Wednesday 21 October 2015

Skeleton under swingbridge

I had a surprise when opening a swing bridge on the Leeds and Liverpool in August.

Analysis of the time the photo was taken compared with neighbouring photos leads me to deduce that this was Strangford Swing Bridge 211B.

The skeleton was about the size of a dog; I suppose that is what it was. I left it undisturbed.

Saturday 10 October 2015

CRT "introducing duck lanes on towpaths"

"Ducks get right of way on England's towpaths" is the headline on p32 of today's Times newspaper. The article begins: "The Canal and River Trust is pressing ahead with a campaign to demarcate duck lanes along the side of canals in England and Wales, with an appeal to walkers, cyclists and boaters to "share the space, drop your pace"."

The piece goes on to say that sections of towpaths will be marked with a white logo of a waddling duck; the latest "duck lane" is on a 1.5 mile stretch between Elland and Brookfoot, near Bradford.

I looked for the news release which might have prompted this report and found one entitled "Preserving the peace on our towpaths" issued on 6th October.

There's no mention in the text of "duck lanes", but there is an accompanying video where they are referred to.

The Times article missed the point. Of course it's absurd marking out a lane for ducks to use. As Dick Vincent, national towpath ranger, says in the video, "You can't have a lane for every single type of use".

But just how marking out a "duck lane" will encourage (human) towpath users to "drop your pace" is not made clear.

I think it's a waste of money and vandalism of a historic structure. Oh, but it got three column inches in a national newspaper. So that's all right, then.

Thursday 8 October 2015

Money for old batteries; the Navigation Inn's interesting taps

On the last night of our six month cruise we went to the Navigation Inn next to the marina for a slap-up meal drink.

It was very quiet in there, apart from the slightly too noisy kitchen extractor fan (or was it the air conditioning?). Well, it was a Monday night. The kitchen is in full view of the dining area and there were some delicious smells, even though they had stopped serving food. According to the website the general manager is Rod Stewart (probably not that Rod Stewart) and I'm sure I read somewhere that there are 30 staff. When we passed by earlier it was buzzing. In a short space of time it seems to have gained a very good reputation for quality food - we might treat ourselves to an actual meal some time!

After spending £1.5 million on the rebuild perhaps they ran out of money for the taps in the loos.

They could at least have polished the copper.

Stop cocks are not really designed for everyday operation; the cold one is difficult to grip, especially with a wet and slightly soapy hand.

(Photos by Jan)

Now we are at home and getting on with a few (non-boat) jobs. Today I rounded up some old car batteries (and three old boat batteries) and weighed them in at the local scrap metal dealer. The first surprise was at the number of old batteries I had accumulated (pun intended): 11, weighing very nearly a fifth of a tonne. The second, bigger, surprise was how much they were worth. £78! That's more than seven quid per defunct battery! Who knew? I'm now (slightly) regretting leaving behind at the chandler's the four old batteries when we bought new ones this year. Would I have wanted to cart them around with us the whole cruise and then put them in the car to take home, though? Probably not.

Monday 5 October 2015

Just a few more yards to go

While Jan was off looking after Ben (bad back, v. painful) I put the stuff which had been in a neat pile on the towpath back onto the Fertanned but unpainted deck. We had to move; I'd run out of time for painting. I took Jubilee up Cosgrove Lock, stopped at the services, and then continued to tie up opposite the Navigation Inn by the entrance to Thrupp Wharf Marina. Below the lock I topped up with diesel from Jules Fuels. When I had finished tying up Jan appeared, having parked by the bridge.

This afternoon we did more packing and loading of the car, then I checked in with Val and Roy, the proprietors of TWM, to find out where we had been allocated a mooring. We decided not to move there tonight as it was raining and getting dark; we'll move the few yards across the cut in the morning. For a short time we'll be online, outside the marina itself but on the offside and with no electricity hook-up available. We're looking forward to having an online mooring, but we won't be here long to enjoy it. We're off home tomorrow after a wonderful six months of boating. I'll have to calculate (or let Canal Plan calculate) how many miles, locks and tunnels we did.

