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Friday, April 29, 2016

Fitting my Numax cxv31 batteries. +fuel pump failed

Getting the batteries delivered was the easy part fitting them was going to be a long and messy job.
As you can see there`s not a lot of room and the batteries are sitting on the swim below the deck. There are three domestics at this end then the small white starter battery and one final domestic to the far left. They each weigh 25 kilos or 55lb. in proper English weight. The starter is 11 years old.

George and Mildred (pictured left) stood by to remind me of the most important thing about changing batteries on a narrowboat.

Yep! always remember to Duck your head.

The last time I changed the batteries I stood them on half inch thick sheets of wood because I read somewhere the cold metal was not kind to them. Now I believe this caused a lot of condensation and a lot of rust. I used the leverage end of a crowbar to scrape all the loose stuff away then followed with wire brushes in the drill.
Some of the swept up loose rust just using the crow bar.
The starter battery sits just on the right. To the left is the one remaining domestic battery that is keeping the fridge going. All the live cables are wrapped in rag and plastic bags.
The whole area has been coated with rust converter a chemical that reacts with the rust hopefully stopping it.
Batteries back in place still on the wood but this time there is an air gap between the wood and the cold metal of the swim. Next job was to remove the one remaining domestic give the rust the same treatment. Having completed everything rust wise all the old batteries were back in place to give the rust converter time to work and dry black. A few days later I took all the batteries out and gave everywhere another coat of the rust converter. This time the new batteries went in. Doing it this way means being without power for a shorter time.
Next job is to treat a few rust spots on the engine bay floor and give the whole engine bay a coat of paint. Also the wiring needs a bit of tidying with the connections moving to different end of battery bank. The solar panel connections could be better placed as well. I need a bus bar and a thick cable to do these jobs.

 I did the batteries in two locations. This one I chose because of using the genny for the wire brushing and not wanting to be noisy near other boats. My thoughts were surely no one will moor here so close to the bridge, empty towpath ahead of us, especially if they saw the genny. Wrong! during all the wire brushing I popped my head up to see a boat pulled in. He stayed about an hour or so but certainly caused a couple of problems when boats met in the bridge hole. Oh well I tried.

Sometimes timing works in our favour during our day to day lives be they on land or water.
The batteries have been in about two weeks so with the solar our stored power is at full capacity. Yesterday our engine decided it would start and perhaps tick over but would not run any faster. Sometimes it decided it would run at a fast tickover so Jaq could use the washing machine but then decide to cough and splutter after 30 minutes and die before the final rinse.

Well all sorts of thoughts start rushing through the brain cells from electrical problems perhaps in the ignition (unlikely on a diesel) to fuel bug. Always think the worst, blocked fuel lines, filters and injectors and work from there. Fuel bug was quickly eliminated as I had recently changed the engine based fuel filter and the water separator filter both contained clear fuel with no signs of bug. Air in fuel line was my next thought but the Vetus set up is self bleeding so this was unlikely.

 The Electric fuel pump has to be the  next port of call. All connections seemed ok but with the ignition on no sound or vibrations came from the pump, interesting. So remove the outlet pipe from the pump and with ignition on......nothing, fuel should have been flowing. That is the point you smile and shout silently "yes". The problem is still there but it feels good to identify it.

We now have to go back to 2012 and a similar thing happened on the Llangollen. An RCR (River Canal Rescue) engineer came out and discovered the check valve inside the pump had flipped over. The link HERE. Its the yellow centre sitting in a metal cup. So instead of changing the pump he fixed it, took him seconds to flip it back.
Move on 18 months and fuel pump problems on the Thames. This time RCR came out and I just let them change the pump albeit one that was in my opinion less efficient than the original but having to wait for one to be ordered was not possible at the time. I did however keep the original because I had a feeling I knew the problem. It took me seconds to fix after the engineer left.
In case any non boater is wondering why I didn`t just fix the pump myself instead of calling RCR the answer is tidal. We were soon to be entering the tidal part of the Thames on our way to Brentford and you do not want fuel pump problems on the trip.

So to the present and I have a pump that when I applied temporary power to hummed and sang out "i`m ready just fit me" so I did and all is well.
From the Vetus catalogue note the price. If you have this type remember there is a filter inside that needs changing regularly. Twist end cap off and filter and check valve are revealed.

The check valve that caused the problems. The Yellow ball and the metal it sits in turns on it`s side and just needs pushing back with say a tooth pick.
The replacement fitted by RCR. No internal filter and costs about £35 on internet.

The one I have just ordered from Amazon. £24 delivered click and collect to a location of my choosing further along our cruising route. Just can`t see £300+ difference to the Vetus one pictured higher up the page.                                                                         
Very Expensive To U  Stupid. The filter for the pump is £11 from Vetus or £4 from internet.

