Sunday, 8 October 2017

Outlets and gutters

Water water everywhere - which is hardly surprising in a canal environment, but we do find that more water than we'd like ends up in the engine compartment. For a while we added a little tub that caught drips through the engine hatch, but recently the situation seems to have become worse. Where was it coming from?
John tightened gaskets, jubilee clips and checked hoses, but there was no clear culprit. Until now.
A gutter surrounds the engine compartment and should collect surface water towards the stern and into two outlets, directing the water out into the canal. However on close inspection the outlets, hidden in the hull, have small holes and also are low in profile. This means that surface water decays leaves clogging the gutters and water flows over the low edge or through the small holes and ends up in the engine compartment bilges.

It's not so bad that it activates the bilge pump but it's not too good to have water in the bilges.
So John scrubbed the gutters, cleaning them of leaves and scraping away loose material and rust. Then with coats of anti-rust, red oxide, grey undercoat and two coats of gloss, he firmed up the gutters. The rear gutter was more difficult as this acts as a hinge for our hatch - hence in this picture it remains red, though it will be painted again next time.
The outlets, under the rear corners of the gutters, were cleared as far as possible, then a layer of fibreglass added to build them up. Now after several weeks buckets under each outlet remain empty even after rain, so John's treatment seems to have worked.
Next we are to take Patience up to North Kilworth for bottom blacking and for a new hatch, as the present one not only lets in the water but is slippery on the surface and crumbling at the edges. Patience has been cleaned and polished in preparation for her grooming session at Kilworth and is excited about spending a week there!

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Starter motor problem

On several occasions over the last few months, Patience's starter motor has failed to engage and turn over the engine.  Rather than the engine roaring into life, only a rather unsatisfactory click emanated from the starter motor solenoid when the ignition key was turned fully clockwise.

This was diagnosed as either a low battery, loose battery contacts, a fault with the solenoid or the motor itself.  The first cause was eliminated by checking the battery state of charge, which was fine. The second cause was also eliminated by checking that all the battery connections were tight and in good order - they were.  I then disconnected the cables from the solenoid (photo 1) and removed the solenoid from the starter motor.  There was a slight looseness in one of the the electrical connection studs on the top of the solenoid (photo 2) which was corrected by carefully tightening the lower of the two nuts on the stud (not shown in photo 2 but just visible in photo 1). Unfortunately, it's not possible to take the solenoid apart, as it appears to be a factory sealed unit, so it wasn't possible to check the condition of the internal contacts.
Solenoid in place on the starter motor

Solenoid removed, showing electrical connection studs
After cleaning the studs and spade connectors, the solenoid was replaced on the starter motor and the electrical connections restored.  Although I hesitate to claim that the problem has gone away, to date it does seem to have done the trick.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Swing bridges near Foxton

There are two swing bridges to negotiate near Foxton. The first is a pedestrian bridge guarding the entrance to the Market Harborough Arm. This requires a BW key. The helmsman moors up to the left of the bridge while the crew walks across, unlocks the bridge (if clear of pedestrians?!), swings it to the side letting the boat through, then returns it to position before walking back to hop on to the boat moored nearby. This is a quirky little episode but not challenging - unless you're a solo boater. Incidentally it was broken on our last visit (July 2017) - open to boats but pedestrians are re-routed to the fixed bridge.

The second swing bridge is a mile or so further on and, because it is a road bridge you are moving has more safety features, is heavier, and has the added burden of the responsibility for delaying the cars waiting for you to finish.
It may be helpful to describe how to use this bridge so you can approach it with more confidence.
Bear in mind that everything must be done in the correct sequence with every catch, key and barrier slotted in to its correct place or you (and the fuming traffic) will be frustrated.
Also, it's impossible for solo boaters, who must wait for another passing boat to give a hand.

1. Moor up at the bollards before the bridge.
2. Take BW key then walk to and across the bridge
3. Read instructions carefully ...

then insert BW key in the control box (on left of this picture) and give it a quarter turn.

4. If road is clear of traffic, walk back across the bridge and swing the barrier across the road.
5. Walk across the bridge again and close second barrier.
6. Pull red handle to disengage the hook holding the bridge in place.
7. Now you can push, with all your weight, the long grey bar that moves the bridge. Keep going until canal is completely clear.
8. Indicate boat to pass through. Check there are no other boats coming.
9. When boat is completely through close bridge by pushing or pulling on the long grey bar. Make sure it is fully lined up with the road's white lines and check the catch is back into position. Leave the key in!
10. Open the first barrier and push the end into its slot.
11. Walk back across the bridge and open the second barrier.
12. Walk across bridge again to reclaim key and apologise to queue of traffic.
13. Walk back across bridge (for the sixth time!), through the other gate to your boat.

