Monday, January 16, 2017

Done playing with the plumbing.

The calorifier is still leaking. My initial solder repair along the split seam lasted a couple of days, but started weeping again. So I thought, let’s stick a patch on it. The copper cylinder was cleaned and tinned with solder and a patch was made out of a flattened-out piece of copper pipe which got the same treatment.
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It looked OK but on filling up the system again it started to weep from under one edge, obviously I’d not got it clean enough for the solder to flow thoroughly.
I’m fed up with messing about now, so today have ordered a new one, due to be delivered locally on Wednesday. They’ll make it to the same design, so it should be a straight swap…

It’s not all been disappointment, on Saturday dear friends Val and John turned up bearing gifts and food. One item was of Val’s exceedingly good Christmas cakes.
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It’s really, really tasty. Shame Mags doesn’t like fruit cake…

We had a great afternoon catching up, it’s been a while since we’ve seen each other, although we do keep in touch. We’re heading their way, it’s to their house that the new calorifier will be delivered, and they’ll find us when it arrives.

Mags is still steadily getting better, although we’ve both got the sniffles again today. Hopefully they won’t amount to much. I think we’ll stay here another day and move on to Frankton Junction on Wednesday. There’s a carpark at the junction so V&J can meet us there.

Locks 0, miles 0.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Blowy to Ellesmere

Despite the uninspiring weather forecast today’s trip wasn’t as bad as expected. We had a couple of flurries of sleety rain, but we also had some good spells of sunshine too.
It was the wind which could have caused problems, but we were sheltered by high hedges and tree-lined banks for most of the trip.
Last night’s thin covering of snow had mostly melted this morning as we set off, just 10 minutes before we stopped again to fill with water and drop of the rubbish at Bettisfield Bridge.
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The most likely stretch where the wind would have made it interesting was along Hampton Bank, where the canal is raised on a long embankment over the surrounding fields.
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It wasn’t too bad, although some particularly vicious gusts pushed us over, and I wouldn’t have wanted to try to moor on the windward bank.

Not much further on we started to come into the shelter of the woods surrounding the meres, a series of lakes left behind by the retreat of the ice after the last Ice Age.

Lovely out of the wind…
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…but the creaking of the trees could be heard over the engine…IMG_3281

Blake Mere
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There’s a low ridge at the western end of Blake Mere, penetrated by Ellesmere Tunnel.IMG_3285 
At just 87 yards long it’s the shortest of the three encountered this side of Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. Patience is required through the tunnels, the flow in the opposite direction is increased in the constriction, but if you put too much power on to counter it you risk screwing the stern around into the tunnel wall. As it is you tend to go through crab-wise. Coming back is a doddle of course.

Ellesmere Junction, with the route to Llangollen and the terminus to the left, the Ellesmere Arm to the right.IMG_3287

We turned down the arm to moor, not worried about finding a spot here at this time of year…
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…but surprised to see only two other boats!

I chugged gently to the end to turn around, getting considerable assistance by a sudden strengthening of the wind. Unfortunately the wind was accompanied by a sharp shower, by the time we turned around and moored Meg and I were wet for the first time today.

We’ll be here for the weekend now.

Locks 0, miles 5.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Another four lift bridges, a bit of Welsh wood and some snow!

My new pressure relief valve arrived at Argos yesterday lunchtime, so I went up into Whitchurch to collect it, and set about fitting it. Then I had a whoops moment… the port for the pressure gauge was ¼ BSP and the spigot on the back of the gauge was ⅛ BSP. Bugger. Without a reducing bush or a blanking plug I couldn’t install the new valve, so I stripped, cleaned and lubricated the old one and stuck that back instead. It seems to work – mostly. But I’ve left the floor out of the aft cupboard so I can look down and read the gauge from the tiller. If it’s getting high I can manually release the pressure. A reducing bush is on it’s way…

So this morning we were on our way again. The weather is looking a bit dodgy now, but we really do want to be at Ellesmere for the weekend.

