Yearly Archives: 2020

caraboat helter skelter

caraboat helter skelter

short history of the caraboat

caraboat 1973The Caraboat was a clever invention of a Mr Tom Carr who made them for a short time between 1971 and 1973 in Sutton -in- Ashfield Notts.

The Cathedral Hull was designed by John Askham a Naval Architect and featured an internal jet drive and engine when in the water.

The internal towing frame includes a fold up hitch for connecting to the towing vehicle leaving only the wheels, hubs and Indespension units immersed in the water.

The original fitout included a galley, wardrobe, toilet compartment, four berths and a steering position on the front port side.

Priced at £1595 at the 1973 boat show, it looked like there was going to be a great future for the Caraboat.

caraboat boat show

caraboat on show at the caravan show

leaflet to launch caraboat


Caraboat manual

caraboat manual

caraboat manual

caraboat manual

caraboat's demise

It's said the demise of the Caraboat came about when Mr Carr took the local Mayor for a trip on the river Trent.

Unfortunately, they became stuck on a Weir and had to be helped ashore by the Fire Brigade.

Upset, Mr Carr went back to the factory and smashed the moulds with only 64 boats having been produced.

how we ended up with a caraboat

white cloud in happy daysHaving had a Creighton 20 called "White Cloud" on the Lancaster canal for some years we were keen to explore other canals, so when the Ribble link fully opened in Spring 2003 my ten year old son Ben and I set off to visit the Llangollen canal in Wales.

After a week of the Spring half term holiday we had got as far as Cheshire, so we left the boat at the Marina there and came home by train. We intended to carry out the rest of the journey during the Summer Holidays, but, to our horror, the Marina rang me a week later to say the boat had been stolen and, worse, set on fire.

burnt out shell of white cloudThe 20 is basically the front end of Inlander with an Outboard motor on the back. It is built so strong by Creighton Ball at Nelson Lancs., that even though it had been ablaze, it refused to sink.

So the staff at the Marina kindly towed it back and got it on the Slipway for disposal. I drove down there the next weekend to take some pictures for the Insurance.

When we received the insurance money, we bought another cruiser on the Lanky, a Freeman 22 mk2. But we were still keen to explore, so I thought maybe a Trailboat would be a good idea. With both school and work constraints, we would only be able to visit another canal or river for a week. With a trailboat we could explore and then return with the boat safe and sound.

I showed Ben an article on the Caraboat in the Canal and Riverboat magazine and he said he'd seen one of those when we were walking the dog past Lytham Boatyard.

Amazingly in Spring 2004, they were holding an Auction as the yard had been bought by a housing developer and was closing down.

As the only bidder, we quickly became the happy owners of a sorry looking craft with no interior and with its windows all smashed in.

Indeed a few days later when my wife Bev came to have a look at it she asked, "What are you going to do with that?"

caraboat helterskelter at Lytham boatyard 2004

caraboat early days - interior looking forward

caraboat early days - interior looking aft

caraboat helter skelter undergoes makeover

Relocated to a local farm, I started to restore the boat with a lot of help and advice from other owners who I had made contact with online. Being a self employed car mechanic, spare time was limited. Progress was slow but steady.

caraboat - new towing frame

caraboat - floor bearers on new towing frame

caraboat - folding hitch up

caraboat - folding hitch down

caraboat helterskelter - converting to outboard motor with removable transom

caraboat helterskelter steering position front port

caraboat helter skelter - new bunks

caraboat helter skelter water tank and battery box

I replaced all the broken glass to get it weathertight and realised the boat needed a new towing frame which had bowed causing a split in the hull.

caraboat first test launch, 2005I replaced the Braking system, wheel bearings and wheels, then towed it to Garstang where my Freeman was moored, for a test launch to check everything was watertight.

Tests completed and towing ok I carried on refitting the boat out with a new floor, hob and sink unit and 3 berths also 12v Fridge, staying pretty similar to the original layout.

