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2014: Easter repairs and a gathering of boaters

 

UCC

 

Last year's repairs to our gearbox, and subsequently to the prop-shaft bearings, had revealed that our prop-shaft and stern tube were both seriously worn and were in urgent need of replacement, so we were booked into the dry dock at Braunston before Easter. I had spent the winter improving the high-power wiring of the boat so we were just about ready to set off at the beginning of April, but then our beloved labrador Molly decided that after 14 happy years she had fulfilled all her lifetime ambitions and now just wanted to rest in peace. We delayed our departure for a few days more so the vet could help her on her way, then Telford accepted the role of Top Dog and assumed captaincy of the ship as we set off for Braunston.

Within an hour the gearbox had let us down again by throwing all of its oil out into the bilges, but luckily I had bought two sets of spare gaskets and O-rings so I was able to manage a repair within an hour and we were soon back on our way towards Braunston. A couple of days later we were in their dry-dock with the water being drained away from beneath us, and the boat was settled on the wooden supports to allow the prop-shaft to be removed. The rudder had to be removed first but after 23 years in place it was rather reluctant to part company with the rest of the boat; however the combined efforts of a scaffolding pole as a lever on the handle of a Stilson wrench together with the determined efforts of a skilled engineer and a VERY large hammer eventually shifted it. When the prop-shaft was removed I was shocked to see that it had worn away to less than half its original diameter; no wonder I had had difficulty stopping the water from coming in through the bearings!

 

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In the dry dock with the bows near the edge to allow us on and off
Nicely settled in dry dock
Debbie wonders what's happening in the engine bay
The bows look good, apart from the bent towing eye
The rudder came off eventually.
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The rudder and propeller have been removed
The stern is in plain view ...
... showing the skeg, the stern tube, and the weed-hatch.
The engine bay looks strange with no prop-shaft
Re-filling the dock when the work is complete.

The new shaft and tube were fitted without further problems, but there was a problem when it came to replacing the drive plate. This plate is between the engine and gearbox, where the clutch plate would be on a car engine, and it seemed to make sense to have it replaced while everything was dismantled. Unfortunately it turned out that our drive plate was a non-standard size, perhaps a consequence of us having originally had an unusual Borg-Warner gearbox, and its replacement would have to be ordered specially for us from the manufacturer who would first have to make it. We decided to have the original plate refitted and to return after a couple of weeks to have it replaced, so that we could enjoy a trip down the canal to Banbury before returning to Napton and meeting a group of fellow boaters from the CanalWorld Discussion Forum over Easter.

First however, yet another repair would be needed. Our solid-fuel stove had decided to collapse, so a new one would have to be fitted before we went any further. Luckily the Little Wenlock stoves are still being made, so we had no difficulty in buying a replacement once we had recovered from the shock of how expensive they are now!

Our southbound trip was delightfully peaceful, and we travelled on to Aynho for a fantastic meal at the Great Western Arms. The food there was fantastic and I would definitely recommend it to anyone! Returning to Banbury, we spent a delightful day in that pretty little town before heading back up to the summit. I noticed as we set off that the engine turned over a little more slowly than usual when I started it but thought no more of it until the next morning when it refused to turn over at all. The starter battery had completely died! By now we were in isolated countryside so I jump-started the engine from our domestic batteries and contacted a friend who was to be passing through Banbury the next day. The boatyard there was selling batteries on "special offer" so she was able to bring us a battery at a good price and deliver it right to us on the towpath.

Being springtime, all the animals and birds were doing their best to produce a fresh crop of offspring. This swan for example was clearly sitting on a clutch of eggs in her beautiful nest, protected by her mate who was patrolling the canal diligently but didn't seem to mind at all when we moored opposite their home.

Swan on nest

 

And we're reasonably sure that this little fellow was born directly across from us one night:

newborn calf

 

We moored outside the superb Folly pub at Napton for Easter, as arranged, and had a very enjoyable couple of days meeting friends old and new before setting off towards Braunston again. By now our gearbox was leaking again, but we knew it could be fixed while the drive-plate was being replaced. Unfortunately during this work our engineer Jonathan discovered that there were more oil leaks from the engine which would be very difficult to rectify, and he eventually recommended that it was time for us to have a new engine and gearbox.

This would be a very expensive option - particularly as the different shape of the new engine meant that a number of modifications would be needed before it could be fitted - but after much discussion we decided that it was the only sensible way ahead. With a new engine and gearbox on order, and a repaired gearbox which was still leaking, we headed home. Further gearbox breakdowns followed, even after the rear of the box was removed to the workshop and re-machined, while  the engine continued to give everything an additional coating of oil, so I was soon anxious to get their replacement organised as quickly as possible.

The new engine will have a totally different electrical system from the old one, so I was soon busy rearranging all my new wiring into a new format. Luckily this was not too difficult, but while measuring up for the new engine I realised that the old Rediline converter (which turns our 12v electrics into 240v mains for the higher-power devices on board) would no longer fit in front of the engine. The sensible solution was to replace it with a more modern inverter system, but that meant rearranging the wiring for a third time because the inverter needed heavier cables running inside the boat.

So now we are ready to go back to Braunston and have the new engine fitted - if we don't break down again on the way, of course ...

 

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