Tuesday, 23 October 2018

The heaven and hell cruise

Canal cruising is a metaphor for life - Percy had moved home. Read past the first paragraph if deep rambling are not your cup of tea (or coffee)

Well, where do I start this rather large blog post ? I guess picking up the opening sentence, something I reflected on while moving Percy single handed from Fradley on the Trent and Mersey to Shebdon on the Shropshire Union canal..... I'm 56 now and I don't really know how I got to that age so quickly.... quickly but 56 years quickly. The same as going along the canal at 3mph, the destination seems distant based on the speed and stop starts at locks, bridge holes and moored boats but you arrive at that evenings destination and ultimately you arrive at your final destination. So the conclusion is the destination while important is not by a large margin the prize, the prize is the journey so we should all enjoy it as much as we can.

Anyhow I had two weeks to move Percy before the clocks went back, the half term school break happened and the Shropshire Union canal closed at Norbury for a month or so.... I also only had a few weeks more to get my mooring cleared for whomever decided to take it on. So following the weather I decided last week was the better of the two weeks so committed to that.

Typically on the Monday the weather was just grey and drizzly when I got to Percy.  I dithered a bit not sure if I should hold for the improving weeks weather or cut and run. I took the opportunity to clean out the soot from on top of the back boiler plate. My arms seemed to have got fatter and I was seriously concerned I may get my hand stuck to I invented this contraption that worked very well.

I needed water and as there were no boats moving I untied and motored across the canal to the Hunts lock landing water point.

Suitably filled I made a snap decision at 4pm to do the Fradley flight and moor above Woodend.... goodbye and thank you for 11 years safe and beautiful mooring.

No Vlokies, no other boats and no people around. I emptied the cassette and set Junction lock and kept going

Leaving Shadehouse for the last time for a while. I'll be back as there are routes around here that need to be done and done again 

It was quite dusky dark by the time we got moored up in my favourite place on the canal (so far) in the woods above Woodend lock. The whisky and the fire soon had me  contentedly tired and warm 

About a mile and a half and 6 locks 

Tuesday morning started badly when I checked the Smartgauge and it told me I'd run the batteries right down, not sure how, maybe the fridge on too high. The batteries are a few years old now so owe me nothing but I knew I was going to have a long day so they would get a decent charge. 

The EP is Engine protect, basically the relay is only allowing the alternator charge to the starter battery until it is suitably charged then it connects them all together and charges the domestics. Simple but effective. 

My overnight mooring in the daylight - on my own perfect. 

It was a grey start but quite mild and no rain as I progressed from Woodend past Kings Bromley and Armitage. I was caught up by a hire boat, the only boat on the full trip I saw behind me until the very last afternoon.

I let them past as we approached the narrows at Armitage  - cheeky but thats practical for single handers. As I went down past the long term moorings Victoria came towards me towing her butty and we past a boater who had just released his bow line, he struggles to hold his boat in as two big heavy boats passed each other and him at the same time. 

Then I sounded my very loud air horn at the blind right hander at the Ashwood pub only to a few seconds later see a bow emerge !! I asked if they had heard my horn and they said yes but could not find their horn to alert me !! 

One of the last pinch points in this area is Rugley visitor moorings  - I always fret about this as there is no real passing place and the moorings can be long  - but today the canal gods were with me as the weather improved and the passage went nicely. 

Looking back and forwards at the largely unoccupied moorings

Another pinch point at the turn across the Trent as we leave Rugely I met another boater who was very capable and we passed easily. Another less glamorous issue the single hander has is toilet breaks so things like narrow bridge holes, locks and aqueducts are slow down to stop toilet breaks  !!  

Instantly you are in the countryside with views of Cannock chase and no residential and no industry, just farm land and peace.... perfect.  

I had met a few boats coming to me by now, not many. Colwich lock I had to myself but had the benefit of a boat being bow hauled out (broken down) so I was able to motor straight in. Haywood lock was the same and as I did the turn off the T&M to the Staffordshire and Worcester canal I had a brief conversation with some Canadians (they were videoing me as I turned)  who were  tracing their family tree and were keen to tell me they had relatives that used to work the boats.   

I was hailed and thanked for my 'Proper tickover' speed as  passed boats on the Anglowelsh moorings.

Tixel wide looking wide and quite empty 

Maybe a bid sad but made me chuckle 

I motored in ever improving weather to my target nights destination Deptmore lock.

17 miles and 4 locks - a decent days cruising and my batteries were fully charges and the fridge very cold !!

Now this is where I started to get some troubles, the hell part of my cruise. I noticed the temp gauge was moving around far too much up high then down low... 

