Sunday 14 December 2014

Walking in sunshine

Yesterday we took part in the local walking group's final outing of the year.

We started and finished at The Dove, Poringland in Norfolk.

Conditions were perfect: cold but sunny with hardly any wind.

We walked just four miles, with a stop for coffee half way. Not exactly in Tom's (Waiouru) league, but in pleasant company.

I was pleased with the self-timed photo. I just put my rucksack down, put my coat and hat on it, rested the camera on top, selected the timer and pressed the button.

Back at the pub we had a Christmas meal. Not the best but, as I say, the company was good.

Today we ate out again, this time Sunday lunch in the village carvery. The occasion was the church choir annual Christmas meal; the food was excellent. After this I did more log chopping and stacking. The undealt-with pile is going down as the log store is growing; I now need to do more chain sawing of the larger pieces to give me more to split.

Monday 8 December 2014

Tree work provides several years' worth of logs

Last week we had a huge ash tree cut down. Large pieces were beginning to fall off into neighbours' gardens; when we had a tree surgeon look at it he pointed out that the trunk was in danger of splitting. So, unfortunately, it had to go.

Three men arrived at 0830 and left as it got dark at about 1600.

Daniel spent almost the entire time in the tree, cutting off branches and lowering them to the ground.

The last piece was the highest, largest and most difficult.

There it goes ...

Phew! The strap held.

In front of the hedge is what's left of the stump, just below the fence.

I have been having great fun splitting the huge rounds into lovely logs.

This is just a small fraction of the potential logs. We should have enough to keep us going for a few years.

If only the boat were a little closer.

Thursday 20 November 2014

November boating; BCF AGM; conveniently running out of gas; and a non-starting Volvo

We've been to the boat again for another few days, using it as a base for visiting Ally and Ben and for driving up to the Boaters' Christian Fellowship AGM in Derbyshire. At Ally and Ben's we did some painting and saw progress on the utility room. Nice floor tiles, Ben, and it's good to see the downstairs loo installation almost complete!

On Saturday we drove up the M1 to J28 and arrived in good time to help with setting up for the highlight of the BCF year: the annual general meeting. After a bring-and-share lunch the business part of the meeting takes place. This doesn't take long and leaves plenty of time for entertainment and a period of worship before packing up before 7pm.

There is usually a sound operator supplied by the church whose facilities we were using, but a slight mix-up meant that he didn't appear for a while. I stepped into the breach and operated the mixer for the business meeting and the entertainment.

100 members attended, about 15% of the total membership, and it was good to meet old friends and make new ones. One couple we encountered for the first time was regular commenter Val Poore's brother and his wife.

On Sunday we took Jubilee out of the marina and went to The Galleon, stopping at the services block at Cosgrove on the way.

Then on Monday we cruised back the way we'd come, overshooting the marina to go to Baxter's to top up with diesel. As I was winding immediately after filling up Jan came to the back to report that the gas had just run out. How convenient! I pulled in again on the boatyard's mooring and got a new gas cylinder.

On our gentle cruise back to Thrupp Wharf Marina the light was good for a couple of photos.

We left on Tuesday morning having drained down the shower and leaving a heater on board which should kick in if it gets too cold. Oh, and I topped up the electricity point.

Unfortunately the car wouldn't start in the marina car park, so I had to enlist the help of a fellow moorer who came with a spare battery. The Volvo 240 has suffered from poor starting in cold damp conditions for a while. This time I managed to flatten the battery (on its last legs) trying to coax it into life. Today I bought a new distributor cap and rotor arm, and ordered a set of HT leads. These should help! I should have ordered a battery as well, but that will wait another day.

Thursday 13 November 2014

Sweeping the chimney

While we were having some building work done at home the other day, which involved removing the top section of the woodburner flue, I took the opportunity to sweep the chimney. I had tried to do this before, but I couldn't get the brush past the "butterfly valve" in the bottom of the flue. This time I was able to put the brush in from above, as is the usual procedure on a boat. It was a successful operation, with a pile of soot landing in the stove. That's a 6-inch ruler in the photo below.

Given the length of the flue, and the period of time since installation - this was its first sweep - there wasn't really very much that came out.

I get more than this every time I sweep the boat chimney, which must be a quarter the length. In the boat, though, half the sweepings seem to consist of rusty metal from the chimney. In the house the flue is twin-walled stainless steel. (Should I admit that the flue was installed 15 years ago? At least it's swept now.)

We'll be back on board very soon - I think I'll sweep the boat's chimney before lighting up ...

Sunday 9 November 2014

Something for Rembrance Sunday

As blood red as they come.

Photographed in September at The Taft, Trent and Mersey Canal.

Thursday 6 November 2014

Walking along the Buckingham Arm

Last month we explored part of the derelict Old Stratford and Buckingham Arm of the GU. This section is at Thornton, about two thirds of the way to Buckingham from Cosgrove Junction.

