The Tyro Saga 7 – A Decision is made


Friday 14th                Muggy and damp

Drove down pm to find no water in the bilge and plenty of amps in the battery.  Still lots of water in the oil though.  The engineer’s coming tomorrow morning to have a look at it and judge whether it’s worth repairing.  Took off the starter motor so he could see the starboard side of the engine clearly.

Saturday 15th           Warm and sunny

The engineer arrived at a quarter to ten and had a good look.  Agreed that it was possible to repair it but that he’d never known one of these engines to blow a head gasket.  Taking it apart would necessitate new nuts in some places as the old ones are inevitably rusted in, and we’d be bound to find other defects that needed sorting out too.  And even if it was repaired, the severe rust (the worst bit, I’ve now found is on the after crankcase inspection cover) would be a weak point and might burst under pressure.  He knows someone in the next yard who has a working MD2b for sale.  Waiting for a text.

In the library I googled the subject and found this on another forum:

Ah yes, the MD2b, the bane of my existence. Having sat for 36 hours in seawater, a year ago, you can now, without any sense of guilt, attempt to remove its component parts and sell the individual, salvageable ones on eBay. The rest of it will fit very well into a dumpster [I think he means a skip]. There is no value in trying to renovate this engine because once you have spent huge amounts of money and time trying to get parts, you will then realize that you could have purchased a lighter weight, more powerful, smoother running and far more dependable Yanmar.  I know, I tried all the other steps first, what a waste of effort and resources. While you have the engine out of the compartment, take the time to fully renovate this valuable piece of real estate. Clean it, rip out all the electrical and plumbing, rebuild the engine bed logs to match the footprint of the engine mounts for your new engine, install new soundproofing, electrical and plumbing, then take delivery of your new engine. Or don’t. Maybe you are lucky. You’ll find unusually dependable Volvo parts in a local museum, a mechanic who loves working on rusted engines for little money and the chance to revisit old systems, and discover the joys of a two-cylinder engine from the 1960s that has a two hundred pound crankshaft and flywheel and motor mounts that will last a couple years. Oh, and the best part, the saltwater cooling system. Oh for the days…….

Maybe I should look for a newer (i.e. more expensive) alternative.

After lunch Billy wanted some help with his engine.  I thought I was going to be able to put my new-found expertise to some use but we decided he had more urgent things to worry about than the limited quantity of white smoke being emitted by his ancient Lister engine.  Long chat with Amanda and Derek next to Amanda’s boat, the upshot of which is that I may be going sailing with her tomorrow.  Otherwise I shall have to pump up the dinghy and row round the marina.  I own two boats – I ought to be able to go somewhere on the water!

The old cable, which I sold for as much as I paid for its replacement, together with the rusty ends I cut off.

Lazy for the rest of the afternoon but about tea time I roused myself to do something about the new (8mm) chain.  Hoicking out both rusted ends onto the foredeck I set to with a junior hacksaw and (eventually) cut the appropriate links.  Removing the old (6mm) chain into the bucket that had contained much of the new one I managed to get the new heavier one connected up and into the cable locker, the fo’c’sle swept out and my bed therein restored.  Calculation shows that the new cable will have nearly twice the breaking strain of the old. 

Dinner was late.  Then Billy came and we drank gin.

Sunday 16th                          Warm and sunny

Slow start, having slept badly (blame the gin).  Just having my second breakfast, about 1030 when Amanda turned up asking if I wanted to go for a drift, as there was no wind.  I accepted with alacrity, threw my coffee down my throat and grabbed some bread and cheese.  We spent a few merry hours conversing over the whirr of the outboard; we did try sailing for a bit on Weston Shelf, but concluded that most of our motion was being caused by the tide.  We had our lunch on a buoy south of Hythe, then motored back after an uneventful little trip.  At least we’d got out.

Made a brew for Steve and Lyn in Dancer, next door and almost tipped him and his new smart ’phone into the oggin.  The engineer turned up and we discussed engines; he suggested I look at Marine Enterprises in Poole who deal in reconditioned yacht and ship’s-lifeboat engines.  IF they have one of those of the right size, at least it’ll be well maintained.

Plan is to have a day away from the marina tomorrow: weather f/c is good and lots of people will be back at work so, after researching the above in the library, I’m going for a walk in the New Forest.

Monday 17th             Warm and sunny (again)

Plan carried out as above.  Marine Enterprises have half a dozen engines which are approximately suitable at reasonable prices (and a lot of very big ones).  Emailed the details to the engineer who said he’d have a look.

