Category Archives: engine

Little jobs roundup, 2017-09

Here’s a roundup of small jobs done on Tammy Norie in late August and early September.

When comparing Tammy Norie and Emmelène, I suggested we drop Tammy’s mast and lift the mast stub. When we went to remove the retaining bolt, it snapped!



I cut a new bolt from stainless steel studding.


I suspect the wear on the bolt was the main cause of the clonking sound that’s been gradually building up when Tammy is in rough water. This also gave us a good chance to look at the rather inadequate mast foot bracket.


This is due for an upgrade later when I improve the mast step.

My engine starter cord snapped at an inconvenient moment on the way in to Portsmouth Harbor. I’d only just replaced it. This time I noticed that the cord was slightly melted. Moral: don’t use melty synthetic string for your engine starter. Use cord specifically designed for the job.

Replaced the incandescent bulb in my trusty utility lamp with a domestic halogen-replacement LED that I just happened to have knocking around. Half the power and a great deal brighter — possibly too bright.


Replaced the coaxial connectors on my log and depth instrument. They were being to corrode and the log was unreliable. I had to dismantle the instrument and desolder the old connectors from the circuit board. I bought a pack of 10 replacement connectors from eBay so that should keep me going. NASA Marine were very helpful.

I am finding my new Iroda SolderPro 70 butane soldering iron very useful.

While I was doing that I fixed another problem with the instrument: it’s too bright at night. I couldn’t find a way to do this electronically, but I discovered that the backlight and the display are physically separate. I cut a piece of paper to slip between them and the display is much less dazzling.


The charts in my Solent chart pack were getting dog-eared, so I’ve edged them all with Scotch Magic tape, which is nearly invisible and takes pencil marks.


The bow light hack finally failed after two years. The LED replacement bulb fell apart somewhere inside so that the terminals no longer connect. This is probably because it was not designed to be shaken about on the bow of a small boat. I ordered a couple of made-for-purpose replacements, one of which is now in the bow. The other is a spare for either bow or stern.

My mast lift is now a spare halyard. The mast lift is a loop holds the forward part of the sail bundle when the sail is reefed or lowered. Practical Junk Rig (fig. 3.49) has it as a single line from the mast head.


Practical Junk Rig figure 3.49

I’ve repurposed the enormously long “burgee halyard” that came with Tammy as a spare halyard in it’s place. I’ve felt the need ever since my halyard came off in the Waddenzee. Thanks to Chris Edwards for this idea. (The arrangement below is temporary until I make a new soft shackle.)


I may re-rig it a shown in Practical Junk Rig figure 3.50b, using the spare halyard on one side, allowing me to reef upwards!


Practical Junk Rig figure 3.50b

I found and installed a pair of calibrated quick links for the series drogue. It’s surprisingly hard to find shackles that are rated for load, but these beauties are good for at least 12500N each, more than the weight of the boat, and more than the greatest expected load on the drogue. (The drogue still doesn’t exist, in case you’re looking for it.)

I whipped some rope ends!


I rewired my switch panel using some new terminal blocks and rules: each piece of equipment goes to its own terminal, then switches are wired to terminals using colour-coded jumpers. Much neater, and a model for how I’ll do things when I remake the panel.


Expect more small jobs next month.

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Filed under electrics, engine, instruments, lights, mast, Repairs and Modifications, rigging

Twin engine Tammy

It often seems to me that the function of an engine is to stop the boat dead, and do its best to prevent sailing activity. Maybe outboards sulk when installed on a Coromandel because they’re needed so little.

This is the story of what’s happened to the 1983 Honda BF100 that I obtained with Tammy Norie, and how I learned a lot about the insides of engines. You might want to skip it if you don’t want to learn too. Or you can skip to the later parts which involve ropes and the amazing icicle hitch! Believe it or not, this is nowhere near the full story.

First of all, Tammy Norie was neglected for the winter because of my health. That meant I never winterized her engine properly, and it has been in and out of the water in Fareham Creek twice a day for many months. Of course, when I went to start it, it wouldn’t run. Unlike the BF5, however, the carburettor was not clogged with fuel residue, and we were able to get it running quite quickly by dismantling and re-assembling the carburettor.

It was then that Dad noticed a bunch of corrosion-like material around the top of the cylinder head.


What’s more, we could see water seeping out of this area when the engine was running. The head gasket was leaking, and something nasty was coming out with the water. Uh oh.

This meant removing the head. On a 34-year-old engine that had not been dismantled for at least 30 years. The other sailors at the club were pessimistic.

We took the engine home and set it up using the trailer as a stand. Thus began a lot of work.


Fortunately, I’d already bought an on-line copy of the engine’s service manual, and that gave quite a bit of information about dismantling it.

Here’s a record of the positions of the flywheel and timing wheel. The “T” lines up with one side of the middle pillar, while the dot on the wheel lines up with the other.


Off with the timing wheel.


