Old smokey

Braunston Church

Braunston Church

It has all been a bit quiet on this blog for  a bit. Not that  there hasn’t been things going on, just that I wasn’t sure where things were leading. “What things?” you may ask. “you get on the boat, point it one way or the other and off you go. After all canals basically go one of two directions, not exactly easy to get lost is it? And when there is a junction it is not like approaching a motorway slip road when you have about 30 seconds from seeing the junction to working out whether you have to turn off or not. More likely you have time to make a brew, and sit pondering the next turn whilst drinking tea and eating several custard creams.”

Anyway that’s not what I was getting at. As Lance Armstrong would not have said ”it is all about the boat”.

One of the narrow canals (Coventry)

One of the narrow canals (Coventry)

The last few days coming back from the potteries it got noticeably smoky. In fact the last day I had to vacate the boat whilst the exhaust fumes dispersed after starting it up. There was definitely something seriously wrong and the fumes were leaving me with an inflamed chest. Was this the end, for the boat not me, mind it wasn’t that great. Mike, my mechanic whizz son, suggested it could be air starvation and I should check the air filter. I was surprised to find that it was oiled up.


I’ll not bore you with my attempts to put it right: shopping around to find “Restore”; the correct fan belt being too tight; an air filter change; problems with oil filters; dismantling and overhauling the starter motor.

But I read two things about using Restore to reduce smoke from an engine. One said it worked great on their canal boat, another said don’t touch it with a barge pole because it nearly wrecked his truck engine. Except he didn’t say barge pole, that is something we boaters use, they don’t fit into truck cabs.

Anyway having done this work the engine sounded much worse, perhaps the truck driver was right.  So I called out a professional engineer for an opinion. The noise when started was really like a bag of spanners, he thought at first it was terminal.

We talked about the cost of a new engine, about £7000 installed. So we thought we would have another listen, he reckoned it was not the engine but the gear box, drive shaft or something else. The smoke was not so bad now probably due to the change of air filter.


“What filter is it?” he asked.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you do wish the expert had not asked you that question, the one you hoped he was not going to ask? There was a pause, he put his head on one side and raised his eyebrows, obviously encouraging me to answer.

“Well, err, it was one of those disposable mesh type ones, like you get in a vacuum cleaner or cooker hood. I err .. heard you could make a new one from cooker hood filter, err.. so that is what it is.”.

This time it was his turn to pause. I wondered if I had spoiled a boat for a ha’p’orth of filter.

“Oh , OK “ he said and that was that. Phew!

His conclusion was that there was nothing too badly wrong with the engine but something serious with the drive gear. He gave me a few hints on how to dismantle and his details should I need his help if I got stuck.

During the following couple of weeks I dismantled this and that, frequently considering if I would have to get the boat towed into dock, if I should chuck it all in and sell the boat. Even if I could sell it without getting it fixed.

So that is the reason for no blogging, all a bit depressing, going nowhere and through my mind the old saying was on constant replay.

How do you make a small fortune with a boat?  Start with a big fortune.


And what’s the outcome? Well I never did get the drive plate out, the gear box felt OK (who am I to know any different?), several bolts were missing or loose (I am still working on that) and one thing that had been niggling me. That starter motor. I had asked the guy if the noise could be made if I had put it back incorrectly, he didn’t think so. Neither did I , but… I took it out to check and sure enough it seemed fine, as expected, as reassembled and engaged. It started the engine fine and no longer made the groan that it used to. But I could not see that it could work properly the way it went together. Why? Doh! Because I put a spring in the wrong place. For those of you who are mechanics I had accidentally converted a pre-engaged starter into a permanently engaged starter. Guess what, properly assembled the noise seems to have gone away. The poor starter was trying to tell us that it hated spinning round at 60,000 rpm.

So here I am again with an ageing boat, that is a bit smoky, but not too bad at the moment and may improve due to Restore and a cooker hood filter.

Drat Missed him!

Drat Missed him!


1 thought on “Old smokey

  1. Hi Steve,
    Your problems sound like me and our campervan. We have a different one now as the old one had an HGV crash into the rear end in July and it was a write-off. Fortunately I wasn’t hurt, even though it went over on the driver side and Sue was driving our car separately. We bought another van in September and it has been beset by two or three niggling problems and is back in at the dealer at the moment getting sorted.
    We are OK otherwise. I’m enjoying retirement and our granddaughter Grace is now just over a year old.
    Do you ever go to any professional meetings to keep up your QP/CPD status? I haven’t been yet since I left Merck Serono But I might do sometime. Perhaps I will see you there. A good Christmas to you and your family.
    Best regards,

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