Blacked

We left Bartimaeus moored at Enslow Marina when we went back to Edinburgh.  The plan was for the boat to be “blacked” in our absence.  The parts of a narrowboat that are usually in or nearly in the water are painted with a special paint.  This was historically always bituminous, and thus black.

I could see from our remote monitoring (and also on Where is Bartimaeus?) that the boat had been removed from the water. The plan as I understood it was to wash it down and look for any damage on the first day. On two subsequent days, a new coat of paint would be added.  Our remote monitoring isn’t capable of detecting that!

We got back to the marina last night to find Bartimaeus parked on a giant trolley.  Getting in via the ladder was novel, but inside things felt reasonably close to normal.  The boat still moved slightly when we walked around, but nowhere near as much as usual.

A yellow tractor behind which is a skeleton trailer with large balloon tyres. A narrowboat rests on the trailer.
We Must Have Moored in a Tow-Away Zone

This morning I was wandering around the boat looking at it from unaccustomed angles, and at parts that are normally unseen.  A member of staff came over and asked if this was my boat.  When I said yes, he showed me some photographs of the work.  It seems that the original blacking as applied before the hull was delivered to Ortomarine had flaked off in sheets in a number of places.  This is probably because the steel had not been blasted before painting.  Patches of rust had formed under these.

Fortunately no significant harm has been done.  The patches were blasted clean and new bituminous paint applied.  This new coat should now last us another couple of years.  All that was now needed was to put the boat back in to the water.  A couple of parked cars had to be moved first, and then we were ready.  Just reverse a trailer with a narrowboat on it round a corner and in to the canal – what could possibly go wrong?

A narrowboat on a trolley at the top of a slope.  A man at one side peers under at the opposite wheel.
A Critical Eye at a Critical Point

There was a pause as Richard and Simon checked they weren’t going to clip the kerb on the way down.  This picture shows off a number of details.

There is no support for the boat behind wheels.  Some quite heavy parts (e.g. the lead-acid batteries and the diesel engine) are unsupported.  The underside of the boat is not painted – it is reckoned that the amount of rubbing along the bottom of the canal would quickly destroy any paint.

The grey lozenge is one of the four sacrificial anodes.  These are blocks of magnesium welded to the hull which should corrode away instead of the steel of the hull – and won’t work so well if painted.

The propellor is tucked in well out of the way.  It sits behind the swim, with the uxter plate above, the skeg below and the rudder (resting on the skeg) behind it.  The water line is normally just above the uxter plate, so the line of blacking at the rear of the boat is partially submerged.

The opening in the light blue section at the stern is the diesel engine exhaust.  I noticed this had something stuffed in it, and alerted Richard in case it had been forgotten.  He told me it was deliberate – we saw why very soon. 

Everything seemed quite calm at first as the trolley was reversed down the ramp.  Then things started to tilt alarmingly!  It was explained later that when the hydraulic system that holds the wheels down is released, the heavier side drops down first.  This is probably when the crockery got smashed – we have lost a few soup bowls and side plates.

Once level again, the boat was pushed further out in to the canal.  The trailer was still supporting the bow, so the stern was pushed underwater much more than usual.  This is when the plug in the exhaust was doing its thing.  The back of the boat reached the opposite bank of the canal before it was fully afloat.  With Simon hauling on the rope, Richard drove up and back a few times until the trailer slid out from underneath.  Some more rope hauling and Bartimaeus was ready to board.  It wasn’t a very elegant launch, but effective.

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