Edward Vivian experiences a burst coolant hose while sailing from Guernsey to Plymouth in deteriorating conditions

Emergency repairs on a burst coolant hose
No spare hose meant a temporary patch to fix the hose using plumbers putty and amalgamating rubber tape. Credit: Edward Vivian

Burst coolant hose: ‘I had spares for everything except this’

Every year a small group of enthusiastic sailors from Fowey and surrounding ports try to venture abroad, writes Edward Vivian.

The FOGOF (Fowey Goes Foreign) trip has been going for several years and each time we try to include some challenging and educational sailing.

Mostly, these challenges involve interesting access to Breton harbours, overnight crossings of the English Channel or handling headlands and tidal races.

With COVID-19 restrictions and new rules governing access to French ports dissuading us from those, the 2021 FOGOF trip was planned for the only ‘foreign’ place obviously within reach.

Sea legs back

The Bailiwick of Guernsey opened up for visiting yachts on 1 July so, along with four other boats from Cornwall, we decided to take advantage and beat the crowds.

We, on Déjà Vu, my Beneteau Oceanis 381, had been at sea for over two weeks, initially heading west with several days in the Isles of Scilly.

Boats moored in a marina

Victoria Marina in St Peter Port is well sheltered and was a good base for the FOGOF crews. Credit: Graham Snook/Yachting Monthly

We had enjoyed some fantastic sailing weather, got our sea legs back and had felt a very welcome sense of freedom after a long year under restrictions.

Like most of the other yachts in the group, we sailed east initially to shorten the English Channel crossing.

Early on 1 July, myself and the three crew of Déjà Vu set off for a very benign trip over from Dartmouth, arriving in St Peter Port, having spent nearly the entire crossing motor sailing.

The post-COVID-19 Channel with no other sails on the horizon felt eerily quiet. Arrival and clearance for COVID-19 rules was relatively straightforward, starting on a ‘quarantine pontoon’ before being checked by local officials and being released to enter Victoria Marina.

A boat with a white hull and red canopy moored against a pontoon

Déjà Vu docked in St Peter Port on the quarantine pontoon

A good weekend was had by all, including the traditional dinner planned for the crews at a local and very welcoming hostelry, as well as a pontoon party and sea shanty sing-along. All was bright for an enjoyable trip home.

Some of the group decided to stay and explore other islands in the Bailiwick. We needed to return to England for a number of reasons, which meant we had to plan to head north on Sunday at the latest.

One of the crew had to depart in Guernsey and flew back home, leaving the three of us left to sail back to Plymouth.

Sunday dash

The weather forecast was for deteriorating conditions from midday Sunday onwards with potential gales on Monday, so we decided to get away for our leg to Plymouth early on Sunday, departing at 0500 motor sailing to keep the miles rolling under the keel as quickly as we could.

Three hours out and the winds were starting to build, as were the seas. We double reefed early with winds regularly between 17 and 21 knots – better safe than sorry.

I was on the helm with one of the crew and the other was catching up on sleep below.

All seemed to be going well when the engine overheat light came on. I quickly stopped the engine, handed over the helm to Philpy, the other crewman on deck, and took a look below.

A yacht with a white hull heeling

The sea and wind began to build as the the crew of Déjà Vu sailed towards Plymouth

Steam was gushing from the engine compartment and on closer inspection, I spotted an obviously burst coolant hose from the heat exchanger.

Coolant and water were spewing into the bilges.

The sails were up and we were making good progress, so we were able to continue safely, while the formerly sleeping crewman and I fashioned a temporary patch fix to the hose using plumbers putty and amalgamating rubber tape. No spare hose though!

I had spares for everything but not those coolant hoses.

We restarted the engine to test and while the patch held, we were not confident that it would last very long.

The decision was to carry on and grind out the trip back to Plymouth and only use the engine when we were very close to the dock.

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