Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Triumph over adversity and antipodean meetings

This morning at 7.45am we got ourselves and the boat ready to depart the Macclesfield Canal after about 7 weeks. Well, when I say got the boat ready, I mean everything from pulling in the fenders, opening the cratch, taking down the pram cover, putting on the tiller. As it was before 8am, I didn’t want to start the engine right next to the boat behind us. I shouldn’t have worried as the damn thing didn’t start. It turned over fine but wouldn’t fire. We did some problem identification ourselves first. David is keen on problems being connected with the batteries – he understands that stuff more than he is comfortable with the engine (he hates cars, by the way, and wouldn’t have one given the choice). But it couldn’t be the starter battery as the engine was turning over. I remembered we had the same hassle back some weeks ago (more than 7 as it occurred at Alrewas) and we called out the RCR guys. After the engineer identified it was a starter motor problem, he checked its connectivity all the way from the control panel back to the starter motor itself – all fine. Then he noticed that the wee nut that pushed the rod back into the solenoid was extremely loose. He tightened that, and hey presto, after a couple of goes, the engine started. So, I got down into the engine bay, found the nut and it was so loose it was nearly off. I could tighten it by hand very easily, so I did, and then I tightened it a wee bit more with the crescent. Attempted to start it. No dice.
OK, which set of ghost busters were we going to call? RCR or Ed. OK, in true project management style, we covered all options and called both and left messages. Ed, the champion, called back first and did some diagnosis over the phone. We followed his instructions, still no dice, so he said he would call in on his way to his first job of the day. While I was standing on the engine, I reached over and gave it one more try. Whammo, it started!!! Yay, and loud noises of triumph!! (It feels rather strange to be standing on a motor when it starts, by the way. Very vibratory. David had a rude comment about that which shall not be repeated.) However, as we were heading through the tunnel, we spoke with Ed and agreed he would still come to check things out. So I cooked and we ate breakfast while we waited. When he arrived he was certain that the issue was the nut and he further tightened it. Checking its drunkenness (is it tight or not) is now down to be part of my weekly routine – before we start the motor as I couldn’t do it when the engine is hot. David has eschewed it as anything to do with him for some reason. I think maybe it’s to do with engines being Booth territory and electrics being McDonald territory.
So we were ready for the off, and as I was undoing the stern rope, the phone rang and it was the RCR people 3 hours after I had called. I'm not complaining at all, but that did seem a long time since the original call. I was pleased to be able to tell them we were sorted - if it had taken that long for them to call back, they must have been pretty busy on other calls.
We set off down to the junction of the Macclesfield and Trent and Mersey, a right turn (or 90 degrees to starboard, I should say) and on towards the tunnel. We had expected that there would be a long queue but we were boat number 4, and arrived as boat 2 was entering the portal. There was a delay of a few minutes after boat 3 as we needed to register with the tunnel keepers. I sounded the horn and they were suitably startled. No danger it won’t be heard then – thanks, Steve!
In we went, and I still don’t like it but it seemed easier this time as most of the low headroom parts are at the northern end and once past them it feels much more spacious. I was pleased as I didn’t touch the sides at all – came close once, but stayed off them.
When we came out we pulled over to get water and were hailed by Ray and Leonie on nb FireflyNZ. They had been hoping they would see us on the other side of the tunnel this morning as they had read the post saying we were moored at the bottom of the Maccie. We managed a quick chat before they were on their way through the tunnel, and while we could have met on the other side by our walking over the top, they were keen to keep moving as the weather was fine. So next time!
As we had moored up just after the water point we chatted with a family who were on one of the lovely Aqua narrowboats for a fortnight doing the Four Counties Ring. Then we saw the boat Macter’s Filia, and knew we had seen it before. Then the penny dropped. We had met Jennifer and Peter at Middlewich, we think, when they were in their second summer on the boat. They come over from Tasmania and boat about 4 months of the year. We found them very encouraging as they were doing what we wanted to do, and they showed us over their boat which was the first reverse layout we’d seen. Waka Huia has the same configuration – with, from the stern, galley, dinette, bathroom (off the corridor), bedroom and then saloon.
So we had a quick chat with them while they filled with water and before they received their instructions for the tunnel.
It was lovely to meet two sets of antipodeans in rapid succession. It feels as though we may be taking over the waterways …
We then looked for the pathway over the hill to the other side of the tunnel. We found it, but the weather looked very threatening, so we returned to the boat, cast off and moved to the visitor moorings at Westport Lake. We have the first spot at the northern end of the moorings and still have the engine running to do a decent charge of the batteries, given we have been snails who’ve not moved far or fast for the last several days. 
David has just come through and has turned off the engine – suddenly it has gone quiet!! Do I hear the sound of the chardonnay o’clock call? I shall ignore it temporarily till I’ve made the batter for the toad in the hole I’ve planned for tonight’s dinner. It’ll be my first attempt at Yorkshire puddings in this oven, so I will report back tomorrow.
Ah, too late to avoid the chardonnay o'clock call - David has poured one for me. Best I get into the kitchen quickly and get that batter made!

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