Our first trip was to the 2006 Trailboat festival on the Northern Reaches of the Lancaster canal at Crooklands where we first met all the other Trailboaters who had come from all parts of the country to support the restoration of the Lancaster canal back to Kendal in the Lake district.

Gaining their encouragement to travel far and wide and  happy how well the strange looking craft handled, the Cathedral hull and wheels under the water giving it good stability, I sold the Freeman.

helter skelter’s travels

Caraboat at Kendal torchlight Parade We have used the Caraboat mainly as a boat, but have taken part in the Kendal Torchlight Parade to try to promote restoring the Lancaster canal back to Kendal for six years.

We have  also Cumbria Steam Gatheringentered the Cumbria Steam Gathering at Flookburgh for ten years or so as a Historic Caravan.

Our first trip in 2007 was to the Trailboat festival at Woolsthorpe on the Grantham canal and we have been to every Trailboat festival since which is held on a stretch of waterway somewhere in the UK to highlight its restoration.

trail boat festivalAlso in 2007 we sailed the Leeds &Liverpool from the Bingley five rise to Adlington near Chorley.

2008 saw the Festival on the Grand Western canal in Mid Devon which was abandoned by BW in the 1960’s but saved by local people and Devon County Council and a great example what can be  achieved.

caraboat travels - pontcysyllte aqueductIn October 2009 we finally made it to the Llangollen canal and have been back twice since.

Other highlights have been cruising the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals between Glasgow and Edinburgh with a ride on the Falkirk wheel, and spending time on lake Windermere and the stunning Mon & Brec amongst many others.

caraboat travels - falkirk wheel

caraboat at Ferry Nabb, Windermere

Caraboat at Goytre Wharf on the Mon & Brec canal

Neil is happy to be contacted by any other Caraboat owners. Please get in touch with Neil directly by email:

If you have enjoyed reading this article, you may be interested in reading our feature on the Caravanboat - the modern day equivalent of the UK's Caraboat of the 1970s. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE

CRT forced to return unlawfully seized boat

crt forced to return unlawfully seized boat

Canal & River Trust (CRT) was forced to return a seized boat following the threat of legal action by its live-aboard owner. The charity had seized the boat, which actually had a valid licence at the time, on 6th August 2020 without obtaining a Court Order, which is unlawful if a boat is used as a home. The Human Rights Act 1998 entitles citizens to have the proportionality of removing their home assessed by an independent court and to defend themselves in a fair trial.

The boat, Milasa, was returned to its owner Paul Buga on 24th November 2020 after his solicitor commenced Judicial Review proceedings against CRT. CRT had claimed that the boat was not Mr Buga’s home and that there was no evidence that he lived in it. However, Mr Buga lives in a pair of boats of which Milasa is the motor boat. Milasa was therefore Mr Buga’s only means of complying with the law regarding boat movement. The Solicitor argued that Milasa had a valid licence, was an essential part of Mr Buga’s home and that it had moved in accordance with CRT’s current requirements. A Claim Form should have been issued giving Mr Buga the opportunity to defend himself in Court against the removal of the boat.

Paul Buga Hunger StrikePaul Buga had previously been on hunger strike for more than two weeks outside Downing Street in an attempt to get his boat back from CRT. Alerted to concerns for his wellbeing, the NBTA stepped in to support him and to find him a solicitor.

CRT returned the boat to the owner on the River Lea free of charge, paying for craning and road haulage from Chester. The boat had been seized by CRT and its subcontractors Commercial Boat Services (CBS), who took it to premises believed to be under CBS control at Greenwalls Farm, Dodleston, Chester. The NBTA believes from previous experience that all boats seized by CRT are taken by road to these premises.

In the course of assisting Mr Buga, the NBTA identified a number of defects in CRT’s online licensing system. Mr Buga applied online for a 12-month Rivers Only licence, paid for it, and was provided with a correct receipt for the licence. However, the CRT online licensing system recorded this as a 6-month Standard Canal and River Licence, which happened to be the same price. This occurred twice. This discrepancy was central to CRT’s decision to seize the boat, as CRT’s computer system wrongly flagged the boat as unlicensed when in fact the licence had 6 more months to run. This appears to be a systemic problem with the CRT online licensing system. The NBTA advises boaters to check that the licence that they bought and received a receipt for is the same as the licence recorded on their CRT online licensing account.

