Monday 1st December: Higher Poynton
We woke to an ice-covered canal which was soon embellished by a fall of snow. The priority for today was to establish how, where, and when, we would be able to get the head gasket replaced: a job which on dry land with a garage full of tools available is not an inconsiderable task for the amateur, but which on a boat with a very limited toolkit is a real challenge. The first call was on the boatyard close to where we had moored overnight: the only suggestions they offered had already been investigated without success. Thornycroft were contacted to arrange for delivery of the necessary components to the Horseshoes for collection Tuesday, and Tony, a Baldric-like character whom we had met over the Eberspacher issue and who had not impressed; on the basis of 'a bird in the hand....' was commissioned to do the work on Wednesday. I hope he is able - he just doesn't instil confidence, perhaps because he doesn't display a confident attitude. In the meantime the engine has to be started frequently, at no more than four-hour periods, to prevent water which is seeping into two cylinders from accumulating to the extent that the engine won't start: it'll be like nursing a sick person through the night! So with a limit on where we can go for the following 72 hours, we decided to stay put at Higher Poynton for one more night. Various domestic chores have been done - another one off Jac's grumble list viz the tailoring of the mattress overlay, together with the modification of a further couple of lamps to LED power. So the agenda for tomorrow starts with a trip back to High Lane, the weather forecast suggests it will be snowing, followed by a bus trip again to Furness Vale because the Eberspacher will be off the back burner!
Tuesday 2nd December: Higher Poynton
The "agenda for tomorrow" has had to be adjourned because the ice is now a few more millimetres thick - something like 12 in total - and I'm beginning to get anxious!
There was a mixture of snow and rain from 4 o'clock this morning - a
distinctly different sound on the roof! Presumably we wouldn't hear snow at all!
The fire had gone out when I checked at 6.30 with the start of a cold -I'm
sneezing violently and snuffling - I guess the result of all the public
transport I travelled on last week! Nick shouted for me to leave
it as he had to sort the riddling device which had packed up! So I was soon back
in bed with a beautifully spicy herbal tea and Nick 'struggled' (can't say
'got'!) up to sort the stove while I
gently(?) snored. I actually enjoyed breakfast in bed (Nick insisted this be included in the journal!). The boat was still not back up to temperature when I was up and dressed and Nick was back with the dog. We then made an unsuccessful attempt to move! The ice was so thick that we couldn't get up enough speed to break the ice without hitting the boat ahead! The problem is that we have hardly any bread or potatoes as we had intended to return to High Lane or Marple. There is no shop in Higher Poynton! I envisage being stuck here for ever - no water except 5 litres being carried, no showers, washing facilities, pump out! Disaster! We'd have to decamp!
At 11.30 we make another attempt and we do manage, with a great deal of grinding and cracking of ice. I do a little bashing from the cratch with a piece of wood earmarked for the fire but only manage to break the ice a few centimetres from the edge of the mass! We manage a hundred or more yards to the winding point, turn the boat slowly and painstakingly and head back for the water point, but before we reach it Nick abandons the journey and we pull in - he's concerned about stressing the engine while it's fragile! He heads off with the dog to walk back to High Lane to collect the part which hopefully has been delivered. Soon after he leaves I hear the forecast which offers no hope at all for a warmer tomorrow. Then a fellow boater who had watched us moving knocked. He kindly offers to drive me a mile or so to the Co-op when he drives to collect his wife. Boaters are almost always so helpful. At present it is bright and beautiful but as you readers note, life is quite challenging!
Thursday 4th December: Higher Poynton
Well, Baldric and Phil finally turned up at 10.30 on Wednesday morning and started on the engine at about eleven. I found Phil's presence alongside a little reassuring, but it was close on five o'clock before the head was finally removed. In order to ensure that synchronism between camshaft and mainshaft is not lost when the timing belt is removed, each is locked in place with a bolt before disassembly. Unfortunately, there is no more than about 50mm between the front of the engine and the bulkhead, but the matter was made several times more difficult because the access point for the mainshaft locking point is behind the for'ard portside engine support bearing which had to be removed. I already knew that the condition of this bearing was poor: what I didn't know was that three of the four bolts fixing it to the engine block had sheared. Anyway, the head has now been taken away for checking that it isn't damaged, and we expect it to be back and engine running on Friday. In the meantime we can't go anywhere because we're still iced in.
