Tuesday, 26 August 2014

No water found in diesel

The first job this morning was to sample the bottom of the diesel tank. The way I did it was to strap a thin flexible plastic pipe to the dipstick and suck up fluid to nearly the top, then allow it to empty into a jamjar.

I had to fix the pipe to the dipstick to keep it straight.

This was what I got out. There are a few bits of muck, but no water that I could detect.

Having done this, and satisfied myself that there was no water in the diesel tank, we set off. But, later, I had another thought (dangerous). What if the bottom of the tank slopes, or the boat itself was listing slightly? Then any water would have found its way to the lowest part, not necessarily where I put the sampling tube.

I'm going to have to do it again, this time poking the tube into different "corners".

To the travelling, then. I know I took photos of Conisbrough Viaduct on our way into Sheffield last week, but it really is a splendid structure.

Just beyond Barnby Dun is Bramwith Junction, where the Stainforth and Keadby Canal forks right, with the New Junction Canal on the left. We took the right fork - now we are on yet another waterway new to us.

Just past the junction, past more boats than we've seen for a long time, is Bramwith Lock. Time to get the windlass out again; this one has more conventional paddle gear (although there is no pawl on the easy-to-wind gate paddles - one just winds the paddle down again without having to do anything else. That fooled me for a moment or two). One interesting feature is the chain and hook used to keep the gates shut after use.

There are a few more locks on the system where this would be a good idea!

After eight hours on the engine clock we tied up in Stainforth right outside the New Inn. Saving the meal which Jan had been cooking for later in the week, when we might be far from shops or pubs, we ate a good meal in the pub. And the beer, Kelham Brewery's Easy Rider, was excellent.

We now have time in hand before our scheduled entry onto the Trent on Friday, so tomorrow we'll just pootle the three miles to Thorne where we'll spend a lot of money in the chandler's. On the list is proper lifejackets and long ropes.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Chesterfield Canal (unrestored section), a snail convention and engine failure

Yesterday Andrew came to pick us up to take us to Renishaw, 10 miles south-east of Sheffield, for a walk along the towpath of an as-yet-unrestored portion of the Chesterfield Canal.

This was the first time I'd seen the Chesterfield Canal, and it was good to see that much of the towpath still exists and is waymarked as the Cuckoo Way. At Renishaw there is a short length in water under (a rebuilt) Bridge 18.

It looks a bit tight for a 70' boat.

I was pleased to discover an original-looking milestone hiding in the undergrowth: 7 miles to/from Chesterfield.

For much of the first part of the walk we were having to bash our way past nettles and brambles - long sticks we found were very useful. The canal itself was barely recognisable as a waterway, being colonised by trees and plants and shrinking to a ditch before disappearing altogether as here.

Where the canal crossed a tributary of the River Rother there would once have been an aqueduct. Now there's just a gap in the embankment.

After 2.5 miles we came across another part in water.

This is Staveley. Here there's much evidence of work by the Chesterfield Canal Trust and Waterway Recovery Group.

A new concrete lock has recently been lined in brick. I expect there's a good reason why the wall on the right has been partly nibbled away, can anyone enlighten me?

And here are some workers busy with (large) bricks and mortar. I feel I should be down there helping!

But it was time to finish our walk. The route back to the car was along a former railway line, now part of the Trans Pennine Trail, a route popular with cyclists.

And snails.

This is a vertical support wall of one of the new roads. The thin groove is crammed with snails.

But why?

I managed to grab a shot of Jan and Andrew walking along, with Caspar, his dog.


Now to bring this up-to-date.

We left Sheffield Basin at 0845 to set off for the top of the Tinsley flight. Our neighbour at the mooring, Ed, of Wandering Canuck, kindly wound the swing bridge for us. (We first encountered Ed at Barnby Dun a week ago; we have been bumping into him ever since.)

So we made our way out of Sheffield, past the crisp packets drying on the line ...

