Bandit's Second Trip to Ely: What's Happened So Far?

On Friday 19th August, we set off on our 10 day holiday on Bandit. It's the second long distance trip we've had on the boat since purchasing her in December of last year. The first large trip we had was as a flotilla with our good friends and their Sealine 290A called Josie.

We knew, this time, we'd be going solo as timings got in the way of a flotilla forming again this time which was a shame. On the upside, we'd have a chance to go with the flow and get used to Bandit even more so. We had yet to see how reliable the boat was so this was the perfect time to take things slowly and experiment without the worry of delaying others.

We left the marina on Friday and took a short trip to the Pike&Eel marina just downstream of our home boatyard. We spend Saturday there as we were experiencing 40mph+ winds and we just didn't want to risk anything. Sunday, we left the marina and got to Ely a good six hours later. A journey that should have really taken no more than 4.5hours. Reasons? Well just's just say we had a couple of engine problems to deal with on the much dreaded Old West River.

We knew that the probability of experiencing trouble along the Old West River was quite high. We'd had problems every time we'd been down there it seems so we just gathered that at some point, we'd need to act fast. In preparation for such an event, we got out things like our land anchors and brought the ropes back to the helm so we could quickly jump off and tie up.

As it happens, we did indeed have problems. The problem itself was we had pulled over to the side of the river (more of a stream if we're honest...) to let a passing boat by that came from the other direction. As I pulled away, I stupidly stuck the drives into the shallow side of the river instead of moving towards the middle. This meant the engine was sucking up more clay-like mud than water and predictably, we hit our first problem. The mud had clogged the intake grills on the starboard outdrive, closest to the shallow side of the river. We pulled over after realising the temperature gauge was rapidly climbing and lifted the drive to the beach position as we thought that we had picked up some weed. But no, the mud had clogged more than just the intake grills. It had blocked the intake pipes inside the drive and we were unable to do anything about it. Dad stripped the raw water side of the engine to ensure it wasn't just a fouled/damaged impeller or blocked heat exchanger but no, it was clearly the drive. We limped onwards to Ely just hoping we didn't experience any problems with the other engine as we were only 3/4 the way through the Old West. Luckily, nothing more occurred and we finally arrived at Ely. We met up with some friends at Ely and after a lot of chatting, we tempted Dad to jump into the river and attempt to de-clog the intake grills with a cocktail stick. No luck. Then, a local resident who lived in the house looking over Ely Quayside came out and said we could borrow his 100PSI compressor to blast out any mud/weed that was caught in the drive from the pipe that goes to the impeller housing. One huge blast cleared it. A cloud of mud filled the water surrounding the starboard drive. We assembled the engine again and amazingly, the starboard engine started and stayed consistently at it's normal operating temperature.

This was a huge worry taken care of but being on the subject of engines, we thought once more about the problems we are still facing with this starboard engine. Problems that we've just not been able to cure. We've spent an absolute fortune on this specific engine trying to get it right so here's our plan: We'll send off the distributor to be refurbished as we think the electronic module inside might be breaking down. Apart from that, it's quite literally the last thing on this engine that we've not touched. Everything else is new. If this doesn't solve out problems then we do have a plan B...

Our friends on their Sealine S23 and S28 with twin KAD32's have used no more than £80 of red diesel on their trip which lasted a lot longer than our 10 days. They'd been to sea too and burnt so little diesel. For them, the price of fuel is not a worry at all. For us, it's everything. So, what can we do? Me and Dad have been speaking and if this distributor fails to solve anything, we'll look into purchasing some 200hp 2.5litre Ford Puma marine engines from a company called Lancing Marine and replacing Bandit's current 4.3l V6 petrol engines. A total expense of roughly £15,000. That is an astronomic expense but it will increase Bandit's resale value by £10k easily and we then save a hell of a lot of money by only paying £0.75p per litre of red diesel compared to £1.65p per litre for unleaded petrol over the next few years. Not only that but it's the matter of doing what will make us happy. At the moment, we find ourselves getting so caught up with the engines that we don't enjoy being on the boat so much. If £15k will change that and mean we can really enjoy the boat without worrying about engine problems then so be it. We'll make the money back by an increase in resale value and savings on fuel. Obviously, there's more to it than just this but that's what we need to really think about before simply jumping straight into it.

Anyway, we're currently moored at Littleport, roughly one hour downstream from Ely. We had a good run down (although only being able to get a max of 1500rpm out of the starboard engine) and we plan to stay here for the duration of tomorrow to let some horrible weather pass over. It's not all bad, though...we're moored just outside the Swan on the River pub so I'm sure we'll find plenty of things to do. :)

Plans from here? Well, we'll head back to Ely tomorrow afternoon or Friday morning and spend the last two days there before setting off back to the boatyard. Seems like this holiday has gone far too quickly but we've still got plenty of time left before it comes to an end. Don't like to think about it ending really... Just get on and enjoy the time we have. Also to note, we've hit a high of 32ÂșC+ this week. Perfect for boating but just a tad on the hot side for us... Thunder and lightning currently.


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