A further problem we have to contend with is that the new head gasket is the wrong thickness, so we have to wait 'til Monday or Tuesday for its replacement. This would not usually be too much of a problem but we are running low on water and have no means of propulsion to get to the water point, which is only a hundred yards away. However, it rained steadily overnight and blew a gale (I heard most of it!) such that the canal is now navigable at the moment: maybe I'll pull the boat along for water. Now that, says negative Jac, will be really difficult cos there are about five boats moored between here and there - perhaps some kind boater can be prevailed upon to tow us!
This, in black, is Jac, that is if you hadn't appreciated the difference in style and subject matter! I object to the blue question mark by my 'gently snoring'! You may have gathered that life is a trifle challenging at present! Difficulties present themselves all together - frozen canals, struggling engines, being in a place that has turned out to be the most difficult transport-wise! Nick is hoping to get rid of me this weekend so he can suffer in solitary splendour, no that's not correct, how about solitary servitude! Yesterday was bright and beautiful in spite of the cold and this morning we had expected to awaken to a winter wonderland. However we had the wet stuff instead, so instead of a frosty mud-free footpath there were vast puddles only with packed ice beneath. After a lie-in well beyond nine, I took Caspar in the rain on a mighty unsteady walk - a fellow walker reported that both the paper boy and the milkman had gone flying. I now have a full blown cold - very sneezy and runny - I don't see how Nick can escape sharing such cramped quarters. He lives in hopes, taking his Echinacea, and C, and zinc!
I made my second foray into Poynton on the bus this afternoon. I wait at a country crossroads and, alarmingly twice saw cars sail across the major road without stopping and hoped it wouldn't happen just as the bus came! I was planning to shop and get my hair cut but found I left the problems on the boat only to be faced with a major power failure in Poynton - no bank machines, virtually no shops, but I did find a hairdresser with hot water and enough light to function. It was great to have clean hair - I confess to not having had a shower since I returned last Saturday - but I hadn't reckoned on waiting for the bus, which was nearly 20 minutes late, with wet hair, in the cold. Not especially sensible. Now, for a touch of positivity! I love travelling on buses up here - the drivers are endlessly patient and helpful. And so are the passengers; if you are uncertain, they cannot be more helpful, even youngsters who can sometimes be thoughtless! And when the bus is half full, people catch your eye and say goodbye as they get off, besides always thanking the driver, that includes all colours and ethnic groups. It seems up north, that who ever you are, even one of those vagrants from up on the cut (yes, one is often correctly identified!), it seems that you are readily, nay warmly, accepted.
With the engine half its normal height access to the Eberspacher is almost comfortable, so I spent an hour or two dismantling it, this extended time because, there being no proper drain point in the water circuit, I cracked a joint and left it to slowly dribble dry into a jug. Tomorrow, I plan to take it to my specialist in Furness Vale so that he can check it out on his bench, maybe we can avoid paying for unnecessary components. Rick (of Just-Do-It and the motorcycle) rang from Cornwall this afternoon: he's making up a ceiling plate for our "new" chimney so that I can actually finish the job, and needed to double check one dimension. We chatted for a long time, and he was able to help with regard to our rogue engine mount. Rick is the guy who built his boat from scratch: he is a motor mechanic with his own business, he said he is fairly sure that JDI's engine is effectively only supported by three mounts and he sees no medium term problem. So I am satisfied that we can leave that particular problem for another day.
