Flotilla to Ely - Day 2

Due to lack of Wi-Fi or 4G signal while away for the last few days, I was unable to post any updates. I'll post the next three day's updates at once instead.

Saturday 28th May 2016
Flotilla to Ely - Day 2

Alarms went off at 9:00 and we got straight to business. We woke up, had some breakfast and said morning to the other boats that were going to be tagging along on this journey. We had moored up at the Pike & Eel marina overnight so we could set off straight to Ely in the morning. The Pike & Eel marina is basically a huge field and over the damp evening, little mosquitos had stuck to the outside of the boat absolutely covering every inch Bandit. After a quick hose off, the flies were gone. We gave the boat a quick wash while we were at it so she looked nice rolling up at Ely when we eventually got there.
Bandit looking all clean
Sat 28th May 2016

While we did this, Josie had her diesel tanks topped up to ensure they could get there and back. We had all planned to use our VHF radios to keep in touch along the way. The Old West River is the worst bit of the journey and sadly, it covers 3 constant hours of this 5-hour journey. We wanted to be able to keep in touch just in case one of us needed assistance along the way. Sadly, Josie's VHF radio had decided to give up so we agreed to use our phones if we needed to get hold of one another. The depth of the Old West River is just over 1 metre and the draught on our Sealine's are 0.9. We were fairly sure that, at some point, one of us would have some problems. No matter, at about 11:00, we untied ropes and set off on our journey. It was all very exciting as we had not previously travelled with other boats. We had always done this trip to Ely by ourselves so it was nice to have friends to tag along with.

The first lock was about 10-15 minutes down the river so we were quickly there. We got through the lock and set off down a wide, deep tidal stretch of the river. Perfect! We could both put the throttles down and have a bit of fun as this was the only bit that we could do it along the way. The thing with Bandit and Josie are that they are both sea-spec boats. Bandit is powered by twin 4.3l V6 Volvo Penta petrol engines producing 410hp and powering duo-prop outdrives. Josie was re-engined in 2005 with huge Ford turbo diesel engines producing roughly the same power. So, the difference between Bandit and Josie are that one is twin petrol and the other is twin diesel. Sadly, due to our carburettors not arriving in time, we could only use a single engine. No matter, we were extremely surprised by how well Bandit performed with just her single V6. It was incredible. Obviously, neither of us got our Sealine's on the plane but Josie damn nearly got there. There just wasn't enough room or depth to really put them to their limits. When Josie was re-engined, they put two big through-hull exhaust pipes through the transom and wow did those twin diesel's sound amazing. You could hear the turbos wind up as she flew by.
Josie picking up speed!
Sat 28th May 2016
Bandit picking up speed!
Sat 28th May 2016

After messing about on the water for a bit, we got to Hermitage Lock. This lock, thankfully, is completely manned by the Environment Agency so all we had to do was wait for them to let us in and we just sat there while they pushed all the buttons. The lock gates opened revealing the dreaded Old West River. We had never been down this river in Bandit and so we were quite worried about how we would get on. Would we get stuck on a shallow bit, unable to get off? Would we hit something and damage our duo-props? It was all an unknown at this point and this wasn't a nice feeling. Josie has the same outdrives as we do, but they only have single-prop so if they damaged one, it would cost no more than £150 for a new propeller. With our duo-props, they are £500 per outdrive. That's £1k at risk and that was not a nice feeling.

Almost immediately, I could feel the steering go heavy - we were touching the bottom already and stirring up a lot of mud and river weed. I tilted the port outdrive right up (as we couldn't use the post engine) and raised the starboard drive up as far as we could while in gear. We just had to accept the fact that we would chew up mud and weed as we ploughed on. At this point, all was going well. The engine was ticking over at 800rmp so our fuel consumption must have been near to nothing.
Following Josie down the narrow, shallow Old West River
Sat 28th May 2016

Then, after an hour of happy motoring in the sun, disaster struck. The starboard engine temperature gauge was very quickly climbing. We pulled over and dad cleared everything to get to the engine bay hatches. We tilted up the outdrive to see if there was any weed stuck to the water intake grills or if there was any sign of a clog on the exhaust. The water was far too muddy to even see the propellers. This was useless so I went at the drives with a boat pole, trying to free anything that might cause the engine to overheat. We let the engine cool down and then carefully set off again. 10 minutes later, the same thing happened. We pulled over once more and dad stripped the engine. We ended up removing the heat exchanger and the impeller housing. Both of these were full of mud. The impeller was in working condition so we simply cleaned everything through and replaced it all. This didn't work either. The engine kept overheating. After setting off again, we had to pull over for the third time. We had no idea what was happening to our only working engine and so, we decided to let it cool and turn back to the boatyard, abandoning our trip and letting Josie continue on without us. It was a real shame. Dad was still messing around in the engine bays and so I decided to keep well clear and poke around with the boat pole again under the water. I felt the intake grills on the outdrive and then hooked out a huge clump of nasty, thick weed from each grill of the drive. Surely this was what was causing our overheating issue? We kept our fingers crossed as we let the engine cool once more. After a long time waiting, the engine was cool enough to start. We fired her up and the gauge very quickly returned to it's normal operating temperature. The water was clearly circulating around the engine again so we decided to plough on along the river, heading towards Ely. Josie was about 1.5 hours ahead of us at this point so we had some catching up to do.

Everything went smoothly after this point and, after two hours, we got to Ely. Where it was now late afternoon, everybody had turned up at Ely for the bank holiday and moored for the weekend. Sadly, there were absolutely no moorings when we got there so we moored alongside Josie. We walked into town and got something for our dinner that we would cook onboard this time. No BBQ today.
Bandit and Josie moored alongside each other at Ely Quayside
Sat 28th May 2016

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