This article written by the NBTA National Bargee Travellers Association, 29th December 2020

For more information contact 07508 736897 or 0118 321 4128 or email NBTA


1. The National Bargee Travellers Association (NBTA) is a volunteer organisation formed in 2009 that campaigns and provides advice for travelling boat dwellers on Britain’s inland and coastal waterways. This includes anyone whose home is a boat and who does not have a permanent mooring for their boat with planning permission for residential use.

2. Boats can be licensed to use and moor on the towpaths of Canal & River Trust's CRT) waterways without a permanent mooring under Section 17(3)(c)(ii) of the British Waterways Act 1995. This section states:​

(ii) the applicant for the relevant consent satisfies the Board that the vessel to which the  application relates will be used bona fide for navigation throughout the period for which the consent is valid without remaining continuously in any one place for more than 14 days or such longer period as is reasonable in the circumstances.

3. CRT has powers under Section 8(2) of the British Waterways Act 1983 to remove boats from its waterways that are sunk, stranded, abandoned or “moored therein without lawful authority”. CRT deems that a boat is “moored therein without lawful authority” in cases where CRT has terminated or refused to renew the licence or where the boat appears to be unlicensed.

4. The Human Rights Act 1998 incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) into UK law. Article 6 of the ECHR provides the right to a fair trial, and Article 8 of the ECHR provides the right to respect for one’s home.

5. Paul Buga was represented by Watkins Solicitors of London and Bath.

making life better by water

inter tidal zone

7: making life better by water

This edition explores the intertidal zone between Boaters, Cyclists, Anglers, Walkers, Dog Walkers, Canoeists, and commercial boat trips, in, on, and around the canal network. Where required, I have used my home area as a micro-climate. However, your own areas can be substituted at your leisure.

I suspect that folks will wonder is there room for us all, who pays and what are the priorities of those in charge…

Why are our towpaths important?

bob sanders making life better dog walkers The importance of towpaths as free, accessible places to re-charge or for exercise was highlighted during the first lockdown in the spring, when we saw a surge in usage in many urban communities where the canal provides vital green space, available to millions. Towpath counters around the country showed the biggest increases in visits in Burnley (+261%), Sandwell (+199%) and Blackburn (+187%). (Source: CRT News)

Extract from a recent Canal & River Trust Newsletter (Tue, Nov 17)

Your local canal is a lifeline

  • Around 8 million people regularly enjoy our canals
  • 5 million like to take a healthy towpath walk
  • 5 million jog or cycle
  • Many others visit just to relax by the water
  • 2,000 miles of history, beauty and tranquillity are open to all  [end]

making life better fisherman

I’ve estimated, very crudely, that we have roughly 20 miles of canals in my home metropolitan borough of Wigan. Again, approximately split half and half between the Leeds & Liverpool and the Leigh Branch (Wigan to Leigh) and then onto the Bridgewater in Salford.

Using Wigans ‘20 miles of history’ and comparing with the figures from the CRT, that would suggest Wigan has about 1% of the history of the ‘beauty and tranquillity open to all’ (20mls). Pro-rata, that might suggest Wigan numbers…

  • Around 8,000 people regularly enjoy our canals
  • 50,000 like to take a healthy towpath walk
  • 15,000 jog or cycle

Using an extrapolation from figures in a Guardian newspaper article last year (see below), suggests that Wigan could have 95 ‘live aboards’ on our 20-mile section of the water. Writers license on the maths to help visualise the amount of activity in these shared environs.

Some Money Spent on 2 Groups

6 December 2017 (Source CRT)


Boaters and canoeists are set to benefit from a new £80,000 pontoon at Wigan. This joint project between Canal & River Trust and the charity’s Desmond Family Canoe Trail programme is great news for boaters and canoeists exploring the historic Leeds & Liverpool Canal.

