Sunday, 18 February 2018

Some Progress Made A Little While back

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

General arrangement looking forward.
Back in the early part of last summer we went to the boats to investigate a number of issues we knew we were ignoring on "Flamingo".  High up that list was that we knew that somewhere in the mess of plumbing and tanks that the previous owner had installed under our main bed at the front of the boat was a leak.  We had chosen to keep this part of the circuit isolated unless we tried to use the hot water tanks, but each time we opened up the taps joining the rest of the boat plumbing to it, there was intermittent running of the water pump when there should not have been.

Header tank (top) and expansion vessel (red)
The leak quickly narrowed down to the fact that one of two hot water tanks he had installed had a hole in it.  It was obvious he had known this, because he had stripped the foam insulation off the tank, and attempted a bodged repair that has not worked.  As soon as we stripped the replacement lagging he had hidden it with off, we could see water jetting out of the tank!

Further inspection showed the hot water tanks used, (there were two), were not proper boat calorifiers able to stand the pressures found in a boats pumped system, but were simple domestic types only tested to a much lower pressure, (almost certainly contributing to the original failure).  These were tested to 1.4 bar, whereas the pressure they need to withstand is more than double that figure.

New calorifier made to order and delivered next day!
So with the tanks declared useless, and all the plumbing around them a complete rats nest of different pipe and connector types, with about 5 times more joints than should have been necessary, a decision was taken to scrap the lot.  It was only removed by partial destruction of the bed, which had been constructed over the top using nails, making it impossible to access the plumbing and tanks and remove them without use of both jemmy bars and a sledge hammer!

Copper pipe is to boiler and radiators, domestic hot water in plastic.
Reluctantly we decided the space available was too small and cramped to fit any single proper marine calorifier that was likely to be useful, and (importantly!) to allow access to it afterwards.  So we decided a new  hot water tank would have to be relocated to the bathroom - disappointing, as it would take up very good storage space, wheres the space freed up under the bed is not really much use for day to day storage.

Our stove has a large back boiler connected to pipes that both heat the water tank and also several radiators throughout the boat - this all had to be drained down of course, making the stove unusable  However we thought we would have no issue getting a new installation in before we needed to have heating available in the winter.

Then Michael broke his ankle spectacularly, and we were hardly able to get near the boat for several months.  We were rapidly facing the possibility the boat would be uninhabitable in the winter months.   However we finally managed to get on board for several short stays of only 2 or 3 full days at a time, and, having ordered up a custom made marine calorifier, I set about reinstating everything in a new location, including relocating a radiator in the bathroom, and adding a new one in the bedroom.  By some mercy much of this went into November, but it was just about mild enough that we could survive a few days without heat.  Finally it was back together enough to refill, (thankfully there were no leaks!), and to try out.  It works, and now produces hot water very much better than the appalling arrangements we were forced to rip out.

Looking backwards - radiator is reused, but relocated.
This was a job I had hoped to avoid for a year or two, and having to do it now has stopped us doing other things.  However once we found unsuitable cylinders had been used by the last owner, we really had no other option.   Much of our efforts have not been on renovation or refit of the boat as it was before the last owner acquired it.  Far too much in fact has been it reversing the stuff that he did to it - it really would have been far easier to take on the boat that he bought at the start of his 7 year ownership, rather than have to deal with the "improvements" he believed he had made to it!

Finally I regret not having taken pictures of the original arrangements, hemmed in by a but constructed highly over the top, that allowed almost no access to sort out problems.  It was a maze of pipework and joints almost beyond belief, and I should have kept some record of it.  Instead Ifilled up quite a bit of space at Northampton recycling centre, with no permanent record of what was in the void we now have - so the opportunity for "before" and "after" pictures has been lost.

Monday, 1 January 2018

2017 - Another Year That Did Not Follow a Plan

(Boat Sickle & Flamingo - posted by Alan)

We always knew when we took on a boat needing as much work as "Flamingo" did that we would have some years where we did far less actual boating than we were able to manage in the past when we owned our relatively modern leisure boat "Chalice".

However we could never have bargained with quite how many non boating related distractions there would be to keep us not only from boating but also quite often to also stop us getting on with working on the boats.  Since buying "Flamingo" we have had to deal with the deaths of Cath's step-mother and more recently her mother, whilst I have had various health complications, fortunately non of them life threatening, but certainly involving surgery to eyes, (twice) and a shoulder operation.

