... which is not to say I wouldn't like to be able to use the boat's engine and move around from time to time. In the three and a half years I've been on this boat I have had a total of about forty hours travelling. If I've done the sums correctly this amounts to 0.1% of my use of this boat has been to travel. This is not to do with idleness on my part nor indeed a lack of desire nor, sadly, of being overworked with paid employment. My confinement has mostly been the result of engine problems. Most of the problems have involved the spillage of various liquids into the bilge. Being the least likely mechanic in the world I have been stuck. Attempts to follow the logic of each system have eluded me, although I now know the names of a few of the thingamijigs under the boards in the engine bay.
Unsupported attempts to fix things have, in my experience, generally made them worse. Before I was introduced to the mechanic I had stayed put for two years. At least, with the mechanic's help I felt that I was gradually working through the problems. The only two trips I have taken of any substance occurred over the past couple of months. Not one of my attempts to travel has been problem free. On the first few trips along the river, I had a recurring problem with the engine overheating. Occasionally I had to pull over and moor up in an even more remote place than my own mooring to allow the engine to cool down sufficiently to add more coolant which would always end up in the engine tray. With the mechanic's help I replaced the thermostat, the cylinder head gasket, any number of hoses, clips and pipes. I went through gallons of antifreeze and replaced the coolant cap with one requiring a lower pressure. Who knew that the caps on engine cooling systems come in different ratings? A little knowledge is said to be a dangerous thing. I don't even feel I know what I don't know.
I thought I was getting to the end of the problems. After all the fuel leaks we have managed to fix I have found fuel leaking and now suspect the fuel tank may have a small rupture near the outlet pipe taking fuel into the engine. That might account for the fifty odd pounds worth of diesel that was swilling around in the engine tray after my last trip which was the only time I have ever filled the tank. I filled the tank because I thought we had cured all the leaks. Each time I take the boat out, another problem reveals itself. Sadly, the engineer is still unwell. He looks like being out of commission for a while longer, so today I decided to take matters into my own hands. Over the weekend I had reached the end of my list of jobs to do apart from some painting, and the engine problem. Optional jobs, such as writing blog entries and working on updating my websites, are lower down the list of priorities and to be avoided if possible. This morning I have put a second coat of primer on the rust spots I have been treating. Then I noticed more rust bubbling through. I took the scraper to the paint and uncovered another large area of rust on the roof. So the process begins again with the new rust. I have decided that however bad one suspects a rust problem to be, it will always be worse. Even my books for the current financial year's accounts are up to date. I must be desperate to avoid putting my head back in the engine bay.
I took up the boards that cover the engine and lifted the cover on the rear deck on my trad style narrowboat. I felt around the pipes to and from the fuel tank and found what I thought was the leak. The last time I tried to fix this by tightening a nut I crushed an o-ring and made the problem worse, much worse. This time I needed to be more careful. However, I couldn't find a way of being sure I was dealing with the problem without risking making it worse again. That is when I made THE DECISION. After all this time I would take the boat to the boat yard and have them take care of it. Expensive I am sure, but these problems are beginning to get me down. I should be out on the river and exploring. I am embarrassed that I have yet to go any further than a distance that would take me thirty minutes in the van. Why else have a boat?
I didn't think the leak was as bad as before and that I would be losing as much fuel as previously. I could do the ninety-minute trip on the fuel I had left. Then I looked in the engine tray and decided that what was in there didn't look like it was only diesel. I took the cap off the heat exchanger and there was no coolant visible! I could not believe I was back to square one. After almost bursting into tears of frustration I filled a five-litre bottle with water from the standpipe in the farmyard and three litres of water went into the cooling system. I don't think we are likely to get a freeze today, so I shall forego the antifreeze. I thought it might be handy to fire up the engine and see if I can find the cause of the coolant leak. Ignition, glow plugs, starter button ... NOTHING! My engine that always fires first time did not even turn over. Not even a snidey click from the starter motor. Just silence. The engineer would know immediately what to do. I am guessing a wire has come loose somewhere, but what on earth (maybe literally) would I attach it to if I found it? A little knowledge is a hell of a frustration and I despite what I have learned from the engineer I still seem to have such little knowledge.
In less than a week I'll be embarking on my seventh decade. Is sixty too old to take a course in basic diesel engine mechanics and electrics?