opted to leave Sam on board while I walked up to the beach in front of the power station and washed off the passage perspiration with a swim in the very warm Blackwater, while Andy explored the beers at the yacht club.

Tuesday saw another early departure, heading back up the creek at high water around 0700. Once again there was a very light south-westerly and we motored gently up the Wallet. At Landguard, at the entrance to Harwich harbour, the breeze strengthened just enough for us to kill the engine and sail the last hour up the Orwell. We restarted the engine and literally as we passed the SYH safe water mark, the engine alarm came on - and boy is it loud. I know how to turn it off now but I didn't at the time. Andy squinted at the warning lights and told us the problem was with oil pressure. Panic! When I checked the oil at St Kats, had I somehow not managed to replace the cap? Or was there a hole in the bottom of the engine? We trickled into the berth at about two knots and were very delighted to kill the motor. However, god bless Kalessin for facing us with a problem five minutes from home instead of somewhere grim halfway up the Thames.

Andy packed and headed home while we started to clear up. We'd arrived more or less at low water, which often happens when you arrive from the south, which is not a great time to get lots of stuff on and off the boat. Also I was conscious that the boat was pretty filthy and our dear friend Alex, who was brought up by the world's most hygienic mother, was due to sail with us the following week. So Sam and I had planned to stay on board at least until the evening and probably for another night, while I cleaned and cleared a bit.

In the event we spent much of the afternoon playing with the engine. I concluded that actually the light which had come on was the one on the extreme left which is the overheat alarm. We restarted the engine and after 15 minutes or so of pretty gently running the overheat alarm cam on to prove the point. A flurry of texts and calls ensued, initially to Guy who provided lots of helpful advice, then to Lundsay Ruffors who is our engineer, and then to Ben because I wanted to check that the thing I couldn't remove the top from was actually the inline raw water filter. (It was, and apparently the answer is to hit it with a hammer. Also possibly to be a man with stronger hands than mine, which is very annoying).
Water filter is at the front with the water pipe coming out of it - easy to get to, but no use IMHO if you can't get the top off!
The whole thing was not helped by my being hot, befuddled and generally cross, and Sam being cross because he couldn't help. Eventually we texted Lindsay to ask if he could swing by when he was in SYH the following afternoon.

Wednesday was devoted to a lot of boat cleaning. There are places on Kalessin where dust accumulated while she was in the shed in Denmark which I'd never got around to cleaning. By early afternoon she was better, although by no means immaculate, and Lindsay arrived around 1400. He spent well over an hour running the engine up under load and checking everything he could think of - no alarm, and no visible problem. It might have been a temporary blockage, or maybe even a very warm patch of Orwell - who knows? The only way to test it is to run the engine again and see what happens.

We have a gradually increasing list of minor problems to sort out:
  • The rope clutch for the main halyard has bust and needs to be replaced. Guy says we can guarantee that whatever we replace it with will have different bolt holes. In the meantime we have swapped the main halyard to the spinnaker uphaul clutch on the basis that we probably won't be using the spinnaker much with Sam on board.
  • The loo is still not working properly although a little clean water is now coming in if you pump hard enough. Lindsay says the Blakes valve, although the correct one for the job, is highly prone to blockages. It's an out-of-the-water job so we'll have to use flushing buckets for the time being.
  • The fridge thermostat, which stopped working for a while so that the fridge compressor stayed on until everything in the fridge froze, seems to have fixed itself. One to keep an eye and/or ear on, though.
  • The headlining is only properly attached in about half the places it should be after Anders took it down last summer.
  • The starboard-hand external loudspeaker is now working again for VHF (not music) but neither of the autopilots are steering a straight line. The two are probably related. I'd rather have a functioning autopilot than music outside, but we do need a working external VHF repeater. I don't know the answer to this one, as any speaker is likely to upset the autopilot despite Sam's magnetic shielding.
  • One of the bulkhead spotlights needs to be reattached. I haven't done this as it's rarely used, the wires are extremely short and I can't work out which wire goes where. Perhaps we can just leave it.
  • We need a new topping lift and possibly also main halyard. As Sam's life depends on one or other of these (when we haul him in and out), they have to be 100%.
  • We need a new hose fitting for the flat hose reel. I could probably manage this one on my own.
  • The Navtex no longer receives any transmissions (although it still works as a repeater) so the connection to the aerial must be broken somewhere.
What have I forgotten? Sounds like it could be a busy winter....

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