Then I headed westward towards the New Forest but diverted when I saw the sign to Eling.  There’s a tide mill there (which turned out to be closed for renovation) at the top of a quiet little harbour which is only accessible at the top of the tide but has a simple entrance.  Chatted to a couple of nice people there, doing things to their boats, and decided to visit by sea as soon as I could.  Sat and ate my lunch on a park bench, and then continued into the Forest, where I walked for a couple of hours amongst heather, ponies, full-sized horses, cattle, deer and dogs.  That was a little nerve-wracking, as large animals and dogs make me nervous.  The deer were fine, of course, and didn’t let me get within a hundred yards but I really can’t be doing with inquisitive cattle.  And a lot of conifers, mostly very young, which made a nonsense of the plantations shown on the map.

Tuesday 18th             Overcast; also warm and sunny at times.          

Didn’t get much done (again).  Billy came by for coffee and, in chatting, recommended I get an outboard on a bracket at the stem which could double as an engine for the dinghy.  This has something to commend it, but I really don’t like outboards very much.  And I’d have to carry petrol, not to mention a whole different set of spares.  Substantial lunch of a veg omelette as there were things that needed using up, then put the fridge on for the first time, as the regulator was telling me the battery was full.  Ran it for an hour or two without running the battery down too much, so it might be a working proposition (and the battery also seems to be behaving).  Resolved to build a larger insulated box to put it in (the walls are insulated, but pretty thinly) so I don’t have to keep wrapping it in a blanket.

Sunset over the Itchen

During the afternoon I went for a walk along the river to Bitterne Park and had an ice cream, for a change.  By the time I got back I’d decided (I think – I’m still not sure about this) that I was going to have one of the reconditioned engines, which means a cost in the region of £2000.  Still, it’ll be reliable and last for the foreseeable future.  I might even keep the boat in the long term.  Texted T to tell him and he ’phoned back saying that he can get a new one (Mitsubishi/Vetus 20hp) for £2900 + VAT, which makes it almost £3500.  Hmmmm.   Given that he won’t be able to do anything till the end of the month I’m leaving tomorrow and will go back, at least as far as Mum’s, for a few days.


Frustrating.  Got lots of gardening done though.

After much discussion and investigation of reconditioned engines I’ve decided to go for the new Vetus as it’s available at a good price (all things being relative).  It’s actually a Vetus M2.18 which, for some reason is rated at only 16hp.  Not sure I understand that.  (I wonder if the other 2hp is consumed by the alternator?)  Still, it should be enough, and anything bigger, or for that matter anything else, will be a lot more expensive.  This is not all that much more than a reconditioned one and there’s the benefit of reliability, the manufacturer’s guarantee and possibly increased value on sale.


After pestering him several times by email, text and ‘phone at increasingly shorter intervals I’ve managed to get a quotation out of the engineer. Now I just need to pin him down to a date.  The season has more or less finished, although the weather is still quite clement.

One thing I hadn’t thought of is where the boat will go when she comes out of the water.  Not that it’s up to me: apparently the whole yard has been reorganised in my absence and there will be (it seems) a fairly strict organisation as to where boats will go when they come out. Tyro needs to be where it’s accessible to fit the engine and that means coming out late.  Sarah wanted them to do it in December, which would be inconvenient in the extreme (not to mention jolly cold, especially in the boat overnight), so we’ve settled on November 25th.  Now I have to fit this is with a trip to Belgium to see my beloved and a trip to the Aged Parent.

Lowering the mast on Floating Exception

I want to get the mast down as well.  Alan says it can’t be done without a crane but we did it earlier in the year in Martin & Anton’s boat which has the same arrangement.  Mine’s a bit bigger but with care it should be possible.  I’m going to try next weekend when I also hope to dismantle all the old engine’s connections and get the cushions and tools out.  Assuming I can manage it, I can then get the standing rigging off and replaced, check the wiring, possibly replace the old lights with LEDs and fit the new spare/spinnaker halyard.

Here’s the plan:

(The first three need to be done whether the mast’s coming down or not.  Whether it can be lowered depends on whether the bolt fixing the mast heel to its step can be undone, so this needs checking in advance).

