Thursday, 24 November 2011

Nearly There

We are still resting at Stretton Wharf and though with an engine room in complete turmoil, with floor boards up, wiring all over the place and an incomplete exhaust pipe sticking out dangerously at about head level, we have a Russell Newbery engine nearly fitted.
It has the luxury of an electric start, which is really spoiling me and by rigging up a jury exhaust pipe through the side hatch, we were able to jump start the engine and test it fully last Saturday.
So sweet was the sound of an engine aboard after three months of silence and in particular this eighteen horsepower ‘RN’.
After running for a while to make certain that the liquid cooling system was working satisfactorily, temptation overcame me and just as things were, I decided to take ‘Futurest’ out to test how she handled with the new propulsion. I decided to travel down to the turning point at Brewood and back again; to put her through her paces with manoeuvring and everything.
The weather, though overcast in typical November fashion, was fine and there was no breeze making cruising conditions ideal. It was a wonderful trip and such a pleasure to feel an engine throbbing again through the deck beneath my feet. However the sensation was so different from the old days with ‘JP2’.
The handling was so completely different that it was like being at the helm of another ship altogether. Though the Russell Newbery is three ‘horses’ less than the ‘JP2’, I was thrilled to feel how much more responsive and perky she was, with so much more ‘poke’. It made me realise just how worn out the old Lister had become without me realising.
We managed an estimated three miles per hour on only a quarter revs and she manoeuvred ahead and astern through the PRM gearbox effortlessly without having to add any further revs. It was wonderful. I am quite confident that she will handle all waterway conditions, tidal or otherwise with ease.
Just over an hour later we arrived back at Stretton Wharf feeling very pleased with ourselves. It had been a lovely outing on our own after such a long time.
There is still plenty to be done and lots of time consuming tidying up to be accomplished before we shall be ready to leave, but at least the end is in view I think.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Stranded but not stagnant at Stretton

Regular readers will no doubt wonder where I have disappeared to over the last fortnight or so, while these pages have remained silently blank.
In fact I have been on board all the time and though I have sat on innumerable occasions to begin to write, nothing has been forthcoming. Though life has progressed, both ‘Futurest’ and I have sat here quietly, waiting for something to happen that never did and somehow nothing else seemed important enough to write about..... After the engine had been plonked aboard that was it. Both of us had a long patient wait till Paul the engineer returned from holiday.
The weather has been beautiful though throughout, for the time of the year and I have made the most of it by taking my bike out on most days, varying the ride a little but mostly finishing up in Brewood to buy provisions. There is a wonderful shop there which sells fresh farm produce where I buy all my fruit and veg. There are also two supermarket type shops, which though not large, are very adequate for my daily needs and a post office for incoming mail is attached to one of them. There is also a lovely café where in the mornings I enjoy enormously a large cup of real coffee. In the afternoon I substitute a pot of Earl Grey tea instead.... Delicious!
Last Tuesday just as our situation appeared to becoming dormant again and lethargy was settling in, Paul arrived at the yard and great progress has been made since then.
On this day the ‘RN’ was hauled ashore, while the engine bearers were cut to suit the position of the new flywheel. Then on Wednesday the engine was bolted down in position, while on Thursday the electrics were redesigned and connected. On Friday, since the engine is liquid cooled via a skin tank, the plumbing was all sorted.
All that needs to be done now is for the exhaust and silencer to be fitted, together with a redesign and fitting of the controls to the helm and the roof to be drilled and bolted into position. I cannot see it taking us too long, with our present impetus. But I’m not deluded in any way and I know we shall have to remain patient until everything is complete.
However I’ve been in touch with Molly at Kate Boats and she is still expecting us whenever we arrive for our winter mooring in Warwick. We just need the weather to continue being kind for a little longer and all will be well.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Bilge Diving

Over the last few days I am glad to announce that I have renewed the close professional relationship I seem to have always had with bilges large and small.
As an apprentice at sea I had to work hard physically and for most of this learning period I remember, I hardly ever saw the sea even though I was on long ocean voyages to the other side of the World. The reason for this was that for most of my time, except for brief periods of deep sleep (when I never saw the sea either!) I was swinging about like a berserk pendulum at the bottom of the ship with a baler, paint brush or scraper in my hand endeavouring to make some bilge or double bottom tank spanking new.
The fact that I was crouched and/or twisted in a very enclosed space at the bottom of the ship with just a narrow thickness of shell plating between me and thousands of fathoms of ocean below and though I was very conscious of the swishing noise through the steel plate just a few inches away, I wasn’t deterred for one moment.
I was always as happy as a pig in the muck that I was in!
I loved it because nobody bothered me there. My workplace was too inaccessible for the bosun or the mate to keep looking over my shoulder to check what I was doing. They left me very much to it and therefore I could dwell happily in my adolescent daydreams, whilst swinging and dipping the paintbrush, of meeting pretty girls in all the foreign ports of the world, who would be totally overcome with delight when faced with my irresistible charm. The toxic smell of the paint in the tank would help here, since it soon made me light headed and feel quite drunk on occasions.  
So you can imagine how my old life all came flooding back to me as I wielded my black greasy swab in ‘Futurest’s oily Engine Room Bilge last week and also again today as I contorted my frame under the cupboards of the Boatman’s Cabin through the bilge, whilst transferring solid ballast from the starboard side to the other, to take out the slight starboard list. The Russell Newbury Engine must be lighter than the old ‘JP2’ as I have found it necessary for comfort to correct the resultant very slight tilt of the ship to the right.
But what a beautiful day It has been today and difficult to remember that this time last year we had just been immersed in our first big freeze up.