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?
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