Thursday, July 24, 2014

Our Thames curse strikes again…

Back in 2009 we had an alternator fail while down here, and guess what, we’ve another popped it’s clogs today! Coming out of Eynsham Lock I noticed one of the charge warning lights on. There are two, one for each alternator, and the top one was lit, indicating the domestic side.

Although it doesn’t matter now that I’ve fitted a Sterling A-B controller, the unit splits whatever charge is coming in from either alternator, to refresh both the starter and the domestic banks. it just takes longer to fully charge with only one alternator working.

Anyway, it didn’t detract from the enjoyment of our first proper day’s cruise on the river. We turned around and ducked back through Swinford Bridge, filled with water and dropped down Eynsham Lock

Back under Swinford Bridge, the limestone construction is badly eroded in places.IMG_0539

On the reach below EynshamIMG_0546

Some of the wiggly bits are very shallow on the inside of the bends, the shoals marked by bouys. Now then, going upstream you keep the red ones on your right, downstream you pass to the right. I think…
Yeah, that must be right. Confusing for a ditchcrawler, we’re used to going aground in the middle of the channel.

We shared the first three of today’s locks with a pair in an open canoe. They weren’t much slower than we were, but we left them below Godstow. I suspect they stopped for lunch…

Kings Lock, with companyIMG_0550
They are heading for the Thames Barrier, I hope they’ve got bailers ready for when they meet the ferries!

Godstow Lock after Kings, alongside the ruined nunnery where Henry II’s mistress is reputedly buried. A later Henry, number 8, had the nunnery closed during the Dissolution in 1539, and it’s final destruction was at the hands of Fairfax, Cromwell’s New Model Army commander, in 1645.

Dropping down Godstow Lock, the nunnery ruins in the background.IMG_0555

The day had started dull, cool and breezy, but by the time we’d got this far it was starting to get hot again.

Out of Godstow the river passes Port Meadow, a vast unspoilt area of grazing. The cattle and ponies were taking advantage of the shallows for a foot spa…IMG_0563

The river splits into backwaters at Binsey, the main navigation channel now quite narrow and overgrown. Also a little faster than the broader reaches above and below.IMG_0565

I didn’t notice these signs last time we were here…

…although the state of the bank makes the restriction pretty moot!IMG_0566

The second Oxford Canal connection is the Sheepwash Channel, passed a few hundred yards above the infamously low Osney Bridge.

Sheepwash ChannelIMG_0568

Restricted headroom under Osney Bridge.IMG_0569
The last time we came this way the river was up a bit, and we twanged the aerials on the roof. Today they were no-where near the framework.

The lock landing above Osney Lock can be tricky if the river is running, opposite two weirs that carry the water around the lock.

Osney weirs, the lock ahead.IMG_0570
We’d pulled into a vacant space on the Oxford Road moorings for a short stop to give Meg a comfort break.

Meg emptied, a brew and a slice of Eynsham butcher’s pork pie, and we were dropping down Osney Lock, this time in company with a launch.

Osney Lock, ready to kick us out IMG_0571

The river, now constrained between reinforced banks, twists and turns around the southern edge of Oxford before it’s eeny, meeny, miney, mo time at Folly Bridge. This time we decided to go right…

Folly BridgeIMG_0575
After the relatively narrow stretch it‘s a pleasure to get out on the wide reach used by the university boat clubs.

Out on the broad reach below Christ Church Meadow  IMG_0577

Our first encounter with a trip boat

Iffley Lock was on DIY when we arrived, the chap on the launch had passed us and was filling the lock, so I was able to go straight in. I‘d agreed to close up after us, but then a Salter’s Steamer turned up, making it easier all round.

Iffley LockIMG_0581

Good timing. IMG_0582

First choice for mooring was Rose Island, but any useable spots there were occupied, so we motored on, finally tying up in the weeds above Sandford Lock. There are two spaces on the hard edge at the landing, but these were full, so we’re on a rough edge and sitting on the mud each time the lock is filled.

Moored above Sandford LockIMG_0585

After a brew and a paddle in the river for Meg I got stuck in to swap the duff alternator. Not a task I relished, a hot alternator on a hot engine on a hot afternoon. But needs must. I removed the old one and fitted another that I’d had recon’ed 18 months ago, and fired up the engine. Satisfaction. No warning lights, and a charge rate. A low charge rate because the batteries were fully charged. But after running the engine for less than a minute I noticed a smell of burning, hot insulation, and the “new” alternator was too hot to touch. Bugger! Obviously something not right.
So after a round of phone calls I‘ve arranged for a new unit to be delivered to Abingdon Boat Centre on Saturday morning (for a price!), and the motor factors in the town will take the defective one away and get it checked out. Ah well, these things are sent to try us.

So tomorrow we’ll have just two locks and 5 miles to do, hopefully mooring near Abingdon Bridge.

Locks 5, miles 9½

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