Friday 5th December: Higher Poynton
My decision to play safe and have the head integrity checked has paid well: it has required skimming, 3 thou removed this morning, with new shims fitted and valves ground in this afternoon. With the replacement head gasket due to be delivered to our mechanics tomorrow, we should be able to look forward to being mobile again on Monday afternoon. But this afternoon, I set off on the buses, Eberspacher under arm, to TW Marine at Furness Vale where we found that the problem was the blower fan: and the cost was £40 rather than £240! A result!!!! For some reason the excrement from the water circuit had a gelatinous phase included so, tomorrow, I'm going to have to flush the full system before recommissioning. Just as well there'll only be the dog to hear my colourful language!
Today, I had a more successful trip into Poynton - all shops up and running - and discovered a large independent health food shop with an amazing range of stock. I returned to the boat, laden with groceries to keep Nick going over the weekend, as I am 'jumping ship'! I have claimed refugee status and I'm off to my family for the weekend! Nick seemed agreeable, appreciating that I might be put out if I missed 'Strictly' for the second week running! I know it's glitzy and naff, but I do enjoy the dancing! He also appreciates the fact that I am increasingly anxious about water - we are being extremely careful but we do need to get to that water point soon! Nick went off to Furness Vale with the Eberspacher which is now apparently sorted and should be up and running by the time I return on Monday.
Sunday 7th December: Higher Poynton
Jackie was up soon after seven on Saturday morning, and at nine-thirty Caspar and I saw her off on the bus to Stockport. We returned to the boat where I set about re-installing the Eberspacher - the least said about that at this juncture the better! So Caspar and I set off for High Lane and instead of walking the towpath we followed the Middlewood Way, a 10-mile disused railway that used to run, until 1970, between Marple and Macclesfield, converted into a leisure walk. We stopped at the Horseshoe Inn for lunch before returning to Gloriana via the towpath. Mechanic Phil 'phoned in the afternoon to ask if they could come over on Sunday to finish the work: was I likely to say "no"?!
On Sunday morning two mechanics, plus re-built cylinder head, arrived at about ten o'clock and worked thru 'til four when it began to get dark. Unfortunately, the limited space affected progress again, and they will have to return on Monday to finish. The dog and I went for a walk in the afternoon in brilliant sunshine up to Lyme Park, a National Trust property of 1400 acres some of which is at 1000ft. We only climbed about 200ft to about 700ft, but even from that altitude the panorama took in Stockport and, in the far distance, the outskirts of Manchester. I intend to climb to the top but might have to wait a while because the good weather is about to change.
Tuesday 9th December: Higher Poynton
The two returned on Monday morning about ten o'clock and completed the re-assembly. At about four in the afternoon the ignition key was turned - to no avail. White exhaust was issuing forth and I told them that that told me that the timing was wrong. The reply was "No, that's only the case with white smoke when it's running". A while later the engine started, and a short while after that there was a heavy crump! "The timing belt must have slipped" was the brief comment. So what was a beautifully rebuilt cylinder head is now only fit for the scrapheap: the camshaft sheared and a crack is observed on one of the tappet housings. They have accepted responsibility and will get a replacement head.
But how much longer are we going to have to remain moored at Higher Poynton! As nice as it is, it's not the most convenient.
Friday 12th December: Higher Poynton
And we're still at Higher Poynton: that is, me and the dog! Jackie remains in Northwich taking the opportunity to maximise her Granma role, and I'm very grateful to Pat and Abi for having her, her comfort is one considerable concern off my mind. Wednesday went by with no show from our mechanics, they were sourcing and preparing a replacement cylinder head. Rick kindly called me having seen my 9th December front page, and was able to give me a few pointers as to what I should check before the head went back on.
They arrived before nine on Thursday morning; we checked one or two aspects of the rebuild; and by sundown they had reassembled the greater part of the engine but not to a stage where they were ready to turn the key. They had to get a new thermostat adaptor housing gasket, which I'd earlier travelled to the Ford dealer in Hazel Grove for - they didn't have it in stock! The engine mount is back on though only held with one bolt.
