Saturday 30 April 2016

Drayton Reservoir; raffle success

One of the organised events on this IWA Northants Branch weekend at Braunston was a guided walk over the top of Braunston Tunnel. I went on this, and was glad of my full waterproofs. Near the highest point of the hill we turned south to look at Drayton Reservoir in Daventry, somewhere I'd not visited before.

We then followed the outflow feeder to the canal at the eastern portal of the tunnel before walking back over the top to our start point.

I walked briskly back to the main marquee where I caught nearly all of a talk by John Pomfret on the history of canals with particular reference to Braunston; I also attended a talk by Tim Coghlan on the history of Braunston Marina.

In the evening we both went to the entertainment (a live duo) and took part in a raffle. One of my tickets was the third to be drawn, and I claimed what I had already marked down as the top prize: a £50 voucher for Whilton Chandlery. That makes up for our lack of success at the beetle drive and the bingo yesterday!

Later, people got into the spirit of things (or were volunteered to do so).

There's one more day of events tomorrow, then I shall be helping to dismantle on Monday.

Helping at a Boat Gathering at Braunston

At 0900 I walked over to where I assumed the marquee etc. would be put up but there was no sign of anyone. I saw an organiser on his boat, and he said there was no rush. So I went back to Jubilee and had another cup of tea.

When I returned at about 1030 things did get very busy. I helped with the erection of four gazebos and the main marquee. At 1330 I realised I was hungry and went back to the boat, where I cooked up a fry-up of Braunston black pepper sausages, bacon, eggs, baked beans and fried bread. Ally and Josiah had arrived; I cooked Ally a similar meal. Jan was holding Josiah all this time.

After lunch there was more to do at the main site; everything was finished with a quarter of an hour to go.

Cepheus arrived; I photographed it through the iron bridge at the entrance to Braunston Marina.

Ally stayed for the opening of the IWA Northampton branch Boat Gathering and partook of the barbecue as we all did.

Here is the team behind said barbecue.

After Ally and Josiah left Jan and I stayed in the marquee to take part in a Beetle Drive (free), then bingo (for very small stakes). I came close to winning a bottle of wine in the Beetle Drive but we won nothing on the bingo. It was good to talk to lots of people, including BCF members Alan and Glenda whose boat Tranquility is in the marina here.

There are to be many more activities over the weekend including guided walks, talks and a treasure hunt.

Meanwhile Jan tells me that her Facebook has revealed that James and Amy of Willow have got engaged, so felicitations to them.

Thursday 28 April 2016

Mini mayhem at Braunston and visitors from home

I spent some of the morning wiring up a relay to enable the domestic alternator to sense the domestic batteries rather than the starter battery. Unfortunately, after I'd connected it all up, I discovered that although the contacts make a clunk when the coil is energised, they don't seem to pass any current. Oops. Now I had to unwire it again.

While I was doing all this Herbie went by. (Note the oncoming boat, James No 194, passing the Gongoozlers' Rest.)

So far, so Braunston. But why the horrified faces on Melaleuca, following?

Simon puts the brakes on ...

... as James No 194, having turned into the marina entrance, reverses back out in Melaleuca's path. To add to the interest nb Alexander was aground on the offside and trying to get off. All good fun.

This afternoon, after a message from friends Ian and Liz from home who happened to be in the vicinity, we met up with them at the boat.

It was an unexpected visit, and all the better for that. We all ate in the Boathouse before going our separate ways. It was good to see you; any other readers from home take note that we're always open for visitors.

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Still piling on the coal ...

We had more weather today. Quite a lot of it. Mostly sunshine, sleet and rain, with possibly a bit of snow thrown in. It was more cold than warm - a lot more cold than warm - but it was nice when the sun shone. Our stove hasn't been out for days; we've already used up the bag of coal we bought as an "emergency spare". Fortunately Union Canal Carriers sells Supertherm so we have another full bag in the well deck.

When I opened the curtains this morning I was surprised to see this duck on the "wrong" side.

On our way to the post office (our forwarded post had come) we invited Lisa and Dave (What a Lark) for coffee on our return. It was good to have a long chat with them.

Then we had to move off our 48hr mooring, so we watered up outside the Stop House, then paused briefly at the Elsan point before tying up outside the Boathouse.