  1. Unroll and remove the genoa.
  2. Fold down or remove the spray hood.
  3. Remove the mainsail and all the associated gubbins (trough, lazyjacks etc.) Disconnect the wiring between the deck glands and mast, labelling everything as appropriate. Remove the boom (not forgetting to detach the topping lift and mainsheet).
  4. Secure the A-frame vertically and athwartships somewhere in the cockpit.
  5. Lead the main halyard and topping lift ashore from the masthead and secure both lines ashore, well apart.  They may need extending.
  6. Once the boat’s afloat again, turn it stern-to the pontoon and take two bow lines ashore to the wall, leaving two stern lines on the pontoon.
  7. Undo the forward shrouds and babystay from their chainplates.
  8. Take the strain on the lowering lines, disconnect the forestay and loosen the step bolt.
  9. Standby on the coachroof or in the cockpit with the ‘clothesprop’.
  10. Lower away handsomely, taking care to surge both lines evenly so that mast stays straight and doesn’t twist.  The lines must have a turn round a cleat or bollard to take the strain.
  11. As soon as it can be reached, take some of the weight of the mast in the clothes prop and carry on lowering.
  12. Remove clothesprop and support the mast by hand when possible.
  13. Continue lowering the mast into the A-frame and secure it there.
  14. Retrieve the masthead lines and bow lines from the shore.
  15. Pull the boat back alongside the pontoon and make fast.
  16. Secure all spare lines etc.
  17. Lift mast forward to support heel on pulpit; lash in position; lash to A-frame as well.
  18. Label and remove after shrouds and backstay; all to be taken to rigger for replacement.

The boat can then be lifted out of the water. Make fast the mast in its winter position and cover the whole boat with the tarpaulin.  The mast will be used as a ridge pole and the edges secured to lines led below the hull.  This may enable the dodgers to be removed as well, which will extend their life.  [The halyards should be zig-zagged over the top to take most of the strain off the eyelets.]

Hmmm.  The reality was a little different, as will become apparent.

Friday 23rd. Cloudy, some rain

Arrived at the boat at lunchtime and was pleased to find batteries fully charged and bilge dry.  This has happened every time so far but it still amazes me.  Recruited Tom, Billy and Martin to help with the mast tomorrow morning.  Completed as far as No. 6 above singlehanded.   For future reference, this is how I did the jobs:

Jib off drill

  1. Wait for calm weather
  2. Undo figure-of-eight knots in sheets and furling line
  3. Unroll jib
  4. Undo halyard fall shackle at furling reel and attach light line thereto
  5. Sheet sail to windward so it’s over the deck (I only realised this would have been a good idea as I fished the sail out of the water later on)
  6. Lower away on the light line attached to the halyard, and gather in sail as it comes down, keeping it out of the oggin/mud and helping the luff wire out of the foil as necessary
  7. Undo head shackle and attach to light line to make a loop; make this fast to the pulpit.
  8. Remove sheets
  9. Remove sail to pontoon or other flat surface; inspect, fold and bag
  10. Tidy up halyard/light line so spool can turn
  11. Unroll furling line from reel, undo stopper knot and remove line for washing or (in this case) replacement. (It’s 15.3m long, for future reference.  Annoyingly, as Tool Station sell a 15m line of the same size much more cheaply than a chandler would).

And then,

Main off drill

  1. Close main hatch and lower or remove spray hood
  2. Slacken lazy jacks and remove from trough; attach lower ends to mast
  3. Lower boom on mainsheet & topping lift to rest on hatch cover; allow rainwater to drain out, preferably not onto freshly bagged and dry jib. (Experience, eh?)
  4. Remove clew outhaul and reefing lines at luff & leech
  5. Slide tubes out of trough
  6. Open mast gate and remove slides from track and hence the sail from the mast; close and tighten gate.
  7. Slide sail and trough together forward and off the boom
  8. Remove battens (could be done earlier), check that they’re numbered in sequence and stow together
  9. Remove sail to pontoon or other flat surface; inspect, fold and bag
  10. Fold boot and trough

And finally,

Boom off drill

  1. Lower and drain boom as above
  2. Remove mainsheet
  3. Dismantle gooseneck – the easiest way is to remove the split-pin holding the little cylinder in place and slide the cylinder out. Remember to put them back in.  This will need greasing on reassembly.  And probably a new split-pin.
  4. Lower boom to deck and remove kicking strap, main halyard and topping lift

Lemon squeezy really.  Did the whole lot singlehanded in a couple of hours.

Martin and Billy came for tea and cake and much discussion ensued on lowering the mast.  Julian came by and gave us the benefit of his experience.

Spent the rest of the day pootling about the boat, tidying up and sorting things out.  Early start tomorrow to be ready for my assistants’ arrival at 9; also v tired, cold and dark so went to bed early after a warming dinner of Big Soup.

