Day 10, nearly there

Two consecutive days without disasters. I set off a  bit late this morning because it was grey and drizzly. It cleared about 08.30 but by the time I’d opened the roof started the engine and cast off, it was raining again. Not too bad though. As I set off a narrowboat passed me and I followed hoping we could go through the locks together. Then on a long straight I realized he was following another boat, so they’d probably double up and I’d be solo again. Then just as we approached the first lock,  the lead boat pulled over to a wharf to refuel.

The other boat was a hire boat returning to Napton with two young couples, one with a toddler and one with a dog and an older couple who were somebodies’ parents. With so many crew they did all the lock work and we’d finished the flight by 11.00. I stooped for a break then put in another hour, stopping for lunch before the final set of locks.

I set off again an hour or so later and after about 100m joined the end of the lock queue! There are two single locks with very short pounds between then a staircase of 3 then two more singles. Fortunately CRT volunteers were there in force orhanising batchea in each direction and doi g the bulk of the lock work for solo boaters. Queuing wasn’t really a problem for me, I’m not booked into Crick until tomorrow morning anyway, I just drank tea and read a book.

There were a lot of boats ahead of me also heading to Crick, including a pair or trad narrowboats (motor and butty). Fewer coming down, but one amazed me. A seventy foot boat crewed by a young couple. The woman was steering with a baby in a sling. The pound where I was waiting was only slightly longer than her boat but the locks were not in line so she had to shuffle to and fro to line up with the next lock. I made some complimentary remark and she replied, ‘We used to have a 45 footer which was easier, it’s only our second day with this, but we want another baby…’

Out of the top lock about 5.00  but stopped at the CRT lock keepers’ hut to top up water and empty the loo. Neither really needed doing but Crick organisers have warned visitors to arrive with full tanks and empty loos as facilities will be limited.

Moorings open at 08.00 tomorrow so I’ll set off early to beat the rush. Then spend the day making old Seren look a bit more presentable.

 

Day 9

Nothing went wrong today so this will a short post. Also just got low battery warning! Did remaining 9 Rothersthorpe locks without incident by mid morning then stopped at Gayton Marina for fuel and water, and to empty the loo.

Carried on to Br 41 had lunch then walked to town for bread milk etc.

The leisure battery hasn’t been holding charge very well right since the start, the inverter and fridge are putting a liitle more load on it that usual but not enough to account for the loss. The wiring looks OK and it charges up from the solar panel and the engine but each evening it falls to 10.x volts by bedtime. I checked the fluid level, and it is a bit low so I looked for deionised water in Bugbrooke, even trekking across town to the pharmacy, but they hadn’t any. Still, walking is good. Though maybe not so good when you’ve just done 9 locks.

Tonight I’m by Bridge 19 on the GU main line,  between M1 and railway. Both are sheilded by trees though so the noise is bearable. Not far from Buckby locks so will do those in the morning. After that is Norton Junction where I have to take the Leicester line, then the Watford locks, Watford as in Gap not in N London. I might save them for Friday morning.

End of week 1

Well I have another tip to add to my piece on solo boating, carry more oil. But we’ll come to that.

Another bright sunny morning so I was awake at 06.00 and set off just after 07.00 thinking that if it was really hot again I’d have a nice long siesta after lunch.

I’d moored just below Woolaston lock so I was through there by 07.40. Then ran into weed that wrapped itself round the prop and brought me to a stop. I cleared it three times between Woolaston and Doddington locks. It doesn’t help that there’s nowhere to moor, both banks are lined with weed so approaching them is asking for trouble. I tried letting the boat drift while I got down in the weed hatch, but by the time I’d finished we’d drifted into the weeds anyway. So at Doddington I stopped on the lock landing stage to deweed for the third time and have a coffee break.

Above Doddington things improved and I got to White Mills marina about 10.00. Took on fuel and water and emptied the toilet. And picked up more weed just a few metres after rejoining the river.

It had been getting harder and harder to select a gear on Seren and then the whine from the gearbox got noticeably louder. I added what ATF I had and pressed on but it was obvious I needed more. My waterways sat nav suggested there were boat supplies to be had at the next lock, Coggenhoe. But it’s wrong, there’s just a mobile home site. Abloke in the sales office gave me directions to a garage, 40mins walk away.

Coggenhoe is closw to the river but on a small hill. Good for flood protection, not so good when you have to walk up the hill and down the other side at midday on a sunny day. When I got there it was by the next bridge over the river, but of course there’s no towpath alongside the river so I walked back up and down again. Then had a siesta.

Pretty uneventful after that, just one more case of weed then moored for the night on an EA mooring on the Northants Washlands.

At this rate I could be 2 days early but I’ll take the 17 lock flight on the N’hants Arm very slowly. I remember it was hard work last year and I had Linda working the locks then!

Day 6, quite relaxing

I talked to Linda (wife) last night and she suggested we meet up for lunch at the Watermill Tea Rooms at Woodford Mill. I reckoned it would be 2 hours so I pottered about and left at 08.30 intending to have 11’ses at the tea room then clean the boat and change into more presentable clothes. Actually I was there by 10.00 so I had a breakfast bap instead. Did a small amount of cleaning, washed a couple of shirts and sat about reading for an hour. Lunch was paninis, and pretty good. Then tea on the boat before pottering on my way so relaxed I didn’t log the time, or the time taken lock to lock.

