Wednesday, August 16, 2023

De-Bugged? – We Hope So !

It has been a long time since we posted anything on this blog, so you may have thought that we have disappeared!  Well, we are not living on board any more, but we do get out on Zindagi for short trips from time to time.

Our most recent trip – just a few days in mid-July – was a most enjoyable time with Adam and Oli, with Dylan (3) and Erin (9 months), the youngest of our 4 grandchildren.  Showery Staffordshire was quite a relief for them from the relentless heat of Madrid!

But the recurring problem was that the engine kept losing power and cutting out, and then taking ages to re-start.  We managed our planned itinerary from Hatherton Marina to Tixall Wide and back, but it would have been even more enjoyable without the engine problems.

Back in April 2022, when Jeremy, Laura and Nathan had used the boat, they had experienced the same problem.  Jeremy changed the fuel filter and all had been OK for the rest of their trip.  Since then, in July last year, we had done the 'Staffordshire / Black Country Ring' with our friends David and Mary with no fuel problems at all.

Diesel bug?  Shouldn't have been, as we have always added the recommended dose of Marine 16's Diesel Bug Treatment whenever we have filled up with diesel.

But it seemed to be the likely problem, so I started looking online for remedies for 'water in the diesel' and 'diesel bug infection'.  Lots of very helpful information on Canal World and quite a few ideas on YouTube.  The best of these that I found was at , so I set out to copy Graham Keating's guidelines and build myself a simple DIY Diesel 'Polishing' system.  Thank you, Graham!!

Instead of spending £260 - odd on a genuine Racor filter, I found a cheap Chinese copy on eBay, together with a 12 volt 'Facet' style pump.  Then some flexible fuel line and various fittings to enable me to first draw off whatever watery sludge there might be lurking at the bottom of our fuel tank and then to connect to the Racor-style filter and pump.

Surprisingly little water came out.  I had feared perhaps 10 litres or even more, but about 2½ litres emerged from about 130 litres of fuel in the tank.  Time to connect the fuel polisher!  You can see the Filter, with the clear polycarbonate bowl below and the metal filter housing above.  The small black object is the Facet pump.  I just connected the inlet to the bottom of the diesel tank, ran the outlet into a plastic jerrycan and hooked the pump up to the battery.  The cut-off milk bottle underneath is to run off the collected water and sediment.

The pump started chugging away and it was gratifying (if a little worrying) to see a lot of water micro-droplets sinking to the bottom of the clear bowl and to find very nice clear diesel emerging from the filter.  The second photo shows the light-coloured 'water' layer below the clearer orange ('red') diesel.  It was even clearer after it had passed through the filter element above the bowl.

This was going to be a slow process.  The pump seemed to produce about one litre per minute and there were those 130 litres of diesel in the tank.  I didn't actually need to run every single drop through the system, but I did want to try to get at least the worst out of the bottom of the tank.  I did try gently rocking the boat to get the water layer to move around and get sucked up, and pouring the 'polished' diesel back into the tank will have helped to stir things up a bit.  I lost count of the number of times that I drained off the water layer.

So, a few hours later, pump still running and the water droplets were even smaller and fewer in number, so perhaps this was the moment to stop the polishing and try running the engine.  The idea was that any remaining gunge in the fuel pipework would get pulled through into the engine's fuel filter and then I could replace that and all should be well.

The engine started and ran quite well for several minutes, so that should have been enough to draw through any contaminants and I stopped it and changed the fuel filter.

But the engine would not re-start!  I tried using the priming pump on the top of the Beta Marine's fuel filter housing, but it seemed unable to spring back up and draw in fuel.  Did I now have a defective filter housing as well?  So I removed the new filter and dismantled the filter housing to check:  No, the priming pump was OK and the spring was working.  So there must be a blockage in the fuel line.

I then tried using the Facet pump to pull through fuel to the fuel filter feed.  No results!  Checked the line back from the fuel filter to the water separator – all clear!

Then the line from the separator to the tank – not really clear, but it flowed a bit, releasing quite a lot of dark-coloured particles.

Could there be a blockage in the water separator?  As far as I could remember, this was simply a metal bowl in which water droplets sank to the bottom and could be drawn off.  I had drawn off a little water from here in the very earliest part of my investigation.  But it seemed logical that there must be a blockage, so I dismantled it . . .

. . . to reveal this grotesquely clogged filter!  Hardly surprising that no fuel was getting through!  How on earth had ANY fuel got through for the last few days / weeks / months ?

It looked like I had found the true culprit, so I reassembled the water trap without any filter.  This was the first time that I had opened the water separator since the boat was built in 2007.  I had forgotten (if I ever knew) that there was a filter inside.  No doubt it said so in the small print – which I will have read 16 years ago!

So, after some more lengthy bleeding out of air in the fuel line, the engine re-started successfully and was its customary responsive self, accelerating and decelerating as normal.  With no filter in the water separator, any gunge was going straight to the engine's fuel filter, but I had already reckoned on that new filter element getting clogged up quite fast with bits from the fuel line, so that was OK as a temporary solution.  I had a few spare elements ready!