On Friday they arrived half an hour earlier than they had stated the evening before - at 11.30, declaring that ".... all should be ready in an hour or so". At half past four they packed up for the day having failed to get it running. As I was later connecting the battery charger to replenish the over-used battery, Phil rang to say that Tony had been speaking to someone and had been given an idea as to what was wrong: this information to me least I try to start it on the recharged battery. I think someone other than me is on a learning curve here!
The weather has turned very windy. The mooring is quite exposed, and tonight the boat is rocking noticeably: the wind is creating a strong surface current which is causing the tiller to bang and the cratch doors to rattle. Jackie is in the better place tonight. If I'd had a working engine I'd have moved to a more sheltered mooring. C'est la vie!
Monday 15th December: Marple!
On Saturday the engine is finally running! Mechanics-two turned up on time, 10 o'clock, on Saturday morning but were again unable to get the engine started. Fortunately they know someone who appears to know what he's talking about: Phil (2) is a mechanic who works on fleet diesels and he arrived, by their request, with an endoscope, to allow intimate investigation of the engine without further dismantling. They got the engine started and within a short time Phil(2) had identified a problem with one of the injectors: this was causing rough running below 1500 revs which is a particular problem because, when travelling, we rarely run above 1200 revs. It is likely that the cylinder that took the brunt of the trauma is the one that has the defective injector. I agree with T & P that I will travel on Sunday morning to Marple: this will be a welcome change of scenery for me and will be easier access for them on Monday when they come to sort out the remaining problem.
However, on Sunday morning I rise, walk the dog, have breakfast, and, before preparing the boat for the long awaited journey (anywhere!) I try to start the engine. Fifteen minutes later I give up. Another 24 hours or more in Higher Poynton is in prospect but, when offered, I seize the offer of a tow to Marple made by Martin on Genies Wish. At about midday Genies Wish comes alongside and we tie bow to stern and set off for Marple, but stopping 100 yards on for us both to fill with water. An hour or so later we are on our way, it's grey and growing colder, and we arrive in Marple at about 3.30pm, just time to get to the Co-op for provisions. Jac calls to warn me that she'll be back on Monday.
On Monday morning the sky is blue and the temperature is below zero but the fire has stayed in overnight and all is comfortable on board. Tony and Phil appear at about ten, and by eleven we have established that three of the glow plugs are not working: they have lasted 20 years, but why should they fail now? I later learn that two of the injectors are leaking so we arrange to have all four refurbished which will take 24 hours, and I go to the local Auto spares retailer and return with four new glow plugs. Maybe now we are on the home straight.
And Jac is back! After more than a week of spacious living (many, many thanks to Patrick and Abi - hopefully I was useful at this busy time of year!), it's a simple journey - I leave Northwich on the 12.37 and am back on the boat soon after 2 o'clock as the Archers ends. It's a glorious day but exceedingly cold - the frost has not disappeared much - the hills around Marple look beautiful!
Thursday 18th December: Marple
On the home straight, but it's a bloody long one! The mechanics arrived about midday on Tuesday with the refurb'd injectors (apparently, all four were leaking) and by two o'clock the engine was running but in the same condition as it had been on Saturday ie with clouds of white smoke at revs below 1500. By half past five they had established that the fuel pump was not operating correctly: it was not closing down the starting solenoid. So they left for home saying that they couldn't be back before Thursday, Tony having a hospital appointment on Wednesday. So we're no further forward than we were on Saturday - just as well we're on a convenient mooring.
I went to the swimming pool on Tuesday morning - very pleasant, particularly the long hot shower afterwards. Wednesday I spend logging, cleaning the engine compartment, and advising neighbours on fitting led lighting. But the most notable event of the day is that I finally succeed in getting the Eberspacher to work, so we now have running hot water, and she who must be obeyed has one more thorn removed from her side.