Then I was able to remove the rocker box cover. These bolts came undone reasonably easily, though not completely smoothly. Inside you can see the rockers on the cam shaft, and the tops of the engine valves. Everything is nicely coated in engine oil.


Then it was time to undo the six head bolts. You can see one of them at the top-right of the rocker box in the picture above. The other five are recessed some way back. This was tricky. Four of the bolts made a nice click and came free. Two of them resisted. I wiggled them. We applied penetrating oil and cold shock. Then I wiggled them a bit more. And a bit more. And then they both sheared off.

Here’s what’s left of the middle-left bolt. The top-right bolt sheared some way down and so was less visible.


Even with the bolts broken, the engine head showed no sign of coming loose, even after some sharp taps with a mallet.

We rigged up some plates using the rocker box bolt holes and some studding to try to press down on the remains of the broken bolts and on the threads of the head bolt holes. By progressively tightening these against each other and tapping the head with a mallet, we hoped it would come loose.


Well, the plates buckled.


And then finally, the head came loose. I was very pleased for a few seconds until I realized just how it had happened. Can you see?


That’s a crack in the engine block. The middle left bolt hadn’t moved. Instead, the block cracked and the bolt took part of it away.

At this point I thought the engine was dead. A cracked block is pretty terminal. But I wasn’t prepared to give up completely, and in any case I wanted to find out what was wrong under that head!

Our next move was to drill out the bolts. We should have done this first, instead of trying to press them out, but we hoped we could avoid damage. Drilling out bolts is tricky and you usually end up with a larger hole than you want. Here’s a picture part-way through drilling out the top-right bolt, with some wooden wedges trying to persuade the head to come loose.


Finally, the bolt was cleared and the head came away. Now we could see what was going on inside the engine.


The first thing to note is the clean grey metal at the top edge. That’s the part of the block that cracked and came away with the head. It’s still attached to the middle-left broken head bolt.

You can also see that the upper cylinder exhaust valve is very different in appearance from the others. It was not coated with carbon. It was also not closing properly, and rotated in its seat. It’s likely the upper cylinder was not firing properly at all. This problem may have been caused by the next thing.


All that off-white junk around the cylinders is some kind of deposit from the water. It’s not meant to be there. Those are meant to be empty channels for cooling water to flow around the cylinders. The top cylinder isn’t getting any cooling. In fact, as I found out much later (after a lot of unclogging) this meant water was not circulating around the cylinders at all. It’s liklely that the only reason I hadn’t damaged the engine by overheating is that I never ran it for more than a few minutes at a time.

The material looked very old. I’m pretty sure it could not have accumulated in the engine while it was upright, since all the water flows down away from that spot. I suspect it is the result of the engine being stored with water in it, and then possibly a build-up over time.

And this is the cause of the water leak around the head. Water was trying to get past this clog, and had forced its way through the old gasket. The “corrosion” on the engine wasn’t from the aluminum (which is fine) but was more of this gunk from the water.

Here’s the corresponding part of the engine block. Again, those channels around the cylinders are supposed to be clear.


We took the head to the drill press and drilled out the middle-left head bolt, separating the broken piece of the engine block.


Having cleaned off the block, I noticed a second crack, tucked underneath the flywheel.



So now that flywheel has to come off. Yet again we are confronted with something that hasn’t moved for 30 years. The flywheel bolt required a huge amount of strength and a very long wrench to loosen, and then of course the flywheel itself refused to come off.  Luckily Dad had a large bolt puller, and with a lot of tightening and persuasion with a mallet, the flywheel came loose.



At this point I spent a lot of time cleaning the white deposits out of the water channels using a mixture of pointy metal tools and stiff brushes. We did try dissolving the stuff using descaling acid, but it had no effect. Whatever it is, it’s very tenacious.

The water channels inside the head are quite convoluted, and it took some time before I understood how they connected up. I even sucked some cotton thread through the various tunnels with a vaccuum cleaner to try to figure it out.  After a while I deduced that there must be a water exit hidden somewhere in the head, and decided to take off the manifold.


I found more water channels, fortunately clear of debris, and the key to the mystery: the clogged up thermostatic valve.

The way things work is this: the impeller pushes water through the engine. When it reaches the engine it has two ways to go: it can bypass more-or-less straight into the exhaust, or it can flow around the cylinders, past the thermostat, and into the exhaust. But when the engine is cold, the thermostat is closed. As the engine heats up (to about 80C) the thermostat opens and allows cooling water to flow around the cylinders. In this way the engine temperature is regulated.

Unless the thermostat is clogged.

I cleaned and tested the thermostat with hot water from the kettle. It was fine.


Then we tested the water flow through the engine by squirting it into the inlet using the garden hose.


All good. Now, what about those cracks?

After a bit of searching, I found out about aluminium brazing, and even found a brazing rod supplier near a friend’s house. I also bought a butane torch and attached it to my boat’s butane supply.


