Saturday 31 January 2015

Plenty to nibble at the Buckingham Canal Society's AGM; CRT wants to manage EA waterways "soon"

At lunchtime we took the boat for a short cruise to the services block at Cosgrove to empty the Elsan. The wind was fairly strong and behind us. While there we topped up the water and had lunch while the tank filled. Even with my newly kink-free hose it took a long time - well, time enough for us to have lunch. The wind assisted us round above the lock, and we returned to the marina. To get back on our berth stern first I usually reverse in from the canal as our mooring is, conveniently, directly in line with the marina entrance. On this occasion, however, I went in nose first, overshooting the pontoon, then allowed the wind to catch the front and bring the boat round. I then let the wind blow us sideways until we were in line with the pontoon, then reversed in. At this stage, of course, the nose carried on moving in the direction of the wind, and so we ended up nudging the next-door boat a bit, but I was pleased to get back into position without too many problems.

On the trip we saw lots of geese (Canada?) They didn't fancy being in the water at the same time as us, and scarpered off up the piling and onto the field.

This evening we went to the AGM of the Buckingham Canal Society. We joined the BCS a year or so ago after I encountered a small work party doing some test digging on the line of the canal. One of the party, sensing my interest, handed me a joining form which he happened to have in his pocket. I was impressed then that the BCS was so well geared up to attracting new people; I was even more impressed this evening when that same person - a committee member (or "trustee" as they now seem to be called) - remembered me from that chance meeting.

The business of the meeting was concluded fairly swiftly, then it was half time when we were invited to partake of the refreshments laid out on tables at the back of the room. We half regretted having already eaten tea as there was a feast of vol-au-vents (vols-au-vent?), olives, spicy sausage slices, sandwiches, cheese etc. There was wine too, but I stuck to fruit juice as I was driving.

After being called back to our seats it was time for a talk by Richard Parry, the CEO of the Canal and River Trust. He took us rapidly through a series of slides full of facts and figures. I think he was trying to show how CRT is committed to canal restoration as well as maintenance, but I'm afraid the presentation went on too long and there were too many slides with not enough time to take everything in.

Perhaps the most useful part was the question-and-answer session at the end, where Mr Parry came across as a real human being, genuinely interested in people's questions and trying to answer honestly without corporate-speak. The chairman of the meeting wound up the session all too soon, but I managed to talk to the CRT boss afterwards. I asked him how negotiations regarding the Environment Agency were going; Richard Parry replied that things had come to rather a standstill at the moment, but it was CRT's intention to "take over" the management of EA's waterways without having to be responsible for the major structures such as weirs and flood controls. Mr Parry said that when the Canal and River Trust took over from British Waterways it was the intention that CRT would be looking after EA's waterways within six months. Now that timescale has slipped, apparently - according to Mr Parry - because there didn't seem to be any will for it within the ranks of the civil service. We cannot expect any progress on that front before the General Election, Mr Parry said, but CRT is very keen that it should happen.

Meanwhile I'm going to have to get a short-term EA licence if we're to attend the Northampton boat gathering this summer.

Friday 30 January 2015

A towpath walk to Kingfisher Marina

I did at least two jobs today, both of which involved drilling pilot holes ands screwing into the lining of the boat. I moved the clock to the front bulkhead, where it can now be seen from the galley as well as the saloon. And I put up my Christmas present, a metal BW poster reproduction "Discover yesterday today" with a bucolic scene of a boat being towed under a bridge next to a pub.

After lunch we walked along the towpath to Kingfisher Marina to have a look round. It's marginally cheaper than Thrupp Wharf Marina, but the noisy A508 runs very close by. Also the electricity points will allow a maximum of 6A - not enough for a washing machine or a normal kettle. Still, we'll be bearing it in mind.

Some photos from the walk:

Taverners Boat Club moorings by the Navigation Inn

A swan in the sun

The Navigation Inn and Thrupp Wharf Marina

We clocked up 4.7 miles mostly in sunshine, but with a biting wind and one very light shower. Not a patch on Tom's (Waiouru) route marches but good enough for us.

For tea we bought some more curries from the Castlethorpe shop and shared them with Ally and Ben at their house. After a spot of late evening shopping in Wolverton's 24 hour Tesco we returned to the boat where I am now writing this.

It's the AGM of the Buckingham Canal Society tomorrow (Sat); it will be our first as members.

