An Eventful Two Days at Northolt

On the morning of Sunday 12th June we left our mooring in Little Venice to return home to Yardley Gobion. Overnight it had rained and it was drizzly. Just before moving off I noted that I couldn't pin back the engine room door - the door bolt wouldn't fit in the same hole. It looked like the small instrument panel on the side of the engine had moved, or perhaps the door had moved on its hinges. Both explanations didn't hold water but I was at a loss to understand what had happened. We decided to move off and everything appeared to be OK.

After some time Maggie travelling came to the helm to say she thought I was moving quickly because the engine was noisy. She also pointed out that the speed-wheel appeared to be further along the threaded rod than normal. I began to think about the symptoms and then realised that I had probably got something around the propellor and was using more power than normal - although not enough to cause black smoke and other classic  problems. I eventually pulled over just after Alperton close to Northolt and I set about the weed-hatch. I had indeed picked up a load of the usual city rubbish - plastic bags, weed and rope all it a tightly tangled mass. It was quite bad and enough to cause the engine to labour. We then relaxed for a while, had lunch and then prepared set off down the cut.

It was then we realised things had gone "pear-shaped" in a big way! As I put the boat in forward gear the engine moved alarmingly and the exhaust rocked violently. Quite simply the engine was loose. I looked over the engine, tightened some of the bolts holding the engine to its frame and then tried again with the same result. A close inspection of the front right engine mount revealed the problem - the mount was cracked in half! We were going nowhere!

I called up River Canal Rescue and they promised an engineer in around 40 minutes. We were not close to a road so I walked up the towpath to the nearest bridge around the allotted time to hear my mobile phone ringing and to meet an RCR engineer ringing me! It was like a Dr Livingstone moment - we were only 5 metres away from each other. The engineer, John Wood, came to the boat and, looking at the engine mount, he suggested we limp on tick up to a bridge close to High Line Yachting's Northolt base. He then set about investigating the problem, Various ancillary engine gear required removal (mostly the fuel injection system) but soon the broken engine mount was off. It was broken in two places - right through the metal (an old fracture) and along the weld (which was of poor quality).

Front right engine mount in three pieces


It appeared that the mount had been broken along the old fracture for some time and the recent "stuff around the prop" had finally caused the bracket weld to fail. Phil Lizius of Longboat Engineering confided to me over the phone that he had seen this sort of thing happen around 4 or 5 times with Rustons. At this point I thought we were looking at leaving the boat in London and were were due for an expensive (slow) repair job. However, John from RCR just shrugged his sholders and declared that he would get home and repair it - "after all I was trained in metal fabrication".

And that's what he did. Monday morning John turned up with a re-fabricated bracket painted in red oxide. It looked the part. Installation was not quite as straightforward as the removal (then it never is); it was particularly difficult because of the need to move the heavy engine back into place. It was at this point when I realised that all the little symptoms I had ignored (see first paragraph) were because of a loose engine. John quickly found that not only had the front right mount broken but also the rear right - although only along the main weld. This meant another session in the workshop with the welder. Later that the evening John arrived with the second refurbished mount and after jacking up the engine with a scissor jack he got both mounts fitted in place.

The first test was "does the door pin back?" - yes! He then had to refit the fuel system and finally we ran up the engine - well after 9:30 PM. It ran sweetly immediately and with less vibration than it has had for years - maybe since we got Albert back in 2003. The large crack in the front engine mount may have been there for a long time and it was not noticed because it acted a bit like a ball and socket in a hip joint with the weight of the engine holding it in place but allowing it to vibrate.


The refurbished engine mounts (red oxide)

The whole episode was a credit to RCR. John was great in diagnosing the problems and sorting out a repair. We were on our way again on the Tuesday morning with a quieter engine producing less vibration.

It was whilst at Northolt I noticed that John was featured in the latest Towpath Telegraph as a new recruit. We have passed on how pleased we were with the way John handled our breakdown - he was brilliant.

John Wood featured recruit to RCR

So what of Northolt itself. Moored up near the centre of the old village we found it had lots of facilities, some very pleasant parkland (Belvue Park) and importantly a good pub (The Crown) right in the centre of the village green. We had Monday lunch there and enjoyed it. There are certainly worse places to breakdown and it is certainly suitable for an overnight stop.

One of  the four Northala artificial hills that are visible from Northolt's Belvue Park
The hills are from rubble from the old Wembley Stadium!


Little Venice (Again)

On Saturday June 11th we left our overnight mooring in Limehouse Basin and made our way along the Regents Canal to Little Venice. Our two daughters were both in London in the morning with our grandchildren attending the preview of a children's television series, so it was an opportunity this time for Emily and our grandson Hugh to come on a trip along London's canals.