As a trial, I had a go at brazing a small piece of the head that I’d broken off with the mallet while trying to get it off. Here you can see it held by the mole grips.


This took a long time. I think it took over 45 minutes to get the head hot enough to melt the rod. I suspect my torch isn’t very good, but also the aluminium head was conducting the heat away quite efficiently. I needed to get the metal up to about 300C, and that proved very difficult.  It worked eventually.  Here’s a picture of the repair after some clean-up.


At this point I realized that I probably wasn’t going to be able to braze the cracks in the block. I wouldn’t be able to get the repair areas hot enough with  my torch. Even if I could, the heat would be damaging other parts of the engine. I’d have to completely disassemble everything before I started.  The amount of effort was starting to go from merely excessive to ridiculous.

In the meantime, another problem had emerged. I took the gearbox off the engine to gain access to the water inlet, and also to check the impeller. But I couldn’t get to the impeller, because the engine shaft was stuck fast on to the gearbox pinion shaft. There’s a simple square joint between them, but it wouldn’t budge.

I tried oil and hammers. I tried fire and ice.


Next, I tied icicle hitches around the shafts and applied a lot of force using a 2 tonnes hydraulic crane.



Nope. The main thing I learned from this is that icicle hitches are awesome. One of those hitches is tied to a highly polished smooth stainless-steel shaft!

Eventually I moved to applying force using just the 8 tonne hydraulic ram. The icicle hitch on the smooth end couldn’t quite cope with this, so a shackle was used around a narrowing in the shaft.


I’m not sure how much force I applied, but the 8 tonne ram was working hard. Still nothing.

The good thing about this is that it tested the black rope. This is rope that I bought to build my Jordan Series Drogue. I’m now very confident it’ll cope with Tammy Norie’s expected maximum 1 tonne load.

There were also some other attempts involving hanging the shaft from a chain, applying tension, and heating it. I suspect the only way to get enough concentrated heat would be using an induction coil.

Unforuntately, with this shaft fused together it’s impossible to change the impeller. An impeller failure at sea means an overheating engine. And so the engine was looking less and less viable.

Back to the cracked block. I decided I’d see if it could be repaired using an epoxy compound. Remember, the cracked aluminium parts are in the water jacket, not in the combustion cylinders, so they’re not under explosive engine pressure, so it’s plausible that an epoxy might work. After a bit of research I decided to try Plastic Padding Super Steel Epoxy Weld.

I bought flat steel section to ensure that my work ended up flat, and bolted the broken-off piece of engine block to it.


I attached this assembly to the engine, using the epoxy weld to seal the crack and re-attach the broken-off piece. The masking tape was to prevent the plate becoming bonded to the engine block.


I re-assembled the head, re-seated the valves, and made everything clean and beautiful. Then I put in a new gasket and bolted the engine back together.


In this picture you can see a modification to the middle-left head bolt. I drilled right through the block and added a nut at the back. This is because I did not feel I could rely on the epoxy weld under tension. The new arrangement compresses the broken-off piece to the block instead.


And finally, I tested it using butane as fuel.


It started easily, and ran beautifully.

And leaked water.

Unfortunately, the epoxy failed to seal the water channels. Although my work had cleared the water blockages, fixed the exhaust valve, improved compression, and made everything smooth, we still had a leaky engine with an unmaintainable impeller.

At this point I decided I’d had enough. Up to this point I was learning a lot about engines. I’d never dismantled and reassembled a cylinder head before, and it was all worth doing just for that. But now I was faced with doing it all again, with uncertain results.

Fortunately, on that day, another Honda BF100 appeared on eBay. The same engine. The one I’d just learned inside-out. What’s more, I had nearly a whole engine’s-worth of spares. It was ideal. So I bid, won, rented a car, and drove 450 miles to collect it.


That’s the engine that’s now in Tammy Norie.

As you can imagine, I was able to give it a very thorough service. And I made sure the head bolts turn!

Postscript: I think my problems with engines come partly from a design problem with the Coromandel. Having an outboard in a well is quite neat, but there’s no easy way to lift the engine out of the water when it’s not in use. A look around will quickly show you that everyone lifts their outboards. The gearbox and lower parts of the engine aren’t meant to spend their lives immersed in salt water. My problems with the shaft are the result. I have yet to come up with a neat solution.


Filed under engine, Repairs and Modifications

LPG outboard hack 2

A short video showing how we got my Honda BF5 engine running on LPG by removing the carburettor completely and controlling speed using a needle valve.

I’m starting to wonder how many parts I could take off and still have a workable engine!

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2015-06-10 · 15:36

LPG outboard hack

I’ve been having some problems with the Honda BF5 outboard engine. Last week it failed to start at all  When Dad and I opened up the float chamber under the carburettor, it was full of white gunk.