... and the skeletons discussing the finer points of life ...

... to the locks. Despite our having booked a passage days ago the CRT lockie didn't know we were coming. He was "penning" a widebeam down. It all worked out all right in the end, and we were at the bottom at noon.

One of the top gates at Lock 9 has an interesting sliding balance beam extension to give more leverage. Sadly this is now welded up and unusable.

At Rotherham Lock we met up with Chris Richardson of Richlow Guides again. We'd asked to buy the guide to the Trent, and she'd very kindly come to hand-deliver it, together with more very useful information on the tidal river. Chris is a fount of knowledge on the navigations of this region, and has a special interest in the Chesterfield Canal. She was telling us, with excitement, about the imminent launching of a replica working boat on the Chesterfield, one which originally would have had a mast and sail for working on the Trent. (I hope I have that right, Chris.)

Shortly after leaving the mooring below the lock, where we had stopped for lunch and a quick visit to Tesco, the engine suddenly lost power. It died completely after a couple of seconds, giving me no time to steer to the bank. Fortunately this was on a canalised part of the navigation, so we drifted to the side and were able to tie the centre line to a strong metal fence post. Now I had to see what the problem was.

My first thought was that we'd run out of diesel. Unlikely, as I'd dipped the tank while in Sheffield and there was plenty there. Dipping now showed that there was still plenty.

I'd have to check the engine. When I took up the deck boards I was surprised to see a lot of water in the engine bilge. It's a bit difficult to tell from the photo - the water in the engine bilge is centre left, reflecting the sky.

Perhaps the water here was coolant. I carefully removed the filler cap - but the coolant level was as it always is. Besides which, there had been no indication of overheating - no steam, no smell of antifreeze, no warning light and buzzer. While I was there I checked the engine and gearbox oil levels - both normal.

So where had all the water come from?

The answer: from the torrents of water pouring over the top gates while descending the Tinsley Locks. There had been one such "gusher" which Jan had said did go onto the deck boards a bit. But why would that have stopped the engine, especially as it was an hour or two after the event?

I unscrewed the diesel filter/agglomerator drain plug and let some liquid flow into a container. Ah - there was some water as well as diesel. Perhaps the mini-flood had cascaded through the gaps between the deck boards and got between the filter and the agglomerator bowl. There is some sort of rubber seal, but could water have penetrated? Thinking about it now, no, it couldn't. Otherwise there'd be diesel leaking out, which there isn't.

Anyway, after all these checks I turned the starter to see what would happen. After a little more cranking than usual the engine fired up (hooray!) and kept going (hooray again!). I left it on a fast idle for half-an-hour to see if anything untoward happened, which it didn't, and so then we carried on our way.

The engine behaved impeccably for the rest of today's cruise (we tied up at the moorings at Kilnhurst. Rather windy - the boat's being buffeted more than at any other mooring so far).

Further thoughts: The diesel filler cap would have taken the full force of the water pouring down. What if the seal around the cap isn't very good? I think water could well have got in. The more I think about it now, the more I'm sure that there must be a layer of water swilling around the bottom of the diesel tank. Some of this must have been sucked into the injectors, thus stopping the engine.

Methinks it would be a good idea to remove this water before going onto the Trent. A job for the morning (I have a plan). (It would be nice if it would stop raining.)

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Have we sprung a leak?

We were paid a visit this morning by Malcolm and Christine Richardson (the "Rich" part of "Richlow"), who came to see us in Sheffield Basin.

They gave us a copy of the Richlow Guide to the South Yorkshire Waterways as a thank-you for my letting them use my photo of Doncaster. I was amazed to find that the photo was already in the guide! Now that really is up-to-date. Beat that, Mr. Nicholson!

Here is the inner title page featuring my photo.

