Saturday, 30 June 2012

Early morning Alarums and Excursions

I awoke from a pleasant reverie this morning to what sounded like a series of small explosions worryingly close to Pippin.

As I eased myself from the river of sleep and onto the bank of the morning, these explosions resolved themselves into the sound of a narrowboat engine.

"Lister, 3-cylinder air-cooled, range that, bearing that...... confirm distance to target with one sonar ping only....."

(When I worked as a cinema usher at the NFT, "The Hunt for Red October" was on for two weeks.....)

I was just putting the hydrophones away when my real alarm went off.

At 06:45........

Yes, I must up and at 'em. Got to get a candle under the bacon and egg for Banjos.

Royal Engineer Mark is coming round at 08:30 for a spot of brekker before we embark on a day of engine fitting in our stranded friend's boat. (A task made all the more urgent by the recent news that the poor fellow has just been given until the end of July to quit his mooring which is being re-developed)

I must remember to ask Mark if he can slip a couple of acoustic torpedoes my way.

Could come in handy.........

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

A maiden drops in for a drink.....nearly

Time back way back, at the mouth of the river when the world was young, I did this for a while.....

I wasn't a pilot, ooh no, but I did crew for some wonderful friends of mine who I met at drama school.

A word about them: Kirk S. Thomas and Jacques W. Soukup....

Kirk was a very rich American man in his early thirties who was paying his own way through drama school. His partner Jacques was similarly paying his way through a course at the LSE so he could be with Kirk.

I first got chatting to Kirk in the bar of the Drayton Arms, a pub theatre our school used to put on productions and hold classes. I offered him a drink, as you do.... He was quite taken aback as I recall, as loads of other people were always trying to tap him for money; (the fact that he was wealthy was well known..). We became really good friends, and he helped me through some of the most difficult times I had at Webber D., all the time being completely respectful of me, my beliefs, and my heterosexuality.

Remember, this was the early eighties: homophobia was rife, no, it was the norm....

Bad old days......

Anyway, these guys were great: we hung out together, ate together at Frank's Caff. and boosted each other's non-existent morale after one of the faculties notoriously savage 'Note sessions' which could leave you feeling utterly eviscerated.... Webber was a tough school....

One weekend in the summer term, Kirk asked me if I was up to anything. 'Nope' was the reply.... Did I want to come ballooning at the Longleat Balloon Fiesta? I told him to consider the Catholicism of the Pope and Ursine toilet habits in woodland!

Thus it was I spent a most fabulous weekend crewing for Chici-Boom, their Cameron special shape balloon which was Carmen miranda's head with all the fruit as self supporting outwork. As I was heard to remark at the time, she was hardly camp at all.... :-)

Winds over Wales was the other ballon we took: a small three man gondola and the envelope was the Welsh flag.

Both looked fantastic.

I crewed for both balloons, learning the art of the inflation fan and the crown line (my favourite) in the process.

I also got to go up, first in Chici, then on Sunday in Winds over Wales.

You know, I could rabbit on all day about what fun it was, but a picture is worth a thousand words....

Trouble is, all the photos I took were on a borrowed Kodak Instamatic and are printed on paper. Next time I'm down home, where these things are archived, I'll dig them out and see if we can scan them onto the computer and upload on to blogger.

If so, stand by for some pictures of a much younger, slimmer John, (complete with very dodgy eighties hair), having the time of his life!!

Thankyou, Kirk and Jacques.

You were wonderful friends.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

China is unperturbed

Despite the mass exodus of small fibreglass yachts from our part of the Cam, no new thing has arisen.

That's a relief, then.

I may take a leaf out of China's book and have a little snooze too.

Do they know something we don't?

This morning dawned "bright and clear".....

No, of course it flippin' well didn't!

This is England.

This morning actually dawned gun-metal grey with torrential rain, high winds and the occasional incredibly violent shower of hail.


It is June, after all, so we should expect it.......

However, as I peered through the raindrop-stained window, I saw this little flotilla heading through the lock....

The storm-lashed pontoon at the lock was full of the little yachts, so some were even circling as they waited for the gate to open.....


What the heck do they know that we don't??????

I don't like it, Carruthers........

