Monday 30 June 2014

Willow Wren boat goes aground

Kew: Fazeley to Worcester day 1 (Tuesday 24th June 2014)

Hello! I'm back after crewing for Kew for a few days. After taking on diesel at Fazeley Marina we headed for the Curdworth flight on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal.

The poppies were out at the miniature gardens at each of the locks.

Kew looking good as it heads for Curdworth Top Lock.

Part-way up the Aston flight we caught up with three Willow Wren boats with a party of youngsters on board. The last one managed to run aground.

Even with plenty of moveable ballast the boat was stuck for some time before getting free.

As going was slow behind the Willow Wrens the skipper decided to tie up by Rocky Lane Bridge.

Despite the slightly run-down post-industrial feel to the area we had a quiet night.

Sunday 22 June 2014

Off to crew for Kew

Tomorrow I shall be on my way to Fazeley to join nb Kew as crew/lockwheeler for part of the journey to Stratford-on-Avon.

Kew at the Black Country Boating Festival at Windmill End last year

I'll cycle to Wymondham Station (in Norfolk) and get the train to Nottingham, where I change for a train to Birmingham, alighting at Wilnecote (Staffs). Then a short cycle ride to David and Mary's house.

We'll be boating via the Severn and Avon to approach Stratford from the river, but I can't remember which route David said we'd take to the Severn. The most direct would be down the Worcester and Birmingham, but I seem to recall him mentioning the Staffs and Worcs, so we might be going via the Wolverhampton 21. Whichever way we go, I'm hoping we'll be in Worcester by Saturday as I have booked my train to get me home that day. Actually, my advance ticket covers only from Nuneaton to home as the cheapest fare from Worcester to Nuneaton was a standard "anytime" fare, so there was no point in buying that in advance. This has given me some extra flexibility in case we don't make Worcester by Saturday.

It will be good to be back on Kew again; no doubt I will get my turn at steering the full-length boat (with wooden 'ellum) from time to time. I'll post a trip summary with photos when I get back.

Top Thirty, 2014 week 25

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty-six places) as it stood at 1415 on Sunday 22nd June 2014. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 CanalPlanAC (=)

3 Pennine Waterways (=)

4 Living on a Narrowboat (=)

5 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

6 UKCanals Network (=)

7 Retirement with No Problem (=)

8 Water Explorer (=)

9 Towpath Treks (+1)

10 Waterway Routes (-1)

11 nb Epiphany (+2)

12 boatshare (-1)

13 nb Waiouru (-1)

14 boatrent (+1)

15 BCBM Ltd (-1)

16 NB The Manly Ferry (+3)

17 Canal Shop Company (-1)

18 Narrowboat Chance (+5)

19 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (+3)

20 boats and cruising (-2)

21 Narrowboat Briar Rose (=)

22 Halfie (+13)

23 Seyella's Journey (+1)

24 Still Rockin' (+9)

25 Narrowboat Dreaming .... Parisien Star (-8)

26 freespirit (-6)

27 Marpessa2 (=)

28 Boats and Canals Forum (+6)

29 Google Earth Canal Maps (=)

30 Contented Souls (=)

31 Milburn Boats Ltd (-3)

32 The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife (=)

33 Baddie the Pirate (-)

34 Skippy's Random Ramblings (+2)

35 Onboard Solar (-)

36 Armadillo (-)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous chart;
(-) denotes new entry or re-entry into the chart;
(=) denotes no change.

There are 111 entries, the same as last week.

Saturday 21 June 2014

Nice piling but towpath still muddy at Braunston Locks

Just over three weeks ago we visited Braunston towards the end of our Easter cruise. It might be hard to imagine in the recent fine weather we've been enjoying, but back then it was rather damp. The towpath by the locks was as bad as I've known it: waterlogged and very muddy. Wellington boots was the order of the day.

The crew of the Yellow Peril used a system of hand signals as they descended the locks. Not sure what this is meant to signify.

I mentioned the state of the towpath to the lockie; he pointed out the piling works being undertaken by CRT.

Nice new piling, then, but what a lot of mud, horrible mud.

