Saturday 30 June 2012

Old World - New World concert

Jan and I went to a concert held in Norwich's Roman Catholic cathedral this evening. It was given by two choirs: one, Escorial, from Norwich; and the other, Musica Missouri, from St. Louis, Missouri. They sang a programme of mainly sacred music spanning eight centuries, from Pedro de Escobar to Ola Gjeilo (no, I hadn't heard of him/her either).

The American choir was conducted by Philip Barnes, whose style can accurately be described as flamboyant.

The English choir was conducted by our friend Chris Duarte in a more restrained manner.

For some numbers the two choirs combined. The standard was very high throughout - a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

We did our bit for Anglo-American relations by going to the pub afterwards and chatting to several members of the Missouri choir. I made a point of praising the altos, who sang particularly well. We also explained that the recent wet weather is exceptional, but they said that they preferred a bit of rain to the 108 degrees F and wildfires they're having back home. (108ºF? What's that? Oh, 42C. Yes, that's pretty hot.)

The Americans are here for another week, combining more concerts with visiting Blickling Hall, the North Norfolk Railway and other touristy things.

Friday 29 June 2012

Ashted Tunnel

I was slightly nervous about entering Ashted Tunnel on the Digbeth Branch on the BCN recently. The last time I came through was on Shadow, going down the flight of locks. On that occasion, despite hugging the towpath, the "offside" handrail scraped the tunnel wall. Matters did not improve when a following boat sent a lockful of water into the pound!

This time, though, going the other way, we had no such problems. Andy held the boat in to the towpath, but I had, ooh, an inch or two to spare.

Actually, the bits which came off the worst on Shadow were the side fender ropes and the corresponding eyes in the handrail (fenders not deployed, natch). Jubilee has a better system, in that the fender-securing eyes are in the gunwales.

Thursday 28 June 2012

Making a window for the side hatch (2)

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how I'd made a window from polycarbonate for the side hatch. Here is the photo I published at the time.

I remarked that it hadn't, at that stage, been "soak tested" - a few days later there was a leaking lock side.

Then, of course, there was as much rain as I could have wished for to give it a really good test! I'm pleased to say that it performed faultlessly. Not one drop entered the cabin. Mike left a comment on the original post asking for more details, so here are a couple more close-ups.

The plastic sheet is held in place by the hinges.

To prevent the sheet slipping down, I screwed blocks of wood to it at the bottom. But I have found that it sits perfectly on the steelwork.

At the top the overhanging lip ensures no water can get in from above.

I haven't yet replace the blocks of wood with something more sympathetic. When I have, I'll let you know.

Wednesday 27 June 2012

Gas, electricity and fibre optics under our feet on the towpath

On my wet and muddy cycle ride along the seven miles of the Grand Union Canal between Camp Hill basin and Catherine-de-Barnes a few days ago, I was aware that at least three services were running along beneath me.

First I came to a series of concrete covers marked "DANGER CEGB 132,000 VOLTS"

Then there was a high pressure gas main marked at intervals by concrete posts. Some of these had electrical terminals on the side. Conveniently (for my photo) some vandal had removed the cover of one of these, allowing a view of the wires inside. The smaller post in this photo is marked "WMGB" which, I assume, stands for West Midlands Gas Board.

Lastly a plaque marked "FIBREWAY", with "Duct and Access" and some more, indistinct, words, one of which could be "United". This will be covering fibre optic cable(s) carrying telephone calls, TV signals and data of all kinds.

1994 article about Fibreway from the Independent here

I hope BW got/gets a decent amount of cash for letting their land in this way.

Tuesday 26 June 2012

Braunston Historic Boat Rally 2012 photos part 2

Following on from yesterday's post here are a few more photos from Sunday's gathering, starting with steamer Laplander.

While on parade with Kew we passed this fine pair of FMC boats...

...then we paused while we waited for a boat or boats in front to reverse into the wharf. Corona waited behind us.

Then we watched Renfrew tow Betelgeuse (?) into the marina.

The can has the name "Betelgeuse" so I'm assuming that's the boat's name.

Monday 25 June 2012

Some photos of the historic narrowboats at Braunston 2012

Apologies for the lack of posts in the last few days: I was just too busy on the Birmingham house - painting, filling and cleaning - to do anything else. On Saturday the new tenants moved in, and Ally and I had a celebratory curry at the Sweet Chillies. After that, in the last vestiges of daylight, we winded where we were (Bridge 5, Stratford Canal), watered up and moved a few hundred yards to be opposite the moorings at Lyons Boatyard. (Incidentally, a sign there proclaims diesel at 87p per litre. Annoyingly I had just paid 99p/l at Away4Service in central Brum.)