Monday, April 25, 2016

A Lovely Slice of Nature Near Coventry

"Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where others see nothing." ~ Camille Pissarro, Danish-French Impressionist painter, 1830-1903

   After fetching up for a few days of chilling out and catching up with on board chores (laundry, varnishing bits and bobs, etc.), we set off from Clifton-Upon-Dunmsore near the golf course and headed for Rugby to top up the water, dump the rubbish, and refresh our larder at the nearby Tesco store. As we pulled in to moor up who should we see but Dave and Beryl Bradshaw on NB Sokai! We stopped to chat briefly, catching up with one another before we walked to the grocery store--about two minutes from the moorings. 
   Back on board after lunch on the bow, we soaked up the dazzling sunshine and 70 F. weather, deciding to take advantage of it and cruise on northward to All Oaks Wood--a favorite spot of mine. I like walking the country road into the village of Brinklow for a Saturday paper.  
  We stopped just before 4:30 p.m. and I got out the binoculars and my battered old camera. Directly across from our mooring was a low nest in the grasses. In it a duck with her fuzzy ducklings were bedded down for an afternoon nap in the sun. 

Eleven babies perfectly camouflaged, with mom!
A drake spotted her tucked up on the bank and thought he would call around for some action. Mom had other ideas and lit into the male with a chorus of squawks and beating wings, chasing him off down the cut. 
"Well He-LLO there!" (Imagine Barry White's sultry voice.)
"Just thought I'd drop by for some Afternoon Dee-light! Hey baby-you game???"
Drake: "Damn Gina! I guess that means no!" Duck: "Damn straight. No means not now-not ever while I have babies in my nest!"
  Returning to her patch, momma duck checked out her babies and then they took to the water. No point in trying to get all eleven of them bedded down after that rude awakening!
Ducklings spill out of the nest, bobbing like fuzzy corks...
...until everyone is out on the water. Time to promenade with mom.
1960's Noisemakers
   We spent one night here, falling asleep in the undisturbed dark, waking to the early morning bird song filling the air. The raucous calls of pheasants hidden in the tall grasses reminded me of a children's noisemaker we used to get in our Christmas stockings. Made of metal with a small handle, one spun them around-and-around to make a thoroughly nerve grating sound designed to drive a parent crazy.
    While Les rolled over and went back to sleep I sat out on the bow with my coffee. Blackbirds sang sweetly, resting in between back-and-forth flights gathering twigs for nests. Tiny Wrens appeared and disappeared, flashing amongst the shrubbery, and Pied Wagtails sipped from freshly opened blackthorn flowers.   
   Too soon the sun was up again in earnest, heating the metal bow and thousands of nasty black houseflies appeared out of nowhere pouring in the doors and windows. A nearby farmer had just covered his field in slurry (cow shite and water, left to steep for months before being pumped over the land as fertilizer). Pee-yew!! Time to move!
   While I went on a fly killing rampage, Les got us moving toward sweeter pastures--literally. We sat together on the stern, sipping our noontime cuppa', enjoying the different scenery. Yes, we had cruised this way before, back in 2012, but after three years some things are bound to have changed. We cruised through Ansty--a village with a poor reputation for mooring spaces.
   Eventually we pulled in across from a narrow bank of green with hilly shrubs that blocked the view beyond of farm fields, electric pylons, and houses in the distance. The motorway nearby provides a continuous thrum of vehicles, growing louder in the morning and evening rush hours, dying back to a low growl the rest of the time. It is good enough to spend a couple of days here before going on to Hawkesbury Junction and the Coventry Canal. 
   I sat out on the bow again with my camera and binoculars and suddenly a small, brown furry animal broke the surface of the water, crawled up on the grass and began eating with its back turned to me. I dashed back inside for my Nature Watcher's Field Guide to the Brtish Isles. Yes!! It was, as I suspected, a Water Vole! 
See that dark blob of fur on the bank?
I watched for hours as Nature's vignette unfolded before me in this unlikely sliver of paradise...

   Rabbits popped up every now and again, cautiously raising their heads. The farmer's Collie visited later in the evening, sniffing out a rabbit in the midst of a large clump of dried plants. Suddenly the rabbit broke cover and tore off to the left, the canine hot on its heels. The rabbit escaped and the dog came back, threw itself in the cut, turned around a couple of times, and then proceeded to execute a self satisfied half-roll in the weeds along the water's edge, drying its back apparently.
   The next morning ewes brought their babies down the well worn path to drink, the lambs bleating in excitement, hopping around, calling back and forth. Sometimes the lambs appear over the hill without mom, lured by the tiny green leaves on the shrubs and low tree limbs facing the canal. As soon as they are out of their mother's eyesight she begins to call them loudly and the lambs--naughty little children that they are--play hide and seek amongst the shrubs until mom starts bawling at the top of her lungs, and they slip away back over the hillside. 
   I was so pleased to see the Water Vole out several times, shyly eating when nothing else was about. Suddenly a Moor Hen climbed out of the water at the far end of the grass and began its strange, ridiculous stride across the green.