Limehouse basin permanent moorings

It was quiet first thing and the weather was dull as we left the basin and passed under the Commercial Road. As the day progressed it got a little brighter and became sunny. It was the Queen's 90th birthday celebrations and later in the day we did glimpse some of the flypast and heard (but didn't see) the Red Arrows display.

We passed the long line of moorers around Victoria Park where the National Bargee Travellers Association were having a protest meeting. Just past the park we caught up with a very gaily painted boat that was moving from the River Lee to a permanent mooring at the Packet Boat Marina near Cowley. The couple owning the boat had taken the opportunity to invite lots of friends aboard for a sociable cruise.  

A colourful travelling companion

Their was some congestion with tripboats around the City Road but eventually we made to the Islington Road tunnel and onto St Pancras where we met Emily and Hugh. We got to Camden Lock by mid afternoon and the sun had come out. That meant there were crowds lining the lock. This put pressure on Maggie who was steering. She got the boat into the lock fine but throwing me a line became a challenge. When going uphill without crowds of onlookers the line is thrown with one simple flick and I catch or retrieve it. This time the pressure got to her and we had four attempts before I finally pulled in the line. This raised a cheer from a section of the crowd. With all the smartphones around I suppose our progress is now recorded on social media somewhere. Maybe it's on You Tube already. 

Just after the lock we found the canoeists from the Pirate Castle out in force. We had to carefully navigate between them. 





Crowds watching our progress through Camden Lock

Undaunted we carried on and Hugh particularly liked cruising through London Zoo. We dropped off our passengers near Marylebone so they could catch a train home to Milton Keynes. One of the joys of this trip has been meeting up with family en route.


Maggie, Hugh and Emily

We didn't expect a bank-side mooring in Little Venice and true to expectations we couldn't find one. However, on the fourteen-day moorings we found a suitable boat to moor alongside. The owner thanked us for politely asking permission and helped us with mooring up. He then helped us even more by suggested a great Italian restaurant near by. It was a treasure.  

The restaurant was  Da Daniela. It doesn't have a licence but just along the road is a great Italian wine shop which can oblige with a suitable choice. It does great pizzas at a reasonable price and friendly staff. We thoroughly recommend it. Opposite our mooring the Waterway was doing a roaring trade. It was alive with lots of noisy chatter on a Saturday night. The plan was to head for Uxbridge on Sunday morning. 


Paddle boarding in Little Venice


Limehouse (Again)

On the Friday we realised that from Broxbourne we could make Limehouse Basin in a day's cruising. The weather was sunny and fine and we didn't get the heavy rain showers that we had going north.


A Boaty McBoatface

We passed the above interestingly named boat. I suppose it had to happen with all the media interest in naming the NERC polar research ship. I missed this boat going north since the name is on the stern. I don't suppose we will see a flurry of boats named David Attenborough.

Waterside Cafe at Stonebridge Lock

Reproduction Thames Barges as Floating Offices near Tottenham

Close to Tottenham I had chance to take a closer look at the two reproduction barges that are offices. The sailing barge blog has some details of their construction. 

June on the move

Further downstream the Yorkshire short boat June was on the move - a great sight.

Three Mills

We passed Three Mills, not wishing to stop this time, but there was still no space for mooring. The same boats were moored on the 24 hr visitor moorings from 4 days earlier, including a large widebeam. It doesn't look like the moorings are being monitored. 

Passing the entrance to Bow Creek

Modern housing along the Limehouse Cut

Converted factory on Limehouse Cut

We finally moored up at Limehouse at 6:30 PM with the moorings completely free. 

Albert arrives in Limehouse Basin 
(image from Matt Cannon)

Moored up for the night in Limehouse

It appears that in the early morning of Friday there had been a small disturbance by the visitor moorings and a naked man was arrested by police. We had a quite night and there wasn't a repeat incident the next morning.

Police approaching naked man on the Limehouse Basin Visitor Moorings
(image from Matt Cannon)


Broxbourne

We had planned to travel some distance up the River Stort, possible to the limit of navigation, but reviewing our future plans away from the boat we decided that turning around on the Thursday was a good idea. On reflection it was the best decision we could have made, but it did mean that we failed to experience perhaps the most delightful of the sections of the Lee and Stort Navigations. We travelled upstream as far as Little Harlow experiencing some lovely meadows and delightful mills on route.


Near Hunsdon Mill

Parndon Mill

At Harlow we passed a great climbing and adventure facility close by the lock. Many school groups were making use of the facilities and enjoying the good weather.



