Saturday, 30 November 2013

Dishwasher repaired - house fire averted

A few days ago I decided to have another look at our Bosch dishwasher (in the house, this is, not the boat). It had been temperamental, and then it stopped working altogether with, apparently, no mains getting through to where it was needed.

Well, that wasn't quite the case. I removed the door panel and found that there was mains voltage there all right, but on the neutral side as well as the "live" side. Hmm. This is like the situation in low voltage circuits when a component fails to work owing to a poor return connection.

I needed to look at the plug. After clearing the saucepans and washing up liquid bottles from the cupboard next to the dishwasher I could, partly with the aid of a mirror but mostly by using my camera, see where it plugged in.


The plug was only half-way home. The live pin must have been making contact, but not the neutral pin. Let's hope the earth was connected! I reached in and found that the plug was stuck to the back of the dishwasher.

By pulling the machine forward a little, and levering, pushing and pulling on the plug, I managed to free it from the black goo on the back of the dishwasher - some sort of sound deadening tarry substance, I suppose.

Once I'd got the plug free I could see that the neutral pin was heavily corroded. The plastic insulation from around the base of the pin had melted off.

When originally installed, the dishwasher must have been pushed hard against the mains plug. This must have slightly dislodged the plug. At some point things started getting hot - very hot - probably from the poor contact between the neutral pin and the socket, and the plug body and the back of the dishwasher melted together. In its temperamental phase the means of getting it to switch on was to push hard against the door near the selector switches. I now realise that all this was doing was temporarily forcing the neutral pin to make contact with the neutral connection in the socket, but it was also rocking the machine and pulling the plug out.

The cure was as simple as cutting off the old plug, wiring up a new one and plugging it in to the adjacent socket so that it was clear of the back of the machine. Done. Switched on - and the light came on. I just knew it would work (but I still loaded it up and let it wash it to be sure).

So it wasn't the selector switches after all.

I suspect that the black stuff on the back of the dishwasher is flammable. Hmm again. And phew! No amount of protection by fuse or circuit breaker would have prevented this potentially disastrous situation.

Friday, 29 November 2013

What is it? A signpost on the Erewash Canal, that's what

Again KevinTOO is first with the answer.

It's a signpost just above Sandiacre Lock on the Erewash Canal, at the junction with the derelict Derby Canal.

I quite like the silhouette version.

Brian of nb Harnser says that the sign was paid for by people who include readers of this blog. Brian, I assume that includes you, so thank you. It is a fine sign.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

What and where - wider

You won't need me to tell you that this is a signpost.

But where is it?


Something funny has been happening to Tony's UK Waterways website rankings. For a few days we've had the request to be patient while the ranking website was undergoing work; now we have the numerical ranking in its box. But I noticed earlier today that this blog had suddenly jumped to the dizzy height of number 11. What is going on?

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

What and where - more

No-one has identified this yet, so here's a wider view.

So ... what is it, and where would you find it?

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

What and where?

What is it and where would you find it?

Monday, 25 November 2013

Porthole portrait

Jan on Shadow, 7th April 2013

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Preventing the boat freezing inside

One of the difficulties with a boat moored over 100 miles away is keeping an eye on the temperature inside. What I don't want is water freezing in the pipes, taps or shower mixer.

This will be the first winter I've had to worry about this. During the last cold spell Ally and Ben were living aboard full time, and therefore keeping the place warm. Now they are staying with friends until they can move in to their house. Meanwhile half their stuff is still on board.

Some people, I know, remove the shower mixer altogether. Draining the domestic water seems the minimum one should do. I have not done this before - do I simply turn on all the taps so as to completely empty the water tank? Or is there a way to empty the pipework while still keeping water in the tank?

And there are two other water systems on the boat: the engine coolant and the central heating water.

In the nearly two years I've had the boat I have never had to top up the engine coolant, so I assume the antifreeze in it is the right strength and effective. (It's probably a bad thing to assume anything - should I drain and replace the coolant?)

And what about the central heating? Should I drain this or top up the header tank with antifreeze? And is it all right to use the same antifreeze as I would put in the engine?

Or perhaps I needn't bother with any of this. As I'm paying for a marina mooring, with electric hook-up, I could put an electric fan heater in the boat on a minimum thermostat setting. In fact, I have already done this. I have positioned it on the floor in the saloon, pointing towards the galley and bathroom. Will this be sufficient? Will the electricity run out? Would this be a complete waste of money as the boat could freeze up anyway?

