We finally did it! We had our first faring of the year in the Hennie H. Admittedly, it was only the four kilometres from our mooring to the shipyard at Zelzate last Sunday for a lift out, but it's the furthest we've been on our little barge since October 2018, so we're pretty elated about it.
The purpose of the lift out was to clean the two-year growth of weed and gunk off the water line and cooling system in the hopes the engine wouldn't overheat when under full power (as it did during testing).
We have a thing called a Blokland cooler, which is a bundle of copper pipes that sits in an open cavity in the hull with a protective grid over it. If you're not interested in technical blurb, feel free to skip this bit. But for those who'd like to know, water from the engine circulates through the bundle and is cooled by the canal (or river) water, before going back into the engine, supposedly at a much lower temperature. Unfortunately, ours doesn't seem to be very effective, so we thought it might have become overgrown with weed; we'd had some fairly spectacular growth on the waterline this year which made that a distinct possibility.
Once out of the water, though, it was not nearly as weed encrusted as we'd thought, or hoped. Koos cleaned it all with a high-pressure hose as well as clearing such dirt as there was from inside the pipes. Meanwhile, I was working in Rotterdam for the first part of the week but hot-footed it back on Wednesday evening, so I could finish blacking the hull while Koos reassembled everything. My thanks to our friend, Carole Erdman Grant, for the photos below. She and her husband called in to see Koos while I was away and took these for the record. For some reason, we totally failed to take any at all while we were there.
|Blacking: before (L) and After (R)|
|A dockside view|
One of our last tasks was to pump out a large amount of water that suddenly appeared in the engine room. After eliminating all sorts of scarier possibilities (leaking stern gland, hole in engine room hull etc), we concluded it must have come from under the living space floor, which we haven't inspected in a while because it's all screwed down.
Perhaps years of condensation and a couple of leaky windows have been accumulating beneath our feet, and we've never known it was there. Who knows? However, in the process of raising the dock, there was apparently quite a sharp and sudden tilt which could have made any water lying in the hold rush through to the stern of the boat. We still have to establish this, but it's the only explanation we could and can come up with.
By 2p.m. on Thursday, we were ready to be re-floated, but although we'd intended to return to home base that afternoon, the weather turned nasty and it took far longer to get off the dock than anticipated.
On that note, I should say the dock was quite an adventure in itself. It isn't the type that's drained; it's actually a hollow, floating steel box which is raised and lowered by means of a pump. When it's raised, water is pumped out of the box, leaving it full of air; then to lower it, the pump is used to refill it with water. The yard has two of these docks; however, their maintenance is always somewhat in arrears, and the small dock we were on previously was apparently too leaky for us to use. This time we were on a bigger one, but it also leaked, and we could hear the air escaping as we worked. I have to confess my 'what if' antenna were on high alert as I went round the hull with my roller.
Anyway, the light was fading when we were finally floating again, so we decided not to take any chances and left our old lady in the neighbouring marina overnight. We'd done the same for two nights when we arrived and found it a lovely safe haven with good security and a very friendly reception.
It turned out to be a good decision because early Friday morning, it was beautifully quiet on the water and we had a perfect trip back with no problems or hiccups. Much to my relief, there was no new water in the engine room, and we even made better time than on the outward run. In fact, we were back at home base in forty minutes as compared to the whole hour it took us to make the journey to Zelzate last Sunday.
Yes, an hour for four kilometres is very slow, I agree. There were people walking on the towpath faster than we were faring, but we were so worried the engine might overheat we didn't want any problems. I have to say, though, it's amazing how long you can see the same piece of bank and the same dog walkers when you're moving at a pace that would make the local snails look speedy.
As a result, our return felt like we were racing, even though our top speed was only 8kms per hour. It was still wet and drizzly, but we were grinning like a pair of cheshire cats when we arrived home safe and sound. On reflection, though, Koos is still not too impressed with the cooling, so he'll be working on that further. For my part, I'll be ripping up some flooring to see what's lurking underneath our sofa.
There's still plenty to do, but the prospects for faring further into France next year are finally looking optimistic. Our dreams are beginning to have the smell of reality about them, which is a wonderful thought to carry us through the winter.
|Snuggled up to a pontoon in the Zelzate marina|
As for the coming month, I am now back into a busy work period that will continue until Christmas. I hope all of you are keeping well and upbeat – difficult under the present circumstances, I know, but do have a good week allemaal!