Richard, our eldest, is a naughty boy. He has lived on his boat Nb Bankside in Hartford Marina near Huntingdon for eleven years and never moved. Well the boat that is. Not only tha,t but he has virtually never run the engine. Anyhow, at last the time has come to repaint the boat, so the inevitable eventual move could no longer be put off. Bankside is living proof of the folly of painting a boat red. Over the years all of the red pigment had bleached out of the paint, leaving the boat a mixture of cream and rust. Its fair to say she looks pretty terrible on the surface. Arrangements had been made with a boatyard at Earith to give the rusty old barque a thorough going over top and bottom, after which she will hopefully emerge all clean and shiny in two pack green paint with a cream roof.
“How do you fancy a four and a half hour river cruise in a rusty boat whose engine hasn’t run for ten years?” was the question he didn’t ask but might as well have. Well it was with some trepidation that I volunteered, inviting Rick to join us as ship’s engineer, expecting every minute for his mechanical skills to be called upon. I am not normally a pessimistic person but I confess I was not the least confident that the boat would survive the journey.
So last Monday I popped up to check out the engine and running gear. The prop shaft turned easily by hand so at least that wasn’t seized up. The engine was a different matter, mainly because the battery, as you might expect, was knackered. So one new starter battery later and a good cleanup of the contacts by a nice man at the marina, attempt number two was taken. Blow me down, she burst into life. What’s more the ten year old diesel in the tank still did it’s job, no hoses split, nothing overheated and the gearbox turned. I was later to remark that Richard didn’t deserve to be so flippin’ (I may have used a different expletive there) lucky.
So on Friday morning we assembled at the boat with bags full of tools and armfuls of life jackets plus anchor, warp and chain borrowed from Herbie. Nothing like being prepared for disaster! Kath spent twenty minutes extracting the boat’s electric shore cable from ten years of undergrowth wile I delved into the weed hatch to clear the accumulation of water weed and hand spin the prop which had a decidedly crusty surface.
After starting the old BMC 1.8 once more, we untied the brittle old mooring ropes and punted the boat off it’s pontoon until we were clear of the raft of weed. Gently opening the throttle and unable to take our eyes off the temperature gauge and the voltmeter, we crept out of the marina and onto the River Ouse, which along that stretch is very pretty.
I wouldn’t call Bankside’s engine smooth, or even smoothish, well, it is a BMC that hadn’t run for ten years, running on ten year old diesel, but miraculously it chugged along without doing anything scary and we were soon at our first lock. The guillotine top gates on Ouse locks are frustratingly slow to say the least and we were soon revising our four hour estimate, while Rick did his best to remain incognito, understandably embarrassed to be seen crewing such a rusty old barque.
Then came Hemingford with its beautiful riverside church and then probably the most picturesque spot on the Ouse, the medieval bridge at St Ives.
We slunk through in full view of the usual gongoozlers, trying not to look too rusty,
and plodded on through the miles to Brownshill staunch where we entered the short (barely) tidal section, then through the final lock and into the comparative safety of the boatyard.
Well, to cut a long story short we made it! By the time we got there, the old engine was remembering how to run and seemed fairly content in its role. No-one was more surprised and relieved than me, although we still wait to see what condition the hull is in when they get her out of the water. Whether I will be volunteering for the return trip sometime in October all being well, remains to be seen. That'll be a good time for some before and after pictures.
Meanwhile, the Great Herbie Autumn Cruise is about to start. Where will we go? Stay tuned to find out.