Sunday, 4 November 2012

Back in Braunston...

Postie arrived in the form of Pip and John on Monday morning with the bongo's tax form (boo), and my new Google nexus cover/Bluetooth keyboard turning my mini tablet into and ultra mini notebook but with a much better battery life and power efficiency than the big old sony Vaio.

Like a kindle cover but with removable wireless  keyboard

Whilst Pip and John were here the cold tap in the bathroom started playing up. There was quite a lot of air pressure building up and unless you opened the tap just a crack to release the pressure it would send about half a pint of water across the bathroom with such force that it wouldn't hit the floor but shoot across the wall. I suspected a leak somewhere and just hoped it was nice and accessible.  As the main pump is the easiest part to get to (under the kitchen sink) that's where I started. A fairly small weep was enough to make it quite wet under the cupboard so I've stripped the pump down, cleaned it out and tried resealing it with the help of a little marine silicone (as in small amount, I haven't taken any silicone from little marines) It seems to have done the job for now at least.

Soggy cupboard

Repaired for a while
As we were opposite the chandlers I thought it was as good a time as any to buy some oil and filters and do a mini engine service. Not quite as easy as just popping the bonnet and changing the oil as everything (or most things) that were stored in the engine room had to come out and decorate a very muddy towpath. So with the anchor, workbench and two pieces of the five piece engine acoustic cover to interest dogs and trip their owners up I set about pumping the oil out with the rather handy built in sump pump. Unfortunately the pump had other ideas and gave up the ghost about two Litre's into the process. By now it was getting quite cold and miserable so I made a hasty retreat to the comfort of the lounge fire to carry out some earnest research.

I very nearly bought a 'pela' pump a few years ago when we had three motorbikes, a petrol lawnmower and two outboards to try and keep running but now it seemed the only solution to remove the sticky black stuff from LJ. I shouldn't have moored so close to a marina, I've already spent nearly 60 quid on oil and filters! Back from the chandlers and another 50+ lighter I quickly warmed the remaining 7ish litres of oil and started the 'ultra clean and efficient ' process. It actually works really well (so I will be able to do the bongo and its ATF soon as well) you just stick a hose down the dipstick hole and a few pumps starts the vacuum and a while later (long while if the oil is as bad as mine) 9ish litres of oil is sat in a bucket ready for containerisation and disposal. Next stage, using my useless chain type oil filter that just slipped then squashed the filter case, saw another trip back to the chandler for a belt type filter wrench that soon saw the filter loosening with, well a bit of a wrench. Now I now you think that I am going to loose the sticky contents of the filter all over the bilges but  I have a plan. One of the very nice carrier bags from the chandlers was put around the filter to catch the drips. Sounds easy doesn't it? Now what I haven't mentioned is that the filter is tricky to get to, If I kneel on the last bit of engine casing and make a leap of faith/belly flop forwards, I can rest my head on the, now muddy and oily, deck and stretch as far down as I can, I can just about reach it. Luckily most of the pressure is taken on the side of my neck hat has its full compliment of working arteries so all should be well. 

Four litre oil extracter

My hand is on the bag, the filter is in the bag, a couple more turns and...... shit'n'bugger I've dropped the bloody thing. At about eight inches lower than it was I've got no hope of getting it. What I need is someone just about small enough to bung down the 'ole and get it out, Luckily I think Deb likes it down there more than she lets on. Getting the hose out of the dipstick and clearing up wasn't perfect but most of the oil is cleaned up now, oh and Deb managed to extract herself eventually.

The engine ran happier and sounded sweet. Unfortunately there was no drive to the prop. It has happened  once before when we had dropped something onto part of the wiring loom and separated a connection. Not this time though, all conections clean and and tight but still no drive, then a little wimpy burst of action from the prop and then  nothing. Hmm looks gearbox like. Bad light stopped play and I retired to carry out more research.

Over night I had decided a gearbox oil change would be the best place to start and headed out with the waterproofs on. The last engine cover (and only place to stand) came out to let me gain access. I didn't even know what gearbox we had but knew it was hydraulic and most forums pointed to a PRM 150, possibly a larger 260. Like most things on LJ it had to be the biggest that would fit so I headed back to the marina for more oil as the PRM 500 takes an extra couple of litres of oil and more than I had. I used the Pela pump or the second time and instantly found that the drive problem was caused by very low oil level (level checking now added to weekly checks) Oil change completed all systems ok. I would have liked to give the engine a good run but we are very low on diesel so a quick 20 minute battery charge up and call it a day before it gets dark. 

Yesterday was just a quick level check, and with all ok put all the bits and bobs back in. We reversed a short way and moored on the opposite bank to take on water and make one last trip to the chandler for a couple of sacks of coal and some more anti-freeze. Luckily we have been putting aside about 70 pounds a month for servicing so our few days shouldn't hurt too much.

We had a really nice couple of hour cruise heading up towards hilmorton locks in search of the 85p per litre red diesel and are back to being moored in the middle of nowhere.

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