It’s time to untie and hit the water for my great cruise adventure
The hazards of weighing anchor...
Even with the radio off in the narrowboat I can distinctly hear the sound of John Paul Young in my head today albeit with a slightly amended lyric: ‘Spring is in the air; every where I look around...’
With the clocks now forward and the weather definitely turned towards the slightly sunnier, there are distinct signs of new life on and around the canals.
Daffodils are sprouting up everywhere, lambs are chasing each other around the fields and mucking about like all youngsters do. Heck, there was even a newborn Highland cow in the field next to where I moored recently, its mother nudging it away from anyone who got too close and mooing angrily at any passing dogs.
This can only mean one thing: it’s time to begin cruising so cruising I have begun. Granted, at the time of writing this I haven’t moved that far, my idea of canal boating largely involving a couple of hours of tiller time quickly followed by a leisurely lunch and then an afternoon nap after all that exertion but nonetheless the Great Spring Cruise of 2017 was under way.
So far that’s meant I’ve left my winter mooring near Rugby and ambled back through Hillmorton, onwards to Braunston – pause for supplies including food, coal and an anchor (on which more in a moment) – and up the Leicester Arm of the Grand Union.
It’s been idyllic and I’d pretty much forgotten how lovely canal boating is, with minimal movement over winter due to my aforementioned priorities plus a strict requirement for sunshine when on the move.
That said, getting ready for the off has thrown up some technical challenges which I am sure is entirely typical for many boaters dusting off their well deck for a new year on the water.
First of all, ever since I bought the boat I’ve known it had a slight diesel leak from at least one of the fuel injectors but until now I’ve not done anything about it. There was no sign of any great pool of diesel in the bilge so I considered it a minor irritant. That was until I moored for winter at which point the rather more significant oil leak – which occurs only when the engine is running – ceased to hide the evidence of the diesel leak and a quantity of the red stuff was indeed apparent in the bottom of the boat, dang it. It tried to hide by appearing to be yellow, but after a while I worked out that’s because red diesel seen against the green paint in the bilge equals yellow. Duh.
A quick test with a bit of kitchen paper towel confirmed that diesel was dribbling from not one but at least two injectors. Incidentally, does everyone else go through as much kitchen roll as I do? Vast, vast quantities of the stuff. Mopping, cleaning, wiping ... frankly I ought to buy shares in Kleenex.
It was time to get the leak sorted not least because the boat’s BSS is due at the end of the year and I suspect the examiner will frown upon uncontained fuel spewing into the bilge. Just a hunch.
Here’s where I probably made a costly mistake, namely panic. In being very
‘It’s been idyllic and I’d pretty much forgotten how lovely canal boating is, with minimal movement over winter due to my aforementioned priorities plus a strict requirement for sunshine when on the move’
determined to eliminate the problem I purchased not only the handful of O-rings – worth a few pence – that fit inside the ‘leak off pipe’ above the injectors but I also shelled out a heart-attack-inducing amount on not only a brand new leak-off pipe but also the four pipes that bring the fuel to the injectors.
It seems new parts are required to cost an eye-watering sum and with hindsight (which is wonderful thing) it was probably just the rubber O-rings that had perished.
But if my expert mechanic had fitted just those and the leak persisted then it would have meant a further wait for the other parts and another day of engineering.
Look, I’m just trying to justify the cost to myself retrospectively really. But just think how many rolls of paper towel I could have bought with all that cash...
It all seems to be sorted now so I’ve just got that ongoing oil leak to deal with. Oh and some water seems to be oozing out too. Honestly, it’s aggravating enough to make you ponder buying an entirely new engine just to sort things (until you research the prices of new engines at which point I feel another coronary coming on)
Also likely to induce physical injury, it transpires, are boat anchors. My boat came with one plus a length of chain and rope, left by the previous owners. With my plans this year including up to three river passages, this safety accessory was of some importance so the first thing I did was to ignore every Health & Safety training course I’ve been on and grabbed the anchor from its locker by leaning over forwards and sideways in the worst possible contortion for my lower back.
At first all seemed well but by late afternoon I could barely move for the pain. At one point, I kid you not, I was lying flat on the boat floor and apparently unable to get up without yelping. Visions of lying there, cold, all night and being found by the neighbour’s cat some days later began to float across my mind.
Eventually, grimacing through the pain and, may I say, very bravely, I pulled myself up on the saloon footstool and lurched off down the boat in search of something to act as a crutch. It turns out that a boathook is your best friend in this scenario.
Not only can you lean on it when walking, sitting or indeed doing any sort of manoeuvre but it also has (as the name suggests) a hook on the end which comes in very handy for pulling your trousers on in the morning when you can’t bend.
Adding insult to injury, it transpires the anchor is the wrong type. It’s of the “grappling hook” design which is not suitable for rivers according to the experts. Another one has duly been purchased, of the Danforth style, and lumbered carefully aboard.
There was a flutter of excitement aboard shortly before I set out. My former employer was ITV Meridian down in Kent and for reasons unknown the boss suddenly decided he would like a feature about the former journalist turned narrow-boater.
This resulted in them not only sending up one of my very good friends and former colleagues to shoot a feature all about me and my life aboard but then doing a ‘live’ interview off the back from my mooring.
The finished item will almost certainly have been transmitted by the time this article goes to print so I’ll tweet out a link to it online for later viewing, if you’re curious.
Meanwhile I make regular video blog updates at CruisingTheCut.co.uk and you can follow me on Twitter (@ CruisingTheCut) or here in the pages of
Canal Boat magazine.
Former colleague turns up to film me
Time to open things up a bit
Soon, the great voyage starts
Yup, it’s definitely spring
What a lovely sight
Nice new anchor ( more expense...)
Troubling injector ( more expense...)