At the water point this lovely old clinker-built boat came past, turned in the marina entrance and went back the way it had come.

By the Boathouse we waved as No Problem went by heading north.

We had seen posters advertising a boat gathering at Braunston organised by the IWA Northampton Branch and decided we'd stay for it. I contacted the relevant people, got ourselves booked in and volunteered our services. Having done that we used Braunston Turn to cause Jubilee to face the opposite direction by means of forward and reverse gears, then cruised to a reserved mooring near the marina entrance. We spoke to Jill (Gill?) and Ian (Iain?) on Drifter in front of us, and put up our BCF banner and some bunting.

On Friday we shall be helping with marquee/tents erection and possibly helping behind the bar over the weekend.

We walked up a couple of locks to find Herbie with Milly M tied alongside and Melaleuca in front, so we called in to say hello to Kath and Neil, Simon and Anne and Maffi (again). They were just about to eat, so we walked back to the Boathouse where we enjoyed a carvery.

The evening sunshine lit up a couple of scenes for my camera.

As we walked past the church a couple of locals pointed out the peregrine falcons half way up the steeple, one enjoying a meal of freshly caught bird.

The light was fading - this was the best I could do:

So we're going to be in Braunston for another few days. There are worse places to be.

Tuesday 26 April 2016

The weather to stay put in Braunston

I took only one photo today, and it's a hurried one of hail on the towpath outside our boat.

We walked to the Post Office to see if our postal votes had arrived, which they hadn't. We bought bacon and sausages in the butcher's and walked back to the boat. In the afternoon I cycled up the hill to Daventry to get some shopping in Aldi. I was looking forward to an easy whizz downhill back to Braunston, but I had to pedal against the wind. I made it back just before the cold rain arrived.

We ate a "Two for One" at the Boathouse pub and felt sorry for singletons confronted with inflated prices.

Monday 25 April 2016

A flurry of bloggers; one came to tea

A lazy start today saw us leaving Norton Junction at about 1100. Just as we set off it started to rain, and this was more than a drizzle. Having met a few boats coming the other way I was surprised to find we had Braunston Tunnel to ourselves. The rain had stopped before we entered; on the other side it started again as we came down the locks. At Wharf House Narrowboats at the bottom lock I got a tin of red paint for the tunnel band. Now I need to find a day which is not too cold and when there is no prospect of rain. Not too difficult, surely? Oh, it is. Oh well.

Just past the chandler's was No Problem; Sue said hello and warned told us that there were several bloggers in the vicinity. We tied up at the first available mooring behind this boat.

We soon found that it was Milly M, aka Maffi's boat. Before long there were Sue, Maffi, Bones, Alex, Chas and Ann and us talking on the towpath.

It was the first time we had met Chas and Ann, good to see you, and Alex, ditto. It was a real shame you were on a flying visit, Bones, two minutes with you is not enough!

We were pleased that Maffi accepted our invitation to join us for tea. I remembered to take a photo.

We are having some post forwarded to Braunston Post Office which might be here tomorrow. If it doesn't arrive we'll stay another day.

Sunday 24 April 2016

New ammeter display works

Kath asked for a photo of Grace, Terry and Christine's boat, specifically the name, for the Herbies' granddaughter, Grace. Unfortunately I read her request after they had departed. Fortunately I had taken precisely the required photo as they went past this morning.

Bye bye Terry ...

Bye bye Chris!

Fellow BCF members Bob and Jan had arranged to pick us up from Buckby Top car park to take us to their church in Long Buckby this morning.

We enjoyed a warm welcome at St. Lawrence's, where the worship was up-to-date and lively. We were invited to come to the front and talk briefly about the Boaters' Christian Fellowship - it wasn't the first time this had happened to us in a church situation.

Back at Buckby Top we went for lunch at the New Inn. It was the best pub Sunday lunch we've had for a long time. The portions were plenty big enough, even for me! We both had the half roast chicken for £7.95. Very tasty and excellent value. And hot, on hot plates! If I were doing a proper review I'd have to knock a point off for some of the dishes being cleared away before I'd finished eating, but that's a minor quibble.

This afternoon I had another go at connecting up the replacement digital ammeter display unit (the first one from China didn't work). This time it worked as intended, although the three significant figures are too many, really. Just the whole number of amperes would have been sufficient - it's quite distracting having the number constantly changing in front of your eyes. The good old analogue moving coil meter is much easier to read.