Saturday 24th Cloudy; some rain, esp. o/n

Billy and Martin arrived at 9 as arranged, after I’d done much of the preparatory work.  The theory was that we’d use the wooden strut which came with the boat with a bracket at one end to fit round the base of the mast as a ‘giraffe’ which would pivot up as the mast moved down so as to maintain a tension via the forestay or babystay to hold the mast in place.  We decided that we’d also need guys to each side, which were led to the outboard chainplates.  I roped in Bob from Tubbs to hold a line and Jim from Katy May happened along at the crucial moment. He recommended using Dancer’s spinnaker halyard from ahead of us, which we’d considered but rejected as the owner wasn’t around.  However, in the end we did, which reduced the need for the strut and the mainsheet which was controlling its forward end.

Anyway, after a couple of hours setting it up and discussing it, we went for it and managed to lower the mast into the crutch mounted on the stern first time, sweet as a nut.  Martin and Billy who were on the guys reported that they had to apply a lot of tension to them at times, but I was able to give some lateral support as well as surging the sheet, and all was, ultimately, well.

This is how it worked:

By 1330 I’d more or less finished tidying up and was having a well-earned pasty and mug of soup.  After a short break I set to to remove all the standing rigging from the mast (as well as from the chainplates) and encountered two problems.  First, and eventually soluble, where the cap shrouds pass over the spreader, they pass under metal caps which need unscrewing.  The nuts, of course, are locked but should respond to WD40 and the correct tools.  More problematically the forestay is surrounded by the furling gear foil which is far too long to fit into a car.  In order to get it to the rigger at Haslar I shall have to take it to bits, with the potential for causing damage. 

The mast lowered with the ‘clothesprop’ and its tackle still in position

Billy came by at an opportune moment and helped me lift the mast forward into its final winter position.  The heel sticks out a foot beyond the pulpit, to which it’s securely lashed (and padded with a wooden batten) and the truck with its VHF aerial and wind vane a couple of feet beyond the crutch on the stern.

Teatime came and all was neatly stowed, and after a brew I repaired to Billy’s boat to thank him and offer fish and chips.  Julian was there and we put the world to rights for an hour or so over a can of beer before I went off to Bitterne to get a bit of shopping and the dinner.  Martin was nowhere to be found so it was cod & chips twice, accompanied by cold red wine from the largest mug I’ve ever seen.

Sunday 25th    Cold and bright; warmed up later.

Unloaded cushions and other stuff for winter and completed the three-dimensional jigsaw to fit them into the car.  Then continued dismantling the engine ancillaries. 


  • cooling water intake (I had to cut the pipe) and fwd cylinder jacket drained (the after one had its drain rusted up)
  • primary fuel filter (drained too, and tap at tank closed)
  • engine battery
  • all earths on engine and associated bits
  • all engine electrics
  • starter motor, alternator and air filters removed (and taken home to clean up for sale)
  • hose clip removed from exhaust, but pipe has become welded to elbow
  • all four Allen bolts removed from shaft coupling (with a leather whipping on shaft to stop it sliding aft)
  • all (8) engine mounting bolts sprayed with WD40 and left to loosen (ha ha)

I also had a go at the eight nuts securing the woodwork to the front of the engine bay but, although I could get most of them to turn, only one came off its bolt: the other bolts turned with the nuts.  So we may be stuck with the frame in place.  Looking at it, it may be possible to get the old engine out through the existing gap with a bit of care.  Otherwise we may have to take the head off.  I’ve made a start on this by loosening the bolts holding the rocker covers on.  (The rockers have rusted in places – water in the oil!)

Finally got away about 1730 and headed back to Mum’s for a decent meal and hot bath.


Tuesday 24th                         Novembery

After three weeks in Belgium, I went back to the boat for probably the last trip of the year.  Arriving soon after nine (after a horrendously early start from Stanmore) I inspected the boat (fine, apart from half a bucketful of water in the lazarette – the hatch leaks), had a cup of coffee and contemplated action. 

The first job (and a fairly brainless one to start with) was to start removing all the fabric: dodgers first from outside and then curtains (which definitely needed a wash), towels and the remaining cushions from the saloon.  I then connected the small (2W) solar panel to the engine battery (which was still at 12.5V) and subsequent measurements showed it to be working.  With the two big panels still charging up the domestic battery, I was hopeful they’d now last the winter without having to be removed from the boat.