To be fair, I know that there's quite a bit of water which seeps onto the towpath from the higher ground, but the piling will prevent it from discharging into the canal. Unless CRT have thought of that and are addressing that issue. I expect we'll find out the next time we go that way.

Friday 20 June 2014

Cleaning the bilge pump

At the end of last month we tied up near Norton Junction so that I could change the oil and have a go at cleaning up the bilge where the pump sits. (I wrote about this here too, but with no piccies.)

You have to be quite a contortionist to do this on our trad-style boat with the engine in the usual place on a leisure boat, i.e. not in its own room forward of a back cabin.

When I touched the bilge pump it immediately fell apart. Oops! At least it meant that I would now take the opportunity to clean it before putting it back together again.

The top part of the pump, housing the motor, float switch and impeller, is the dirty white thing on top of the swim, also dirty white. The bilge sump, full of filthy black water, is directly below the prop shaft.

The bottom half of the bilge pump is bolted to a square metal plate which normally sits snugly in the bilge sump. I used an old knife to clean the gaps in the coarse strainer.

There's also a wire mesh strainer which I cleaned with a toothbrush and canal water.

I was still wearing wellies from doing the Braunston locks with their extremely muddy towpath.

I was very pleased when the two halves of the pump snapped together after I'd cleaned it all.

The bottom part of an old milk container was useful for removing the sump contents. It was a leg-achingly filthy job, but it had to be done.

Thanks to Jan for taking the photos.

Thursday 19 June 2014

More diesels at the North Norfolk Railway

Last Saturday I persuaded Jan to accompany me to the Diesel Gala at the North Norfolk Railway.

I'm too young to have a real love of steam locos, but I have strong memories of travelling on lots of diesel hauled trains in the British Rail days of the 1970s.

Many of the journeys would have been from Shenfield to Liverpool Street, and then Euston to Manchester Piccadilly (especially while I was a student at Salford University).

I don't know what classes of loco I would have encountered; I just liked the noise and smell, and the sense of sheer power that exuded from them.

Don't ask me what class any of these is, I have no idea.

Wednesday 18 June 2014

Interesting cloud formation, and boating coming up

When I came out of our local (Norfolk) shop yesterday evening I noticed the sky was full of interesting clouds. Of course I didn't have my camera on me, but there was still enough of the formation left when I took some photos a few minutes later.

I shall be seeing a lot more sky next week, when I crew for David and Mary on Kew as they take their boat to the Stratford festival. I think the route will be Birmingham and Fazeley, Birmingham Canal, Staffs and Worcs, Severn and Avon. (Or we might be going down the Worcester and Birmingham - it's up to David.) I'm helping only for the first part of the trip; I shall be leaving the boat at Worcester.

After the festival David will be making an attempt on the Stratford Canal to see if Kew will fit through the tight locks. One lock in particular caused problems the last time Kew headed down the Stratford. It will be interesting to see how Sarah and Jim get on with Chertsey as they are going the other way round, i.e. canals first and then the rivers.

Today I bought a spare inner tube for my folding bike: you might recall how patched up the tube from the back tyre is now!

This is all from the towpath, mostly while lock wheeling. (I bought some more patches too.)

Tuesday 17 June 2014

Repainting the stove

The stove and its flue have been looking decidedly off colour lately - where the colour in question is black. There's been a fair amount of rust appearing.

This is where the flue joins the stove - after I wirebrushed it.

Should I refill the joints? And what with?

Just before leaving the boat last week I painted it with Calfire Stovebright high temperature paint...

... which makes it look better, but I think I should probably do something about the joints before using it next.

Monday 16 June 2014

Steering position seat

I was a busy boy last week. Another little job I tackled was the construction, if that's not too fancy a word, of a seat to go on the part of the roof between the slide and the handrail.

A seat, you ask? But that's a ladder!

Yes, but turn it up the other way and it becomes a finely crafted bottom-perch.

It's good to be able to be up high sometimes when steering. Although made from scrap bits and pieces, this replaces the three bits of wood which I used to use. All it needs is a bit of leatherette covering and it might not look quite such a bodge. Jan says she wants one too.

