Below are some older blog posts…


A new engine (May 2017)

The original Ford FSD engine, fitted in Ambition II 30 years previously, was still pushing her along well, and starting reliably. But there was a good deal more exhaust smoke than is healthy, and both the engine and surroundings were very dirty. It was going to need a thorough clean and overhaul. At the January boat show we looked at alternatives, and eventually decided to commission French Marine to fit a new Yanmar 4JH4-TE 75 HP engine, aiming to be ready for sea trials by the end of March. This was a tight timetable since R was working full time up to the end of February, and then had to remove the old engine before FM could start work!
The boat was moved up to a mud berth at Sutton Wharf, Rochford. R dismantled the connections to the old engine, and with help from RSA members Jon and Graham, disconnected the steering cables and lifted out the steel cockpit floor (held down by some 60 bolts!). With wooden supports under the boom, the old engine was hoisted up into the cockpit, supported on beams while the boom was swung away, then craned ashore by Nigel with the yard’s Manitou. Then commenced the grim task of cleaning the deep, capacious and extremely filthy keel sump and engine bay! This involved scraping and drying the steelwork, abrading with an angle-grinder fitted with a steel cup-brush, then de-greasing ready for 3 coats of Jotamastic primer and two of some oil industry surplus stock 2-pack paint in violent orange!
FM engineers made up new engine beds which were bolted to the old, before lowering in the new engine (a reverse process of removing the old, but easier as the new one is a tad smaller) Meanwhile R removed the propeller and withdrew the shaft in order to fit a replacement shaft seal from Tides Marine. This involved a certain amount of mudlarking!

It took another fortnight to commission the Yanmar engine. The biggest task was replacing the exhaust system (which is 4 inch diameter compared to the old 3 inch). This required modifications to two steel bulkheads, woodwork through the aft cabin, a close encounter with the steering quadrant, and a new outlet in the stern. Another aspect was the charging system, which needed to supply three batter banks (engine, domestic and capstan). The old system used two VSRs (voltage sensitive relay) but the new alternator has much higher output so larger relays had to be fitted.

So it was well into April by the time we were ready to test the new engine. We had moved Ambition II from her shallow mud-berth so she would float on the neap tide. Our first trial was a quick dash half a mile along the channel and back at what counted as high water. But as the revs increased there was a vibration and clatter from the prop shaft: Mike French though there was an issue with the propeller, something needed to be done.
Inspection of the propeller next day did not provide any clues. It was only when we took a more leisurely run down river, with time to inspect the transmission in motion, that R traced source of the noise. The shaft was coming into contact with a steel bulkhead where it passed through an apature. It turns out that the Yanmar engine mounts allow a good deal more movement, leading to some flexing of the shaft at higher revs. We arranged to meet FM at Burnham Marina to resolve this, by cutting a larger apature in the bulkhead using oxy-acetylene.
There seems to be a general rule that the total cost of commissioning a new engine is 50% over the actual purchase price, and this case was no exception. We could have chosen a less powerful model, since the modern engines are turbo-assisted and we certainly get more power at low revs than before. But the relative fuel efficiency of this model at low revs, combined with the reserve power for difficult conditions, seems to make it the right choice for us. Our only concern is that we may not need to use the higher revs often enough to keep the engine healthy.

Rigging renewed, Oct 2016

The standing rigging was understood to have been approaching 15 years old, during which time the boat had sailed extensively including a return Atlantic crossing. As we were contemplating more of the same, it was time to refit, in spite of the apparently good condition of the 10mm stainless wire and Staylock fittings.

Dave Nicholls of DRS Rigging agreed to take on the job, through Burnham Marina. One Monday morning R took the boat round to the marina, with Steve Noble to help out, and backed into the travel hoist slings, which would hold the boat in the water while the mast was craned out. We had already removed the sails, laid the boom on deck, put the twin spinnaker poles ashore, and disconnected all electrics, so the mast lifting operation was done by mid morning. For the next fortnight we had to endure constant ribbing as motor-boat owners!

The sails were dispatched to sailmaker W Sails in Leigh-on-sea for cleaning and a thorough overhaul. We also ordered a new staysail in heavier cloth, and an extra reef point high up on the main. Meanwhile there was an opportunity to inspect the mast (no structural problems) and clean off the accumulated grime. Our living room was taken over with running rigging, as R rove replacement lazy jack lines and pole control lines, but Dave made up new Dyneema halyards for us as well as replacing all the steel wire, bottle screws and fittings.

There was a broken loud hailer (used as a horn) bracket to replace, and the VHF antenna was caput, so we fixed these too. The normal co-ax cable that comes with most VHF aerials is too thin for such a long run (over 20m) and the connections do not seem to last. So with help from Paul Williams and some ultra thin draining rods, we fed a new RG213TM Cable through the mast, and fitted a Metz Manta Antenna from The cable connections use  PL259 plugs, with plenty of self-amalgamating tape to seal the antenna base. R also ran a piece of braid down the outside of the mast steps, to prevent halyards from wrapping round them. We kept some photos of the main pats of the mast, for future reference.

Two weeks after the mast came down, all was ready, so ’twas on a Monday morning that R took Ambition II back to Burnham for the mast to be stepped. Plenty of hands were needed, three to manhandle the step into place, others to hold the two forestays and furler gear. First to be attached was the fore stay at the end of the bowsprit, then the inner fore stay, middle stays, lowers and uppers, and finally the back stay (a bit of a struggle with this one).  With all secure, we moved out of the slings to a pontoon, and Dave spent an hour adjusting the stays, sighting up the mast track to make it true. Meanwhile we fed the cables through the deck ready for reconnection below – a job for the following weekend. With the large diameter VHF cable, along with others for compass, wind instruments, radar, horn, steaming, deck, tricolour and anchor lights, it was a tight fit. With the resulting tangle emerging from the saloon ceiling, we were glad to have labelled each cable end as well as keeping notes when they were disconnected.

In terms of cost, this was (we hope) the biggest item of maintenance that we need to undertake. Having it all done quickly and without fuss or mishap was a bonus. We still have to wait for the sails to come back, and There is a worn gooseneck block to replace before the boom goes back on, but we should be back in sailing condition soon, and no more cries of “stinkpot” from passing yachts!