We hoped 2017 would be the year we would make more intensive use of "Flamingo", because, although there is much to do, the engine side is now fully sorted, and she could be used with far more confidence than in previous years.

For "Sickle" we had taken a decision to replace her engine with one we had originally agreed to buy for "Flamingo", hoping this would also guarantee trouble free boating.  This work had yet to happen at the start of 2017.

We had ambitious plans to take both boats to multiple festivals and gatherings, including Rickmansworth, Foxton Locks, Braunston and later in the year Alvecote, as well as doing one much longer trip with "Flamingo".

We started well, but eventually things did not go to plan................

In February, we managed to work around planned stoppages to take "Sickle" to Brinklow Boat Services.......

Cath takes "Sickle" down Hillmorton - last trip with 3 cylinder engine.

The fitting of the new engine proved not to be quite as straightforward, and hence rather more expensive than we had hoped.  The end result, however. looks very tidy.......

"Sickle" now sports a Lister HA2, (replacing a Lister HA3)

In March we broght "Sickle" back to her mooring - on that trip all seemed OK........

Alan in charge at Long Buckby locks.

In April we did what proved to be by far the biggest trip of the year, taking just "Flamingo" on a tour of the Birmingham Canal Navigations, and principally to the Historic Narrow Boat Club gathering at Brownhills on the Wyrley & Essington Canal.  This proved to be quite challenging due to the condition of some of the Birmingham canals used, but was a perfect shake-down for "Flamingo's" engine that had not yet seen much use since a total rebuild in late 2016.  It passed with flying colours, and, as the year worked out, we are very glad we stretched ourselves to do that intensive trip.......

Lapworth on the Stratford Canal - Still some way from Brownhills!

In May the idea that we would do a long tour with both boats kicked in.  First stop was Rickmansworth Festival - there are a lot of locks travelling South from our home mooring to "Ricky", and we took the opportunity to prove that "Flamingo's" much improved performance, (and stopping power!), allowed us to work flights with both boats breasted together.......

Travelling breasted at Marsworth locks means some fairly impressive bends .

The Rickmansworth Festival passed without issues, but only a few locks into the return trip things started to go wrong.  "Sickle's" gearbox, (part of the deal with the "new" engine), started to lock so it could not be taken out of reverse gear.  A bit of examination showed it would not be a quick fix, and that plans for the next two events would not be possible.

Only an expert eye would know all is not quite as it should be inide here.

We had to temporarily abandon "Sickle in a local boat yard, whilst the supplier of the engine and gearbox sorted out how to resolve the failure.......

People power to get round gearbox issue.

We decided to still do the Foxton and Braunston events with just "Flamingo".........

Down to one boat - Stoke Hammond Three Locks
Our first time on the Leicester in many years - Watford Locks

We then took "Flamingo" to Braunston.......

 So back the other way through the Watford staircase locks.

"Sickle" was repaired before the Braunston show, but it was far too late to get her there to join "Flamingo" - we did however manage to squeeze in a move up to Berkhamsted, (which also stopped us having to pay for more Marina moorings)........

Cath in charge - Winkwell swing bridge.

After a successful Braunston with just "Flamingo" we took her back to the home mooring......

In Braunston locks

We then took "Sickle" to the Linslade Canal Festival........


And then back to join "Flamingo" at out home moorings......

It's starting to look like Cath did all the steering.
We thought we would make good some of the lost time by our big final trip out of the year, that should have sen us taking both boats to our favourite historic boat gathering at Alvecote in August.  We got as far as being on the boats and ready to leave.  Then we got a fatal phone call that resulted in all other boating for the rest of the year not happening.  Yes, we really were unable to go nowhere in any of August, September, October, November and December.

The reasons are covered in a post previous to this one, but are summed up by this image......

What our son Michael managed to do to his ankle in August.
We are very glad we got as much in as we did in the early part of the year, but still only managed some 500 miles, whereas past boating has seen us do at least twice that in many years.  We really are hoping 2018 will be better!

Totals for 2017 Miles: 544, Locks: 437

Thursday, 9 November 2017

For those who don't know - why there has been no blog since August

(Posted by Alan)

OK, I know we are not really very good at keeping the blog up to date, but at least this time I have a fairly good excuse.