Sunday 15 June 2014

Washing machine won't spin

Another of the jobs I attempted on my recent visit to Jubilee was to get the washing machine working better. For quite some time it has refused to enter the spin dry mode. The motor obviously works as it moves the drum round during the wash cycle - it just doesn't want to spin rapidly when it gets to that part of the programme.

This is the machine: a Candy Aquamatic Aqua 1000T. For some reason the previous owner fitted this on a shelf about three feet off the floor, so access isn't easy. I managed to remove the top, and disconnected the pressure switch to test it. I've had one of these devices - in a different machine - fail on account of the narrow hose becoming clogged with soapy crud. This one, however, seemed to be perfectly all right.

Searching the internet for others' problems with this particular machine drew a blank, but I got one or two useful general hints. One of these was to check the brushes, although I would have thought that if the brushes were dodgy then the motor wouldn't work at all.

I couldn't get at the brushes with the machine on the shelf, so I have left this problem for another day. I took some measurements with the intention of knocking up a wooden frame for resting it on to make it easier for me to get at the underneath without having to balance it on my knee. It's too full of concrete for comfort!

Top Thirty, 2014 week 24

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty-six places) as it stood at 2220 on Sunday 15th June 2014. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 CanalPlanAC (=)

3 Pennine Waterways (=)

4 Living on a Narrowboat (=)

5 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

6 UKCanals Network (=)

7 Retirement with No Problem (=)

8 Water Explorer (=)

9 Waterway Routes (+1)

10 Towpath Treks (-1)

11 boatshare (=)

12 nb Waiouru (+2)

13 nb Epiphany (-1)

14 BCBM Ltd (-1)

15 boatrent (+1)

16 Canal Shop Company (+1)

17 Narrowboat Dreaming .... Parisien Star (+5)

18 boats and cruising (+3)

19 NB The Manly Ferry (-1)

20 freespirit (+3)

21 Narrowboat Briar Rose (-1)

22 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (-7)

23 Narrowboat Chance (-4)

24 Seyella's Journey (+3)

25 Narrowboat Harnser (-1)

26 Tony Clayton's Canal Photographs (+3)

27 Marpessa2 (+7)

28 Milburn Boats Ltd (=)

29 Google Earth Canal Maps (+1)

30 Contented Souls (-5)

31 NABO (-)

32 The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife (+4)

33 Still Rockin' (-)

34 Boats and Canals Forum (-2)

35 Halfie (-9)

36 Skippy's Random Ramblings (-)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous chart;
(-) denotes new entry or re-entry into the chart;
(=) denotes no change.

There are 111 entries, down from 112 two weeks ago.

Saturday 14 June 2014

Ceci n'est pas une peinture

As well as putting the diesel filter back together on my visit to Jubilee earlier in the week, I attended to some rust spots I'd previously treated with Fertan rust converter. I sanded them down again, then primed them with some red Hammerite primer I found under the well deck.

These three patches are on the side of the boat.

I put two coats of the primer on, then a top coat of the grey paint. It will need more work to get it to look invisible, and I'm not sure that it ever will. Better than rust spots, though.

Yes, I should have taken a photo of the top coated repair but I didn't.

Friday 13 June 2014

Replacing diesel filter: no fuel from tank when stopcock opened

It was all going reasonably well. I'd replaced the broken plastic drain tap on the bowl under the filter with a bolt and copper washer. I'd replaced two of the O-rings and both the large rubber washers. (But I couldn't find where one of the three supplied O-rings was supposed to go - when I asked a neighbour he said I didn't need to replace any of them.)

With it all bolted back together I turned on the fuel stopcock and opened the bleed screw on the top of the filter housing.

Nothing happened.

I was expecting gravity to force the fuel through the filter and out of the bleed screw, but there was no sign of anything happening. The only thing I could think was that there was a blockage in the pipe to the stopcock, so I undid where the pipe connects to the filter, pushed a plastic hose on and blew. There was little resistance, only the weight of the fuel, and I could hear my breath bubbling in the tank. No blockage, then. But still no fuel came out of the pipe. What was going on? (The above photo shows the pipe disconnected and the fuel switched off.)

And then I realised that the fuel line from the tank goes up before it comes down. In other words, it has to siphon out past the stopcock.

Well, no-one told me!!! Is this standard practice? I don't recall Tony Brooks mentioning it in his training guide.

