We have done it!

After 22 years, I am now proud to announce that K3Bluebird is again in working order and the date of 26th June 2012 is now in the history books.

Much work was completed in the last two weeks and the day was booked with Bewl Valley Sailing Club for Bluebird’s first water trials.

Dave Chappell of 360 Diggers as ever was willing to supply the transport to Bewl. Myself, My father -in –law, Mick Waller and ‘ace’ lorry driver –Gary, loaded Bluebird and all the kit needed during the afternoon of 25th. At 7.30am prompt on 26th, we pulled out of the yard for the short journey to Bewl and arrived on time for 9am.

My team of Andy Taylor, Richard Millar, Mick Waller and Martyn Anderson were all present. Also four members of the CMBA including Geoff Allcorn and Steve Carpenter were on station working with support boats and generally helping with organising matters out on the reservoir. We also had the invaluable help from Bewl Valley Sailing Club Staff.

Our first task after unloading and floating K3 was our final transmission test that involved running the prop for the first time. To achieve this we had to strap K3 to her cradle and attach the front of the cradle to the lorry making sure that the prop and external cutlass were submerged before attempting the test. After thoroughly warming the engine, we were now ready. The engine was stopped, dog clutch engaged, gear box scavenge pump switched on and prop seal lubrication cock turned on and we were ready to start. Nervously I pressed the start button and almost immediately the engine fired and Bluebird’s prop was spinning for the first time in 75 years. Even at tick over speed you could tell that the prop was really shifting some water and that K3 just wanted to get up and go. We ran the test for 10 minutes, stopped the engine to do some basic checks, to our satisfaction everything checked out and we were now ready to attempt a first low powered run.

Bluebird was towed to clear water with the engine running and pointed in the right direction across the lake, again the engine was stopped, dog clutch engaged etc, the throttle set at tick over and the start button pressed. The engine fired straight away and Bluebird’s response was immediate and she was away under her own power for the first time.  During the tick over run, the steering was tested and the vessel was found to steer Port and Starboard very well, even at a tick over speed the support boats were starting to struggle to keep up. We soon found ourselves at our turning point and made a beautiful Port side turn and as I headed back to base camp I was tempted to open the throttle, I maintained my discipline and kept at tick over speed until it was time to stop the engine to be towed back to the moorings. All I could think was that we had made history and how I wished my Dad could have been there to see it. Bluebird now moved under her own power.

The second run

After the usual basic checks and particular attention paid to the temperature of the step up box which was running as cool as a cucumber, a second run was to follow, we decided on a faster run to get the ram cooling system working.

The same procedure was followed and K3 was towed to clear water ready for another run. Again the engine fired and we were off on a quarter throttle second run, very quickly the bow went up and Bluebird was trying to climb over her bow wave. I stuck at quarter throttle and gradually she climbed over the top and to my amazement we were on the plane. I soon noticed that we were gaining speed rapidly and that I hadn’t moved the throttle, after about another 10 seconds I decided discretion was the better part of valour and started to ease the throttle off, as I back off, momentarily she seems to speed up and then squirm a little as she comes down off the plane. I make a port side turn and head back. I let the wake from my first run pass by and throttle up and quite soon K3 is back up on the plane. All too quickly it is time to slow down being mindful not to allow the stern wave to swamp the back of the boat. Down to tick over speed and a very successful second run. By this time we are starting to feel very confident that all our hard work has paid off. We decided it was time for lunch!

Lunch time and then the third and final run

Bewl Valley sailing Club put on a superb buffet lunch for all the crew and of course all the talk was about K3 and what we had achieved that morning. After lunch we prepared for our third and final run of the day which was planned to be our fastest yet. After warming the engine we were towed to our start position and we prepared for the final run. The button was pressed but K3 refused to fire, we tried various throttle and choke settings but in the back of our mind, the one thing we did not want to do, was to flood the engine, eventually Richard Millar came on board and had a look down the inlet and decided more fuel was necessary”it’s no good, you’ll have to give it more gas”. So I set at ¾ throttle and full choke and again tried to start, with an enormous roar we were away, I took the choke off as soon as she fired, she cleared her throat and we were underway. At ¾ throttle she was up onto the plane very quickly and we were going faster than ever before, the speed was climbing very quickly and I was able to back down to ½ throttle and still maintain the same speed. I do not the exact speed that was achieved but it certainly felt very quick to me. I had been given permission to use one of the legs of the reservoir for extra running room and I was heading down this area very quickly. I soon become aware that the area of water is becoming very narrow and I need to start slowing down ready to turn, as I turned to head back, I had a quick check of the instruments and all was good. As I look up I see some distance away the support boats are still trying to catch me up. I decide that everything is ok and start to head back. As I start to throttle up I start catching the wake from my first run and the ride starts getting exciting. After clearing the wake I accelerate to ½ throttle and we are again reaching a fair speed. The support boats have turned and are heading back. I soon catch them, pass them and leave them behind but this is all being filmed by Phill and Lisa Beany on the main support boat ( I can tell you that we have some superb footage). The Club house and Moorings are looming up quickly and again it is time to slow down but what an experience it has been to pilot K3. K3 is still a very fast boat.

It has always been my Father’s dream and ambition to be able to run K3 at a decent demonstration speed and I am happy to say that we are now able to do just that.

A Massive thank you must go to Bewl Valley Sailing Club and Southern Water for allowing us to use the slip pontoon and reservoir also to Dave and Jasmine at 360Diggers LTD transport and driver Gary, to Andy Taylor, Richard Millar, Mick Waller and Martyn Anderson, to Geoff and Steve and the boys from the CMBA, to Lisa and Phill Beany photography, all of which without the help this special day would not have happened.

I would like to dedicate the day to the memory of my late Father, PAUL FOULKES HALBARD.

More pictures to follow soon