I very nearly gave up on this site when my renewal fee came up in October. It was very tempting to just shrug my shoulders, wave goodbye to all that hard work and allow it to slip away into the past. 2017 has, you see, been a very bad year.

Those of you who know me will know exactly why this is. To everyone else,  especially those who’ve made contact over the past few years, I can only apologise and try to put it back on track as best I can. So, with no further ado,  a condensed update of boaty stuff achieved this year will be put together over the next few weeks.


“Tides on the turn boys, best get her in quick.”


I did finally manage to get Idris launched for the summer. Again, it was dubious if this was really going to be a worthwhile exercise this year but I decided to go for it all the same. I was very glad I had made the effort, despite the limited free time available for such things, when the good days arose, it was fantastic to be able to get down to the boat, the sea, the utter immersion activity of sailing and just lose myself in it for a bit. Retreat boatyard did a great job as usual and popped her into the upper reaches of the Exe for me on a suitable spring tide. I only had Orla for company this time which made a nice change but left me a bit shorthanded during the tricky bits due to her lack of opposable thumbs. This years tricky bits (for there are always one or two) were unusual.

Things appeared to be going very sweetly as the concrete quay of the Retreat yard receded into the distance behind me. There was a little bit of mist still hanging on the water but the early morning sun was already warm and orange between the trees. Orla (from a lack of anything else useful to do) paced clockwise around the deck growling at the passing swans, moored dinghys and startled fish. We were just going around the first reedy bend, wiggling our way between the totally invisible and un buoyed underwater sandbanks with the falling tide, when I noticed something wasn’t happening. Reluctantly I took my eyes off of the echo sounder for a few seconds to peer over the back of the boat, yes, there was definitely no cooling water coming out from the exhaust. This was not too serious as Idris has a heat exchanger and would not have become critically hot for some while, however it did need investigating. I was not really in a good place to stop as the tide was dropping fast and we were still a long way up the river, however I thought I could spare a couple of minutes to check around the seacocks and hoses.

"Have you double checked the raw water strainer?" Never underestimate the analytical brain of the collie.

“Have you double checked the raw water strainer?” Never underestimate the analytical mind of the humble collie.

All seemed intact, seacocks open, hoses still firmly connected. Nothing like the pressure of a dropping tide to spur on your diagnostic ambitions! Eventually, Orla noticed (at least, I think it was her that pointed it out) that the raw water strainer seemed to be empty. Eureka! But why was it empty? I glanced nervously at the rapidly uncovering gravel banks in the middle of our route out and started the engine again…..and then stopped it. “Bubbles! Air leak! Gosh!” I said. Clearly we still had a problem here, there was a massive air leak on the suction side of the raw water cooling preventing any water getting further than the strainer which was just filling with bubbles and foam. Frantically I unbolted the cover of the strainer and found to my guarded relief that the top “o” ring was split.

“Ok, so how do I fix the bloody thing then?” I asked my learned dog. “Why not rip off a piece of cereal packet cardboard, punch a hole through the middle with a screwdriver and sandwich it between the nut and the lid, I estimate you’ve got around 6 minutes to get us moving.” she said. Well It had to be worth a go. I’d hurriedly tossed the kedge anchor over the side when I stopped the motor and had no idea what we’d end up sitting on when all the water ran away in a couple of hours time. We couldn’t just let the boat drift downstream with the tide as the next obstacle was the hundreds of  expensive moored boats at Topsham, if we made it that far without running aground. I’ve never been so glad of my Quaker porridge oats,  it worked first time, fountains of water gushing out of the exhaust. Not only that, it stayed working for the rest of the summer, clearly I should have removed the cardboard gasket and fitted the correct rubber seal but I was curious as to how long a piece of coated card could last. A long time it turns out.

Poised and ready for adventure. Halcyon 27's look great even on the mooring.

Poised and ready for adventure. Halcyon 27’s look great, even when sat on the mooring.

The rest of the day was quite straightforward. Got down past Topsham into deeper water, picked up the channel markers, found my mooring, took off the winter barrels and hauled up the chain. After tidying the boat up again and checking for leaks we motored the little dingy across to Lympstone harbour to catch the train back to Topsham and retrieve my car. Early June, late but in and ready for exploration.