   For our North American readers, these strange waterfowl have huge, long jointed toes that each end in a claw. As they make their way on land Moor Hens lurch along comically like someone wearing giant clown shoes, their head bobbing forward on their neck with each step. 

Needless to say, it was not long before the Moor Hen disturbed the Water Vole and off the bank he slipped with nothing to show he had been there but a few bubbles in the water and a small wave moving out from the bank. 
   Les had walked off to a nearby local shop for a Saturday paper while I fixed a pot of Chicken soup. The weather was taking a turn for the worse later in the day with a forecast of very cold nighttime temperatures of 39F/4C. Soup was just the thing. In the meantime I was enjoying the sun while it lasted. I heard a boat engine and looked up to see NB Seyella gliding by!
Geoff just mooring up while Mags is inside getting ready to come over for a cuppa.
   It was Geoff and Mags--two boaters I had never met but whose blog we folow. After following it for over five years I felt like I knew them and here they were at last! I ran the length of NB Valerie knocking on our window. Geoff heard me and slowed as Seyella glided past. I popped out of the hatch and yelled, "NB Valerie--Jaq and Les!" Geoff and I grinned at each other like mad cats and he reversed to slow down and pull in behind us. I invited them in for tea and cake, and called Les. He was just coming down the far end of the towpath. 
   After a visit aboard our boat, we were treated to afternoon tea and luscious Lemon cake aboard NB Seyella and enjoyed several hours together. The next evening we also spent with Geoff and Mags, drinking wine and laughing over stories. The men talked old, disused canal arms while I got to know Mags better. A lovely woman, she is a natural born storyteller. I love the hint of mischief that shines from her blue eyes as she tells her tales. We slipped back home to our boat with a contented sigh. To quote dear departed boater Mo (nb Balmaha) "Aren't boaters the loveliest people?" yes indeed they are and we are so pleased to finally meet up with two of the loveliest in person.
Mags and Geoff Wade
 Post Script: This afternoon Les spotted the Water Vole again and he took pictures with his camera. Well done darling!
Water Voles look like a cross between a large hamster and a petite beaver with a skinny tail like a rat.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Barby towards Brinklow

Passing Barby moorings I noticed this plot of land was for sale. The sign was asking for offers over £90,000 ($130,000). Only services are mains water supply.
 The plot for sale is arrowed. The X`s mark the original route of the Oxford canal before straightening in the 1830`s.

End of garden mooring using floating pontoon. Guessing the metal work, at each end, is holding the pontoon in place. Not very nice looking. There is an underwater obstruction along the wall but surely if the pontoon was lightly fixed to the wall the boat could be tied directly to the land via rings. It would avoid all the goal post looking structure.

 As you come under Tarry`s Bridge number 74 the old stables on the left have all been converted to office use and the old pub on the right is part of Wharf Farm.

Looking at an 1886 map the pub was called the Fox Inn, all later maps list it as Wharf Farm. Some history about this place but nothing comes up on basic searching.

 Hillmorton top lock. Three pairs of single locks the bottom two being number one on the annual lockage report with a total of 9,101.  Pages 21 and 28 relate to Hillmorton, the figure is 16% down on last year.

 Outside the Canalchef restaurant are motor Badsey and butty Angel.

 Enough time while Jaq gets Nb Valerie in the bottom lock for me to look over the arm that was once the Oxford Canal Company`s workshops and dry dock.

 This is the usual view of the Barley Mow pub at Newbold.
 As we past I was thinking they had a motor home convention taking place. It seems they are now a site for BritStops and offer parking spaces free for 24 hours. These three seem to have grabbed the canal side spaces. I guess the hope is people use the pub for a beer or meal and in this instance a bath or laundry room hire. Boaters welcome to hire theses facilities. LINK. There are several canal related sites if you click through the gallery.
A similar scheme operates in the U.S.  LINK.

We carried on for about an hour and Moored at All Oaks Wood Brinklow.

Friday, April 22, 2016

The birth of 550 berths.

Well I guess it had to happen eventually and after four years work at the Barby Pools Marina has finally begun. It seems to have picked up the names Onley Marina or Onley Park Marina along the way but it is the 550 berth one near the Onley prisons on the Oxford canal. I first mentioned this in 2012 HERE.

Newt fencing has been installed over much of the marina site but for some reason not all.
The two pictures above are taken from next to bridge 81.

This is the footpath diversion map posted by the council.
Top left is the Rye Hill prison buildings. There is an extension to the north side of the prison in the planning stage.

