Thursday, 16 October 2014

Back on board the shrinking boat, and an encounter with "grease bug"

We drove to Milton Keynes yesterday, having called in at both sets of parents in Essex on the way. It was good to be back on Jubilee. There were no surprises, unless you count the absence of leaks a surprise. Before leaving the boat almost three weeks ago I ran some silicone sealant around one more window frame from which the occasional drip had emerged in the past.

The boat has started its annual contraction, leading to doors needing more effort to close. Do all steel-cabined boats do this? I assume it's a combination of the steel shrinking slightly with the cooler temperatures and the woodwork expanding slightly with the increased dampness.

We cruised to Galleon Wharf in Old Wolverton today, but returned to the marina this evening just before dark. We have to be back as we're helping on a Canal Clean-up day tomorrow; and then Jan has a Boaters' Christian Fellowship committee meeting to attend on Saturday. We would rather have been on a towpath mooring, but it's easier to be where the car is without a lot of shuffling.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's clean-up: we're doing the section of the GU from Fenny Stratford Lock to The Globe at Linslade. I don't really know what to expect as I haven't done it before, but I imagine there will be a certain amount of grappling hook lobbing and hauling out of the usual ferrous detritus. I understand that there will be some vegetation tidying too.

Before pootling down the cut today I cleaned out the engine bilge and the bilge under the stern gland. The former was straightforward; I used the top half of a plastic four pint milk container - the part with the handle - to scoop out the water/oil, then finished off with an old sponge. I put the drainings into more old milk containers. The bilge under the stern gland was rather more difficult to clean. There seemed to be a skin on top of the rusty water and, indeed, there was. It was disgusting. I was able to pull up great goopy strands of a jelly-like substance. Was this some form of bug gone mad? There was a certain amount of oil there from the grease exuded from the stern gland - were conditions right for grease bug? There was no way I was going to get the stuff on my camera, so no photos, unfortunately.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Making my fridge more efficient

Is it really two whole weeks since I last blogged? I've been taking a little break from it, having got back to the marina, and then to Norfolk. We've been home just over a week now, and already the summer's boating seems hardly more than a distant memory. Perhaps today's autumnal weather - much cooler than the superb weather we had on the boat - has something to do with it.

Before we left Jubilee we cleared the worktop so I could oil it. I also pulled out the fridge so I could have a look underneath with a view to making some holes in the floor underneath the back of the fridge for extra ventilation. It's in rather an enclosed space, with barely an inch gap between its top and the underside of the worktop. so I'm considering introducing even more ventilation in the half bulkhead above the table.

There's about three inches between the top of the table and the overhang of the worktop, but I have to allow for a substantial worktop-supporting batten which is fixed to the other side of the bulkhead. You might be able to make out three fixing screws just below the worktop. I was thinking of a horizontal slot with perhaps a mesh grating, but it must somehow be recessed as the table needs to be able to be lifted off vertically before removal. The table has two metal pins which protrude by about an inch underneath, which engage into holes in a batten fixed this side of the bulkhead (hidden by the table in this photo).

What do you think? It has to look pretty. How about a simple 3/8" slot running the length of the fridge? I believe a tool called a router is what one would use, but my woodworking skills are very basic and I don't want to ruin anything!

Alternatively, having cut a hole in the floor, I could install a computer fan arranged to blow cool "bilge" air past the back of the fridge. Ideally this would come on only when the compressor is running; I'd probably have to wire up a mains actuated relay (it's a 230V fridge). To keep it simpler I could switch the fan manually. It could run during the day and be off at night.

We've actually been switching the fridge itself off at night as Jan claims the noise it makes keeps her awake. Despite summer's heat this didn't seem to affect the contents too much. We had to throw away a couple of pints of congealed milk one day, but that was about it.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

More stats, including rate of fuel consumption

In a comment Tom of Waiouru asks how much fuel we used on our recent cruise and what the consumption figures were.

I'm happy to be able to oblige. Over the 66 days of our Big Summer Cruise the engine did 311.7 hours which is an average of 4.7 hours per day. That's not to say that we cruised for nearly five hours per day as some engine running was with the boat stationary and just for battery charging.

I would like to be able to give a precise figure for fuel consumption, but my boat log suffered a minor disaster. Early in the voyage the wind caught several pages which had come loose and blew them off the cabin top. Some landed on the counter, but some ended up in the cut. I rescued a couple but lost at least one, covering two days' worth. Gone is the record on the first fill-up.

Nevertheless, I have enough data to make a reasonably accurate calculation of fuel consumption.

Second fill: nb Alton, Macc. Canal: 37 litres, 28.5 hours: 1.30 l/h

Third fill: Sowerby Bridge: 72 litres, 65.3 hours: 1.10 l/h

Fourth fill: Thorne: 76 litres, 64 hours: 1.19 l/h

Fifth fill: Shobnall Wharf: 60 litres, 41.1 hours: 1.46 l/h

Sixth fill: Cathiron (GU): 56 litres, 44 hours: 1.27 l/h

Overall consumption for these figures: 301 litres, 242.9 hours giving 1.24 l/h.