PROBLEM  SOLVED !!  Quite a saga, but our suspicions of a water / diesel bug problem were confirmed, quite a lot of watery stuff and general gunge had been extracted and I had made sure to add some more of Marine 16's Diesel Bug Treatment and some of their Diesel Fuel Complete as I had returned the polished fuel to the tank.

. . . and there's a bonus to finish with!  The only reason that I didn't throw away that ghastly clogged filter was that the marina's rubbish skips are only for domestic refuse, not for 'boaty' bits like used filters, so I took it home and emailed Beta Marine about buying a replacement.  They responded nice and quickly, quoting a price and also saying "These are serviceable, and can be reused by rinsing in clean Diesel."  Really?  Could I really wash such a clogged-up filter and re-use it?  Would a paper filter survive that?  BUT IT WASN'T A PAPER FILTER !  Rinsing in clean diesel and then scrubbing with an old toothbrush revealed that this filter is made of a fine wire mesh which cleaned up very well.  Not quite 'as new' but certainly undamaged and ready for several more years of service.  Thank you, Beta Marine!

And, of course, we now have a simple fuel polishing setup that we can use to help eliminate water and gunge from Zindagi's fuel system for the future . . .

Saturday, August 17, 2019

On VIC 32 North-East through the Great Glen

Boating with a difference!  No, we haven't taken Zindagi up to Scotland, but we have just had an amazing boat trip north-east from Fort William up to Inverness, via the Great Glen, including Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness – and out onto salt water at either end!

Here is the VIC 32 at 9.45 on Sunday night, 11th August, at Corpach Basin near Fort William.  We arrived in the afternoon and were welcomed on board, shown our cabin and given the first of a series of really excellent meals, as well as meeting the crew of 5 and our 7 fellow-passengers.

The boat is unique, so why not follow this link to find out more?  We really can't do justice to it here !

Out through the sea lock and full steam ahead out onto Loch Eil . . .

. . . with glass-like tranquility ahead

Heading back to Corpach and the summit of Ben Nevis makes a rare appearance!

Into the first lock from Corpach, heading towards the Banavie locks – 'Neptune's Staircase'.

Starting up the staircase . . .

. . . and moored at the top.  Locks are still locks, just like on the English system, but these are big locks, thick ropes on the boat and every lock is manned.

Ed the engineer, enthusiastically introducing his beloved steam engine.

The saloon at night.  The candles are still alight, but all seem to have gone to bed!

View for'ard from the wheelhouse . . .

. . . with Alan the skipper at the wheel.  

We were all encouraged to have a go at the wheel,

so here is Val having her turn on Loch Ness – concentrating!

Buffet lunch just waiting to be eaten.  Really fantastic food!

Jim (first mate) eating on deck, while Colin and Alistair (cooks) prepare the next meal.

The Bridge of Oich.  Interesting suspension bridge of unusual construction. 
More details.

Moored below Cullochy Lock, overnight Tuesday / Wednesday.

Then down Fort Augustus locks . . .

. . . and into Loch Ness, all 23 miles of it!  But you can't see the other end because of the curvature of the earth!

And so to the basin at Inverness on Thursday evening.

But that was not quite the end of our trip . . .

We steamed out from the Beauly Firth, under the A9 on the Kessock Bridge, and out into the Moray Firth, hoping to see some of their famous bottle-nosed dolphins.

Yes, we did see some, as did these dolphin-watchers on Chanonry Point, but they were just a too quick for the camera !

So, back to Inverness Basin in time for another excellent lunch, before boarding taxi and minibus to take us back to Corpach.

Farewell, VIC 32 and your wonderful crew, and all our fellow-passengers.

I wonder whether we may meet again?

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

First Trip from Hatherton

Having moved Zindagi to Hatherton Marina in early October, we knew that we would need to get up there again soon to prepare the boat for the colder months.  We also wanted to replace the old carpet, which had been down on the floor since the boat was built in early 2007!
As we came towards the end of November, it looked like there might be a few days of dry and sunny (if cold!) weather coming in the West Midlands, so perhaps there might be the chance of snatching a few days travelling . . .

First things first!  Taking up the old carpet was very easy.  Fitting the new one was a bit more tricky!

But the end result is not too bad!  Still a little tidying up and re-tensioning to be done on a subsequent visit, but a definite improvement on the old carpet.

So, what was the weather forecast like?  Could we manage a few days' cruising?  No rain in the West Midlands for about 4 days, pretty cold but bright and sunny.  We decided to have a go!

12 locks and about 15 miles in a generally northward direction would take us to Great Haywood, where the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal meets the Trent & Mersey Canal.  We went through Great Haywood Junction several times during our canal travelling years, and it was in fact the place we started from on our first-ever canal holiday back in 1976.

