Born again boater

NICK BURN­HAM: Al­though tucked up safe away from the water, it’s still been a long, frosty hi­ber­na­tion for Smug­gler’s Blues 2. Would she wake from her slum­ber with­out a hitch?

Motorboat & Yachting - - Contents -

This winter has been long and cold and I’ve been grate­ful that my lit­tle boat has spent it tucked away from the of­ten tur­bu­lent wa­ters of Torquay Har­bour, safely blocked up at Dart­side Quay with heaters gen­tly warm­ing its nether re­gions (a tube heater in the engine­room and a ther­mo­stat­i­cally con­trolled oil-filled ra­di­a­tor in the cabin). A de­hu­mid­i­fier has been keep­ing things dry too, niftily drain­ing into the gal­ley sink to save hav­ing to empty it reg­u­larly. Ac­tu­ally, what felt like most of the boat was even warmer and dryer, re­sid­ing in my spare room, bed piled al­most to the ceil­ing with cabin and cock­pit cush­ions, the floor art­fully dec­o­rated with warps, canopies, bed­ding, nav­i­ga­tion gear and any­thing else we could fit into my mate Adrian’s im­mac­u­late Ford Fo­cus es­tate (in fact, it took two runs). I don’t know whether you were ever made to play that game at school where you had to cross the gym with­out ever touch­ing the floor – hop­ping and bound­ing across care­fully po­si­tioned ap­pa­ra­tus? Well, cross­ing my spare room has been a lit­tle like that. All that re­mained for me to do was sit at home shelling out money at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals to Andy Shep­pard (my GRP guy) and Dart­side Quay like a black­jack dealer flick­ing out cards across the ta­ble.

It’s ac­tu­ally slightly nerve wrack­ing putting the boat back into com­mis­sion. Af­ter two more trips with Adrian’s Fo­cus to re­turn the con­tents of my spare room back to the boat, the big day ar­rived and an­other friend Sean came along to lend a hand. As the crane plucked it from its winter nest and spir­ited it to­ward the river, ir­ra­tional thoughts tum­bled through my head. Would it float? (Why wouldn’t it float?) Would it start? (A more rea­son­able one this, af­ter nearly five months ashore.) I’d run the bat­tery charger for an hour but it’s a big en­gine, a cold day and it’s been dor­mant for months. Dart­side’s crew low­ered it care­fully into the water and pulled it back against the pon­toon. I hopped on board, wrench­ing open the en­gine bay – bone dry. Phew! Key in the ig­ni­tion – mo­ment of truth. The starter churned, ea­gerly to be­gin with and then slower. Sud­denly the en­gine caught and roared into life. Double phew! I let it warm through for a few min­utes be­fore we cast off and headed into the breezy slate­grey day, point­ing the nose down­stream to­ward open water.

It’s about half an hour from Galmp­ton, the location of Dart­side Quay, to the river en­trance and then an­other five min­utes to reach the edge of the har­bour speed limit (the days of plan­ing away from the castle at 30 knots are long gone – of­fi­cially at least). A final check of the en­gine bay for er­ro­neous noises or flu­ids and it was time to gen­tly ease on the power. The wind was pick­ing up short sharp waves, but for­tu­nately they were head­ing up the coast to Torquay just like us. The tachome­ter nee­dle wound slowly but pos­i­tively round the dial, the SOG on my new Ax­iom 9 chart­plot­ter flick­ing steadily up­ward. At 15 knots, we were plan­ing and at 20 knots (just 2,500rpm) we were cruis­ing, skip­ping hap­pily across the tur­bu­lent sur­face send­ing sheets of white spray out low and wide ei­ther side of the boat. Sean and I looked at each other and grinned. The world made sense again.

As the crane plucked my boat from its winter nest and spir­ited it to­ward the river, ir­ra­tional thoughts tum­bled through my head. Would it start? Would it float?

Video rec­om­men­da­tion: Search ‘Sun­seeker Portofino 31 by drone’ for some beau­ti­ful shots of a gor­geous clas­sic in full flight

Smug­gler’s Blues 2 heads up the coast ready for an­other sum­mer afloat

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