Commemorative Cruise to Ramsgate and Beyond - Paul Gilson

As many of you will know the Endeavour will be part of a feature film about the evacuation of Dunkirk. She will be in the thick of it, on the beaches loading troops and taking them to bigger boats offshore. She has done this before, its old hat, this is old news.

Our adventure story starts this year on passage to the Ramsgate rally. When we left Leigh all was fine, we gave a few of our veterans a short trip around the bay and then set off to Ramsgate. As usual the weather turned against us, it was unpleasant to say the least, fresh winds and rain. For the first hour all was well, we were making fair time and passage, but approaching the Red Sand Towers, alarms were activated. The engine was over heating, we checked the over board water and that appeared fine, we checked the water filters and they too were virtually clear. The temperature had dropped whilst we had been doing our checks so we proceeded at reduced speed to Ramsgate.

The Ramsgate commemorative event went off without a hitch but we could not find what had caused the problem even after instruction from our engineer. In the end we finally gave up and asked him to come down and to visit Endeavour to work his magic. He went through the cooling system and found a small amount of sea grass in the oil cooler, once removed we thought that was it, sorted.  How wrong we were! On running the engine, we found that we had developed an oil leak from the gear box. We had to lift Endeavour from the water and remove the rudder and shaft; the gear box also had to come out. On further examination the gear box was found to be beyond repair. This was Tuesday afternoon and we were supposed to be in Dunkirk on Sunday, to start filming on Monday morning.

By Thursday morning I had given up on our 15 minutes of fame, nothing was looking good. However a new gear box was found and on Saturday morning Tom, our engineer, had started fitting it. He felt that all would be ready for us to leave on the Sunday morning and he would work through the night to get it done. Arrangements were made, transport laid on and harbour authorities notified that we would like to be put back in the water on Sunday morning. “No problem, sir, there is an extra charge for Sunday work but it isn’t excessive.”

Well, Tom had just finished his breakfast when we arrived and she was ready for sea.  The crew and I were all fired up to see her under way and for our adventures to start. It took some time to contact the travel hoist operator who forcefully told me that firstly, they do not launch boats on a Sunday and secondly he knew nothing about it. Things became tense; I related my telephone conversations and the extra charge for the Sunday work. He checked his order book and computer and found nothing relating to the Endeavour  recorded. I protested and he looked at his screen again and asked “Is your name Gilson and are you related to John Gilson who has a boat in the harbour?”

“Yes, he is my cousin.”

“Why didn’t you say? I’ll be there in fifteen minutes!”

He was, and within the hour we were afloat and ready to leave, Tom went over everything several times to ensure all was well and finally we set off.

It was a lovely morning, fine, sunny and warm, Jeremy waved us bon voyage. All our equipment was working and the tea was on its way what could go wrong with this I thought? We cleared the Ramsgate breakwater and headed out to sea, I checked our chart plotter for our position and it had switched itself off! I tried to get it to come back on but to no avail, not to worry it was a nice day with good visibility and with the use of a compass, no problem. But this was an Endeavour trip so nothing is ever straight forward!

There was more to come... (To be continued)

On the left, resplendent amid other ‘little ships’ but, on the right, despondent  after  ‘lift out’ for urgent gearbox maintenance

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