We had a good long chat about the (S)SYN and other topics. I'm impressed by Chris's knowledge of the local waterways, and impressed so far with what I've read in the guide. We'll see how easy or otherwise it is to use when under way. One thing I do like about the Nicholson's Guides is the little bits of OS maps which surround the blue line of the waterway. This forces north to be always up, a Good Thing. The Richlow Guide has rotated the segments of waterway to fit the portrait layout of the pages, meaning that "up" could be any direction. There is a very clear compass marking on each page, though. Another minor quibble might be that the scale varies from page to page, although each page states the distance covered, varying from one mile to four miles.

On the positive side there is a wealth of useful information accompanying each segment of waterway, with details Nicholson doesn't give such as locations of showers. I also like Richlow's use of letters rather than symbols for facilities such as Elsan disposal (ED) and rubbish disposal (RD). Nicholson's symbols for those two are easily confused.  Despite the lack of Ordnance Survey maps in the vicinity of the waterway, there seems to be enough information for the boater. The maps are certainly uncluttered. One excellent thing I've spotted is that locations of supermarkets are given, with the supermarkets' brands. Opposite each map page is a comprehensive-looking panel of navigational information, below which are descriptions of the general area and nuggets of history/explanations of why things are as they are.

I'm looking forward to using the guide as we cruise to Keadby next week, perhaps then I can write another review.

Back to today, and while running the engine for hot water and charging purposes I thought I'd redress yesterday's lapse and take the boat to the very head of navigation. This involved passing under the Straddle Warehouse ...

... winding by the Grain Warehouse ...

... and returning under the Straddle Warehouse again (different arch this time).

Ah. Now to the title of this post. When selecting an ale from the "cellar" under the well deck I happened to see that there was about two inches of water in there. Oops! Where did that come from? Fortunately all the paint tins/bottles/brushes etc. were on top of a layer of engineering bricks used as ballast, so I don't think there's much damage. I sponged out the rusty water into a washing-up bowl - there must have been a full bowl's worth of water down there. I took the photo after removing most of the water.  (And ale.)

The question is, as I have already asked, where did it all come from? I'm reasonably sure it's not canal water. It was dirty, but I think it was the rustiness which made it so. I suspect it's water from the tank, either leaking directly or from the many pipe connections. I wonder if it's anything to do with the filler neck popping up when I filled the tank recently. The tank is lined with a "hovercraft" liner (or so I was told); could water have got between the liner and the steelwork? Could it be this water which has found its way into the beer cellar?

After I'd sponged out the water I couldn't see any obvious spurting of water from the pipework, so all I can do is monitor the situation.


Andrew and Bekka have returned to Sheffield, and they came for tea on board. Here Andrew is demonstrating his prowess with mini-Jenga.

That's prowess in the tower-building department.

I'm glad they were in and came to see us. Now we have visited each of our two children by boat. Andrew proudly showed us his new car: a Volvo 850R with manual gearbox. Very rare, apparently, and very fast!

Friday, 22 August 2014

Sheffield steel

Rotherham to Sheffield

We've done it! We've got to Sheffield, another destination on our big summer cruise. From Northamptonshire we got here via parts or the whole of the following waterways: Grand Union, Stratford, Worcester and Birmingham, Birmingham, Staffs and Worcs, Trent and Mersey, Macclesfield, Peak Forest, Ashton, Rochdale, Calder and Hebble, Aire and Calder, New Junction, and South Yorkshire Navigation (including the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal). We set off from Thrupp Wharf Marina on 16th July, so it has taken us 37 days.

According to CanalPlan that's 299 miles and 330 locks. Our total distance will be slightly more as I didn't include our foray down the Saltisford Arm, nor the backtracking on the Peak Forest Canal to wind after watering up.

What better indication could there be of our proximity to Sheffield than piles of steel bars on the wharf?

To be clear, this is actually Rotherham, not Sheffield. And I somehow doubt the steel was made here. Is there any steelmaking left in Sheffield?

