Dirty fuel


This weekend I set off to watch the Swale Match and took a berth aboard a ‘stinkpot’ , as motor-cruisers are unkindly referred to on the South Coast. On the East Coast we refer to them as being part of the Romford Navy. But to be fair there are motor-boats and motor-boats. This one was Elland Rose, a Colvic 27, a sea-kindly old maid who rolled for England as her owner, Nigel Manning and I crossed the wind-flustered estuary from Essex to Kent.

Unfortunately it was rolling that was to put paid to our passage as it stirred up some terrible silt in the boat’s fuel tank. Just a mile short of the mooring at Harty Ferry the engine conked out and we anchored. Using the boat’s tender with the outboard I endeavoured to tow her into the safety of the anchorage but the wind was too fresh and I could not get Elland Rose’s head to wind.

We called up Laurence Jervis, skipper-owner of Orla, a Swan 40 on the VHF and asked for a tow. As he is one of the top lawyers in South Essex I was pleased he is a pal: there would be no salvage claim. He turned up with Peter Willetts and son Alex to help.

As we were anchored in water too shallow for Orla to get close I had to go off in the dinghy to receive the tow rope. Once rafted up in the Swale we checked the filters. The contents of the main fuel filter looked as though it was part of what the Mary Rose Trust has been hosing out of Henry VIII’s flagship for the last 20 years: brown sludge and water.

Though we cleaned all out we still could not get the engine to run. Enter Roy Hart, yachtsman extraordinaire, and solo Transat man, who had just finished racing in his Memory Class gaffer Greensleeves. He used WD40 to fire the engine up, which in turn sucked the fuel through the system and all was well.

Next morning we set off to go through the Swale to Queenborough and the engine conked again. With less wind I was successfully towing Elland Rose with the dinghy when a passing Good Samaritan driving a former Folkestone pilot cutter, towed us through to Queenborough. Here on a Sunday thanks to the good office of the Queenborough Yacht Club we were driven to a car parts shop where we bought more filters. Then, thanks to Roger Silk – a diesel engine maestro – from locally-based Jim Brett Marine Services – who turned out on a Sunday we discovered a rogue elbow in the fuel system which was loose. This was letting in air. Tightened up it no longer did.

We got home, but from now on I’ll be sticking to sail!