The year had already not gone to plan from a boating viewpoint.  The temporary failure of the gearbox on "Sickle's" replacement engine early in the year meant we had to abandon plans to continue taking both boats together around a series of festivals, and instead just do much of what we had planned at that time with just "Flamingo".

However August was meant to see us at least a bit back on track, and the plan was to take both boats to our favourite festival of the calendar, namely the historic boat event at Alvecote.  On the last day we could set off without a big rush to get there, Cath David, I and 2 large dogs travelled up to the home mooring, with two cars well filled, and loaded up the boats.  Only because of delays due to road closures had we not already set off, when I took a call from our other son, Michael.

Before dislocation dealt with
"Hello Dad - I've broken my ankle playing five a side, and I'm on my way to A&E".  I don't think any of us immediately realised quite how momentous those words would turn out to be, but the immediate result was we had to throw as much stuff as we could into one car, (including all of us and the dogs), and set off for Watford General.

Realigned, but still swollen.
The reality, as things unfolded is that he had sustained a very bad 3 part fracture, (a "trimalleolar" fracture), and that once they had manipulated it to get everything back roughly in line, he had to lay with leg heavily elevated for 6 days before the swelling had even subsided sufficiently to allow them to do the necessary surgery.  He then acquired 2 stainless steel plates, and necessary fastenings, apparently enough to guarantee setting off airport body scanners. It rather looks like parts purchased from Screwfix.

2 plates and lots of screws
Although discharged quite soon after the operation, he has not  been given permission to try any load bearing on it until the very last few days.  So for around 11 weeks he has been largely unable to do very much for himself, requiring crutches or a walking frame to get about at all.  Obviously throughout he has remained unable to work, (and even when he can return, will not yet be OK to drive).

Same time, different angle
So this has very much taken over our lives, and not only did Alvecote not happen, we have until recently been unable to get to the boat to start to reinstate the heating and hot water system, most of which we had scrapped earlier in the year, assuming we would have time to put it back before the weather got too cold to be on the boat without heating,

Fortunately Michael's improving situation has allowed us three brief trips to "Flamingo", during which time we have often been cold, but the weather has been unseasonably mild, and I have been able to make much progress on the revised plumbing, to include a new calorifier, (effectively the equivalent of a domestic hot water cylinder), and revised radiator layout.  Of which, no doubt, more to follow in a subsequent posting.

Anyway - that's why absolutely no boating has happened since I last completed a blog post.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Another back to home mooring trip.

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)
(retrospective post for Sunday 30th July to  Tuesday 1st August)

Cath enters Cosgrove lock.
Our stay at Linslade for the festival had been brief.  In truth we were fairly fully tied up performing with the band from our Morris side for most of the day, (New Moon Morris), and spent very little time with Sickle.  It was a good decision to not bring Flamingo down as well, because it is a significant trip, and the end result would not have justified the substantial effort involved.

Someone looks happy.
Because David needed to be at Linslade for the festival for the New Moon performance, we had actually all come up on Saturday for the day from home by car, and returned home immediately after the festival.  The second advantage of this was that far more instruments did not need to be stowed in Sickle's cabin than it can reasonably accommodate.  So in order that we could continue our journey on the Sunday, without abandoning a car in Linslade, we got Michael to deliver us up there.

Two generation of Grand Union ice breakers - on the left is Snowdrop,
As it is really a good 2 days boating, and as we were not able to start or end the first and last days particularly early or late, we elected to take a more relaxed 3 days, which would also allow an overnight stop in Stoke Bruerne - one of our regular haunts.

Leaving the top of the Stoke Bruerne flight.
It was a good trip throughout, with fine weather and no real issues.  In particular both Sickle's gearbox, and the mechanism controlling it continued to work as they should.  The replacement engine handles and gets us along well, but at times is making more smoke than we really think it should be for an engine claimed to not have had much in excess of 300 total hours on the clock.  Where possible I am deliberately working it harder, in case it needs a good work out to get things better bedded in - as a result we made a fairly spirited passage through Blisworth tunnel.  Doing this is at least certainly not making things worse, but the jury is out on whether it is actually improving them.

About to moor for the night at Stoke Bruerne

Linslade to High House Wharf, Weedon
Miles: 36.6, Locks: 14

Friday, 28 July 2017

Unusually we are boating with just Sickle again.