Here is the outlet from the fuel tank (mostly hidden behind the big plastic hose) only just below deck level. There are actually two pipes: the one on the left is the leak-off pipe carrying fuel back to the tank from the injector pump.

How was I going to get the siphon going? Same as before, except I had to suck, not blow. Fortunately my neighbour had returned to see how I was getting on, so I got him to stand by to turn off the stopcock before I sprayed too much diesel around the engine hole.

I can report that diesel has the consistency in the mouth of olive oil, and a slightly similar taste. I shan't be cooking with it, though, and I can't say that I'm looking forward to my next tasting.

Quite a bit of crud came through, probably as a result of my having stirred things up when I blew into the tank. After the worst had gone I reconnected the pipe to the filter housing and switched on the stopcock. This time fuel immediately started gushing out of the bleed screw, which I hastily screwed down.

At last I might have successfully replaced a fuel filter. Horrible job. And there's one more to go: there's a spin-on filter mounted on the engine.

To make sure I hadn't introduced air into the system I started the engine which, thankfully, ran perfectly smoothly for half-an-hour. Then I went to Ally and Ben's house where I had a drink of milk!

When I returned to the boat in the evening there was a strong smell of diesel. This I put down to my exploits earlier in the day, so I wasn't too worried. In the morning the smell was still there, and when I felt around the filter I detected a fair amount of wet. I managed to tighten the fuel pipe connector a bit more, and the central bolt holding the filter unit together a lot more. This was on Monday/Tuesday. When I left the boat on Thursday the outside of the filter was dry and the smell had diminished significantly, so I'm hoping the job's a good un.

As well as being horrible.

Saturday 7 June 2014

Swans and cygnets at Stoke Bruerne

in the long pound...

... on 30th May 2014

Friday 6 June 2014

What and where: the answer

Yes, as Adam and Steve have identified, the photo is of one of the many square holes in the "new" concrete-lined section of Blisworth Tunnel.

These allow original openings in the tunnel to discharge water and are fascinating to look at with a torch as you pass. My camera's flash isn't good enough to illuminate the interesting passageways, but below I've tweaked another photo, this one of the side shaft perhaps leading to an older alignment of the tunnel. Adam has written about this and taken a photo of it here.

Thursday 5 June 2014

The "what" you've got, but what's the "where"?

Sue (No Problem) and Sarah (Chertsey) have identified the "mystery photo" as being stalactitey stuff in a tunnel, but can you identify the tunnel?

It's a wonderful formation, isn't it?

Wednesday 4 June 2014

What and where - wider

So ... you didn't know what yesterday's photo was? Perhaps this wider view will help.

What is it, and where might you see it?

Tuesday 3 June 2014

What and where?

What is this and where might you see it?

No prizes!

Monday 2 June 2014

Diesel filter/agglomerator progress; and tightening the stern gland

I managed to drill and screwdriver out the remains of the plastic drain plug today. I remembered something about these having to be made of metal in order to comply with the boat safety scheme (pdf here), so I looked it up. The requirement is actually that the part must be able to withstand 600˚C for 2.5 minutes, so metal it is, then.

I looked up a diesel specialist in Norwich and found EDS in Vulcan Road South. I cycled there with the filter bowl to see if they could supply a drain plug. They couldn't, but the helpful man disappeared into a back room to emerge a few minutes later with the bowl fitted with a steel bolt, nut and copper washer. He'd also retapped the thread and levelled the face where the washer meets it. Total cost? "To a fellow cyclist, no charge". Excellent! If only I'd remembered to get the other, spin-on, filter while I was there. (Although they seemed to be more an engineering place than a parts place.)

Although the bowl is now useable by tightening the nut against the washer, I think I'll cut the bolt down to size so as not to need the nut. Then there'll be no danger of screwing the bolt into the filter That's rubbish. All there is in the bowl is fuel - the filter sits above. Even so, it's still probably best to cut the bolt to the correct length, in case any water at the bottom of the bowl corrodes the steel thread.

Going by comments made to my last post, and from Tony Brooks's technical training notes, I've worked out that the unit I've been working on is a combined filter/agglomerator. My engine appears to have no sedimentor, which would have been put between the tank and the filter/agglomerator.

