This had been planned a couple of weeks ago. I was due to do a boat test today, Adrian was going to work from the boat (probably moving down to Cosgrove where there's a decent BT wifi hotspot), and then we'd go to Braunston for the rally tomorrow. But my boat test was postponed, and Adrian needed to go to a funeral near Belfast today. It turned out that by far the best air fares to Belfast were from Birmingham, so this morning he was up before 6am, a drove in my car to the airport. I was due to have a pretty lazy day doing not very much, especially if it was going to rain all day like the forecast said.
But when I got up this morning (having gone back to sleep once the shower pump had stopped), I discovered that the loo wasn't flushing. Boaters will probably find the next few paragraphs fascinating; non-boaters should probably skip them; and potential boaters should read on to discover what boat owenership is really like. I tried the usual thing of massaging the big black pipe at the back of the loo, but that didn't have any effect. The motor was making a rattling noise, and I was a bit concerned that the impeller might have disintegrated or something. I had breakfast while I thought about what to do.
Access to the loo workings isn't easy. I didn't want to have to unscrew it from the floor, so you have to go in through the dinette. This means taking out the big drawer, and laying on the floor with your head in drawer space. I took down the table and moved the dinette cushions to give a bit more light.
I tried phoning a few local boat yards, but the first few didn't have any suggestions. Then I spoke to a helpful chap at Grand Junction up at Gayton. From what was happening, he thought a blockage was more likely than a motor problem, as the motor still appeared to be working (it just wasn't having any effect). He was willing to have a look, but it's a journey of at least four hours, and has the Stoke Bruerne flight en route, so I really wanted to sort it out myself.
Then the marina pump out tractor turned up. I usually don't like using it, because it's a bit too powerful. That sounds odd, as you normally want a thorough pump out, but when you can hear the tank flexing, and even the water in the loo is sucked away, that seems like a step too far. However, this morning, I was quite keen for the loo to be sucked dry. The marina owner, Roy, did his stuff with the machine, but it had no effect on the loo. This was more evidence that there was probably a blockage.
Back laying on the floor, I found that getting access to the main part of the macerater was impossible. So I decided to undo one of the few jubilee clips that was accessible. I prepared by cutting in half a five litre battery top up water container, to catch whatever came out of the pipe. This was largely successful (although there was one mis-hap, the details of which I'll spare you). Miraculously, it appeared to be where the blockage was, too.
I'm trying to remember if we put some lemon juice down the loo before leaving last time. Because the blockage appeared to be mostly large bits of scale which had come free, and failed to get through the smallest part of the pipe -- and had then stopped everything else getting through too. Removing it was a pretty unpleasant job, but at least once everything was back together it worked. It sounded normal, and the flush flushed.
After all that I thought I deserved to go out somewhere. Wolverton seemed the obvious choice, as I needed something for lunch, and I also wanted to get some decent disinfectant to give the whole area a scrub. What's more, the promised showers hadn't arrived -- in fact, it was sunny.
It was about 11.30 when I set off. Cosgrove lock needed to be turned, and I met two boats who waited while I crossed the iron trunk aqueduct. Just before Wolverton it began to rain, but only lightly. I moored up on the first rings, and it now being 1pm, went to Tesco for shopping. After lunch I donned the disposable gloves again, got the disinfectant out, got back on the floor, and did some serious scrubbing. With the sun now beating down, I then went on and washed the towpath side of the boat.
At about 4pm I set off again in warm sunshine, heading for the winding hole at New Bradwell. I even took a photo of a nondescript bit of canal to show just how sunny it was.
I turned without fuss and retraced my steps, passing through Wolverton heading for the aqueduct and Cosgrove. Shortly after Wolverton, it began to rain. It was gentle at first, then torrential. As I approached the aqueduct there was a bright flash of lightening followed very closely by a loud clap of thunder. It had gone incredibly dark, yet looking back towards The Galleon pub, there wa still blue sky.
Crossing the aqueduct, the rain was coming down in stair rods.
By the time I'd crept past all the moored boats and reached the lock I was soaked -- only marginally drier, I reckoned, than if I'd fallen in. The rain eased off while I worked the lock, and I bow hauled the boat out. I'd just shut the gate and set off when a boat came round the corner to go down. The steerer asked me if I'd been waiting in the lock to dodge the rain. Did it look as if I'd dodged the rain? No, I looked like a drowned rat.
By now the rain had pretty much stopped. I was hoping the mooring right by the bridge at Cosgrove was free, because of the BT wifi. I slowly edged round the corner to have a look, and saw there was a boat on it. It meant I had to reverse a couple of boat lengths back round the corner to an available space. The BT wifi is too weak to be of any use here, but i've got a nice view of Cosgrove church instead. Not long after mooring up, the sun was out again. I needed a change of clothes and a shower.
Adrian is flying back tonight, but will be back quite late. Tomorrow, we'll drive over to Braunston to have a look at the old boats, and with luck meet up with some old friends.
6 miles, 2 locks.