We have gathered in the cats two by two, have battened down as best we can, and await the impending tsunami.......


How John relaxes after a hard day's decorating.......

Some would say I should be ashamed of myself.

Some would say I should be proud.......

I don't care, actually.

Because it didn't half work!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

A new look.

The previous post, entitled "Schadenfreude", has been deleted.

I don't often do this, but have now.


Well, several years ago, the business concerned employed me for a short time on a part-time temporary basis.

They were in every respect so utterly venal, shabby and unjust in their treatment of me that I left.

However, to rejoice at their misfortune is a cheapening thing. I will not allow the way they treated me in the past to affect this, my present.

I am sorry for the delight I took in their trouble. It speaks ill of me.

Instead, I'd like to say I forgive them, and wish them well.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The engine re-instatement continues.......and the plot thickens...............

On Monday, I had the day off. Mum and Dad were still about, so popped over to Pippin for coffee.

We had thought to visit Wimpole Hall (National Trust house and gardens), but the level of precipitation was way too high to entertain such ideas for long.

Instead, Mum elected to sit in the dry and warm aboard Pippin, with tea, the newspapers and both cats, (the errant Thomas having made an appearance through the cat-flap just as Mum was bemoaning his continued absence -he'd been off on a three day mooch-), while Dad and I sidled off to St Ives to have a gander round the well-stocked chandlery at Jones's Boatyard.

While there, I had a chat with their resident engineer re: engine fitting malarkey.

I recounted the story so far:- (brainless money-grabbing Banderlog ripping a working engine out of a boat, and ripping off the boat's owner, my friend, by leaving it and the replacement on the bank.....).

He was very helpful indeed, and approved of Mark and my efforts to get our friend out of the engineless Merde Creek up which he had been stranded by these felonious ne'er-do-wells.

In short, he allowed me to pick his brains.....

He suggested a system called Aquadrive, which, while acknowledged as expensive, is highly rated: anyone got any comments?

(It helps that it is supplied by the thrice-blessed firm of A.R.Peachment of Norwich, who helped Pippin out of a similar gearbox absence which was caused by crooks in Coventry.......)

But then things got a whole lot more interesting....

My new engineer chum suddenly remembered a bloke coming into the chandlery about 3-4 months ago seeking advice and help on fitting a BMC 1.8 to a boat in Cambridge.....

Now, the engine in question is a popular choice, and there are a good few narrowboats thus equipped on the Cam, but a co-incidence?

I think not.

Especially when the bloke concerned 'clearly had no idea what he was doing', and the date from which he failed to return to Jones's to pick up some bits the engineer had got for him tallies almost exactly with the date of the Banderlog's disappearance from the bankside with my chum's cash.....

It's a small world, though I wouldn't really like to paint it.......

The engineer couldn't put his hand on the bits he'd got: they'd been kicking around for months..... But he was happy to have a good look for them.

This is all good news.

I'm going to take pictures of the engine and engine room, and Mark and I are heading back to Jones's in a week or so's time for a conference with the engineer. We need to sort out, among other things, whether or not the boat is raw water cooled, and if it is, is the replacement engine?

Beer will doubtless be involved, though I have volunteered to drive..... :-(

Nevertheless, it's all getting rather interesting!

To Be Continued!!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Shhhhhhh! You'll wake the adults!

My Mum and Dad are up to visit for the weekend.

We have had a lovely time: yesterday we took Pippin into Ely. Royal Engineer Mark and my friend Jane from The Hole Making Shop came along for the ride, and jolly good fun it was too!

Today, Mum and Dad were joined by Jackie's Mum and our neighbour Rhoda for lunch.

It was a beautiful morning, so grabbing Fortune by the forelock in that thoroughly British way in relation to the weather, we elected to eat 'alfresco'.

We just had time to finish the main course and tidy away before it began to rain!

Some friends of Jackie's from London had happened by on a hire cruiser too. Totally out of the blue, but delightful to meet them. It was an all-girl 40th birthday weekend, so watching them negotiate the nearby lock after they'd moored up by us for their own splendid repaste (and several glasses of wine) was a hoot.

I've seen (and done!) some "Troutbridging" in my time, but really.......!


