Saturday, 30 August 2008

Day Twenty-Nine - It sucks

Iver - Uxbridge

Grand Union - Slough Arm, Main Line

9 miles

In which the Duck again battles with the weediness of the Slough Arm and is glad to be back on the main line, but has to stop at least eight times to clear the raw water intake. Amy narrowly escapes donning wetsuit and plunging into the canal to clear it at Uxbridge, makes two loaves of bread, and finishes the evening somewhat inebriated.

Wogan, resident of the Slough Arm

Moored up next to James' uncle's boat, Jamkaret.

We had something of a lie in this morning, and I decided to attempt a second batch of white loaves, so when we finally set off there was a bowl of dough proving on the very warm roof of the boat. It was a lovely day, sunny, with a certain holiday feel but the weed plaguing the Slough Arm prevented us from a full appreciation.

Fortunately we were able to wind earlier than we would otherwise have done, being only 48ft, at a wharf just below the residential moorings, but it was still a long way back to the main line. Especially when we had to stop several times to clear the intake. I think if we'd had a skin tank, we'd have enjoyed the Slough Arm a lot more. It is straight, but it is very beautiful, with clear water, fishes, innumerable dragonflies and other birds, and a verdent canopy above. As it was we could do little but curse the awful, clogging weed, and be extremely thankful when at last we emerged on the Main Line. But alas, the intake continued to bung up and we had to stop several times more before we reached Uxbridge. I though that I'd have to jump overboard in my wetsuite once we'd moored but continued flushing did seem to clear it... for now.

Leaving the Slough Arm

Clearing the prop at Cowley

Venus Rising which is still for sale apparently - we looked into buying it, but were told it was under offer!

This section, through Cowley Lock, was quite lovely though, and despite our problems I did enjoy passing though it. By this time I had also managed to cook two loaves of white bread as well, which I rather enjoyed, even if James didn't! I am afraid that he has not yet acquired the taste for fresh home made bread. Once we'd stopped, however, just behind Warrior, and offered some to Jim and Sarah, who declared that it was as homemade bread should be, he did begin to enjoy it more!

After a dinner of peri-peri chicken, we met Jim and Sarah at the Swan and Bottle pub just by the canal which was great fun, although I am perhaps a little worse for wear after two double gins!

Friday, 29 August 2008

Day Twenty-Eight- Come, friendly bombs...

Little Venice- Bull's Bridge- Iver

Grand Union Canal- Paddington Arm, Mainline, Slough Arm

19 miles, 0 locks.

In which the Duck and its crew accompany the Warriors, exercise the engine to keep up, provision at Bull's Bridge Tesco, and make encounter a slow slough of seaweed on the Slough Arm, before meeting James' uncle for a professional opinion on the propshaft.

The day dawned grey and miserable. Amy headed off to the Halifax to pay in her cheque from work, and found it strangely as a counter inside a department store; presumably so hard-pressed shoppers can buy cushions, rugs and mortgages!

We planned to travel up towards Cowley Peachy junction with the Warriors, where we would peel off down the Slough Arm to see my Uncle, and they would continue on to Uxbridge. The first snag was the two boats ahead of us; they'd moored onto our mooring pin as there weren't any convenient rings, and there was no-one about. I didn't want to leave it behind, so hammered a stake of wood into the ground and moored them to that instead, so we could retrieve our pin.

Crossing the North Circular aqueduct

I tightened up the grub screws and set off after Warrior at about 10:30. We travelled in reasonably close convoy until, passing some moored boats, two pushed off in front of us and got into the convoy. We were working the engine reasonably hard to keep up; 1,700 rpm or so, whereas our normal cruising speed is 1,500; and, coming towards Acton power station, we got something in the intake. Whilst it didn't block it completely, it made the engine run hot and lose power, so we moored up to some convenient rings by the power station. Presumably this was a former wharf for the coal to be delivered to; it felt quite historic.

Interesting bridge, with wooden laminated beams.

We flushed the intake clear and tightened the grub screws, and set off once more. We'd stopped for 10 minutes or so, and thus were quite some distance behind. We pushed the engine reasonably hard- apart, of course, from when we were passing moored boats, which we did at tickover- and pushed on, overtaking the boats ahead and, eventually, sighting Warrior again- reassuring to be able to see them, especially if the engine were to break once more!

