Restoring Lena-Contact-Sailing Home-Sailing Logs-Uphill photo Tour
A little Trip in a little boat.

Must of been about 8.30 in the evening by the time I had the dingy ready, engine on, spare fuel etc. It was a big tide, 12 metres, which would peak about 9 o clock. I fired up the Suzuki and set off.

I really do have to concentrate on reacting to a tiller - every instinct from car driving tells my hind brain to move the opposite - and I quiclky found this light, keeless rubber thing was very twitchy on the tiller. I don't think it was helping that the prop was two low, and at the wrong rake - but they would just be excuses I think.
Anyway - with a bit of concentration I proceeded, getting the hang of it. It then dawned on me I had forgotten the oars. So back to pontoon for oars - now getting a little overconfident with my steering.

The speed control on this engine is a separate knob on the engine - you forget that, and that you don't instinctively know where it is - and that when you turn around to look you forget the tiller and the thing suddenly decides to do a handbrake turn.
Enough to say I made a pigs ear of 'gently pulling up to the pontoon' - and setting off wasn't much better, needing to fend myself out of the grass with an oar - you see, I knew I would need those oars. I'm sure it was great theatre for anyone caring to watch. It would be a lot easier if the speed control was on the tiller, as more normal, I think.

I took the boat home that next day, to alter the transom height to 16" standard shaft - and I'd clouted the pontoon hard enough to cause a small leak on the port side, where the wood had scratched. Fortunatly, inflatables take quite a while to lose their basic pressure with a small leak. From being inflated really hard, I suppose it just about showed signs of getting softer than the other tubes after about 40 mins - yet it was easy to find with a wet finger.

So, slowly, I prceeded down to the trot moorings. By this time the wind was picking up a bit, the tide was near its peak - but the engine seemed fine, nice even feel to it - and it seemed more than capable of pushing this thing along without resorting to even full revs.

Had to think a bit about these first moorings - they seem very confusing, especially with the tide up this high and me being very low to the water - but with more luck than judgement did take the right line through.
There are no boats on these at present, which confuses things even more - just loads of buoys, in pairs joned by guest lines and various ground lines to the banks. Not too bad in a little dingy, but you need to know exactly where you are with anything drawing any depth, and with an inboard prop to foul.

This is no place to foul a prop - the tide 'hangs' up here at high water for about half an hour - when you consider that on a 12 m tide you will lose approx 1m after the first hour, you can suddenly lose 1m in half an hour !

Coming out from the trots and onto the main river Axe, with the tide this high, did confuse me. First of all I hit bottom - in an 8 foot dingy! - and was a good 20 foot from the waters edge! The tide floods over very level wetland - so you do need to know that main channel.

see pic- I took this the day after. It was a lovely morning and I felt I'd achieve more by walking the Uphill side and taking a good look where I'd gone a bit awry - and making a note of all the boats moored on the S side. I'd then just have to keep them to port for the main channel.

Despite the light fading a bit and the wind picking up I pressed on to find my mooring - but where I thought it was proved fruitless. I decided enough was enough for the evening - and got a bit confused again getting the right side of the moorings as I started back, so resorted to gingerly cutting through them.

By now I was getting a bit of a phobia I was going to foul up the prop or something - I suddenly felt very dependant on that engine. I then realised that despite bringing spare fuel, engine toolkit, etc, I had no knife! - no torch! - my mobile was on the cabin table! - my hand held vhf in my bag in the vee berth! - and I'm one of those sad people who always carries a small torch, spare batteries and sharp knife in my day bag I use in Bristol, shopping etc! - sort of 'just in case you need it'.

So easy to forget the most basic, easy to carry items. My bag I use for the dingy now has a knife allocated, stanley type with spare blades, junior hacksaw, one of my small petzl headtorches + spare batties. Lesson learned !

Glad to be heading back, it had to happen - the engine suddenly starts to alter revs a bit. I've had enough old cars to know when something is not right. I suspect the prop, having given it a grounding in weed and a clout or two. Cut engine - no problem there. Fuel ? - check tank and its very low. Did I fill the tank after running it on the back of Lena earlier ? - again, simple basic stuff, 'fill tank before setting off'. I did something right, I had spare fuel.
Topped up - pull the cord - problem solved.

I don't think it was helping that the engine is not right on the transom - its too deep on the cavitation plate and the angle is raked right back. Things that can be sorted - I wonder if that was causing the handling problems - though more than likely it was 'operator error'.

I enjoyed the trip back - a little more relaxed than going. There was not a soul in sight, the sun was setting - I changed position so the tiller was in my right hand which seemed more effective for reaching the speed control - engine seemed fine again. Certainly I was glad to have come up the estuary in ths dingy before attempting it in Lena - a few more trips up here and down to the entrance to Weston Bay will will help familiarise the route.

My control of this little craft had vastly improved on getting back to the pontoon - and eased in next to Lena quite gracefully, with an appreciative audience of three ducks and one small duckling.

I altered the bracket out a notch on the motor rake, intending running around the pontoons before it got too dark, but called it a day before trying it out. If I move it out too much, it might not hang too well on Lena for an emergency bit of power - needs a compromise me thinks. Maybe I will just look out for a longshaft 4 hp seagull or the like, that can live on the bracket permanently as a backup.
I certainly need to run this Suzuki a fair bit more to be confident in it. But it does start reliably, both cold and hot - which is a good sign.

Geoff - July 06