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)
(retrospective post for Thursday 27th and Friday 28th July)

Marsworth locks - it's sometimes easier to rope boat out, if shutting gates.
Our ambitious plans for the year to date would have had us visiting all the following events with both boats in this order - Rickmansworth, Foxton, Braunston and Linslade.  The problems with Sickle had already meant that she had not made it to either Foxton on Braunston, and we now decided that we would further cut back plans, and not bring Flamingo down to the Linslade festival either.  All this was disappointing, but we had lost a lot of time because of a number of things, (not just Sickle), and to do separate journeys to Linslade with each boat, (one being South of it, the other North of it), would further eat into time we might be getting on with work on the boats.

Coming down Marsworth - still one of my favourite lock flights
Currently Cath and I have not worked out satisfactory ways of overnighting on Sickle with both dogs, so anything more than a day move of Sickle requires leaving them at home in the care of our sons.  Wherever a trip takes place with a different start and end point, the issue of transport and car movements usually arises.  We decided this trip could be tackled by driving to the start point at Cow Roast, leaving a car there, then, on arrival at Linslade, using a combination of bike and train to retrieve that car, and bring it back to where the boat was.
Once upon a time only Cath would have been pictured doing this.
It was excellent weather for boating, and was a great pleasure to both be using Sickle on her own, (quite unusual at the moment), and to travel a length of canal that once upon a time we travelled all the time, but which, since basing the boats further North, we now only boat on much less frequently.

We took turns to steer, and I got to work quite a few locks.
In order not to have to cook on the boat, (it was far to warm to have the coal fired range alight!), we arranged to moor overnight at Cooks Wharf, and walk in to Cheddington to eat at the Old Swan pub.  (Once upon a time we would have avoided this after dark, but a few years ago a continuous footpath was added ro the road where previously there was none - a great improvement in safety). This pub seemed on its last legs only a few years back, (spending some time closed down), but is currently undergoing a massive resurgence in popularity.  The food is quite expensive, but definitely a notch or two above standard pub meals, so worth treating oneselves once in a while.

Shame about the electricity pylons!
It was a real pleasure to be boating with our rather special tug again, although I'm still not used to Sickle now having a two cylinder beat to the engine, replacing the three cylinder noises I have been enjoying for years.  Performance is still lively, and more than adequate, but you have to remember to not try pulling some of the show off stunts she was capable of with the even more powerful engine,

Our steerer usually closes the gate they have entered the lock through.
All too soon we were at Linslade.  It is a long while since I have done more than lock wheel on a push bike, and although no large cycling mileages were involved in my attempts to get first from Sickle to Leighton Buzzard station, and then from Tring Station to Cow Roast and the car, I was struggling by the time I finally got there.  Clearly I need to work more on my fitness!

Cow Roast to Linslade
Miles: 11.2, Locks: 18

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

A Short Proving Run

(Boat Sickle - posted by Alan)
(retrospective post for Wednesday 5th July)

Waiting for "Bushes" lock in Northchurch.
This was only  short move, but an important one!  With David's help we had completed repairs to the mechanism that operates the gear change which had caused Cath and I issues on the way into Berkhamsted.  We were now so far adrift on any original plans for this period, that taking "Sickle" up to its Northamptonshire home mooring made little sense, if we were coming back down to the Linslade Canal festival not many weeks later.  However our friend Jim's mooring was not currently in use, as his boat is having major renovations elsewhere, so we were offered the loan of his mooring until we needed to move on to Linslade, (thanks Jim!).

Entering Dudswell Bottom Lock
This short run was a vital stage in checking that our repairs were up to scratch, in anticipation that the journey on from Cow Roast had the possibility of being trouble free.  With that in mind, David and I were the crew for this trip, and we travelled with lots of tools, just in case.

The trip was completed without incident - this was a good result, of course, although only much longer runs will ultimately establish whether we might still end up with more problems.

Berkhamsted to Cow Roast
Miles: 2.6, Locks: 7

Monday, 26 June 2017

Another brief run back to base.

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)
(Retrospective post for Monday 26th June)

After another very enjoyable Braunston gathering, this was simply a quick run over familiar territory to get "Flamingo" back to its home mooring.

I could tell the story of the water can and the overhanging trees down the Buckby flight, but lets gloss over that brief incident!

Braunston Locks

Braunston Locks
Buckby locks

Buckby locks

Monday 26th June

Braunston to High House Wharf, Weedon
Miles: 10.5, Locks: 13