Thursday, 28 May 2015

A Trip to Stoke Bruerne

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Cath)

Stoke Bruerne
We've been working on Flamingo on and off for weeks now, since we sold Chalice (except for various medical appointments and our trip to Rickmansworth with Sickle). We are making progress, but there is a lot to do, so any improvements seem small compared to the whole of what will eventually be needed.

Stoke Bruerne, near the tunnel to avoid a long trip in reverse!
I have made progress with the improvements to the back cabin (which I will eventually get around to posting, soon I hope), while Alan has done a lot of work mostly in the engine room. He has done a lot towards cleaning the detritus of ages from the engine bilge, but couldn't do any more because of the restrictions of the diesel boiler and its accompanying tank. We spent a lot of time discussing the boiler, and came to the conclusion that it really is too big for the boat, and we don't want to run a boiler every time that we want a small amount of hot water. We decided to bite the bullet and remove it from the engine room.

Alan unbolted the tank, and we managed to remove it from the engine room between us, but at an estimated 50 - 60 kgs in a small engine room it was hard work. There is never anywhere for you to stand to brace yourself, or to get a proper lift, and we were worried about dropping it onto the engine. Additionally, Alan is really not supposed to be doing heavy lifting with the damage that he did to his shoulder with the fall into the canal back in January.

So, to get the much heavier and more awkwardly placed boiler out, we called on reinforcements - our sons were asked to drive up for the day to lift it out and take it home with them.  As they are both in their mid 20s, and one of them lifts weights as a hobby it was somewhat easier for them than for us.  We now have to decide how to get rid of it.

Towards Bugbrooke
With the boiler and tank out of the engine room there is more access to the floor and beneath that the bilge, so Alan can start to clear some more oily muck out.

Alan has done other work on the engine, and the electrics, as well as simplifying the plumbing in the main cabin - for example, decommissioning the 'heated floor' in the bathroom. At the moment if we want hot water we need to run the multi-fuel stove, but to just heat water we need to turn off all the radiators (the hot water system doesn't operate separately from the heating at the moment), and heating the bathroom floor is just a waste of heat at a time when we don't want the boat hot anyway. Alan also plumbed out the diesel boiler from the main heating system now that it has been removed from the boat.

A week or so ago Alan finally had done enough work on the engine room, and the engine to run the engine up for a while, and was disturbed by oil leaking from the exhaust. We knew that the boat had had a 'bottom end rebuild' at Brinklow Boats, but Alan was worried that there might be problems at the top end. He rang the engineer at Brinklow, who said that the engine was a good one, and he recommended taking the boat for a 'good thrash', rather than running it on the moorings.

So, we finally got fed up with painting, plumbing, electricity and engineering, and decided to go to Stoke Bruerne. Not too far away - about 3 hours, and we wanted to find out if the engine would be OK to go there for the Stoke Bruerne Family Festival in a couple of weeks time. There are also a couple of places that we could wind a 72 foot boat before we got to Stoke, if it became necessary.

We set off South in the afternoon, slightly apprehensive, because while we have done many thousands of miles boating, the only boating I have done with a 72 foot boat was bringing Flamingo south, six months ago, and while Alan has done a bit more, most of it was a very long time ago. Steering a full length working boat is rather different.  Interestingly, we had both thought that Flamingo was rather 'sluggish', but the GPS on the roof proved that isn't the case. Yes, she is slow to get going, but once under way she makes much the same progress as Sickle.

When we set off the oil pressure, as shown by the gauge on the roof was well up into the 40s, but it fell through the journey - as is to be expected as the oil warms up. However, by the time that we came out of the tunnel at Stoke Bruerne Alan was quite concerned just how low the oil pressure was registering - particularly with the engine idling, although of course in such circumstances it is not under much load.

We tied up, and decided to think about the problem in the morning, when the engine had cooled. We went to the Navigation Pub, but there were no seats available in the only part of the pub that allows dogs in, and a number of disgruntled diners told us of long waits. So we went to The Boat pub, where the place was virtually deserted, but they were still serving food, which arrived promptly.

In the morning Alan started the engine, to find that the oil pressure was back up to normal levels. He disappeared to go to ring an engineer friend (there is no phone signal near to the tunnel) and came back to check various things that our friend Richard had asked about.

We spent a fairly relaxed morning, there were lots of people on the towpath to talk to, while Alan disappeared every now and again to ring Richard. We checked the oil to see if there was any evidence of diesel in it, but it seemed clear, so we decided that it was time to go back to our mooring.

After the tunnel we stopped in Blisworth for me to buy milk and bread, and to let the engine cool. Then after lunch we polished brass a bit. Finally we set off again for 'home'.

It was an enjoyable trip out, and it should be possible to take Flamingo to the Family Festival in two weeks time.

High House Wharf to Stoke Bruerne winding hole and return
Miles: 20.0, Locks: 0


  1. 'A good thrash' means up the Trent :-) Worked for Chertsey post-rebuild.
    (The subsequent disintegration of the bearing in the cooling fan is a different matter.

  2. Such a handsome looking boat - bet you get a thrill every time you see her


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