The Long Journey Home – Part 8 sees us leaving our Lower Heyford Wharf mooring. We pulled Mirrless up to the water point which was situated just under Heyford Wharf Bridge 206, on the starboard side. You do feel like you’re in the film Waterworld, stopping to get water wherever you can, filling the tank, filling bottles for making tea, having a reserve for emergencies. You become very conscious of the resources you use out on the cut. Which is a good thing. The water pipes are locked and are opened via a ‘British Waterways Board’ (BWB) key. Whilton Marina kindly gave us ours (you’d normally have to pay £5). All the water points are marked by a blue tap in the Nicholson Guide books. No Mad Max-style dash and fight for services yet though 🙂
After just 1 hour’s travel – Aargh! Overheating. steam everywhere, it looked really serious.
We pulled over immediately. I saw steam was escaping from the union clips on piping that joined a section and then headed down, under the engine. We had to wait until it all cooled down before I attempted tightening the aforementioned clips. We waited an hour and after filling the now familiar Bowman reservoir cooling tank we went on, our hearts sunken, heading for Enslow.
I ran at 900 rpm constantly for a while, then at 1,100 rpm on the now straighter sections of the canal that were appearing. We ran for nearly 3 hours, with no more overheating. Could it be that my engineering skills in the engine bay were paying off?
We arrived at Enslow, just before the marina, just after the winding hole. My approach was slow and steady but a narrowboat coming the other way had me reversing. With reversing comes no steering and it left me nearly taking out a liveaboard boater, at the little community there. I got grounded once again, whilst facing an on-coming boat but reverse thrust and much manoeuvring, pulled us out of it. The boater whose home faced destruction at the 19 tons of Mirrless said
“You handled that well!”.
This was praise indeed!
We moored across from Shambles, The Noddy Boat, Mrs Miggins and other narrowboats to the sound of bleating lambs on the opposite bank, beyond the river Cherwell which runs alongside the canal here.
Just down the towpath and over the bridge to the left we found The Rock of Gibraltar. No, we hadn’t gone wildly off course, it was the local pub which server great beer & cider and food. We got to know this pub quite well.
The Long Journey Home – Part 7 saw us driving Mirrless the short distance to Anyho Wharf and filling up with water.
I spoke with the couple running the marina chandlery. They both new the South West and Bristol, having connections there. They talked about their history and their boat. It’s always good to hear about other people’s boats, you can learn a lot from other people’s experiences both wittingly and unwittingly.
A smooth pull away left two boats from two different directions scrabbling for the services – “the early boater catches the water point”. From that point , the day’s journey went well. Another hot sunny day (so more washing done al fresco) and no overheating. We kept the first part of the journey deliberately short and moored by a vast open meadow on the towpath side and had lunch. An idyllic setting.
The Canal is a V-shaped Ditch
With the engine cooled and watered, we set off to pass under bridge 198. However, before we could reach it, we encountered, yet again on a bend ‘the blight of the canal’ – an oncoming boat. The normal line of narrowboating is down the centre of a canal (it’s where it’s deepest) but pulling over to the side from the centre of the canal is obviously necessary, to avoid collision. However, it is also fraught with danger, the danger of grounding. The canal is basically a v-shaped ditch. You travel down the centre as, mentioned above this is the deepest part but upon meeting another vessel, travelling in the opposite direction, you move to the right (or Starboard). Both sides are generally thick with silt, stones and if you’re particularly unlucky; old prams, trolleys, safes and even the occasional Windlass!
With a Little Help From Our Friends
Upon meeting a narrowboat coming in the opposite direction, at the bend, I duly pulled to starboard and got grounded. Not just a bit stuck but grounded. No amount of reverse engine thrust/forward engine propulsion helped. Mu wielded our bargepole like a knight of the realm but Mirrless wouldn’t budge. After several goes, two guys from a boat moored in a nearby spot to ourselves came over, with another bargepole. Pushing, grunting, rocking, weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth ensued. It took a good 15 minutes but thanks to Matt and Anthony we freed. Just like that, as if nothing had happened. Thanks guys, wee’d still be there if it wasn’t for your help.
Lower Hayford Wharf
We travelled on, approaching Lower Hayford Wharf and moored just after our first encounter with an ‘electric’ lift bridge. Fortunately, it was being operated by a reluctant Texan narrowboater. This was good because all our previous encounters had been of the manual kind. It looked different, like a normal bridge and we could have just sailed straight under this one, thinking it was a normal bridge – smash!
Earlier in the day I had called Whilton Marina and River Canal Rescue (RCR) as we were still using a hell of a lot of water for cooling (the boat, not mu and myself). Although we hadn’t overheated, it seemed a distinct possibility and I needed the issue resolving, once and for all. All the water going into cooling our engine meant there was less for showering, washing up and all the other liveaboard chores. It was a hot day, RCR were maxed out but would get someone to us. By 19:00, we felt they would be coming the next day so we went off in search of The Bell (our namesake pub). It was over the lift bridge we had passed under earlier. the Texan was no longer there.
The Bell was very old and had a large garden and served a beautiful pint of ‘Symphony’ from Salopian Brewery and ‘The Hogfather’ cider from The Orchard Pig. Settled into the garden with two other couples from narrowboats, the sun was still up but trees provided shade. Admiring the thatched and stone buildings of this Oxfordshire village, the evening was pleasant. Then, my phone rang. It was RCR, they would be with us in 30 minutes. They had been working in London and had been caught up in the traffic out. I had to down my pint, use the facilities, then route march back through the village. On the way, two RCR vans had just pulled up at the swing bridge. Well met. I regaled them with Tales; of the overheating variety but they were confident they could fix the problem.
“Probably just an air bubble in the skin tank”.
The engine being installed in a Traditional style narrowboat means one thing, it’s a beggar to access. Two young marine engineers checked over every part of the cooling system and surmised it was indeed an airlock in the skin tank. They undid and did up union clips, thus bleeding the system. The engine was ran for a period of time with its pressure cap off and got to a point where water didn’t drain from the Bowman reservoir tank.
As they left, the sun was setting and I was advised to run the engine with the cap off for 30 minutes, then let it cool before closing the engine. The engineers still had two further calls to make!
As the engine cooled, I felt we had got to the bottom of the overheating problem and it would be all ‘plain sailing’ from here onwards. Mu and I celebrated in time-honoured fashion with a cup of tea.