Saturday, 12 October 2013

Mechanical Stuff and things which go bump in the night

Time for professional help
October 2013

I have mentioned before that we have been having some mechanical niggles with Wand'ring Bark's engine, and these have been getting steadily worse all season.

It starts ok, but kicks out a plume of smoke which is unusual for a Beta. Then there is the rattle and shake which sets in at below 1,100 rmp when cold, and 1,000 rpm when hot. There is also the clunky gearbox, the dripping stern gear ... and so the list goes on.

The inability to operate at a sensible tick-over finally got to me and I decided we needed professional help. We checked Wand'ring Bark into Oxley Marine for some serious TLC on the way back from the Black Country Boating Festival and were told to call in a few days to see how things were going.

We called as requested and were told that all out suspicions were spot on - engine mounts failed so replaced - transmission loose so tightened - stern gland packing dead so replaced, injectors fouled so overhauled. Quite a list but is the first time in eight years that we have had to pay for any work on the engine so mustn't grumble!

Anyway, having settled the bill and having a chat with the team during their tea break (they do like their tea breaks) we got to discussing the problems of engine overheating. Not a particular problem on WB, but I am mindful that when we tow the butty the problem wont be a lack of power - it will be the ability of the skin tank to cope. No Problem had the same issue when they upgraded their engine.

I was pointed in the direction of "Our Little Nightmare" which was out on the bank having a new engine fitted. I guess that it had an air cooled engine taken out and will be inserting a new water cooled Canal Line unit instead. Rather than retro fit a skin tank they were using twin external cooling loops which run round the top and bottom of the swim. They are made of rectangular profile stainless steel tube which is held out 5mm away from the hull and are protected by a small deflector on either side. The idea is that because the surface area is completely exposed to the canal it is massively effective and, I am told, has worked every time they have done it. I guess that having it exposed  and penetrating the hull carries a risk of damage - but its as ingenious as it is simple. One to file in the "maybe one day" folder.

As we nattered I saw a working boat approaching and then, on closer inspection I realised it was Chertsey, with Jim steering and Sarah up front in the hold. Chertsey makes a fine sight and is sounding very good.

Back to the boat. I fired her up with no smoke, slipped into gear with one silky smooth movement and let it run at its 850 rmp idle speed. This should have induced a huge shudder and had me reaching for the throttle, but no. All was smooth - a steady welling of water from the stern and a muted rumble from a happy engine. I slipped the lines and set of and instead of vibration and noise all I heard was the swish swash of the water churning away below me. Bliss.

I was so taken by me rediscovered ability  to move at tick-over I carried on in much the same way all through to Calf Heath. Of course, I couldn't pass up the opportunity of good foraging and returned with 4.5kg of Damsons and a big bucket full of Elderberries expertly sprigged by my mother.

Then there was the small matter of recovering the car from Oxley - and an 8 mile bike ride. But on a day like this when the sun shone and the air was a balmy 20C the ride was as much a joy as the boat trip. Not a long trip but how better to spend an day near the end of the boating season.

Sorry - I forgot to take my camera!

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