Art by local schoolchildren- mosaics of narrowboats. The one on the right looks like the boat featured on Grand Designs!

A lighthouse, a long way from the sea!

A model heron and nest, made from rubbish recovered from the canal by a local artist.

Eventually we arrived at Bull's Bridge junction, where the Paddington Arm joins the mainline. We'd picked up something else by that point, so the engine was running at nearly 80 degrees when 70 was the norm; we were also low on oil, and having run out of spare oil, we resolved to purchase some in Tesco. This is where having a standard engine pays dividends- unlike a vintage engine, we can get our oil (15W/40, according to the workshop manual) from many places, as we don't need specialist oil for mollycoddled old engines!

We moored up side-by-side, however rather than reversing onto the mooring I'd gone in forwards to try and minimise the amount of reverse gear used, to try and save the grub screws; there was room to wind easily which we would do when we set off again.

Amy stocked up on provisions (thank goodness for Tesco Value!) and I checked the grubscrews and filled the watertank from a nearby waterpoint. We also flushed the intake again. Amy was considering Tesco Value engine oil, but decided against it. Whilst I'm happy eating Tesco Value items, I'm not sure our engine would be!

Factory- smelling of coffee- next to Bull's Bridge.

When we'd set off again, having topped up the oil, the engine was a lot happier and we kept up with Warrior easily on less rpm; though, as Sarah was driving Warrior, they may also have been a bit slower!

We reached Cowley Peachy junction soon, and turned off into the (unsignposted) Slough arm; we almost missed the turning, as it was so unprepossessing. Once onto the arm, we had a taster of things to come on the Ouse and Nene- thick, prop-clogging, intake-blocking weeds.

Dead straight, dead slow, dead weedy...

Even bursts of astern didn't shift it; for the moment, we'll leave them, as we'll only collect more tomorrow when we leave the arm!

Another strange moment was seeing nb Silver Satin at the High Line brokerage; this was another boat we'd looked at buying, moored exactly where it was all those months ago, and still on the market. We never thought at the time that we'd see this boat, which we viewed on the same day as we saw the Duck for the first time, from the counter of our own boat.

We're currently moored up three-abreast next to my Uncle's boat, nb Jamkarat. He's promised to machine us a new, longer propshaft. The current plan is to remove the flexible coupling, fit this newer propshaft and fit a bolt-on flange to the end, and bolt this directly to the spider on the gearbox; that should solve the problems once and for all.

All we have to do now is get to Ramsey where we can do the work....

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Day Twenty-Seven-Why didn't we buy a boat with a bigger engine room?

St. Pancras Lock- Little Venice

Grand Union Canal

5 miles, 3 locks

In which the Duck and its crew spend all morning realigning the engine, discover the joys of Loctite, become the centre of attention whilst locking through Camden, and rejoin the Warriors in Little Venice; and a Cunning Plan is formulated.

The alarm went, and I felt hungover. Although I'd not been drinking. Perhaps staying up late last night reading a Bill Bryson book wasn't the best plan...

St. Pancras basin

The first job was to realign the engine. We had a few attempts, foiled each time by the bush of the oil seal. It's got various welds upon it, from where it was attached to the face of the flexible coupling, although it's now sheared off; we had a rotational jigsaw getting it back together. It took a few hours to get the engine just right, but once everytign was aligned properly, it went together reasonably quickly; the 50mm grub screws are now securely in the shaft, Loctite-ed in place (although two will have to be re-glued) and this temporary repair should hopefully hold until we can get to Bill Fen.

Why didn't we get a boat with a REAL engine room...?

Afterwards, we went to St. Pancras station to admire the architecture and buy some lunch; hot pasties followed by biscuits from M&S to restock the Cake 'Ole- so named because "'Ole" is a specific old fashioned boating term- "Bed 'Ole", "Engine 'Ole" etc.- hence the name for our cake drawer, and our Laptop 'Ole, which isn't particularly traditional either!

We then headed back towards Camden. When locking through, we attracted the attention of a family of interested Chinese tourists, and I answered their questions as we locked through; it was rather endearing, as whilst the average British curious passer-by tends to know a little bit about the canals; this family had, understandably, not even this background knowledge, and so were asking questions about why the boat was so narrow, how locks worked, and other related subjects; I reckon I could be a tour guide without too much retraining... At a later lock, we met a Canadian chap whose boat we'd passed back in Northolt, and he helped Amy with the particularly low, stiff gate. We also had assistance from the crew of NB Tarporley, who Warrior had seen yesterday. The top gates were stuck together and wouldn't respond to any amount of pushing by hand; however, a slight nudge from the boat was enough to separate them and allow them to open.

