Monday, 5 November 2012

Rover........ the name of a faithful old dog who's good at fetching things.

'Rover' is my designated role when The Buoy Wonder and The Engineer are spannering in engine rooms.

More of which later.

Yes, as you were warned in the last post, we've been hard at it again trying to get some sign of life out of the BMC 1.5 in our gentleman's narrowboat.

Rain was forecast.

Heavy, persistent and very watery rain.......

Ex-Royal Engineer Mark initiated "Corps Unfavourable Weather Plan 1A" :

"Gentlemen, if it rains, we will get wet".

He followed this one up with the biological truism that 'skin is waterproof'...

(By the by, I beg to differ on this one, as if it were, we wouldn't be able to perspire. And that's something we've all done rather freely during the course of this saga.....).

Anyway, it looked like we were all in for a very soggy Sunday.......

Now, I may have been a poncy thespian and civvy all my life, but I have learned a thing or two along the way, (and it ain't all been about flower arranging........)

Skin may well be waterproof.

Morale and Motivation are not......

I foresaw a very real risk of this all ending very early, with little progress to report, in the bar of The Cutter Inn at Ely, where a half-drowned Boat-man, Buoy Wonder and Engineer would be trying to recover their morale by getting completely drowned, only from the inside....

Clearly, 'Something Had to Be Done'.

So I went out and bought a small tarpaulin to stretch over the stern deck. Secured with Gaffer tape, I reckoned it would offer at least some protection from the promised deluge.

However, I had reckoned without The Buoy Wonder.

Yes, James reached into his Utility Belt and produced this:

There's no denying it, he's a class act.

But I'm skipping ahead....

We actually all met up at the Sainsbury's in Ely for a fry-up in the cafe before work commenced.

And super-jolly-nice it was too....

We then repaired to the Car, shooed away the queue that had formed in earnest expectation of 'a fab hair-do', and made for the nearest parking place possible to the gentleman's boat.

Heavy tool boxes, a deep-cycle 110 amp battery, twelve volt floodlight, more tools, bilge pumps, buckets, sponges, gasket sets and spare starter motors were then loaded onto the folding trolley James had produced (that Utility Belt of his is going to give him a hernia one of these fine days, you mark my words....) and were duly transported bank-side.....

Anyway, we rigged the gazebo, snapping a plastic bit in one of the struts in the process. A temporary repair was effected with Gaffer tape.

Then out came the spanners.

While the lads were stripping the Bowman heat exchanger off and removing the two gallons of emulsified sludge from the engine block (where oil and water had mixed due to total head gasket failure), I went into Faithful Old Labrador mode.

In our haste to depart on time for our breakfast appointment in Ely with James, Mark and I had conspired to leave the valve-spring compressor, the waste oil containers and sundry other rather necessary bits of kit back in my shed at The Parish.

Mark looked at me in that inimitable way he has, and before the words 'Rover! Fetch!' had formed on his lips, I was pegging it back to the Suzuki, panting and lolling-tongued in a way that caused a couple of passers-by more than a little concern.

While back in my neighbourhood, I swung by Wilco Car Spares in Milton for a bucket of their cheapest 20W/50 which we will use to flush the remaining crud out of the block, once the engine has finally been persuaded to run. We'll run it up to temperature with no filter fitted, then drain it down again before fitting the oil filter and new, good quality mineral diesel engine oil.

(Well, that's the plan anyway, though no plan we have ever yet had has survived first contact with The Gentleman's engine......)

I got back to Ely to find the head stripped off and all proceeding worryingly close to how we intended it to pan-out.

Something was surely about to go horribly wrong.......

My next 'Rover' mission was to Tresco Scilly Aisles Supermarket in Ely to purchase lunchtime pies and sausage rolls to keep the team fed and morale up, thereby preventing them from getting the other sort of 'fed up', which is to be avoided......

Having returned from clearing out the Hot-Deli Bakery counter, and while in mid-scoff, the boys confessed that something had, indeed, "gone a little awry".

The valve collets at the top of the valve stems sit in the space made by the valve springs. Once assembled, the whole thing is held in place by a little spring-clip that looks for all the world like a miniature hairgrip.

It turned out that Mark had got a little over-enthusiastic in the removal of the first one, which had, (somewhat inevitably, I feel), gone P-I-I-I-N-G, SPLOSH.....

