Friday, 26 August 2016

Alvecote Or Bust? (Hopefully Not!).

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)

(Retrospective post for Tuesday 23rd to Friday 26th August)

Buckby Locks, Grand Union Canal
So by this stage we had arrived at the situation that "Sickle" was in dry dock for some weeks, with various bits of her hull being cut out and replaced, whereas "Flamingo" clearly had an unwell engine, which so far had kept going, but nobody knew the extent of what was wrong with it.  This was hardly an ideal situation for a family that likes to be attending a series of major events through these months!

Hillmorton Locks, Oxford Canal
Whilst work was finally forging ahead on "Sickle", in the case "Flamingo" we did not until now have a solution.  I had had discussions with a number of people in the trade since the problem first arose, and was firmly getting the message that few were in a position to take on a full engine rebuild in the foreseeable future, and certainly not before the winter.  In one case I had a long and very helpful conversation with a person that came highly recommended, but they were in no position to commit to a date, even indicating they might be unable to help throughout the whole of 2017.

Stop lock at Hawkesbury. Oxford Canal
Our potential salvation came when Dave Ross, who usually works for Brinklow Boat Services offered to take it on.   The actual work on the engine would be a private arrangement, and we would pay to be at the yard to allow Dave to do this on their premises, as he found time, alongside his regular work for the yard.  It seemed a fair likelihood to me that once we attempted to get the engine out, it would also generate some direct work for Brinklow - certain bits of the roof and cabin that needed dismantling looked in poor condition, and it seemed unlikely they would come apart and go back together again without some repairs being required.  We agreed a start date with Dave, and with Brinklow.

Leaving Oxford Canal for Coventry Canal at Hawkesbury Junction
Now we had a tricky decision to make.  We would have to gently boat "Flamingo" up to Brinklow's yard anyway.  This would take us much of the way towards Alvecote, where we usually attend one of the biggest, and probably the best, events of the historic boating calendar.  We were loathe to miss it, but would trying to get to Alvecote before we handed the boat over for its engine work just be a step too far?  Eventually we agreed with Brinklow that this what we would attempt, but if we found the engine problems worsening on the way up, we would halt our trip at their yard, and abandon the attempts to attend Alvecote.  Only if things were not significantly worse by the time we got to Brinklow would we continue on for the Alvecote event.

A 180 degree turn is required at Hawkesbury Junction.
And so we set off, deliberately allowing more time that we might usually take, so we could run the engine less hard, and hopefully make less smoke.  In practice, although it was quite bad when we did need to run the engine hard, if we accepted lower RPM, and hence a slower cruising speed, we  were able to carry on.  I suspect we were not actually a lot slower than the casual pace at which many people do their boating, as we rarely seemed to be holding boats behind up, but by our standards it was certainly a bit pedestrian.  However we dearly wanted to get to what looked like being our final event of the year, in a year where we had missed many, and make it we did!

High House Wharf, Weedon to Alvecote, Coventry Canal
Miles: 51.4, Locks: 28

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