Thursday 29 January 2015

Repairing a water hose; the Amazon runs well

We were up early in order to drive up the M1 to Eastwood, Notts, for Jan to attend a committee meeting. Before we set off I gave the overdrive relay a few thwacks. This seems to have done the trick as it performed faultlessly the whole journey (more than 70 miles each way). I was a little concerned at the forecast of snow, but we arrived at 1100 having barely even used the wipers.

While the committee meeting was in progress I walked around Eastwood and, at one stage, became a walking snowman. I was glad of my overtrousers, and the coat from Aldi was very good at keeping the heat in and the snow out. My new Clarks waterproof shoes were warm and comfortable.

I bought a hose repair connector from B&Q (£1) and a double male hose connector from a small hardware shop in the town (60p - B&Q wanted £4 for the same thing!). Had I found the hardware shop first I wouldn't have bothered with B&Q, as all I wanted to do was to cut out a badly kinked section of the water hose and join the two ends together. I already had two female ends, so the double male connector was all I needed.

This shows the problem (the insulating tape was put on by the previous owner) ...

... and here are the various connectors. Centre top is the hose repairer; centre bottom is the male double-ender.

In the end, when we got back to Jubilee, I decided to cut out the kink and use the £1 hose repairer. Job done.

The repair is to the shortish length of hose I use if the bow is near the water tap. It saves the hassle of using the hose drum. Also, I don't need to run as much water through to remove the old stale water from the hose. At this time of year I keep it inside the cabin so it's reasonably flexible. At one recent fill up the hose resembled a stretched out Slinky across the towpath.

The drive back to the boat was, again, better than I had expected. No more snow fell, the spray from the traffic wasn't too bad and the 50 mph section for roadworks flowed smoothly. There were two or three slow bits but they soon passed. And the Amazon drove really well, happy to cruise at 60 mph. I think it likes the cold weather: the temperature gauge never moved from just below normal. (In warmer weather it tends to creep up into the hot region - sometimes I have to put the car heater on to dump some heat.) When I filled up in Eastwood I found it had dome 31 mpg. I'm pleased with that.  The car is 46 years old, after all.

Tomorrow is a "rest" day; no doubt I or Jan will find some jobs, though!

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Back on board for a few cold nights

We drove over to the marina today, being buffeted by the wind all the time. The Amazon is back on the road and I wanted to give it a good run. The old Volvo presents rather a bluff profile to the wind; you certainly know it when a gust hits you broadside! The car behaved well in the wind and the rain, but the overdrive packed up as we got onto the A5D in Milton Keynes. Hmm. I hope it's the relay again ...

The marina was being whipped up to 6" waves, but the boat was remarkably stable. I retied the bow rope so as to pull the back end further away from the bank. I had to pass the rope through a side fender eye on the gunwhale to give the necessary pull. Now the rear fender won't get stuck under the rail from which the pontoons jut out. I'll have to take a photo.

Jubilee wasn't as cold as I thought it would be. The fierce wind outside blew all one's heat away, but the only wind inside was from the vents. I soon had the stove going, then we walked the mile to Castlethorpe to warm up our feet.

From the village shop we bought another couple of home-made curries to enjoy one evening, but not today as we already had a pie with us.

It hailed on us as we walked back to the boat, but it didn't last long.

We have to drive to Eastwood, Notts, tomorrow for Jan to attend a Boaters' Christian Fellowship committee meeting. Heavy snow is forecast for the afternoon. Our return journey might just take a little longer than the outward one, for which only light snow is predicted. Joy.

The central heating is now on as well as the stove, oh, and I believe Jan has switched on the electric blanket too. The luxury of marina-dwelling!

Speaking of which, we have given notice to leave Thrupp Wharf Marina at the end of March. We'll be off cruising again - an even longer cruise than last year. I haven't planned a route yet, but we'll try to get to a few boaty gatherings. We'll keep a look-out for a different home base, possibly somewhere with a few more facilities. The lack of an Elsan emptying point here at Thrupp Wharf is a bit of an inconvenience. So to speak.

Sorry about the lack of photos; I'll try to make up for that tomorrow, if we're not held up too long on the M1.

Thursday 15 January 2015

Coventry Basin welcomes pigeons

Many buildings try to discourage pigeons using netting or spikes. Not at Coventry Basin. Here it looks as though special quarters have been built for the feathered pests.

Each hole has a perch outside; each perch is - or is about to be - occupied.

