The trouble with water

Saul Junction – Gloucester Docks – Upton-upon-Severn – Worcester: 36½ miles, 3 locks

Why does water, the elixir of life, give so much trouble…

Boaters need a decent depth of the stuff below their hulls and not a lot at all of the vertical stuff that presents as rain.

Since starting out on the 2017 cruise Cleddau has been beset by water troubles, most minor, some more problematic…

It was last Autumn when it was noticed that the bathroom washbasin was on a go-slow. It’s a lovely basin, as basins go, installed during the 2011 refit. But irritatingly, over the last few months, it’s become very slow to drain. Pre-departure from Poynton a Cheshire engineer serviced the engine – but he had no further time to investigate the bathroom issue. So, while paused and moored in a marina on the Avon, the Evesham engineer took a look. Dramatic photos were displayed on the marina office computer of the basin’s under-belly. “You haven’t got enough drop to drain properly,” the manager explained. Translated into easy speak this meant that the basin and its outflow needed to be higher… how? and how come? It’s to do with the ballast, apparently. Over the years the Captain has worked at trimming the boat to rid it (her!) of a natural lean to the left. Now that spare coal bags go in the front deck locker the boat has balanced better – but the water takes a time to go down the plughole… No real progress yet on that issue…

Water in a large casserole dish was the second indication of trouble.  The dish is stored deep in a corner of the cupboard and when it’s required it’s a question of kneeling down and fishing with an outstretched arm to pull it out. (It’s a rarely used item but ideal for a large pot of bolognaise sauce). Well, unwanted water tipped out of the pan, the problem was diagnosed as an incomplete (or incompetent) closure of the top left window latch allowing rain to drain down the window and find its way into the cupboard. (It’s a tough stretch for short-armed folk). A stricter window closing regime was instituted…


Another smaller casserole dish was purchased in Stratford, the Captain’s present to himself. It nestles neatly inside the big dish. Come the day when it was required there was water again – lots more of it. The far end of the upper shelf was awash and a rescue and retrieval operation had to be mounted of all items on that particular shelf. And so it was while at Pershore that a major window leak was repaired between the window frame and the cabin.  Metals expand and contract  in different temperatures and gaps appear… But TICK. So far, that problem seems solved.

Issue number 3. Anybody remember the rain day, the deluge of last Wednesday (17th May)? Cleddau was moored in Gloucester Dock. It was pouring with rain outside … and inside too! A large pool had formed on the floor of the galley, noticed only when the Captain got raindrops on his head! The cause was obvious, a roof ventilator. A towel was wrapped around the air vent to wick the water away. When the rains eventually stopped, action could be taken – the removal of the air vent, the cleaning off and treating of any rust, the repainting of the area and eventual replacement of the air vent. Another TICK, another water problem solved.


Issue 4. Over the winter the Captain had tried to acquire a replacement domestic water pump (that which pumps water to taps and the shower) but by the time the engineer was available to swap the old for a new one the part that had been ordered was the wrong spec. So, with a still functioning water pump, Cleddau set off.

A change of filter seemed to help the flow from the filter tap, but then over weeks the taps seemed to be struggling to deliver water. Intervention was needed, so the Captain, aided by River Canal Rescue, arranged for a water pump replacement to be made last Monday in Gloucester. Meanwhile the pump laboured on, coughing, spluttering…Being trapped all shampooed and soaped up in the shower with no further water was not fun, then the pump would gasp back into life. With cruel timing last Saturday, just after the Purton Hulks Walk had been completed, the pump died. Cleddau and her crew were as far away from home moorings as possible, moored on a glorious piece of towpath that was totally  inaccessible by road.

Decision: back to Saul Junction (8 miles, 2 hours),    there to secure a mooring very near a water tap. Some percussion technology (banging with a fist) coaxed a bit, only a bit, of life out of the pump, but then it stopped… For 48 hours camping rules prevailed – kettles and water containers filled from the tap along the towpath,    teeth cleaning managed by minimal use of bottled water, showers when desperate at the Cotswold Canals Trust building… (“I felt it in my bones,” mourned the Captain, “that the water pump was a single point of failure and I tried so hard to get a spare…”) 

Old pump out 

Monday came. At 1.45pm the RCR booked engineer from Droitwich arrived, brandishing his broken thumb (fractured while getting off his boat) and within ten minutes he had wriggled about under the front deck and fitted the new water pump.    Music it was to hear a pump and to see water delivered through the taps and shower! TICK!

The cruise could be resumed – there was time to be made up. It was 8 miles back to Gloucester – and there was opportunity for a Sainsbury’s shop, a boat servicing session, a slide under Llanthony Bridge (closed during afternoon rush hour)   to be moored up in time for a conference call meeting. Phew!

Tuesday. Farewell Gloucester – back down Gloucester Dock Lock (the 18 feet 6 inches drop to the River Severn,


mussels anyone?)     and a cruise upstream to Upton-on-Severn.    It was a calm run and by early afternoon Cleddau was tied up on the Upton steps.    This lovely riverside town, explored before, has a magnetic pull. The distinctive Pepperpot tower, once the church, is now a heritage and Tourist Information Centre.  Despite best efforts to find it, the Cholera Burial Ground remained elusive.



Along this river stretch gravel barges ply, backwards and forwards, empty , then full.


There’s a wonderful Tudor rose on the gate of the Tudor House Museum    and during the evening free entertainment on the water (Sea Cadets)    and up at the pub above the moorings


All seemed well, except for an unexpected call from a neighbour at home. “Just been in to check the mail,” he said. “There’s water pouring down from the loft. Where’s your stopcock…?”

Water – nothing but trouble at the moment…

Stats since Higher Poynton: 327 miles, 4 tunnels and 156 locks

 Monkton Moments*: 11

(Monkton Moment*- a reference to / recognition of Cleddau’s Pembrokeshire connections)

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