The Day the Engine Wouldn’t Start

What was to be a short journey to the next Ria turned into a long day, our intermittent engine start issue raised its head and wouldn’t start full stop.  We departed Ribeira and sailed nicely in moderate winds.  We had sailed into the Ria de Pontevedra and were approaching the masses of large floating muscle rafts outside Combarro when we decided it was time to start the engine in preparation for getting through the mussel farms and to pick our spot in the anchorage.  

It wasn’t to be, no matter what Phil did there was no response from the engine.  We turned into the wind away from the mussel farms and dropped the main sail (to slow us down) and slowly drifted under head sail back out into the middle of the Ria.  We continued in this fashion for the next three hours, Maree on the helm keeping us away from trouble in the main part of the Ria back and forth across the bay whilst Phil tried everything he could possibly think of to get the engine to start – without success.  

There was nothing for it, we were going to have to sail into the anchorage, something we hadn’t done before.  We usually sail in pretty close, but motor the last part as we are very vigilant at doing a few laps around the anchorage to check the bottom and depths before deciding on a final place to drop the anchor.  

My mind cast back to the day before when we watched John and Kara on Sentijn (the professionals) sail onto anchor … they made it look easy … we will be fine … but ‘geez’ i wish it was something we had of practiced before having to actually do it!

We changed tack and headed around the bottom island in the Ria still under head sail only in flukey winds, anything from 10 knots to zero, making it a slow journey.  We actually launched the dingy as we were going as a backup in case we lost all wind behind the island and needed a bit of help to encourage Red Roo into shallower water.  Of course once we had the dingy in and tied off the wind increased again and we made 3 knots of speed towards the anchorage … comforting, progress, slow and controlled …. we can do this.

I have to admit I was pleased to see only two other boats in the anchorage leaving plenty of room for us to come in. We picked our spot, talked over the plan (again) and went for it.  Once on our spot I turned Red Roo into the wind to stop her and Phil was at the bow to deploy the anchor.  We didn’t quite have enough momentum in the light winds to make the turn all the way around into the wind but as we stopped I furled the head sail (so we didn’t start sailing sideways) and Phil dropped the anchor, it grabbed well.  Relief.

The shore at Combarro with hórreos (store houses)

Well … kind of relief, we were anchored and secure, but we still couldn’t start the boat.  Phil had tried every trick he knew and some more, redid all his tests and couldn’t figure it out. He took the battery out, and replaced it with the windlass battery (which worked on the windlass) without success, he tried the bow thruster battery (which worked for the thruster) but the engine still wouldn’t start.  That was enough for the day, we slept on it and the following day load tested the battery, which indicated the battery  life had ended. we took the dinghy ashore to the marina to seek assistance.

Using the borrowed jump start for the engine start battery

With our poor Spanish and the harbour masters decent English he arranged for someone to come and test the battery for us and confirmed that the battery life had ended.  The harbour master was very helpful and also called the chandlers (boat shop) a couple of towns away and got prices for us on a new battery to be delivered.  Phil was still not entirely convinced it was solely the batteries, he was worried there were other issues also as it still wouldn’t go with other batteries that were working in the boat, also the price of the new battery seemed excessive so he made the decision we were going to travel onto Vigo in the boat.  Vigo being a bigger regional city with much more services to assist in what could potentially be a big job.  The marina lent us a portable jump starter unit to allow us to get Red Roo started to make the journey to Vigo.

Despite the drama’s above we did explore Combarro, a small fishing village famous for  its beach Hórreos which we had seen a lot of in Spain, so it was great to understand more about them.

Traditional Spanish Hórreos
Wooden hórreos, notice the legs to keep them high and dry as well as the vermin proof stones at top of legs

Hórreos are mainly used as a warehouse to dry, keep safe and preserve corn or potatoes and sometimes even ham and fish.  They rest on pillars to keep them off the ground protecting them from damp and the large flat stones at the top of the pillars make them rodent proof.  Although nowadays hórreos are usually made of wood and stone, their walls were originally built with plaited cane and had a thatched roof.  The towns name of Combarro means “coast with hórreos”




Arriving at the busy waterfront city of Vigo, was a hit to the senses.  Ferries moving fast in the water and people everywhere, a real buzz in the air with a huge festival in progress around the marina and waterfront with massive stages, jumps and ramps set up for skateboarding, BMX and motorbike competitions, displays and bands.  The big ferries also departed from the other side of the wall where Red Roo was tied up in the marina taking people out to the national park islands off Ria de Vigo and the lines were huge with a constant flow of people and ferries.