Now all I have to do (!) is return to the boat and put it all back together again. And change the other (spin-on) filter. I think I ought to do this before our next scheduled cruise as that's not for another six weeks or so. A full tank of diesel is relying on one stopcock to keep it from flooding the bilge.

Oh yes: while I was in the engine hole I did another thing new to me - I tightened the stern gland a little to reduce the dripping. The gland was dripping at the rate of just over one drip per second even after squeezing grease in, so I gave each bolt half a turn. This seemed to do the trick.

Sunday 1 June 2014

Changing diesel filter gets off to bad start

In theory I knew what to do. In practice I fell at the first hurdle. OK, the second one. Turning off the fuel tank stop tap didn't give me any problem.

diesel filter before work started

close-up of drain screw

It was the unscrewing of the drain tap under the diesel filter which didn't go according to plan. It was, as I have mentioned before, a plastic bung which didn't want to turn. So I used a bit more force, and tried rocking it backwards and forwards. Eventually it seemed to become a little freer, so I unscrewed - and it came off in my hand. The end did.

The actual bung bit, which stops the diesel/water/sediment falling out remained firmly in situ.

At this stage I could have given up. I was reasonably confident that the filter wouldn't leak - it felt dry underneath. But having got all the tools to hand I thought I'd remove the filter anyway, and see if I could remove the drain screw when I could see it a little better. So I unscrewed the centre bolt, and the bottom part of the filter unit split easily from the rest. Jan took a photo as I carefully caught nearly all of the fuel in a plastic milk "bottle".

Next I jiggled the middle section, the actual filter, until it, too, came away. Is that jelly-like gunge on top the dreaded diesel bug?

Having wiped off the gunge I then tried to get the filter out of its container. It did not want to budge. Eventually I realised that the whole of what I was handling was the replaceable element. Well, I didn't know!

This was as much as I could do before sorting out the drain plug, so I cleaned up and took a photo of the underneath of the filter head. Ah - so that's where another of the supplied O-rings goes!

Here's a question. If what I have been working on is the fuel filter, on the right in the photo below, then what's the red thing on the left which also looks like a filter? The output of the first filter goes directly to this.

Here's a clearer photo of the red device.

It actually has the word "filter" on it. Just done a search: it is indeed a fuel filter. I suppose I ought to replace this one too.

I have now left the boat with the fuel tap turned off, and with the filter head exposed. How long do you think I can leave it in this state? Our next stint of boating isn't due for another six weeks - is this too long to leave it?

We drove home today to lawns of daisies and dandelions. I shall have to get the mower out, but I shall also have to have a go at the filter bowl.

Top Thirty, 2014 week 22

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty-six places) as it stood at 2035 on Sunday 1st June 2014. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 CanalPlanAC (=)

3 Pennine Waterways (=)

4 Living on a Narrowboat (=)

5 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

6 UKCanals Network (=)

7 Retirement with No Problem (=)

8 Water Explorer (=)

9 Towpath Treks (=)

10 Waterway Routes (=)

11 boatshare (+2)

12 nb Epiphany (+3)

13 BCBM Ltd (-1)

14 nb Waiouru (=)

15 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (+2)

16 boatrent (-5)

17 Canal Shop Company (-1)

18 NB The Manly Ferry (+1)

19 Narrowboat Chance (+3)

20 Narrowboat Briar Rose (+1)

21 boats and cruising (-1)

22 Narrowboat Dreaming .... Parisien Star (-4)

23 freespirit (+9)

24 Narrowboat Harnser (+3)

25 Contented Souls (+4)

26 Halfie (-2)

27 Seyella's Journey (-1)

28 Milburn Boats Ltd (+5)

29 Tony Clayton's Canal Photographs (-)

30 Google Earth Canal Maps (+4)

31 (-)

32 Boats and Canals Forum (-7)

33 Onboard Solar (+2)

34 Marpessa2 (-)

35 Baddie the Pirate (-)

36 The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife (-)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous chart;
(-) denotes new entry or re-entry into the chart;
(=) denotes no change.

There are 112 entries, up from 112 two weeks ago.