A narrowboat renovation project by Nick Goodall.

Wedged and wedged again

17th December 2023

Happy Sunday, the week before Christmas! I am Stratford-bound and writing to you from a lock, well-and-truly wedged. But let’s back up.

Two-and-a-half weeks ago I set out westward, and something happened when I thought “Ooh, this is blog-worthy.” I started the engine and set off one morning, but after speeding up I couldn’t slow down. The throttle was stuck; I had to manually pull it back on the engine itself, both going forwards and in reverse.

Confused, I remembered something my sister told me years ago: follow the wire. To figure out systems like this — engines, plumbing, wiring — follow the pipe, follow the wire, to see where it goes (this applies to programming as well). From the engine to the pillar holding the thottle lever, I ran my hand along the wire and, well, part of it was melted. Specifically, the part resting on the diesel heater exhaust. Fucktard Nick strikes again!

Throttle cable

Laughing, I took a knife to strip it back. The cable was inside plastic inside more cable with an outer plastic sheath — lots to melt, and you can see the outer layers above. After cutting away the melty parts it was good as new, with some duck tape for “protection.” Future Nick can deal with replacing that, as a treat.

Anyway, progress! The weekends since have been whittling down those 82 locks, sometimes in the dark:

Marina at night

And a pumpkin patch!

Pumpkin patch

And then, Friday… On my 3rd lock of the afternoon, as the light was fading, I wedged ol’ Katona between a lock and the gate. A nearby boater heard my engine and helped in the dark, but full throttle either way and “flooding” the lock with water from above, nothing worked. The next morning we tried again, and I called the Canal & River Trust (CRT) for the first time in 3½ years to report my boat-shaped blockage. An hour later Mike came along, unfortunately under-equipped to get the boat moving. Hmmf.

Boat-shaped blockage

By this time Dad was there; we kept trying, and… snap? Crackle? POP?! With Dad on the forward roof trying to unwedge things, something gave way and we were free! Getting the boat out was that wonderful feeling of excitiment and disbelief, it worked! The rest of the day was uneventful smooth-sailing, cruising south through 11 more locks.

And that brings me to the here and now, after another day of 9 locks. I am once again spending the night with the sound of gushing water, wedged in the lock unable to move. Whereas yesterday the boat was stuck on the gate, this time it’s the walls holding tight, like the trash compactor in Star Wars.

I called CRT for the second time in two days, and on this here Sunday evening two lovely guys showed up to assess. Unfortunately there wasn’t much to do, and I’d tried the tricks already, so that’s where we float: wedged, with a narrowboat too wide (or a lock too small?).

Tomorrow I’ll have another crack, and the CRT may send a crew out, otherwise I’ll have to call the specialists in dealing with these kerfuffles: the River Canal Rescue. Either way, the one thing I’m hoping for is that everything will go forward. I have a marina to get to!

And in other exciting news, I took the boat over a railway today:

Railway aqueduct

Happy Sunday!

- Nick

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