Amy doing her best to mimic a Cotton Traders advert...

Particularly grand mansion in Regent's Park

I dropped Amy off at Camden, and she headed into her ex-place of employment to collect a cheque for the money she was owed- most welcome!- and, by the time she'd returned to Little Venice, I'd moored up and was happily on Warrior having a civilised chat over tea and biscuits! Another option to repair the propshaft is to have the new one over-long, and bolt it directly to the gearbox spider, until we can fix the flexible coupling or get a new one. That would give us a few more vibrations, and the engine would have to be better aligned, but at least it would be a lot more dependable! We talked about Bill Fen marina and boatyard, and the possibility of using their slipway to take the Duck out of the water and fit the new shaft. We'd probably also fit a mesh over the raw-water intake to prevent any further problems!

Little Venice

The three longer grub-screws we put in are holding for now; as long as we keep an eye on them, and check them every couple of hours to nip any working-loose in the bud before they can allow the shaft to spin, they should be alright. I did have to tighten two of them, so I'll probably re-Loctite them tomorrow morning before we set off and see if this helps.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Day Twenty-Six- Worse things happen at sea. Apparently.

Paddington Basin- Camden- St. Pancras Lock

Grand Union Canal

4 miles, 3 locks, 1 tunnellette

The morning didn't get off to a great start; we recieved a phone call at 8am from Amy's mum, telling her that Scrappy, her cat, had been hit by a car and was seriously hurt, to the extent that he would have to be put to sleep. This was a great shock and very upsetting, for both of us but of course for Amy especially.

We put our minds to happier things by cruising through Little Venice, and seeing it together in daylight, before heading down the Regent's Canal, intending to wind at Battlebridge Basin by King's Cross and either spend the night there or return to Paddington. This stretch of the canal was again familiar to us, as we've walked it several times, dreaming of having a boat; and, finally, that ambition was achieved. It helped lift our spirits a bit, but Scrappy's accident put a black pall over the whole day.

We moored on the short-stay moorings by Camden and looked around the market, enjoying some hot, fresh doughnuts, before visiting the local Halifax to reclaim bank charges (£100 back between us, rather nice really!) and then heading back to the boat. Warrior had, in the meantime, passed us whilst we were out, as we later found out, heading back from the Lee and Stort towards Uxbridge.

We moved off and descended the locks in fine style, impressing several gongoozlers and enjoying the attention of a community boat full of children- "Do you live on that boat? What's it like?" "Erm... awesome, thanks!"

And then, coming into St. Pancras lock, the day got even worse. The propshaft came loose AGAIN, very annoyingly.

It turns out that the most crucial grub screw, in the deepest hole, had sheared. Not wanting to continue on two grub screws, we moored up in desperation on the lock landing stage, leaving a note in the window to apologise and explain the circumstances, and then phoned around local DIY and hardware shops. One helpfully pointed us in the direction of Clerkenwell Screws, a shop selling nothing but nuts, bolts and screws; they had some high tensile M10 grub screws in stock- only these ones had more of a point, to ensure a better fixing, and they were twice as long for a better hold.

We raced over as quickly as we could, and just managed to get in and buy some before they closed. Once back on the boat, we found out that the sheared-off grub screw wasn't in the prop shaft, but was instead stuck between the flexible coupling and the oil seal; however, no amount of chiseling, hammering, levering, sawing, prodding or poking- or indeed swearing!- got it out. The only way to do the job properly, we reasoned, was to move the engine forwards to free it; and so we did. This time, as we knew what to do, it took about 15 minutes to move it. The grub screw came out easily, but after three attempts at getting the engine back and realigned, we gave up as it was getting too dark to see easily; the one 30w bulb in the engine room was insufficient, and we were too tired, upset and hungry for the precise task; we'll deal with it first thing in the morning.