As I wasn't there when this happened, and wasn't witness to the veritable stream of Workshop Esperanto that this little accident provoked, there's no need for me to tax the newly repaired Auntie Mary Filter (TM) with any reportage. (Though James informed me later he'd learned at least a couple of curses which were entirely new to him......)

So I'd barely had time to brush away the sausage roll crumbs when I got 'that look' again.

My mission this time was to 'fetch' a replacement 1960's engine component.

In Ely.

On a Sunday.

In the rain.......

Tall order?


But I likes a tall order, I do.....

It satisfies my inner Quixote.

And you know what?

I found one.


And they'd reckoned The Champ was all washed up.........

Big thanks to A1 Motor Parts of Ely.

(Okay, it was a circlip, not the hairgrip style thingy, but it fitted and did the job, which is what counts.....)

Though on reflection, I should have made this look much more difficult......

I mean, I don't want those two youngsters getting complacent. They might start chucking random bits of engine in the oggin just because they think they're safe in the knowledge that I'll be able to conjure up a spare, seemingly out of thin air.........

(Note to self: Reduce efficiency, thus lowering expectations. Stop for coffee on the way back next time......)

Anyway, I returned to find the fettling of the cylinder head well underway.

Valves were being ground into their valve seats, producing a mating surface which might actually give this engine a bit of compression.

It's worth repeating that this engine was sold to our gentleman as 'reconditioned'.

(Sold? An act of piracy, more like.......)

I know it's not panto season quite yet, but 'reconditioned'?.....

O-H no it isn't!

If it had been, then there wouldn't have been any coke on the cylinder crowns or on the valve stems....

And the valve faces would have been whistle-clean, as would the valve seats.

None of which was so......

Also, the cylinder head nuts were, according to Mark, at 'Level Three' on The Corps of Royal Engineers Imperial Tightness Scale:

1) T = Tight.

2) FT = Flippin' Tight. (Or something like that...........)

3) Grizzed = Tightened to such a degree that a fully grown North American Ursine in a savage temper would struggle to undo it, even with the aid of an extension bar....

The head had been Grizzed alright, showing that the only attention this engine has had has been from untrained banderlog with neither reference to a manual nor access to a torque wrench.

(Don't worry, earnest Prayers of Supplication have been offered up to Saint Fred of Dibnah, that in grizzing it down like that, the muppets haven't succeeded in actually warping the head. If they have, we are going to have to take it all off again, have the head machined flat, then do all this again......with more new gaskets.)

I know.

What's the chances?.......

Anyway, here's a picture of the cylinder block, looking much better now Mark and James have got all the water out of the pots....

The spherical device on the right of the picture is a very clever vacuum pump which slurps the contents of the sump out through the dip-stick hole: very handy when working on a marine engine with very limited access to the more traditional sump-plug...

James produced it out of his Utility Belt.....

(He also told me the proper name for it, but it doesn't matter.

Mark and I have christened it 'James's Big Sucker'.

This rather annoys him.

Which is fun....).

We worked on under the gazebo as the light failed, James having provided a 12-volt floodlight which we hooked up to a battery I'd bought along.

(Well, he can't get be expected to get everything in that Utility Belt, now can he?)

I then had one last 'Rover' mission to complete.

On casting about for the three bolts that were to hold the replacement starter motor in place, I realised we'd probably left them in the bucket with the broken one....... in the shed, back at The Parish......

A quick phone call to Jackie confirmed this was the case, so off I went.


Jackie, meanwhile, kindly looked up the correct torque settings for a BMC 1.5 on the interweb and phoned through the results. (So, actually, did Kev from wb Avalon, who I'd bumped into while trekking back and forth to the car on one of my many 'Rover' missions, so thanks Kev!)

(It's 71 lb/ft if you want to know.......)

Anyway, when I returned with the bolts, the boys were putting the finishing touches to the reassembly:

Seconds after this was taken, Mark nearly leapt out of the engine room and clean into the river as an icy cold trickle of rainwater ran down his jeans-to-jumper interface ( you know, the one where logic dictates one might usefully park a bike......).

It was time to pack up and go home.

We'll return next weekend for another exciting (actually, probably not, terribly........) installment of this interminable saga.

But not before we've fitted a reconditioned Ford engine to another stricken narrowboat....

But that, ladies and gentlemen, is quite another story.......


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