Somehow I neglected to take any photos today, so here's my not very good shot of the lunar eclipse from a few nights ago.

As I explained at the time I'd left the camera in macro mode and had been too sleepy to realise.

Sunday 4 October 2015

Worrying about the BSS

The gas locker received its first coat of fresh paint this morning after I'd rinsed off the Fertan dust and allowed it to dry. With the boat facing the sun it dried very quickly - the canal water must be warm.

I rinsed off the well deck too and gave it a second coat of the rust converter. I'm glad I bought a large bottle (at Crick a couple of years ago). I'm now expecting tomorrow morning's rain to do the next rinse for me. I just hope it will dry in time for me to paint it - and that the paint can dry before the next rain comes. I have decided not to replace the "Versatile" matting, at least, not in high use areas.

I borrowed Ben's vibrating power tool to cut a slot in the panel behind the fridge. It looks neat with the brass ventilator over it. It would look even neater without my pencil marks (at the last minute I decided to move the slot); we don't seem to have a rubber on board.

I have also spent a considerable amount of time reading the requirements of the Boat Safety Scheme. (If you click on the link it will download a PDF of - I think - almost 1Mb.) It's 87 pages long and is surprisingly easy to read, but I keep finding things to worry about. I have got as far as the gas section and now need to check that the regulator can't be damaged when lifting the gas cylinders into or out of the gas locker(see top photo). Also that every gas pipe connector in the boat is accessible for inspection.

There were other concerns earlier about the electrics; I think I will need to wire up a changeover switch to select between shoreline and inverter - or use a clumsy plug-and-sockets arrangement.

It must take hours for the BSS examiner to check a boat. Our first safety exam is due next spring so there's still time to fettle. I don't know how it all works, though. What happens if it fails? How long will I have to fix any faults? Does the same examiner come back to do a retest? Would I have to pay the full fee? What is the fee for a BSS test? The CRT licence is due at the same time as the BSC; if it fails I will presumably not be able to licence the boat - then what happens?

Saturday 3 October 2015

Derusting the gas locker and well deck

I was just about to start on the day's jobs when Andy and Sue on Spring Water went past. I hailed them and they stopped for coffee, which turned into lunch. It was great to see them and I think they enjoyed seeing us too.

During their visit another boat I knew went past. This time it was Darley, with both Blossom and Dawn on board.

I called out to Blossom and he responded with a friendly wave.

This afternoon, then, I removed everything from the gas locker and wire brushed the rusty bits, mainly on the bottom. I had originally expected to have to somehow contort myself into the small space, but it was easy enough to do reaching in through the hatch. Then I sloshed some water in and used a washing up brush to eject most of the excess through the handily positioned drain holes. This done, I poured some Fertan into the bottom section of a four-pint plastic milk container and painted it on. This was a very quick job with a 3" brush, but I did have to pull my head out of the hole a few times so the fumes didn't get to me too much.

This is what it looked like after the treatment.

Now I have to leave it for a day or so before dusting off and painting. (I'll have to stoke up the fire or we won't be able to make tea!)

Then the job I'd been putting off. The well deck. I dreaded taking up the "Versatile" deck covering with its little plastic feet keeping the surface you walk on a few millimetres above the deck. First I had to remove the various bits of accumulated stuff, ranging from the heavy - full 25 Kg coal bags - to the light - 2p coins to open the water filler with, plus a lot of bits of wood, plastic and iron. Then the Versatile matting came up. Underneath was quite as bad as I had feared. The tiles' little feet had worn through the paint covering the well deck and made little rust spots.

Like this.

These rust spots had, for the most part, joined up to create large areas of thick corrosion. I knew I'd be wasting my time with a wire brush - and wasting the wires of the wire brush - so I used a spade to scrape away at the flaky paint and flaky rust.

