“Why not take the flywheel off?”

Last Summer (2014), I spent many hours trawling the Internet to find replacement parts. I managed to procure: valves, shell bearings, piston rings, gaskets – all brand new in original 1940s/50s packaging. Not so lucky with the water coolant pump, so I combined the best bits from three used ones to build one perfectly good one.

Excellent, so far so good. Next step, crane out the engine and fit the parts. What could possibly go wrong?  Well, I naively assumed that the 250kg flywheel would easily come off after removing the giant woodruff key. The key, it turns out, is a sacrificial lump of soft steel that is not intended to come out easily, if at all. After much tugging and bashing, and colourful cursing the flywheel was partially off and ‘most of the key was removed’. Therein lies the problem. When the time came to refit the starter motor and coolant pump I discovered that the flywheel was not far enough back on the crank shaft for the ring gear to engage – and to make matters worse I had confidently craned the engine back into the boat! The moral of the story is, do not, if you can avoid it, remove the flywheel!

Winter put paid to further rebuilding,  but I’m preparing to resume over the Easter period as I’m off work for a couple of weeks. In the meantime, all the engine parts are stripped and repainted and the brass/copper bits polished. I admire this handywork every day as I stride over the parts scattered all over the floor of the boat!

Bow Thrusters

Rambler has a bow thruster; and why not? The boat is 60ft long and it’s sometimes difficult to turn in a basin when the wind is up. But when I use it, I often receive sneering comments suggesting that I am not a proper boater if I have to use the aid of a bow thruster. It doesn’t bother me, but I am curious to know how many people share this view? So please let me (and others) know what you think.

The Pace Sky Digibox and minidish is back

Due to the need to use my laptop for work I am forced to return to using the digibox and mindish, and I’ve dug out from the cupboard the Roadstar 10″ portable colour television. For years I have been watching Freeview TV on a laptop via my Freecom USB TV device. Most of the time this has been good enough in terms of picture quality and the range of channels available. But I have to concede that the quality of the picture using the satellite dish is absolutely perfect. The only down-side is the the far greater total wattage of the satellite package and subsequent consumption of battery amp-hours. The laptop used very little power. Still, I’m enjoying watching the Beijing Olympics in glorious quality. However, a few nights ago I watched the England v Czechoslovakia football match using the digibox but the quality was absolutely terrible (I mean, of course, the quality of the English football!!!)

Preparing to repaint the roof

Having completed the engine rebuild I’m now free to start working on repainting the narrowboat – all of it. To keep the cost down I’ve decided to do the preparation before I go in the dry dock. The roof seemed the obvious place to start as it is the area that’s most in need of repainting and it’s a relatively small area (approx 50′ long x approx 4′ wide).

So, armed with a compressor and DA (courtesy of friend, Alun) with a variety of wire brush attachments I set about removing the loose paint and patches of rust where the bare metal has been exposed. These areas are now smooth and clean but there is some pitting. I then applied Rylard Rust Konverta to the exposed metal. It does what the name suggests … it kills rust by converting it to good metal. I bought a 500ml bottle, enough to paint the entire roof area, but as I’m only using it on exposed metal I should have enough for the entire boat. Cost £13.00 (not cheap but essential)

Next task: Primer. Because there are some pitted areas I will use Primer Filler which I have bought in readiness for a dry day. Rylard Grey Primer Filler (32010) 2.5 litres. Cost £32.00 (definitely not cheap but necessary for a good smooth finish). I’m now waiting for a dry few hours to apply the primer which, I’m told, should be sufficient to cover the entire roof (I sincerely hope so!) Then I’ll sand the primer filler. I don’t yet know if I’ll then need to apply another coat of normal primer. Hopefully not, but I’ll know when I’ve finished sanding. More news as it’s made.

I’m choked! We omitted to check the exhaust.

At last, the engine is rebuilt; everything is in place and working correctly and both cylinders are firing in harmony. But she refuse to rev beyond tickover and she is still leaking smoke and fumes from the engine block. What could we have omitted to check? We pondered over this question for a few minutes before Stuart casually placed his hand over the exhaust and pointed out that there was hardly any pressure from the pipe. He then placed his hand on the air filter inlet and discovered that the air was blowing back. Eureka! The exhaust is blocked at the silencer and the engine is choked up. It must have been caused by me running the engine when it was labouring on one cylinder, ironically I was running it, often at high revs, to try to burn off what I assumed to be a build-up of coke. In effect I was compounding the problem.

Stuart, Alun and I made several attempts to clear the blockage – blasting it with air, flushing it with water, hitting it with a hammer – but none were successful. A new silencer was the only solution. Two days later the new box was installed. Thanks guys!

And that’s it. Approximately 18 months later (work was intermittent), due to the efforts of numerous helpful enthusiasts, the engine runs beautifully again. Finally, I can go cruising. Happy days! Next task: repaint the exterior.