Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Weighing up the Wey

I had an hour to kill near Guildford today, so I popped down to the River Wey near Shalford to have a look. This is one river we might take Herbie to next year. Well, it all looks very pleasant and easily navigable, although I recall a couple of years back when it was flooded all over the fields, so well need to watch the weather.

There seem to be quite a few boats moored around there, both narrowboats and GRP cruisers.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, I'm reading through the published guidance for the Boat Safety Scheme ( a bit like an MoT for boats). Herbie is due for her 4 year inspection in December. Lots of things to check but I reckon we should be OK. One thing I was unaware of though is some means of checking the gas tighness of the LPG system - we're supposed to have some checking point or a bubble tester. I'll have to ask the chaps on the uk.rec.waterways newsgroup. Someone will tell me what I need to do :-)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Looking back

Well, its 7 months since we took ownership of Herbie, so I've been reviewing how its all going. Are we getting our money's worth? Are we achieving our objectives? First I did the stats. So far they look like this

Days aboard 60
Miles travelled 404
Locks negotiated 332
Canals cruised Grand Union main line as far N as Milton Keynes and S to Bulls Bridge
Slough Arm of GU
Paddington Arm of GU
Wendover Arm of GU
Regents Canal
Lee navigation

Passengers / crew 9 plus ourselves

Pubs visited :-) 18 (some more than once)

Not too bad for a start. Our longest trip was 15 days at Easter, and our plan next summer is for a more extended cruise so we can get further. We have other ideas for short cruises this autumn and winter including a trip down to Brentford to complete the GU South and to eye up the exit onto the tidal Thames for next year.

Favourite overnight spots so far are Limehouse Basin in London for its excitement, Black Jacks Lock on the GU at Harefield for its prettiness and tranquility, and The Marsworth reservoirs for the sunset views (and the Angler's Retreat).

Best pub so far? A tough one. Either the Grapes at Limehouse, or the Angler's Retreat at Marsworth, or perhaps the Papermill at Apsley, or maybe the Old Barge at Hertford, or the Cowroast Inn for the Thai food or . . . .

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A series of posts reading down, not up

Hello reader, thanks for coming back. We've been away on Herbie having quite an adventure, so here are a series of posts about what happened. Contrary to normal blog convention, they read chronologically down, not up, till we finally got home.

An alarming breakdown and a chance meeting with the guv'nor

We were on our way from Iver to Paddington basin to collect our son Peter for a week's holiday cruise. Pete Higson, our "regular" crew member was with us as well as Jake the cabin boy. All went well down to Bull's Bridge where we moored at Tescos for provisions and a spot of lunch before turning up the Paddington Arm of the GU.

It was a nice day, and we were idly pondering the voltmeter readings on the instrument panel when we could hear a squeaking from the engine compartment. Lifting the lid we were greeted by a cloud of smoke, so we immediately turned the engine off and pulled over. The smoke was coming from the stern gland where the prop shaft goes through and we could see the grease melting and frying! This looked like big trouble. A quick call to River Canal Rescue got an engineer on his way, although our discussion over the phone with him was depressing. He feared it might be an "out of the water" job.

Then we had some uncanny good luck. Who should cruise past but well known boat maintenance trainer and guru Tony Brooks, whose course I attended earlier this year. Seconds later he was under the bonnet and spotted the cause. The engine mountings at the prop end had worked loose and the engine had dropped so that its weight was borne by the prop shaft. Tony elected to leave it for the RCR man to fix, but phoned them up to offer his diagnosis. He was right of course and it took only a few minutes for the RCR man to bring the engine back up to its former position and tighten the stern gland which was now leaking water. Before Tony left I also discussed the oil leak which has been plaguing us and he spotted that the oil was coming from where the oil pressure relief pipe comes out of the block. "You'll need to change the copper washer" he said.

Meanwhile poor old Pete, who was only with us for the day, elected to take advantage of the nearby tube station to get home, and so missed the rest of the trip to Paddington. Kath and I elected to stay put for the night as it was too far to Paddington to make it before dark and anyway we were very close to the Black Horse pub, which looked inviting. It turns out to be a good stopping place because the food and the beer were excellent.

Next morning we had a smooth run in to Paddington to meet Peter off his train. One amazing thing we saw, whilst crossing the North Circular aqueduct, was a huge (and I mean huge) cavalcade of motor cycles below. Apparently it was a rally called Kill Spills to demonstrate about the dangers to motor cyclists of diesel spilt on the road by lorries and they were hoping to have 5000 bikes there. We didn't count, but it was a hell of a lot! The whole North Circular seemed chock ablock with bikes and of course we could hear the roar over everything.

Here we are coming into Paddington to collect Peter from the station.

That done, we set off back the way we had come. The sun shone and the cabin boy poured the beers as we passed through Little Venice.

We finally moored for the night at Cowley in pleasant surroundings and had a meal at the Malt Shovel. Jacob by now had been collected by his mum for school next day.

The Final Solution for the oil leak and a mooring at a film location.

Although the stern gland and bearing now seemed to be behaving, I was still nervous over the whole breakdown affair and next morning I woke determined that today was to be the day to put paid to the oil leak. It had been getting worse to the point where we were losing a nearly litre of oil per day!