On Sunday I said goodbye to Ally (Ben was in Southport after a stag party) and drove to Braunston, where I had arranged to pick up a set of keys for Jubilee from Kew owners David and Mary (whose mooring we had used a few weeks previously).

At Braunston I snapped away - like everyone else - at the wonderful array of former working boats lovingly restored and polished to perfection by their owners.

In the old wharf were Nutfield and Raymond (on the left) and Stanton and Chertsey.

The Braunston Historic Boat Rally is a good place to bump into fellow bloggers. Here I found Sarah and Jim of Chertsey; James and Amy of Lucky Duck; Neil and Kath of Herbie; and Adam of Briar Rose (not all photographed here).

After chatting for a while I went off to find Kew and collect my keys. David and Mary were just finishing lunch with their son and daughter-in-law. It just happened that left in the pan was another portion of stew, which Mary very kindly fed me with - perfect! While I was eating boats began to leave the vicinity of the marina heading for Braunston Turn where they would turn to start the parade by going under the marina entrance bridge, with Norman Mitchell providing the usual commentary.

Chertsey, steered by Neil, going towards the Turn

Raymond, towed by Nutfield, having turned, heading towards the marina entrance

Chertsey coming back...

...steered now by Sarah

The afternoon's parade was under way. At a suitable gap we untied Kew and David steered into the parade.

Under the bridge...

...and here's Norman (in the hat)

David (on the right) steered expertly round the course.

That's enough from me for now!

Top Thirty, 2012 Week 25

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty places) as it stood at 1730 on Monday 25th June 2012. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 CanalPlanAC (=)

4 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

5 Water Explorer (+3)

6 UKCanals Network (=)

7 Retirement with No Problem (-2)

8 Waterway Routes (-1)

9 Stratford River Festival 2012 (+10)

10 Granny Buttons (-1)

11 nb Epiphany (-1)

12 Towpath Treks (-1)

13 Jannock Website (+2)

14 boatshare (-2)

15 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (+1)

16 Canal Shop Company (-3)

17 Takey Tezey (+1)

18 nb Waiouru (-4)

19 ExOwnerships (+3)

20 Trafalgar Marine Services (=)

21 Narrowboat Bones (=)

22 Nb. Yarwood (-5)

23 Google Earth Canal Maps (+2)

24 Derwent6 (+2)

25 nb Lucky Duck (-)

26 Narrowboat Briar Rose (+1)

27 Narrowboat Chance (+3)

28 Halfie (-4)

29 Seyella's Journey (-1)

30 Baddie the Pirate (-7)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous chart;
(-) denotes new entry or re-entry into the chart;
(=) denotes no change.

There are 163 entries, up from 159 last week.

Thursday 21 June 2012

Meeting blue top Collingwood

Jumping back a few weeks, we met blue top boat Collingwood on the Birmingham and Fazeley on 26th May. (It feels a lot longer ago than that, but I've been busy).

This boat is usually moored at Gas Street Basin, and is the one used by the Lucky Ducks and co. for their BCN Challenge this year.

Wednesday 20 June 2012

Busy on the Billesley house (and an excellent curry)

I'm still working on the house formerly occupied by Ally and Ben. I'm readying it for new tenants, who move in on Saturday, so I've been filling holes, painting walls and ceilings and buying bits and pieces. Today's shopping at Homebase came to more than £70, and that was without really trying.

The best thing about the house is that it's five minutes' walk from Bridge 5 on the Stratford Canal. The second best thing is its proximity to one of the best curry houses I've been to, the Sweet Chillies. (I'm eating a delicious takeaway from there as I write this).

It's very easy to get to from Bridge 5 as it's on the same road: turn left down the hill (this is Yardley Wood Road); cross the double mini roundabout; and it's another hundred yards on the right. There are two water points at Bridge 5, as well as good moorings.

Ally and Ben, meanwhile, have moved onto Jubilee. Our boat will be their home for a year or two, until they can afford to buy somewhere that's truly theirs. They've had to do an immense amount of paring down, as you'd expect, in order to fit into the 55' boat. Car loads of stuff are with both sets of parents - and there's more to come! One essential (for Ben) on the boat was his coffee machine. Funnily enough, they've made me remove all the brass knick-knacks!