The 30-metre long pontoon is next to the Trust’s new office at Trencherfield Mill in a perfect spot for getting to the restaurants, bars and shops in Wigan town centre and to nearby transport links. Twenty metres of the pontoon have been designed for boaters to use, with 10 metres built at a lower level suitable for kayaks and canoes. The entire pontoon is DDA friendly.

Boaters will be able to moor on the pontoon for up to 24 hours. There is a water point available in the vicinity and in the coming months the Trust is aiming to install a waste facility and CCTV.  [end]

For Info: On the two occasions that I have visited this pontoon, both gates or one gate was chained and locked. The access for a canoeist is most difficult with a craft to ingress or egress. In other words, really looks the part, very futuristic, but not welcoming and not thought through. From the Boater's perspective, looks to be a great mooring location, but only for 24hrs. Prior to spending the £80,000, you would have moored to the rings on the towpath as usual.

All around us in the press and social media, we see evidence of the canals being leveraged for their health benefits, their free spaces, their cycle ways, dog walks etc., But to me, it does not seem to have been planned for in the same way as highways and their ‘designated’ cycle lanes or parks with their bins for dog poo.

making life better - can on fenceIt is with a sad heart, that I notice an increase in selfishness by some users too. Almost a disregard for manner or etiquette. I was nearly run over by a bike when walking under a bridge. Later I saw a dog poo bag, a used one on the ground. Round the corner, a beer can on the fence.

In itself, I suspect most existing users of the canal system are happy go lucky and welcoming. However, I fear that this ‘new to some’ oasis could take on something of a wild west or frontier type of free for all. Almost a victim of its own success. It reminds me of the early days of ‘Free To Roam’ for footpaths in the Lake District. Followed by footpaths being worn away or the weekend arrival of 4 x 4’s and dirt bikes – a kind of juxta position to peace and tranquillity.

The extract from a Guardian article below has two words that frighten me just a little…
Drifting: could we be drifting away from the very canals we treasure?
Teeming: is there a want or the space for teeming towpaths?

Drifting into the future at 4mph: a rebirth awaits for Britain’s canals (extract with link)

making life better walker & cyclist

There are now 38,000 narrowboats – one quarter of them are homes – on 3,000 miles of navigable waterways, and the number of people enjoying barge holidays has doubled in recent years. Membership of the Friends of the Canal and River Trust (CRT), the waterways’ version of the National Trust, hit 28,000 this year. Towpaths are teeming with walkers, anglers and cyclists, and there are thousands of volunteers working on 98 canal restoration projects from Devon to West Sussex to Cumbria. The Inland Waterways Association (IWA), the charity that champions canal restoration, is working towards reopening 2,500 miles of “dead” canals which lie derelict.(Source: The Guardian)

As usual, I have included a few photo’s as prompts for my article and as food for thought. Ironically, you will not see a photo of a Canoe or a Boat, there were none!

water and waste tanks for boats

water and waste tanks for boats

the best in fabricated plastic tanks

what we make

We at Goodwin Plastics are now in our 25th year of manufacturing and what a journey we have travelled. From pig farming to the establishing of a large plastics company and then on to the design, manufacture and distribution of bespoke products for all types of industry including agriculture, sports and leisure, and emergency services. We now ship our products to several different countries.

But one of our main businesses is the manufacture of water and waste tanks for canal boats and yachts.

why make tanks out of plastic?

We have come a long way in our manufacture of plastics, until we are now creating the best fabricated plastics on the market.

When creating water tanks, plastic is the perfect material.  It can take any shape or size, is extremely tough and can be made right here at Goodwin Plastics in Crewe.

We make plastic water tanks to meet all specifications.

Polypropylene tanks are very easy to clean, light weight and don’t harbour bacteria - while stainless steel tanks can be very heavy, and do have a tendency to rust at the welded joint.

why are our tanks baffled?

All tanks are fully Internally baffled to help reduce the movement of the liquid which otherwise could cause stress on the tank sides.