Screen Shot 2018-08-26 at 11.07.30 am
Red Roo Ribeira to Combarro (with engine start issue in red) then onto Vigo and Baiona

However we remained focussed on our objective to get a new start battery for the engine, and to resolve any other issues we can find with the system.  After serious consultation with David and John (both seasoned sailors) over a few beers and also quite a few wines (it was a big discussion) and subsequently load testing all the batteries, it was decided we probably actually needed 3 new batteries, one for the engine, bow thruster and windlass (anchor winch).  It was going to hurt the pocket, especially after replacing the  four house batteries earlier in the year in the UK.  But as John so sensibly put it, batteries although a big outlay to buy at the time, pay for themselves easily . .  . if we were living in a house we would be paying power, water, utility bills which would add up over the year to a lot more than the cost of the batteries which we have already gotten 3 years good service out of.  

Phil sourced the best place in town for batteries, struck a deal for buying three and arranged delivery.  They arrived at 8pm and were installed within the hour.  Red Roo started up immediately . . . but, there still is another underlying fault as since the battery replacement we have still had a intermittent start issue believed to be the start switch, so we are now also looking to order a new one of those.

So after two nights in the marina we were off again, just a short sail across the bay back out to the entrance to anchor in a sheltered bay with a lovely long white sandy beach … a nudist beach!

Red Roo on anchor off the Nudist Beach (nicknames Bare Ass Bay)
The view from shore, lots of people walking (or parading) along the beach

We stayed three nights, but can assure you it wasn’t the nudity that kept us there, it was the lovely beach, and the unfavourable wind direction for the next anchorage. 

We did go to shore for an afternoon, keeping our kit on, and were entertained by all the shapes, sizes and colours.  We have never seen so much walking on a beach, hundreds of people back and forth from one end to the other strutting their stuff!!! 

John, Phil & David at the Nudist Beach …. with their shorts on!

We then kept our beach visits to the smaller beach that put some rocks between us and the exhibitionists.

Sentijn, Taipan and Red Roo Crews on the Beach.  L to R; Dean, Kara, Kris, John, Phil & David

We had been hoping to stop at the anchorages off the National Park Islands at the entrance to the Ria, which we had applied for and received permission to navigate through but the winds had been blowing into the anchorage and they limit the numbers of boats able to anchor each night, and it was fully booked for the two nights that would have been suitable, a shame as they looked lovely and some great nature hikes on the island too.

Dinghy fun, three dinghies rafted up travelling from beach to boats

We motored around to the next Ria into Baiona (as the wind was on the nose against us), but as compensation we caught a couple of nice size mackerel along the way for dinner.  

Baiona is a beach holiday town, with several beaches all very close to the town and all full of people each day.  It has a population of just over 11,000 which rises to around 45,000 in the summer.  It is also on the Portuguese Way path of the Camino de Santiago and around 30,000 hikers also visit each year as part of their pilgrimage.

The town has a fort “Castelo de Montereal” which looks down over the bay and marina.


The town is also famous as the sailing ship Pinta (one of the ships from Columbus voyage to the New World) returned to Europe and docked here in March 1493 making the town the first to receive news of the discovery of America.

Replica of the Pinta in Baiona

We are looking forward to our next destination Porto, a new country and very excited to have  some of Phil’s family from the UK meeting us there for a few days break and then William is staying on to sail with us for a week from Porto to Lisbon.  New crew, very exciting.

2 Comments on “The Day the Engine Wouldn’t Start

  1. Such adventures – what a beautiful place of the world. I could definitely see myself visiting those bay’s. Hope 3’s not a crowd for you both. Hugs xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. J’ ai beaucoup aimé les horreos . C’est magnifique . J ‘espère que vous allez pouvoir continuer sans panne ! Bon voyage

    Liked by 1 person

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