The need for a pump out was our most urgent need today. So much so that I walked to the boater’s facilities at Cropredy to use the toilet, before breakfast. Ahead of us was a marina that only does pumpouts on Fridays. Behind us was the marina that we had looked at yesterday. Not only was the office shut then, but the pump out machine had a sign saying, “Out of Order Do Not Use” on it. Still we thought the marina would be likely try to maintain its pump out facility and it was a long way back through a lot of locks to the one that had been closed Sundays and Monday, so we had to try it. We could either go through a lock, turn at the winding hole, back through the lock and on to the marina, or reverse to the marina. Shane reckoned reversing would be quicker. This is notoriously hard in a narrow boat but the bow thruster makes it easier, but I wasn’t about to attempt it. There was also a very narrow section to go through. Shane manoeuvred through that easily enough but on the other side a shallow bit made steering much harder and it took a while to get us pointing the right direction again. There wasn’t anything I needed to do to help so I was able to be distracted by the appearance of a green lacewing.

Green lacewing and reflected chains

At the marina we saw a man crouched beside the pump out with a tool box open and his sleeves rolled up. We thought we would ask if he thought it was fixable. He told us he didn’t yet know what was wrong and was still dismantling it. We thought we would wait and see whether it required a part from Germany or was irreparable or an easy fix.

Partially dismantled pump

It was interesting to see the guts of the machine, though I didn’t envy him the task. His wife was the marina manager and he was an engineer so a very handy man indeed. He was chirpy and full of friendly banter throughout and joked that this was the result of not listening in school. I had listened in school (that was called being a “sook” or “souk”) but they certainly didn’t teach you this. I did learn about clearing a u-bend in home economics and how not to block it. There was considerable chat about things that block or break the pump.

I was interested to see the pump included a cog and chain mechanism, just like a bike. It wasn’t long before he found the source of the problem. The diaphragm that was the main suction was sliced through, possibly a razor blade. It was a brand new diaphragm he’d only recently fitted.We thought that might mean ordering a part but  in fact he had a spare and went to get it. 

Diaphragm cut “clean” through

He had it reassembled in a jiffy and while the normal procedure would be to pay for a token at the office and then start the operation, he just handed Shane the nozzle to test run the pump. He felt it would not last long as the metal behind was also damaged and could not be fixed. It worked perfectly for our tank. Another boat had come along but seemed a lot less sure of what to do. I left the manager explaining procedure to them while I went to the office to ask for diesel and explain that we had already had a token free pumpout. The woman at the office came along to give us diesel, chatting to the ducks who like to follow her, on the way. We passed the manager and her husband and another marina staff member warning us to keep our distance from the other boat as they were not sure they were having great success with the pump out and phrases like “blow back” and “chocolate fountain” were being bandied about. I was reminded of the “moothie” verse in the Singing Kettle “Music Man” song “Sook ‘n’ sook ‘n’ sook ‘n’ blaw, sook ‘n’ blaw, sook ‘n’ blaw”. We were lucky it only “sooked” for us. Still it looked calm enough when we got there. The pump was no longer in use but still chugging away.

The woman was chatty as she filled us up with diesel and had spotted a Scottish accent (I hadn’t even mentioned the “sook ‘n’ blaw” lyrics to her at all) . All the staff were very friendly, and there was no charge for our pump out.

We headed back to Cropredy, through the lock with poetry plaques with a poem about the bridge. In a slightly Arabic way the plaques are going backwards rather than the usual left to right direction. Then through the bridge iself to the facilities area and filled up with water. All tanks suitably serviced we moored up and went in search of lunch. We tried the cafe Shane had hoped for yesterday, The Mulberry Cafe, but it was still closed, so we headed to the canal side “Saucy Hound” and had a spicy lunch with tasty sauce that matched the Moroccan theme of the “Souk” alongside, selling artwork, bric-a-brac, hand made rugs and painted notices in French and Arabic. There was also a jaunty flag.

Flag at the entrance to the mini Souk

There were a few more well spaced locks through the afternoon. We moored beside the park as we worried it might be too busy further I to town. There are plenty of moorings but also plenty of boats. Shane had a stroll in and found another set of poetry plaques, but not the nursery rhyme Banbury is famous for – more on that story later.

Flow poem