Has anyone done the electric heater thing in their boat, and does it work?

Will I ask any more questions?

The photo, by the way, is one from the archive: 16th February 2009, Shadow on the GU Leicester Section just north of Crick.

Top Thirty, 2013 week 48

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty-six places) as it stood at 2000 on Sunday 24th November 2013. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 CanalPlanAC (=)

3 Pennine Waterways (=)

4 Living on a Narrowboat (=)

5 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

6 Retirement with No Problem (=)

7 UKCanals Network (=)

8 boats and cruising (+4)

9 Water Explorer (=)

10 nb Waiouru (=)

11 nb Epiphany (+3)

12 Boatshed Grand Union (-4)

13 boatshare (+2)

14 Waterway Routes (-3)

15 Canal Shop Company (+1)

16 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (+1)

17 NB The Manly Ferry (+4)

18 BCBM Ltd (-5)

19 Towpath Treks (=)

20 boatrent (-2)

21 Narrowboat Chance (+1)

22 Eileen Inlanding (+5)

23 Narrowboat Dreaming .... Parisien Star (+2)

24 Seyella's Journey (+2)

25 Halfie (-5)

26 Narrowboat Briar Rose (+3)

27 Baddie the Pirate (-4)

28 Contented Souls (-4)

29 Boats and Canals Forum (-1)

30 Milburn Boats Ltd (+4)

31 freespirit (=)

32 Narrowboat Starcross (=)

33 The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife (+3)

34 Herbie (-4)

35 One Thing After Another (-)

36 NB Percy (-)

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 112 entries, down from 115 last week.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Darley spotted on the B&F

17th September 2013

Just after exiting the bottom lock of the Curdworth flight on the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal back in September we encountered Darley with Blossom at the helm.

I shouted a quick "hello" and encouraged him to resume blogging.

Wouldn't it be good if he did?

Friday, 22 November 2013

Repairing clutch fluid reservoir on my Volvo 240

(Not strictly boat-related, but the problem appeared while we were on boaty business)

When I last wrote about this I'd just managed to get the car home. A couple of days later I had a go at repairing it. The problem was that the clutch fluid reservoir was not holding the fluid. I had to remove it from the master cylinder to see what was going on.

The plastic reservoir was held on by a thin strip of metal passing under the body of the cylinder and fixed to two lugs on the reservoir by brass rivets.

I drilled out the brass rivet on one side, and lifted up the reservoir. The metal clip holding the reservoir to the body of the master cylinder had corroded and broken. This must be why the fluid suddenly leaked out.

Remaining stuck to the top of the master cylinder was an O-ring, now in an oval shape. This is what is supposed to seal the plastic reservoir to the cylinder. That's 26 years-worth of rust surrounding it, by the way.

This is the underside of the reservoir - you can see where the O-ring goes.

I found something to plug the two holes to prevent dirt getting in, then I scraped away as much rust as I could with a screwdriver before carefully using a synthetic abrasive pad. I was trying to ensure a good seal with the O-ring so I wanted the surface as smooth as possible.

To secure the reservoir to the cylinder I drilled a couple of holes in an old copper pipe clip, then bolted it through the lugs.

Now for the moment of truth. I poured a little brake fluid into the reservoir. It dripped. Oh dear.

But I tightened the bolts, dried off the leakage, and ... it seems to be holding. I took it for a test drive - in no time at all it was back to normal. I seem to have got away without having to bleed it.

Using a thin copper strip is not ideal. I'll have to replace it with something stronger. Or perhaps I should treat the car to a new master cylinder ...

Back to more obviously boaty stuff tomorrow.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Mystery photo: the whole thing

Well done KevinTOO. Yes, it's a pawl lifter - at least, that's what I call it.

And what a fine device it is, serving two functions: a means of disengaging the pawl without getting greasy fingers; and a weight to keep the pawl engaged when winding up the paddle.

For a bonus* can you tell me where I took this photo?

*purely for your own satisfaction - no points or prizes, sorry!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Mystery photo - wider still

I think I may have exposed too much.

What, and approximately where?

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Mystery photo - wider

Here is a little more of yesterday's photo.

Are you getting the picture?

Monday, 18 November 2013

Can you identify this?

Seen while boating this year:

Any guesses?

On car matters ... I shall pull off the clutch fluid reservoir tomorrow and see what is supposed to be sealing it to the master cylinder.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Loading the car and losing a lot of clutch fluid

The two are not related other than that they happened at about the same time.