Checking back it looks like I did 2 locks before lunch and 7 after making it a very sucessful day despite the leisurely start and long lunch.

Approaching Woodford Mill I’d had a boatowner working on his boat abouthe availibilty of diesel and sanitary stations. Another guy chipped in with advice about Wellington embankment but I didn’t think I’d get that far today. Turns out I did, but when I got there there was no diesel and the sanitary station wouldn’t open with my EA key. Fortunately neither is urgent, there’s a marina near Billing I should make tomorrow.

Wellingborough embankment would be a good place to stop during the day, handy for the town centre and shops, but there’s a busy road next to it and a Whitworths factory opposite that’s very noisy. So I pressed on almost to the next lock, Woolaston Mill, and moored up by a meadow.

Can’t believe the weather. 4 nights ago I was in my sleeping bag by this time 8.30pm trying to keep warm. Tonight I’m still in shorts and t shirt and wondering if it’s time to close the door.

Day 5 and a photo-op

Another chilly but beautiful morning.  Eldest daughter and family planned to catch up with me somewhere between Oundle and Thrapston. By lunchtime we’d agreed Titchmarsh Lock would be good. My print out from EA says there will be great welcome for visitors. What it doesn’t say is that visitors arriving by car can’t get past the locked gate because the site belongs to Middle Nene Boat Club. After some negotiations with members they agreed to let Sarah in.

Apart from the joy of seeing family after 4 days away,  I had an ulterior motive. I’m writing a piece for Waterways World about solo boating and need photos to illustrate it. Sarah’s husband Nick has a good camera and knows howto use it so he took some pics of me mooring and locking singlehanded. Much to the bewilderment of Milly ( eldest grandchild) who couldn’t understand why  anyone would want a photo without her in it.

Stopped at Thrapston bridge for the night. The old bridge is pretty quiet these days but there’s a muted roar in the bacground from the A14 bridge upstream.  Don’t suppose it will stop me sleeping.

Day 1

Long day. I left Kelpie at 09.00 and had one of those days. Every lock set against me except St Ives. Two were even worse than that because a bunch of young lads in a day boat kept leaving the slackers (paddles) open. Then I lost my EA key, probably at Houghton lock.Realised when I gotto Hemingford. Fortunately a couple I’d met at Houghton locked through with me and I got to Jones’ in time to buy a new key. Ten quid!

Still, made it so far. Just the New Bedford tomorrow and only one lock at Salters’ Lode. Time for dinner…

Update after dinner: Hot water system fail. Barrel gets hot but when it cools the water contracts and the barrel is squeezed out of shape. Then the lid’s seal fails and it leaks. I thought the pump would allow water to be drawn in but it doesn’t. A centrifugal pump might be better. And a stronger tank. Version 2…

Heat Exchanger under test

Seren has hot(ish) water

It Works!

It’s been a long saga but I’ll abbreviate. Seren has a small diesel engine with what looked like tapping points on the end of the cylinder head for heater hoses, which I hoped to use to provide hot water.

First snag, on the canals, going slowly the engine never really got hot, 40°C max. Going upstream on a river it would make 70°C. So I suspected either a thermostat jammed open, or not fitted at all. ButI couldn’t find a thermostat housing. On most engines it is on top of the cylinder head where the top hose goes to the rad/heat exchanger. No top hose on a Perkins 100 series as modified by Parama for marine use. Turns out it’s in the side of the head where the exhaust manifold/heat exchanger is bolted on, so that has to come off. It’s on studs so has to slide, but can’t slide enough because the starter motor is in the way…

It seemed OK, but I bought a new one anyway, then spent a while poring over the exploded diagram in the manual trying to figure out how it goes back. Eventually I got it right and the engine now runs hotter, as it should.

Calorifiers for boats are like small domestic hot water cylinders but expensive and mostly too big for Seren so I decided to fit a heat exchanger in a plastic barrel instead. It’s food grade plastic, the sort of thing used for bulk shipping of ingredients in the food industry where they are often filled with hot food then sealed to ship. The heat exchanger came from a domestic boiler and is way too big really but it was cheap and on Ebay.

Heat Exchanger under test
Heat Exchanger under test

I rigged up the heat exchanger with some heater hoses and tested it and it got hot. Good start. But the fittings on it weren’t much help for what I had in mind so I cut them off and got a plumber to solder 15mm pipe stubs on. Fitting it to a barrel with curved sides was ‘fun’ and involved several joints and a bit of flexible hose, but it worked.

Heat Exchanger in Barrel
Heat Exchanger in Barrel

The barrel is fitted under the front deck just in front of the engine, hanging for now on parcel strapping. One day I’ll make a proper cradle for it. I’ve wrapped it in insulation but that too needs doing more neatly.

I’ve got a cheapo Ebay electronic temp guage attached to the hot water outlet with gaffer tape and running the engine up for half an hour or so got the gauge upto 33°C, at that point of course the engine thermostat is nowhere near opening. We’ll see what happens on a long run.