So, Tuesday 28th November saw us getting back into our old travelling routine:  Do the engine checks, take down the TV aerial and wind turbine, start the engine and cast off the moorings.  Oh yes, and don't forget to disconnect the mains power hook-up – one of the little luxuries of marina mooring! 

Then a couple of miles of chugging to reach Gailey, with its lock-keeper's lookout tower right next to the A5, where the lock allows the canal to dive 8ft 6in under Watling Street.  I know we went through one lock when we were taking Zindagi to Hatherton Marina, but that was Autherley Stop Lock, with a fall of only 6 inches.  Gailey Lock was a real lock at last!  We were beginning to feel more at home on the canals again.

Here we are again, in what looks like (and really is) a remote rural lock.  What you can't see or hear is the roar of the M6 just a few yards away!  Not to worry; the canal and motorway soon parted company, leaving us in peace again.  The contrast of old and new transport systems struck us when we first came this way 41 years ago.  

We still enjoy the 'slow lane'!

Amazing to think that these peaceful canals were the 'motorways' of their time, always bustling with working boats carrying payloads of all descriptions, and yet the simple architecture of the locks and bridges has been there all the time, with a beauty of their own.

Wednesday afternoon, and we reached Tixall Lock, the last on this short run, but the first lock we ever went through.  One of the staff from the hire company at Great Haywood had been there to help all the newcomers to boating and explain how to work a lock.  We have been through a few since then!

And so to the end of the outward journey, Tixall Wide.  A lovely lake west of Great Haywood Junction and the canal just opens out into it.  Was it widened to 'gentrify' the appearance of the working canal for the landed gentry in their nearby stately homes, or was it a natural lake which just happened to lie in the path of the canal?  Nobody seems to know for sure.

The light was fading in late afternoon, so we just took a broad sweep round in the Wide (no 3-point turns needed here!) and moored up for the night, pointing back the way we had come.

Thursday morning was crisp – and icy!  The Wide itself was pretty clear, but an approaching boat had to cut a path through the thin ice.  Very useful for us as we started on our return journey.

Still no rain and bright sun, but it was cold!  We had to do a little ice-breaking in some places but most of the work had been done for us.  More of a problem was steering into the brightness of the very low sun, especially as it was also reflecting off the water!  Val needed to approach the locks with even more care than usual, at times almost driving 'blind'!

And so back to Zindagi's new home at Hatherton by Friday lunchtime.  The gamble on the weather had paid off, we had had 4 very enjoyable days together, back on the canals again and feeling very much like old times.  Now we are looking forward to some more – and longer – explorations in 2018.  We already have an 'Explorer Cruise' booked with the Birmingham Canal Navigations Society (BCNS) in June and hopefully we shall be out on Zindagi  a few times before then.

If you want to follow our route, you can click on 'Where Zindagi Is Now' and then zoom out to see the map of the whole area.  Just follow the thin blue line of the canal as it snakes west and then vaguely northwards from Hatherton towards Great Haywood.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Zindagi Flies Again . . .

. . . twice in one day!

Yes, the time had come to move Zindagi back onto the main canal system, so we made arrangements for a lorry trip and a crane at each end of the journey.

We chugged away from our moorings at Orchard Farm on the afternoon of Monday 2nd October, and then moored a short distance away, at the Tiverton Road Bridge, the same place where we had the boat craned in almost exactly 3 years ago.

A night on board (first one for a while), in readiness for an early start on Tuesday morning.  We had Lottie, Adam's Rottweiler, staying with us while he was working overseas, so she came too.

The lift went smoothly.  Same crane operator and same driver as last time, but a novel way of attaching the boat to the lorry – very neat!
Then in the car and up to Hatherton Marina, Zindagi's new home mooring, where we left the car and got a lift from Dawn to her base at Industry Narrowboats near Stretton Aqueduct on the Shropshire Union, where we had arranged to have the boat craned in.
Not quite such a smooth craning-in!  It looked a bit scary at one point, when the boat was rocking around on the end of the chains, but in the end she was back in water, unscathed, and with only a few small things inside that had moved around!

Back on board with Lottie (though she fell in on the way!) and chugging southwards towards Autherley Junction, where the 'Shroppie' branches off the Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal.  We moored up for the night just a short distance from the junction and the 6 inch (!) stop lock.
Wednesday morning saw us going through our first lock in three years, then onto the 'Staffs & Worcs' and northeastwards up to Hatherton.  We have not been this way for several years, but it was amazing how familiar it seemed, as we often knew what was round the next corner!
Quite a tight fit to get Zindagi's 57 feet round to reverse into our mooring, especially as it was a fairly windy morning, but we managed OK, made it all secure and left her there in her new home, before taking Lottie back to Adam in Shrewsbury and setting off on our way.

No disrespects to the Grand Western Canal in Devon, but it was really great to be back on 'real canals' again.  We both felt as if we were back on our watery travels again, like old times.  No plans to do any long-term living on board, but we really hope to be able to get out for a few odd weeks, hopefully with a few friends to join us from time to time.