26. Backdraft!

For those of you who remember our post 12. Nightmare in Nazaré… we now present you ‘Even Bigger Nightmare in Nerja’….. We are now planning to stay away from Nice, Naples, etc

Pretty pleased to be leaving La Línea!

We finally left La Línea after 6 months on the 30th May in beautiful sunshine and lovely calm seas, it was Hugo’s first outing, and we had a super sail around Europa Point. We saw a sunfish and a large pod of dolphins… it was perfect, and we were so pleased to be on the move again.

Sailing; we’re in it together… not just on idyllic days like this (a beautiful sail around Europa Point, the southernmost point of Gibraltar, on our way into the Mediterranean)…

Rose had been on a sailing course the previous week, so we were enjoying trying out some new things with the sails and getting our sea legs back after the 6-month break. Aside from water dripping from the head lining in the main cabin (possibly coming out after the first bit of ‘lean’ the boat had had in months), everything appeared to be in the proverbial Bristol fashion.

Our first anchorage was just off the beach in Estepona – a lovely large bay all to ourselves! It was so nice we stayed two nights, spending the day in-between fishing (we caught mackerel) and relaxing. During the first night, our bottle of chilli oil had fallen over and spilled into one of the food storage lockers, so we also spent a couple of hours cleaning the chilli oil off absolutely everything, in between a lot of muttering….

We then moved on to Fuengirola – a ‘Brits in the sun’ resort-type place, but we wanted to limit our sailing to 6 hours for the first few passages, just to see how we coped with our new crew member, and how he coped with the new activity of sailing. We anchored in the entrance to the marina (not right in the entrance, although the speed at which the resident fishing boats passed us, we might as well have been….), and had a great view of the fishermen on the dique, as well as the beach and harbour. We were visited by a curious Belgian kayaker, as well as two SUP-ers, one with a dog on the board! It was a bit roly and, as the evening progressed, it got somewhat moreso; ultimately ending in a very poor night’s sleep where Rose had to go and sleep in the saloon with Bella (who had taken to whining her disproval at the situation). We said to each other (with a chuckle of innocent knowing) ‘well, at least the next one can’t be any worse’… You know the saying about hubris….?! Read on….

Due to the quality (or lack thereof) of the night’s sleep, we were up early the next day and underway by 7.30am towards Caleta de Valez. The sea state had only continued to get rougher, and we had a really uncomfortably lumpy passage along the coast. Due to the sea state – and this may sound like double-Dutch – we decided to press on further than Caleta de Valez and anchor instead in Nerja, several miles along the coast, as it looked a bit more protected from the prevailing wind. Although this made the actual passage less uncomfortable due to being able to ride the waves a bit, it made the anchorage every bit as unpleasant.

Sticking together…

We arrived at the anchorage in Nerja pretty knackered from both the last night’s poor sleep, and from a really lumpy passage, but it was a beautiful anchorage – really picturesque – and we made plans to go ashore the next day, and visit the town’s sights as well as the famous caves of Nerja.

We enjoyed a (very rocky) beer as the sun set, and posted a video on Facebook to try and illustrate what a bumpy night we were in for, which several of you commented on and requested an update in the morning (which you most certainly got…!).

We retired down to the cabin, but there was no respite, as everything was squeaking, sliding around, and crashing from side to side. We discussed setting a kedge (second) anchor to keep us into the wind and waves, but the wind was forecast to back right round during the night, and the last thing that we wanted to be was beam on to 1-2m waves all night while at anchor. The cooker gimbals squeak in a way that even WD40 has not been able to completely resolve, and if we lock it off, the shelves and pans inside slide and crash back and forth with a horrid metallic ‘clunk’. Similarly afflicted is our cast iron pan – it crashes around if we keep it in the cupboard, it crashes around if we try and secure it anywhere else (in this case the sink… didn’t work…!). In fact, the same goes for pretty much everything else; the books in their bookshelves with restraining bars, the food in the cupboards, spices in the rack, charts etc in the chart table, and let’s not forget about all the stuff that we just chuck up the front because we can’t be bothered to find anywhere else to put it. Luckily, the bottles of wine are all stored in socks to prevent any breakages!


