Jonty Pearce wrestles with confined spaces on board as he gets down to a bit of maintenance

Nearly three years ago, I wrote about the joys of being a big framed man (ahem) trying to insinuate myself into a confined space – the lazarette – in order to access the workings of the holding tank.

Let me tell you that three years on, and without adequate or significant loss of weight, that hole has not become more spacious.

The development of shoulder arthritis and the general decrease of flexibility that has accompanied the approach of my 60th birthday have also not aided my maneuverability or ability to leap out of said lazarette like a gazelle full of the joys of spring.

In fact, this time I nearly got stuck.

So why venture into this Black Hole of Calcutta? The Eberspacher heater, is the reason.

An Aurial maintenance trip, squeezed into my busy retired diary, coincided with the coldest snap we have seen since our return from Antarctica.

I knew that there was an exhaust smell from the heater pervading the cabin which would need fixing; this was easily done, and a good 4kw of clean hot air rid Aurial of the refrigerator feeling that usually greets us on our winter visits. Until the heater stopped.

I restarted it, and it stopped before getting into its full stride. This repeated itself again and again; the fault codes from the controller simply informed me of flame failure at full blast. Helpful – I knew that.

Having suffered a dirty fuel diesel bug attack in the summer, I began to wonder if I had a fuel restriction problem.

There is a tiny fuel filter in the Eberspacher fuel pumps. Perhaps this was clogged up and needed cleaning?

No problem – remove the pump and check it: only said pump resides in the bottom of the lazarette – behind my bête noir, the holding tank.

Meanwhile, it was sleeting.

I did not really fancy delving into the exposed lazarette in such conditions, so put on an electric heater and got on with the other jobs I’d actually come down for in the lukewarm cabin.

Carol had booked one of Neyland Marina’s Pods, so at least I had a warm retreat to defrost in for a cuppa, and Puffball the cat had a heated blanket and a thick layer of fur to keep her warm aboard Aurial.

Continues below…

The next day improved from being freezing to just cold, so I plucked up courage and emptied the lazarette before removing the holding tank.

If you say this quickly, you can skirt over the trauma; my Haynes Land-Rover manual intones “first remove the engine before changing the clutch” and speedily skips over half a day’s work in a similar way.

Nevertheless, the job was duly done, the pump and its electrics cleaned and checked, and the heater restarted.

Only it stopped again. I had come prepared – a while back the Eberspacher had done yet another dying swan act necessitating replacement, and I had ended up with a spare which I’d renovated with a rather expensive (£230) ECU box.

This second unit was soon installed (though I cracked the exhaust pipe in the process) but after installation was not keen to start.

After a couple of cycles of white smelly smoke it agreed to burst into hot action, and I was warm again!

It continued, however, to be a reluctant starter until I switched over to the secondary paraffin pump and tank I’d installed a few years ago in case of just such an eventuality. 4L of paraffin later and it was completely de-coked, and started perfectly.

The next day delivery of a new exhaust from Butler Technik (very impressive fast and efficient service – ordered at 3pm, arrived by 9am) completed my repairs and I was content to leave Aurial with a fully functioning heater. Until the next fault…

Hoping vainly that the failed heater could be fixed with a service, I dropped it in to Dale Sailing so that Grant could check it over.

A subsequent telephone call unveiled my worst fears – not only was a new glow plug needed, but also a replacement ECU.

Money, money, money. That’s two D4 ECU replacements in 18/12. Am I just being unlucky?

At a usual list price of something over £350 I would expect them to last rather longer.

If the Eberspacher wasn’t so effective I’d be tempted to ditch it for a stove, but Aurial lacks a suitable fireplace. Hey ho – time to blow the dust off my wallet…