Thursday, 7 December 2017

Walking Through Spring

It may not seem topical, but I've been reading a delightful book about walking from south to north across England and following the slow spread of spring northwards.
Walking Through Spring is by Graham Hoyland and the author muses on countryside matters as he walks along rural ways.
A passage about horse-drawn narrow boats and canals caught my eye.
It is calculated that one US gallon of fuel can move a ton of cargo 533 miles by barge, 209 miles by rail or 61 miles by truck.
"An eighteenth century canal horse could pull a 30-ton load at a steady 2 miles per hour with no noise and only the occasional pollutant, which could be used to fertilise the fields."
The load was ..."around a hundred times the horse's own body weight and about fifty times more than it could manage using a cart on ancient roads."
This was a highly efficient transport system - the best in its day. If even a small fraction of the loads carried by trucks across our roads was transferred to the canals I'd be pleased, but sadly trans-shipment costs and the limited number of large wharfs in the right places mean that we are unlikely to see much being transferred to our canals.
Hoyland did not give the mileage for a diesel-powered barge....
 

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Cotswold Canals


The Cotswold Canals, comprising the The Stroudwater Navigation and The Thames & Severn Canal, formed an early 36 mile link between the Thames at Lechlade and the River Severn at Saul Junction. It provided a through route between Bristol and London before the Kennet and Avon Canal opened. The Cotswold Canals fell out of use before the Second World War.  The Cotswold Canals Trust has restored sections of the Stroudwater Navigation, but much of the Thames and Severn Canal is still in a derelict state and some sections have been filled in.  John and Sarah have been staying near Cirencester and walked a short stretch along the towpath of the derelict section between the Gateway Bridge at Cerney Wick and South Cerney locks. The following photo is of one of the pair of locks at Wildmoorway, showing the lockkeeper's cottage, now restored as a private dwelling.
Unfortunately, this is yet another West Country canal that Patience is unlikely to be able to visit - like the Somerset Coal Canal, the Grand Western Canal, the Itchen Navigation or the Bude Canal!  Never mind - there is still plenty to go for on the main network!

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Ready for winter

Today was bracing, with a chill wind, but the rain held off and the middle of the day was quite warm. A good day to collect Patience from the tender care of the folks at North Kilworth Wharf who have given her a proud black bottom and a new hatch over the engine - as well as a pump out. This was good work at a fair price and we are very pleased. Once again we can stand firmly at the stern without worrying that we would slip and slide away.
And so we should add to our annual servicing a coat of varnish to the edges of the hatch as it was damp creeping in from the sides that caused the previous hatch to swell.
Returning with pride to Welford (and being extra careful to avoid scraping her freshly painted hull) we enjoyed the usual excellent lunch at The Wharf before setting to with winterising.
We've given details of winterising elsewhere but in summary we've drained the water from tank, taps, shower and loo, changed the oil in gearbox and engine and given her a general brush up before the winter sets in. Patience will be generally on her own until the spring so it's important that things are ship shape and closed up. It may not feel as if she will be ice-bound, but it's only a few years since this is what happened on the Old West river -

Yes that really is ice and snow, in 2010
I also took away any food that was out of date, listing it all so we can replace with basic food next year. See the article on basic food for your boat.

Homeward go beans, tomatoes, soups, pasta sauce and long-life (not long enough!) milk.
Meanwhile John enjoyed messy play with oil ...
So rest quietly, Patience. We'll pop in to check you're OK when we are passing, but there's no need to stir until spring.


Monday, 23 October 2017

Blacking

Every four years Patience has her bottom blacked with a couple of coats of bitumen. This is essential to keep her hull in good shape, preventing pitting of the metal.
Though this can be a DIY job we've found that the cost of landing her is greater than the cost of having someone paint her and it is a messy job, so we pay a bit to have someone do it for us.
This is the fourth time we've had Patience in dry dock and it's interesting to compare the techniques as well as simply staring at the parts of her that aren't usually visible.
First time was for her very first inspection, a survey in dry dock when we were considering the purchase. Fascinating to see her bottom for the first time!
Second time was for blacking at Earith. A broken crane caused delays (she was craned out of the water in a sling) and perhaps the blacking was put on in a bit of a rush, but no harm done. And we did have the chance to see one of the grey seals that have made their home in the marina.
Third time was in the comfort of the workshop at Oundle, where we were moored.  We had an Oundle man apply the blacking then we paid for an extra few days under cover while we painted her up in other areas more easily reached when she was out of the water.

And now the time has come again, and we have brought Patience to the workshop at North Kilworth Wharf, where she will be cared for this week. This is the tractor that towed her out of the water into the slipway. First you float the boat over a cradle that is attached to a long towing pole. Then the tractor tows the cradle out of the water, with the boat resting on top.
Now we have our first view for four years of the condition of the hull. Surprisingly there are large numbers of fresh water mussels clinging to her.
Patience is here on the cradle which in turn rests on wheels on rails.


 In addition to blacking they will weld on some sacrificial anodes. These are blocks of magnesium which are bolted to the hull and corrode faster than, or in place of, the metal of the hull and prop, thereby giving protection. It is important to check the anodes, as they prevent electrolytic corrosion of the steel plate and the bronze stern gear. And we don't want the steel hull to wither away ....

And so we leave Patience for a few days while the hard working guys at North Kilworth dry her off, paint on the bitumen, weld new anodes and attend to her every need. More details next week.
And by the way, don't confuse the well established wharf at North Kilworth with the yet unfinished new marina. A lot of work going on there and it will be a fine sight, but we prefer the well established wharf.



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?