We settled in for a really frustrating night’s sleep, but it turned out to be nigh on impossible to nod off between getting thrown from side to side of the berth, the constant noise of things sliding all over the place, and a scared puppy’s whining. Even as new parents, this was a level of sleeplessness that we had hitherto not experienced! We considered leaving about 1am, again at 3am, again at 4.30am etc etc, but stuck it out until 7am when we got up and prepared to leave without even a cup of tea or breakfast – an unheard of occurrence!! We got ready to raise the anchor – Me on the helm, Jamie on the windlass (a powered winch-type device that raises the anchor). The windlass button wasn’t working – it had been unreliable the previous day, but had kicked in eventually; today it wouldn’t work at all. The breaker was clicking as if it was raising the anchor, but at the business end nothing was happening. Jamie raised the anchor manually, but just as he was securing it, the CO alarm sounded and I saw smoke coming out of the cabin, I rushed from the helm to see what it was and saw flames coming out of the locker where the ignition key and battery charger are… I shouted ‘fire’ down the boat to Jamie and went down to grab the fire extinguisher and basically fired the entire thing into the locker where the flames were coming from. Jamie came back at this point and we got all our ‘beings’ up on deck and away from the smoke and fine powder which now seemed to be filling the air. Jamie ran up to the front and did an emergency anchor drop, which essentially consisted of dropping a whole load off the front, but although his quick thinking saved us from getting washed on to the beach, he unfortunately injured his hand in the process.

Collateral damage…

We had turned the electrics and engine off by this point and, although the flames appeared to have been extinguished, we made plans to ready the life raft, just in case. I stood by with another fire extinguisher, as well as a knife to cut the straps holding the life raft on and our grab bag, while Jamie cautiously removed the cover to the batteries and the engine. Luckily all was well and the fire was indeed extinguished, but there was a strong smell of burnt matter – cables, boat etc and a layer of fine dry powder over everything. The locker where the fire appeared to have started has vents into adjacent lockers, so the fire had licked through the vents to damage things in the other lockers as well…

Dry powder…everywhere…

Despite the emergency anchor drop, we were closer to the beach than we’d have liked, and with only a couple of meters of water beneath us and a continuing rough sea, we decided that the best course of action was to make everything safe, clean the engine as best possible, especially around the air intake, and try and start it so we could get to a marina where we could assess the damage and take the next steps.

All went well, and the engine started first time and ran well, so we decided to head for Marina del Este – about 8NM eastwards. Caleta de Valez was slightly closer, but is a small fishing harbour with minimal facilities, and we knew we would need an electrician and some extensive cleaning at the very least.

The 8 mile passage was as rough as the previous 48 hours, but Jamie did some great steering up and down the waves while I kept an eye on the boat and our beings. The coastline is absolutely beautiful, and nothing like the built-up Costa we had been looking at thus far, so it made for a nice distraction.

We decided to motor the whole way, which took us about 2 hours, and we arrived in the marina – much relieved – around midday, the morning’s incident having taken about 3 hours of our lives! It was our first Med mooring, and slightly more complicated than a normal finger berth, especially in our not-very-manoeuvrable long keeler (who essentially goes where she wants – especially in reverse) but we are used to her now and, thanks to our friend Bob back in Brighton, usually manage to get the best out of her using the wind and our wits, and we slid into our space and picked up our slime line without too much trouble! There is however, a bit of a swirling undercurrent here, which moves us around a lot more than the fin keel boats around us and our lines surge a bit despite the springs.

Fairleadgate 3!!


Typically this lead to Fairleadgate 3 – a rear fairlead pinging off! But at least it stayed in tact and will be easy to repair – the least of our worries at the moment!




Our first Med mooring!

So, here we are; Marina del Este in Herradura. It is a really beautiful marina – possibly the nicest marina we have ever moored in (sorry Brighton…), the staff are excellent and, although the facilities are a bit limited and it’s extremely expensive, we have been able to start putting things in progress with the insurance and repairs etc. We still have no shore power (240v), but our solar panel and wind turbine are giving us all we need. Dita is enjoying basking in some real sunshine too – a nice change from her normal heat and UV lamps!

We are still not sure what caused the fire; the electrician still has to come and do the investigation (possibly ‘mañana’), but the insurance company loss adjuster came this morning to make his assessment so things are at least starting to move. He said that we had been very, very lucky that we caught the fire in time, and that we should be pleased that we took exactly the right actions, so that was some comfort. He was also a really nice guy, so we had a good chat over a coffee and ahh’d over the infra red camera he’d brought to check any underlying damage to the cables (he also used it to help us trace the source of the water ingress we had discovered dropping from under the head lining on the way over here!).

It is not the sort of incident that most people think they will have to deal with – we certainly didn’t – but it has been a very sobering experience. Because we have so many beings on board, we did have a good emergency and evacuation plan in place for both ourselves and all the pets that we had gone through before leaving (and again since our new member joined us), and we were pleased that we remained calm and the plan worked as well as our practices of it. We are pleased that quick thinking to extinguish the fire and drop the anchor saved both ourselves and our boat. That said, we have learned a lot, and have also now changed a few things as a result. We thought at least some of you a) may be interested and b) may benefit from our experience.

