Sunday dawned beautifully sunny and warm with a cloudless sky. David was hoiked out of bed so we could set off bright and early with a scratch breakfast – I was so keen to get going there was no time for cooking, for heaven’s sake! Do the engine checks, warm the engine, engage the alternator to top up leisure batteries, wait a few more minutes for the engine to settle with the alternator going (it draws quite heavily), untie the roles, push off, and, hell and damnation!!! - pretty much no acceleration. So as we coast at a crawl past a former bridge hole (handy place where the cut is only about 8 foot wide), David leaps off and pulls the boat into the side, we tie up to sort out what to do. AAARRRGGGHHH!!!
Check weed hatch (we know how to do that!) – nothing there. We belong to RCR (River & Canal Rescue) sort of like the AA in NZ, so we phoned them. Of course, it is Sunday morning early, so we get their answering service who were very helpful, told us that they would pass the info on to the engineers and that they would call within 30 – 45 minutes of their arrival. The answer service phoned back about 15 minutes later to say they have passed the info on to the engineers who will be with us by 11 – 11.30. Double AAARRRGGGHHH!!! The sunny day is sunny and we are not boating.
So, let’s make use of the waiting time. Do I feel like polishing the brass mushroom vents? No. OK, I will make a chocolate brownie. Comfort food sounds like a go. David is sorting something on the computer so I try to remember the recipe but have to interrupt him to check it as the mixture doesn’t look right. Remedy the quantities, but too late to get the order right for mixing sugar, oil, eggs first. Drinking chocolate will have to do as we have no cocoa powder; mmmm not sure how that will work. Into the oven it goes – I don’t understand gas mark temperatures – you’d think I would, given we lived here for 4 years with gas ovens but no. I forget to consult the Edmonds cookbook (what NZ woman between 40 and 80 doesn’t own one? Or their kids who’ve been given one by their mums before they leave for their OE?) which has the conversion, so make a guess. Inaccurate, as it turns out. The top cooks to a crisp, and effectively wipes clean the little sharp knife I use to check if the middle is cooked. Out it comes looking particularly pallid – that drinking chocolate … Smells good though. Leave it to cool while mixing the bread. Keep busy, that’s the way!
In between this, Mick, the guy from Planet Boats who had rescued us when we lost electrics on Sunday, came past with a boat load of young people on a 30th birthday weekend cruise. He stopped to have a look, and his crew had a look through the boat. Lovely people, liked the boat, thought the chocolate brownie smelled good – yes it did, but smells can be deceiving. Mick couldn’t see anything obvious, so on they went.
Set bread out to rise, and I have meltdown. In the nick of time, preventing full scale marital discord caused by thwarted intention and unfulfilled expectation, the RCR guys arrive on time at 11am - Kerry and Luke.
They ask all the questions, get all the answers, go through a logical and thorough process. They tighten the engine mounting bolts (loose, and the engine bounces around at low revs). They comment on the size of the alternator for the leisure batteries (150amps) in relation to the size of the engine (36hp) and use the word 'over-engineered'. (Gulp ... sounds expensive.) The engine is started, run for a while, then the alternator is switched on and forward gear engaged, engine goes into a decline and no propulsion.
Kerry tells us his opinion – that our laggardly progress (my words, not his) of only 14 miles in 6 days with 4 of those days stationary means that, in spite of running the engine each day to top them up, the batteries have got low enough that the power from the engine required to bulk load them using the 150amp alternator means there is not enough power to also make the boat move; that we need to be cruising more or be hooked to shore power to keep the batteries up. AAARRRGGGHHH!!! All is not lost though – we can cruise, but without the alternator running.
He checks the air filter, finds that it is black as the inside of a cow and needs replacing. I walk back to the van with them, purchase another one, come back to the boat and fit it. Decide if I am going to be down in the engine compartment much more, I need to lose weight and get more limber – my body just doesn’t do folding up anymore.
I think a piece of chocolate brownie might be the best solace. NO, WRONG, CRAPOLA. It is crisp on the top, uncooked on the bottom. Thwarted intention, unfulfilled expectation AGAIN! I can’t cruise without problems and now I can’t even cook! AAARRRGGGHHH!!! Breathe, take more magnesium.
We put the engine cover back on, and decide to set off – David thinks, silently, that I ought to eat and get my blood sugar up before doing so, but is sensible enough not to say so. I know I need to eat, so put some eggs on to boil – hard boiled eggs can be eaten one handed while steering.
I put on sunscreen, get my cap on and off we go, but the clouds immediately obscure the sun – I am sure there is a direct causal relationship between these activities. But, bravely and with strength of mind and purpose, I am not deterred. We decide to head for a marina for the night, we know we need water (have not showered for a couple of days but have used a fair amount of water cleaning the cratch cover and washing the sides of the boat).
David phones ahead to Barton Marina and books a mooring. He is lovely.