The droppings fall into the water. Not a good place to tie up your boat (not that you're allowed to).

photos Sep 2014

Wednesday 14 January 2015

Dyson fixed

We at Halfie Towers have been without a vacuum cleaner for ten days or so. The motor inside our Dyson DC05 died with a horrible smell, so I went on a Dyson forum to find out how to fix it. There I discovered a very clear description of how to dismantle and reassemble the thing, but I needed a Torx screwdriver. With this obtained I was able to remove the old motor, ascertain that it was beyond repair, and order a new one.

Here are the dead motor and the two filters. The lower one is the HEPA (high-efficiency particulate absorption) filter which is completely clogged. This is probably what killed the motor as it struggled to push the air through it.

After a bit of difficulty reassembling the Dyson, it now works again.

It should be good for many more years, especially if I remember to check/ replace the HEPA filter every so often.


It's quite windy here in Norfolk now. I trust all your chimney hats, aerials etc. are secure if it's blowy where you are.

Monday 12 January 2015

The red hands of New Bradwell

Opposite the New Inn, New Bradwell, Milton Keynes - but not visible from the canal - is this artistic hand rail.

It leads off from the pavement to, if I remember correctly, a private house. The one with the round turret and the boathouse.

I hope it has a name; it should be "May I give you a hand?"

Sunday 11 January 2015

Red hands, but where?

These red hands are very near a canal, but where would you encounter them?

Saturday 10 January 2015

Curious things in the bed of the Buckingham Canal

On 27th December 2014 we walked along the Buckingham Canal from Cosgrove Junction to Old Stratford. The first couple of hundred yards is used as moorings for Cosgrove Marina, then there is an infilled bridge beyond which the bed is dry.

Or, rather, almost dry. There have been experiments with allowing water to fill one or more sections between bunds with water to test for leaks (as I understand it). This curious bucket and pipe arrangement is, presumably, something to do with the experiment.

I wonder what's going on.

A little further on is an outlet with paddle gear for draining this section (photo taken from canal bed).

When we got to the dual carriageway of the A5 (referred to as the A5D when we used to live near here in the 1980s - does anyone still call it that?) the problem the road makes for restoration is immediately apparent. The road is several feet below the canal bed. An aqueduct would obviously be expensive, and it looks to me as though it wouldn't give sufficient clearance. A tunnel would also be expensive, probably more so, and would need drop locks either side, adding to the cost. I'm sorry I didn't take a photo.

At Old Stratford I was hoping to see evidence of the tunnel supposedly taking the canal under Towcester Road but we couldn't find it. After eating our sandwiches we returned along the river to the Iron Trunk Aqueduct and back along the towpath to our Galleon mooring.

Friday 9 January 2015

Picture quiz: the answer; and fairleads: good or bad?

As Alf correctly identified, it's a (frosty) fairlead.

I'm not a fan of fairleads, but the boat came with them: on the bow and on the handrails opposite the centre line anchor point. A number of years ago I witnessed a fairlead pinging off a boat's bow as the bow rope was under strain.

Is the point of them to protect the paintwork? They certainly don't seem to protect the ropes.

Thursday 8 January 2015

Picture quiz: you'll get it now, won't you?

There is one more - wider - photo, but I'm confident you won't need it.

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Picture quiz: wider view

This is a wider view of the photo I published two days ago.

Is it getting any clearer?

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Picture quiz: a different view

Here's part of the same thing as yesterday's picture.

The frost is pretty clear (if a bit blurred) but can you guess what the whole thing is (no pun intended)?

Monday 5 January 2015

A little picture quiz

It's on the boat.

I'll reveal more tomorrow.

Sunday 4 January 2015

Two Wolverton churches at Christmas

On Christmas Eve we* went to Holy Trinity church, Old Wolverton, for the "midnight" service. It was good, even though Jan nearly expired from overheating as she was squashed up against some heating pipes. The church was in its bicentennial year; I know that as there was a banner at the front with "Holy Trinity 1814 - 2014" on it. The interior is amazing. The round east window dominates; apart from that there are painted wooden ceilings (not visible in this photo).

On Christmas Day itself most of us** went to St. George's Church, Wolverton, for the morning service. Somehow I neglected to take a photo.

And on the Sunday, just three days later, Jan and I went back to Holy Trinity, having brought the boat to within a few hundred yards. The church is just along the road from The Galleon (Bridge 68 on the GU).

