Why do things always break down on a narrowboat?

Back on the boat. Back to problems. When you live on a narrowboat, there are always problems. Always something to fix, always something not quite right. And at the start of a season this is even more true. We have had a lot of work done on the boat over winter and there are snags with the new equipment. And the old equipment has had a winter of frosts and no love, so is playing up.

I am writing this early in the morning after a difficult night when our 240v electricity stopped working, and our water pump would not turn off. The diesel heater will now not come on, and the engine will not start. My fancy new inverter/charger bluetooth app says that the batteries are fine, but the “low battery” light is on and the 240v system will not work. We can’t use the toilet or the taps while the pump is off. Aaaaaargh!

We had planned to set off from the marina this morning, but that won’t be happening till we get fixed. This is where we have to change our attitude back to living on a narrowboat. If we don’t move today, it does not matter. We are retired. We have time. And everything will get fixed. I should count my blessings that we are still in the marina where there are engineers, and we can get work done. And it will be a learning experience. I will find out what broke so that next time I may be able to fix it myself.

And it is a lovely morning. The sun is bright, and the mist is rising off the water. I think it is going to be a wonderful day.

Five reasons that a breakdown can be a good thing

Our narrowboat broke down again this week. You may remember it overheated when we were in Scotland. This time the alternator belt shredded when we were just south of Wigan. We could have been frustrated or angry. It spoilt our plans, and some people had told us it was not safe to moor near Wigan overnight. But instead we chose to make the best of it, and I have five reasons that the breakdown was a good thing for our retirement adventure…

  1. We met Harry. We had called out River Canal Rescue but unfortunately they did not have the right size belt. Harry was passing on the towpath and offered to help. He fixed the belt with insulation tape and refitted it so that we could get a few hundred yards down the canal to a much safer mooring with other boats. I love the folk we meet on the canal.
  2. We learnt that we should always carry a spare belt. The original one is now replaced, but I will order a second as soon as I can find the part number!
  3. It reminded us that as a 19th Century Prussian general once said “No plan survives contact with the enemy”. As a result we have had a more relaxed week, for instance traversing the Runcorn arm of the Bridgewater canal, which was not in our original plan and was beautiful.
  4. We now know the sound of a slipping belt, so that if it happens again we can be prepared.
  5. It explains our Scottish overheating. The theory that it was a failing thermostat never quite convinced me, especially when it overheated again last week, with no thermostat installed. But the alternator belt also drives the coolant pump, so when it was slipping there was no pump.

Every day is a school day, and that applies equally in retirement as at work. How was your week? Did you breakdown too?

Starting the adventure – part 1

After several years of dreaming, several months of preparing, our narrowboat adventure has fully begun. We left the Kelpies a week and a half ago, and after a couple of days on the Union canal towards Edinburgh, we set off along the Forth & Clyde to Glasgow and the Clyde.

What was meant to be a two day trip actually took four. Our engine overheated and went bang with lots of smoke. We had to stop and call out River Canal rescue who removed a possibly faulty thermostat, probably exacerbated by the vast amount of weed in this canal that has not been used by boats for two years. Then when we could get going again, two lift bridges at Clydebank broke down, and the only automated drop lock in the world stopped working when we were in the middle of it. A drop lock is where you drop down in the lock to go under a road and then come up the lock on the other side. A marvellous piece of engineering – when it works!

So we are now at Bowling – a marina at the end of the canal. Since we arrived here our batteries have drained too fast because the solar panels appear to be faulty, and we were using too much electricity. We are having to run the engines for several hours each day to provide power. Then our bathroom sink started leaking, soaking everything underneath it. A quick trip to a caravan parts shop in Glasgow, and some very dodgy plumbing from me appears to have fixed it for now.

On Sunday we plan to take our most perilous journey, an hour on the wide tidal Clyde river, up to Dumbarton Sandpoint where we will wait till Tuesday and then be lifted out by crane onto a lorry to travel down to the English canal network for the rest of the year. My fingers are crossed. If there is no blog next week you will know why.

What have I learnt this week? A reminder that in narrowboating, patience is everything. If something can go wrong, it probably will, and there is no point in getting upset. Better to relax and enjoy the moment.

Have a great week.
Pete