Inside the water tanks the baffles are from top to base with areas cut out to allow the passing of water and for the air to escape.

On our waste holding tanks the welding of the tank is the same as that of the water tanks, but the design of the internal baffle is different.

The baffles inside the waste tank are shaped more like a bridge so there is no obstruction for the waste to get behind and build up.

reliable and durable plastic fittings

Our aim is always to make exactly what you need and to use the best possible materials to do it.  That’s why we use plastic such as Perspex and polycarbonate sheeting along with other styles of plastic fabrication.  That way, whatever we make is a strong as possible, durable and long lasting and needs only basic maintenance.

choosing the right tank

Sometimes you know you need a tank but aren’t quite sure of the specifications or dimensions.  We are happy to help with this by assisting you to work out the size of the tank you need before designing it.  All of the tanks we make also come with a standard BSP threaded sockets that are welded into the tank as well as hose tails supplied to screw into position.

All tanks are fabricated with Polypropylene which is a tough and durable plastic that has a high impact strength.

We can provide tanks for any purpose across the country and also offer a range of other plastic fabrications for professional or personal use.

working out the volume

To work out the volume of the tank that you require, there is a calculation as below:

e.g. Fresh water tank 48″ x 24″ x 24″ :

48 x 24 x 24 = 27648 cubic Inches. Divide this by 1728. This will give you the cubic feet volume (16).  Multiply this figure by 6.25, this will give you the volume of the tank in  gallons (100), multiply this figure by 4.54 for litres (454)
The volume of this tank 48″ x 24″ x 24″ is 100 gallon or 454 litres.

Full range of water tanks

We offer a range of water tanks suitable for boats, campers and other mobile homes.

These include water tanks with a pump available in different sizes to ensure you have a steady supply of fresh water.  We also offer polypropylene water tanks that can sit under the hull or bow floor of a boat and meet the latest RINA and AISR standards.

Other tank variations include flare edged polypropylene tanks complete with inspection cover, tri water tanks and also wall hanging water tanks.  The last of these is ideal for mounting behind cabinets or interspaces and have a level indicator flange.

goodwin plasticsWe specialize in creating water and fuel tanks made to standard or custom specifications.  We work in a range of plastic materials including polycarbonate and Perspex.

We can create what you need from scratch if we don’t already have it.  Call us today for an initial no-obligation quote for any plastic fabrication needs.

Tel: 01270 582 516
Visit: website link
And don't forget to like us on Facebook

east midland waterways to get £4m makeover

The Canal & River Trust is investing £4 million on a four-month programme of repairs on the  historic waterways of the East Midlands. They will be replacing lock gates, dredging sections of canal and carrying out a host of other tasks to keep the 200-year old network working.
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east midland waterways to get £4m winter makeover

east midland waterways to get £4m winter makeover

The Canal & River Trust, the national waterways and wellbeing charity, is investing £4 million on a four-month programme of repairs on the East Midlands’ historic waterways.

crt working on lock gates

As part of the programme, which will continue until March, the Trust’s expert teams will be replacing lock gates, dredging sections of canal and carrying out a host of tasks to keep the 200-year old network working.

The programme includes:

  • New handcrafted lock gates being installed at Blue Bank Lock, near Glen Parva in Leicester. Works are also taking place to repair historic brickwork within the lock.
  • A new control system being installed at Stamp End Lock in Lincoln, the East Midlands’ only guillotine lock (where gates are lifted overhead rather than the more common gate opening).
  • A new pedestrian footbridge being installed at Derwent Mouth Lock in Derbyshire, making it easier for people to make their way over the lock.
  • New lock gates installed at Stanton Lock on the Erewash Canal.
  • Replacing the concrete cill, which forms a watertight seal with the bottom of the lock gates, at Long Buckby Lock in Northamptonshire.
  • Lifting in new gates at Lock 15 of the Grand Union Canal, Northampton Arm.

