Monday, August 25, 2008

Diesel in the Bilge

I went to Syncopation to change the engine oil today and a relatively easy job turned into another more difficult one. As usual it took me over half an hour to actually get to the engine as the engine room floor and the cocoon has to be dismantled before the engine itself is visible. While doing this I noticed what appeared to be water in the stern bilge below the stern gland. I started pumping it out but had to stop when I realised the brown foam-like stuff pouring into the canal was red diesel. Oh dear. There was four or five gallons of diesel in the bilge. It was just beginning to spill over into the inaccessible part of the bilge under the engine cocoon.

I put off dealing with this while I changed the oil and filter (50 hour service but nearer 110 hours) and failed to tighten the engine alternator drive belt due to its being inaccessible.

After some thought I made a temporary container for the diesel by cutting the top off a 6 pint milk container. I was able to place this under the bilge pump outlet and reach the switch for the pump. After the first container full I decided the diesel was clean enough to go back in the tank, so in it went. The leak was a loose fuel pipe union that I disturbed when I removed the filter when we ran out of diesel. Over the last week it has been dripping at a rate of about one drop every five seconds.

After I had cleaned up I left the cocoon and decking dismantled: I'll have to ask Mill Wharf boatyard to tighten my alternator belt and I'd hate to have to pay them to take all that apart again: they'd probably put it together for me as well, an expense I don't need.

Spent this evening finishing covering my port hole bungs.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Unlucky Dog

Arrow's visit to the vet last week has led to another this week. The seed lodged in his paw did not work loose and he had to go back yesterday to have it removed. He arrived home with a cast covering the stitches:

None of us is sure the pink with purple hearts is entirely appropriate for a boy dog.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Diesel Purchased

We walked Syncopation back through Calcutt top lock, passing nb Tackley, owned by Ron and Brenda Wilson of the boating Wilsons. Ron advised on handling an unpowered boat. Finally reached Calcutt boats diesel pump and put 116 litres of diesel in the tank. Five minutes to bleed the system and Sybcopation was back to her old self, engine providing power for cooking and propulsion again. It was particularly gratifying that the Calcutt dockard worker could not hear the engine being turned over when I tried it first time after filling up. All the inconvenience of the cocoon and decking has paid off in lowered sound emissions.

We passed through Braunston and the Admiral Nelson:
A fine pub that I have failed to eat at yet for various reasons.

We passed by Whilton Marina again and I exchanged the chimney I bought at the chandlery there last week for one that fitted our flue terminal properly. They are all six inches in diameter but our cast iron flue terminal is at the large end of the tolerance range and the funnel I bought was at the small end of the range.

We pushed on a little later than we have these past two weeks to arrive back at base at 8 PM.

Moored at Blisworth.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Out of Diesel

The days started well. We passed through Bascote locks which includes a staircase pair:

We planned to continue past Calcut locks for another hour but the engine began to lose power, the revs would drop and then pick up again. We got to the top of the locks and moored for the night and I dismantled the engine room floor to get at Syncopation's filters. Found very little debris or water in them. Spent a good 45 minutes trying to bleed the fuel system without success.

Moored above Calcut locks.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hatton Flight

We started on the Hatton flight this morning - 23 locks in the space of a couple of miles. At the BW yard there is a vintage van and a working pair of boats (Atlas and Leo) in BW colours:

Distinctive paddle gear at Hatton:

We were accompanied down the wide locks by nb Pride. We stopped at Warwick for supplies and dinner and then carried on through Leamington Spa.

Arrow managed to fall into the tail of one of the Hatton locks after he slipped off the top of the lock gate while crossing from one side to the other.

Moored at Radford Semele.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Minor Crisis

Not a drama. The gear shift cable came loose at the top of the Lapworth flight of locks. We lost forward drive and the gear box was stuck in reverse. We pulled Syncopation to the side and after half an hour I managed to find the problem. We'd lost a split pin and the cable outer had come away from the gear change lever. After some rooting around in the bilge I found the pin and put it back in and bent it to stop it falling out again. The whole thing took an hour and a half because I had to dismantle some of the woodwork under the deck boards to get the cocoon off the top of the engine. We carried on down the Lapworth flight, turning on to the Grand Union canal at Kingswood junction,

leaving the Stratford canal with its distinctive lock keepers cottages:

I can tell we have left the Birmingham Canals as the water has returned to what I think of as a more normal green colour.

Moored near Rowington. Hatton flight tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It Must be Good for You. It's Got Milk in it

We visited Cadbury World today. After spending the night on the Bourneville visitor moorings we left Syncopation for a few hours with Arrow on guard. The factory tour and exhibits were a part of the attraction but I think the chocolate had a lot to do with the allure of Cadbury World. As S said of the chocolate: "It must be good for you, it's got milk in it". The problem is all that other stuff. By the melted chocolate tasting counter there was a sign about nutritional content and GDAs. It made me laugh in the midst of the overindulgence. I looked at the wrapper of one of the small bars I was given on the tour - 1/4 of my GDA for sugar.

I found the chimney we bought last week at the chandlery at Whilton marina is too small in diameter for our stove pipe terminal. We'll have to try to exchange it on our way back.

We pulled the pins at 4PM and set off again. I noticed we had ripped out one of the screws securing the forward port fairlead during the night. Another little job to do..

Moored tonight on the North Stratford canal near Hockley Heath.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sick Bike

Outside London, the Brompton bike is relatively rare. In Tamworth, I've had an admiring audience for the ten seconds it takes to fold or unfold the bike. Little boys have said "Cool bike mister!". Today outside Sainsbury's in Selly Oak, after the unfolding I received a teenager's accolade: "That bike is sick!" (5th definition here).

