Monday, 30 January 2012

On Manoeuvres (5)

This is one of an occasional series of tips about manoeuvring a narrow-boat on the canals and rivers. There may be other ways to achieve the same result. However, this method has been devised by me and trial and error. (Trial and Error are two of my regular boating companions) Our boat is 50 feet long and has a keel depth of twenty five inches and weighs in at a tad over eighteen tons. The techniques described are intended to help new comers to boating.

If the steering becomes difficult and the tiller is wobbling and shaking much more than normal you may have something wrapped around the propeller or tiller. You may need to take steps to clear the blockage. First flick the propeller into reverse for two or three seconds at low power. Then go into forward again at low power. Do this forward and reverse change a few times. If the problem persists you may need to go down the weed hatch to remove the debris.

Going Down The Weed Hatch or Weed Box.

  • Remember its safety first everytime.
  • When going down the weed hatch you must always stop the engine.
  • You must always remove the key from the ignition.
  • Wherever possible moor up the boat.
  • Wash your hands and arms when you finish.

One of the unsung joys of boating is going down into the weed hatch. You will need to stand in the engine room to remove the weed hatch cover and to reach down into the water to feel around the propeller. Items that I have found wrapped round the propeller include jogging bottoms, a coat, a car tyre inner-tube, fishing line, rope, thick and thin wire, carrier bags, plastic sacks, a wet suit, a single wellington, a cushion, an overcoat and a balaclava (sometimes I have even found weed as well). You will always get several different items of debris whenever you pay a visit to the weed hatch. If you have the time, then try and clear all the debris. However if you are drifting along, just clear enough debris to let you restore power and control to the boat. Then move to a place where you can moor up and complete the task.

Pen knives and scissors are as much use as a chocolate fireguard and are no good for clearing debris from a propeller. You will need a good strong folding pruning saw, a good patio knife, hacksaw, pair of strong side cutter pliers and a short strong tapered steel bar (fire poker) in your armoury. You will also need a pair of fabric gloves which can be washed after use.

Folding Pruning Saw with clog free teeth which are sharpened on 3 sides. A comfortable ergonomically designed rubber grip and the blade folds into the handle for easy storage and blade protection. Blade Length: 6 to 8inches. If the blade is to small you will still struggle, if it is to large it will be hard to position correctly.

Patio Knife intended for removing moss and weeds from paved areas and patios will allow you to cut by pulling and twisting rather than sawing.

Side  cutter pliers are essential for cutting through wire and heavy duty fishing line. Old mattresses can create havock when they get entangled round the prop and tiller. When it comes to cutting metal side cutters are an essential tool in your armoury.

Low profile hacksaw can come in handy for cutting through items like shopping trolley baskets and bed springs. A hacksaw with a pointed profile is easier to manoeuvre around when working in the weed hatch.

A short steel bar with a pointed end, a bit like a poker used with a stove is useful for being able to leaver strong items into a position wher you can get your pliers or saw.

The last item is a Neodymium recovery magnet so that any metalic objects such as your weed hatch tools can be recovered from the canal. Last year when we were on the leeds liverpool canal we dropped our handcuff key into a lock. With the aid of the recovery magnet we recovered three keys including our own.  Cost is about £6 on eBay. A Neodymium recovery magnet will pick up objects -  up to around 20kgs in weight.

Tip: 1 Where possible add a small lanyard to your tools that you can pass around your wrist in case you should drop them.

After replacing the weed hatch cover and tightening back in place. You must check that it is seated and sealed properly. So before putting the engine covers back over the engine room. Stand clear of any moving parts. Start the engine, put the propeller into forward and give a short burst of speed, do the same in reverse. If everything looks to be watertight then you can set off again. After a quarter of an hour check again to see if there are any small leaks developing. If you run long enough with a leaking weed hatch you can soon flood the engine room.

Previous On Manoeuvres (1) (2) (3) (4)


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