We were amazed by how quickly the fire took hold. Another 20 seconds, and we would not have been able to get through the main hatch. We keep our other hatches shut but not locked, so we would have been able to use the front hatch – we used to keep them locked as well, and boy are we pleased we changed that!!! We would have had to evacuate Hugo and the pets through the front hatch and keep them towards the bow. Had this happened, we are 99% certain we would not have felt able to fight the fire by the time we returned to it, and we would have had to abandon to the life raft.

Having a knife in the cockpit is good, having one on your life jacket or belt is better (if you are wearing it), but we decided that a knife in a scabbard strapped to the handrail next to the life raft made even more sense. If the fire had taken hold and we were all up at the bow, a knife by the raft to cut it lose would have been very handy indeed.

The grab bag needs to be in a handy place to grab… Ours wasn’t, and it was only once we had extinguished the fire and we preparing to do a bit of further investigation that we got the bag together. Although we were only 200m off the beach (so we weren’t thinking about a ‘days at sea survival situation’) our ‘official’ grab bag was in the locker that vented from the battery charger’s locker and was damaged by the fire, so even if we had been able to access it, it would have been useless. We have now changed the location of the (new, undamaged) grab bag so it is more accessible in the event of an emergency.

Alarms. Don’t ignore them. It may just be the annoying beeping of the AIS telling you that you’re about to collide with Rose Rambler of Devon because it doesn’t realise you are Rose Rambler of Devon (I am particularly guilty of ignoring any sound being emitted from the GPS….), but it may also be something else. Like a CO or a gas alarm. Check it out. Every time.

Fire extinguishers. The previous week, I had been on a sailing course, and it was mentioned that a CO2 fire extinguisher is a good idea for the cabin in the case of an engine fire – if you fire CO2 at your engine, you may be able to rescue it, fire dry powder at it and you kiss it goodbye. All our extinguishers are dry powder and the fact that we talked about buying a CO2 one wouldn’t have counted one jot had the fire been engine-related rather than electrical! So we will definitely be getting a CO2 one before we move on from here in the hope we never need it.

We felt able to fight the fire, partly through instinct and adrenaline, and partly because it wasn’t a towering inferno, but had we not done so within 30 seconds or so, it would have been beyond fighting with a 1kg powder extinguisher. We feel very lucky that we have a CO alarm and that one of us was in the cockpit to hear it and see the smoke and flames. Had one of us been single-handing and up at the bow, it could have turned out quite differently. The thought that we could have been in our life raft paddling towards the beach while our home and all our belongings went up in flames before our eyes is a very sobering thought indeed, and one we shall not forget.

On a lighter note… the marina and local area are really lovely, the showers in the marina are jolly nice, and we treated ourselves to a lovely meal last night to celebrate our wedding anniversary (our table overlooked the boat, so we could leave the extended family onboard whilst we ate) – prawns, monkfish and wine. Yum.



5 thoughts on “26. Backdraft!

  1. So glad that you are all ok, and that you were calm and collected to fight the fire. We had a similar experience on a friends boat several years ago, and it is frightening. You are certainly making the adventure a nail biting one!!!
    At least you are all safe, and the boat can get fixed up again.
    We miss our boat a lot, and hope to be back on board by next weekend. Hopefully, all will be ok.
    Hope that all gets fixed soon, and you can continue your adventures, albeit with a little less excitement and more relaxing times ahead.
    Stay safe, and all the best, Ian & Julie (Free Spirit)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi you two!
      Glad to hear that Free Spirit will be fixed up soon – it sounded like a traumatic experience! Has it all been signed off by the surveyor now?
      We are hoping to have more boring blog updates in the future – sticking to some fishing, diving and anchoring, as we feel we have experienced more than enough excitement of the dramatic kind so far!
      Enjoy your move back on board! Any plans to come to the Med (it can be very exciting!!!!)


  2. Dear Rosie & Jamie

    Thank goodness you are all safe……..your blog made me very anxious for your well being but now I know you are a pretty resourceful and did the right things …this gives me confidence. I do hope all the various repairs that now need doing will be possible where you are…. Also I hope that you have recovered from a very unnerving experience and are catching up on sleep.

    Life in Ealing seems pretty uneventful by comparison…..its hot and very humid not good for walking. Tomorrow we have our 100 years big celebration at St Barnabas..lots of people and an Edwardian theme for hats and the afternoon picnics and frolics. Just hope the rain keeps off.

    Thinking of you often…and I will continue to light a candle for all of your adventures.

    Much love Jane xx xx xx


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