Having spent a night at the excellent moorings at Brindleyplace we spent the morning and early afternoon in the nearby National Sea Life Centre. We set off at 3:30 and after taking on coal turned and headed south along the Worcester and Birmingham canal. After some momentary confusion at Gas Street Basin where I turned into the basin instead of following the main line we passed the Mailbox. I saw the Ross Barlow, Birmingham University's Hydrogen powered narrowboat. We arrived at Bourneville just as it started raining and are currently moored directly opposite Bourneville station, ready for our visit to Cadbury World tomorrow.

Moored tonight on the Bourneville visitor moorings.

Coal from Hadar

I just had to buy a bag of coal when I saw Hadar today:

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I don't like the brand. It should be Brindley Place. But I do like the place. It's all about everything that's attractive about the urban canalscape. Birmingham's vibrant canal centre.

We left our makeshift mooring spot on the Aston flight and made our way up Farmer's Bridge locks, passing under several large office blocks and the site of the Youtube Farmer's Bridge Wakeboarding video,



arriving at Brindley Place just after lunch.


Moored at Brindleyplace for the night.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Fear and Trepidation in the City

One of the navigation guides says unequivocally that you should not moor away from a recognised secure location in the city of Birmingham. We stopped for supplies near Tyburn bridge and while we were tying up were advised by a passing local boater that it would be a bad place to stop for the night. We pulled the pins and carried on - the Birmingham and Fazeley canal was deserted for literally miles after that. We passed under Spaghetti Junction and didn't stop at Cuckoo wharf. We were lucky enough to find safe haven at an office development half way up the Aston flight at Aston Cross where we were watched over by security guards and CCTV.

The Minworth and Aston flights are supposed to be secured with anti vandal keys but I found that most of the anti vandal locks are broken or can be opened with a light tap from a windlass.

Moored at Aston Cross.

Friday, August 08, 2008

We spent the day at Drayton Manor Park. Or as it was in my day: Drayton Manor Park and Zoo. The emphasis today is on the theme park although the zoo is still there, almost hidden behind the theme park. We all enjoyed the day. Everybody is tired and we expect to sleep well. It's a great venue to visit by canal. There's plenty of space to moor by the gothic footbridge and although we had to cross the busy A4091 most of the traffic was stationary, waiting to get into the theme park.

Cathy had to take Arrow to the vet in Tamworth in the afternoon because his left fore-paw is giving him some discomfort. He's got a seed lodged under the skin between his toes. The vet couldn't remove it but it will probably work loose. We have some antibiotics to give Arrow to keep the infection under control.

Moored tonight near Drayton Bassett. We moved half an hour away from lat night's mooring to get away from the traffic noise.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Too Much Excitement

I put the washing machine on for a quick wash this morning and there was a sound of rushing water. All as normal I thought until Cathy drew my attention to the fact that there was water running down the middle of the saloon floor. Quite a lot of water. Luckily we had read the label that marked the position of the stop cock and quickly found it and stopped the flow of water. The pump was still running so we disconnected it at the distribution panel. The water was mopped up from the bunk room through to the front steps and the steps pulled out to reveal the to cover

over the pump filter had cracked right across:


We called Michael at Mill Wharf as this was definitely a guarantee issue. He came straight out and met us at bridge 54 at Polesworth with a spare cover. The old one was very difficult to remove: it was attached much too tightly - probably the reason it broke. The pump was fine and we were on our way again.

While we were waiting we were passed by Uisce of the Floating Abode blog.

Moored tonight at Drayton Footbridge on the Birmingham and Fazeley canal.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

We set off today with a destination in mind. We're making for Drayton Manor Park. A much better day weather -wise than yesterday. After an overcast start we finished the day in bright sunshine. We travelled up the Oxford canal and turned onto the Coventry canal at Hawkesbury Junction:


We passed Charity Street dock, with its amusing display of manequins:


This afternoon we came down the Atherstone flight, passing Barry Hawkins' boatyard and have stopped for the night below lock 1.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

I spotted Granny Buttons today!


We were passing Newbold on the way to the tunnel when I spotted her. I excitedly called the crew up to see the celebrity, then fumbled for the camera and ended up having to get off the boat, walk back, take my photo then rejoin Syncopation. We went through Newbold Tunnel soon after.


Tonight we are near Ansty.

Monday, August 04, 2008

A Trip to the Chandlery

We made a visit to the chandlery at Braunston to buy a few small essentials including an anchor and some chain to go with it (Thanks to John from Australia on Wyvern Shipping company's Clover for helping to carry the chain back to Syncopation). Not to self: moor close to the chandlery when buying heavy items in future.
We topped up with diesel at Whilton Marina and bought a chimney and chimney cover for Syncopation. I admired the proprietor's small collection of Matra sports cars: a pair of Murenas. One with rather gorgeous dark orange buttoned velour upholstery.
Stopped tonight near Hillmorton.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Boy Overboard

Arrow dragged Dominic into the canal this morning. After we left Blisworth Arrow ran along the towpath for a while. Dominic went onto the bank to retrieve him. After putting the dog on the lead he brought him to the edge to transfer him to Syncopation. He stepped aboard. Arrow changed his mind about crossing the gap to the boat and pulled back, causing Dominic to lose his balance. He caught himself on the bank but his feet were still on the boat. When the boat moved away from the bank he fell into the canal. Fortunately the water was not deep enough to reach the automatic lifejacket he was wearing and after some help from the following boat he climbed out of the canal. We have stopped for the night at the top of Braunston locks.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Syncopation on Tour

We've set off from Blisworth on a voyage of discovery. Day one saw us travel a grand total of half a mile, to the other end of the village. We then moved another five minutes further on to get away from a loud party.