Zen and the artlessness of engine maintenance


Last week I set off in my Contessa 32 for a week’s cruise. On Monday morning I dropped the mooring and motor sailed down river from Grays, Essex over the last of the foul flood tide. At Northfleet, Kent – about half a mile from the mooring – the engine stopped and I was obliged to tack back up river, across the shipping channel, in very light airs. I could not fetch my mooring, so picked up somebody else’s.

Next I went through the motions of trouble-shooting and was brought up short by a secondary fuel filter lurking at the back of my engine which would not come off. To get at the filter necessitated lying on my stomach in the pilot berth working off to my right hand side, through a two foot high slot. It was a position not best suited for purchase. First I tried rope wrapped round the filter. It shifted, about a quarter of a turn. Then I tried a large monkey wrench. It slipped off. Then I punched a screwdriver through it. It moved another quarter of a turn before tearing. Now the filter’s structure was compromised.

Cursing I rowed ashore and threw myself at the feet of the Thurrock Yacht Club’s exclusive ‘tea club’. These are the wise, Zen-like masters who, while not sitting cross-legged, do sip tea and debate the finer points of seamanship. Yes, I was told, you do turn filters anti-clockwise to get them off. ‘But, hang on a minute,’ interjected Brian Rogers, ‘ if they are upside down you turn them clockwise’. I should have imagined I was in the southern hemisphere: I had been tightening the cursed filter!

To find out what happened next, log on tomorrow.