Mid morning we cruised into Denham Yacht Station to seek an emergency repair. The lady at the desk was nice but said "I'm sorry, all our engineers are . . useless!", then grinned and said "Only joking" and handed me to John, standing next to her saying, "If he can't fix it, no-one can."

John initially doubted Tony's and my diagnosis for the source of the leak, but crouching in the engine bay while I started her up, he quickly agreed. "Yep, I can see it dribbling down. We can soon fix that". It wasn't easy because both ends of the pipe had to be dismantled, the washer replaced, and then it needed two people to hold the pipe in line for it to be reattached securely.

It turned out that the old washer was damaged and that engine vibration had probably made matters worse by slackening the joint. Here's the fitting with the old washer on.

A simple thing, but not easy to fix in the confined space of an engine bay, and it took nearly two hours all told. Anyway, they did a good job at no notice and I'd certainly use them again.

We still had time to cruise for the afternoon, and tootled on up to Stocker's Lock for the night. While we were there we were visited by a guy from a film crew who were due to be shooting a horror movie there at the weekend. They needed to make sure that all the boats would be gone by then. This apparently would involve "bribing" the permanently moored boats nearby to disappear for a couple of days. Then they were to dress up the canal to make it look like a river, covering up the towpath and so on.

Up to a favourite spot, a nervous oil check, and a clean up.

One of the nicest bits on the southern Grand Union is the area around Grove and Lady Capel's lock, so that's where we went for the next night, mooring up opposite the waterfall feeding the old mill building. Nervously I used the dipstick to check our oil level and was pretty sure we hadn't lost any so far. What a relief! "Lets clear out the lost oil then" said Kath, and stripping down to Tee shirt and knickers climbed in with one of those kitchen basters with a suction bulb and began the long process of retrieving the leaked oil from the engine tray. What a star!

We give a tow, then Peter takes the tiller.

We headed off back towards Uxbridge next day with the intention of spending the evening at the General Elliot which had a board saying Quiz Wednesdays.

Passing through Springwell lock, a chap in a broken down boat asked if we could give him a tow to the next lock at Batchworth as he had blown a head gasket. Well, maybe I might need one one day, so we said yes. We tied the boats together side by side and set off down the canal.

Actually, it was surprisingly easy and I even managed to steer him neatly to the side at the finish.

Later, Peter did his first serious bit of boat driving and quickly appeared adept, he even got us neatly into locks with a bit of coaching. Here he is taking Herbie into our favourite Black Jack's lock with Kath instructing. Although it's now getting Autumnal, this section of canal is looking lovely, with blackberries, sloes and wild hops in abundance.

The evening wasn't so good though, as the General Elliot no longer has a quiz, and the nearby moorings looked very dodgy. One small fibreglass boat had been sunk by vandals. So we pressed on to Cowley where we had egg and chips and a game of Scrabble to finish the day.

Next day, Kath had to go home for the weekend, so we detoured down the Slough Arm to drop her near the car, then Peter and I set off back towards Paddington, with Peter by now doing most of the driving. Once again we overnighted at the Black Horse, this time mooring a few feet from the pub door. Noticing it was quiz night we duly entered and did reasonably well, ending up mid field.

Regents Park

Next day arriving earlyish at Paddington we carried on past Little Venice, through the Maida Hill tunnel

and into Regents Park. I can't begin to imagine the value of the houses there, but it must be many millions.As we passed the zoo we could see a few warthogs, and wild boar, and I think some tapirs or similar. Turning round at the floating Chinese restaurant in Cumberland Basin

and headed back to Paddington Basin for the night. Boy was it windy there! Mooring up was a bit hairy. We found a nice little Spanish / Italian restaurant just a minute's walk away and had a very reasonable Tapas meal followed by another game of Scrabble.

Solo Trip home

Peter got his train back to Paddington on the last morning, so now it was just me having to take Herbie home. This was must first lengthy solo trip (albeit lock free) but all went well and Herbie now rest again at Iver, waiting for our next adventure. By the way, since the oil leak was fixed, we've lost absolutely none

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A couple of maintenance jobs and lessons learned.

Looking forward to getting out on the boat again this weekend. We will be picking up son Peter at Paddington basin, and all being well embarking on a weeks cruise to give him a holiday.

Today I went out to Herbie to turn her round to face the right way and to do a couple of maintenance jobs. First up was buying and installing a new starter battery. I was pleased to find one at a reasonable price, and took care to measure up the old one so the new one would fit in the space. However, what I didn't know is that not all batteries have their + and - tyerminals at the same ends, so of course I bought one the wrong way round:-( So it was off back to Uxbridge where luckily they were able to swap it for the right kind:-)

Next up was a go at the oil leak which has been plaguing us for ages. We know where it has been leaking from - a union where the high presssure oil pipe enters the cylinder block. Tightening the retaining nut just didn't seem to fix it, but noticing the two sides of the joint were out of line, today I applied a bit of pressure to align them and tightened the nut as I held everything in place. As you can see there's not a lot of room for the huge 26mm spanner required ( and that's after I removed the oil pressure meter sensor to create more space!)

After a short run there were no drips, so I'm cautiously optimistic, but we'll have to wait and see. Next week I'll be carrying spare oil in case.