Confession: Having a swell time in the Solent

In this month’s Confession we hear how a Regal owner was forced to hang his head in shame after forgetting to check the basics following engine failure on the Solent

Having owned boats for most of my adult life, and even worked at a hire boatyard on the Thames in my teens, I used to consider myself to be reasonably competent.

That was until an episode a few years ago – in fact, this is the first time that I’ve owned up to it.
Our previous boat was a Regal 2460, which we owned from 2005 until last year, keeping her in Port Solent.

A typical weekend would see us cruise along to Lymington or Poole but preferably without a cloud in the sky or a breath of wind. We are stereotypical fair-weather boaters.

On one such weekend we had some close friends over to stay with us from my wife’s home country, the Czech Republic.

The day was glorious, so off we set to Lymington, enjoying a smooth sea and a cloudless sky along the way.

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The following morning dawned equally sunny over Lymington but with a strong breeze blowing along the Solent.

Keen to show our guests that a bit of wind wouldn’t deter us, we headed out of the river and into the Solent. We made very slow progress due to a substantial wind-over-tide situation developing.

On our final approach to Portsmouth Harbour, not far out of the Isle of Wight ferry routes, the engine died.

With plenty of fuel, and nothing to indicate the cause of our predicament from the gauges, we duly dropped the anchor and advised the coastguard of the situation.

Then I rang the marine breakdown service we belonged to and it agreed to send someone straight away.

‘Straight away’ is never soon enough when you are anchored in a bit of swell with ferries passing surprisingly close.

To be fair, the breakdown service arrived far quicker than I expected, but not quick enough to prevent one of our guests discharging breakfast over the side.

When the breakdown service arrived we agreed that because of the conditions it would be best to tow us straight in, rather than attempt a repair out in the swell.

We were on the move again, albeit somewhat slower than intended, rocking and rolling back to Portsmouth.

We finally arrived at the outer waiting pontoon outside the lock at Port Solent, where the engineer came aboard to investigate.

All the symptoms indicated a fuel problem, so he checked pumps and filters and everything seemed fine but the engine just wouldn’t fire.

After about an hour of head-scratching he reluctantly had to admit defeat and was just about to head off into the sunset to assist some other poor stranded soul, when he asked in passing: “You don’t happen to have a kill cord do you?”

Sheepishly, I reached down to the throttle-fitting and duly hung my head in shame. I flipped the switch back up and turned the ignition. The engine fired up straight away.

The choppy sea had led to the kill cord switch being nudged down. I felt intense joy and disappointment all at the same time.

The ‘engine problem’ had been solved but had it not been for my stupidity our day could have continued as planned, our friend wouldn’t have suffered and the engineer wouldn’t have wasted a good few hours of his time.

Several apologies and a well earned tip later, he headed off and we cast off to go through the lock and back to our berth when… the engine died!

Having learned my lesson, the first thing I did was to check was the kill cord – not guilty.

Unable to get it going, and with an enthusiastic mixture of bow thruster and oars, we made our way back to the pontoon and called for more help, albeit not from the breakdown service people because I felt we had wasted enough of their time for one day.

It subsequently turned out that the fuel line needed bleeding following the earlier investigations.
Surprisingly, our friends still look forward to weekends aboard the boat, which is now a Sealine S34.

Fortunately it doesn’t have a kill cord!

The author of every confession we print wins the original Stephen Shaw cartoon artwork (above) and an Icom IC-M23 Buoyant VHF Marine Transceiver handheld VHF radio worth £165.

For your chance to win, spill the beans on your funniest boating moments in 650 words. Email your story to:


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