Another compliment from a fisherman  in this match for my tickover speed. Every one was happy to engage in conversation  - not all anglers are miserable 

A stop in Teddersley lock to get some elastic bands (don't ask) from Midland chandlers who did not sell them but has some in a draw so I put a donation into the charity box - sorted. Another comfort break while in the lock... Leia is a great crew mate she stays put and guards the boat while I am shopping or peeing !!

Teddersley boat yard was as busy as I've ever seen it 

As I was climbing (filling each lock) each lock presented me with a challenge as some ladders were in the middle some at  one end some at both ends  - no consistency. This one was quite scary as the foot gap was so limited so I was climbing it with just my toes on the ladder rungs and the ladder was slippy as it had been underwater  !!

Then some lock landings were just fenced off - where does a single hander secure their boat to ??

Some bridges had taken such hits - how do people get it so wrong ?

Lots of Herons about 

The obligatory Gailey tower shot  

Re the engine overheating  - I rounded on it either being the thermostat or the pump...

I got another decent boat free mooring not quite where I wanted to be but I wanted to let the engine cool as it was getting too hot.

10  miles and 10  locks today. 

Thursday I was up early  (again for me) as I wanted a 7.30am start to get through the Pendleford narrows before the boats  (if any) hit them from the moorings on the Shroppie. Seems others had the same idea....this boat emerging from the mist as I set Percy up for the day. 

Another Heron out early for his/her breakfast

I had my headlight on for the first couple of hours as it was very misty.

The sun was doing its best and would soon join me in all its glory for the rest of the day

Then we hit the narrows (not literally thankfully). Nothing came the other way which was good as the passing places are few and being on my own I did not fancy holding the boat while another passed in such confined spaces.

This family were just exiting the narrows as I approached so they went all the way back in front of Percy 

The sun was waiting for me at the other end of the narrows 

Then is was the turn onto our new home canal  - the Shropshire Union canal. There is a stop lock just inside the junction., no doubt put there in working days to keep the waters separate so the Shroppie did not get the Staffs and Worcester canals water. Lucky for me there was a boat approaching but I was there first otherwise I'd have had to reverse back out of the canal and hold/moor up.

There were quite a few boats mored (4 a breast) at the hire base at the bottom of the Shroppie.

Straight (ouch) away you get the feel for this canal.... a Telford canal, his last and his grandest in England. Large embankments and deep cuttings being its signature feature.

At the bottom there are still some narrows and yes I did meet another boat here !!

The cuttings are seemingly 'plugged' by high bridges 

You feel for these boats. They must have owners somewhere but have not been visited for a very long time. Goodness only knows what they are like on the inside !!

Expensive mistake was now realised as I had put my MTTP solar controller under a shelf in the engine room. However the engine header tank spat water out of the relief valve and it ran down and damaged the controller  - bugger, but my error and lesson (expensive)  learnt 

More heavenly cruising spoilt in a way by the engine overheating .... I was giving it a lot of though as to why !!

Over the A5 aqueduct - poor souls rushing .....

I stopped at Weaton Aston after the lock (anyone care to tell me what was different about this lock to the other 21 I had done on my trip ? ) and emptied the cassette and disposed of my rubbish while Percy cooled a little. 

I decided to see of the belt was slipping on the water pump causing the overheating as it was so variable, so got the tools out and changed both alternator and water pump belts. Old water pump belt at the top so you can see some wear but not too bad.  

The new belt certainly sat higher on the pulley. 

Times like this  am very grateful for an engine in a space I can work around easily.

Sadly it made little difference but one thing ruled out and a job that was needed done. The old belts were still serviceable and will be kept as emergency items.

I ticked over to Turners garage and filled up with 113 litres of diesel with a engine hours count of 570 hours (need to check that )

 My mooring for the night was once again in the middle of nowhere and I lit the fire and ate drank and rested.... and pondered my overheating issue !!!!!

14 miles and 2 locks

Friday was another heavenly day but turned into hell with the overheating. The morning can only be described with pictures so here goes.... click them for the larger images.

I was worrying about the engine to fully enjoy the pictures but based on many trips into the engine room whilst leaving Percy to steer herself I came to the conclusion the Thermostat was randomly closing causing my problems.

Percy like all motors had two loops to cool the engine. The closed loop is for warming the engine up and when it gets to temp 60c in Percy's case the thermostat opens passing the now hot water to the skin tank to cool it. The thermostat then should moderate the water flow to keep the temp at 60c. What I concluded was happening was the thermostat was randomly closing causing the engine to be only using the closed loop... as the temp sender is on the open loop this has the effect of showing a cooling engine,  when the thermostat opened the temp sender got a hit of hot water and shot right up to then slowly dropped as the skin tank did its job....

I decided to let the engine cool as I approached Norbury,  just 3 miles from my new mooring. I had a breakfast and then took the thermostat out of its housing.