I’m not sure what it is. It looks a lot like salt, but it is squishy and doesn’t taste like salt. We cleaned it out, cleaned the main jet with a needle, and eventually did manage to get the engine to run, but it wouldn’t idle. There’s a second path through the carburettor that’s probably the slow-running jet, and we suspected that was clogged. I took the engine to Hendy Marine at Swanwick and their engineer cleaned the carburettor in an ultrasound bath and fiddled with the engine until it ran OK. But it still wasn’t behaving properly.

This sort of thing worries me because it shows the carburettor is very sensitive to problems, and isn’t easy to fix. I don’t like things that I can’t fix myself. I’m sure I could come to be much better with engines given time, but for now it’s a problem.

Last year I thought about buying a LEHR propane outboard instead. Purportedly reliable and clean, it would also mean that I didn’t have to carry petrol on board. I personally know one person whose boat was gutted by a petrol fire, and I’m really not keen on having it around. There’s also the appeal of having a single fuel for both cooking and propulsion. LPG (propane or butane) is a lot less dangerous than petrol. On Yachting Monthly’s crash test boat they had trouble getting it to explode even when trying their best!

Then I heard that four-stroke petrol outboards could be converted to run on propane. I found suppliers of kits (mostly for generators) and there are even some DIY conversions on YouTube.

Talking to my engineer father about it, it all sounded pretty simple. And the more I thought about it, the fewer parts I thought I’d need to just get the engine running. Finally, I went outside, bodged a connection between the gas bottle and the carburettor, and got the engine to start without much trouble. I immediately did it again on video to show you all.

All that I’ve done here is rely on the gas bottle’s cooker regulator to provide a constant flow of gas into the outlet of the carburretor float chamber, so it’s squirting through the jets into the Venturi. It so happened that the gas pipe fitted over the casting. No extra hardware was required!

Of course there’s a big difference between the engine running and it being reliable and efficient. But I think all I need to achieve that is to add a regulator that is driven by the low pressure in the Venturi. One of these might do it. And I should make a proper fitting that screws into the jet inlet.

If that works I will have made a completely reversible and easy conversion. Watch this space!

Edit: I did some more research and found that a component often used to control the flow of gas into the engine is a “demand regulator” or “demand valve”. This is similar to the valve used by SCUBA divers to suck air from their tanks. This makes a lot of sense since we want the engine to suck gas from the tank in proportion to the amount of air it is drawing in, rather than squirt in a fixed flow of gas. The IMPCOGarretson KN” seems to be commonly used, and there even seem to be clones. This video shows a demand valve mounted on the side of a generator running on natural gas. This does seem to be a large component, possibly sensitive to movement.

The LEHR outboard carburettor seems to have a disc-like valve on the side as well, but it’s much smaller than the Garretson.

LEHR outboard engine carburettor

LEHR outboard engine carburettor

Edit: I checked with Calor Gas, the suppliers of the gas bottle that came with Tammy Norie and discovered that it contains 25 year-old butane not propane as I originally thought. As far as I can tell that doesn’t change things very much.


Filed under engine, Equipment, Repairs and Modifications

Engine starter fixed

When Tammy Norie’s original engine broke, I bought a second hand Honda BF5 from Seamark Nunn in Felixstowe. Unfortunately, its recoil starter broke almost immediately, stripping the teeth from the starter sprocket.


I bought a new sprocket, but that jammed during my messing around in strong winds off The Naze and I had to dismantle it and use the emergency starting cord.


I’ve been using the starting cord ever since, and the engine has been fine in all other ways. But I don’t like running it with the cover off. There’s a chance of a rope or clothing getting snagged in the flywheel.

Seamark Nunn offered to take a look at the engine under guarantee, and I finally had a chance to take the engine to them yesterday (2014-09-10). Josh, their engineer, immediately helped me diagnose the problem by pulling out a similar engine and finding a diagram from the service manual.


I thought perhaps something was bent out of shape, because my sprocket teeth didn’t engage very deeply with those on the flywheel, but Josh pointed out that my fixed cap (part 9 on the diagram) and split pin (part 7) weren’t locked together in the same way as on the other engine, and that this would mean that the sprocket wouldn’t drop out of the way of the flywheel when the engine started. That would account for the teeth getting stripped: when the engine fired up it would push very hard on the sprocket.

I looked at the other engine and noticed that I had a piece missing.


There’s a large plastic washer (part 11) that spaces out the sprocket (part 4) from the recoil assembly (part 3). I’m certain that my engine never had one of these, and I did notice some home-made plastic spacers that I found suspicious. I reckon that the original owner lost his washer and then attempted a bodge. The result is that the split pin is too low and falls out of position beneath the cap. You can see it escaping in this video.

Josh found a spare washer and a spare sprocket. We put everything together and things worked much better. I might also bend the split pin slightly to make double sure that it can’t escape.

I recommend Seamark Nunn, who have been friendly, helpful, efficient, and professional.

