(Boat Flamingo - posted by Alan)
(Retrospective post for 8th December 2016)
(Retrospective post for 8th December 2016)
The programme of works on Flamingo had proved to be quite extensive. The engine had been completely rebuilt from bottom up, with reground crank shaft and bearing shells, and cylinder bores and pistons had been replaced. Additionally other components such as the fuel injection pumps and injectors themselves had been checked and reconditioned as required. Additionally it had been found necessary to replace one of the gears in the reduction gear box.
The engine feet had been repaired, and part of the engine bed they stood on strengthened.
All the gear rodding and operating lever was completely replaced by new, and the speed control modified.
Simon and Dave stand guard to stop me thrashing rebuilt engine too much!
All the above was done at Brinklow Boat Services, but additionally (and crucially) the propeller had been sent away to FAL Propeller Services in Scotland to have major changes made to it's pitch - something we hoped would considerably improve performance of Flamingo, and particularly help with one of it's biggest issues - a failure to be able to stop it in a hurry, however urgent the requirement was!
Additionally I had rewired all the 12 volt electrics relating to do with anything connected to the engine, including starter motor, alternator and battery bank.
Other than running the engine whilst tied up, all the above was untested, and Simon and Dave at Brinklow both thought it sensible that Flamingo was taken out for a decent trial run before Cath and I were finally to take the boat away and back to it's home moorings. We were up at the boat, and readily agreed, as we were all too aware of just how much had been changed, (and also, of course, very keen to see how Flamingo now performed.
The boat yard is at the end of the Stretton Arm, once part of the original route of the Northern Oxford canal, but for many years now just an arm ending in a small basin. Progress is initially slow as you pick your way through the many moored boats, or crawl under the very silted bridge that passes under the mainline railway. Turning out of the arm past the breasted fleet of Rose Narrowboats is also a challenge, and I seem to recall I let one of the Brinklow team have the tiller at this point!
Simon at the tiller - Dave's watchful eye making sure engine is as expected.
Only when out onto the straight part of the main line was it possible to start to really assess performance, and the news was good. Flamingo was going along well, and the engine speed required to achieve this with the modified propeller was now very noticeably less than it had ever been in the past. Even more encouragingly, as you put the engine into gear, it was becoming noticeably loaded at low PRM, but very fortunately not over-loaded. We had agonised on what to ask the prop dimensions to be changed to, and it had looked like we could go as much as 25.25" x 22", (the latter 22" being the pitch). This was a huge change, which risked the engine being overloaded if the change was too big, so we had actually asked FAL to go to 25.25" x 21".
Now beyond theory and calculation, we were actually trialing our decision, and all agreed it was fine, but at the top end of what was sensible. We would have been OK at 20", (1" less pitch), but almost certainly over-propped at 22". A good result then, given we didn't want to have to pay to dock Flamingo yet again, and to send the propeller on another expensive return trip to Scotland.
Next of course was stopping, and yes Flamingo now stops very much better than it did. Make no mistake, it is still a big heavy boat, with a big heavy cabin conversion, equivalent to a working boat with maybe a third to a half of a full load on, so it still takes quite a lot of power to finally bring it to a halt, (certainly far more than our much lighter "Sickle" at only 40 feet long). However the improvement is considerable, and hopefully we will now be able to enter locks at a more normal speed and still manage to stop before the bow bashed the gates at the other end.
The original plan was just to go to the nearest winding hole, the entrance to another disused stub of the original canal route, but it was a nice day, and all agreed to do the considerably longer journey up to the entrance to Brinklow Marina, (which despite the name is a fair trip from Brinklow Boat Services). Again I somehow managed to not be at the tiller as we did the turn, but it is always interesting to see how well old hands at the game manage a boat that is unfamiliar to them.
All declared themselves satisfied, the engine putting in a faultless performance, and producing remarkably little smoke, given that the new pistons, rings and bores will need some time to fully bed in. Dave Ross seems to have done an excellent job on it. The new gear mechanism, (based on that in Dave's own boat), also worked without fault. The one thing we agreed they should do before we collected the boat, was to try to relocate the speed wheel mechanism back slightly, to make the wheel more accessible to the steerer. It had always been tucked a bit too far forward, and moving things back, if only by an inch or two, would make it easier to operate.