Engine Troubles

21st June

We are on our mooring at Orford.  It’s summer solstice.

Since relaunching on the 13th April we have sailed only 55 NM and some of that was being towed.

On the 1st May we sailed up river to anchor above Aldeburgh in the company of Doc and ‘Tuesday’.

1st May … we sailed up river to anchor above Aldeburgh in the company of Doc and ‘Tuesday’.

I slipped the mooring under stay sail and just turned the engine over briefly just before sailing through the moorings at Aldeburgh.  Both boats anchored for the night off Westrow Point.  It was lovely to be back on the water, in the company of ‘Tuesday’ and watch the world go by.  Or rather … the remarkable ebb and flood of the river.  ‘Tuesday’ at anchor is always such a reassuring sight.

A favourite anchorage …

Jon Wainwright wrote a splendid book ‘Only So Many Tides’.  Jon had heart problems and when he wrote his book he knew his days, and tides were numbered.

I am so fortunate to sail in tidal waters.

1st May At anchor above Aldeburgh. Doc drifting back towards ‘Tuesday’.

1st May

On the 2nd May I had to be home.  Doc and ‘Tuesday’ were going to follow us back to the moorings at Orford.

It was a still fine day and the river had an hour or so of the remaining flood.  I started the engine and loitered around the anchorage marking waypoints for the deeper holes for anchoring later in the summer.  Engine ticking over we headed off towards the start of the Aldeburgh moorings.  The engine missed and then there was a rattling grating sound and the engine was dead.  I turned round and slowly took the flood back to ‘Tuesday’ and lowered the anchor.

2nd May I turned round and slowly took the flood back to ‘Tuesday’ and lowered the anchor.

Checking for the obvious there was no fuel starvation.  Doc and ‘Tuesday’ towed us back to the mooring at Orford where we tried to fault find and start the engine again.

2nd May We are towed back to Orford by Doc and ‘Tuesday’

2nd May River Alde off Aldeburgh YC being towed by ‘Tuesday’.

2nd May Approaching Orford  … under tow …

It had to be the lift pump!  A few days later I installed a new lift pump and bled the system before turning the engine over.

The engine simply would not fire.

Doc suggested removing the air filter and squirting some fuel in to the air intake just to see if the engine would fire.  The engine did not fire and I was about to put the air filter back on when I glanced inside the filter.  Part of the metal mesh of the air filter was missing.

The engine had eaten part of the mesh.

To cut a long story short my friend Peter Buchan came out to the mooring and removed the head.  To his astonishment the cylinders and pistons were undamaged but the valves were completely seized.  Peter took the head home, freed the valves and miraculously reported back that they too, were undamaged.

Peter recommended that with the head off, it would be unbusinesslike not to change the leaky injector sleeves and also have the injectors checked.  My still being engineless today is the result of a lack of new injector nozzles anywhere in Europe.  Peter finally found some in Canada and we are awaiting delivery.

It’s not been a bad thing, in my current state of health, to be using ‘Talisker 1’ as a house boat.  And is there a better spot than Orford on the longest day of the year?

13th June. In the mean time a masterly replacement of the transom by Larkman’s Limited on my classic Pearly Miss Speed Boat that has been in the family since new. Circa 1960 London Boat Show.

17th June ‘Talisker 1’ with ‘Tuesday of Ore’ on her mooring with Doc’s tender lying astern.

20th June and making progress

20th June a night on board … the beauty of Orford

1st July Peter Buchan has reinstalled the head on my Volvo 2003

4th July She’s done!

10th July

9th July Orford to Hamford Water.

9th July …At sea again off Bawdsey and my first Solo Sail since my Total Heart Block in November.

9th July Hamford Water

We are at anchor in Hamford Water having sailed out of the river last night.  A heat wave is expected.  There is not a cloud in the sky.  Later today we return to Orford on the evening flood.

At anchor in Hamford Water

10th July

The engine was immaculately put back together by Peter Buchan.  It was not by any means straight forward.  Tiny copper washers had to be used to get a good seal on the newly calibrated injectors.

Having run the engine for two hours yesterday, predominantly to get out of the river, I checked the levels this morning and the engine bay was virtually spotless.  The 2003 is a notoriously mucky engine but I’ve never seen virtually nothing under the engine before.

Volvo no longer produce air filters.  Peter found a Beta air filter that fits perfectly.  He really is a master engineer.

15th July

We stayed an extra night in Hamford Water and returned to Orford early on the 11th.

11th July Hamford Water to Orford

11th July 0500 Hamford Water

11th July sailing back to Orford from Hamford Water … the joy.

There was not a lot of wind but ‘Talisker 1’ made good progress with barely 7 knots over the deck.  I feel we are in good shape.  I have great confidence in the repair to the engine.

I can’t wait to get out there again.

11th July Thames Barge ‘Thalatta’ at anchor in Short Gull as we come in to the moorings at Orford.


  • Martin Kuhn says:

    Thank you for your latest blog and lovely pictures! The East Coast at it’s best…

  • Benn Berbank-Green says:

    Good to hear you are out and about. I’m only slightly missing a life at sea! Is Doc the same Doc who single handed back from the Caribbean? I think I stumbled across his DVD in Ipswich Haven!

    I’m sure he suggested “fuel” to the intake, but can I stress to your readers (in case it’s not clear), never use easy start with a diesel, you will kill it! I spent every year telling people this! You were very lucky-well, unlucky too in equal measures! Good to hear the engine isn’t too badly damaged. I had a pair of Volvo MD7a’s aboard…I was told that was reason enough to sell and run away! I found them to be great engines, never let us down.

    I hope to see you sailing the wild Brittany coast soon!

    • Doc sailed single handed to South America and back and to the Arctic. He and his ship were seriously damaged by a lightning strike in Salvador and he repaired a very crippled vessel himself, from spares actually carried on board. Electrical melt down … literally. Doc’s book ‘Tuesday N’ Me’ is a must read for any solo sailor contemplating setting off in to the ocean. He is a remarkable man and most of all … as I always stress … the ability to improvise is golden. Actually we just squirted some WD 40 in to the air intake. Recommended thing to try by marine engineers. With seized valves of course it did not fire but it did lead me to looking inside the filter to see bits of grill missing. The 2003 has never run better since this major repair and rebuild.

      I would love to come to Brittany. I’m going to slowly rebuild confidence in myself. Getting easily tired is not a good thing. The Thames Estuary is ideal with relatively short hops from anchorage to anchorage. I shall retrace some of Maurice Griffiths yet again and nothing is more wonderful than that.

  • candy says:

    What a saga and how clever Peter B is!! We are lucky to have him in our circle!!

    Glad you’re underway again, three weeks isn’t too bad considering the two major repairs on two separate boats you managed simultaneously. Big hugs to Kitty LS and Miss Sally

    I had to change my flight because of Heathrow and it’s limitations on passengers. Coming back to Suffolk now on August 4.

  • Andrew says:

    Interesting notes…… I’m just discovering theEast coast having previously sailed in the Solent. ….now looking for a proper yacht to sail Starlight, Westerley….. the hunt is not easy!

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