I also had a great chat with Josh, who is restoring a Cornish gaff ketch and has plans for a six-year circumnavigation. If he starts a blog himself I’ll link it from here. She looks lovely.

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Filed under engine, Repairs and Modifications

Windbound at Wells

Last Saturday I attempted to sail from Wells-next-the-Sea to King’s Lynn as the first step of my plan to bring Tammy Norie to Cambridge. The weather wouldn’t let me.

I left Cambridge at 06:35 carrying a sheet of 6mm exterior plywood that I planned to use for improving deck fittings, and reached Wells just after 09:00.


I bought Imray chart Y9 of the Wash, paid the harbour and dropped some money in the charity trust box as promised. I spent some time preparing Tammy and chatting to my neighbours on the pontoon — mostly motor cruisers who felt it was too rough to go out. Indeed, on my way out and over the bar I met four scurrying in, several of them ignoring the cardinal and channel buoys in their hurry to get out of the waves.

It was a bit choppy. The wind was westerly force 6 and the waves were short and high with quite a few breaking at the Wells bar. Once out past the cardinal it wasn’t too bad, but once again Tammy failed to make any progress to windward in the short sea. I made an hour-long tack northwards, trying everything I could to make progress, but when I tacked back to see how I was doing I found I’d actually slipped downwind about a quarter of a mile.

The wind was only forecast to get worse. It was clear I wasn’t going to get to King’s Lynn at all, and that it would be dangerous to have Hunstanton on the lee in such conditions. I could run back to Sea Palling and abandon my Cambridge plans, or I could scurry back in to Wells.

At this point I was a bit worried about Wells. On the way out I’d noted I had over 3m of water in the channel, and since then the tide had peaked and dropped a metre below that, so I ought to have 2m going in, if I was quick. But the tide was falling all the time and if I made a mistake I could be in quite a bit of trouble.

My main fuel tank was also running very low at this point. I’d been unable to fill up because Wells has no petrol station. So I transferred 4 litres from the reserve into the main, lifting them both into the deepest part of the cockpit to avoid getting any water in the fuel.

I was unable to raise Wells harbour on the radio or telephone, but managed to chat to the friendly guys on the beach patrol RIB who were watching the holidaymakers on the nice sheltered beach at the entrance to Wells. They suggested I come in quick.

So I did. Tammy’s 5hp engine seems just about adequate for pushing her into the wind, waves, and ebb current on the westward turn over the bar. I’m very glad I didn’t go for a smaller engine, and I kind of wished I still had the 10hp monster that I broke earlier. I’m absolutely sure that I couldn’t’ve got back in with a yuloh or scull. Engineless I would simply not have had the choice to enter Wells. Perhaps one day I won’t be on a schedule.

By the time I was at the beach chatting with the beach patrol guys over the side it was too late to get back to the town. The suggested I anchor just south of the outer harbour, and so I found a broad spot that still had some water and threw the anchor over the side. By the time I’d dropped the sail and made a log entry I was aground in a lovely spot.





I spent the afternoon trying to remove the starboard middle stanchion and trying out some kite aerial photography. At about 22:00 I floated off and rode the very strong Wells flood back to the town, where my motor-cruiser friends were chatting and helped me tie up. “You must be exhausted,” exclaimed one, and I realised that they thought I’d been out at sea for twelve hours. I explained that I’d been on a sandbank for most of the day drinking tea and playing with a kite.

I spent most of Sunday fixing the stanchion. Briefly, here is what it was like in the morning:


and in the afternoon:


It is the prototype for upgrades to all the deck fittings, ensuring they are sealed and strong. I also fixed the tiller pilot, so it was an enjoyable and productive day. Even right inside Wells the wind was very strong, and nobody was going out.

I met an excellent chap named Alan in a temporarily mastless Maurice Griffiths boat called Stella Marie who had Haslar self-stearing gear “serial number 2” hanging off the back, and we had a very nice chat about the Jester Challenge and good places to visit in the Wash. At one point he mentioned that people used to have boat stamps in the old days, and I was able to produce mine and stamp his log book, much to our mutual enjoyment.

On the whole, getting stuck in Wells was no bad thing, and I’ll make another attempt on King’s Lynn as soon as the westerlies decrease.


Filed under East Anglia 2014, engine, Logs

East Coast launch weekend, part two

This post follows on from East Coast launch weekend, part one.

After our visit to Auriga, Mum, Dad, and I sat down in the sun in Tammy Norie’s ample cockpit with tea, wine, crisps, and cake, and discussed philosophy for an hour — a favourite pastime of people on boats — before heading off for a curry with Igor and Giulia. We all went to bed reasonable early, as Auriga was due to be craned back into the water at around 07:30 the next morning.


The next morning the boat yard were quite busy moving other yachts around, and as the tide was on the ebb and there was little wind, I decided that we ought to set off early in order to get back to Suffolk Yacht Harbour in engineless Tammy Norie. Our friends had to forego their try-out in a junk rig, and we had to forego watching Auriga float again. We paddled and sailed out of Fox’s and headed back down the river.