Back out through the entrance to the Whitchurch ArmIMG_3248

The hire base just past the main road bridge has the fleet at home.IMG_3252
As well as ABC boats there are a handful of “Yellow Perils”, from Viking Afloat.

My first lift bridge for the day, Hassels No1, was just around the corner.IMG_3253

Hassels No 2 is just a couple of hundred yards on, then there’s a pleasant couple of miles through mixed scenery to the next at Tilstock Park.IMG_3257

After Tilstock Park the land starts to fall away as the canal heads out to cross Whixall Moss. The three “mosses” that the canal passes through, Fenns, Whixall and Bettisfield, comprise the third largest area of lowland peat-bog in the UK. It’s designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a nature reserve, due to the rare species of flora and fauna found there.
Peat-cutting has now stopped to protect the eco-system, but some areas have been drained for agricultural use…
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…but there’s still an awful lot in it’s natural state.
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It was across here that the wind picked up and the first sleety shower blew over. My right cheek and ear went rapidly numb.

Morris’ Lift Bridge was the last today, and the worst.
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It took 90 turns of the windlass to raise it, and 40 to lower it. Thankfully the sleet shower had cleared through, but the wind tried to keep us pinned to the offside bank.

I was thinking of stopping just past Whixall Moss Junction, the connection to the Prees Branch, but decided to press on while it remained dry.

The Prees Branch heads off to the south
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The canal is flanked by a strip of woodland for the next mile or so anyway, which would have given me a bit of protection had another squall arrived, which also affected the decision.
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If I can’t see you, you can’t see me…
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It’s along here that the canal passes from England to Wales for a couple of miles, and also where I picked up a quantity of wood.IMG_3272
It doesn’t look much, but those round bits are 2 feet across and too thick to just split for the stove. The logs are about 5 foot, so there’s quite a bit there. It took some cutting up, I’ll tell you! I don’t know what it is, but so long as it burns I don’t care!

We pulled in just past Cornhill Bridge, still in Wales, and I just got the wood sorted when it started to rain which rapidly turned to snow. Lovely. It might be a bit grim tomorrow, but we’ve only a couple of hours and no locks or lift bridges to deal with, so I can hunker down on the tiller in my big coat and just plod on.

Locks 0, miles 7

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Just a little cruise.

No, not Tom – although he is, apparently…
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We moved the mile to Whitchurch this afternoon after the wind died a bit. We had to reverse a hundred yards or so to fill the water tank first, and going backwards on a narrowboat is unpredictable at best, wind makes it even more difficult.

There are three water taps up here above Grindley Brook Locks, popular for folk to lurk within hose length at this time of year. We had to go past two boats to get to a space near a tap.
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There’s a house alongside the canal along here, with no access apart from the towpath.IMG_3244
You often see the owner toddling along the path with a wheelbarrow…

Approaching the Whitchurch Arm and my first solo lift bridge…IMG_3245

…successfully negotiated.
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We reversed into the arm to the right of the picture. It used to run most of the way into the town of Whitchurch, but it’s now a stub just 300 yards long.

We’ll be here till the new pressure relief valve arrives, possibly tomorrow but more likely Thursday. Then we’ll be on our way again, westward towards Wales.

Thanks for the comment Paul. The reason I’m opening a tap every so often is to emulate the automatic operation of the PRV, if it had been working. Otherwise the pressure rises to above 4 bar, rather higher than the plumbing is comfortable with. I can manually regulate it to between 2 bar, pump pressure, and 3 bar, PRV release pressure. Oh, and yes, I installed a heating circulation pump a couple of years ago. The rads get warm, but not hot though.
For any other boaters out there, it’s worth checking to make sure your PRV is working. With the domestic system hot and the engine or water heater running, the pressure at the PRV should go no higher than 3 bar or around 40 psi. If it’s allowed to go higher you might have the same trouble as me…
Incidentally, the pressure in a sealed vessel only containing water rises by roughly 180psi for each 1°C increase. So for a rise of 50°, say from 10° to 60° the pressure rise would be a massive 9000psi! Or 620 bar! Of course, we haven’t got a sealed system, expansion in the pipework, calorifier and the accumulator will mitigate most of the pressure increase. As will the unavoidable air headspace at the top of the tank.