And just look at all those amps! Hooray (again) for the new alternator and the new (simplified) wiring!

This was when the washing machine was on and doing a heat cycle. To reiterate about the analogue meter: ignore the VOLTS legend; each division represents 11.4A, so for the 95A shown on the digital display the analogue meter should be reading about 8 1/2 volts. Which it is.

This was the view through the side hatch later on.

Tomorrow we intend to stop in Braunston.

Saturday 23 April 2016

To Norton Junction and an appointment with friends and food

I cycled the two or three miles to Welford this morning for a paper. It was good to be on the bike again, and the weather was excellent, being cool and sunny. Back on the boat, we set off for our rendezvous at Norton Junction, stopping twice more at Yelvertoft (for a water top-up) and Crick (for a visit to the Co-op).

It was a great day for cruising, despite the lack of warmth in the air.

Dabchick sports the Cross of St. George at the waterpoint at Yelvertoft.

Approaching Crick Tunnel Jan tries to get a signal on her phone.

At Watford Locks we had to wait for a couple of boats to clear the staircase, then we were quickly down the flight. We were probably the lockie's last boat of the day; after this the locks are now "self service".

Not far below the locks we met Terry and Christine walking to meet us. We picked them up, turned right onto the main line and tied up behind their boat, Grace. They fed us and kept us entertained until it was time to go "home"; now I'm writing this before going to bed. It was excellent seeing them again.

Friday 22 April 2016

Rural idyll on the Leicester Section

We moved away from the Foxton/Market Harborough/Debdale Wharf area at last today. Our passage up Foxton Locks was uneventful; we stopped at the top for an extended coffee/lunch break before moving on to our current mooring at Downtown, a mile and a half south of Welford Junction.

On the way we passed fields of sheep and lambs, a bluebell wood and these cows with their calves.

We won't be disturbed by any road traffic here, but a percussive bird scarer was banging away until dusk. I wonder if it will wake us at dawn!

Tomorrow we have arranged to meet Terry and Christine on Grace at Norton Junction. It will be good to see them again.

Thursday 21 April 2016

Happy Birthday, Ma'am; alternator good, list bad

In honour of HM The Queen's 90th birthday today I put out the bunting on Jubilee.

Jan took this one
The bunting's a bit pathetic, really, but we made the effort. It's hardly noticeable from the back as we make our way to Market Harborough again, this time with Ally and Josiah on board.

What is it with this part of Leicestershire and interesting old cars? Walking back to the boat after shopping in Market Harborough this afternoon we came upon this lovely Riley sports car.

It was parked on its own on an unloved expanse of tarmac and concrete between a tool hire place and a bodywork shop.

On the way back to Foxton to drop Ally and Josiah back at their car - they'd come to visit for the day - I spotted this bird of prey above the really smelly factory (animal products?).

Considering I was steering and there was a bend coming up I was pleased to get this shot. I think the forked tail identifies it as a red kite. Not that you can see any colour in my silhouette photo.

Just before our visitors left I took this photo of proud Granny holding a contented Josiah.

Alternator update: Part of the reason for our there-and-back-in-a-day trip to Market Harborough was to give the reconfigured charging system a good run. I am very pleased to report that it all seems to work just fine. My ammeter hit the end stop (but only just) when I started the engine this morning, meaning that at least 110A were going into the domestic batteries. They won't know what's hit them! The charge rate quickly dropped to about 80A, then reduced, eventually to 10A, as the batteries charged. As another good sign that things were working as they should, when we put the electric toaster on (800W) with the engine on tickover (boat tied up), the engine note dropped and the current went up to 80A. Pretty much exactly what one would expect.

Listing update: Jubilee had developed a list to port when we had the water pump issue. I thought the list had gone when we pumped out the water from the cabin bilge, but now it seems to have returned. There appears to be slightly more water visible through the inspection hatch, but the water pump and surroundings are dry. Perhaps I merely need to reballast the boat to take account of the to bikes which are now on the port side. (But we're carrying about the same weight as in previous years, on the same side, and had no listing problems then. A mystery.)