I need not have worried. As soon as we passed under the A14 road bridge a westerly breeze appeared, and we were soon charging along on a broad reach at 5 knots. In fact, we slackened sail in order to slow down, but it didn’t help all that much. Tammy Norie seems determined to keep going no matter how I trim. I suppose it’s a feature of the Junk Rig that I’m not yet used to: there’s no flogging the sail to depower.

As we passed Pin Mill we were all gazing over and wondering about the boats moored up outside and on the shore. It was only 10:00 so we spent an hour tacking between the moorings.

One boat in particular stood out. A three-masted junk-rigged catamaran that certainly looked like a custom build. It had no obvious name, and the Junk Rig Association directory does not have a boat at Pin Mill. Do you know anything about it? Leave a comment!



We saw several other crews on their boats on moorings around Pin Mill, and waved and had short conversations as we passed. “Nice rig!” called one, and his dog barked in agreement.

Around 11:00 we turned off the wind and rand down and in to Suffolk Yacht Harbour without incident. By this time we were getting pretty good at sailing on to a pontoon.  We packed our stuff, cleaned up the boat, and had lunch at the converted lightship.

Then it was my turn to solo out to the arranged mooring and paddle back in the kayak.

Well, I made two mistakes and learned two useful lessons.

To get off the pontoon, I raised the sail while Mum and Dad hauled on the mooring lines to give me a start and get me clear of the neighbouring boats. The wind was about SE4, not entirely favourable for getting out, but I was sure I could nurse Tammy Norie out of the narrow channel with care. Unfortunately, as I was heading to the south-east edge of the entrance a massive motorboat bore down on me. Instead of standing on and asserting myself (being under sail) I bore away to get out from under, and was blown onto the mud.

Aground outside Suffolk Yacht Harbour

A friendly passing Macgregor 26 “Sara” pulled me off towards the fairway with the comment “engine trouble?”  Thank you Sara!

On reflection, I’m not sure I could’ve trusted the mobo to behave properly, and I might have caused a collision if I had asserted myself. I’d much rather suffer a little embarrassment.


Sailing out to the mooring buoy was easy. I prepped a bow line along the port side, approached it at a distance on a starboard reach, then turned up with it on the lee. I was quite pleased with myself as I reached easily over the side of the cockpit and passed my line through its loop. That was, until Tammy Norie failed to stop!

The wind, of course, was on my starboard side, and the sail on the port. Wind pressure was acting directly against Tammy turning her bow on to the buoy and coming to a stop. Oops!

Stuck on the buoy

I made off the mooring line on the port quarter and slackened the mainsheet, hoping to allow the sail to weathercock so that I could lower it. No chance. Of course, what I needed to do was gybe. The sail was mostly down, so I was able to just grab the mainsheet bundle and haul the sail over. Tammy Norie obediently swung round, the buoy slid up to the bow, and everything settled down.

Lesson: pick up buoys on the windward side!

On reflection, when making a mistake like this I should’ve just let go the mooring buoy, had a think, and come round again.

Packing up Tammy Norie took a while: sail cover, oars, horseshoe buoy, seacocks, bilge, etc. etc. I used the anchor rode to make a double sheet bend around the buoy’s loop, backed up with a Yosemite bowline, and a stopper knot on top of that, all threaded through the anchor roller. Then just to make sure I slung a loop of rode around the whole buoy, fed through the bow fairleads. I don’t think that’ll come undone.

A couple of minor things I noted as I was packing. The bagged kayak fits almost exactly into the port quarter locker along with the 50 litre emergency water and the gas bottle. Nice.


The oversized 200 litre flexible water tank (Plastimo part 16657) lies along 2m of the starboard lockers. I doubt it’ll ever be filled completely, but as it is it makes a good insulated cushion for food storage.  These bottles and jars get gently pressed against the locker top by the weight of water. I’m not sure if this will work out, but it seems pretty good.


A word about this rope. A lot of it came with the boat. It’s light and strong. And that is where its list of merits ends. It is awful to handle. It springs itself out of tightly tied coils in the locker. You can barely coil it by hand because it’s so springy. It burns your fingers if it moves at even low speed. It seems to have a life of its own and won’t stay where you put it. Nightmare rope. I’ll replace it as soon as I find some nice replacement mooring line. As it is I’m using some 8mm braided poly rigging line in preference.


Finally, I locked the boat, inflated the kayak, and left Tammy Norie behind, pausing to take this parting shot.


I hope she’ll be OK!

Postscript: At the time of writing, I’m waiting for a call about the engine repairs. Meanwhile, Tammy Norie is based at Suffolk Yacht Harbour for at least a week. The next planned trip is to Southwold and Blythburgh. Watch the blog for updates!


