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!


Really throw myself into the Ricky festival

Moored at Ricky

Moored at Ricky, gang plank can be seen behind my seat ( and life ring!)

Here’s a right collection of boats at Ricky, the picture is taken from my roof and you can see I am hemmed in by boats with tales to tell.

To the left is the back of Persephone, the Bassets boat, often used for training and advertising Boat Shed Grand Union, the one on which that Chris and I did the helmsman’s course. When it arrived the water heater was not working well and we spent some time trying to get the pressure better regulated. Next clockwise was an original restored wooden butty (working boat with no engine named Nutfield), towed by the next one along named Raymond. I think they worked OK but as you can’t walk over the back of the butty because it is too high I put my new gang plank between Persephone and Raymond. (more about that mistake later).

Next comes the reproduction red and blue working boat ( I forgotten the name). That had a major problem and the owner spent the whole weekend stripping the engine ( an original) down and reassembling it. I lent a hand a couple of times when more muscle power was needed. He still supplied most of that to be honest.

Next along was the Hillingdon training boat. That was gradually sinking until (reportedly) a Tesco bag was stuffed into the stern gland and the pump run long enough to lower the water away from the fly wheel. That enabled the engine to be started and the boat to join in the tug of war.

Elk on my right in this picture was not suffering any major issues at the time, and of course I had just fixed my major oil leak. Like I said, a right collection!

As you can see we did leave enough room for the trip boats to blast up and down past us, one is just coming into view. At least we left room apart from when the outside boat was swung across the canal to form a bridge to Tesco. When it comes to making a festival go well for your friends every little helps.

Now that is were the gang plank came in useful for most. They would pop along from Persephone to Raymond and off to Tesco via a swinging boat. We just got to Ricky on Friday and I had mentioned I needed to go to Tesco so my dear friends urged me to join the trip, “Quickly, they are going.”  “No, I’ll go later” “No you may as well, hurry up!”.

“Ohh where’s my wallet and phone, got them, OK, I’m coming”

I’ll just step onto the gang plank from my boat, into the middle of it, at an angle, onto the unsecured gang plank,.

Err, why does it feel like I have stepped on ice, why is my foot moving away from under me, oh no, not again, I wish I was able to blame someone else for this. splash..

Silence, not too cold, no pain.. that’s good and lucky considering there is virtually no room between these boats, .. B ** ell,  my phone is in my pocket.

“Are you OK, did he fall in, is he OK, get the rudder over under his feet, here hold onto this, can you get out, put you foot on the rudder, you OK?”

Now they were all very good, they should be considering there were at least two instructors, several professionals and only experienced handlers. I would like to see the pictures though, yes I did see a camera when I was still in the water.

Well the phone dried out, eventually, my provisions were got by Phil for me, and I paid him in soggy notes. However the whole festival seems to know that I fell in. even complete strangers were overheard saying in whispers, “that’s the guy who fell in.”

The rest of the weekend was good. With the boaters having impromptu jamming sessions, boat tug of wars ( or is that tugs of war) and drink sharing all around.

And afterwards, back to base at Apsley for some much need paint touch up and to repair the shower. Roll on next year.

salzburg 020 salzburg 022

Dusk Rising

The evening falls on the slowest, shortest cruise of all.

It was going to be a full day cruisiing with six guests, dawn to dusk, everything planned. Why oh why do we have to have electric and hydraulic powered bridges? At least the old ones can be cranked out of the way by man power (although from what I observe man power is normally wielded on the tiller whilst the lady power wields the windlass on the locks and bridges! Oh well my visitors didn’t seem to mind too much, another day perhaps. (see visitiors page as well).

Dusk falls, the bridge lifts, the 1st time today