We'd only planned on staying in Ramsgate for one night. With Jo we enjoyed a pint of the local ale (Gadds Brewery) and a much better fish and chips than the one we'd had in Whitby. Back onboard we got ready for the morning - double checking our passage plan for a 6am departure with first light and catching the southbound tide - aiming to arrive at Rye at 1pm, just before local high water. Talking of water, with 3 of us onboard we took the opportunity to top up the tanks. Mentioning no names, tired and in the dark, it was the diesel tank that was topped up rather than the water tank. In fairness and in hindsight the fillers are identical except for the small name engraved on them - and similarly positioned one of each side of the boat.
However as soon as the water was added it was clear we weren't going to be leaving at 6am. We turned off the fuel line taps to isolate the problem and went to bed a little shocked.
Water in the fuel potentially has two main impacts. Firstly, if it can make it past the small separator in the pipe to the engine, it will potentially cause wear and corrosion to the injectors - seriously damaging the engine. Longer term, the presence of water can encourage the growth of 'diesel bug' which generates a build up of nasty sludge which can block the fuel so cause engine failure and an expensive cleaning operation.
In the morning Jo left us one port earlier than planned.
We were in better spirits after we'd found out that SeaStart - a sort of AA breakdown service for boaters - now covers the South coast as far as Ramsgate at least for boats in port. So we qualified by the skin of our teeth. Its even more fortunate that we are members as having been members for years whilst in the Solent we wouldn't - given our plans for the year - have renewed our membership this year except that we were given membership with the boat. So they could at least take on the job of finding and engaging a local marine engineer to help us and we hoped cover some of that cost.
No engineer was available until Friday, and inaction was grating. Diesel floats on water, and the mix in our tank hadn't been agitated. On investigating the tank, we found that it had 2 spare pickup rods installed but blanked off - I guess as a provision for the optional diesel generator which we don't have. However each of these provides a perfect tube through which to guide the tube of an oil extraction pump to the bottom of the tank. We were therefore able to remove most of the water ourselves.
On Friday, with the engineer in attendance, we removed a further 25 litres of fuel - from which only the very first part showed any water content. We also decoupled the fuel line from the pre-filter and used the oil extraction pump to pull through another 4 litres - again it appeared clean. Reassembling, we tried the engine and ran it firstly for 5 minutes with no load, and then a further 10 with load (to use a higher fuel rate. After both runs the separator was entirely clear. Finally we added an additive to help break down any water that might still be in a corner in the bottom of the tank - well below the level of the pickup but still able to harbour the bacteria of the fuel bug. It's as much as we can do at this stage - although I'll continue to more regularly check the separator for any water and also add a biocide for the winter.
So on Saturday we left Ramsgate for Rye. Fair weather, a following tide and a stronger than expected wind from the North East gave us great conditions and we made fast progress under the cruising chute to a point off Dungeness - in fact a bit further off than the direct route would have been but we were sailing as close to downwind as we could. We phoned Lydd Ranges who confirmed that they were firing so as we had time to spare before going to Rye at high water we gave that area a wide berth (although its not a mandatory exclusion zone in this case). By this point the wind had increased to 20knots and we'd dropped the cruising chute in favour of just our little self-tacking jib.
Even so we were a little early at Rye, and had to contend with the tide flooding in very quickly as we turned to tie up briefly at the harbour masters office. Having paid he gave us instructions to berth against the wall at Shand Key where it dries out to a soft mud.
Being in Rye allowed my parents to visit from Tenterden - and at high tide it was an easy step onto the boat. I was however constantly tweaking our lines to try to keep our side gate aligned to the ladder on the wall of the Key, and the boat next to the wall rather than blown off. Had we fallen and settled in the mud too far off in either or both directions then disembarking would have been very difficult.