The smoke pothered out of the engine room when John opened the door. We had left harbour and were motoring out parallel to the sea wall, some five hundred meters off, when John smelled burning and glanced over at the engine instruments in time to see all the screens go blank. He dashed below, opened the engine room door and yelled for me to turn the engine off. We all sat up in the cockpit and put our life jackets on. John radioed the marina for help and the girl on the other end was very efficient and told us not to worry, someone would come out to us. John and I struggled to put out fenders in anticipation as Lyra pitched from side to side. One rolled along the deck and into the water in that seeming slow motion, which is nonetheless too quick to pre-empt. By the time we had reached for the boat hook the fender was too far off to catch. We sat in the cockpit and rocking and rolling silently in the swell. Lara voiced the opinion we should all go sit at the bows, rather than on top of the smoking engine. This was a good point, but John and I had been out there and did not fancy ending up like the fender. I watched it drift further away, heading for Benidorm and wondered if that would be our trajectory. Moments passed and it seemed we were heading on a different track towards the local rocks. John was about to radio again when we saw a rib emerge from the harbour mouth and head our way at speed. It was a reassuringly big rib with two men on board. I put a rope onto the middle cleat for them to tie onto and wobbled my way to the stern to sit in one of the seats there.
They came closer, we watched as the driver pointed at our fender and the two men exchanged words, but kept on heading our way. The younger guy driving was English, such a comfort in the circumstances; John was able to explain the sequence of events to him exactly. He relayed them in rapid Spanish to his companion, then nosed the rib up close and the other man stepped up onto our deck over the guiderail with seemingly little effort. He shuffled out of his sandals and disappeared below with John, leaving his shoes swaying worryingly on the side deck. The younger chap asked if that was ours pointing at our now distant fender and, on hearing it was, set off to recover it. He then kept his distance till his colleague re-emerged. They exchanged words in Spanish and engineer waved his arm towards the shore and said, “Vamoose”. He went forward and they tied the rib to the front cleats on a long rope. Then with John steering they used the rib as our engine to propel us back into port, the engineer standing nonchalantly at the prow.
Once in the harbour entrance our heroes exchanged the tow to a smaller craft, the Englishman bidding us to put all our fenders low down on the port side, as we were heading for the boatyard. He tossed our wayward fender into the smaller boat and waved us goodbye as we called out our thanks. We limped through the marina past all the expensive yachts to where a line of men waited along the concrete quay. The engineer, still on out foredeck, cast off the tow and John coasted in. I threw the midline to one man and Lara handed the stern line to another, the engineer fastened the bow with a rope from the quay and we all heaved a sigh of relief to be tethered safely to the shore. After that another man came onboard and worked with the engineer trying to start the engine, as the acrid smell from the engine room permeated the boat. Their diagnosis was that our starter motor had failed to disengage and so had been driven by the engine and burnt out. This is an unusual problem. There would be no solution to it this side of the weekend; meanwhile we could stay where we were. This was very good of them, as we must be in their way. It is quite a good berth, fastened alongside not far from all the restaurants and bars