Phil Mulligan, regional director for the Canal & River Trust, said:

“This winter’s works are obviously important for encouraging boaters to visit the East Midlands but, with research telling us that time spent by the water can help us to feel happier and more relaxed, they will also contribute to improving people’s mental and physical well-being.

crt bridge works

“Our waterways have offered a really important lifeline for so many people this year, providing the perfect spots for local recreation, exercise or just to unwind. That’s why it’s so important that we keep them open and safe for everyone to use, whether you’re out on your boat or enjoying the towpath.

“By carrying out these works we will be protecting our historic waterways for future generations and ensuring that they can make a real difference to people’s lives today.”

This winter the Trust is investing more than £45 million on waterways across England and Wales. The lock gates on the East Midlands’ waterways weigh several tonnes and typically last around 25 years. Each new gate is made to measure and handcrafted from seasoned oak so that it fits perfectly in the lock chamber.

For more information on the work of the Canal & River Trust, including how to support through volunteering or making a donation, go to

lights, canal, action!

lights, canal, action!

top lock - a different view of the wigan flight

Nathan Sanders films the Wigan Flight during a walk with his Grandfather, Bob.  They begin their ascent at somewhere between 135 and 210ft above sea level, and an hour later reach 288ft at the top of the flight. Nathan's video is not only informative and visually attractive, but also contains a good amount of humour. We hope you enjoy the video as much as we did.

To view Nathan's video, click image below.

Nathan's video was filmed using an iPhone XS Max in conjunction with the DJI Osmo mobile 4 gimbal.

Readers can learn more about the gimbal Nathan used and other DJI products at this link: (Please note - this is an affilliate's link, so you will get 5% off purchases...)

Incidentally - 
Manchester Evening News Kirkless Industrial Estate FireDuring the video, Nathan mentions a fire at Kirkless Industrial Estate in Wigan, which happened only two or three days after he was filming.

It was a massive blaze, and Nathan has included a link to media coverage of the event. Read Here.


Background information provided by Nathan:

Map of Lock Route (Source, Canal River Trust)

map of locks near Wigan

Elevation, heat and thermal map of the surrounding area of Top Lock.

Wigan Flight map showing elevation above sea level

Wigan Pier (photo courtesy Leeds & Liverpool Canal Society)

Wigan Pier, courtesy Leeds & Liverpool Canal Society

Map of Wigan Locks circa 1875 (Leeds & Liverpool Canal Society)

Map of Wigan Locks circa 1875 courtesy Leeds & Liverpool Canal Society

The canal basin in the centre of Wigan, now known as Wigan Pier, was built by the Douglas Navigation in 1742. The Leeds & Liverpool canal opened from Gathurst to Seven Star Bridges in 1781, joining the old navigation by a 90 degree bend. The canal from Liverpool to Gathurst had opened in 1774. Of the other sections of Canal in Wigan, the locks up to Aspull opened in 1816 and the Leigh Branch in 1821.

safety certificate… wot’s one of them then?

safety certificate?

wot's one of them then?

mike nye lady jenaIn the spring of 1969, Lady Jena, the family’s 16ft plywood cabin cruiser, sank due to a plastic lid working its way through a piece of rather soft plywood.

There was some panic but a petrol powered pump was hired  from Turk and sons, the boat refloated and the hole temporarily blocked with greasy rags. It was then towed down to their boatyard where it was lifted from the river whilst Mum and Dad had a proper barney with the insurance company who had said that the sinking was due to a latent defect in the hull.   Mum and Dad had another viewpoint and eventually managed to exit the argument with dignity.   An “ex gratia” payment approximately equal to the claim was paid leaving my parents ready and willing to clean up and repaint the boat.

Dad replaced the offending plywood sheet (comprising about a quarter of one side) and the boat was painted out in a striking blue and cream livery. In order to gain internal space, the rather less than reliable Albin 10 horsepower motor was sold to Turks and an outboard was bought to fit on the assemblage of steel brackets and wood that Dad had neatly fitted to the stern.

All was looking great.

