Monday, 16 September 2013

Sunsets 'n' rises, solenoids, squits, and stick...


Going back to Deb's last Captains Log (link), I still can't work out if it is a log for or by the captain (and am not brave enough to ask!). Just as we cast off with our guests on a blowy morning to grab apples from the other bank, our propulsion failed. It has happened before, once when the oil in the PRM500 gearbox was low and a couple of times with a loose connection on the main engine loom just before the engine cocoon. I usually just prod the throttle to check all's OK before leaving but this time I hadn't, and the wind was just blowing us away from the bank, luckily it was still within my maximum long jump range of about 3ft. Roped back up Deb went down the hole with a can of WD40 and some electrical tape. A connection was made and we were off (I wasn't convinced it was this connection though as usually wiggling the connector works first time).


Whilst in Crick I had an acute attack of the squits, for about a day and a half my belly sounded like Chewbacca (off of starwars) having an argument with himself. In fact my stomach was so upset that it requested of the brain the formal complaints procedure. I spent the day by the fire recovering and eating dry Jacobs crackers, well Aldi's version anyway.

About a week after having arrived at Crick we fueled up and emptied loo at the Marina (last done end of July so six weeks this time) and we were headed towards Foxton in the evening sun when on a reedy corner in the distance I saw a small narrowboat being punted down the canal. Coincidence or camaraderie amongst sick boats, LJ decided to give up drive at that precise moment. Luckily we were going at our usual slow pace but now on collision course. Deb went to the front to fend off, whilst I tried to explain to a very friendly but somewhat confused fellow boater that we had also just lost propulsion. By now he had battled through the reeds and was pulling his little, engineless boat to safety. I threw him our centre line and he was putting all of his toothless, grinning seven stone frame into holding both boats. I clambered across his wobbly boat to shore and hauled LJ back to a suitable mooring away from the reedy shallows. I used the short pole to keep the boat floating and haulled with the centre line whilst Deb used the long pole to try and keep us in the middle. We waved off the punter struggling to keep in a straight line heading into the bright evening sun. He was hoping to get to Crick tunnel by Monday. I suggested he asked somebody for a tow through the mile or so of darkness when he got there.

It was a lovely mooring spot but we had work to do so it was back down the hole. Deb had previously done her bit so now I needed a closer look. My left knee was far too close to the mad hot exhaust and as I lowered myself down, my now very warm knee ended up just behind and above my left shoulder. If I bent my right ankle to snapping point the swim on the right side is just about long enough to get half if my right knee on. Now in this contorted pose, enough to win any game of twister, I just had to get my hands another foot lower to reach the connector block. I prayed to Entrocalm, the God of squits medicine, that her magic formula would last another hour. I checked the loom, not one of those nice secure locking blocks but clean and dry so probably not that. Morse cable and linkages all look OK. Next was removal of part of the engine cocoon to get to the gear box oil filler/dip stick. Lowish but shouldn't cause any problems, I topped it up just in case. Still no movement from the prop shaft. I decided to trace the cable from loose loom connector to engine and voilĂ  a loose or dodgy solenoid connection. As far as I know its the part that asks the gear box for more thrust as the engine stays at the same revs.  A good wiggle got the prop shaft moving and some cable ties secured it a little until I can get back down for a proper look (probably whilst in for blacking).


We plodded on into the evening making the most of the scenery and lovely weather. We used every last candela of available light before mooring over night in the middle of nowhere. During the journey Deb had made sausages in onion gravy, mash and fresh runner beans (bought from a little stall outside somebody's house whilst walking around the Crick Feast fayre) and made a crumble of blackberries and those apples from paragraph one with a pot of steaming custard for pud.

Just after breaking down

The sunlight he was punting into

Gonna miss the sunset, too many trees

Just in the nick of time - a nice big gap

'N' Rises

Sundays weather looked awful so the PoA was to leave early and get to the top of Foxton locks by elevenish before the rain proper and winds which were forecast to be in the high twenties. An alarm was set for 05.15. I'm sure that when I got up for a pee the other night it was light enough at 05.15. It was pitch black. I let Deb reset the alarm for 05.45. Still very dark but it would be light enough by just after six. I checked the oil level and checked we still had drive before moving off for the nice slow four hour trip to somewhere just before Foxton double staircase locks and the old inclined plane.

We walked the kilometer or so to the locks to have a quick look in the afternoon. Neither of us bought out any money so we were very disappointed to see the candy boat setting out his wares, we promised to go back but by the time we were back on LJ the rain had started again, we had been on the go since 05.45, the boat was cold and we were hungry. The sweets would have to wait, I set about making a big pot of parsnip soup for liner (like brunch but later) and we sat in front of the fire reading the canal papers and free mags that I picked up in Crick and grazing on soup and pitta breads followed by coffee and the last drops squeezed out of the brandy bottle.

Early morning departure 
Feeling chilly in the mist

Sunrise over Leicestershire fields

More mist as the canal warms up


Monday (today's) forecast was pretty poor and we expected rain and wind from early morning. I was awake before 07.00 and the wind was brisk but the sky clear blue. I stood at the side of the bed tugging on the quilt trying to get Deb's attention, I had already de-bunged the portals to let the light stream in. How do you wake somebody who can't hear? She wakes with a gasp and a start, inhales most of the available air in the cabin before asking what the severity of the pending disaster is. 'Do you fancy going for a walk before it gets too wet and windy?' She agrees and we boot up and head back down the tow path. 

The inclined plane was a fantastic feat of engineering. Two seventy foot long boats get towed into a long steel trough and are then lowered down the side of a hill whilst another trough with two boats starts it's way up the hill passing in the middle. It does make you wonder where it all went wrong for the UK. They managed to build stuff like this by hand two hundred years ago and in my mid twenties all we could look forward to was a big tent by the Thames costing nigh on for a billion pounds to celebrate the new millennium. The Navies would have wet themselves if they could have foreseen; the engineers would have cried.

Lovely clear day - about 07.45

Access to the upper level of the canal

The troughs that held the gubbins (technical word that)

About half way down, next to another loaded apple tree

Passing the start of the Market Harborough arm I spied Mark making a fuel delivery aboard Calisto, we bought two bags of Excel from him and asked him to drop them off on his way past. Walking back up the flight we passed the cafe so popped in for a cuppa, a bacon sarnie would have been nice (yesterdays soup seemed a long time ago by now) but we have another trip to Reading next week so have to keep to our strict budget. This will be the fourth trip down to Reading or Poole in the last eight weeks and we are now on first name terms with all the guys at Enterprise car hire in Daventry. Chris, the manager even said not to worry about the office locations for next time, just call him up and if it wasn't his branch he will phone the appropriate one and make sure we get picked up on time.

Mark aboard Calisto, no longer doing the whole Leicester ring as there were always too many hold ups on the Soar with frequent red boards

After a nice hot cuppa we stroll the last km to the boat and just about arrive at the bow before I realise that I left my trusty walking stick (vital for knocking apples from trees this time of year) at the cafe. Half an hour later we are back aboard LJ having had a 6.97km round trip (according to my new mapping app) before breakie. Being a bit late for breakie but too early for brunch, we polish off the rest of the crumble.

The top five of the two sets of staircase locks 
Top lock just outside the cafe

Elder branches hanging with fruit this season

Tomorrow we will head down through the locks and arrive at Debdale Marina a day early ready for blacking, let's hope it stays dry for a couple of days.

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