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!


spring maintenance

Am I getting more like Victor Meldrew or are simple things really getting harder to get done? Perhaps that’s why that company is called Saga, because once you’re over fifty everything turns into one. All I wanted to do was pop a new filter in the boat.


Now not a lot has happened with the boat over the last few months as I have had my mind on other things, like retiring in March. But that means I want to ready her for cruising in the spring.


But first things first, I went on a weekend engine maintenance course arranged by RCR. What a mixture there was. Plenty of Captain Bird’s eye chaps, some couples both old and young, those who went to brush up on their knowledge and yet others that seemed to know how to hold a screw driver, because it hurts if you hold it by the other end!


The instructor started by asking around the table what engines our boats had. I was last in line, “ a 1500 BMC” said I proudly. He replied, “Ohhh, mmm, we always get one!” From there on in nearly every story of difficulty, obsolescence or breakdown ended up being attributed to a BMC, and I saw pity, sympathy and amusement in various faces. It culminated with the comment “and if you have one of these on your boat, get rid of the boat!, it’s too old”. I just whimpered at that, guffaws ensued.

It got better when they were talking about the modern accessories that go wrong, most of which I do not have, and how BMC’s do just keep going if looked after.


We all seemed to have one thing in common, a need to write a list of what was needed to be bought or changed or added to our boats.


Well  to get back to my story I decided that I really must add an extra fuel filter and replace the fuel lift pump. Not too much of an engineering task. The picture shows the filter on the right, with a grey metal bowl, the nice new lift pump and the two hose tail fittings needed to connect the hose to the filter. Simple eh. Order them , fit them.


Pump and filter

Pump and filter


Well the filter was ordered with  hose tails to fit from one supplier, the pump from another. The pump arrived fine. No problems, other than it was delivered to the neighbour’s and they forgot to tell me., but I found it after a few days.

The filter arrived at the local sorting office that I can only get to on  a Saturday. So on collection I found it had.. a glass bowl, not allowed on the canals! So went to phone the supplier .. they don’t provide a phone number. Emailed the supplier, they don’t work Saturday. Monday they agreed to send a replacement, which arrived Wednesday, at home. Great.

Not much doing Wednesday night so I thought I’d just check over the filter, it was fine, but the hose tails were the wrong thread and did not fit! So as I am writing I await replacement hose tails. I only ordered the filter from that company because they had the right tails in stock to fit the filter.

Hopefully on Saturday I can pop it in. I have just counted that to on the old and new filters, and the new lift pump, when I put it back together there is a total of 20 different places that diesel can leak out and air can get in. Any air leaks and the boat won’t start. Am I being pessimistic? I won’t be smoking when I do the job.

Fingers crossed that it won’t be another saga,

Choose my colours for me

Gentle Breeze is back at the painters to get stripped back to metal and repainted.

Therefore there is little to report. However I can not decide on what colours to have her painted. The canopies are dark blue. And red tends to fade badly so I am not inclined to have red. Here are a few ideas created on the computor. Have your say on what you prefer, post a comment, I might take you up on it.

GBs current colours

Two tone blue with white name patch

Blue and cream

Blue and maroon

Light blue, gold trim

Venice and back

What a spectacle is the Little Venice canal cavalcade!

smallest boat i nthe show

It was my trip last year to Little Venice that got me thinking seriously about getting a narrow boat. So this year I just had to go back with my own boat (albeit not painted as I had hoped).

Sandra and Gordon helped me take it from Ricky down to Packet Lane on a drizzly Saturday, nevertheless we had an enjoyable day.

sunset at Litle Venice

The following Friday evening I completed the five hour leg  down to Paddington and was very glad of the help given by Phil in finding my mooring in the pool, Lynn for cooking a hot meal and the real ale tent for a decent pint! You can  not say canal festivals are exciting, but then if exciting is what you are after then canals are not for you. But  for striking up friendships, getting advice and watching really skilled helmsmanship there is no beating it.

boat handling competition

There is something for all who are interested. I needed solid fuel, I just hailed a passing 70 foot working boat and it was delivered to my bow, entertainment, just sit on the roof, supping mulled wine and watch the illuminated boat parade pass within feet,

always something happening, slowly

lighter boat

or listen to the band on the island.

takes all sorts

For artistic skill the decoration of the many of boats varies from intricate to ostentatious, often with a deal of traditional Roses and Castles painting and the inevitable brass work and laced plates. And Sunday there were the church services in the tent or on the classroom boat, with live music throughout the weekend.

I have to say that the trip down and back was pretty uneventful, apart from a diesel dripping from an injector, (fixed with advice from Ralph, thanks) and a rubble bag getting wrapped around the prop, which did not take too much cutting away. I must upgrade my prop clearing tools.

However many of us are lucky to have our boats as potential holiday homes, along the canals you sometimes see signs of those not so fortunate.

home under the flyover

So next its up to Ricky festival, enjoy some of the photos.

spot GB in the thick of it