While awaiting the clearing of the muddle in the cratch on Wednesday, I set off on an adventure into central Manchester. That entailed a bus into Stockport and another bus into Piccadilly, Manchester, both taken on the top front seat of a double-decker. It reminds me of being on a ghost train as a child - you keep approaching what appears to be a disastrous accident, only to turn suddenly into safety. The weather is bright and the suburbs are much like any large city - some elegant areas, parks, some run-down areas, some obviously Asian suburbs; then as we near the city centre, the city hospital and museums. I alight in Piccadilly Gardens which is festive with a skating rink and snow slide, and trams which trundle off in various directions, then I turn a corner and spot two mounted policemen on handsome mounts. I follow signs for the Town Hall and Information. Outside is a lovely open market with tasteful stalls selling lovely Christmas trees and greenery and Nordic cabins selling gifts. There's no obvious Tourist Information Point so I walk up the very grand steps and doors and find myself in a huge gothic style lobby. There is an exhibition of jewellery and I find a help desk where I am directed out of this impressive building through another entrance, equally grand and I find the Tourist Centre with helpful staff who tell me what I need to do and see in the City Centre - it is all too obvious that I won't be able to do it all today but I do a recce - I walk towards the cathedral and Manchester's London Eye, via the Royal Exchange where I would very much like to go to see a farce which has had an excellent write up in the national press, today. then back through the Arndale Shopping Centre towards Piccadilly Gardens and the bus. I think Manchester City Centre is impressive. We must return as there are lots of cultural things to do - at least 2 plays, the cathedral, museums, galleries and exhibitions, as well as a ride on a tram!
I head back, as we have Martin and Tracey from Genie's Wish to supper - a thankyou for towing Gloriana from Poynton to Marple. We had soup, Nick's piece de resistance, sage & onion stuffed breast of lamb with roasted vegetables and my piece de resistance, chocolate and cranberry bread and butter pudding. Martin and Tracey have lived on board for Tten years - 4 years in Central Manchester and the rest here, cruising the part of the canal we are presently enjoying, Tracey commutes into central Manchester and Martin is a photographer. A pleasant evening was had by all. We're sure to see them again.
On Thursday morning, Tony and Phil appear around ten: apparently they have spent an hour or two with a diesel injection specialist and it has paid off. An hour or so later the engine starts with ne'er a wisp of white smoke, and by midday we are parting company for the last time. One small problem remains, the tachometer isn't registering, but that's something I can sort myself, and it won't stop us travelling. Apparently, there is a cold start advance device which increases fuel supply to start the engine, and this is not working and has been incorrectly set up ever since we bought the boat: so to overcome the problem the fuel timing has been mechanically retarded, and I have made a record of that for future reference. It all sounds feasible and present evidence seems to support it; IT RUNS! Before reassembling the engine enclosure, I change the oil and oil filter, and pump out all the water/diesel lying in the engine bund. Tomorrow we'll clear the cratch and look at the electrics. Tonight I'll sleep well.
Friday 19th December: Strines
We prepare to set forth after a pump out and water top-up, but Nick is looking grim as he has discovered we have no power when we go into reverse! That means if we travel,we will have to go really carefully as it is necessary to use reverse as a brake! Having travelled 10 or 20 metres Nick decides to haul the boat back onto the wharf! At first he thinks he may have caused the problem when he adjusted a control cable, but no! He has to dismantle the engine room again and luckily is able to find whatever our fine mechanics neglected to do! So we are off by about 12.30. Unfortunately, we were attempting to beat a storm, within a half hour it is beginning to dampen so soon after, we stop just a couple of miles south of Marple: it is raining, so here we are for rest of the day. Nick does some computer things and then continues to tackle the electrics on the boat - I am his lackey telling him which lights/electrical gadgets are, or are not, on! He is working in a cramped corner cursing the idiot who thought he knew about electrical circuits when the boat was built.
