In the morning we sheepishly phoned the marina office for a lift to shore.
The next few days were all about finding an engineer to look over the engine and tell us if it was worth keeping. Russ had thrown a spare engine in with the price of Joker, which was great- but it was the same deal there- an unknown quantity, and it would have cost hundreds at least to lift it in and try it. Much better to keep it for spares.
My parents’ friends Lynne and David have a boat at Gosport and spoke very highly of their engineer, Steve. Trusted personal recommendation is always good, as anything to do with boats can be insanely expensive. You might as well shell out for someone honest and competent.
We set off to Royal Clarence Marina in Gosport. Just as a test we got her up to top revs, but the overheat alarm went off, so we crept along for the rest of the journey. Steve met us on the pontoon, a friendly grey-haired man who seems to live in his overalls.
It took him ten minutes of listening, feeling and tapping to tell us our engine was definitely worth keeping. He then told us four easy things we should try for starters: Cleaning the water filter, changing the impeller, changing the oil and running Mortar acid through the engine instead of RydLyme. I took notes on how to do it all. Steve then helped us get booked in at the marina, and said he’d be on call if we needed anything. Later that day he drove Sam out to buy the acid. For all this he charged us £20. Gent.
The spare impeller was in Joker’s well-organized lockers already, as were Russ’ tools and a full bottle of fresh engine oil. We embarked on an afternoon of unscrewing gnarled old engine bits, pumping out gross black oil and pumping in the fresh golden stuff. Sam replaced the impeller but on reassembling it all, the gasket wasn’t working and water squirted out of the screws. We tried tightening it in different way a few times, but by that point we were hungry and Sam was getting despondent. I legged it to the shops to get some food.
When I returned, Sam was beaming.
“I cut up the cardboard from a houmous tub and made a new gasket!”
This is the kind of DIY that makes him the happiest. It worked really well too.
I got involved, and started getting to know the engine. This is the first engine I’ve ever really met. They’re clever aren’t they? Apart from the planet death and that.
After a couple of runs of acid, plenty of gak was coming out of the seawater cooling system. We slept another night with it fizzing away in there.
Joker is a lovely home, and luxurious compared to the tiny bare bones arrangements in Lexia. There are cupboards and lockers all over the place to we can compartmentalize and tidy away. We’re never surrounded by mind-tangling piles of objects. There’s a gas stove we can stand in front of, so we don’t need to hunch over our meths burners hoping they don’t fall over and spill liquid fire through the cabin. The interior is lovely mellow wood instead of bare white fibreglass. By far the biggest improvement is the space. I’ve realized through living on Lexia that I don’t need a big living space. But for comfort and sanity, I do need to be able to extend my arm and not hit anybody else in the face. And I do need to be able to stand up to put my trousers on.
And having a flushing sea-toilet is BRILLIANT. You can sit down, your head doesn’t hit the ceiling, your feet can rest on the floor, you hand-pump seawater up into the bowl and pump it all out again so it stays clean. There’s fresh running water foot-pumped from the water tank to wash with, and you don’t have to emerge sheepishly through the sleeping/cooking area with a bucket of piss and slosh it out over the side.
These are my new definitions of luxury, and Joker fulfills them all. It’s also nice to have new definitions of luxury. We’ve learned something about our needs.
The next morning we went out in the harbor and ran the engine hard. For 30 minutes. No overheating. Sam kept checking with a spot thermometer Steve lent us. It was a little high but never over the limit.
Once we realized we’d fixed it ourselves, I wanted to do donuts. Sadly, Sam’s more sensible approach to boating prevailed. But we celebrated that evening.
Research, self-education and perseverance. Those have to be survival skills.