Congratulations. Can you do it quicker next time?

To Market Harborough

The previous post recorded a trip from Welford through Foxton Locks towards Market Harborough, which was then aborted due to a tree across the canal. We repeated this trip and succeeded in reaching Market Harborough this time.
The weather throughout was a perfect balanced of a slight breeze, sunshine and warmth which highlighted the peace and beauty of both the Leicester line and the Market Harborough arm. For us this offers us a restful passage through overhanging greenery punctuated by a tunnel at Husband's Bosworth, the impressive locks at Foxton and the interest of two swing bridges with a final destination in the attractive market town of Market Harborough. It's just two hours from Foxton to Market Harborough, offering a pleasant day out from Foxton.
Market Harborough arm
We recommend the museum and library here, situated in The Symington Building, the old corset factory. We also remember that pioneer of the canal revival, LTC Rolt visited the town in "Cressy" (see chapter 12 of Narrow Boat), and later, with Robert Aikman, proposed the first boat rally at the town, in 1950.
We moored at the beginning of the Market Harborough Arm, which is off the Leicester Line of the Grand Union, with the choice of refreshment from Bridge 61 traditional pub, Foxton Locks busy restaurant and - our preference - The Black Horse at Foxton. We note there is also a steak house at Foxton but we opted for The Black Horse which is just right for us with a range of beers and excellent pub grub, plus wi-fi.
The bottom lock at Foxton
It was a relaxing trip with the exception of one pushy boat who forced his way in front of us and sped ahead at a rate we had neither desire nor ability to compete with. "It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive" and "Boating is the fastest way to slow down" are firmly in our minds.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Welford to Foxton again

For Patience, moored at Welford, the trip to Foxton Locks is a convenient overnight, and could be done in a day. This time we planned to visit Market Harborough which we last visited two years ago.
All started well, though the weather was a bit variable with much putting on and taking off of jumpers and waterproof jackets. Nevertheless we reached Foxton in good time (less than 4 hours) with only a slight collision between our aft rail and the brickwork of the Husband's Bosworth tunnel to spoil the journey. Having swept away the brick dust and found the rail grazed but not injured, we felt inspired to descend the staircase at Foxton, which can take anything between 40 minutes and several hours, depending on traffic. We feared a long queue of boats returning from the Crick event but it was no worse than usual.
We moored conveniently in the basin and celebrated with a beer and a meal at the Foxton Locks restaurant. Very busy here in the warm evening sunshine.
In the morning we headed down the Market Harborough arm, hoping to visit their museum, but unfortunately a fallen tree had blocked the canal - conveniently close to a winding hole for us but inconvenient for those hoping to leave Market Harborough.

With no way of knowing how long the waterway would be blocked we turned and retreated towards Foxton. With noise from Foxton Locks Inn echoing in the distance we decided to try The Black Horse at Foxton - and that was a good choice. It was quiet, attractive pub and grounds, with good beer and very good value lunch. The church is worth a look too. We ambled back to Patience, moored just 100 metres away, and found that the tree was now cleared.
However we were now facing the wrong way so continued towards Foxton where we used the convenient water point to wash the roof.
Now we decided we couldn't be bothered to head to Market Harborough once more so we joined the queue for the locks. Three hours later we emerged at the top lock after more than an hour queuing at the bottom plus an hour or more moored in the centre pound while descending boats passed us by (or nearly collided - Horatio that was close!).
Wooden butty Raymond man hauled through Foxton locks

Working boat ‘Nutfield’ passing Patience in the centre pound at Foxton

One plus from this was that we saw the wooden butty Raymond which was laboriously man hauled through the locks by the volunteer lock keepers. Raymond was the last wooden narrow boat built for carrying in Britain, launched at Braunston in June 1958.

Reaching the top at 7pm, well after the lock keepers' bed times, (we salute you, hard working men!) we moored up near the sculpture of the boy and the horse then walked back to The Black Horse in Foxton. After a close shave with a fast moving black Audi we decided the towpath route was preferable to the country road ....  Nevertheless we had a very good meal and good beer and were able once more to stagger back to our moorings above the locks.
Next day we set of early to return to Welford, a very pleasant trip through dappled shade, with delightful views of the Laughton Hills.  So dreamy that I nearly missed our turning to Welford, we were further surprised to find another Patience just leaving Welford. There are 56  entries for Patience according to The Boat Index so it shouldn't be surprising, but we've only seen three other boats called Patience in our seven years of boating.
Final painting of the fore deck and the roof and another excellent value meal at The Wharf in Welford. It felt like more than three days - but in a good way.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

