'Smuggler's Blues' is finally in service – but how is it measuring up? The Born Again Boater reports on his first month afloat
There are two over-riding elements to my new boat to get used to. The first is the tide-locked mooring, I’ve never had such a thing before.
The other is the single diesel engine, the only other diesel boat I’ve run was the twin straight six 400hp Fairline 33 Targa I shared with my good friend John.
The cill isn’t as big as issue as I’d feared. Open for three hours either side of high tide, it basically grants access about 50% of the time and in practice, only once have we had to wait to get back in.
For those of us in the Inner Harbour cheap seats, Torbay Harbour give free short-term visitor berthing so, if necessary, I can leave the boat in the Outer Harbour and move it in the next day (or conversely move it out the day before if the restriction is outbound).
In practice I’ve not yet had to do so. In fact it’s a really great facility, well sheltered, well built and with generous berths and fairways.
The only issue is the seagulls. Due to the amount of fast food takeaways around the Inner Harbour the flying rats congregate in huge numbers awaiting the inevitable detritus.
The first planned evening run out was instead spent cleansing the boat of shite-hawk (as they’re affectionately known) defecation; it had only been there two days!
Robust seagull deterrent is the order of the day, and a variety of options are being investigated (sadly, lack of shore power, nannying health and safety, and the fact that the blighters are, unbelievably, a protected species scotched my plans to hook the entire boat up to the mains and fry them the moment they touch down).
That single Volvo Penta diesel is a godsend! Quite simply, I never have to even consider running costs. A good blast out in my 4.3-litre V6 petrol-engined Monterey 218 on a Saturday would have seen us spending Sunday at a local quiet anchorage instead. Now if we want to go, we just go.
After filling upon launching, I brimmed it again at the 10 running hour mark and it cost £85. That’s just £8.50 an hour. It doesn’t cost much less to fill the car! And of course, there is no need for lugging heavy jerry cans about.
As for the boat itself? A couple of minor teething problems, as you’d expect from something of its vintage that has seen so little use.
The alternator turned out to have a bracket so worn that it wouldn’t stay aligned with the pulleys. A no-brand service exchange unit was sourced in a bid to curb costs, but the first time out the voltage was all over the place.
It was immediately replaced by a proper Volvo Penta part. Dearer, but the output remains bang on the 14 volts that the book suggests. There’s a lesson in there somewhere about always using genuine parts…
An oil weep was traced to a new oil filter, replacing it seems to have effected a cure, and new lift pump seals stopped a small diesel leak.
Oh, and the ‘white’ antifoul that I was promised would go on grey but turn white once afloat, didn’t, hence the rather patchwork motif below the waterline.
But beyond that it has so far been absolutely brilliant! Always starting on the button and proving a very capable sea boat (its Scandinavian roots shining through).
3,800rpm seems to be the cruising sweet spot, planing beautifully at 20 knots according to the chart plotter – the motor smooth, subdued and relaxed.
4,000rpm ups the ante to 22 knots if we’re in a hurry, dropping back to 3,500 with the leg trimmed right in equates to about 15 knots, ideal for punching effectively into a big head sea chop.
In fact, full throttle winds it easily past its stated maximum RPM of 4,500 at 27 knots making me wonder whether it could swing a larger prop, upping the speed at each revs much like shifting up a gear in a car.
Whether it would still perform with six heavy people aboard and a season of growth on the hull is another question, however. I’ll leave it stock for now and see how it feels with more load.
As I write this, the boat has been in the water precisely four weeks and clocked up 16 engine hours already.
I’m praying for an improvement in the weather as Smuggler’s Blues is proving to be the perfect boat to make the most of it.