Well she's still not quite finished, but she is now over on her proper mooring and in a useable state of completion. There are still a few odds and ends to finish off and some painting to be done.
Tony & Angela from Ricochet, myself and Valerie took her out for the first time on Bank holiday Monday 2nd May. We only went about two miles from base as far as the flood lock on the Trent downstream from Shardlow. All went well with no major problems apart from the weed hatch seal taking some water, this was soon rectified the next day with some self adhesive foam strip. She was back on her mooring after a couple of hours and I started checking her over for problems, all seemed to be fine, but as you will read later, all wasn't fine.
My eldest Daughter Amanda came to stay on Tuesday to relax for a few days, unfortunately it didn't start or end up very relaxing, but we had a good time in-between.
Amanda set of from home in Hanworth (near Heathrow) on Tuesday all went well until the car broke down on the M25 just before the M1 turn off, Amanda managed to get it off the Motorway into a pub car park, and I set off to rescue her, four hours later we were back on the boat, too late and too tired to set off on a voyage, so we ate and went to bed.
Wednesday morning we got up had breakfast, cast off and left Shardlow marina at 9am, on reaching the first flood lock things started to get exciting, the lock is 14ft and in a 14ft cut under a low bridge, the boat is 12ft, from the helm you can't see anything except the top of the bulwark capping right at the bows, and past 4ft from the wheelhouse you can't see the sides, so Amanda stood on the bows signalling port or starboard as we entered the cut, she had to do this on several other occasions during the voyage. This was when we started to worry about the bridge, the wheelhouse and the mast were down, but we still only cleared the bridge with the TV aerial which is mounted on the front of the mast (see picture) by about an inch and a half. Also it was quite breezy and at speeds of under two knots I found that the wind was stronger than the helm, fortunately not stronger than the bow thruster, which got us out of trouble on more than a few occasions. On reaching the second lock we discovered it was a powered lock, and there was no keeper, and guess what? We didn't have a BWB key, fortunately another boater let us through. From there on to Beeston marina all went smoothly with Amanda's hand signals and missing all low bridges by between one and two inches. At Beeston we moored up so I could buy a BWB key, it was after we moored up and switched off we noticed the smell of hot oil. On opening the engine room hatch the smell got stronger, on climbing in it was a skating rink, there was hydraulic oil everywhere. The company that fitted the hydraulics had forgotten to tighten up the leak line on the pump and this had been delivering a slow but steady supply of oil which was right above the spinning propeller shaft, you can guess the mess this made. One phone call to Ricochet and within fifteen minutes Roger was on the scene with his trusty adjustable spanner, armed with that and two rolls of our kitchen towel the problem was sorted, and with our new BWB key we were underway again.
As you approach Nottingham the channel is quite narrow with boats moored on either side, so I cut the speed down to three knots, up to this point we had no problem with wash as she cuts through the water quite cleanly with next to no bow wave or wake. What she does do however is produce a huge amount of suction at the bows, as we looked at the bank about level with the bow, the water was drawn back away from the bank at an alarming rate as we passed, this sucked ducks, boats and anything else that was floating around back towards us and way from the bank, to stop this happening we had to cut the speed down to two knots, which made bow thruster use essential as the helm is somewhat lazy at these speeds.
Then came the funny, and for a first voyage, scary part. On reaching the lock in Nottingham beyond Nottingham Castle marina, we entered and emptied the lock, it was then I realised that the TV aerial wasn't going to fit under the iron road bridge right after the lock. As I didn't have the required tools to remove it without damage, I decided to terminate the outbound trip there and return. So we refilled the lock and reversed out, this was when it became clear that the channel was too narrow to turn round in, so I had to reverse about half a mile back to Nottingham Castle marina and use the entrance to turn round. In a breeze and at slow speed backward the rudder did very little, and certainly nothing predictable, so I left it straight and steered her with the bow thruster. Having turned round we headed home, the trip back was quite relaxing as we new what to expect, and we had our BWB key to get through the powered lock. By the time we were past the flood lock below Shardlow it was quite dark, so the mast went up and the navigation lights got there first use. We moored her, raised the wheel house, made a cup of coffee and had a laugh about the days events, then went to bed. So ended the Iron Dutchess' first voyage.
The next day we spent at the Zoo. On Friday I drove Amanda back to her car and checked it out. The head gasket was blowing into the water jacket pressurising and emptying the system in minutes, so I hitched it to the back of the van and towed her home. Arriving back aboard in Shardlow at nine thirty for coffee and bed.
So ended quite an eventful and busy few days. All in all apart from a few hiccups, a success I think. Just need to move that damn Aerial.