A narrowboat renovation project by Nick Goodall.


Fuck up, 2, 3, 4

10th September 2023

Oh buoy…

This week was off to the races with preparing the front window: a final coat of primer for the outside, then the 3 coats of varnish on the interior-facing wood. And with that done, it was engine component collection time! The engine/cylinder head, the injectors; back in business:

Clean engine head Clean injectors

Lord only knows why I didn’t take them out of the bag for the big photoshoot.

With some jiggery pokery I finally got the water pump off that I had struggled with, and went to the chandlery for a replacement. I got back to the boat, and compared the old with the new… they were different. Confused, I went back to the chandlery asking what’s up; why was the casing different? Turns out, I had the wrong engine. All along I’ve had the wrong damn engine. It’s a 1.8 litre BMC, not 1.5. FOR ALL THESE YEARS I’VE ASSUMED 300 LESS CUBIC CENTIMETRES OF CYLINDER VOLUME?! This also meant a different head gasket, which I’d get the next day. Unbelievable, yet kinda exciting: THE POWER. Obviously the boat will move no faster, but imagine believing you’re 3 inches shorter than you actually are. Katona just got a confidence boost.

Wednesday started wonderfully with fixing the oil sump pump (the pieces weren’t even screwed together inside…), and then I called Bob Beck’s (the injector service place) just to make sure everything was fine, given I’d told them it was a different engine. Alas. The nozzles were indeed different between 1.5 and 1.8s, so I ventured back over to hand them in for a swap. Back at the boat I installed the glass pane in the front window:

Glass in front window

With that done and the sealant setting, I turned my focus back to the engine, getting it ready for the big assemble. Exciting. First off, mopping up the mess. The drip tray beneath the engine was 3 inches deep with black, oily sludge, and I remembered something my sister taught me about cleaning engine bays: nappies. Disposable nappies. A full bin liner later I could see the bottom, and then onto the old oil, which went rather smoothly with the working pump.

And finally… engines, assemble! Starting with the water pump, I cleaned the bolts, de-greased the area and tried it for size. It didn’t fit. Confuzzled once more, I looked at the old one and could see part of the edge had been ground away. Well, guess I’d do the same, and 10 minutes later with the angle grinder it was snug.

With the pump in place, I started tightening the nuts with a torque wrench, only it never clicked… and yet I kept going. That was my first mistake, and finally I fell forward as something gave way: I had sheared off one of the bolt heads, and one of the awkward, hard-to-reach ones, too… I don’t often get mad, but this was it: royally pissed. “Nick you absolute FUCKTARD” I heard someone say (weird, given I was alone).

The saving grace was about 4mm of thread sticking out, which I could try to shimmy with some WD-40 and mole grips. Grace was not saved; it was wedged.

The next 2 days were fruitless in removing the thread — I couldn’t get a drill around there, and trying to file a pilot hole for bolt extractors didn’t work — but I did install the front window:

Front window installed

A win!

Saturday was attempt #4 after picking up an angle chuck extension to drill in tight spaces, and it started so well. After drilling deep enough, I managed to grip the bolt extractor for about 10 seconds until I snapped it (like a moron (mistake number two)). Since then I’ve tried drilling it out many a time, but the drill bits have been too soft. Hardened steel, titanium… nada; I don’t know what this bolt extractor was made of but damn, so I am now waiting for the delivery of a fancy solid steel carbide drill bit before trying again. And that’s where we stand, a stuck bolt thread with part of a bolt extractor down the middle:

Water pump bolt thread

At this point you do just have to laugh, it’s ridiculous. I’ll get there, but this week felt like a plateau with negative engine progress. On the plus side, on Sunday (today!) I did seal the front window edges with silicone and froth some milk with the generator:

Generator milk foaming

Until next Sunday!

- Nick

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