There are a number of options on fixing the prop shaft properly. The best way, we've decided, is to replace the cone inside the flexible coupling so that it will properly attach onto the shaft- as it is designed to do!- rather than rely on grub screws. At the moment, the end of the prop shaft is too worn to do this adequately, so the solution may well be to cut the worn inch off the end and pull the prop slightly closer to the stern tube. However, more advice will be taken before we attempt anything so drastic. Anyone with experience of cutting and working with solid stainless steel is welcome to get in touch and offer advice! This is, we think, the permanent solution and it's how prop shafts are meant to be fitted; grub screws just don't work adequately, as we've found out!

So, all in all, rather a trying day.

RIP Scrappy

September 1996 - 27th August 2008.

Day Twenty-Five- On the Move- Finally!

Hanwell- Alperton- Paddington Basin

Grand Union Canal

15 miles, 8 locks

In which the Duck and its crew negociate a short flight, fill and empty various tanks, and fulfil an ambition by visiting Little Venice by boat, before mooring up in Paddington Basin.

The first job of the day was to ascend the 8 locks of the Hanwell flight. As locks go, they're BIG- double locks that are VERY deep, with gate and ground paddles at the top to help them fill quickly. All in all, pretty awe inspiring, especially seeing the maelstroms of water that can be created.

We had problems at first with the lower pounds having very little water; nearly two feet less than normal, if the marks on the bank were anything to go by. The water was nearly crystal clear, which was nice- but this did mean you could see the awesome amounts of rubbish floating around. Quite worrying, too, as anything in the intake- even a single leaf- is enough to block the intake and require us to flush it before we could proceed. The intake became blocked in the first pound, and after flushing it we decided to turn the engine off in the locks and for me to wait in the lock until Amy had fully drained and opened the next (all the locks were set against us, unluckily) to minimise the amount of time spent with the engine on in turbulent water, as opening the paddles stirred up all the rubbish.

The tactics worked, and we made our slow and steady way up the flight. Towards the end, we were assisted by some people from the party of two boats behind us; having enough crew to get yourselves through and help the boat in front must make things a great deal easier!

Once we arrived at the top of the flight, we had lunch (soup) and emptied the portaloo. We also filled the cavernous water tank, which had been nearly completely empty; it took nearly an hour!

We then pressed onwards, towards the junction at Bull's Bridge where we would take the Paddington Arm into the centre of London. The scenery was reasonably uninteresting and the canal was utterly full of carrier bags and rubbish- and coconuts. These come from Hindu funerals where, with BW's permission, mourners release them into the Grand Union canal- it's the equivalent of the Ganges, apparently.

Amy had to go back to her house in Harringay, where she was to meet the landlady and sign the paperwork that ended her lease. To do this, we had to get close to a tube station, ideally, and at Alperton, we moored up next to a Sainsbury's on some 7-day BW moorings. Amy headed off, but I didn't like the look of the area; it wasa bit graffittied, and the moorings just didn't feel too safe; so, at about six thirty, having done some shopping in Sainsbury's, I headed off by myself down the (lock-free!) long stretch. It was going to get dark at about 8 or so, and whilst I didn't think I'd make Little Venice, I did mean to get reasonably close. I worked the engine hard and arrived at about 8, and in search of a mooring headed into Paddington Basin.

It was good to fulfil an ambition of ours; many times, we'd visited Little Venice, often in the evening, and dreamt of having our own boat there. Whenever we passed through Paddington, in fact, we'd try and see the canal. To be moored up here was fantastic.

I found a space, although it looked rather tight, between two boats on the visitors' moorings. I headed in, only to find that the gap was only about forty-seven feet long- and not the forty-eight of the boat. Luckily, the occupants of nb Huggly Buggly moved back to let me in. Amy rather spoiled the effect I was going for, of having her arrive and see the boat moored in a space with mere inches at either end, by arriving back slightly prematurely. Oh well, I still hope it was impressive!

We had a nice dinner of bacon sarnies and went to bed happy, having written the exceedingly long blog post explaining the gap of the last few days.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Days Nineteen to Twenty-Three- Keep Calm and Carry On

River Thames, Grand Union Canal

You may have wondered what happened during the recent dearth of blog posts, over the previous few days.

The problem was, not having a functioning engine for a few days, we ran out of battery power and so couldn't put the computers on, save the laptop for searching Google Local for suppliers of high-tensile steel bolts, and other such necessaries.

