Excalibur’s maiden voyage into the Solent – Engine failure, Anchorages and Royal Clarence

To recap, I’ve been messed around for 2 months by a marine electrician who I met when purchasing my chartplotter back in June. After realising this guy was never going to complete the job I was told to speak Sean from Greenham Regis who may be able to help me. It took 1 week from first contact to finishing fixing the chart plotter, battery charger and compass, which I am eternally grateful for. I realistically have 2 months left of good sailing left, which I aim to make the most of before taking Excalibur up to London. Oliver and Carlotta are back from the Caribbean and were free to come sailing. I was very glad they were there for Excalibur’s maiden voyage, and Oliver was no doubt keen to try out his new Yachmaster skills after passing his practical 2 weeks ago. Our plan for the long weekend was to head to Cowes, then on Saturday head over to the Hamble and back home Sunday.


Friday morning saw Sean fix a new starter battery which was dead, and fix the night light for the compass.

HW @ Portsmouth 1358. Looking at the tidal streams for the Isle of Wight and Solent 11.30 was the best time to leave, which would see us fighting a little bit of tide cinubg iyt of Chichester Harbour, but would give us a good 5 hours of tide in the Solent to reach Cowes before the tide started to turn again.

First off, getting out off the pile mooring was problematic to say the least. My neighbour had placed his mooring line over mine, so we had to reverse back, take his off, take mine off, then put his back on. Next time I’ll have the stern mooring lines set to slip. Once we got out we realised that the wind would pretty much be on our nose all the way, so we motored on.

All was going well until we got to West Pole when Carlotta mentioned we were out of water, which was strange, but a last minute purchase at Force 4 saw us safe with a 5ltr water carrier. Tea rounds were back on!




The sea state was moderate, but as we were close hauled motor sailing we were slamming a fair bit. We arrived at Pullar West Cardinal with just a few more miles to go, the sea state was substantially choppy around the cardinal and was rather unpleasant.


Next minute the engine started making peculiar noises and water was no longer being pumped out of the exhaust. So we immediately turned  the engine off. A quick check of the engine revealed nothing, but the bilges were full to the brim with water. Oliver relished the new challenge and put his Yacht master skills to work whilst I pumped the bilges and checked the impeller. The impeller was fine, but I did notice the pipe coming out of the accumulator (hot water tank) had come off. For a second or two we thought this was the issue, but of course it was just a red herring, but it did explain why the water tank was empty.

We sailed gently under genoa to a anchorage that Oliver has spotted. Anchoring under genoa was very straight forward and I was extremely glad I replaced the old anchor with a Delta anchor, though I didn’t expect to have used it so soon! After a cup of tea it was time to figure out what the problem was. The issue seemed to be with the cooling system as there wasn’t any water coming out of the exhaust, which pointed to either a blockage or a loose pipe. I checked the impeller again, and the water strainer which was clear. I then followed the water pipes to the heat exchanger and reached behind the heat exchanger to feel the pipe connected to the otherside, but oh no wait, the pipe had come off the other end of the heat exchanger. Everything became clear from then on, the engine would have pumped the water out of the heat exchanger straight into the bilges. The engine wasn’t on for very long and hopefully the exhaust pipe hasn’t been charred to much by the hot gases. I managed with some acrobatics to fit the pipe back on. The diesel engine course I took paid has already started to pay off (well I would have noticed the dangling pipe eventually I hope).


Amusingly I discovered that I don’t have a anchor light when the time came to switch it on. Another job. I’ll ask the previous owner what happened there next time I see him. One thing I noticed was my battery meter showing a discharge of around 14amps even with everything switched off. Not wanting to flatten the batteries we turned to candle light for the rest of the evening and used the steaming light as a make shift anchor light.


Last night was uneventful, the anchor held. I decided it was best to head to a marina where we were guaranteed shore power, so we motored to Royal Clarence in Portsmouth as opposed to heading to Cowes, which would have seen us rafted up for the evening and with a possibility of no shore power. Before departing, Oliver and Carlotta spotted a boat that they had bumped into in St Lucia and Antigua, small world!

We left around 12pm for Portsmouth.

We approached the entrance to Portsmouth via transit line using a navel war memorial and a block of flats, this ensured us a safe passage between a narrow gap with sandbanks either side. On entering we took the small boat channel, which was choppy and full of motorboats heading out. Royal Clarence was very easy to get into, and as a berth holder at Birdham, I get 21 days free of charge, with only a £3 levy to pay on electric. The washroom facilities are not a scratch on Birdham btw.

Two more minor events! I went to turn the hot water tap on, which expelled the tap head, hitting the ceiling! Out came the tool box! The light above the Galley had also fallen down, a gaffa tape approach was used to fix that little gem.


Gosport, is perhaps not the prettiest of towns. We went to a couple of pubs and then called it a night, ignoring the pleas from Carlotta to go partying at “Emma’s disco bar”



We departed the marina at 8am and got the main up for the first time, with some effort as Ben’s rock climbing rope work had made a party game out of undoing the reefing lines, “Never let a rock climber on your boat” was Olivers response 🙂

Once free of Portsmouth, we had a gentle sail back to Chichester, and tacked to and throw across the entrance of the Chi harbour as Oliver wanted to show me how we’d have got back if we hadn’t got the engine started. Good practice!





For lunch we anchored off East Head, and had a visit from the eagle eyed harbour master, Becky. £80 lighter but with a years harbour dues, she had saved me the job of visiting Dell Quay to get one. She was very polite and I was grateful that I didn’t receive a fine, but in all honesty I had just forgotten to get one before setting out for the first time.

Another boat provided a bit of entertainment as he anchored nice and close and was sat over my anchor, “bad seamanship” Oliver uttered. The guy apologised and exclaimed bizarrely that he expected his boat to point in a different direction….why his boat would act differently to all the others remains a mystery.

The day ended well with a short motor back, and a good 10 minutes of adjusting mooring lines to get Excalibur back into position.

Thanks again to Oliver and Carlotta for coming out. I’m very glad they were there on my first proper venture out in Excalibur.


Author: Tim Butler

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