At 8 am on Tuesday morning Alex gave me a lift to Bath from Malmesbury. He had to be at work at nine so I had to leave that early in order to get a free lift to where I was due to catch the train home.
I had time to buy breakfast first before I caught the train at ten thirty for Bristol Temple Meads on my way back to Wolverhampton. Then I caught the bus for the short journey to Brewood after which I had the two mile walk along the towpath, under the A5 Aqueduct and into the boat yard, where ‘Futurest’ was still waiting for me where I had left her, with her 240 volt umbilical cord still attached.
She looked most forlorn bless her, like a very patient dog awaiting its master’s return. If she could have spoken I’m sure she would have said something like “Welcome home Skipper. I’m so very pleased to see you!” She had that terrible hang dog look about her. I can’t really describe it, as it was just a feeling I had, prompted probably by my acute feeling of guilt at leaving her for so long with nothing positively decided.
Everything on board was exactly as I had left it over a week ago. The electricity was still on and the batteries well charged. A nice cup of tea was just what I needed after my long journey.
Later on I phoned John the engineer to let him know I was back and he invited me kindly to his home nearby and volunteered to collect me the following morning. I would then be able to see the poor state that he reckoned ‘JP2’ was in and be able to discuss what remedies were available to put things right.
However the following day the antidote that I chose for overcoming the engine problem was not one that I had even contemplated the day before.
John’s bungalow, where he lives with his wife Carol, was beautiful and set among trees (and falling leaves at this time of the year, much to his disgust) in the charming Staffordshire countryside. His adjoining workshop was like an Aladdin’s Cave of engineering delights of specialist tools and vintage marine engines all in various states of undress. And there, covered by an old piece of plastic tarpaulin was my ‘JP2’ looking miserable and most dejected on the cold stone floor.
John quietly pointed out that every moving part on the engine was badly worn, including the gearbox cogs, which were about to let me down at any moment. Every other part too that he showed me that was supposed to work exclusively in a vertical direction was also moving horizontally and conversely all those elements that were designed singularly to move with no play in an horizontal direction also were moving alarmingly up and down! It is a wonder that the dear old lady had kept going for so long. Since replacement parts were now in very short supply due to the engine’s age of eighty years or so, if I managed to find any suitable they would be at such an exorbitant price as to make the replacement impractical.
Bless her; my beloved ‘JP2’ was a virtual write-off and sadly suitable for spares only.
However adjacent to her, resplendent on a couple of railway sleepers and recently acquired by John, was a two cylinder Russell Newbury Engine, in marvellous condition which he started very promptly from cold for my benefit and it ran effortlessly and very beautifully for a few minutes with that very distinctive and appealing RN chug!
It was also for sale!
A few swift measurements and I had decided that this particular Russell Newbury would look first-rate in ‘Futurest’s engine room. I would need to speak to Keith the proprietor of the builder’s yard to see if he would fit it in for me, making the necessary alterations in order to do so.
It sounded a great idea and I quickly came to my decision. John and I worked out the terms of our deal and I now await the arrival of Keith to make arrangements for the transferral.
All that was yesterday but I feel so much better now that I’ve made the decision. I went ashore earlier today to buy provisions from Brewood and when I returned; you know, ‘Futurest’ seemed to me to be entirely different to how I had found her on Tuesday. Though it sounds silly (and it is a ridiculous speculation of course) I’m sure I imagined a broad smile emanating from her I-don’t-know-what!