We would go on holiday as usual, this time powered by an British built single cylinder 4 stroke, 4 horsepower outboard motor which even had a generator so we wouldn’t have to avoid use of the lighting.   When I saw it for the first time I had a few misgivings despite my lack of engineering experience.   The thing looked like a lawnmower engine on top of a pipe.   When started it even sounded like a petrol lawnmower, probably because the same motor was used on some models of Flymo hover mowers.

When we set off all seemed well until, at the first lock, the control cables flew off the motor and Dad had to lean over the back and find the piece of bent metal that passed for a gear lever before we hit something.

Whilst in the lock, he clipped them back into place and we headed off upriver with a nice graunch as forward gear was engaged by pulling the remote lever back (For no real reason it worked the other way round) .

After about twenty minutes, the fuel pump pulled in a nice air bubble and the motor stopped dead.   I was asked to lift the remote tank above the outboard.  The tank looked like a recycled catering cooking oil can that had been sprayed white.   Mainly because it was exactly that.   Once we were under way again, Mum found some string and we proceeded  with the tank hanging for as long as we had the motor.

Partly because of the servicing requirements of our new power unit, we decided to go onto the Oxford Canal via the Sheepwash channel.   That took us through some rather weedy water which proved conclusively that the “weedless” propeller was anything but.   That discovery was eclipsed by the experience of the electrically powered lift bridge near Wolvercote.   Dad sounded the horn as required.   Nothing happened so we reversed to hold position in the water.

Eventually, with Dad on the towpath, ready to head to the factory gatehouse, someone opened the bridge.   Mum then put the motor into gear, only to find that it wouldn’t go into gear.   A novel feature of the gearbox was that, due to poor design, the prop shaft moved back and forward when the gears were selected, leaving an inch or so gap between the back of the prop and the gearbox.   This was now packed with chopped up weeds and wouldn’t move.   We hand towed the boat through the bridge and Dad flipped the motor up, spilling petrol on himself, ready to attack the jammed weed whilst he smoked a cigarette.

We were ready to continue again, which we did for another mile.   There followed a tooth jarring screech as the Aspera (not Villiers as advertised) motor seized up solid, never to run again.   It was an ex outboard, dead as a doorpost and sworn at by the whole family.   We continued by hand towing until we got to somewhere with a phone.   That place being a pub called “The Wise Alderman,” the landlord of which had a pint ready for Dad as he stepped in.

“You’ll be needing this before you do anything,” he said.

Quite how the landlord knew that, I have no idea but it was certainly welcome.   The landlord allowed us to moor until we’d sorted out the motor issue, which took a total of three days.

The mixture of petrol, smoking, Methylated spirit stoves and slowly decomposing plywood would strike horror into the heart of may boat inspectors these days but such Heath Robinson boat fit outs were commonplace on the waterways of the mid to late sixties.

Several were built from ex W.D. bridging pontoons, and I remember one stern-wheeler that had the engine of an Austin Mini sat high up next to the cabin, attached by a long motorcycle chain to the paddle.   The original gearbox and clutch pedal was retained, and the steerer changed gear as the craft progressed.

The superstructure of another pontoon was made of the recycled front of a Birmingham boutique.   This was powered by a 4 hp British Seagull outboard.   This truly couldn’t be ignored in my writing and first appears in “Mayfly” as “Chrysophyllax Diver” - a name I pinched from a severely holed and very poorly made plywood dinghy that I saw being slowly incinerated on a bonfire near the River Wey.

I’ve included some photos of before and after the sinking, together with some incidental shots of the weird and “wonderful” adaptions of craft that flourished before the days when it was deemed wise not to have holidays on boats that varied in safety between tinderboxes and small bombs. Them were the days weren’t they.  I guess I survived it all though!


curious case of sticky fuel causing engine breakdowns

River Canal Rescue reports there’s been an uncharacteristic peak in fuel-related component breakdowns not linked to diesel bug. It cites two identical jobs where fuel injectors were diagnosed as needing an overhaul, yet their replacements stopped working within a week, and injection pumps were found to have failed even though the diesel was clear and bright.
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