Locks 0, miles 1

Monday, January 09, 2017

An easy run up Grindley Brook and a leak cured–hopefully!

We came up Grindley Brook Locks yesterday, giving me the afternoon and today to pull out the calorifier (again…) to resolve the domestic water leak that has plagued us for a week.

It was a steady trip up the locks, we were following a boat that had gone up earlier so I had all the locks to turn. But even so we were filling up with water above the locks by twenty past eleven.

Under the fine blue-brick short tunnel through the disused railway embankment below the locks.IMG_3224

I had to avoid two anglers who’d taken up residence on the lock-landing below the bottom lock, leaving me no place to tie up, but I managed by emptying the lock with the our bow-fender nudging up against the lock gates.
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No big deal; I‘d probably have done that anyway but I did point out to them that it wasn’t the best place to occupy.

Coming up the third and last single chamber…
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…and into the bottom of the triple staircase
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Coming up the top chamber of the staircase.
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The very nice lock-keepers house is now a private residence.

We filled up the water tank then moored up a quarter-mile or so further on.

Now then, that leak…
I lifted out the calorifier again, an easier job now that I’ve re-organised the plumbing and fitted service valves everywhere!
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Water was dripping from near the bottom-most fitting, the one I’d resealed last time. But instead of coming out of the joint as I thought, cutting back the lagging showed it was actually appearing from between it and the copper cylinder.
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Coming from there it could be a leak anywhere on the unit… so I set to and removed great chunks of the lagging. There was evidence of an old leak on the front end…
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…but the lagging was dry at this end, unlike the other.
Finding nothing obvious I removed and refitted all the connectors, then shoved it back in and filled just the domestic, leaving the heat-exchanger coils from the engine and heater till I‘d proved the main chamber out. All seemed well, no leaks after half an hour so I reconnected the pipework from the Webasto heater and fired it up. It took a while for the stone-cold water to start to warm, but when it did and the cylinder expanded, a fine spray of water started squirting from the seam towards the back end.  Aha!
It was getting on by now so I drained down again (you can see why I wanted to fill the water tank, the calorifier holds 12 gallons and I’ve refilled it 3 times…) then left it till today.

IMG_3237This morning I rotated the tank on it’s axis to get to the seam and polished it up with wire wool.

There was a very fine black line just above the seam, it would be this that opens up when the tank heats up.
Out came the blow-lamp, flux and solder and I effected a repair, not the prettiest but it turned out to be effective with everything filled and heated up.

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I was planning for this to be a stopgap repair, just until I can source a replacement of the same design. But then I noticed the pressure gauge on the pressure relief valve.
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As the system is pressurised by the water pump, it has to be sealed but to prevent damage to the plumbing and components it has this pressure relief valve that is supposed to limit the pressure to 3 Bar, opening at that point and venting the excess through a pipe to the outside. With the engine and the Webasto both running and heating up the tank, the expansion of the water had pushed the pressure right up, the needle hard on the limit pin on the gauge!

The calorifier, when new, was certified to 5 Bar, but with the PRV not working it looks like it’s regularly been close to that, and it’s over ten years old now.  So I reckon that a new PRV to limit the pressure, the repair, and the rest of the tank, should be OK. Fingers crossed. So I‘ve a new PRV of the same design coming Click and Collect from an ebay supplier to Argos at Whitchurch. Till then we’ll have to open a tap to relieve the pressure every twenty minutes or so while the engine is running.
With everything dry I had an interesting few minutes reassembling the pieces of lagging I’d removed, and sticking them back on with that handyman’s friend, duct tape. It’s ages since I’ve done a jigsaw…

Hopefully that will be the last time It has to be out, for a while anyway. I know, tempting fate. I did say hopefully.

Not sure what we’re doing tomorrow, but whether we move or not we’ll have to reverse a short way to fill the water tank again.

