Smoke below

August 2005 and we were excited about going away for the La-La rally. We had been along the Straits to Caernarfon the previous year and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The La-La is a 4 day excursion by the cruising club to visit their friends at the Royal Welsh Yacht Club at Caernarfon. This takes place in the second half of the Conwy River Festival.

Anyhow Carole and I had taken the whole week off and were really excited as we set off from our pontoon. (This year we had been moved from a swinging mooring to the pontoon by the Marina).
Everything was OK until we exited the channel and approached the Fairway Buoy. Suddenly we smelt smoke and a few moments later we saw it puffing out from behind the instrument panel and the engine compartment. We immediately shut down the engine and turned off the electrics but the smoke continued.

It is a sailor’s worst fear to have a fire on board and I must admit to a slight panic until we realised that it was only smoke and was subsiding. I unscrewed the instrument panel and realised the source of the smoke was in the engine compartment below it. Opening this up revealed no flames but an awful lot of smouldering wiring!!

What to do? We had minimal wind and no engine but we noticed a largish yacht (an elan 40 something) on its way into the channel so we did our best impression of arm waving to denote distress and requiring help. Luckily they did not interpret this as welcoming them to Conwy and they were beside us quickly. They offered to tow us in to Conwy and they didn’t look the sort of people who would claim salvage so we gladly accepted.

After a couple of tries we were safely on our pontoon and the Elan went into the Marina. We met them at the Mulberry pub afterwards and thanked them again and they refused to allow us to buy them a drink, getting one for us instead. They were a very nice Irish family who, if I remember correctly, were the owners of the Bewleys hotel chain. I have no hesitation in giving them a plug. Never stayed there but I bet they are very hospitable hotels.

We immediately contacted GJW our insurers who agreed to the claim immediately and we quickly arranged for Spirit to be repaired at TLC (Tender Lovell Care) in the Marina. We can highly recommend this insurance company who happily agreed to replace all the damaged wiring and put a new battery management system in.

Whilst the boat was out of the water we took the opportunity to have a bow thruster fitted and we have never looked back. No longer any embarrassment in marinas due to my own lack of seamanship in reversing manoeuvres ! It also gives me a lot of satisfaction to set a course perpendicular to a pontoon or wharf ( at slow speed) and engage the bow thruster at the last minute. This normally executes a 90 degree twizz and she slides into her berth. Unfortunately the onlookers guess how I have done it because they can hear the thruster.

Lift out for repair

Lift in after repair

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