It’s time to un­tie and hit the water for my great cruise ad­ven­ture

Canal Boat - - This Month -

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 Cruis­ 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...)

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