It was in November when I first hatched the plan to get various minor works to Bartimaeus done here.  We had hoped it would all be done earlier in the season, but in the end it was convenient to leave the boat with Gary’s team when we returned to Edinburgh last week for my long-scheduled CT scan (I’m not expecting news from that yet).

We were still on the train when Gary phoned to say they had found a problem.  Fuel contamination known as diesel bug is something I was vaguely aware of.  Some water in the fuel tank is almost inevitable and forms a layer at the bottom of the tank.  Various organisms manage to make a living at the boundary.  The debris they leave behind should be caught by filters, but other action is needed.  It was difficult to hear on the train, but Gary later emailed some pictures and a list of suggested resolutions, including cutting holes in to the hull and fuel tank!

Fuel Bug.  The open fuel filler at the stern of a narrowboat has a plastic tube being removed from it.  The tube contains sampled fuel which is clouded with fluffy looking clumps.
Tank Dipping Showing Diesel Bug

In the following conversation it became obvious that Gary wasn’t going to be able to do a thorough job any time soon.  He has added some biocide which should stop things getting worse, and reseated and sealed the filler cap mount – a probable route for water ingress.  There is a wealth of opinion on how to deal with diesel bug.  For every opinion I have found, the exact opposite was also expressed – use an emulsifier, use a de-emulsifier, don’t use either, keep the tank as full as possible, keep the tank as empty as possible, etc. etc.

For now, we are going to keep our fingers crossed and hope the new filters fitted during the engine service will keep the engine clean.  We can hope to find a “fuel polishing” service in the coming weeks.  They would take all the diesel out of the tank, clean the tank and then return the filtered fuel.

Our return train and bus journey went smoothly but got us back after Gary’s closing time.  We found Bartimaeus moored up at a jaunty angle.  I could see several of the improvements from across the water.  Before I reached the boat I was distracted by two cygnets riding on their mother’s back.  All three swam over in the hope of food as soon as they saw me.

A side view of a narrowboat moored in a marina.  Beyond is a metal bridge to another part of the marina.  Moored boats can be see behind.
First View of Bartimaeus Improvements

The rules of the marina don’t permit us to stay on board, so before settling in we untied and reversed under the bridge and on to a handy section of towpath around the corner.  There was light rain while we were doing that.  Not long after, the rain turned to a torrential downpour – we were very glad not to have been caught in that!

Once inside I began to admire the improvements.  The original side hatch doors now have glazing in them.  This was something I had enquired about even before we bought Bartimaeus.  We’ve had a roller blind in place for over a year ready for this development.  Even in the rain, that bit of the cabin is much brighter, just as I had hoped.

Glazed side hatch.  The side doors of a narrowboat are closed.  About half the area of each door is a a double glazing unit.  The windows are surrounded by white painted wood with chrome fittings.  A hedge is visible through the rain spattered windows.
Glazed Side Hatch Doors from Inside

The next morning was still very wet.  I put the pram cover up because I knew there was still a little more work needed in the engine bay.  I was pleased to see another improvement working well.  We have had some new fittings put on the roof so that the unused poles for the cover can rest without blocking the hatch.  Once the cover was up again, I could appreciate the next improvement.  The top hatch used to have prongs for securing the life ring which caught the cover.  We moved the ring to the tiller last year and now the prongs have been removed.  A great improvement.

Top hatch.  The top hatch of a narrowboat seen from the top of the steps is in need of painting.  A grey area shows where work has been done.  There is a cover over the area, but the hatch can slide open under it.
Top Hatch De-pronged but Unpainted

When the rain seemed to have reduced in the afternoon, we drove the short distance back to the boatyard.  The unfinished job was replacing a fan in the engine compartment that was grumbling (other sources of grumbling are available).  The engineer is a lot more flexible than he appeared and promptly vanished into the engine bay.  He finished the swap and got back out again amazingly quickly, though he did have to pause on the way up to let his ears recalibrate to upright.

Engineer on board.  The cover is off the engine bay.   The leg of an engineer is astride the engine, but the rest of his body is largely obscured as he heads underneath the deck.
Engineer At Work Before Climbing Further In

The other piece of work was to the cover over the weed hatch.  A hinge had seized and then snapped off when I forced it open last year.  It now has new hinges and a neat undercoat.  I’ve also been shown that the whole thing can slide off sideways to allow the hinges to be greased occasionally.  In its previous state it tended to clang when stood on, which could happen repeatedly while driving.  That’s another thing not to grumble about.

Weed hatch cover.  The stern of a narrowboat has a small trap door like cover with a small notch to allow it to be lifted.  It is a very tight fit.  The hinges at the back are painted a slightly darker colour than the surrounding metal.
Weed Hatch Cover with New Hinges

It was only after the rain had gone away that I realised I hadn’t had a close-up look at the new side doors from outside. My assumptions about the quality of work I could expect from Gary and his team seem to have been justified.  the doors look as if they have always been there – just as I asked before purchase.

Side hatch.  The side doors of a narrowboat have windows that reflect a hedgerow.  The windows are about half of the surface area of each of the rectangular doors.
Side Hatch Doors with Windows

Activity outside attracted the swan family who repeated their previous welcome, this time for the camera, and were rewarded with scraps of lettuce.

Swan and cygnets.  Two cygnets swim close to their mother near the stern of a narrowboat.
The Welcoming Committee