Sailing Cornwall: Engine Failure Between Newlyn and Falmouth

After spending a few days sailing east to Fowey, Plymouth and back, the wind turns and so do we – pointing Amneris’ bow west, towards Newlyn

to newlyn

March 26 2019

The final trip of this vacation, and we’re heading for Newlyn. There’s really not enough wind for any decent sailing but we’re determined to get out as much as we can. This means motoring down past Helford and round Lizard Point. By 11:00 we are leaving the tolls of the Manacles cardinal mark behind, but already there’s a problem. A split has developed in the leak-off line and we’re losing diesel into the bilge.

Michał tapes up the pipe after a lunch of fresh mackeral, and the repair holds for while – but the main fuel tank is soon empty. We’ve got enough in the jerry can to get us into Newlyn, but it’s going to be a close call and we’re not tied up in a visitor berth until 19:15, just after dusk.

March 27 2019

amneris newlyn

Newlyn is so different from the marinas of Falmouth and Plymouth or the river of Fowey. It’s a real working fishing port, and it’s fascinating to see the boats and fishermen (no fisherwomen, that we noticed) at work. We’re going to stay for a couple of nights, to try to fix this pipe and do some general maintenance. It costs GBP 18 per night, plus GBP 1.50 for electricity and GBP 2 for each use of the showers.

March 28 2019

Yesterday was somewhat disappointing in terms of repair work. Newline Chandlery in Newlyn direct us to Penwith Marine Services, so I walk into Penzance to try to find a replacement leak-off pipe, but to no avail. The chap there tells me to get in touch with Marine Engineering Looe, who in turn say the pipe I need is very specific to Volvo and obsolete. We’re going to have to try a temporary fix to get back to Falmouth, as we need to leave Amneris there and fly home on Sunday. On a more positive note, I was able to seal up the leak in the starboard light, and Newlyn boasts an excellent Chinese takeaway.

March 29 2019

We’re underway at 10:15, with almost no wind and all of it in the wrong direction. Before an hour has passed it becomes clear that the repair on the leak-off pipe isn’t going to hold. We’re doing running repairs, making less than two knots against the wind when the engine is off. At 15:00 the situation becomes worse when the smell of diesel takes me down below, and I open the engine compartment to get a shower of fuel. The pipe is beyond salvage this time. To add insult to injury, the engine won’t stop running using the normal procedure and the key breaks in the lock. Looks like we’re in for a long sail home.

Michał helps keep spirits up by catching three mackeral with a single cast, so there’s fresh fish, along with tinned Polish herring and English cheddar for lunch. At 20:30 we begin the approach to round Lizard Point, which is going to take hours…

March 30 2019

01:00 We have to dodge around a vessel laying cables for Orange, otherwise we would be stuck alongside it forever. We time our manoeuvre in between the boat’s stop-start, and leave plenty of sea room so pass by safely. By 03:00 we’re among heavy traffic, and have turned off all non-urgent electrical appliances to try to save the battery – which we can’t charge without the engine. As it happens, we’ve just enough juice to keep the navigation lights and radio on low power running until a little after dawn. Then, we’re out. No radio, no instruments, and no wind – but it’s doing nothing to damage morale on board.

to newlyn 2

It takes us until the mid-afternoon, tacking all the way, to get round Lizard Point and back to the Manacles. There, we’re becalmed and the sea is like glass. We’re waiting for the wind to fill in, when our neighbour Scorpion from Falmouth Haven hails us and tows us into the harbour. From there, we have a moment of frayed tempers as we try to manoeuvre Amneris before putting up the main sail (duh!), and then try to make it up to home berth in Penryn. The wind’s not on our side, so we opt instead to sail onto the visitor wall at Falmouth Haven. We have to fly home, but our friend Jonathan is going to oversee a tow with Falmouth Water Taxi, to get Amneris back into her own place. We strike lucky, as the Water Taxi charges a fairly modest GBP 60 for the tow, and no salvage.

I’ll be back soon to sort out the repairs.

Watch Aleksandra’s videos from our journey to Newlyn and back:

Read all our (B)logbook entries here.

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