It was the day of the Sunderland Airshow, and my husband, Mike, and I were celebrating our 28th wedding anniversary. It was also a long planned reunion with four friends from London, including Paul who had been our best man, and Matthew who had been one of our ushers. Mike dished out lifejackets and a comprehensive safety brief and spirits were high as we all left Royal Quays in our Sigma 362, along with our son Robin, and headed off in the fine weather. What could possibly go wrong ………
We anchored off Whitburn Steel as the airshow was starting and enjoyed some quality catch up gossip. Time for a cup of tea, and Paul’s wife Alex joined me in the cabin. Mike turned on the gas up in the cockpit, and I switched it on at the isolator switch in the aft cabin, lit the gas ring and turned it to low for a second while I filled the kettle. Still chatting away about life, the world and everything I plonked the kettle on the hob to clamp it in place. From nowhere flames leapt high around the kettle. Alex and I stared in horror as I yelled ‘Mike! Fire!’
I’ve always wondered how I would react in such a situation, but found myself to be about the calmest I’ve ever been! In an instant clouds of black smoke were billowing around the cabin and bits of carbon started floating about. So many thoughts went through my mind in that split second (Was the roof lining fire retardant? Was anyone going to panic? What was causing the fire for goodness’ sake???) but the loudest voice in my head was that of Melvyn telling me that my fire blanket was positioned in the wrong place immediately above the hob. Mike and I had acknowledged this at the time, but in true Hartley domestic discord fashion we had not been able to agree on where to move it to, so we’d just left it until we could think of a better solution. The fire blanket!! A quick yank of the pull cord nearest to me and I had the blanket. I shook it out, and placed it over the flames. I turned to find Alex with a fire extinguisher at the ready – she’d clearly listened to the safety brief and knew where to find one. Gas off at all three points, and a quick peek under the blanket showed that the flames were just about out. The culprit had been a folded piece of plastic non-slip matting which must have been stuck to the bottom of the kettle and had remained unnoticed even while I was filling it. Hatches were opened for a bit to dispel the smoke, and there was stoical acknowledgement all round that Diet Coke or bottled water would have to suffice.
In hindsight, I have learnt two lessons. The first is to give a clear instruction, ie Fire! At the cooker! Mike pointed out afterwards that from his perspective the fire could have been coming from either the engine or the cooker as he could see the clouds of smoke but I hadn’t been specific. The second lesson is to take good advice when it is given. The fire blanket has now been replaced, and relocated…..
We went on to thoroughly enjoy the delights of the Red Arrows, the Spitfire and the Typhoon. A couple of hours of Karen versus the carbon later in the week eliminated all evidence of the fire. A fabulous, memorable day all round!