The Cromford Canal

John and Sarah have been staying next to the Cromford Canal in Derbyshire, another canal now cut off from the main network and therefore inaccessible to Patience.  It was built between 1789 and 1794 by William Jessop and Benjamin Outram to provide a 14.5 mile link between the Erewash Canal and Cromford Wharf, near Richard Arkwright's historic cotton mills. The canal closed for commercial traffic in 1944, but a restored section remains open for a few miles south of Cromford, and on which a horse drawn boat operates as a tourist attraction.
Cromford Wharf
At High Peak Junction, a mile south of the canal terminus at Cromford Wharf, there was an interchange with the Cromford and High Peak Railway, which ran over the Peak District to connect with the Peak Forest Canal at Whaley Bridge, providing a short cut for the shipment of minerals and other goods, thus avoiding a much longer journey via the Trent and Mersey Canal.
High Peak Junction from where the Cromford and Hgh Peak Railway ran behind the buildings
Completed in 1831, the Cromford and High Peak Railway was engineered on similar principles to a canal and comprised a series of relatively level sections connected by very steep inclines (analogous to the locks on a canal), up which wagons were drawn by cables powered by stationary steam engines.
Railway wagon at the top of the Middleton incline
The gradients of the inclines ranged from 1 in 16 to 1 in 8 and it reached 1,266 ft above sea level, the highest point reached by a standard gauge railway in England.  It was in operation carrying freight until 1967 and part of its route now forms the High Peak walking trail.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Re-seating the blanking plate in a Morsø stove

I love wood fired stoves. I have one at home and another is on Patience. Both are about twenty years old and have caused little trouble.
But last year we had to replace the flue collar and this year we noticed smoke appearing from the back of the stove. Looking around the back of the stove I could see that a disk or plate had slipped out from the stove body and that was the source of the smoke. But how to fix it?
Blanking cap at back of stove, viewed from above
Metal wood-burning stoves often provide for the flue to come out from the top, back or sides of the stove, so you can choose your configuration according to where you have your outlet.  Here is another stove I know well, with the blanking cap on top, as the flue comes from the back.

Our flue comes from the top, and Morsø have provided a blanking plate in the back to seal up the unused hole. After twenty years of use ours had come adrift - but we weren't sure whether it had been held in place by gravity, flanges, bolts or some other way. And how could we replace it? Would we have to dismantle the stove? And how would that work anyway? Stoves are included in the boat safety check and must be made safe so something must be done.
After a close examination using mirrors and torches in the small gap between stove and wall we resorted to a web search, first of suppliers, then of forums. And this is what we found:
The plate could easily be removed without damage. We inserted an old screwdriver into the gap and gently levered it out.
Inner face of blanking cap, before cleaning up. Note lug on the left and remains of lug on the right.
The plate had been held in place by two lugs screwed to the inner edge of the plate. This made them inaccessible from the outside.
The body of the stove was in satisfactory condition but there was debris, black and gritty, inside the hole and around the edges.
We also found that gaining access to the inside of the hole from the front of the stove was prevented by the baffle, a metal shield which directs smoke up the chimney. Some people say you can remove the baffle to get access to the hole but we found it was very firmly held in place.
Stove from the front, grate removed. The baffle is a false back to the stove with a sloping internal roof
All of which provided a solution to the problem. This is what we did:
1. Remove the plate, as above, gently levering it off if it hasn't already fallen out.
2. Clean the plate and the rim of the hole with a wire brush, especially the edges.
3. Remove as much of the debris from inside the hole as you can and dispose of it. You may find the broken lug(s)! Test to see that the cleaned plate fits neatly into the hole. You might have to cut away any remains of a lug.
4. Buy some fire cement.
5. Brush a little water onto the edge of the plate and the edge of the hole.
6. With a spatula, press a layer of fire cement all around the edge and outer surface of the hole.
7. Place the plate neatly and firmly into the hole. Push firmly. With a small hammer and a short length of timber you should be able to tap the plate firmly so that it is almost flat to the back of the stove. Don't hammer the stove or the plate directly. Remove any cement that has squeezed out and check there are no visible gaps.

And that's it! Let the cement dry according to the instructions on the pack. Take the opportunity to clean the rest of the stove and to tidy your log pile. Check carefully that the plate remains in place and that no more smoke comes from the stove back. Check this as part of normal maintenance: it's a health and safety issue.
If your blanking plate is damaged or warped you can buy a replacement from any Morsø supplier. Measure your blanking plate and make sure you know the correct model of stove.