I'll start at the very beginning- Day Nineteen. We were on the Thames and were heading through Windsor from Eton, where we had moored overnight. I was with Jim on Warrior, and Sarah was with Amy on the Duck.

A different red roof in the photograph- this one with a lot more bolts and more traditional details!

Apart from some grey weather, all seemed fine- until Amy tried to slow the Duck down for a lock landing stage.

The engine went into reverse, but the prop didn't, and the Duck ended up bumping the landing stage, before slewing across the lock cut, with nothing Amy could do to control it. We threw her a rope from Warrior and reversed to pull them back alongside the landing stage, then came alongside. I wanted to look at the problem there and then, but the lock-keeper wanted us through, so we locked down and tied up at the far end of the lock landing stage, the Duck being towed alongside.

I thought it might have been one of the control cables from the Morse handle becoming unattached from the gearbox; John has had this happen before. Upon inspection, however, they were intact.

The problem wasn't the gearbox- thankfully, because that would have been expensive!- but rather the propeller shaft had become loose within the flexible coupling, so the engine and prop weren't connected. The shaft was held in by grub screws, and on taking them out, I found that two had been mostly sheered off, most likely when they were put in; the only thing holding the prop shaft into the coupling was one grub screw, and this had come loose out of the hole in which it had previously sat.

I had a go at replacing the grub screws in the shaft, having turned the prop by hand through the weedhatch and used an allen key to try and get the hole aligned; I thought I managed it, and went to turn the key and start the engine.

*Clunk* And nothing else. No whine from the starter motor, no buzzer saying the oil pressure was low which normally sounds when the ignition is first turned on; most trying!

I checked the fuse (or rather what I thought was the fuse!) and, with Jim's help, took the switch apart and hotwired it; no luck. There was charge in the starter battery, the starter motor just refused to go.

A council was had with Jim and Sarah; the decision was that they would continue to tow us alongside, and we would attempt to fix the problem as best we could. Well, they've got "Towage" written on the side of their boat- it would have been false advertising had they refused!

So we carried on down the Thames, breasted up- a fearsome sight to any plastic boats, or "splitters" as they are known on the Thames (because that's that they do if they're hit by a narrowboat!) but nothing compared to some of the other traffic:

We finished the day at Laleham, just south of Staines, and after a quick tidy-up we received my great aunt and uncle aboard; they brought us a Red-Cross style food parcel; whilst we're not quite in Stalag Luft III, it was very welcome! It was lovely to see them and showing them the boat, albeit with only 12 volt lighting as there wasn't enough power in the batteries, as we'd not run the engine long, to allow the inverter- or the fridge- to be used. Jim and Sarah also put us in contact with a number of friends of theirs, who offered advice on starting the engine and diagnosing the problem.

The following morning, (Day 20) I checked the circuit with Jim's multimeter, although I didn't want to try and short out the motor with a screwdriver as I didn't know which wires to touch.

However, I DID manage to solve the problem with the fuse.

Our fuse box is bodged out of a tupperware box, with a transparent lid, and a label for each fuse attached. Crucially, it fits on upside-down too- which means that the fuses are labelled wrongly... and, lo and behold, the fuse for the ignition had blown. Oops. After replacing it, we had a working ignition circuit, as the buzzer sounded; but still the starter motor refused to go.

We spent the day pleasantly with Jim and Sarah, traveling down towards Teddington, where the river becomes tidal. We ended up mooring up just before Teddington Lock, having booked passage (as is necessary) for the following morning. At 7am. Ouch. We found, in a nearby shop window, the wartime poster shown at the top of the post- significant because Sarah has a much-prized T-shirt, and the poster, of this very design- although she freely admits paying less than £70 for hers!

The queue of boats waiting for the lock. We're the 10th boat back- I think...

On day 21, we were up at 6:30, and headed towards the locks, where a single harassed lock-keeper was trying to keep hordes of plastic boats, narrowboats, and dutch barges separated. After heading through, we were on the tidal Thames, and enjoyed the picturesque bridges and scenery.

This is a video James took of the waves between the two boats' bows

We reached Brentford at 10am, and Jim and Sarah left us happily moored up on the 14-day visitor moorings next to BW's London HQ. Funnily enough, these moorings were rather swish, with hot showers- which we made full use of!- and laundry facilities- which we didn't, as £4.50 a wash seemed excessive...