Filed under East Anglia 2014, engine, Logs

East Coast launch weekend, part one

The first weekend of my early summer plans was both fun and eventful. It started smoothly, then became decidedly bumpy before apparently coming to a premature end stranded in the rain with a broken engine. Then suddenly the sun came out and we were under way among Thames Barges, visiting friends, and having a wonderful time again.

I left Cambridge station late on Friday morning, carrying Eaglet, my new Sea Eagle SE330 inflatable kayak, destined to become Tammy Norie’s tender. The kayak comes in the biggest and toughest drawstring bag I’ve ever seen, with a strong and handy shoulder strap, so I was able to pack all my weekend items including my waterproofs inside, leaving just my Imray chart pack and a cup of coffee to carry. Meanwhile, Mum and Dad were driving from Chandlers Ford to Woodbridge, towing Tammy Norie from her spot in their driveway.


When I got to Woodbridge I had a chance to poke around in Andy Seedhouse’s chandlery shed, picking up a barometer, a nylon skin fitting to make a gas locker drain, a length of webbing to improve the mast lift, and a length of soft plastic pipe to reduce chafing from the yard parrel. Total cost £15. I also picked up a first aid kit, a few household drugs, and a pot of vaseline.

On my recent trip to the Baltic I found a left-over pot of vaseline on CUYC’s yacht Kestrel and it turned out to be very useful. I used it to fix the toilet pump on the first day, and to seal the bilge pump filter on the last. It makes a pretty nice non-toxic substitute for grease in the water system.

Mum and Dad arrived at about 16:30, an hour before high water, and we set about launching Tammy Norie on the slip at Robertsons Boatyard. I also arranged a couple of weeks on a swinging drying mooring at Robertsons, as I intended to make it back to Woodbridge that weekend. That didn’t happen, as you will see.

Dad and I had decided to try launching by reversing the trailer into the water, rather than hiring a crane. We thought this ought to be straightforward, though the trailer, and the brakes especially, would need cleaning afterwards to prevent salt from destroying them. The water at Woodbridge tastes saltier than the Baltic, in spite of being quite a long way upstream. And so it turned out: we just had to attach the trailer to the car on some long lines and lower it and Tammy Norie into the water until she floated off.

Here is a time lapse movie of the whole thing.

Retrieving her onto the trailer will be another matter.  Somehow we’ll need to make sure her keels are in the right position before towing out the trailer.  I have plans for this that I’ll write about later.

We made a quick shopping trip to the supermarket and got back as the tide was falling, jumped on board, and pushed off down the Deben under power into a force 3 headwind. A shame, but at least the tide was helping us along. My goal for that evening was to reach Felixstowe Ferry at least, and if we were feeling lively, even get as far as Pin Mill by the early hours. But about 30 minutes out of Woodbridge we realised that we’d forgotten to fill the little fuel tank. I had yet to calculate Tammy Norie’s fuel range, or even the most economical speed for the engine, and we felt quite insecure with only half a tank. The chart showed fuel at Waldringfield, so we grabbed a buoy there, inflated the kayak, and I went ashore with the tank in search of petrol.

I was told in the pub that the nearest petrol was miles away. Oh well, back to the kayak, back to Tammy, deflate the kayak again, and off down the river. By then it was nearly 22:00 and getting dark, so we picked up a buoy near Ramsholt and went to sleep.

By morning the wind had veered, and we were able to sail off the buoy at about 08:20 and right down the river, tacking between the boats at Felixtowe Ferry. There we saw Tammy Norie’s sister ship, Gaspar (sail number 100) on a buoy. Nobody else was sailing, though, and certainly nobody was attempting the Deben entrance. We reached the entrance at 09:30. The tide was on the ebb, and the wind was from the south, creating choppy wind-over-tide waves and not a few breakers. Time to test Tammy!

I’d previously printed the entrance guide from the excellent Deben Estuary Pilot web site and had it to hand in a plastic sleeve.


We managed to get about a quarter of the way out under sail by tacking rapidly, but it was clearly going to be a struggle, and one mistake would put us on the mud for hours in some nasty conditions, so I started the engine and we motor-sailed as far as the fairway mark.

From there we made long tacks, beating our way down the coast towards Landguard Point in the choppy swell.

It was fun for a while, and we were making progress, but in the end we got fed up and wanted to catch the Thames Barge racing and so we motor-sailed into wind until the fuel tank was empty. By that time the wind had backed enough that we could weather the point, and then everything changed. The sea levelled out, the sun came out, and we had a delightful run into the river.

We made the Shotley lock-keeper’s day interesting by sailing into the lock.  He was very helpful. Shotley, it turns out, does not have petrol either, but he said they’d have some at Suffolk Yacht Harbour. We took lunch at the Shipwreck and recovered from the morning’s bumpy ride.

After lunch we warped out of Shotley lock and caught the now south-easterly breeze north to Suffolk Yacht Harbour. After a quick pass to look in at the visitor’s berths, we sailed right in, dropping sail in seconds just inside the entrance and using our oars as paddles to get ourselves into a very sneaky position near the fuel berth.