Wednesday 20 April 2016

No wonder our batteries never charged properly! and encountering a 108 year-old car

Before Jubilee was lifted back into the water this morning I managed to do all the black touching up of the gunnels (the vertical bit above the rubbing strake). I had hoped to repaint the red tunnel band but when I opened the tin - which came with the boat) I found that it had gone off. I need some International Fire Red.

I had mentioned to the boatyard that I had some charging problems, telling them about the Sterling AB12210 alternator to battery charger which I didn't think was working. So Jim came and had a look and went to consult Steve, the boss. Steve reckoned that the Sterling device was not designed to be able to combine the outputs of the engine and domestic alternators, which is what I was led to believe was supposed to happen. I have been convinced for some time that the device wasn't working anyway, so I requested that it be taken out of the loop altogether and that the engine alternator charge solely the starter battery and the domestic alternator charge the domestic batteries. This was a job which I could and should have done myself, but having had the "experts" in I let them get on with it - with my assistance. It was a fairly straightforward matter to configure the engine/starter side of things, but the domestic alternator proved trickier.

As well as having no faith in the Sterling ABC, I was not convinced that the (new) domestic alternator was working either. This was confirmed when we finished the wiring and started up. No output at all from the alternator. The alternator was fitted in January but had had only a couple of weeks' use since then. It had been wired up using the existing external Transpo regulator. We decided to dispense with this and rely purely on the alternator's own internal regulator, assuming that it hadn't been damaged by either the Sterling or the Transpo. After getting advice from the supplier of the alternator as to how it should be connected, we wired it up and it worked. I was very pleased to see my ammeter registering over 100A at one point! It had never shown any more than 40A before - current which I believe was being supplied by the engine alternator. There was one small issue: with the + terminal connected directly to the B+ terminal the alternator made a high-pitched whining noise at rest, i.e. when the engine was completely switched off. To solve this I connected a red lead coming from the control panel, which had gone to the Transpo regulator but was now apparently redundant, to the + terminal in place of the direct connection from the batteries. This seemed to do the trick.

With the cabin bilge water vacuumed out (and the bill paid!) we were now free to go. I'm really hoping now that our domestic batteries will get properly charged up while we're cruising - and that the 14.7V from the alternator won't overcook the sealed lead-acids. A project for the future: concoct a circuit which will detect overvolts and reduce the alternator output accordingly.

To celebrate all this we cruised to Foxton Junction, tied up and walked through a field of cows to the Bell Inn at Gumley where we participated in their steak night.

Here's Jubilee reflecting the sun at the junction.

At the pub we were astounded and delighted to see an amazing 1908 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost in fantastic condition.

It was certainly the weather to have the top down, having been wall-to-wall sunshine. The Sainsbury's bag of shopping in the back struck me as slightly incongruous.

Unfortunately we were ordering our food at the bar when it drove off.

Tomorrow we are expecting a visit from Ally and Josiah; I expect we'll cruise to Market Harborough and back. Then we can get our own shopping (but not in quite so much style as the owner of the car above!)

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Will this stop debris collecting round the bow?

After Clive did the pressure washing in cold but dry conditions yesterday (anything but dry for him), Dean gave Jubilee two coats of blacking in warm and sunny conditions today. The weather's getting a bit like it was two years ago when Dean did our blacking - not quite as warm, though.

The water pump hasn't leaked any more, so that's good. I rigged up a 12V fan in the water pump box to try to dry the woodwork out; that was very effective. The dark, damp stain has almost vanished and the wood is dry to the touch.

This is what our stem post has looked like where it meets the base plate ever since we've owned the boat.

The projection under the water line collects a good deal of what the bow meets in the water, usually reeds and small branches. This can slow progress considerably and has annoyed me many times. Every so often while under way Jan steers and I lean over the bow with a boat hook and hoik the debris clear.

I asked about getting this nasty jutting out bit of metal ground off, but Dean advised against it as it would mean cutting off the weld. Not a good idea.

This evening, though, while we are still in the air and after the blacking has been completed, I had an idea.

I scraped up from the concrete hard standing dollops of congealing spilt blacking and smeared them in the recess.

What do you think? I don't suppose it will last long, but we'll see in the next few days how effective it is. The Leicester Section, especially between Foxton and Watford, seems always to have lots of floating organic matter.