As I type, Mum is snoring gently, in unison with Dad, on the sofa. Jackie's Mum is spark-out on our bed.

Jackie and Rhoda have gone looking for the errant Thomas, and I have just finished washing up.



Musn't wake the adults!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Heath Robinson School of Engineering

A friend of mine who frequents the Hole Making Shop is also a liveaboard boater who moors upriver in Cambridge.

He loves a chat, and one day, as I was drifting about No 6 shed's R&D bench, we stopped for a natter.

Turns out he had been sold a reconditioned engine for his boat by someone who had removed the old engine, taken his money, then buggered off leaving both engines on the bank.....

It's a long story............

My chum is self-confessedly clueless about all matters mechanical, but was clearly in some distress. He had been engineless for some weeks. Someone else had been along and told him a load of fibs about the 'new' engine being unsuitable as it was petrol (it wasn't:........I have yet to see a petrol engine with diesel injectors.....), but not to worry, they'd re-fit his old one for him and take the 'new' one away........

Time to call in The Royal Engineers!

My friend Mark, who is in the Corps, kindly visited the boat, had a look at the engine, declared the old one scrap and the new one viable, and offered our services to a) get it off the bank and into the engine room, and b) get it plumbed in, wired up and working.

Yesterday was the day for executing part a) of the plan.

The title of this post is in no way a reflection on the skills of The Engineers!

Rather the reverse, in fact.

The job was made very challenging by several factors. It was a Bank Holiday, (the only day for a while when we were all available), so all Plant Hire shops etc were closed for the duration.

This meant we had to lift a BMC 1.8 diesel with no crane......

How did we do it?

Well, I could tell you but then I'd have to shoot you.

No, actually, I wouldn't. :-)

The engine was slid off the trailer it had been sat on for months onto a dolly that I'd picked up from Milton Tip ages ago on the grounds that it 'might come in handy one day'. (Wives and partners in the "What Do You Want That Thing For?" Society, please take note.....)

The wheels of the dolly were in rails formed by two substantial RSJ I-beams I acquired from work some time ago, then hid from Jackie in my friend Jane's back garden. ( WDYWTTF members, see ibid.....) This meant rolling it up the gradient from the bank to the back deck was relatively easy.

It then started to get a bit involved, not to say tricky....

I had thought to take some photos but fortunately, I forgot the camera.

('Fortunately' because the improvised lifting gear involved the two RSJ's, some substantial baulks of timber, a borrowed chain hoist and a bent pin - that's pin: mooring, not pin: safety)

I think the Health and Safety Executive would have been most displeased, but we did a full risk assessment:

John: "Reckon that'll hold?"

Mark: "Yeah, it'll be alreet"

And so it was.

Though there's a good chance any photographic evidence might have had us up for a Darwin Award, it wasn't nearly as skoshey as it looked, I promise!

Further problems were that the person or persons who removed the old engine had done so by grinding through the welds of the channel sections to which the mounting blocks attached.

No, we couldn't work out why either......

Oh, and the engine didn't come with a flexible drive coupling, and the one on the old engine had been completely mullahed by the trained chimps who took the old engine out.

Anyway, this meant that by 17:30, (we arrived at 09:30 sharp....) we'd gone about as far as we could: the replacement engine is in the engine bay, but not connected up or indeed attached to the boat.

I am going to ring round mobile welders in Cambridge and get some quotes for re-attaching the channel sections, but the welding itself can't be done until we've sourced a proper-job flexible drive coupling.

Anyone got any suggestions as to which one's best?

Once the drive is nicely lined up and shimmed to a thou-or-so of perfection.....( ! ), we'll get the welder in to nail it all down.

Then I need to find an Alternator for a marinised BMC 1.8.

Again, any suggestions as to which is best for my friend's needs?: He's a full time liveaboard, so I was thinking 110 amp, but there's a further snag: he's on a tiny pension and the ne'er-do-wells who got him into this mess have used up most of his spare cash. I was thinking, then, a good used car alternator from the local scrappy would get him some sparks for very little outlay. Anyone got any better ideas?

As for the prop, well, we're just keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that when it's all up and running, the boat will glide serenely through the water at tickover revs without a trace if cavitation........

To be Continued...............!