This week is going to be an eventful one. The Duck is booked onto the slipway at 8am on Monday 26th; we have to get from here to March before then, with the added complications of working every day, three rowing outings, and getting Lyra to our land-dwelling friends who have arranged to cat-sit for the week.
Then we've got to hand over a list of work to Fox narrowboats, and depart to Devon by train for the week, as we can't stay on the boat whilst it's on the slipway. This is going to be a much needed holiday in the half-term week, and we've saved up what would have been an impossible amount to achieve when we were cruising last year to get the boat fixed, and ensure trouble-free cruising.
It's a little like the Spanish Inquisition sketch by Monty Python: "NOBODY knows the amount of work we're having done! Our main problem is the cooling system and prop-shaft... our TWO problems are cooling system, prop-shaft, and engine bearers.. our THREE main problems are cooling system, prop-shaft, engine bearers, and engine alignments... our FOUR- no, AMONGST our problems are such diverse elements as...."
But the first handicap is getting the boat to March in the first place. We plan to leave on Wednesday night, going up to Ely where we will spend the rest of the week, commuting in and out by train (and possibly doubling back to Little Thetford, or on to Queen Adelaide moorings, as that's more than the permitted 48 hours), before dropping Lyra off on Saturday morning, and heading up to Denver for the 10am tide on Sunday, and then travelling from Salter's Lode (with a £5 bet riding on the score I achieve steering the boat in...) to March on the Sunday, and celebrating with CHIPS in the evening, before having the boat hauled out on Monday. If their winch and tractors can cope with Kestrel and Pippin, the much-smallerDuck should be no problem- although Amy's collection of handbags and shoes makes the Duck much heavier than it looks...
Today, however, I tried turning the engine over to check it worked. I'm glad I did, because- having worked on the electrics several times since last moving the boat, changing all the batteries, and generally playing around, I can't get the engine to start. I'm sure it's an electrical problem, because there's only 0.24 volts showing at the ignition switch, on the alternator warning bulb and the oil pressure warning bulb, and the oil-pressure warning buzzer isn't sounding. The starter battery is, by the way, nearly fully charged- that was the first thing I checked!
I spent a good hour with the multimeter checking the ignition system out, but I can now hold my hands up and say it's beyond my competence to deal with it. I could take the whole system to bits, but I'm not sure I could put it back together again reliably enough to make it work!
Rather than calling in favours from friends and family, as we have in the past, we've decided to dip into the savings a little bit and join River and Canal Rescue, and call out an engineer to have a look. Big John on Pippin, Andrew Denny on Granny Buttons, and several other bloggers have nothing but praise for the organisation. We've got a very busy schedule this week, and so have decided that- although this is expensive- it's not as expensive as I had thought, being £150 for the timeframe and immediacy that we need, plus it should also give us great peace of mind in future.
This is the crux, really. We have to get the boat to March, at all costs, else we'll lose the slipway booking, and upset all these plans. In the short term, RCR's guarantee of help or a tow is just what we need. Plus, it means that, in future, if anything serious or minor goes wrong there's going to be massively experienced help only a phone call away, which is immensely reassuring! Combined with the repairs March are carrying out, it should help us enjoy stress-free cruising, compared to what we have had before, and so I will feel comfortable enough to take the Duck to Bill Fen, around the Middle Level, and ultimately onto the canals next summer for a holiday- something we've not really been able to consider yet.
We'll be able to use the Duck as a boat again, to cruise into Cambridge when we like, or up to Ely or further afield, with no worries. At the moment, she's a static houseboat- but, soon, that will all change.
And I'm certainly looking forwards to it!