Saturday 20th December: Bugsworth Basin
The day starts very mild but damp, and with business to attend to in Furness Vale we set off early with Jac and the dog initially walking ahead to operate the lift bridges and Nick later operating the swing bridges. We arrive in Whaley Bridge at about midday, and have bacon & egg butties for lunch before Jac goes off to do some shopping. On her return I catch the bus into High Lane to collect four additional led lamps which have been delivered post restante to another boating acquaintance. When I return we immediately take off for Bugsworth Basin where we know we will get a good TV signal (it's that programme again!) and by five o'clock we are moored securely and watching Bugsy Malone (well, it's better than the sports results!). We will probably stay here until Monday, during which time I hope to repair the leaking exhaust, finish the led installation, and get the tachometer operating again. Not necessarily in that order. We have been invited for pre-Xmas celebration with Pat-Abi-Elanor which will involve our staying overnight on Monday in Northwich.
Tuesday 23rd December: Bugsworth Basin/Dukes Way
On Sunday morning, whilst Jackie was away in Disley at her meeting, I fixed the leaking exhaust with a dollop of Gun-Gum; I resolved the problem with the tachometer which had proven to be a broken connection within the multiplug connecting the control harness to the engine, and I installed the final LED lamps, the two above the kitchen work surface being particularly effective.
On Monday we both spend the day cleaning and clearing the boat, returning it to its pre-calamity layout, with the cratch cleared of all the things that normally reside in the engine room. At about six o'clock, Abi and Elanor arrive to take us to Dukes Way where we are going to have a sleep-over.
Tuesday is spent doing very little.
Xmas Eve: Furness Vale
Patrick returned us to the boat on the 23rd after a lovely and quite busy 24 hours away! We had enjoyed a splendid festive meal with Patrick, Abi, Elanor and family friends, Amanda, Neil and Georgie. There are special memories of the two little ones having great fun dressed as Father Christmas and Rudolph. When we got back to the boat, Nick finished the last remaining job - reinstalling the water filter. We had found the day before that there was a pinhole in the side of the filter body which had been leaking for the 10 days or so that I had missed my shallow salad bowl: Nick had used it to catch what he thought might be a drip, and had forgotten it until I found it overflowing with water. The 24-hour period away had allowed an araldite patch applied before leaving to cure fully, and we are now optimistic that the problem is solved.
We woke to a brilliant Christmas Eve and were soon on our way to Whaley Bridge for water and Christmas provisions which were soon sorted, As it was a lovely day we decided to take the bus to Buxton, a wonderfully scenic ride up over the peaks. Entering Buxton was splendid - lots of grand stone Regency and Georgian buildings. We looked around the shops, had a quick drink then explored the centre. As we entered the Conservatory alongside the Opera House our senses were assaulted - honest! - by the smell of lilies and hyacinth - quite heavenly! Around the main buildings are some beautiful gardens and clearly there is lots to do here. We'll come back!
We haven't bothered with a Christmas pud' but we did come across a splendid chocolate shop so have a few treats for after our Christmas lunch/dinner tomorrow. And we now have our Christmas lights up on the roof - not many boats seem to bother but everyone smiles and waves now as we pass. After a very late lunch we set off as darkness set in, lights ablaze, towards Furness Vale and are now, looking across the Goyt Valley overlooking New Mills. As I write this, trains are still running to the east and to the west of us on independent lines: the last trains heading to where they will need to be on Saturday morning.
Xmas Day: Disley
Happy Christmas! We awoke quite early in order for me to get to Disley for my Meeting and only just made it because of Nick's seasonal socialising on the tow path. I belted up the hill - good heart and lungs exercise! Thirteen people attended a short meeting followed by coffee and mince pies. For some there, the beginning of a busy day, but not for us. Stewart arrived on the fuel boat and stopped ahead of us, so we invited him on for a beer, and we were then joined by two lovely Disley Friends who happened by, and I brewed some punch, so we weren't at all lonely. As you can see, we have an extensive view from our Xmas mooring. We had our indulgent Christmas meal in the evening followed by Buxton chocolates - perfect - and will be heading to Poynton tomorrow to prepare for our road journey south.