Last night, driving back to Milton Keynes from the BCF AGM, I noticed that there was more travel on the clutch pedal before disengaging the drive. I wondered if it was anything to do with the incident in France a few years ago when the slave cylinder exploded. The car got back, but changing gear was getting difficult.

Today Ally and Ben wanted us to help them collect their new kitchen units etc. from Ikea. The 240 estate was obviously going to be very useful - as long as it worked. As soon as I lifted the bonnet I could see the problem: no clutch fluid. I bought half a litre of the stuff and filled the reservoir which sits on top of the master cylinder.

Oh dear. A steady trickle of fluid dripped from the master cylinder onto the road. In about five minutes what I'd put in had drained away. Hmm. It's Sunday, we need to get back to Norwich today, our things are on Jubilee five miles away, and we haven't picked up the kitchen yet.

So I thought I'd give it a go. I topped up the reservoir and drove to Ikea. After trawling through the store A+B did final checks and paid for the kitchen. Then I topped up and drove round to the collection point. The car was fine after each top-up, by the way.

Here we loaded a seemingly endless supply of heavy slim cardboard boxes - the famous flat-pack units. The Volvo swallowed them with ease. Ally and Ben put a few things in their Ford Focus, but I reckon I could have got those things in the Volvo too.

The photo doesn't show how much the car was down at the back, but after another guzzle of brake fluid it drove fine. (It always drives much better loaded.)

After unloading at the house in Wolverton, and a bit more work there, it was time for us to return home. To minimise the amount of clutch use on the 240 A+B lent us their car to get our things from the boat. After transferring it all to our car we drove home, stopping to top up twice on the way. The last top-up was about 45 minutes before the end of our journey: everything was fine until we got into the driveway. Then I had to crunch it into reverse. Oh well, I'll have some time tomorrow to consider what to do about it. I'm hoping it might be as simple as a gasket.

There's not much of that 500ml bottle of brake fluid left!

Top Thirty, 2013 week 47

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty-six places) as it stood at 2150 on Sunday 17th November 2013. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 CanalPlanAC (=)

3 Pennine Waterways (=)

4 Living on a Narrowboat (=)

5 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

6 Retirement with No Problem (=)

7 UKCanals Network (=)

8 Boatshed Grand Union (=)

9 Water Explorer (=)

10 nb Waiouru (=)

11 Waterway Routes (+2)

12 boats and cruising (+3)

13 BCBM Ltd (+6)

14 nb Epiphany (-3)

15 boatshare (+1)

16 Canal Shop Company (-4)

17 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (-3)

18 boatrent (=)

19 Towpath Treks (+2)

20 Halfie (+2)

21 NB The Manly Ferry (+2)

22 Narrowboat Chance (+10)

23 Baddie the Pirate (+4)

24 Contented Souls (-7)

25 Narrowboat Dreaming .... Parisien Star (=)

26 Seyella's Journey (-6)

27 Eileen Inlanding (+2)

28 Boats and Canals Forum (-2)

29 Narrowboat Briar Rose (-1)

30 Herbie (-)

31 freespirit (-1)

32 Narrowboat Starcross (-)

33 Like Ducks 2 Water (=)

34 Milburn Boats Ltd (-3)

35 Marpessa2 (-)

36 The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife (-2)

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 115 entries, the same as a week ago.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

BCF AGM at J28

The location of the Boaters' Christian Fellowship Annual General Meeting this year was the Junction 28 Church, very close to a certain junction of the M1. And a very convenient location it was too, being a simple nip up the motorway from Milton Keynes where we stayed last night.

I forgot to take a photo of the exterior so I've borrowed one. It doesn't look much like a church, does it? More like a block of flats or student accommodation. It was very good inside, though.

photo from

The day started with coffee/tea at 1100, then Jan and I joined several other musicians for a rehearsal of the music for the service which would come later.

There were just over 100 BCF members there, not bad for a total membership of 700.

After lunch, which we all contributed to, we got down to the business part: acceptance of minutes, accounts; election of officers etc. Jan had put herself forward for the committee, so, of course, she was duly elected.

Then followed an entertainment slot, where members sang, danced or did magic tricks. Did you know there is a Society of Christian Magicians? No, neither did I. (More illusions than invocations of the dark arts.)

After tea and a feast of cakes etc. we took part in a time of worship, where Jan and I played as part of the band. (Jan on violin, me on descant or tenor recorder). We stood next to an accomplished trumpeter: I suspect that my recorder was rather drowned out.

