Tag Archives: River and Canal Rescue

The Long Journey Home – Part 7

The Long Journey Home – Part 7

Wednesday 6 June 2018

Grounded By the Blight

The Long Journey Home – Part 7 saw us driving Mirrless the short distance to  Anyho Wharf and filling up with water.

Long Journey Home - Part 7 - Water Point image
Water Point

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

Long Journey Hone - Part 7 - View image

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(s)

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”.

Bleeding Engine

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.

Here completes The Long Journey Home – Part 7.

The Long Journey Home - Part 6
The Long Journey Home - Part 5
The Long Journey Home - Part 4
The Long Journey Home - Part 3
The Long Journey Home - Part 2
The Long Journey Home - Part 1

The Long Journey Home – Part 5

The Long Journey Home – Part 5

Monday 4 June 2018

The Heat is On

The Long Journey Home – Part 5 saw the morning start as overcast. We had slept well and awoke early to make a start on the next part of our trip – the drive to Banbury. We had visited Banbury twice before but by car, on our trips up to Whilton Marina, to see our narrowboat. Banbury is famous for its cakes and the cross of children’s nursery rhyme fame. We were determined to find the Cross this time, if not try a cake.

Best Laid Plans

We planned to pass through the four locks and moor up just outside the town centre. This was a shortish journey so would hopefully keep the overheating problem at bay and allow us to visit the town, before making a further short trip to just beyond.

Long Journey Hone - Part 5 - Working the Lock image
Working the Lock
Long Journey Home - Part 5 - View from a Lock image
View from a Lock

The best laid plans…

Mu had mastered the locks and I was mastering manoeuvring through them so the four were passed with ease and alone. We only saw two or three other narrowboats pass the other way, even though it was perfect weather for boating. We were looking for somewhere to moor, just outside the town (the canal runs through the middle of it), passing the odd permanently moored boat when the temperature gauge moved upwards, from its normally solid position by quite a few degrees. Pulling over onto the canal-side banking, just behind another boat and killed the engine – it has a kill switch. Cool!

I Need to Moor!

Mu walked on, only to find we were still quite a way out of the town and better mooring was to be had further on (it’s all about the quality of the mooring). It turned out the boat next to us was moored against armcote on good solid mooring. We were not. We were on shallow mud banks which took about 15 minutes to free from. Much revving of the overheating engine (the expansion tank now full of water again after loosing it all, somewhere?) was required, which didn’t help.

Finally free, we crawled on, between moored narrowboats, meeting one coming the other way and having to take evasive action. Desperate to stop but forced into the bushes on the starboard side by the slow, oncoming boat, we finally decided to cut a dash across to moor promptly shouting

“Sorry, we’re overheating!”

They didn’t seem pleased, just wanting to get past. If you’re impatient, why come on a canal?

A Chandlery, A Chandlery. My Kingdom…

We were fortunate this time to moor up to armcote and 14 day moorings (gold dust this near to a town).

Long Journey Home - Part 5 - Out of the Window image
Out of the Window

So, engine bay board up, scalding hot water reservoir cap off, cool life-giving water in and a disaster averted. We were moored ‘inches’ (technical term) away from Sovereign Wharf with Chandlery; an idyllic-looking little setup, pristinely painted but only open weekends and now Fridays! It was Monday! Never mind, a couple of hundred yards further on and you’re in the centre of Banbury; well, The Castle Quays Indoor Shopping Centre, next to the famous Tooley’s Boatyard. Here we would obtain the lifeblood of Mirrless; 15 W40 oil. And some stern gland grease.

Long Journey Home - Part 5 - Sovereign Wharf image
Sovereign Wharf

The centre part of this canal has a lift bridge followed by a lock to leave Banbury, so we walked to check them out as we would be passing this way in a few hour’s time. Crossing the lift bridge to Tooley’s Boatyard, we were confronted by the sign ‘Open Tuesday to Sunday – not open Mondays’! Aargh! Instead, we retired for tea and scones at Cafe Red, on the canal front, across from the closed boatyard. At least that was open.

We looked around Banbury, briefly. We still couldn’t find the Cross, then decided to ring the marina to address the overheating issue.

To the Rescue

The engine was supplied by Key Diesels, as used by the River Canal Rescue (RCR), with Whilton Marina fitting it. A call to Whilton, then a call to RCR resulted in an RCR Marine Engineer winging his way (by car, not narrowboat or it would have taken weeks!) to evaluate the situation. The enforced wait meant we could relax on the good mooring and buy some paint for the name (more later), some frosting for the bathroom window and a slimline (narrow) bin. Plus maybe a couple of other items…

Bob arrived after a couple of hours along with his van buddy (a dog) and after some time poking around in the innards of the engine bay, puzzling at the skin tank setup (don’t ask – Mirrless is keel cooled), he found the issue. The offending item was the Bowman water reservoir end cap. It had a hole in it but being rubber, it held water until the temperature and pressure rose and opened a split and dumped water into the bilge, emptying the reservoir. Thus overheating.

“I don’t think I’ve got one on the van but I’ll check. We might have to get one sent over tomorrow”.

He removed the old one (it was actually a Beta Marine engine part and the split was where a previous union clip had been). Off he went to the van. We waited. He returned.

Lucky Day

“It must be your lucky day”.

He held in his hand, a part. Back in the engine bay – it fitted! Against all odds, the replacement fitted. Bill connected it all up, the engine ran and no water leaked. It was fixed!

A celebratory cup of tea and biscuits, the engine running and not overheating. It doesn’t get any better…

Our problem had been found and fixed, so we could be on our way the next day. Bill had done good and the 2 months complimentary support had proved its weight in gold.

Liquid Engineering

We ate on the boat and then set off to visit Ye Olde Reine Deer Inn but upon arriving, found it was closed due to a private function – is Banbury permanently closed on a Monday?

Ah, well. Their loss was The Old Auctioneer‘s gain. Stowford Press and a nice Caledonian Brewery IPA on draught. Afterwards we wandered the streets and found the Cross! And the amazing statue of the lady riding a cock horse. It was a good night.

Long Journey Home - Part 5 - The Cross image
The Cross

Still hungry because the ship’s biscuits hadn’t filled us up, we searched for a chip shop. There are no traditional Fish & Chip Shop’s in Banbury town so, we eventually found Paw Paw; a Chinese restaurant which made delicious Egg Fried Rice and Chips & Curry Sauce – recommended.

Banbury is a nice town.

Long Journey Home - Part 5 - Fyne Lady image
Fyne Lady

Here completes The Long Journey Home – Part 5.

The Long Journey Home - Part 4
The Long Journey Home - Part 3
The Long Journey Home - Part 2
The Long Journey Home - Part 1