We eventually turned above Burnt Mill by the Moorhen Inn close to Harlow railway station and headed back downriver. 
Fish & Eels in Hoddeson

Our return downriver was enjoyable despite the feeling that we were on our way home because the weather was warm and sunny. At Roydon Lock we found the lock-side house great for provisions - gas, kindling, diesel and an ice cream. We could have even taken on water but we did that at Harlow.


Roydon Lock
We turned back onto the River Lee and headed south to Broxbourne where we had a good mooring right outside The Crown. On a warm summers evening we could resist trying it out, so after a walk into town for shopping we went in for an evening meal. The service was shambolic. They missed our starters completely and ending up giving us free desserts. Even the beer took time to arrive and they were not busy. It didn't, however, spoil a great days boating. 



Roydon

We've not posted for some time, for good reason, and this is my first attempt at catching up. The reason for the delay was initially quite simple, we ran out of data on our mobile internet account but then we had some boating difficulties which things more difficult - but more of that in later posts.

Delightful cottages at Enfield - Government Row

We left Enfield and travelled north on Wednesday June 9th. Warm and sunny it was ideal weather for boating. However, we did manage to leave behind our keys in the electric paddle mechanism at Enfield Lock. Because the next lock was not far away, and we realised quite quickly, it meant only a short walk back to retrieve them.




Scenes from the River Lee Navigation

We eventually made Fielde's Weir Lock in the afternoon and turned off the Lee onto the River Stort. It was immediately a different navigation with narrower locks (13 ft) and much more winding. 


First River Stort Lock


Lockside Cottage near Roydon Mill Lock with the symbol of Sir George Duckett

We made Roydon by late afternoon and moored up just after the very low bridges (about 6ft air draft) where the road and railway cross the canal. 


Creeping under the first low bridge at Roydon (the next is lower)

Just after the bridge is the home mooring of the former GJCC inspection launch Kingfisher that was for many years kept at Kingfisher Marina - our home mooring. 


Kingfisher on her new home moorings at Roydon
That night we went for a walk around Roydon's large marina. It is based around the mill - the River Stort is charactersised by mills

Roydon Mill


Moored up by the meadows at Roydon



River Lee to Enfield

The glorious weather of Monday continued into the start of Tuesday. We woke in Limehouse Basin to find some security personnel organising  a "live fashion shoot" for a magazine. This appeared to consist of some models acting silly on the floating pontoons wearing "nautical inspired" clothes - little sailor hats to you and me.

Fashion shoot in Limehouse Basin

We went shopping locally and passed by the wonderful sailing barge Cabby that is permanently moored in the basin. We had a quick chat without the owner - mostly about the boat's unusual name. 


Sailing barge Cabby
We left the basin mid morning and took the Limehouse Cut north.

Limehouse Cut

As predicted by lots of boaters we found many long-term moorers lining the canal with little opportunity to moor (if we wanted to). This continued into the Lea Navigation itself. We passed Bow Locks and made our way north towards the Olympic Park.

Comorants at Bow Locks

Heading north towards Stratford
Lots of moored boats 
Olympic Stadium from the River Lee Navigation

It was a shame that the moorings at Three Mills were occupied but we hope to stop there on the way back. The variety of boats moored along the southern end of the River Lee Navigation is bewildering but one design caught my eye, ex-lifeboats from oil rigs. There were a number along this stretch being modified for living.

Ex-oil rig lifeboat near Hackney Marshes

We paused for lunch near Clapton and as we left noticed the black clouds forming to the south. By the time we reached Tottenham Lock it was pouring and the thunder and lighting were directly overhead. We managed to get to Stonebridge Lock and then gave up. We were soaked to the skin. Luckily the lock was being operated by volunteers who wisely stayed in their cabin. At the lock is a handy waterside cafe where we had a welcome tea and scones and waited for the storm to abate. 

Tottenham Lock in a thunderstorm

As the black clouds rolled away we moved on north. Around Edmonton we picked up a tow. A boater "with a project" asked for a tow to the next lock. In the end, and not unexpectedly, it turned out we towed the boat two locks to Ponders End. He was a personable agile young man who helped with the locks and even shared his chocolate!


Locking with a "project" boat
Picketts Lock is now named Alfies Lock 
after the former lock keeper who obviously loved chocolate bars

After Ponders End we started considering moorings and finally called it a day at Enfield  just below the lock. In the evening we explored the local area and discovered Enfield Island and the former Royal Small Arms Factory site which is now a fascinating housing development. 

Boat in a pond in the former Royal Small Arms Factory