Locks 6, miles ¾    

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Good timing as we leave Wrenbury

The cold and frosty weather has once again given way to damp and misty conditions. I was just preparing to get going this morning, aerial down,  donk started and tiller bar fitted, when out of the fog behind us came another boat. I shouted across to the chap on the tiller to ask if he had crew, and if so would they mind if I tagged on behind to go through the two lift bridges in the village. No problem, he replied.
So his wife opened the bridges and we convoyed through, Nb’s Happy Hedgehog (I love that name…) and Seyella.

Heading through Wrenbury towards Church Lift Bridge…IMG_3208

…and Wrenbury Lift Bridge.
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I wasn’t worried about the former, it only carries a little used footpath, but the latter carries a road and I would have held up quite a bit of traffic by the time I’d worked through it on my own.

My benefactors pulled in just past the bridge and we carried on heading towards Marbury. There is another lift bridge outside of the village, but it’s been left up as long as I can remember.

A steady 45 minutes saw us arrive at Marbury Lock, and by now the mist had lifted a bit, but still lingered on the higher ground and on sheltered stretches of the canal.

Marbury Lock
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There are some very pleasant mooring spots between Marbury and Quoisley Locks…IMG_3214

Both Marbury and Quoisley Locks have had work done over the last couple of months, there’s still some fencing and bits and pieces to be removed from the lock-sides. At Quoisley they’ve had to lay a gravel roadway from the main road to allow access for heavy vehicles.IMG_3216

The land starts to rise a little more steeply so Willeymoor and Poveys Locks are closer together, but the canal really has to climb when it meets the ridge at Grindley Brook. Three individual chambers and a triple staircase raise the navigation just over 40 feet in ⅓ of a mile. But that’s for tomorrow.

Willeymoor Lock and the Willeymoor Lock Tavern
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Last one for today, Poveys.
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Meg is waiting patiently for the boat to come up to her level.

After Poveys we had just 20 minutes before we pulled in below Grindley Brook. We’ll head up there tomorrow morning, it looks like another murky one but Monday promises to be wet and windy.

Unfortunately I’ve got to delve into the plumbing again. That leak I thought I’d cured has returned. Not as bad but it needs dealing with.

Mags says thanks for the good wishes. She's pretty much over the illness now, but it's left her tired and washed out. We'll get there though.

Locks 4, miles 6

Thursday, January 05, 2017

A cold morning’s cruise.

Down to -6° this morning at eight o’clock. You know I said yesterday that it has to be really cold for ice to form on this canal? Well, that’s cold enough!IMG_3197

Meg loves it when it’s frosty…
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Daft dog!

The temperature warmed up enough to melt the thin, brashy ice on the canal before we left, but not enough to melt the frost out of the sun.IMG_3199

Less than a mile away was the bottom of the three Baddiley Locks. It was empty so I dropped Meg off on the lock landing then gently nudged the gates open with the front fender and motored in to the chamber. These locks are ideally constructed for single-handing with ladders on both sides of the chamber positioned at either end. So one is always close to the counter, no matter which way the boat is going.
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A good job too, the roof was much too icy for clambering about on!

The middle of the three had a boat coming down, so it was just a few minutes before that one was ready for me, and the top lock, Baddiley No 1, was still empty as they’d left it.

Baddiley No 1.
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IMG_3204It was a beautiful morning but cold, barely above freezing. I bought some gloves from Screwfix last winter, and they’re a god-send in this weather. Rubber for waterproofing and a good grip, lined for warmth. They’re a steal at £6.







After the locks we didn’t have much further to go, the sight of Wrenbury church tower across the fields indicating that we were approaching our destination, just short of Church Lift Bridge.
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Tackling the locks since leaving Barlaston has been fine, but now, until Mags is fit enough to spend some time on the tiller, there’s a whole new set of challenges in the form of the lift bridges. Most of them have the lifting mechanism on the offside of the canal, with limited opportunities on that side for mooring.
I‘m sure I’ll work it out…

Locks 3, miles 2¾