Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Conditions: Hostile!

If the weather stays like this, I'm ditching the engine and fitting a sail.

You know the wind's strong when you can leave the boat for an hour in one place without any kind of mooring line and it doesn't budge an inch.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Precisely how many times am I going to have to get INTO the canal?

It's hard to believe I haven't updated this blog since I got back onto the Grand Union! The journey out of London was easy but then everything ground to a halt at Watford, when the water in the exhaust was replaced with clouds of white smoke... Not so good. So after checking the impeller, the raw water filter and everything else I could think of (read: was recommended to check by the good folks on Justcanals.com), I booked Wils into P&S Marine at the marina near Watford and Croxley Green.

They had no space on their schedule for me for nearly a fortnight so I was stranded in Watford until then. Which turned out to be ok, despite the fact that I'm still trying to get to Braunston as quickly as possible in order to finally get the wood stove fitted. I watched the fireworks at Cassiobury Park on the 5th from onboard:




There was also an impressive display on the 7th, with live music, a huge bonfire and extraordinarily long queues of people waiting to buy chips.

It wasn't long before I was due at P&S Marine. Having been recently visited by a member of River Canal Rescue with regard to the same engine problem, and having to face the news that the issue could be head gasket et al, I was prepared for bad news... But P&S looked at it for a few minutes, decided to check whether the raw water intake was pulling in water properly - and TAA DAA! Problem solved. Once again RCR mechanics fail to diagnose correctly. As a request; could somebody PLEASE set up a rival company to RCR, one whose mechanics actually know what they're talking about? Granted they HAVE helped us out of some jams, but we've had at least 2 incorrect diagnoses, and one broken alternator from them, the latter problem meant us having to completely rethink the entire boat's electrics... Not impressed.


Wils had to be craned out of the water just to have the raw water intake de-gunked. Which worked but involved a crane lift (not strictly necessary I have since found! More on that later...) and the price tag attached to it. They didn't charge me full price for the lift, which was a GODSEND, but it was still an expensive day.

I was away from the boat for the best part of a week after that, and when I returned to Cassiobury Park and Wils yesterday I found the lock immediately below Wils was drained for cleaning and repairs! If I had moored 50 metres earlier I'd have been unable to move for days and probably weeks!

This morning I made a late start to cover some ground and all seemed fine until... No water. White smoke. Again. So I said a few words to the effect of "oh dear", pulled over and sulked heroically for a while. The only thing I could think of was to check the raw water intake again. It had been blocked before by months and years worth of weed and leaves, would it really have blocked up again in less than a few hours of cruising?

Wils was ramped up on an obliging gravel bank between locks at this point, so tying up seemed unnecessary, I donned swimming shorts and trainers and lowered myself between boat and bank. Flapping my arm around the swim of the boat I eventually located the intake - which was blocked by a few leaves and a little bit of plastic wrap. Could so little really have blocked it up?

I changed clothes again and fired her up. Running perfectly! I continued all afternoon up to my current position without a problem, but as I was filling up with water, about 20 metres from my intended mooring spot, there was the smoke again... So I moored up and jumped back into my swims!

Note: The Grand Union Canal at Hemel Hempstead, just above Lock 68 (Nash Mills) is deep. At least 5 feet deep. I never did find the bottom with my toes so I resolved to lying on the leaf-strewn November canalside in a t-shirt and shorts, wet through, half-in half-out of the water, struggling my left arm under the boat, and using my right arm to persuade Wils not to crush me against the bank. Located the intake again, a few more leaves removed but not even a handful, and the engine went back to normal immediately!

Now I'm warm inside with dry clothes on and a decent internet signal, but the question remains:

Just how many times am I going to have to get into the canal from now on?!