While Dean was spreading the black stuff around, a boat with a name I recognised from the blogosphere pulled up on the service mooring. It was What a Lark with Dave and Lisa. It was good to meet them; we had a good chat. Hope to see you again on the cut some time.

I did some preparation for touching up. This is the red tunnel band with splodges of primer.

Earlier I had scraped and sanded the rusty bits under the gunnels and above the rubbing strake (what is this area called?), then applied Fertan. I had expected to be able to do the painting tomorrow at my leisure, but we were told that the boat would be going back in the water at about 1000. Another early up for me, then, so I can get it painted (and replace the fenders - and weed hatch plate!) before that deadline.

Tomorrow should see the cabin bilge pumped dry again, some inspection of the water pump and a look at the charging system.

Monday 18 April 2016

Leak found!

Last night I did what I should have done long ago (no, not that). We lifted the mattress, I removed part of the slatted area to enable me to lift the lid of the water pump box ... and found ... WATER! Well, a very damp floor and damp water pump.

The dark area of wood is where water has soaked in, over who knows what period of time? I took the photo after I'd mopped up the lying water and removed the piece of shiny foam on which the pump was resting (as additional sound proofing, no doubt). The big blue thing is the pressure vessel, and note the two red stop cocks.

When I wiggled the connectors slightly water appeared. There also seemed to be a trace of water from a seam on the pump body, a Jabsco PAR-MAX 2.9 model 31395 - 0292.

The time now was about 2245. But I had to do something, so I isolated the pump with the very well-positioned stop cocks and, eventually, worked out that the blue clips had to be levered out so as to release the connectors.

This involved looking at a pdf of the manual before I was brave enough to attack the clips with a screwdriver. Once released the connectors came away easily and revealed that each relied on an O-ring for watertightness.

I had a box of various O-rings and washers so I tried the best-fitting ones. These seemed to make things worse, so I put it all back with the original O-rings. I took the opportunity to tighten the screws holding the pump together, about eight of them. Some did turn slightly.

When I opened the stop taps and repowered the pump it didn't seem to be leaking. Hooray! But it all seems a bit on a knife edge; I feel that any moment it could start leaking again. And it's not easy to get to.

We finally got to bed at 0045; I set the alarm for 0700 as we had an appointment with the blacking man at Debdale Wharf Marina, outside which we were tied up, in the morning. I haven't gone into how I offered up a new replacement pump (Shurflo - came with the boat) to find that the connectors wouldn't fit, neither would yet another spare, an old Whale pump.

As I lay in bed on the verge of sleep I could hear a rhythmic dripping noise. Oh no! I got out of bed and tried to locate the source of the drip. Then I realised: it was the clock in the saloon at the other end of the boat! I don't think I've heard its tick from the bedroom before.

Onto today, then. Having got up early we waited and waited for our turn to be lifted out of the water. Had we known it wasn't going to be until 1600 we could have had a bit more sleep!

At last we were waved into the narrow bay over the lifting straps; the lift and the pressure washing got under way. It was Clive doing it this time.

A cold wind was blowing so we waited most of the time in the marina office. Steve offered us a very welcome cup of tea. At about 1745 we were able to get back on board - the boat sitting on two sets of timber baulks on the hard standing.

There's more to write about, such as battery charging problems, but that will have to wait. We both need some sleep!

Sunday 17 April 2016

Return of the bilge water

I mentioned yesterday that it had been snowing in Market Harborough. This morning it was still lying in a shady corner outside St. Dionysius' church, where we went for this morning's service.

Back at the boat we watered up, had lunch and moved into the basin ready to wind and come alongside the service point. There was a lot of activity in the basin; a boat had just gone ahead of us and was winding to reverse into its mooring, a dayboat was trying to leave the basin and a hire boat was coming up behind me. I slowed to let the private boat finish its winding manoeuvre; meanwhile the hire boat behind me nipped onto the service point. Cheek! We were able to tie up in front of it, though; and it was all understandable as there was an open day in progress with, presumably, lots of free trips for people. As we set off having emptied the loo yet another hire boat started to head towards the exit of the basin; fortunately we were waved on. I say "fortunately" as they were very slow!