Some interesting things are apparent from these figures. Doing the heavily locked Ashton and Rochdale Canals we got the best consumption of just over a litre per hour. Much of the time in locks the engine is idling in neutral, and doesn't have to work hard between locks. The fill-up at Shobnall Wharf was the first after the River Trent - much hard running and few locks leading to the worst consumption rate of nearly 1.5 litres per hour.

The overall figure of one and a quarter litres per hour of engine running is what one is led to expect, so I'm happy with that.

The engine, by the way, is an Isuzu 38 horsepower.

Here is a rare photo of me, attending to a barbecue at Cosgrove (no, we haven't gone far from the marina).

Monday, 22 September 2014

Some cruise stats

According to CanalPlan ... on our Big Summer Cruise we covered 555* miles and worked through 431 locks. We gave ourselves ten weeks to do it, but were back at the marina after nine weeks.

one highlight: the Rochdale Canal. We are just leaving the summit level; the feeder comes in where the dinghy is tied up

The waterways navigated were:

  • Grand Union
  • Saltisford Arm
  • Stratford Canal
  • Worcester and Birmingham
  • Birmingham Canal (New Main Line)
  • Staffs and Worcs
  • Trent and Mersey
  • Macclesfield Canal
  • Peak Forest
  • Ashton Canal
  • Rochdale Canal
  • Calder and Hebble
  • Aire and Calder
  • New Junction
  • South Yorks Navigations
  • Sheffield and Tinsley
  • Stainforth and Keadby
  • River Trent
  • Nottingham Canal
  • Coventry Canal
  • Oxford Canal

I have filmed much of the journey on a timelapse camera; I shall endeavour to upload the many separate sequences soon.

*we actually covered slightly more miles than this - I haven't allowed for the to-ing and fro-ing on the Peak Forest in our quest for water and a winding hole which wasn't silted up. Nor have I added in the mile or three going to the head of navigation on the Trent. And there may well be other bits and pieces I have forgotten about (until I watch the timelapse back). 560 miles would be nearer the mark. Just remembered: we went to the end of the Halifax Arm, oh, and the Dewsbury Arm.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Back to the marina - the big summer cruise is just about over

I forgot to mention yesterday that we'd been to a Friends of Stoke Bruerne Museum talk - on Bikes, Boats and Bridges - as a result of bumping into Kathryn of Leo No. 2. The talk was given by, I think, Brian someone, showing many interesting canal photos from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Back to today. We had a smooth passage down the Stoke Bruerne locks, on our own, and stopped at the bottom for coffee. This turned into lunch before we resumed our journey.

Jan steering Jubilee out of Stoke Bruerne Bottom Lock

There are a lot of daddy long legses around; several attached themselves to the boat overnight.  When we walked in the fields yesterday clouds of them rose into the air as we brushed past.

Immediately past the moorings at the bottom of the flight is an outfall from the River Tove.

It isn't always pouring out like this.

And so we got to Thrupp Wharf Marina and reversed in, straight to our pontoon. Now we are guests of Ally and Ben for the weekend.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The state of the union

The Scots have cast their vote, and I hope more said "no" to independence than "yes". There were plenty of union flags in evidence today as we cruised from Weedon to Stoke Bruerne.

This was poking out from behind the hedge at Nether Heyford.

We flew the flag too, in the form of bunting on the cabin top.

I think it would be a disaster if the Union Flag, loved by generations of Brits, were suddenly to become obsolete.

Nb Live Life nailed his colours to the mast.

I saw only one boat sporting the Scottish saltire.

Blisworth Tunnel Narrowboats, on the other hand, is sitting on the fence. All three flags of the constituent parts of Great Britain were flying above their premises.

No doubt we'll know in the morning. (I predict a "no" vote, by the way.)

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Braunston indicates we're on the home run

Today we turned from the Oxford Canal onto the Grand Union, and thus began to retrace our steps home. We were last in Braunston exactly two months ago, in the sweltering heat of July. Today's not been bad either, but definitely not as warm.

The spire of Braunston Church is a landmark familiar to most boaters, I would think.

At Braunston Locks we passed Chance. As we'd had a long catch-up with Doug and James when we saw them a couple of weeks ago on the Trent and Mersey we didn't stop this time.

Also coming down the locks as we were going up were a couple of CRT work boats. This one had been away for repair for nearly a year and was returning to Oxford. It seems to be shipping rather a lot of water front left.

Ally and Ben joined us for a curry at Brinjol in Weedon this evening. The place was packed - I could hardly believe it! The waiter pointed out that it was "banquet menu" night - a vast amount of food for £9.95 each. It had to be done.

Stoke Bruerne tomorrow, probably.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Misty sunbeams and spiders' webs

We got going earlier than usual this morning, in time to cruise through the mist as the sun burnt it off. Before the sun warmed up the vegetation on the offside, the millions of cobwebs were on display.

It's easy to forget that these spiders' webs must always be covering absolutely everything - it's only when dew or frost settles on them that we can see them.


As we travelled south from Stretton Stop the sun's rays broke through the mist lighting up patches of water.

The best time to be boating.


After stops at Brownsover and Hillmorton we tied up three miles north of Braunston; we should get to the bottom of Buckby Locks tomorrow. The end of our summer cruise is looming ...