We parked up just south of the A422 and walked towards the canal bridge. The road was itself reminiscent of a canal entering a tunnel in the distance.

Our first sight of the canal was where it passes under a flimsy-looking brick (or is it stone?) bridge alongside the road.

From the bed of the canal looking back at the bridge, the road we walked along goes from left to right across the centre of the photo below. You can see that the canal is culverted under the more modern road crossing.

Looking westwards from the bridge the canal is clearly defined.

A little further to the west the canal narrows for what I guess is the site of a lift bridge. This is looking east.

Where the canal comes to the A422 again it turns to the left (south west) and crosses a tributary of the River Great Ouse, the river it parallels all the way from Cosgrove to Buckingham. Some tree clearing will be required here!

We crossed the stile and went through the trees to the road. The map marks the crossing over the tributary as Cattleford Bridge. Here the canal must have passed over a small aqueduct. Then we retraced our route back to the car.

We didn't cover much more than half a mile of canal, but it's given me a taste for walking more of it. I really ought to take a look at where restoration work has been going on; something for another time.

Sunday 2 November 2014

Cleaning up the Grand Union Canal; and a surprise visit

On a warm Friday last month Jan and I volunteered to help on a Clean-up Day on the GU between Fenny Stratford and Linslade. Never having taken part in anything like this before, I didn't know what to expect. We'd printed out the safety instructions and taken old clothing. I'd taken my steel-capped boots and was prepared to get dirty.

After a car shuffle, which involved another volunteer and I driving our cars to the Globe Inn at Linslade and being returned to Fenny Stratford in a CRT van, we were ready for the off.

Jan and I were asked to stand in the mud at the bottom of a "pan", a work boat which was breasted up to nb Brown Trout, Athina and Jonathan's boat. The first job was to get through Fenny Lock.

Once through the lock we were able to start the clean-up. Our task was to concentrate on the offside, clearing as much rubbish as we could find. Bridge holes were a good place to find countless cans, bottles and bags. Here Athina is about to net something, while Jan, in hard hat, is wielding a litter picker.

Other implements at our disposal included kebs and grappling irons. On this trawl behind the boat I've picked up a plastic bag. Not terribly exciting!

Did I mention the mud in the boat? It was sloppy and unavoidable.

More exciting things I grappled from the bottom of the cut included a supermarket trolley, the orange colour gives away the source of this one; a cylindrical net (for trapping crayfish?) ...

... and a huge umbrella. This was at the bottom of one of the Three Locks.

As well as these "big ticket" items we collected several bags of assorted detritus. Perhaps the strangest find was a tomato plant in its pot - complete with ripe tomatoes. The white goods in the picture above is a cooker retrieved from the towpath before we set off.

We enjoyed the day, and it was a pity we didn't have time to stay on for the meal in the pub afterwards. I had realised that I had forgotten to bring a spare pair of trousers with me, so we called in at Primark in Bletchley for something a bit more presentable.


That was 17th October. This is 2nd November, and a rare thing happened today. Living in Norfolk, as we do, we seldom get visitors as we are not on the way to anywhere. But this afternoon Jan happened to look at Facebook and discovered that the Tidys were very near and wondering if they could call in.

It was lovely to see Andy and Helen, it was just a bit weird that it was not in a boaty context!

Saturday 1 November 2014

A walk round Kimberley in the November sunshine, and a mysterious machine

Jan and I went for a walk in the Norfolk countryside this afternoon, making the most of the warm sunny weather.

Projecting from the leaf litter was this impressive mushroom.

The clay pantiles of Kimberley Home Farm glowed in the autumn sunshine.

We came across a plethora of abandoned farm machinery on our walk. This piece looks less abandoned, more awaiting the next job. I couldn't work out what it's used for - it has a weight which runs on a slide; attached to the weight is a rope connected to a hydraulic lever.

Looking at it now I wonder if the slide is vertical in use, and the weight is made to fall on a fence post to drive it into the ground.

Tomorrow I intend to write up how we spent a day helping to clean up the Grand Union Canal. The canal might have ended up cleaner; I certainly didn't.

Friday 31 October 2014

This is how close the RCR HQ is to the blown-up fireworks store

Hearing River Canal Rescue's boss Stephanie Horton on the radio this evening, telling of her close shave when the Stafford fireworks building exploded, reminded me that I'd taken a photo as we went past on the Staffs and Worcs Canal in July.

RCR is right next door to the fireworks unit, which blew up yesterday. Tragically, two bodies have been recovered.

Ms Horton told of the suddenness with which her offices filled with smoke; I believe I heard her colleague saying how he broke a door down in the rush to escape.

As far as I know, the RCR staff survived unscathed. I imagine the building is a bit of a mess, though.

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.)