And that was it. We drove back to MK, stopping at a services for lasagne and chips.

(I took more photos of the proceedings, but I'll spare you them as I need to go to bed!)

Friday, 15 November 2013

Swift by name, swift by nature

12th April 2013

After freeing the prop at the south portal of Husbands Bosworth Tunnel we were able to continue our journey towards Braunston. The next hazard was CRT work boat Swift.

Judging by the wash Swift was living up to its name.

One would have expected CRT to set a good example. Perhaps it just got caught out by a shallow section - it happens.

I have blurred the faces to save potenial embarrassment.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Breaking down in Husbands Bosworth Tunnel

12th April 2013

While I'm on the subject of tunnels and things which go wrong in them, I don't think I have told this story before.

Day 12 of my retirement cruise on Shadow saw us on a cold April morning heading south through Husbands Bosworth Tunnel. The fire is lit, there's light at the end of the tunnel, and all is well with our little bit of the world.

Note, if you would, how our pipe fenders are correctly sitting on the roof, out of harm's way. The time, by the way, is 10:06.

Fifty yards before popping out of the other end of the tunnel ... and

*** BANG! ***

Something was round the prop. Oo-er! This hasn't happened to me in a tunnel before.

I cut the engine. Fortunately the boat had sufficient momentum - just - to drift out of the tunnel. I steered, sort of, by pushing the back end away from the tunnel walls. Once out of the tunnel we drifted conveniently to the bank. So now it was down the weed hatch for me, and fill the kettle for Jan. (To pour hot water into the weed hatch, of course.)

Whatever it was round the prop, it wasn't going to come off in a hurry. Which was a shame, as the water was FREEZING! (Almost literally. We'd been ice breaking a few days before; the canal was being topped up with meltwater.)

To protect my arm against the cold I wrapped it in a bin liner. This acted like a wetsuit, a thin one, but it made a difference. I tied string round all the tools I attacked the debris with, so that I could retrieve them if I dropped them because of the numbing cold.

I think you can see how cold I was!

I sawed and I pulled and I turned the prop and I sawed some more and I pulled some more and I sawed and pulled and sawed and turned and pulled and pulled ...

... and stopped for a hot coffee.

Then I resumed sawing and pulling and turning and cutting and getting cold, until ...

... eventually ...

... at last ...

... at long last ...

... they were off. Two pipe fenders. All right, the remains of two pipe fenders. Each with its strong securing rope. Well, you wouldn't want them to come off in a tunnel, for instance, would you?

The time of the above photo: 13:17.

Three hours is what it took. Three c o l d hours.

Oh, and before you ask, no, they were not our pipe fenders.

Canal Boat magazine columnist Steve Haywood wrote in the September 2013 issue of the hazards of pipe fenders. You won't be surprised to learn that I tend to agree with him.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

What do you do when all lights fail in a tunnel?

13th September 2013

Here is the scenario: I'm steering Kew through Netherton Tunnel, on the way to the Black Country Boating Festival, when the tunnel light at the front suddenly goes out. At the same time, so do all the other lights on the boat. This is my view.

As I was in the right position, heading the right way, I didn't adjust the speed even though I could see nothing. I had remembered my good old mobile phone - a very basic Nokia - had a torch. It's amazing how beneficial one tiny pinprick of light is when otherwise you are in utter darkness. Of course, my eyes had already become accustomed to the low light level, so that helped a lot. I could really see only where the back of the boat was in relation to the sides of the tunnel; I could only guess where the front, 70 feet away, was. Fortunately no boat was coming towards me (unless it had suffered a similar blackout, which I thought unlikely).

We carried on like this for a couple of minutes while David reseated a fuse, and then all the lights came on again. Hooray! But hooray also for my phone. It might not have the internet, but it is very useful all the same.

This is Kew emerging from the north portal on the return trip three days later.

The fuse gave no further problems.

updated to remove ambiguity - we weren't in the tunnel for three days!

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

It makes you think ...

Two days ago I heard some shocking news. A former colleague, Paul, a technical manager in his late 40s, had died after being in hospital for just three weeks. Cancer had been spreading to many parts of his body without him, or anyone else, noticing. He'd complained of some aches and pains, apparently, but would have shrugged them off. He was a big guy.

Six or so weeks ago I visited work for the first time since leaving in March. It was good to see many friends there, including Paul. We said hello and shook hands, probably talked about how I was getting on in retirement, that sort of thing. He was his usual jovial self.