Frustratingly this introduced an air lock that I could not seem to clear so the engine was still getting hot. Top and bottom of it was I decided to limp to my new moorings. However there was still some heavenly cruising to do.

Good job this was not a vulture otherwise I'd really have got a complex about this cruise.

I got to within half a mile of my new moorings and the engine got too hot again so I stopped it and tried to float into the bank... but this is the Shroppie and its either the shelf or shallow moorings and this was the latter so I was suck about 3 foot into the canal. Nothing for it but a jump that I just made with one welly in the water. 

I had an hour wait almost in sight of my new mooring but I could not even bow haul the boat as the sides were so shallow. The image below is about how far I was out !!

Looking back where I spent a frustrating hour

 Of course as I was moored half in the channel boats started to pass....including this one. It was Annamarie and Kath who I follow on Youtube  - they Vlog as The Narrowboat Experience 

They were experiencing the same frustrations as I had trying to moor up. As I passed I gave a little advice on the Shelmore embankment moorings just a few hundred yards up the canal. 

Finally home - mission accomplished. Just Leia and I and the old hot lump called Percy. A real heaven and hell cruise but one I'll not forget.

The new mooring gave me a real natures best welcome as the sun set, I got the whiskey out to toast my arrival and rested as the evening burnt away to darkness and peace.

Perfect !!



HairyHeffalump said...

Very good blog Nev and you have no idea how jealous I am of that life style. I hope the thermostat is now fixed to give trouble free cruising and charging. A great pictorial history of the trip; keep it going. M.

Unknown said...

What an adventure! With all the technical stuff you dealt with I am quite sure that Dad would be proud of you,as am I. Xx

Nev Wells said...

Hi Mark, it’s available to you ... just have to plan then take a leap of faith, there are far too many who have regrets over the things not done as apposed to regrets over things done.... I’d happily give you all the advice and help needed. Have an adventure !!!

Pam, I miss dad and wish I could have shared a bit of this adventure with him. I know the drinking and fishing as well as a few bits of technical would have been right up his street. I take a whisky or two in his memory each time I’m aboard ands the boat(s) have always had whisky on them . X

Carol said...

Well done Nev, a momentous journey for you with a very happy ending. Hope you've managed to fix the overheating engine by now. Good luck in your new boating home.

Mrs. Jaqueline Biggs said...

Excellent post Nev. Percy's new mooring looks lovely.

Welcome to the Shroppie and welcome to my world of dealing with the Shroppie Shelf when mooring up. I purchased 2 puncture proof wheel barrow tyres from Amazon (https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00Z6S4M14/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o08_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1) and threaded fender rope through them. I also put all my fenders on hangers to make it easy to put them on and take them off all my fender ropes have fender cleats from Tradline Fenders in Braunston (https://www.tradline.co/LANYARD-ADJUSTERS.html). I had to make things as easy as possible for myself since I am single handing now.

That said, the wheel barrow tyres work great however it means there will be a 15" gap between the side of the canal and the side of my boat which, for a 5'1" short arse like me is quite a jump. When I am mooring up, the need to jump the gap to get off the boat after throwing hammer, pins and fenders on the towpath at the stern, jumping off with the mid line in hand, hammering in a pin to secure the mid line (just until I can get both ends secure), launching myself towards the bow like a demented flying monkey to grab more pins and the bow line, jumping back off, hammering in two pines at 30 degrees apart, threading the rope through one pin, lassoing the T-s stud, pulling the rope taut, threading it through the second pin and flinging myself at the bow once more with rope in hand to tie it off and then repeating he entire thing at the stern looks to someone watching from a distance as though I am afflicted with a very physical form of Tourettes Syndrome. Of course if they could hear my ongoing commentary as I am doing all this they would have no doubt about Tourettes! When I am finally finished I need to go inside and have a shower, a dry towel and a shot of something strong! Aaahhh the good life! ;)

I still wouldn't trade it for life on land. Let me know when you are headed this way and I will be sure to have chocolate cake ready and waiting.

I hope you are able to sort our the engine overheating quickly and inexpensively. I wil be curious to read what actually caused it.

Love Jaq

Nev Wells said...

Hi Jaq,

The joys of the Shroppie shelf and the single hander! It was Sue off No problem who put me onto the wheelbarrow tyres. We have a couple in the forecabin (not the puncture proof type sadly so whenever we come to use them they are flat !!) I will get them out and pumped up as I want to deploy them on the off side as we are the end boat near a bridge hole. The benefit of the Shroppie is the fact its straight so boaters can see who's bridge it is - hopefully.

Certainly will let you know when we can make it to you - or I as Rachel is still a worker !

I have a new thermostat due anytime and will hopefully fit it next week along with the solar controller I managed to damage in my hell part of the cruise !!

Take care and keep that stove stoked for the coming northern blast !

Nev x