Longford to Coventry, 4 miles, 0 locks
After a fitful night dreaming that Oothoon and I were characters in Animal Crossing, which was very strange, I awoke to find the sun shining, which suited my positive mood and view that the RCR man would make everything all right.
By 10 I'd had an F2 Diet breakfast of branflakes, banana and yoghurt and was drinking coffee when I noticed someone lurking outside. Although he looked like he was about 16, he was in fact the RCR man bang on time. I explained the problem and he set to bleeding the air out of the engine. Turns out that the place I was fiddling with yesterday was completely wrong and what I needed to bleed was the fuel pump and the individual injectors on each cylinder. This seems to be an iterative process, because bleeding one bit seems to move the air around and if you don't catch it in one place, you need to try to catch it in another. So we went on for a while, bleeding and cranking, and I was very pleased that I'd been frugal with power yesterday because we did quite a lot of cranking. Eventually the RCR chap, whose name I didn't ask (doh!), was convinced that by now the engine should be going. Thinking that it might be power-related, we tried a little Cold Start in the engine intake and the engine burst into life! It was wonderful and I was convinced that my problems were solved and I'd soon be on my way. Mr RCR, meanwhile, was carefully bleeding the injectors just to make sure and was concerned that three injectors didn't seem to have enough fuel. To top this, when he loosened the fourth injector, there was bags of fuel but the engine stopped.
We tried going through the bleeding cycle again, since air seemed still to be in the system. By this time, the batteries were starting to fade so I got out my jump start battery, which was full. That seemed to get us through most of the cycle and again we got the engine going with the aid of a little Cold Start. Once again he checked each injector and three were short of fuel and the engine stopped when he checked the fourth one. There was a bit of a pattern here.
We started the bleeding cycle again, but even the jump start battery was running low by now and with the sun still hiding behind a tree, the solar panel wasn't saving the day. I asked if he had a big butch starting battery on wheels, like those AA chaps do, but he confessed that although he had three batteries in the back of the van, RCR don't provide him with a charger and he needs to visit a mate to charge them up. Asking what he normally did, he admitted that he normally uses the van's battery, so off he went to get that. It turned out to be a cheeky little 60Ah starter battery, but it got us through the next bleed and start cycle, but once again, bleeding the fourth injector caused the engine to stop.
We speculated that as the engine had run, maybe this was its normal state: one cylinder working well and 'carrying' the other three, which were working well enough for everything to function. It was a theory, but he didn't seem happy with it. What was really confusing him was that we'd now run the engine a few times, yet there was still air in the system. That shouldn't be possible. Eventually he asked to check how much fuel was in the tank and after dipping it, he had a quick look on the side and decided that the fuel level was probably marginal. Rock the boat one way and there was fuel covering the pipes, but rock it another and air would be getting in. The only thing to do was get more fuel.
The two 5 litre containers that I'd bought yesterday clearly weren't industrial-strength enough for this job, so using the power of Google Maps on my phone (which yet again figured out where I was) I asked for the nearest Halfords. Turned out it was further along the 'wrong way' I'd taken last night. I got my wallet and locked everything up, then taking my trolley and the two fuel cans and the van's starter battery, we returned to his van—up over bridge 9, then up over the railway bridge on the far side. We took a wrong turn when I pointed the wrong way at a roundabout, but thanks to the blue dot on the map showing where we were, we soon sorted that out. Halfords was a surprisingly long way away—almost to the city centre—but we found it okay and I bought a 20l metal Jerry Can. Given that Oothoon's batteries were flat and I wanted one anyway, I also bought a 110Ah leisure battery, but this being Halfords they couldn't sell me either battery terminal clips or bits of connecting wire. Never mind. The nice RCR man whipped out his discount card at the till, so it was a bit cheaper than I was expecting (which was good, because the battery was clearly in the "if you have to ask, you can't afford it" bracket). Then we went back to the Tescozilla I'd been at yesterday. 30 litres later and we were back in the van and off back to the boat.
We shlepped all the bits up the railway bridge, then across the railway bridge, then down the railway bridge, but at the bottom I tried to form an arrangement of the (heavy) battery on the trolley with the (heavy) jerry can of diesel on the top. I thought that a metal can containing diesel on a battery might not be a good idea, so the RCR man kindly volunteered his top shirt as an insulation layer and with all that lashed together, off we went over the canal bridge, down to the towpath and back to the boat.
Oothoon greedily drank the fuel down without us getting more than a couple of splashes of diesel in the canal and after attaching the spanky new leisure battery to the starter battery with jump leads, we started the bleeding cycle again. (That works in so many ways). This time it worked and after a quick squirt of Cold Start the engine roared into life and kept running. Mr RCR checked each of the injectors and this time was pleased to see an equal amount of fuel fizz out of each. We decided to leave her running for a few minutes then tried her on tick-over with no problems. I suggested that we switch on the inverter so we could have hot water to wash our hands and we left the engine running while we went indoors to get washed and have a cuppa. By the end, it was clear that the engine was fettled, but just to keep me happy we stopped it and started it a few times without problem. Then it was back to the van to fill in the paperwork.