Today I called in at work again, this time to sign a book of condolence. I saw many familiar faces again, but the atmosphere, as you can imagine, was sombre.

Paul, you were a great colleague.

Monday, 11 November 2013

What and where - the answer

Well done, Sue of Indigo Dream. You correctly identified the M25 viaduct over the Grand Union (and the River Gade) at King's Langley.

What a difference the sun makes! The top photo was taken at about half-past eight in the evening of 21st July 2013, while the bottom photo was how it looked at about half-past two three days earlier.

Both pictures were taken from Jubilee as we cruised past on our way to and from the last IWA festival at Cassiobury Park. (And the word "last" could have two meanings, as the IWA seems to have realised that it's not a good thing when a venture supposed to make money actually loses it.)

Sunday, 10 November 2013

What and where - getting easier (possibly)

I know the real expert at this sort of thing is Sue of No Problem with her Winter Wassats, but I like to think that some of you enjoy my humble offerings.

The "what" should be straightforward now (but I've said that about a previous tricky one!), but can you get the "where"?

Top Thirty, 2013 week 46

Here is the UK Waterways Site Ranking (top thirty-six places) as it stood at 0955 on Sunday 10th November 2013. This is taken, with permission, from Tony Blews's UK Waterways Ranking Site.

1 Canal World Discussion Forums (=)

2 CanalPlanAC (=)

3 Pennine Waterways (=)

4 Living on a Narrowboat (=)

5 Jim Shead's Waterways Information (=)

6 Retirement with No Problem (=)

7 UKCanals Network (=)

8 Boatshed Grand Union (+1)

9 Water Explorer (-1)

10 nb Waiouru (=)

11 nb Epiphany (=)

12 Canal Shop Company (+4)

13 Waterway Routes (=)

14 Captain Ahab's Watery Tales (+3)

15 boats and cruising (-3)

16 boatshare (-2)

17 Contented Souls (+15)

18 boatrent (+1)

19 BCBM Ltd (-4)

20 Seyella's Journey (+6)

21 Towpath Treks (-3)

22 Halfie (+2)

23 NB The Manly Ferry (-3)

24 M. B. Willow (+5)

25 Narrowboat Dreaming .... Parisien Star (=)

26 Boats and Canals Forum (+4)

27 Baddie the Pirate (-5)

28 Narrowboat Briar Rose (-5)

29 Eileen Inlanding (+2)

30 freespirit (-2)

31 Milburn Boats Ltd (+2)

32 Narrowboat Chance (-11)

33 Like Ducks 2 Water (+1)

34 The Real Life of a Narrowboat Wife (-)

35 Rock n Roll (-8)

36 Skippy's Random Ramblings (-)

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 115 entries, up from 109 a week ago.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

What and where - a wider view

Here is a slightly wider view of yesterday's picture.

Does this help? If you think you know what it is then say so in a comment.

Friday, 8 November 2013

What and where?

This might not be what you think.

So, what do you think?

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Fixing the control lever

Way back in May I mentioned that the control lever on Jubilee had come loose. I shall now describe what the problem was and how I fixed it.

Here is the control lever. (Can I call it a "Morse" control, or does that imply a particular make or style?)

In order to disengage the gears and yet open the throttle (for starting the engine) the lever has to be pulled two or three millimetres away from its mounting, in other words, in a direction normal to the woodwork. Eventually the force required to do this caused the screws to pull out of the (thinnish) wood of the cupboard door.

Looking the other side of the control, inside the electrics cupboard, I could see that there was a gap of about 3/4" between the back of the door and the backplate of the mechanism.

All I had to do, then, was cut a couple of bits of wood of the right thickness to pad out the gap. There were even four very convenient holes in the backplate for securing the bits of wood. The notches avoid parts of the mechanism.

An easy fix, without having to do any dismantling. And it's now solid and better than the original.

That's the sort of job I like!

Now, if only I could work out why our home dishwasher has stopped working ...

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

2,000th post and other statistics

This is my 2,000th post on this blog. The first one was on 19th November 2007, almost exactly six years ago, which makes an average of one post per day.

235 posts have been concerned with snapshots of the UK Waterways website rankings as compiled by Tony Blews; the other 1765 posts have been my usual drivel.

It would be interesting to see how many photographs I've published, but I haven't found an easy way to determine this.

So far my blog has received 188,000 page views, that's an average over the life of the blog so far of 86 views per day. Over the last year the average has been 135 page views per day.

The photo is of Jubilee with the setting sun at Stoke Hammond on the GU on 28th May 2013.