That afternoon, my Dad and Grandad came over, and I removed the defective starter motor under their expert tuition and guidance. Dad and I then hotfooted it over to a (relatively) nearby car electrical shop, with 20 minutes to go before closing! Luckily enough, the North Circular was clear and we made it before they closed. The owner cannibalised three starter motors, and the fittings from our one, to make one to fit our engine. He kept going for three quarters of an hour after he officially closed, and only charged £90 for, effectively, a new starter motor.

Funnily enough, the shop was on the corner of Cambridge Road and Clare Road- and the next road along was Selwyn Close. Significant as these are our Colleges at Cambridge.

Shiny new starter motor...

Having fitted the new starter motor, we started the engine- finally!- and saw that the repair I'd made to the propshaft, putting the grub screws in, seemed to do the trick and hold the propshaft rigidly. Full of elation, we planned the next day's journey.

Unfortunately, we were to be disappointed. Nicholson's canal guide, mugs of tea, and everything prepared for the journey, we set off- only to have the prop become detached from the flexible coupling after only thirty seconds! VERY exasperating. At the end of our tethers, we called my Dad again, who promised to give up his Saturday afternoon and come and help us again.

Amy and I walked over towards Chiswick with a grub screw, to look in various shops and try and find some bolts that had the same thread as the grub screw; luckily, they're bog-standard M10, and we found some bolts in the Chiswick B&Q. On our return, we met my Dad and, having aligned the propshaft, we put the bolts in and tested the engine.

Frabjious day, calloo callay! It worked. The prop shaft was held rigidly. After a short trial cruise including winding and going astern to really test out the bolts, we were satisfied that we'd fixed the problem. Some friends arrived that evening, to see the boat, and we cruised for a mile or so with them on board into the gathering dusk, and finally moored below Osterley Lock for the night.

On Sunday- day twenty-three- we had a reasonable lie-in and then set off.

Only for the prop-shaft to become disconnected AGAIN after five minutes, as we went through the lock.

This was the lowest point; the propeller had slid backwards an inch so the shaft wouldn't line up, there were bits of sheared grub screw in the shaft, and the bolts we had weren't long enough to properly reach. Money, too, appeared tight. It was looking like we might need a boatyard to make a proper job of the repairs; Amy hadn't been paid at all for two week's work that she was owed; overall, we were looking at the possibility of having to stay in London with an engineless boat and work for a few weeks, just to be able to afford the repairs and to get back to Cambridge. However, Sarah 0ffered a tow all the way back to Cambridge, as this would assist Jim greatly.

Morale was low, but we walked over to a local Homebase to try and get some longer bolts, which we did. However, we couldn't get the prop shaft to slide back in and become realigned. We phoned Amy's dad, who is a boatbuilder, and he suggested moving the engine to get the flexible coupling out of the way. A call to my dad confirmed this as the best way forwards, and- being the fantastically kind person that he is, he promised us he would be with us at 10am the next day to help solve our problems once and for all.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Day Twenty-Four - Plucky Duck

Osterley - Hanwell

Grand Union

FINALLY- 1 mile!

In which the
Duck is fixed!

Today we woke up despondent, but hopeful that we would, with the help of James' dad, a socket set, some large spanners, and a good helping of determination fix the Duck's prop shaft issues.

The culprit

A diagram James made showing the various components

We knew that in order to get anywhere with the coupling, we would have to remove it, clean it up, and retap it. And looking at it, we also realised that this wouldn't be possible without moving the engine itself forwards slightly. So, the first thing was to mark the position of the engine and check all the connections were flexible enough to move an inch or so. The bolts holding the engine in place were mostly accessible but a few required contortionist gymnastics from James and/or a long socket set. (James' dad went over to the nearest Wickes in order to get an extension piece for the socket set)

Once it was free, two long steel bars acting as levers were quite adequate to move the engine an inch forwards, and then it was possible to remove the coupling and get a good look at it.

Essentially it was fine, so we cleaned it up and retapped the threads. One of the holes still had a broken tap stuck in it from when they were first drilled, giving us three holes to work with. The shaft was the next issue, since it had manage to slip backwards about an inch. It has one deep hole and two dimples, and with a ground anchor in one of them acting as a lever James was able to move it back into place. The one deep hole was the one we needed to get a grub screw into, with two others in the dimples as far as they would go. This required a careful realignment of engine, coupling and prop shaft, which took at least five attempts.

