July 1992 - Ipswich

16 July 1992   Fox’s Marina, Ipswich
Glencora is finally launched. We didn’t bother to smash a bottle of champagne on to the hull - we just drank it. The engine wasn’t fully installed, so we were dragged into a berth in the marina by the boat yard tender.

17 July 1992   Fox’s Marina
My mum and dad came to visit us and brought along their trailer, which we used to transport all the boat’s equipment and our belongings from our house in Sussex to Ipswich. They took the excess things to be stored at my sister Carol’s house in Cheshire. Carol has been a treasure and has agreed to act as our mail drop in the UK and sort out any administration that we can’t do remotely.

The two engineers, Lindsey and Jack, plumbed in the engine - total cost for rebuilding the engine was £3,000. I stowed equipment in lockers and flushed out the water tanks. The sails were delivered and I fitted them in place. We were ready to go!

No engine but at least we're sailing

Back at home, Glenys’s mum, Ceris,  had arrived to look after the children. Before Glenys left to come down to Ipswich, Ceris was wandering around tutting and being stoic in the face of her daughter abandoning her and risking the lives and education of her grandchildren by sailing off in a boat.

19 July 1992   Fox’s Marina
Today was the big day. After owning Glencora for 4 months, we were finally going to sail her. Lindsay and Jack arrived and went below to check the engine, while Glenys and I fretted. It was a big step up from 32 foot boats to a 39 footer and we were worried about our sailing abilities. We took the sail covers off the main sail and the mizzen. The wind had never been in the right direction for us to hoist the sails in the marina, so we hoped that we’d put them on correctly.

The engineers started the engine and ran it for ten minutes. It seemed fine. We motored forwards and backwards against the mooring lines - everything seemed to work.

I gave instructions to my crew and, without any cheering crowds, we slipped off the dock. I was terrified but also exhilarated. We motored out of the narrow entrance to the marina and turned right down the River Orwell. It was a beautiful day. We were heading east and had a light 10 knot south easterly wind.

After about five minutes, as we passed under the big bridge carrying the A10 to Ipswich, Jack noticed that the engine temperature was getting high. The engineers decided that we ought to pull into the next marina about a mile away - two minutes later, the engine stopped.

After a moment of panic, I decided to put up the main with one reef in it. Fortunately, we had rigged it correctly. We rolled out a bit of foresail and there we were on our maiden voyage sailing with no engine!

I called Wolverston marina on the VHF radio, told them that we had lost our engine and wanted to come alongside to look at the problem. They suggested that we tie alongside a tug that was moored on the outside pontoon.

I weighed up the situation. It was actually not that difficult. The wind was blowing off the dock at about 45 degrees so we simply had to sail upwind and de-power the main sail for the last few metres. Thank God for all those sailing exercises at Southern Sailing school.

I organised Lindsey and Jack on bow and stern lines. Glenys rolled away the jib and then stood holding the main sheet ready to de-power the sail on my command. We glided up to the side of the tug and, without any major problems, tied up alongside. I was elated by my sailing.

I was distraught about my engine. Lindsay and Jack dived down into the engine room and after five tense minutes came back up. They didn’t know why it had overheated and there was an ominous metallic clicking sound coming from the engine when they turned the engine over by hand. They couldn’t fix it here. We’d have to sail back to Fox’s Marina.

Lindsay went off to call the marina to arrange a tow back down the short passage  into the marina. Meanwhile Glenys and I wrestled with the worrying thought of not having a home in twelve days time when we had to leave our house. By the time Lindsay returned, we had decided not to think about it until tomorrow and go for a quick sail down towards Harwich.

We cast off, put up the sails and had a pleasant two hour sail down the River Orwell and back to Fox’s again. At least we had a chance to check out the sails, the steering, the auto pilot and some of the other equipment. Everything seemed fine except the bloody engine.

I radioed ahead for the boatyard tender and they met us at the marina entrance. There was a young lad on the tender who took our rope and towed us in. We snaked our way down the winding channel and as we turned the last corner, I realised that we had built up a fair amount of speed. I shouted at the lad to slow down but he didn’t seem to appreciate the momentum that a 13 ton boat can carry. I shouted at Jack to drop the rope and we headed for the dock at about three knots. Fortunately, there were some people standing by ready to snub the ropes off and we escaped with a small scratch on the topsides. Dismayed, Glenys and I retired to the bar.

20 July 1992   Fox’s Marina
Nursing our hangovers, we waiting while Lindsay and Jack removed the engine cylinder head. They discovered that when the engine had overheated, one of the pistons had seized in its bore and pulled down the cylinder wet liner. The engine block would have to be rebuilt and, even then, they couldn’t guarantee that it would be faultless.

I went ballistic. Why the bloody hell had the engine overheated? Why the bloody hell didn’t they stop the engine before it stalled? What the bloody hell were we going to do now? Lindsay and Jack waited for the end of my tirade and then suggested that we get a reconditioned engine. I just shrugged my shoulders. They rang a company called Perry’s in London, who recondition Ford engines. They agreed to deliver one within two days, cash on delivery - only £1,405. Why the bloody hell didn’t we do that in the first place instead of messing about spending over £3,000 rebuilding the old engine? Jack said that they had suggested it six weeks ago - which they had, but I hadn’t realised that a reconditioned engine would be so cheap!

Lindsay decided that the overheating problem was due to the heat exchanger. I had already had this reconditioned, but Lindsay and Jack were adamant that I now needed to replace it - only another £490!

The worst thing to happen during the day was that we were lifted out of the water and put at the back of the yard. This was very depressing. We seem to take one step forward and two back. We are now further away from the launching dock than when we bought the boat four months ago!

21 July 1992   Fox’s Marina
Lindsay and Jack lifted the engine out and removed all the parts that were not included with the reconditioned engine, such as the gearbox, heat exchanger and the sea water cooling system. During the engine rebuild they had replaced most of the engine components such as the oil pump, fresh water pump, etc. It would have been useful to put the old parts onto the blown up engine and have the new parts as spares. Unfortunately they had thrown away the old parts! I was a  bit annoyed about this, but it wasn’t that important in the scheme of things. In retrospect, I should have insisted on seeing all the old parts when they were removed from the boat (including the rigging). I could then have salvaged some spare parts. I suspect that boat yard employees make a tidy profit on selling old parts.

To keep ourselves occupied, Glenys and I pottered around doing a few jobs such as tying netting onto the guard rails. This was to stop children and other small objects falling into the water. Glenys painted the topside stripe blue, and I went to the bank to withdraw £1,400 cash to pay for the reconditioned engine.