I liked the variety of colours and their reflections on this assortment of boats basking in the morning sun.

After a bit of a struggle at Ickles Lock, where opening the paddle on the same side as the boat - the usual practice - sent the bow shooting across to bang on the other side, we came to Holmes Lock. As we arrived, so did Dave, the CRT lockie.

Our ascent of the Tinsley Locks was smooth and painless.

At Lock 5 there is a plaque commemorating the efforts of the navigation company to keep the waterway open despite the lock being bombed in the war.

The British Waterways plaque reads:

1939 - 1945

On the night of December 15th 1940 this lock was severely damaged by enemy action during an air raid on the city.

This plaque is dedicated to the workforce of the Sheffield and South Yorkshire Navigation Company who strove to keep the waterway open under hazardous and extremely difficult conditions throughout the war.

This railway bridge sits heavily over the canal - but there was plenty of headroom. Lockie Derek took over from Dave for the upper part of the flight.

We shared the locks with Nekbor, being single-handed up to Sheffield.

And so, after those 300 miles and 330 locks we entered Sheffield Basin, aka Victoria Quays. I was so much looking forward to lunch that I neglected to go under the Straddle Warehouse to the very head of the navigation. I'll have to correct that before we leave.

This is where we tied up in front of the arches.

And another view, with a tram crossing on its elevated track.

There were coloured lights playing on the Straddle Warehouse after dark; this is a 1" exposure from the top of the boat.

We haven't seen the marina man - we have yet to "book in".

Thursday, 21 August 2014

It came apart in my hands, guv

Mexborough to Eastwood Lock

We didn't move far today as we had only to get to Eastwood Lock, Rotherham, in preparation for the ascent of the Tinsley flight into Sheffield tomorrow. Also we were due a visit from Ally and Ben on their way home from visiting Ben's parents in Huddersfield.

There were two incidents of note at Mexborough Top Lock. Jan had gone to set the lock (while I was still washing the boat) but I saw her indicating that she'd quite like me to come on foot.

Mexborough Top Lock is surrounded by a high mesh security fence with gates each end of the lock fastened with BW padlocks. Or should I call them CRT padlocks? Whatever, the shackle of the padlock had come adrift from the body, and Jan couldn't put it back. And neither could I. I became worried that my key would get stuck in the padlock so I gave up and put the two parts on the boat to give to CRT tomorrow when we had the assisted passage to Sheffield. (Yes, the shackle came easily of its chain.)

Not a good start to the day. The next incident was after I'd taken Jubilee into the lock and Jan had closed the gates. While I was still manoeuvering to the side to get a rope over a bollard the top sluices started opening of their own accord. Jan hadn't even got as far as putting the key in the control panel. We didn't want another lock failure (after the problems at Sykehouse Lock on the New Junction Canal the other day), so Jan left it until level had been made before inserting the key and opening the top gates. I thought this was a bad thing. If a boat had been nearer the top gates the sudden turbulence could have been dangerous.

As it happened we saw a CRT lockie later, who was manning Waddington Lock to let a couple of CRT boats through. I gave him the broken padlock and told him about the autonomous sluices. He said, though, that they were meant to open by themselves. I didn't follow his reasoning why - something to do with water flow.

While we were waiting below Waddington Lock, and before CRT had arrived, I took this photo of two working boats, Resilience and George Dyson.

Next to the lock is what looks like a big boat scrapyard, with sections of big boats lying among caterpillar-tracked cranes. Immediately above the lock is the entrance to the Dearne and Dove Canal; the whole area is occupied by E.V. Waddington's boatyard.

As we were about to go up the lock Ally and Ben turned up, having parked nearby, and we went through the lock and round the corner to an exposed but peaceful mooring. This was notable for the freight railway line opposite the towpath. Many interesting locomotives and freight trains went past, including two trains of rails.

A few work boats passed us too, including Eric of Lincoln (below) and William Jessop.

