Small Victories

Yesterday morning I was a little anxious. We had now been sitting on the mooring for a lot more than the 24 hours described on the Environment Agency website.  On the other hand, the yellow board saying “Stream Increasing” was still up on the lock.  The website says that in those conditions, you are advised to find a safe mooring – which we have.  Presumably safety trumps other considerations. The water levels for the locks above and below us were all showing higher than they had been when we had arrived here, though they all seemed to show signs of having peaked.

Clare and I concluded that if the lock-keeper was prepared to let us stay, then that is what we’d do.  I went over to discuss things and had a very pleasant chat with a both the lock-keeper and a volunteer.  The lock-keeper said that if we weren’t in a hurry he would advise staying put for at least another day – that was a relief.

After I’d got back to the boat, I noticed (again) that the sink in the bathroom was draining slowly, but now I was in a frame of mind to resolve it.  It only took a few minutes to unscrew the U-bend, deposit the gunk in to the river and put it all together again.  I was ready for the next thing now.

After the shopping trip the previous day, I had thought that we might use the tandem again before we moved on.  So instead of splitting it and stowing it in its cupboard, I put it on the stern deck under the pram cover.  Seeing it there reminded me that I needed to do some maintenance.

Tandem stored on the stern deck of a narrowboat.  The tandem is too long to fit properly on the deck, so its rear wheel has been lifted on to the roof alongside the hatch.  The cover sits over the entire area so the tandem is still "inside".
Tandem Stowed Under the Pram Cover

Most tandems have at least two eccentrics – one on each saddle.  Ours has two more – the axles for the pedals are mounted in an oversized tube with a crescent moon insert that can be rotated.  This allows the chains to be tensioned – they inevitably stretch with continued use.  Having one of these at eye-level made me realise that I needed to adjust them.  In the past I have had difficulty getting them to move.  They are in the direct line for spray off the road and tend to become stuck.

The former Birmingham Screw Driver Company building.  A mural on the building depicts a hand wielding a large hammer.
Birmingham Screw Driver Company Building

We have frequently passed the Birmingham Screw Driver Company building on our way to and from Edinburgh.  I realised that I had my own version of this very versatile tool in the rear locker.  So with the tandem leaning strategically against a tree, I put the sharp end of a mooring spike in a suitable spot and tapped it with the mallet.  Amazingly it moved on the first tap.  Previously I have used a much smaller hammer, which is much harder to control while applying the same force.  It took no time to get both chains correctly tensioned.

Now I was on a roll.  Out of the cupboard came the oil change kit for the hub gears.  The tandem has 14 speed Rohloff gears – think Sturmey Archer on steroids.  The maintenance regime is an oil change every year (or 5000 miles if sooner – so every year then!).  I last changed the oil before we got on board – I was a bit distracted this time last year – so it was well overdue.  The quick bit of this job is squirting in the cleaning oil.

Tandem leaning on the flexible bridge to a floating jetty.  A man is squatting at the rear wheel doing maintenance.
Rohloff Oil Change in Progress

The slower bit is riding a mile in low gears to mix everything over all the internal surfaces.  The private road to the lock along the Shifford Lock Cut made that very pleasant.  I then left the oil to settle for half an hour before extracting the cleaning oil and adding fresh running oil.  Another job that I’ve been putting off – done!

While the tandem cupboard was empty, I also realised that I could remove a structure that had been put in to support the TV, so that was another step towards the eventual remodelling.

In my enthusiasm I remembered the unresolved problem of the radiator.  I had been told by the supplier that there should have been a separate package with appropriate brackets in it.  I’d asked them to send this to Edinburgh but heard no more.  I was on the point of sending them an annoyed email, but decided to check with Nye in Edinburgh first.  I’m very glad I did – we quickly identified what I was looking for.

Cardboard box containing a set of four radiator brackets.  They are designed to clamp on to the tubes at the back of the radiator.  The box also contains some massive screws and plugs.
Horizontal Radiator Brackets

It turns out these were dispatched on the day I first asked – excellent service, except they didn’t tell me they’d done so.  The original package also had those oversized screws and plugs.  If I was to use those on the inside wall of the boat there is a risk of piercing the hull.

The weather had been sunny most of the day, so the solar panels had generated 5.2KWh – another record.  At some point during the afternoon, the batteries had reached 100% charge too – everything seemed to be coming together!  I decided to squander some of that power on some hot water.  Getting a tankful of water to a suitable temperature takes about 1.5KWh – on sunny days that is well within our energy budget.

I’ve also realised that we are not using anything plugged in to the 240v system overnight.  Turning it off before we go to bed and on again at breakfast saves about 0.5KWh – that could become a regular plan.  The main disadvantage is that the clock on the oven needs to be reset – alternatively it can be ignored or even switched off.

Today the water levels were still dropping, but not much lower than they were when we arrived here.  We settled on staying for another day and cycled out to the shop in Aston for more provisions.

This afternoon an electrician came to look at the charging post.  He took it apart but found nothing wrong except that the RCD was very (over?) sensitive.  He tried plugging us back in again, and to everyone’s surprise the boat started charging.  Unfortunately this was just the effect of an expert being present.  After twenty minutes it cut out again and wouldn’t restart.  Oh well, we got an extra 1KWh while it lasted.