Friday 10 April 2009

South Pennine Ring, the changeover

South Pennine Ring , the changeover
10th April 2009

We woke to the unfamiliar sensation of boats passing us. Suddenly, the Bridgewater has become a circus with boats of all styles and dimensions scurrying to and fro.

The Bollin Aqueduct is a pretty spot and one which is clearly appreciated by the local Cruising Clubs that rendezvous in the area each Easter. These boaters must spend much of their time on the deep Bridgewater Canal as few made any attempt to slow down or curb their wash as they zoomed up and down.

After a lazy start we spent a couple of hours cleaning out two weeks accumulated dirt and rubbish, readying Wand'ring Bark for her recovery crew. You would think that with only half a mile to go to reach the handover point at Ye Olde No3, the trip was at an end and held no further surprises.

No, the trip had one last card to play. As I started the engine I felt is was a bit rough, but this settled down when under way. However, the vibration was back when we moored so I lifted the hatch and was greeted with a cloud of steam. A close inspection revealed two interlinked faults:

  1. The engine mounts were loose and the vibration ceased when I stood on one of the stern fixings. This was remedied by a couple of turns on the locking nuts.
  2. Secondly, and more importantly, one of the water hoses leading to the calorifier has been resting on the alternator and had chaffed through.

This sort of problem wouldn't be a big issue at home. I would simply buy some new pipe and replace the old. But we weren't at home, in fact we were about 5 days from the safety of Calf Heath and it was bank holiday Friday .

With nothing suitable to bodge the job on board I quickly cconcluded that outside assistance would be needed. Then I remembered reading Richard Fairbrother's disaster recovery article in the April edition of Waterways World (inspired by failed engine mounts by a bizarre co-incidence!), and his provision of a list of guardian angels around the system. There were three boatyards / chandlers in the immediate area, but none could offer help till after the Bank Holiday. By this time the relief crew had phoned to say that they were delayed on the motorway and would be with us in an hour. We needed a solution and we needed it fast!

Then I had another brainwave, and this time I had Granny Buttons to thank. River Canal Rescue - the AA/RAC of the waterways.

Their number was included in the WW list so I called: " Hi, its Captain Ahab here. I'm not a member but I have a problem and I am really wishing I was! Do you offer some sort of emergency joining service and I pay a premium?". It was like being stuck on the side of a motorway and one is willing to pay whatever price they pick out of the air - just so long as someone can come and rescue you.

No problem Mr Captain sir, she replied. We get most of our new customers this way - how did you hear about us? "Oh, a Waterways World article, your adverts, Granny Buttons blogsite, all over really". I could sense that I was digging myself into a hole here. With all those opportunities why, oh why, hadn't I ever taken up the offer. I suspect that there will be similar scenes at the pearly gates on the day of the great resurrection - but with slightly more serious consequences than two inches of coolant in the bilges!

RCR were great. They took my details (including credit card) and advised me that I could have instant Silver Membership for £105 plus a £50 call out fee, and an engineer would be with me within an hour. Would I like to join? Would I like a seat in one of Titanic's lifeboats? - Yes, yes, yeeeeessss!

Sure enough one of their smart little vans drew up 40 minutes later. The problem was fixed with some magic tape (probably made by the same people that make magic sponges for footballers) and some plastic ties. I was advised that they has rebuilt the wall of the pipe and all would be well for the six day trip back to the Midlands.

As it turned out, this wasn't the last contact WB had with RCR on the trip. As they started up the Marple flight two days later, the relief crew noticed steam coming from the engine and the thermometer light flashing red to the accompaniment of a warning buzzer. The temporary repair had failed. More calls were made to RCR who queried why the skipper was not the policy holder, but quickly added Martin's name to the list of those covered, as allowed under their Silver Membership. This time the hoses were replaced and all within three hours on a bank holiday Sunday.

If I was on Facebook I would announce to the world that I am a fan of RCR. They are so good that whilst I didn't join twice, I have decided to extent my membership to the Gold Service, and so offer their fantastic cover to the various friends and family that use Wand'ring Bark from time to time.

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