We stopped at Foxton to have a walk round the village. Looking back at the boat I saw that the list had returned. Sure enough, when I looked in the cabin bilge, the water had returned. Boo. Now I really don't know where it has come from. The only thing which has altered is that we refilled the water tank. Aha, you say - it's leaking from there. But I've checked, and there is only dry rust in the area under the well deck where the connection to the tank is. All pipe joints in there seem sound. We'll be up in the air tomorrow, out of the water. If we can get the cabin bilge pumped out (again) we'll see if the water returns. And I had thought it was the shower sump. Apparently not.

At Debdale Wharf marina we tied up to their pumpout mooring. This is where we waited last time before being directed to the lifting bay. It was all very quiet: no other boats waiting and nothing apparently being worked on. I know it's Sunday, but still!

After a delicious home made curry (thanks, Jan!) I crossed the bridge and walked towards the sunset. These are a couple of the photos I took.

Tomorrow, then, should be the start of the blacking process. I hope also to resolve the bilge water issue very soon.

Saturday 16 April 2016

"Sinking" update and catkin attack

I checked the level of water in the cabin bilge during the night; fortunately it didn't seem to have risen. Sue of No Problem suggested that with the boat out of the water and pressure washed, any bilge water seeping back out of any hole will make a damp patch. NB Lola suggested putting food colouring into sink wastes etc. and seeing if the colour makes its way into the bilge. Both good ideas, thanks. Brian of Harnser wonders if it might be rainwater as we've had quite a lot of that recently.

My first task this morning was to find a pump. I cycled all over Market Harborough, trying Screwfix, Wilko, B&M, Homebase, a tool hire place - even a vintage shop - without success. Back at the boat Jan noticed a man in a boiler suit walking past with a bag of tools, so I nipped out and saw that he "belonged" to the next-door boat. I asked him if he had anything which might help me pump out some bilge water - and he produced the ideal thing! He had a hand pump which he bought for use with his canoe but which he had never used. It fitted perfectly through the inspection hole and quickly pumped out two or three washing up bowls' worth of dirty water. Hooray!

To try to determine if it was canal water I put the bilge water in one container and canal water in another. Here they are. Can you tell which is which?

I was surprised to see that the canal water was remarkably clear; the dirty water on the right is from the cabin bilge. It must be all the rust.

When I'd got out all the water I could I returned the pump (£12 from eBay, apparently). Later I was able to repay pump man - Chris on Mistral - when he asked me if I had a shackle I could let him have. I found two, which he was very pleased with. What a perfect illustration of boaters helping each other out.

Eleven hours later no more water seems to have made its way into the bilge. I have an idea where it might have been coming from. The last two or three times we have left the boat over the winter period I have drained down the domestic water system as best I could without undoing anything. To drain the shower mixer I let the shower head dangle down on the shower tray. On leaving the boat I pumped out the shower sump and switched off the electrics. Each time we returned, after two to six weeks, I found the shower tray full of water but no damp carpet or any sign that the shower tray had overflowed. I think water had siphoned out of the calorifier through the shower hose. Of course, each time I immediately pumped out the shower sump and thought no more of it. Now I'm wondering whether water had been seeping past the seal round the waste fitting at the bottom of the shower tray. So I removed the old sealant, which had gone horribly black anyway, and put new silicone round it.

I've just had another thought: it could be the seal on the lid of the shower sump. I'll have to check for signs of damp. Actually I think that's more likely. Another clue was the fact that the extracted bilge water was very slightly frothy, which would indicate shower or sink waste.

Well, that's enough of that for now. Last night we were bombarded with catkins from a nearby (willow?) tree. I had thought we weren't under any significant trees but the wind must have carried these blighters and spred them all over our roof.

I wasn't too bothered, thinking that when dry they would just blow off. Wrong. They stuck to the paintwork; when brushed off they left nasty reddish marks.

Oh well. I expect the roof needed cleaning again anyway.

I just about finished that little job when it was time to walk into town again for a free evening of live music, a fundraiser for the local Lions club.

Market Harborough-based band EastWest
The highlight for me was a guitarist called Martin Nelson who had an extraordinary technique, sometimes playing with both hands high up the fretboard. He also got a wide variety of percussive effects from hitting the guitar.

The fundraising was achieved through the bar, hot food, a raffle and an auction. We won the last prize in the raffle. When we came out to walk back to the boat we found that it had been snowing.