At these large push button-operated locks Jan pushes the buttons and I steer the boat. Here's Jan at the controls.

Tomorrow we have to be away by 0800 in order to meet the lockie at Holmes Lock at about 0900. 2.5 miles and 2 locks - we should just about do it. I think I'll aim for a 0745 getaway to be sure. By tomorrow afternoon, then, we should be in Sheffield! I hope Andrew and Bekka are in.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Doncaster in the evening sun, a first class way to travel, and meeting a commercial boat

Will today be when I catch up at last with blogging about our cruise? I think it might be. I'll break with my usual procedure, and post photos out of chronological order.

This is where we cruised to last night, an excellent town centre secure mooring with water on tap.

I went onto the A19 road bridge over the South Yorkshire Navigation, the River Don and the railway to take the photo in the evening sunshine. Jubilee is on the far right.

But back to what's been happening over the last two or three days. I mentioned that I've been home to attend to post and the garden. To return to the boat I had bought an advance rail ticket from Wymondham (Norfolk) to Kirk Sandall (convenient for Barnby Dun). The cheapest ticket (at £34.00) was First Class. And because the National Rail website took me to the East Coast booking system I ended up paying £33.30 as they seem to apply a 2% discount.

When I read what was waiting for me on the East Coast train (the Peterborough to Doncaster leg) I could hardly wait. But to start with I got on the usual Norwich to Cambridge train, only this time sitting in first class. That was for only two stops, though, as I had to change at Thetford to board the East Midland Trains service from Norwich to Liverpool Lime Street in order to travel to Peterborough. This wasn't so good. The train was busy and there was no first class compartment. The two bike spaces were taken, so I had to fold my bike and squeeze it between a passenger and a suitcase.

But at Peterborough things took a turn for the better. The sun shone warmingly as I waited for the train, the East Coast service to Leeds. I got on with my bike ready-folded and was able to slide it into a luggage space. As soon as I took my seat and the train moved off two attendants appeared offering tea or coffee. Coffee please! This was poured into a proper china mug, and tasted like proper coffee. Then my lunch order was taken. Yes, lunch - and it was all "free"! The macaroni cheese with lumps of "Yorkshire ham" was hot and tasty, followed by a slice of banana cake. Oh, and I forced myself to have an Old Speckled Hen with it (again, nothing more to pay). As I let the food go down I reclined in the seat with The Times (also on the house train). All too soon I had arrived in Doncaster, where I had to change for a Hull-bound train to Kirk Sandall, the first stop. At Doncaster I sought out the first class lounge and helped myself to a tea.

As you can tell, I was dead impressed with East Coast.

Back to yesterday: this was the scene as we approached Doncaster, the Minster dominating the skyline.

The sign welcoming us to the 72 hour mooring was a little hidden by the plants, but it's good that someone (Sandy?) has taken the trouble.


To bring things up-to-date the following now relates to what we did today. Before setting off we had a look round Doncaster, starting with the Minster. I would have liked to have heard the organ being played - it is one of the finest in the world, apparently.

Our first lock was Doncaster Town Lock. Jubilee looks rather insignificant cowering at the back under the road and rail bridges.

The main event of the day was meeting a proper commercial working boat, Humber Princess, at Conisbrough.

I'm trying to work out the draught gauge by the stem post. If you divide the numbers by ten you seem to get metres; if this is correct then Humber Princess was drawing about 1.8m or about 5' 6". I guess it was returning empty, as there's a lot of freeboard left.

We exchanged cheery waves as we passed.

The most spectacular bridge on this leg was the Conisbrough Viaduct. I believe the railway it carried has now been dismantled.

We tied up for the night in Mexborough, just below Mexborough Top Lock.

A quiet mooring, apart from the occasional trains which pass a couple of hundred yards away. There must be a "W" sign as they all sound their horn. Like last night's chiming clock, I won't hear anything when I've gone to bed.

Time to publish.