It was my birthday on Wednesday and it was planned to be a very special day. My younger son Martin had joined us on the narrowboat, we had a lovely cruise expected through Stoke on Trent from the lake at Westport down to the village of Barlaston, where we would have dinner in the pub owned by actor Neil Morrisey. It should have been perfect.
About an hour after we set off, the engine suddenly cut out and smoke started to appear around the boards above the engine bay. The picture does not really show how bad it was – when I took the boards up I could not even see the engine for smoke. Taking photographs was the last thing on my mind.
Fortunately there were no flames and nothing was alight but the oil cap had blown off, everything was massively hot, and we were stuck, next to a recycling centre in not the best part of Stoke. And of course, a three hour thunderstorm had just begun.
Even more fortunately we recently renewed our membership of River Canal Rescue (RCR), which is like a car recovery service for boats. I called them and told them my engine had blown up. They calmed me down and convinced me that was not the case, and within 30 minutes they had an engineer with me at the boat.
It took some diagnosis but we eventually realised what had happened. Through simple wear and tear, the bearings in the engine water pump had begun to fail, and caused a vibration. That had “thrown” the drive belt off, which meant that the engine was no longer operating the water pump, and so the engine was no longer being cooled, and simply got hotter and hotter till eventually it boiled off the coolant and everything gave up.
This could have been a massive issue, The cylinder head might have seized, or a major gasket blown. But when it all cooled down and we turned the engine on, everything still worked.
So we moored up properly, RCR ordered a new water pump, and found a local engineer who could fit it the following morning. It did take a lot of work with a mallet and a crowbar to get the old pump off, but by 1130 the following morning we were all fixed and on our way.
So what have I learnt? Nothing new but some lessons reinforced.
- Living on a narrowboat s**t happens. It will be OK. Get over it.
- Expert help is invaluable, even just to reassure. Well worth paying for,
- Planning is great, but the unexpected is always just around the corner.
So what about my birthday? Well using taxis we still had that delicious meal. And we have planned an alternative birthday on Sunday, when we should be moored in a marina, with access to a car. That should be a very special day. And I do not regret my birthday. It was an adventure. Retirement is all about adventures,.