After a lot of noisy scraping and less noisy (but dustier) brushing I had the well deck in a state ready for its first treatment of Fertan. More water sloshing (the Fertan instructions say the area to be treated should be dampened), more use of the washing up brush and it was time to paint on the brown smelly liquid.

And here's the result.

You can see how little of the original paint on the deck is left. If it's another fine warm day tomorrow I might just do the painting slightly before the recommended 24 hours is up, especially where the gas locker is concerned (we need to be able to cook). And I hope it will then pass muster in the eyes of the BSS examiner when the time comes.

Friday 2 October 2015

Meeting the boss of CRT on the towpath

As it had been several days since we last topped up with water we cruised slowly along the straight half mile to the water point immediately below Cosgrove Lock. While filling up I carried a full Elsan cassette to the disposal point, passing two people wearing small CRT name badges. At the time I wondered if one of them might have been Richard Parry, the chief exec. of CRT, but they had gone before my brain got into gear.

After emptying the cassette I returned towards the boat, but there were the two CRT people by the lock. They asked me if I'd seen NB Barnet, which I had; I was able to tell them that it was moored near the aqueduct. And this is when I found I had been right: it was Richard Parry, accompanied by photographer Liz Waddington. Mr Parry was meeting up with Barnet for a cruise to Fenny Stratford.

Now we were having a proper towpath chat. Richard Parry was delightful, asking me where we were based and asking about our summer cruising, taking a genuine interest. Of course, this led to a bit of a discussion about our experience in Standedge Tunnel; I was able to express my disquiet about CRT's failure to send in an inspection boat after the Network Rail beams-in-the-water fiasco. Mr Parry asked me to send him an e-mail so we'll see what happens.

The pressure was low so it took an age for the tank to fill. I had time to wash half the roof and one side of the boat before it was done. We returned to The Galleon, tying up this time on the 48 hour moorings to be nearer the car for unloading. (NB Emjay is still there; it hasn't moved for at least a week.)

The weather has been fantastic. Here is this evening's silhouetty sunset shot.

During the day I finished the painting job on the front doors, getting both the undercoat and topcoat down. I also primed around the previously Fertan-ed areas by some of the windows; I also did some more rubbing down and Fertanning below the gunwales. Inside I fixed the stove to the hearth with angle brackets. I had thought that drilling holes in the stove legs would be difficult, but it was actually quite easy. I used a hand drill with a 3.5 mm bit. A harder job was drilling into the tiles on the hearth. The only masonry bit I thought I had was a Poundland one. I managed one hole, starting off with the hand drill and moving to the electric drill, but this is what happened on the second hole.

Yes, I know. What do you expect for a quid? But at this point I remembered that I had some proper masonry bits with the Black and Decker so I popped one of those on and finished the job in no time. I'm trying to get through rather a backlog of boat jobs before we go home. Tomorrow's important job is to derust the gas locker ready for the boat safety inspection next spring.

Thursday 1 October 2015

Helping Ben build a cupboard

While we're moored near Galleon Wharf, Old Wolverton, we went to help son-in-law Ben on his day off today. The task was to build a cupboard high in an alcove to hide a fat extractor fan pipe. We spent a long time thinking it through on paper before measuring and cutting battens. We got these screwed in place successfully eventually. Why does an apparently straightforward job take far more time than you can possibly imagine? After several hours, during which time Jan went shopping, washed some shirts, did washing up and cooked the tea, we had three horizontal and two vertical battens in place and had cut a shelf from MDF to size. Still to do is to construct doors and a front. We're going to concentrate on boat jobs tomorrow so Ben will have to finish off the cupboard on his own. All the difficult stuff is done now!

I neglected to take a photo of the work in progress, so here are Ben and Jan eating lunch outside.

It has been T-shirt weather again and prospects look good for tomorrow. More work on the front doors, I think, plus some touching up of the steelwork.