After filling the tank with petrol we tried to start the engine, but it wasn’t co-operating. In fact, it didn’t seem to be firing at all. We tried various remedies, including Cold Start into the carburettor, and WD-40 on the high tension electrics, but it just wouldn’t respond at all. I wore the skin off the inside of a finger pulling the starter cord. We decided to take out the spark plugs to check them and to relieve any flooding.

But the spark plugs were extraordinarily stiff.  The top one was hard to remove, but the lower one didn’t seem to want to budge at all. More WD-40, and then a strong tug on the spanner, and it moved. But it also made a sickening crunch. It had broken in two, leaving the stub of the plug inside the engine block.


By now it was 19:00, we were tired, and it was starting to rain again, so we decided to pack up for the day. At this point I thought our weekend was over.

(The following track doesn’t show our tacks off Felixstowe. I think I may have switched off the tracking app on my iPhone for a while by mistake.)

The next morning I tried calling a couple of local companies, but it was Sunday and they weren’t likely to be able to do anything. The harbour master recommended we talk to Bob Spalding, a motorboat and engine company just inside the gate to the harbour. I gave them a call without result, but a bit later in the day we ran into Phil moving boats around inside their yard, and he said he’d come and take a look. We ended up taking the engine out and leaving it with him to try to fix on Monday morning. I talked to the harbour master about a swing mooring from Monday, and arranged a pontoon for that night while we waited for Phil to take a look.

Then an amazing thing happened.  We were just getting ready to move Tammy Norie along to a proper berth when I spotted a Thames Barge through the harbour entrance. Dad watched it in the distance, commented on the topsail arrangement, then said “How frustrating it all is.” At that moment, a breeze got up and the sun started to come through the clouds. I looked at the direction, thought about the tide, and made a snap decision. “Shall we go?” I said, “Let’s go!”  Mum jumped aboard and we were off into the river.

It was perfect. The barges had their mainsails reefed in order to take on groups of passengers safely, and we could literally sail rings around them. And so we did, and Dad got his close-up view of barges under sail at last. Barges like the one he’d restored as a younger man at Pin Mill. I was very pleased to have been able to get him close.

The wind and tide continued fair for a journey all the way up to Fox’s Marina at Ipswich, where my friends Igor and Giulia were restoring Auriga for an expedition to the South Atlantic. I let them know we were coming, and we drifted up there just as the wind died for the evening lull.

“I’m coming in to Fox’s with no engine,” I told Igor.

“I have to see this,” came the reply. Fortunately, he brought his camera.


Again, the junk rig made it all easy. Sailing Tammy Norie in tight space isn’t any harder than sailing the family Topper, and it’s considerably easier to drop the sail. Just as you approach the pontoon you let go the halyard, step off with a line, and you’re done. Wonderful.

Igor and Giulia came aboard for a look around.


Then we went to see Auriga.


I was curious about many things, and Igor suggested we make a tour video. You can see it on this blog under “A tour of Auriga“.

That’s quite enough for the moment. I’ll write about the remainder of the weekend in a later post.

Continued in: East Coast launch weekend, part two


Filed under East Anglia 2014, engine, Logs

Wash kit and nose plug test

We finally got hold of a wash kit for Tammy Norie’s engine. A wash kit allows the engine to be flushed through with water from a hose (cleaning out salt) and also allows the engine to be tested out of the water. This gave us an opportunity to test the nose plugs we made earlier that prevent fumes blowing back into the engine compartment and cockpit.

Thanks to Martin at Hendy Honda Marine who helped to identify the engine and found the part in a warehouse in Belgium, as well as putting together a nice spares kit.

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2014-06-30 · 19:53

Engine nose plugs

Tammy Norie came with a Honda BF100 outboard engine from sometime in the early 1980s.  Its serial number confuses Honda dealers and it’s difficult to get parts or information. I did manage to download a user manual and even found an on-line service manual.  On the first weekend we noticed that the cockpit was filling up with exhaust fumes while the engine was running.

The engine has mysterious “nostrils” half-way up the shaft.  When she’s in the water the top one of these breathes exhaust into the boat.


Although these nostrils appear on the diagram that came with the engine, they aren’t labelled, and the diagram shows the exhaust exiting with the cooling water by the propeller.


So Dad tapped threads into the nostrils and we made some nose-plugs. We’ll have to see if they cause the engine to choke, in which case we can just unscrew them and try plan B: some sort of improvised exhaust pipe!


Edit: The nose-plugs worked beautifully during the East Coast Launch Weekend. There were no engine fumes at all in the cockpit or elsewhere in the boat, and the engine was able to run happily with the locker lid closed, whereas before it would choke on its own fumes. Success! Unfortunately, we broke the engine in another way, but you can find out about that is you read the post.

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Filed under engine, Repairs and Modifications