D is the gate boaters are familiar with that leads to the bus stop by the prisons. I say prisons because there are three here. Rye Hill is for sex offenders, Onley is category C and Rainsbrook is for young offenders 12-18 yrs old.

What is basically happening is the removal of the paths from D through B, G, F and E because that`s where the marina is going to be.

So if approaching D from the north you are directed onto the towpath. This is because there is a footpath over the canal brdg. 81 at B into Barby. You could also go via I if you intend keep on the southerly path, the one i have entered as Red dots from E.  Likewise if you are heading north at E and wish to go to Barby across the canal you now need to go via H,I and D then use the towpath to B and the path across the canal.

 This is one of the paths being diverted. Bridge 81 is to my right and we are looking towards the wood where the boaters gates to the bus stop are. So B to D on the map. Won`t be too long before this same view will be full of boats.
I think the only difference to boaters mooring here will be it might be better to moor near the gates at D and towards the north. This will get you away from the top pool of the marina and any light pollution or possible noise.
Sue on No Problem has done a blog about this and has some links. Sue and I were both confused about the footpath diversion signs, sorted Sue but it did take a lot of reading of all the instructions posted with the order.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Three Years is a Long Time!!

"Good friends are like stars; you don't always see them, but you know they are always there." ~Christy Evans, author

   Les and I left Braunston on Tuesday last. We cruised contentedly out to the moorings by Onley prison--about three miles north of Braunston--and found a lovely, quiet spot to set up house for a few days. We had arranged to meet Sue and Vic of NB No Problem as they cruised down from Barby after a week with family. 
   Imagine our delight when NB Oakfield came through the bridge hole to moor up in front of us and No Problem came around a curve in the opposite direction at nearly the same moment! We hadn't visited with Keith and Ann since late 2012 when we were all moored at Rugby. We hadn't seen Sue and Vic since we dined together at Windsor in July 2013. 
   As both boats went to moor up a cow fell in the canal from the farmer's field on the off side, another boat came through the bridge behind us and pulled over to attempt a cow rescue, and before you could say "Moo, Moo buckaroo" a crowd of boaters were working to save the calf which had ideas of its own; I could see it thinking, "Geez a bovine just wants to have a little drink--a little bath--a little privacy from the herd, but NOOoo! Everybody and their cousins' sisters' friends show up-oh and their dogs. I'm outta' here," and off it swam for a shallow spot where it heaved itself back to dry land.
Cow in the cut! © NB Oakfield, 2016
Should we stay or should we go now!
  We had a delightful catch-up on board NB Valerie with coffee, tea and cake all around. The next afternoon Sue and I went for a hike with the dogs and we walked for an hour; the longest I've been out without crutches since July! It was grand moving along the muddy footpath and across the grassy fields.

   On Sunday we all enjoyed Sue and Vic's hospitality with one of his legendary roast dinners aboard No Problem. The custard on the pud was Maffi cruising along to moor up amongst us to join in the fun.
The crew left to right: Vic, Maffi, Ann, Keith, Jaq, and Les.

Mauve sunsets...
   Les and I took a walk later Sunday evening through the farmers field which is in the process of being made over into a 600 berth marina which will sit nut-to-butt with the back side of Onley prison, where I can imagine a very tall fence and security lighting will eventually be in place. All of these plans will ruin what is now a really lovely mooring place, with farm fields full of animals, quiet and the bucolic peace of the countryside. 
...and frost licked fields in the early morning sunshine; mist hovers above the cut as the day unfolds near Onley.

Four boats filled with friends!

   We spotted nearly 100 rabbits tearing back and forth across the fields from one side to the other. It was truly comical to watch them hopping around but not really getting very far. I wonder where they will all go when the fields are turned into watery berths with boats moored up.
   Les and I walked back from the spot where the old canal used to follow the contours of the land--before it was straightened to cut off time and save money back in the day. We laughed at the lambs--one was white with black knee patches; another sheep had two black twins which watched us curiously until Les said, "Mint sauce"; the lambs turned and scarpered off quickly. Their mama didn't raise any fools!
   This morning we all gathered at Keith and Ann's boat for coffee, tea, cake, and conversation which didn't touch on toilets once--a rare thing in a group of boaters! 
Goodbye from Oakfield, goodbye from Millie M, goodbye from No Problem, Goodbye from Valerie; goodbye from us goodbye!
   Before we knew it, noon was knocking and it was time for us to get moving. We wanted to get through the Hillmorton lock flight, fill up with water, dump our rubbish, get some coal, diesel and propane, and settle in somewhere quiet for a few days. 

  Ahhhhh yes, we are back to boating again on our terms; a few days here with friends, a handful of days there in the countryside quiet, a day moored up near town for any bits and bobs, and then off again to see what we have missed for the last three years. We haven't been this far north in all that time! Bliss!

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs

NB Valerie & Steam Train by Les Biggs