While we were having our cuppa I asked how long the chap had been doing the job and he said about four years and that they all worked for RCR, who provided the vans and the wages. I also asked about coverage and there seem to be two on-duty engineers covering each area, where an area is quite large. London, for example, has two engineers. He also explained that other engineers do Gold Membership inspections and servicing. I didn't realise that RCR do servicing and said this, but apparently it's something they don't advertise except on the inspection form but if you book a service to co-incide with an inspection you get a discount on the service, since the engineer is already there. I said that if I'd known they do servicing too, I'd have gone for Gold membership straight away, rather than just Silver. I'll have to give them a ring and ask about upgrading.
Once he'd gone I fired up the engine, untied and went...half a mile (0.8km) round the corner to next to Tesco. Nicholson's says that there's a boatyard nearer to Coventry and that they do Diesel, but when I called the number given it was 'not recognised'. After yesterday's experience with Nicholson's and The Navigation Inn, I decided that better the Tesco's diesel in the tank than filling up in a bush. It was a bit of a boring experience, trudging along with the trolley, jerry can and fuel cans, mainly because—by being odd— you become invisible. At least I think I must have been, judging by the people almost walking into me smoking, or the cyclist behind me who assumed that, because I'd stopped to let a woman with a pram pass, I must have stopped to let him through. But I got another 30 litres and put it in the tank and felt much better for it.
The sun had gone in by the time I got back to the boat with the diesel and it had started to drizzle by the time I cast off, so I put on my waterproof jacket and my floppy sun hat. After nearly losing my glasses in the canal while putting diesel in the tank, I'd also fitted 'camp Larry' string to my specs so they wouldn't go far. It was 3:30 by now and, other than a cuppa, I'd had nothing since breakfast. The vision of meatballs for lunch was gone and the canal's path through an industrial landscape seemed to suit my grey, wet mood. The boatyard, it almost goes without saying, turned out to be a small basin behind a bridge, with a few boats in it. Yes, there was a diesel pump there, but no clear means of access except by winding and going under the bridge, and no signage or indeed signs of life. I'll have a look on the way back, but I'm not hopeful.
Arriving at Coventry basin, through a bridge so small that it scraped the top of my newly rejuvinated chimney's coolie hat, I realised that I had no idea of the layout. There's a lovely big BW sign outside the bridge, with "Welcome to Coventry Basin" and lots of iconography to show what services are available, but no map showing the layout of the basin or where you can legitimately moor. Turns out that the basin is Y shaped, and you can't moor along the left edge or the bottom right edge, however you can moor in the V bit, now that someone has decided that having a swing bridge across one arm of the V is stupid and has permanently tied it back.
After some woefully skill-less turning, I reversed down one leg and tied up. I'd noticed that the café just as you enter the basin said Open, so I immediately went there for tea and a sit down. Actually it closed at 4:30, but the couple who run it were still there and they happily let me in, made me tea and a toasted teacake, and left me to nod off at the table. While I was paying, I noticed that they sold Golden Wonder crisps, which I didn't realise you could still get, so I bought a packet of Prawn Cocktail flavour (delicious!) and a bag of Seabrooke's Cheese flavour (too salty). Er, so lunch, if you want to call something eaten at 5:30 'lunch', was a toasted teacake and two bags of crisps.
I chatted to some of the other boaters. Town wasn't far away, with Ikea being within easy walking, and no, there wasn't any canal-side diesel to be had, not even for ready money. I set the engine running to charge up the (original) batteries, then went indoors and washed the dishes and made the fire. By some miracle I'd had the foresight to empty the ash can thingy I put the hot ash into, so it was a much easier job than I was expecting. I still had visions of meatballs in my head, but a quick check showed that Ikea Coventry shuts at 8pm (I'm used to the one at Brent Park, which shuts at midnight) and given that the restaurant closed at 7:30 and it was already 6:45, I decided that those succulent Swedish spheres would have to wait yet another day. Dinner was actually Herr Aldi's lasagne, preceeded by chicken soup. I've taken to having orange juice in the morning and the occasional bowl of chicken soup as some kind of talisman to ward off a cold, which I really cannot afford to catch.
Listened to another Russell Brand podcast tonight—almost up to date now—and I see that The News Quiz has started again, so that's something to look forward to. Feeling a bit snoozy now. It might be the fire, which seems particularly hot, or just that the last couple of days have been very stressful, but I'm glad that I'm here in Coventry, even if there are two young lads leaning on the railings of the swing bridge and talking, about 3ft (0.9m) away from my computer screen. I think I need some time off.