I continued dismantling the rigging and failed again to remove the spreader caps, so ended up by removing the spreaders from the mast which would, at least, make putting on the tarpaulin cover easier, and off came the signal halyards too, in need of wash and repair.  Less easily solved was the problem of the foil.  Having sprayed them with WD40, I failed to undo any of the screws holding the sections together.  Paul (the rigger) suggested heat, so I tried that with a makeshift (but reasonably effective) blowtorch, also to no avail.  I was left with the final solution of drilling out the screws, but even that failed.

Another call to Paul elicited the unwelcome news that nothing more could be done, and the foil – and hence the whole furling gear – would have to be replaced.  At a cost.  Of … wait for it…


Yes.   That’s what I thought.  I know a boat is a hole in the water into which you pour money but this is ridiculous.  Paul obviously thought so too and knows that I’m trying to do this on a shoestring; he offered me a secondhand furler he’d recently removed from another boat.  Slightly too big and slightly damaged but both problems could be fixed by leaving out one section of the foil and cutting down another.  All I had to do was fit it.  £250.  And £500-odd for the rest of the rigging, if I fitted it myself instead of over a thousand if he did all the work.  I accepted, not exactly with alacrity but after half an hour’s thought.

Arrangements were already in hand for the boat to be lifted out on the morrow, and Alan said there was nothing I needed to do in preparation – except that he wasn’t expecting to have to tow my (effectively engineless) boat around the marina to the lift.  Sorted out the food from the lockers to remove.  Drove into Southampton to find a heavy-duty tarpaulin, the better to cover the boat for the winter and then, there being nothing more I could do, and darkness falling, repaired to the B & B in Hedge End.

Wednesday 25th

After a horrendously slow journey back to the marina I still managed to arrive in time, and started to sort out the lines ready for the tow.  Alan arrived in his work boat – before I was ready – and , after making the boats fast together went off (leaving his engine running) to lift out another boat.  Taking advantage of the delay to finish singling up, I was soon ready and repaired to the quayside to watch the other boat lifted and washed.  This done, he duly appeared again and towed Tyro round in the strengthening spring ebb tide.  The lift went without incident and the hull was jet-washed and scraped by the lad.   The only slight fly in the ointment was where he ended up putting the boat – a long way from the power sockets and very close to an old, disused, pallet-mounted engine which made it hard to climb up the transom.  And curiously, he propped up the front of the keels an inch or two higher than the back.  When I asked about this (as I’d assumed it would be level) he said it was to ensure the cockpit drained properly.  Seemed odd to me, but he does this every day so I let it pass.  If only I’d known.

Tyro in the yard with mast securely stowed. The hull had been jetwashed – but clearly not with complete success.

I continued dismantling stuff, emptying the boat and other sundry jobs when another call from Paul threw up a further problem.  He had to get away by two o’clock whereas I had been intending to leave the boat when it started getting dark, about four, and call at his workshop at Haslar en route (well, sort of) to London.  The necessity of getting there early concentrated the mind wonderfully and I hurriedly loaded the (no longer) standing rigging into the car and set off eastwards.  Arriving there with less than half an hour to spare I took in the wires and was briefed (and brief is the word!) on how to put the furling gear together.  “When do you want the rigging made by?” he asked.  “March”, I replied.    Paid for the gear and a deposit on the rigging, loaded it into the car and took off again for the boat in an attempt to get a bit more done before losing the light.

Once there I undertook a thorough clean of the heads, pumped some fresh water through, laced with cleaning solution, and then a little vegetable oil, in an attempt to make sure it would work in the spring.  I lashed down the solar panels, boom and other bits and pieces; tidied up the remaining Irish pennants on the mast and a few other bits and pieces, and contemplated getting the tarpaulin over the boom.  Given that it threatened to be a long job, that the wind was getting up and that darkness was falling I decided to give that particular part of winterisation a miss, at least for the time being.  Opening all the lockers, checking nothing was in the way of the engine bay and taking a final look round and I bade goodbye to Tyro for the winter.  By the time I see her again she should have a new engine.

And then on the way back to London I had to call at Beckenham.  Someone in the WOA had agreed to sell me a variety of gear – including a hand-bearing compass, wellies, several ropes and a new ensign for a total of £40, so I didn’t mind the detour.  Detour it turned out to be.  I got stuck in traffic jams in parts of south London that I’d never heard of, let alone visited before.  Well worth it though: one of the ropes was perfect for a new furling line and there were several mooring warps and others; the compass fitted the bill exactly and there were also a few useful books.  He was giving up sailing and clearly didn’t need the money; the payment was to charity.

About the author: Steve Freedman
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