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Keeping Up's maiden voyage

Stoke-on-Trent to Milton Keynes via Birmingham

So at last we're on board our new boat, ready to start our maiden voyage. It's nearly Christmas, it's bitterly cold, and we've got to take a long diversion through Birmingham to get round the closure at Rugby, but who cares? No more leaking windows and roof when ever it rains, no more flat batteries every night, no more rough running from the engine, no more things falling off everywhere, no more cold mornings after the fire had gone out, just luxurious comfort. We left Stoke on Trent in a howling gale and with the Trent visible in full flood across the fields.

That night  the batteries went flat. Maybe the engine hadn't been run enough to charge them up. Switched off the fridge to save power and went back to sleep.

Next morning we found that the windows had all leaked so the bedding, curtains, and carpets were all wet. Nothing we could do about it; everyone at Stoke-on-Trent Boat Building was now on holiday for Christmas, so we left a message on their answering machine and put a towel under each window.

For no obvious reason I had slackened the mooring ropes before going to bed. Glad we did, the Trent overflowed into the canal and raised the level by a foot during the night. We were fine, everyone else was listing badly on taut ropes. It was interesting getting under some of the bridges - couldn't go too far to the right, we would hit the submerged towpath; couldn't go too far to the left, the cabin would hit the arch of the bridge. And the wind was reported on the radio as 50mph.

 

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The Trent coming over the towpath
Fields full of Trent (at Weston Lock ?)
The same scene 6 months later
You need a good pair of boots when the lock-sides are underwater

That afternoon we suddenly had only reverse gear - the linkage had fallen off. Re-attached the linkage easily enough, but then the wind caught the raised back deck board and blew it into the engine compartment. The board landed on the diesel return pipe and broke it; we called in to Anglo-Welsh at Great Haywood to get it repaired.

Soon noticed that the engine wasn't running as well as it had done before. Realised it was running on just 3 cylinders. Stopped at Rugeley to phone Duffields for advice. They recommended bleeding the diesel injectors - made no difference but there's no diesel coming out of no 4 pipe. Duffields recommend that we carry on home on 3 cylinders. It's a but rough but reminds us of our dear old SR3; we carry on.

Got the batteries charging OK by bridging across the splitter diode. Discovered a puddle of water in the middle of our bed. Blamed the dog at first, then realised the roof vent above our bed had sprung a leak; changed the bedding and taped a plastic bag over the vent.

Woke up cold the next morning. The central heating boiler had gone out. Re-lit it, but the wind blew it out again. Put more coal on the fire and sat close to it for warmth; we'd better moor somewhere sheltered for the night. The radio reported 80mph gusts overnight and a record 157mph in the Shetlands!

Nearly got to Whittington before the weed-hatch collapsed. The anti-cavitation plate had fallen off and hit the propellor. It made one hell of a big bang. But the boat seemed to go OK without it. Spent Christmas Eve in the pub at Whittington having a LOT to drink.

Christmas night. Very pretty with the snow in Hopwas woods. So why am I standing knee-deep in the freezing water trying to rescue our elderly Labrador and put her back on board the boat that she'd just decided to jump from?

Boxing day. Checked the oil level; strange, we seem to be have made an extra couple of pints of oil instead of using any. Aha, now I know why we're not getting any diesel to no 4 cylinder, it's being injected into the sump instead. Luckily I've got a spare gallon with me, so changed the oil and then we can carry on. I need wipers on my glasses to clear the snow. After a short day I've had enough, we moor at Minworth for a meal at the Beefeater.

A long day. Thank goodness the blizzards have stopped. Isn't Ashted tunnel low? Still I'm sure we can get the cratch-cover repaired when we get home. If we ever get there - stopping every ten minutes to clear the leaves off the prop through Catty Barnes cutting, it had been dark for a couple of hours by the time we stopped. We were sheltered from the wind, so the central heating boiler stayed alight, and melted its sight-glass too, I wonder why?

Hatton should be easy, two friends are joining us for the day. Of course, it would have been easier still if one of our friends hadn't felt unwell and retired to bed the moment they arrived. Got to Warwick just fine, and we can buy another gallon of oil to change it before we go tomorrow.

After a couple of days we were at Edwards of Crick for a wonderful New Year's Eve dinner and they even gave us a couple of gallons of oil (in washing-up liquid containers - does that make it a detergent oil?).

Arrived home at Milton Keynes worn out after 14 days travelling. Made lots of phone calls.

Stoke-on-Trent sent a couple of people down to re-fix all the windows. It turned out that their supplier of Sealant had ripped them off by supplying cheap car-windscreen sealant in place of their usual high-grade product. The salesman had been sacked (it was his bad luck that his boss was having work done on his own boat at Stoke-on-Trent at the same time) and all the windows were watertight again.

Wyvern Shipping Company (where Debbie was a secretary) welded the weed-hatch for us and sent the bill to Stoke-on-Trent.

Duffields sent someone to look at the engine. He found that the injector pump assembly had a crack inside which was supplying diesel to the sump. He replaced it and the engine was smooth and quiet again. Unfortunately he didn't also discover that the Borg-Warner gearbox was already starting to break up. The noises and vibration weren't diagnosed until a couple of years later when a man from Borg-Warner said "you've done well to make it last that long" and later, after a few solicitors' letters, said "OK you can have your money back"

Peter Ellis (of Ellis boilers) had a look at our flue and pronounced it too small (which was why the sight-glass kept melting) and also lacking a draught diverter. Sure enough, with a new flue it was OK.

Plastimo who had supplied the roof vent said you were supposed to dismantle it, seal the joints, and re-assemble it before fitting it to the roof. Surely it would have made sense to include that in the fitting instructions?

And the batteries - well, I'm an electrical engineer so I could re-wire the charging system myself. So it wasn't long before all the teething problems were fixed and we could start enjoying our time on "Keeping Up", the best boat on the canal system!

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