When we arrived at the moorings on Friday afternoon we moved Harnser down to the water point as we had drained the tank when we left her in January. While the tank was filling I refitted the fresh water pump and shower-emptying pump, after which I started to refill the fresh water system and check for leaks. It was all OK which was a relief. I then set to and fired the cooking range up, followed by the solid fuel stove in the back cabin. While I was doing all this Diana was working hard unloading the car. When everything was finished we moved the boat down below the top lock for the night.
Friday night the temperature dropped to around -6 and there was quite a bit of ice around in the morning. We decided to set off about 10 o'clock just as the hotel pair Hart and Hind came up breaking all the ice and setting all the locks in our favour. We met a couple of Ownership boats in the flight but nothing in front going down.
At the bottom lock Diana left me and walked back up the flight to fetch the car and take it to Braunston, she then set out on the bike to meet me, unfortunately she managed to get punctures in both tires as BW had recently trimmed all the Black Thorn hedges, so she dumped the bike over the hedge and walking, even managed to get a thorn in her shoe. We carried on down to Braunston and pumped out the toilet tank, which was full to the brim, we even had to bring the Porta Potti into use. We spent the night moored outside the marina eating onboard.
Sunday we walked down to the boatyard to see what time they wanted us there on Monday morning, it was agreed that we should be there at around 9-30. After that we winded the boat and went as far as Braunston turn, winded again and came back, emptying the Porta Potti on the way. I would rather travel than just sit with the engine running to charge the batteries.
Sunday night the temperature dropped to -9.6 and Monday morning there is a good layer of ice on the cut. After taking the dog out we walked down towards the boat yard just in time to see Justin starting his JCB to push the boat he had been working on back into the water, so we started up and broke ice down to the bottom lock and moored waiting for the other boat to be launched and clear the slipway. Once they were out of the way I positioned Harnser at the foot of the slipway and they pushed the trolleys under her, a few minutes latter she was sitting up in the air on the top of the slip.
The slipway trolley actually consisted of two small 4-wheeled trolleys connected together by a chain and running on a steel track. These are pushed into the water and the boat pulled forward until the bows are grounded on the trolley. This is then pulled up the slipway bringing the boat with it. When the chain between the trolleys pulls tight the second trolley pulls up under the stern of the boat and the whole boat is pulled up the slipway until its high and dry.
The boat was then pressure washed with a high pressure wash down unit to remove lose paint and scale. When the hull was dry it was given a fresh coat of blacking. During the day Justin cut an inch strip of the leading edge of the rudder to improve the handling of the boat. He also smoothed the edge of the base plate inside the weed hatch, this had just been left as a rough burnt cut and was quite painful on the hands when clearing the prop. On the second day the boat received a second coat of blacking, as the slipway was not needed we were able to stay out of the water until the ice had cleared on Thursday.
Thursday morning we went back into the water, this was a mixture of gravity and gentle pushing with the JCB until we floated clear of the trolleys, they were then pulled out and I reversed Harnser out into the cut and down to Braunston Marina entrance to wind. I stopped at Ivor's boat for a bit of diesel and Diana took the car back to the moorings before walking back down the flight to meet me and help me work the locks. I found that there was a slight improvement in the steering having taken an inch off the leading edge, I wish now I had taken inch and a half off, but I didn't want to over due things, so next time out I will have a bit more trimmed off. At least now I can let go of the tiller for a couple of minutes without the boat going up the bank.
Back at the moorings I set to repairing the punctures in the bike, I found 5 punctures in each tyres and after repairing them and refitting the tyres/wheels I used a "Green Slime" that is supposed to prevent punctures by blocking them with small bits of fibre that is suspended in the slime. It will save a lot of hassle if it works.