Friday, 28 October 2016

A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a fuel pump??

Tuesday 18th October to Sunday 23rd October 2016

We prepared to leave Day’s Lock and everything was going well until the moment came to actually…well, go!
There was some spluttering coming from the engine bay, which sounded not at all good, and fortunately we were able to re-moor whilst one of us had a look below (oh, that would be me – after all the engine area is a designated blue job).

A few years ago, we had a problem when the engine wouldn’t start at all; luckily at the time we were moored with Paul and Elaine (nb Caxton as was) and Paul with all of his skills quickly diagnosed the problem that one of the wires to the fuel pump had come unstuck – with deftness he quickly re-inserted it.

Over the intervening time, my size 11’s have done a good job on a few occasions of pulling out one or both and I, being a quick learner, did exactly the same as Paul – re-inserted the problem leads.

This day, it was the same problem, but time has wearied the rubber grommet that held them in place so it took a little longer to get it going, but she eventually did the job and we were able to head off on our way.

Something should have said to me that it was about time to see about replacing the fuel pump and save the angst of a problem like this – someone should have just said exactly that – maybe they did and, as usual, I wasn’t listening to Diane.

The weir at Abingdon - just another lovely weir along the Thames
on a very nice day again.

Anyway, all was well and we cruised all the way to Abingdon and moored up just past the bridge on the eastern side – lovely mooring and in the wide open – it meant that if there was a wind we would be unprotected, but if there was sun then we were set; we had chosen this mooring in preference to those with rings before the bridge – there was to be some prophetic wisdom in that selection.

Abingdon was on the list of places that we wanted to see more of, before we exited from the Thames this year and so we took advantage of the couple of nights that we had planned on being here.
The market square

St. Nicholas' Church

Looking towards St Helens Church

One of the older pubs in Abingdon - right on the Thames

This is for Bev - who just loves chimneys

Friday arrived; Diane had plans to head to Oxford – I think she had Moules and Frites on her mind at the Old Bookbinders in Oxford; I had plans of still moving along; Ferndale – she had plans too, but none of them coincided with ours.
Engine started, everything ready; we pushed off to wind and get some diesel at Abingdon Marine – halfway around the engine splutters and dies – would not restart and we are drifting in the middle of the Thames – I knew what was wrong, so as I started to work on the electrical leads to the pump, Diane was doing her best to guide the boat to the side, which she did magnificently – in fact, so good, we ended up exactly where we had left, but facing the other way.

No matter what I did, the leads would not reconnect and let the pump do what it was meant to do; then whilst checking on the flow of diesel, I found none coming through – was there a blockage somewhere. Took every pipe section apart and could not find a blockage anywhere – what the hell!!
I knew that it had to be that the fuel pump was the problem – do you think we could find anyone anywhere on a Friday afternoon – it had taken 4 hours or so to check on everything; to phone around – places either closed; no fuel pumps; no engineers available – so no way of starting the engine – which of course means no power for the batteries; no power for the fridge/freezer; no hot water.

The only power that we were getting was from the solar panels, so our decision to moor where we did had paid off well - we were able to keep everything going.

Everyone says that the fuel pump is the heart of the engine and they were completely right.

Here we were with the list of possibilities fast dwindling and the likelihood of a delayed wait to fix the problem – it wasn’t that we didn’t know what the problem was, it was simply that we were not sure where we would/could find the replacement part.

So, with no chance of fixing it that day we settled down for a different sort of night – we still had the Reflecs giving us a warm boat, but that was a saving factor.

After a worrying night, when I thought that we could very well be here until Tuesday or even Wednesday, Diane suggested ringing Chris Jones (up north of Stoke) who has worked on the boat and he suggested a name of a guy he knew down here who might help – Chris, himself, had a fuel pump and we were tempted to hire a car and drive the 150 miles and buy it off him.

Anyway, we rang Chris’ contact – Clive Mant – and yes, he had a pump, was happy to bring it over before lunch; we had a chat and he left it with me to fit it in – pump in and fitted but it would not pump – ARRRRRGGGGHHH!

Rang Clive, he had another one – slightly different model – which he brought over and I swapped it over – Clive wasn’t leaving until we had it going – so, we knew it was working now – the characteristic “clicking” noise – but there was so much air in the line – we needed to bleed it everywhere – fuel filter; injectors; return line – after a half hour of all of this, we turned the engine over again and she caught and was running and running and running.

Oh yes!! Relief and joy!!

Afterwards it was easy to sit down again, but out of all of this you look back and see all of the things that you have now learnt to add to the pool of knowledge that you had acquired.

I do know one thing that if it had not been for Clive and his help, we might still be there.

So anyone in the Oxford area who needs someone who can help with boat problems then please give Clive Mant a call (0790 4031 758) – on top of it all he is such a really nice guy as well.

We are building up a list of good reliable people who can help when our knowledge is insufficient.

We stayed the night, but the engine did have a good 2 hour run whilst it was going and in the morning (now Sunday) we did finally fill with diesel and the cruised up to Oxford where we found a good mooring at East Street.

To celebrate all of this we walked along to The Old Bookbinders pub/restaurant for dinner and were rewarded yet again with their lovely crepes - we can highly recommend the entire menu.
Diane's was Ham, Cheese and Egg; mine was the Mexican crepe;
both were exceptionally nice
A better end to a bitter few days, which we celebrated with a lovely cup of tea.

PS: the pump that didn’t work – seems that it was my installing that caused the problem – it does work fine.
I feel exactly like this more and more

16 Miles, 6 Locks
YTD:  724 Miles (1165 km) , 403 Locks, 10 Tunnels, 14 Lift Bridges, 3 Swing Bridges
Total: 4519 Miles (7273 km), 3102 Locks, 122 Tunnels, 59 Lift Bridges, 170 Swing Bridges


  1. Well done, Diane, for getting the boat back to shore without power - that takes some doing! And well done, both for surviving the pumpless period without divorce-inducing tantrums - well, I assume not serious tantrums ...
    Good to know you are building up a coterie of good service people - we will keep a note of Clive's name and number. I spoke with Ed Shiers recently and he said he's done some work for you - he had seen my blogpost about meeting you.

    We are away home to NZ on Monday - for a rest, I reckon!

    Cheers, M&D

    1. There were no problems between us whilst we had the fuel pump problem - more serious was the initial time when we could not find a replacement.


  2. This comment came from Sue (No Problem XL) but somehow it has not been published correctly

    What a nightmare! So how many spares should we keep on our boats or maybe we should keep a whole spare engine!! Really glad to see you were safe at Abingdon.. Always better to be on the downside of a weir.. Well done for getting back into the side again Diane.. I see you have the T shirt but that didn't hinder you! x