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 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. Ours 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.





Friday, 21 April 2017

Servicing the glow plugs



The glow plugs are essential for starting the engine from cold and we normally switch them on for about 15 to 20 seconds before turning over the starter motor on the BMC 1.8 litre engine.  Two of the glow plugs can be seen just below the fuel injection nozzles in the above photo of the starboard side of the engine. As it's some time since the glow plugs have been checked and it is recommended that they are removed and cleaned after every 600 hours of running, I decided that this task should be undertaken as part of this year's annual engine service.

An 8 mm spanner is needed to undo the cables from their terminals (don't lose the plain washers between the nuts and the spade connectors!) and then a 12 mm ring spanner is needed to unscrew the plugs from the engine block.  It is unusual to find metric parts on the BMC engine; most of the nuts and bolts require A/F spanners.  Accessibility is limited, particularly in the case of the front cylinder glow plug, which is tucked away in an awkward position behind the alternator.  The task would be made easier with a ratchet ring spanner (not a socket spanner, as the plugs are too long), although it can be done with a simple ring spanner and a modicum of patience. If it is some time since they were last taken out, the build up of carbon may make their removal more difficult, but do persevere, as they will come loose eventually with a little gentle encouragement. You may need to keep turning them, even after the thread on the plug is clear of the tapped hole in the block.

Patience's glow plugs were generally not too carbonised and were easy to wipe clean, and all registered a resistance of about 1 ohm.  This corresponds to a current of 12 A per plug (48 A for all four) or 144 Watts per cylinder at a nominal battery voltage of 12V. However I did notice that the centre terminal of one of was slightly loose in the housing.  I ordered a replacement from Calcutt Boats and it arrived in the post less than 48 hours later - fantastic service. The resistance of the new plug was a little higher at 1.4 ohms, which is either a specification change or the build up of dirt on the old ones may be lowering their resistance slightly. 

Before replacing the plugs in the block I inserted and rotated by hand the recommended 11/64 in (4.37 mm) diameter drill into the holes to clear any carbon build-up.  It is a good idea to coat the drill with grease so that the carbon particles can be removed on the drill rather than falling into the cylinders.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

In Praise of Welford

Patience is moored at a marina in Welford, on the border of Northants and Leicestershire. It's on a short arm that leads in a couple of miles to the Grand Union, so very convenient.
Our mooring is quiet and comfortable, not posh but it does the job, with a good pub, The Wharf, access to water and some maintenance and less than an hour away from the chandelry at North Kilworth.
Why boast about it now? Because today was the first warm sunny day in ages and I felt the urge to pop across and tend to Patience who has been sitting quietly without us for too long.
I drove across and found her happily bobbing at her mooring, few other people around. I gave her an airing, brushed off the inevitable leaves and twigs, started her up without trouble and let her tick over for ten minutes while I checked out any other problems. But, no problems, no damp patches, peeling paint or stains and so, while John plans to clean the plugs and before we re-fill her with water, I took an excellent lunch at The Wharf then went for a stroll around the reservoirs that provide the water for the Welford Arm and thence to the Grand Union.



 This is the causeway between two connected reservoirs that feed the Welford Arm.

And this is a narrow channel as an overflow connecting the two.
A path near the reservoirs is part of the Jurassic Way, a long-distance footpath of 88 miles connecting the Oxfordshire town of Banbury with the Lincolnshire town of Stamford. It is mostly in Northamptonshire and follows an ancient Jurassic limestone ridge.

Just three miles away is a monument commemorating the Civil War Battle of Naseby (14th June 1645).
All in all several very good walks to be had around Welford, with details available from the pub or on information boards next to the marina.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Swedish Winter

I've spent January scanning old photographs - negatives and slides. Very nostalgic.
Patience has been frozen in before now - here she is in 2010 on the Old West river -
but we seem to have avoided ice and snow recently.
Long long ago I worked for a year in Sweden, in a steel town called Fagersta which is in Västmanland. An industrial town producing steel, it has a canal nearby called the Strömsholmskanal, linking Lake Mälaren  to Smedjebacken and created to transport the product of the iron foundries.
It was always worth a stroll, especially on bright winter days, and here are three photographs of one of the 26 locks, 6 of which are in Fagersta. The ice and snow gives it a certain excitement, I think.



It is 62 miles long, took 18 years to build, between 1772 and 1795, and is now used only by leisure craft. I gather the canal has been renovated since I was there in 1976. Sadly I don't think Patience will make it to Fagersta and the Strömsholmskanal.

As a footnote I note that Thomas Telford (engineer of 17 canals and many bridges, including Caledonian Canal and the Pontycysyllte Aqueduct), had a hand in the early stages (1810) of the Göta canal in south west Sweden. That is not connected to this earlier canal, however.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Annual Service

As the clocks go back and the nights draw in, it's time to give Patience her annual service and get her ready for the winter. As well as the usual oil changes (engine and gearbox), filter changes (engine oil and fuel), checking and adjusting the tappets, checking the anti-freeze concentration, the electrolyte levels in the batteries and draining down the domestic water system, there were a couple of engine parts that needed replacing this time.
We had noticed a slight leak in the flexible high pressure oil pipe that runs from one side of the main cylinder block to the other (see photos). 
Original flexible oil crossover pipe going into port side of engine block
Flexible pipe connected to the starboard side of the engine below the fuel filter
The first photo shows one end of the pipe on the port side just below the gearbox oil cooler and the second photo shows the other end where it connects to the block below the fuel filter. Although the leak (where the flexible hose is swaged to the end fitting) wasn't yet serious, it is an indicator of a potential weakness that could be serious if it failed suddenly and led to a loss of engine oil pressure.

I discussed the problem with the very helpful people at Calcutt Boats, who are specialists in BMC marine diesels.  They recommended replacing it with a steel pipe pre-formed to the correct shape, which they stock in their chandlery as part number BM2M56598.  It was a surprisingly easy job to remove the old flexible pipe and replace it with the new one, which fitted round all the engine auxiliaries. This should last as long as the rest of the engine.

While removing the rocker box cover to check the tappets, I also took the opportunity of replacing the rocker box gasket, which had lost its flexibility and was showing signs of leaking.  The only task that remains to be done on the engine is cleaning out the heater plug ports (recommended every 600 hours running) but time was getting on so I left that for another day!

[See also last year's Annual Service blog entry]