But now, all is bolted back together and a trial cruise with some real load in both forward and reverse seems to prove that everything is as it should be. We are extremely grateful to James' dad, who gave us his entire Bank Holiday Monday to help us - I was only really required to make tea and provide food for James and Kevin while they were hard at work, and spent a lot of the day learning to bake bread, which was quite sucessful, even without a set of scales. I gave one of my loaves to Kevin by way of a thankyou.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

The Unlucky Duck

Apologies for not posting for so long. But we are still in the midst of a very difficult situation, moored just North of Brentford on the Grand Union, with a propellor that is no longer propelling, since it isn't attached to the gearbox coupling any more - the grub screws thaht were holding it have sheared and it has also shifted out of alignment. The other issue (!) that simultaneously occurred with the starter motor is now resolved thankfully so we do have power. But this problem with the prop has just not gone away. Yesterday it seemed resolved only to go wrong again this morning. Problem is also that we really can't afford to spend loads of boatyards at the moment! If it gets really bad we'll have to stop here and earn some money... But hopsefully it won't have to come to that.

We will go back and blog about the last few days when we are all sorted but until then we are too busy with this to write in any detail.

But I will just say a huge thank you to everyone who's helped us so far, particularly Jim and Sarah of nb Warrior who towed us (breasted up) for nearly 3 days, from Windsor to a mooring at Brentford, and were so kind and generous and cheerful about it. James' dad (and grandad) have also been wonderful, coming out once with starter batteries and jumpleads, and driving James to a garage to get a new starter motor (the guy who cannabalised 3 different motors and made us a new one after his shop was closed for the day for only £90 also deserves a mention) and once again yesterday to help us bolt the shaft back on.

We can only hope that we'll be able to fix this without resort to boatyards...

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Day Eighteen - Keeping Up

Henley - Eton

River Thames

21 miles, 7 locks

In which the Duck and its crew think they may have broken a goose record, revisit a section of river James had previously coxed, lunch among geese while waiting for nb
Warrior before descending several locks in convoy, with the little BMC just about keeping up with the National going delibrately slow, are fed an excellent dinner and visit Dorney Lake.

This morning we gladly left our appalling mooring in Henley, where we'd not even been about to get the stern into the bank and had had to listen to the crrrrunccchhh of the baseplate against the riverbed every time the boat moved even slightly, all night.

Just before we left, a text from Sarah of nbWarrior informed us that they were indeed, just a few miles behind us. We replied, saying that we would wait for them, when we moored up for lunch. But for now, we pressed on, past Temple Island towards Marlow, where Clare College (James' alma mater) hold their summer rowing camp.

Hence, James was quite familiar with this stretch, having coxed eights up and down it, even through locks, many times before. Longridge Activity Centre was where they actually stayed, and as we passed, we were challenged to a race by some scouts in a canoe. James, not to be outdone by small boys with paddles, opened up the throttle and showed them what a BMC 1.8 can do (i.e not much). But we still won.

Close by, we managed to capture what may be the record number of geese in a row. Andrew of Granny Buttons' (much better) photo of 18 was the previous record holder, but here there are roughly 26!

We stopped for lunch at Spade Oak Wharf, where we ate lunch, then read for a bit, waiting for Warrior to catch up.

Now in convoy, we continued on, sharing several locks with Sarah and Jim, which made things more fun and convivial than usual. Their wonderful National engine is far more powerful than ours, but with it running slower than normal we were just able to keep up!

To our delight they offered to cook us dinner, which we gladly accepted. So once past Maidenhead we started to think about mooring up for the night. And this became even more imperative when the heavens decided to open in quite spectacular, monsoon style. I've been in a monsoon, in Hong Kong, and it was just the same!

Soon we came across some excellent moorings, just by one of Eton's boathouses.

A curious widgeon that looked in the window

We lit the stove again to dry off after the downpour, then headed over to Warrior for a delicious and very healthy lentil curry, and wine. It was great to chat with Jim and Sarah again.

After dinner we all went for a little walk over to Dorney Lake, as James confirmed was just beyond the trees when we arrived. It is a 2k, 6 lane, artificial rowing lake built by Eton college and in 2012 the Olympic rowing will be held there. It is quite spectacular!