After the curry I went to the boat to finish a job I started earlier: cleaning out the shower sump. But that's another story, and needs photos.

Apologies for the lack of photos today - I'll try to make up for it tomorrow.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Too much water floods hire boat engine

I promised more on the interesting descent of Camp Hill and ascent of Ashted Locks - and here it is.

First, another shot of the lock Jubilee was in, waiting for the bottom lock to become free of the boat which couldn't get out owing to the low pound.

There was so much water coming from above that it cascaded over the top gates and even the sides of the lock.

Eventually the stuck boat became unstuck, and exited the lock, freeing the way for the boat in front of us. Then we went through, onto the long-ish pound before the start of the ascent of Ashted Locks.

Here, though, was another boat - a hire boat - which had got stuck trying to enter the low pound. Only in this case, somehow, the crew hadn't been able to control the flow of water being sent down the Ashted flight, and had managed to completely flood the engine hole. Fortunately the cabin was unaffected. By the time we got there, the crew had managed to pull the boat out of the lock and were pumping out the last of the water. The engine had been totally submerged, and so water had got into the air filter. When this was removed we could see water sitting on top of the inside of the engine!

This is where Captain Ahab and I got involved. I went to get a length of plastic hose from my "useful" box and started siphoning the water out. An impressive amount flowed! Andy took photos. I expect they will appear on his blog soon. When no more water would come out an attempt was made to start the engine. Clunk. It wouldn't turn. Water was obviously sitting on top of the pistons, and when the engine tried to turn this water was being compressed against the valves. Only water, unlike air, is incompressible. This is when the crew decided they ought to phone the hire company. I did suggest slackening off the glow plugs to eject the water, but better to let the boatyard sort it out now. We took our leave and ascended the locks.

As I said, I was the one trying not to drink to much canal juice and Andy was the one taking the photos, so no pictures from me of the incident.

Here, though, is one of Andy in one of his favourite places. Who will be the first to identify it?

Monday 18 June 2012

Poppies provide a splash of colour on the Worcester and Birmingham Canal

I'll continue the story of yesterday's cruise through Birmingham with Captain Ahab later. Meanwhile here's a photo from the previous time we did the journey, about three weeks ago.

These were some of the first poppies we'd seen this year, providing a splash of red along the Worcester and Birmingham.

Sunday 17 June 2012

Not the usual way to fill a lock

It's been an exciting day's locking through Birmingham. Fellow blogger Andy, aka Captain Ahab, came to lend a hand as I went down the Camp Hill Locks and up Ashted and Farmer's Bridge Locks.

We'd done only three or four locks when it all ground to a halt. The pound between the bottom lock of the Camp Hill flight and the bottom lock of the Ashted flight was very low, preventing boats from continuing. The only answer was to run more water in from the pounds above, having first checked that the top lock of the Garrison flight was properly closed.

Andy borrowed my bike to whizz back up the Camp Hill flight and let water down from the summit pound (long enough not to be affected too much). In the process at least one intermediate pound became slightly flooded, leading to this rather unconventional way of filling the lock Jubilee was waiting in.

I like the wiggly paths the water takes as it runs off the side of the lock.

There is more to this story, but it will have to wait. It didn't end well for one boat.

Top Thirty, 2012 Week 24

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty places) as it stood at 0830 on Sunday 17th June 2012. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 Pennine Waterways (=)

3 CanalPlanAC (=)

4 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

5 Retirement with No Problem (=)

6 UKCanals Network (+1)

7 Waterway Routes (-1)

8 Water Explorer (+1)

9 Granny Buttons (-1)

10 nb Epiphany (+2)

11 Towpath Treks (=)

12 boatshare (-2)

13 Canal Shop Company (=)

14 nb Waiouru (+4)

15 Jannock Website (-1)

16 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (+1)

17 Nb. Yarwood (+4)

18 Takey Tezey (-3)

19 Stratford River Festival 2012 (+9)

20 Trafalgar Marine Services (=)

21 Narrowboat Bones (+4)

22 ExOwnerships (+2)

23 Baddie the Pirate (-)

24 Halfie (-1)

25 Google Earth Canal Maps (+2)

26 Derwent6 (+3)

27 Narrowboat Briar Rose (-8)

28 Seyella's Journey (+2)

29 (-7)

30 Narrowboat Chance (-)

The figures in parentheses denote the number of places moved since the previous chart;
(-) denotes new entry or re-entry into the chart;
(=) denotes no change.

