It’s a tarp! Or: Weedhatch 101

One of the first questions people have when I tell them about the boat (and particularly, about its size) is some variation on “How easy is it to ‘drive'”?

To this I always say it’s easy enough to get the hang of the basics, and the chance of collisions is usually quite low due to the slow speed because there’s plenty of time to deal with any problems that arise.

As it turns out, I was overly optimistic on this point, because it relies on the engine running as expected, without the propellor being jammed on some debris from the canal, which is exactly what happened.

This caused the following to happen in rapid succession:
  • The engine made a sudden grinding noise in both forwards and reverse and provided no thrust in either direction, so had to be turned off
  • The boat pulled to one side because of strong winds
  • The bow crashed into the bank on the towpath side
  • The stern swung into the other bank, which was covered in bushes and trees

So, boat blocking the entire canal, I climbed onto the roof with the centre line, walked to the bow, climbed off, and dragged the boat in and tied it off. Luckily there were no boats moored against the towpath at this point, or I nearly certainly would have crashed into one.

Once the boat was tied up, came the fun part, figuring out what was on the propellor and clearing it off. On many boats, including mine, the propeller can be cleared via a weed hatch in the engine bay, which is an access hatch just above the water line and directly above the propeller, with a cover held down with thick turn screws to stop water getting into the engine bay.

 In my case, this is what I found, where I should have been able to see the propeller.

Blocked weed hatch

I thought at first I’d found an IKEA bag, which of which seem to make their way into the water, but it turned out to be much much bigger,

I tried in vain to untangle it: hacking at it with scissors from the kitchen, ripping strips out with a screwdriver, but wasn’t making any significant progress, and when it got dark I gave up for the day.

The next day, I tooled up and tried again, with better success. I asked on Facebook about which tools to use for this job, and several people recommended a keyhole saw, which I dutifully obtained, along with a decent household scissors.

For this particular tarp, the scissors did most of the work: Cutting straight through the tarp until I met the shaft, along with gently turning the prop backwards by hand and unwinding the larger pieces off once they were disconnected from either the prop, or the rest of the tarp. This was surprisingly slow, and the water temperature didn’t help things; and I had to stop to warm up my hands a few times.

Most of the tarp cut out of the prop

Eventually, though, tarp removed, hatch totally clear, and ready to move again: