Thursday, 22 December 2016

Fetching "Flamingo" Back To Base

(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)
Retrospective Post For 20th to 22nd December 2016

Bottom locks at Hillmorton
It seems strange to think it is nearly 4 months since we delivered "Flamingo" to Stretton, but in fact a huge amount has been done in the period since.  Whilst all other work done been carried out under the auspices of Brinklow Boat Services, the work of rebuilding the engine was undertaken by Dave as agreed with Brinklow to be done in his "spare" time, using their facilities, so we never really expected that work to be done as quickly as Dave actually managed to do it.  It has been a great result for us, and we are grateful both to Dave for dedicating himself to the task, and to Simon at Brinklow for accommodating each new piece of ancillary work that has come up.

Between bottom twp pairs of locks at Hillmorton
Now however the current programme of works was complete, and there were finally no stoppages that would have prevented us getting back to base, other than a restriction that one particular railway bridge would need to be passed on a fixed time-slot in the hour between noon and 1:00 pm.  We wanted the boat back to base before Christmas, and this week was our one opportunity to do it.  Of course at this time of year the daylight hours are shortest, and we had no desire to navigate in the dark, so we allowed plenty of time for planned short cruising days, and dealing with any unexpected teething problems.

Moving between middle and top locks at Hillmorton
Knowing the time we would be allowed through at Cathiron Railway Bridge meant a morning departure was required from Stretton.  We had the usual "faff" of needing to deliver a car to our eventual destination at the home mooring, then travelling to our start point in a second car, (which would need to retrieved when the canal trip was complete).  This is slightly "exciting" because the "second" car is an elderly Ford Ka that used to belong to Cath's late mum, which we have kept going as a local run-about, but which isn't exactly ideal for longer journeys!  Anyway it made sense to be on board the day before, ready to move off in the morning.  Late tasks we had hoped to complete had still not happened though, such as reinstating the wiring to the horn - this would be done en route.

Braunston flight
In practice it was an uneventful trip, which is of course exactly what we were hoping for.  We arrived early at the rail bridge, to ensure meeting the stated passage time, but I had barely got the boat to the tow-path bank when it was obvious that the workmen were moving a floating pontoon under the works, to leave a channel little wider than a narrow lock.  We were waved through, and were quickly on our way again, already ahead of schedule.

Large woolwich "Aldgate" passed just below lock
The engine performed impeccably, although I had the odd moment where I forgot the speed-wheel now works in the opposite direction to what it previously had done.  Winding clockwise used to wind the speed down, but do that now, and the engine is quickly racing.  It's going to be ongoing fun, as it now works the reverse way to "Sickle's".

The first day had been cold, but nothing like as bad as had been forecast leading up to the trip.  We stopped for the night near Clifton Wharf, just beyond Rugby.

"Pub" lock, Braunston
The following day was positively sunny, although I still needed a jacket most of the day.  The engine continued to work well.  As on the previous test run, we were achieving the same cruising speeds as we had in the past at a noticeably lower engine speed, making the whole experience more relaxed.  More importantly, the boat was now stopping considerably better.  It's still a very slow process compared to (say) "Sickle" or "Chalice", but hardly unexpected given the weight of this very big boat. Also very importantly, the engine is making very little smoke, other than a brief burst as you wind power on, (again not unexpected).  In short it is looking very promising, though more boating will be needed to really get the measure of it.  We stopped the second night at the top of Braunston locks, not wishing to go through our first big tunnel since all this work was done in the dark.

Frosty start to final day in tunnel pound at Braunston.
By contrast to yesterday, on the final day I ventured out in the morning with the dogs to find a heavy frost.  Braunston tunnel had as clear a view straight through as I have ever seen, and, encouragingly, as I looked back as I was about to emerge, there was also still a clear view back the other way.  Prior to the engine rebuild I can guarantee there would not have been.

In the Buckby flight of locks.
The final locks were those at Buckby, which were quite hard work in places due to excess water, but passed without problems.  The final leg back to Weedon always seems to take longer than I expect, but we were still back in time to pack up in an organised way, drive up to Stretton to retrieve a car, and still be home in reasonable time.

It's great to be boating again in a boat that isn't a worry.  It was certainly going to be the last trip of 2016, being by now only 3 days to Christmas.

Waiting for our final lock of 2016

Stretton Arm, Northern Oxford to Weedon, Grand Union
Miles: 26.8, Locks: 16

1 comment:

  1. That's a pretty good Christmas present, with more pleasure to look forward to everytime you use it in 2017.

    Good luck.


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