There are 159 entries, one more than last week.

Saturday 16 June 2012

Camp Hill and getting very muddy

I drove up to the boat last night (while some people were watching England beat Sweden at football). This morning I steered from Catherine-de-Barnes to the secure mooring at the top of Camp Hill Locks on the GU. The facilities here are excellent - water, Elsan, rubbish, loos and shower. Accessing the "outside world" is by unlocking a gate and crossing the lock onto the towpath.

Captain Ahab and Jeff are going to join me in the morning to assist with the locks - Camp Hill, Ashted and Farmer's Bridge - 25 in all. I hope the rain holds off.

This afternoon I cycled back down the towpath to the car in order to take it to tomorrow's destination on the Stratford Canal. I got quite wet ad very muddy. The towpath was full of puddles and thick, squelchy, slippery mud. This is how my bike ended up.

I have spared you a shot of my legs - they were spattered with mud. More mud than skin.

Before putting the bike in the car I sloshed loads of canal juice over it (using a container which had been handily floating past - no shortage of them round here!)

Friday 15 June 2012

Henwood Hall Farm in the green

Near Copt Heath Wharf, north of Knowle on the Grand Union, Henwood Hall Farm (house) stands surrounded by lush greenery.

The jutting out loading bay looks very old.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Daisies give me the (ox) eye

The grass verge by the inner ring road in Norwich is full of oxeye daisies in places.

I'm glad they haven't been mown down yet.

These seem to compete with poppies for verges and central reservations at this time of year.

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Ducks on top

In the last few weeks of on-and-off boating I saw no ducks on top of any narrowboat. Well, I wasn't looking for any. Why would I? Why would anyone? Ducks prefer water. Everyone knows that.


On Saturday I passed a boat with eight ducks happily squatting and waddling on the roof. Yes, they were all real live ducks.


Tuesday 12 June 2012

Two painting jobs - one more successful than the other

I'll start with my pathetic attempt to "signwrite" the boat's name on the Buckby can.

I drew inspiration from the logo of Jubilee hose clips, but I was always useless at art at school.

I have not improved since.

As for how to give the lettering some depth, well, I haven't left myself much room, have I?

The other, more successful painting job, was to touch up a small scrape on the blue handrail. As we exited Lock 18 on the Lapworth flight there was a huge amount of water gushing in from the towpath side under the bridge. This forced the boat into the arch of the bridge, and there was nothing Jan could do. When I realised what was going on I grabbed the centre rope and pulled the boat away from the brickwork and out of the bridgehole. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera on me, and I forgot to go back. Water was even pouring out of a manhole cover between the lock and the pipe under the bridge. To return to the touch-up job: the previous owner had left all the half-used tins of paint under the well deck and it was easy to find the right one. I sanded the scraped paint down to the metal, removing the surface rust which had already formed, and dabbed on the paint.

Monday 11 June 2012

Making a window for the side hatch

One of the first things we said when we were buying our boat was that we'd have to get a piece of transparent plastic for the side hatch. Our shared ownership boat Shadow has one, and we use it all the time. It lights the galley while stopping the rain (or leaking locksides) coming in.

I measured the hole and bought a polycarbonate sheet cut to size (72 cm x 62 cm from memory) from Mr. Plastics in Norwich. I then had to figure out how to lift it in place and stop it falling out.

I had a couple of brass handles at home, so I copied Shadow's window and fixed them to the plastic. Well, I almost copied. Where Shadow's has nuts and bolts securing the handles I've had to use wood screws and blocks of plywood. Purely as a temporary measure, of course. But they do look rather ugly at the moment.

Very conveniently, the plastic is held in place by the hinges of the side hatch doors. They stick out just enough to obviate the need for bolts (so, thankfully, I won't have to drill holes though thick steel). Two further blocks of wood prevent the plastic sliding down too far, although it sits very nicely on the steelwork.

It has yet to be tested in rain (yes, really! I only did it on Friday evening) but I'm quietly confident that my design will hold water. As it were. (If we get a heatwave (ha!) I hope the hole doesn't expand so much that the plastic falls out! Perhaps I should put a safety string on one of the handles ...)

It looks even uglier without flash - but look how transparent it is! I wonder how long the "new" look will last. I need to remember to take nuts and bolts (and washers) on our next visit.