Although still very cold, the weather had improved enough to consider an early season day sail so with much excitement our daughter Charlotte and I took the winter cover off and re-attached the mainsail. With a north easterly 4-5 conditions looked great so the three of us slipped our berth and headed off for the 09:30 bridges. Having duly called Poole bridge control requesting a set of bridge lifts we were told we were the only vessel going through. As we approached the first bridge I noticed it was really difficult engaging reverse and when it did drop in there were no revs at all followed by black smoke and an oil slick…. “Dad that doesn’t look right” she said, “s*it” I thought, we’ve lost the gearbox. Fortunately we managed to tie up quite quickly to a spare RNLI pontoon and as I jumped ashore with some lines I looked ahead to see the twin sails bridge half way raised…… oops!!! Quick apology to a very understanding voice on the VHF and we turned our thoughts to the problem at hand.
A phone call to the marina office at Cobbs Quay followed by a tow back to a berth and that was that, no sailing at all. Much reading on possible issues and a phone call to a local marine engineer who took a look and the problem didn’t look like it was mechanical but more like a propeller malfunction. I spoke to the maxprop dealer in the UK “Darglow marine” who said it was unlikely to be an issue with the prop unless it had hit something and bent a blade in the wrong position.
We were going to need to take a look at the prop, no lift out available until April as it’s the busy period, so it meant going under water. I got my 5mm one piece suit out, found my fins mask and snorkel………. and then telephoned a professional diver !! Its March in the UK I’m not that mad. End result was fishing net wrapped securely around the prop and shaft which took the diver 30 minutes to clear.
We knew there would be a learning curve but one thing we didn’t really give too much thought to was the need to book berths in advance given our size and especailly at bank holidays. Whilst we would prefer to anchor when possible, Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight has a great harbour which fills quickly and we have managed to book ahead for the Good Friday. Sadly we left it too late for Lymington so have made arrangements with Hamble Point marina, last time we were there was in 1997 when we bought “Seaway Challenge” our last boat so it’ll be interesting to take a look around.