The church is beautifully positioned in fields next to the River Great Ouse, with excellent metalled paths alongside, and is by the just discernible remains of the mediaeval village.

Jumping forward a week to today, this was the sunset we witnessed over local fields while out for a walk this afternoon.

*David, Penny, Jemima, Jan and Halfie

**David, Penny, Florence, Fergus, Ally, Ben, Jan and Halfie

Saturday 3 January 2015

Sunset over Cosgrove Junction

We ascended Cosgrove Lock as the sun was setting last Sunday.

At the marina that evening we were rather surprised when the boat two away from us started its engine at 11 o'clock when we were about to go to bed. When it showed no sign of stopping I walked over, knocked on the boat and asked the innocent-looking owner to switch it off. He claimed not to know that engines or generators weren't allowed to be run outside the hours 8pm to 8am. His "excuse" was that he needed to run the loo macerator! Why the connected shoreline couldn't supply the requisite power I don't know. He switched off and we had a peaceful night.

The next evening Adam and Adrian invited us to join them for drinks on Briar Rose. It was good to see you, thanks.

On New Year's Day we joined our friends from home at a concert in St. Andrew's Hall, Norwich. It was the annual Viennese-style musical afternoon.

l-r: Ruth, Adrian, Halfie, Willie and Jan.

And here are the musicians, the Norwich Pops Orchestra.

Friday 2 January 2015

Boating at Christmas

On Boxing Day we left the marina and headed south to the facilities block at Cosgrove. Here we emptied the cassette and topped up with water. It's quite a low pressure one here, and not helped by a kink in the short hose we use when we can get the bow near the water point. (Memo to self: buy hose joining adapters.)

We had lunch while waiting for the tank to fill.

Then we continued to The Galleon, just the other side of the Iron Trunk aqueduct over the Great Ouse. There's a handy winding hole here, and it's just a 15 minute walk to Ally and Ben's house.

On the Sunday morning our time on the 48 hour mooring was almost up. We awoke to another thick frost.

By the afternoon any ice on the cut had vanished, and we made our way back to Thrupp Wharf Marina. Between Cosgrove and Taverners Boat Club we stopped the two boats of Jules Fuels for a couple of bags of coal (was it Supertherm? I'm terrible at remembering the names of coal brands!). When we reversed into the marina we found it had probably half an inch of ice. We prefer to moor with the nose facing out, so I continued back to the pontoon. I would have preferred any ice breaking to be done going forwards, but it was only 150 feet or so.

Mooring this way round means running a hose the full length of the boat plus a few feet to get to the tap; this is why we usually top up at a canalside water point.

Ooh - I've just remembered Herbie Neil's method of draining down the shower mixer. If I recall correctly he opens all the taps and blows back down the shower hose to expel any remaining water. I didn't do this on leaving the boat - perhaps I should have done. I have left an electric fan heater on a low thermostat setting. I hope that will prevent too much freezing on board before we return at the end of this month.

Thursday 1 January 2015

A tiny mouse and an interesting way of preparing potatoes for Christmas

We spent a most enjoyable week in the Milton Keynes area visiting Ally and Ben for Christmas. After transferring our stuff to Jubilee and lighting the fire enjoying the warmth of the fire which had been lit for us by Ally and Ben we saw this minuscule mouse on the exit from the marina.

This gives an idea of the scale. I don't think the mouse can have been very well as it remained motionless. What sort of mouse is it? Anyone?

At the house I was sent out to buy a cheap loo brush. I assumed it was for the downstairs loo which Ben had recently plumbed in, so I was surprised to see Ben inserting the end in an electric drill.

He had seen a YouTube clip of someone peeling potatoes by spinning a lavatory brush in a bucket of potatoes.

The potatoes came out clean, but still with their skins intact. Oh well, that's how I like them anyway.

Lunch went efficiently, and there was even time for a short walk before The Queen. I guided the group to the (canalside) Secret Garden where we posed for a self-timed photo on the concrete settee.

left to right: Fergus, Jan, concrete woman, Ben, David, Florence, me, Penny, concrete man, Jemima.

We got back to the house just in time.

After The Queen we opened our presents (in our family it's only stocking pressies before then).

This is Jan at the instant of discovering that she had been given a smart phone. Her first.

On Boxing Day we moved the boat to The Galleon, accompanied by David and Penny. They stayed overnight and left the next morning.

I wish you all a Happy Christmas (bit late, I know) and a Happy New Year.

updated to correct first para (I think my brain needs an update)