Fri 22 Nov 2019 07:26

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SV Accomplice Blog week 8 26/9/19 to 2/10/19

We arrived in Las Palmas port on Saturday, slightly later in the day than planned as the wind lightened on our approach. It is a large port, busy with vessels coming and going, and has unusual drilling platform structures extending along it and down the coast. Entering a port is always a tense time, ensuring that you do the right thing, asking permission from the port control to proceed into the port, contacting the marina, watching out for ship movements in and out, working out where to go, getting the sails down and so on. Our entry into Las Palmas was made all the more tense due to an engine problem which I shall come back to.

The last three days before our arrival remained pretty much unchanged, the wind coming and going and the sea unsettled.

When at sea vessels monitor, amongst other equipment, channel 16 on their VHF radios for weather bulletins, navigational warnings and distress calls. Within the space of 24 hours we received two distress broadcasts which were sobering. The first was a mayday put out for a boat of 30 odd immigrants which had been run down off the coast of Africa and all were in the water and boats in the vicinity were asked to assist in their rescue. The broadcast continued throughout the night and long into the next day. We can only assume that there was no official response to the incident and that many would have perished.

The second mayday broadcast concerned a fishing boat with fourteen fishermen on board which was run down by a coaster again off Africa. Again the mayday went out through the night and long into the day, clearly there was no official rescue response, of the fourteen only two survived.

Unfortunately we were too far away to be of any use. These incidents were thought provoking in many being that in the UK we take it for granted that we will be rescued by an official operation, these people on the face of it had none.

A few miles out of Las Palmas the engine was started but raced to its maximum revs then finally stalled and cut out. With some coaxing we got it started but knew probably we wouldn’t be able to again. We did some basic engine checks but couldn’t diagnose the problem. The interesting part now was to enter the marina and berth in only forward gear since engaging reverse would stall the engine. The marina staff were alerted and came out to meet us in a rib and we duly gingerly followed them in, motoring forward as slowly as possible without stalling the engine. The plan was to come alongside a long pontoon and throw a stern line to marina staff so they could snub the rope around a cleat, slow and finally stop the boat. The plan worked with a ditch attempt to engage reverse for a millisecond before the engine cut out ......and not to be restarted as we feared.

The problem was a seized fuel injector pump which without specialist attention is terminal.

The following weeks will be spent arranging for the pump to be repaired and making final preparations for the 2900nm trip over to St Lucia with the ARC - Atlantic Rally/Race for Cruisers starting on 24th November 2019.

Andrew 22.11.19
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria