Sunday, August 20, 2017

A new solar panel frame plan

I’m astonished to look back at old posts and find that it is seven years since we fitted our solar panel on Herbie.  Perhaps that roof corrosion cause by the magnetic panel frame feet is a bit more forgiveable after all.  Anyhow it looks like I’ll complete the roof repair and repaint before too long so it’s time to think about what comes next.  More solar, that’s what.   I can’t remember what I paid for our existing solar panel but I’m sure that prices have dropped by something like half since then.  So we’ll be getting a second panel soon.

My ingenious two way tilting panel frame has done pretty good service. 

It does what it says on the tin (sorry, aluminium), but it’s a bit less sturdy than I would like, and it can get it’s knickers (or knees at any rate) in a twist during the folding and unfolding, so I’m thinking of a stouter and simpler design.  Hunting round the web I found some that work like this.

frame1

Basically three bits of aluminium angle at each end of the solar panel. The prop piece can be placed where you like using the holes and screws attached to plastic knobs, and when you lay the panel flat, the screws secure the panel flat using the end holes.   As you can see, you can tilt the panel either way to face the sun. (Our own measures show that titling the panel makes quite a difference in the amps generated a lot of the time.  You can buy frames  like this for £50 a pair (for one panel) plus carriage. It might seem dear, but if you cost up all the bits and pieces and include their labour and profit, it’s not unreasonable.

It’s a simple principle but I plan to make something a bit different in that in the ones I have seen  the top piece is a length of angle that sits under the solar panel, whereas I plan to rivet a flat bar to the side of the panel frame, but deeper so as to make room for drilling the holes.  Making my own reduces the cost considerably of course, and it’ll be more bespoke to my solar panel sizes and be a bit of fun to make.  Making two pairs, one for the old panel and one for the new makes economic sense as postage for the aluminium costs no more for two lots, saving £15.  The best price for the aluminium, in case anyone wants to get some, seems to be at aluminiumwarehouse.co.uk where they will also cut pieces to your required length for a small charge.  Not a bad idea as the full lengths of stock angle are and unweildy 2.5 metres.

My idea is to have the bottom rail and the upright in 50x25mm angle for rigidity and as I said the top piece as a flat bar rivetted to the side of panel frame, but much deeper to allow for drilling the adjustment holes.  All 3mm thick, which should be plenty strong enough.

This time I won’t be using magnetic feet, which as we now know are prone to rust unless you buy prohibitively expensive ones.  I’ve been looking at adjustable furniture feet, the sort you find on steel desk legs, which I think I will glue to the roof.  People seem to recommend the adhesive/sealant Sikaflex for this sort of job, so I’ll give that a go.  Various screwed knobs can be found on ebay.  You have to shop around for this stuff if you don’t want the costs to run away. The building ought to be easy, mainly a matter of drilling holes, which in aluminium is simple.

So that’s the plan for the frames.  There is still time for someone to point out any flaws before I order the stuff.  Next post I’ll tell you my thinking on the solar electrics.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Roof painting –be patient, work quickly

Sounds like an oxymoron doesn’t it?  Let me explain. 

The paint on a boat roof has a hard time, sun, rain, frost, lying snow, poles, planks, solar panels etc all take their toll.  I reckon the paint on the roof is lucky to last half as long as that on the cabin sides.  Herbie’s roof is no exception, suffering particularly where it comes into contact with roof “furniture”  Even a bag of coal left on the roof over the winter caused a lot of paint damage and resultant rusting because of the film of rain water that lingered under the bag.  Repairing and painting the whole roof in one go is nigh on impossible unless the boat can be taken indoors for a week, so I’ve been doing it in sections.  Learning more and more as I go.

I’ve talked to a few people who “mean to get round to doing their roof one of these days, but it all seems a bit daunting”.  I also spoke to someone who was quoted £1000 for having it done professionally. So for the record and in case it helps or inspires anyone to have a go, here is how I’ve been doing it. 

I suppose the first thing to say is that just patching over little bits of damage is only a stop gap at best.  New paint never matches the old. In an ideal world you would take the whole roof back to bare metal and start again, but I don’t think you can do that out of doors unless you have loads of time and fantastically lucky weather. The better way is to repair/ make good  damaged patches and then repaint a whole section of the roof at one go.  Then it’ll look OK.  Two years ago(?) I repaired and repainted a 20cm wide strip along either side of the roof  to fix a lot of small scars and wotnot  caused by boat hooks, gangplank, autumn leaves etc.  You can just make it out in the second photo below. Then last autumn I repaired the section where the coal bag had lain.  I wish now I had done that better because the repaint still bears the unevenness caused by pitting in the rust.  Then a couple of months ago I had a go at the central section of the roof, around the stove chimney, where there was a fair bit of corrosion.  That time I used filler to even the surface and got a much better finish.

So now I move on to a ten foot section towards the rear of the roof which includes where the solar panel has lain.  The magnetic feet of my fancy titling panel frame are the main culprits here.  Ordinary magnets rust like crazy and attack the roof at the same time.  A lesson learned!

This is the point where I should show you a photo of the damage, but stupidly I forgot to take one.  Sorry folks I’ll do that next time when I attack similar damage under the feet of the roof box.  By the way, another big lesson is revealing itself here.  The best way to keep your roof in good nick is not to store anything on it!

So, to the process.  This is where the patience comes in.  Even if you are repairing and repainting a tiny area, you need several days to do it, because of paint drying times.  Yes you can claim to be working whilst spending twenty three hours a day watching paint dry. That means at least four consecutive days with suitable weather, no rain (especially in the mornings), not too hot, not too cold, not too windy, not too dusty.  Flippin’ ‘eck!  Does that exist? Well last weekend it looked promising so I had a go.

If you already know how to suck eggs, you can either stop here or read on and tell me what I’m doing wrongSmile

Day one. Sand off the rusty patches, feathering them out as best you can so as to help with a smooth finish later. Your patches will now be twice the size of the original damaged area. I used a nice little palm sander, only thirteen quid from Wickes, and ideal for this job. While you’re at it lightly sand over the whole area to be repainted, I expect you’ll find little nicks in the paint here and there.  Treat them just the same as the bigger patches.The sanding also helps get rid of any accumulated grime etc. on the “sound” paint. Wash it all off with clean water and over the exposed metal patches  brush a coat of Fertan rust converter, which is easy to apply and is happy in the wet.  Total time taken, about a couple minutes per patch.  No more than an hour for the whole day’s work.

Day two.  Areas of rust converted by the Fertan will have turned black. Wash off them off, lightly sand the patches again and when the roof has dried, mix up some filler.  I used Isopon which sets really fast so you have to mix smallish bits at a time. Smooth the filler over the pitted area and beyond the edges of the exposed area.  Each patch will now be three times the area of the original damage!  You can sand the Isopon after only an hour drying out.  It sands very easily.  You should end up with a smooth surface right across the patch, extending it still further to blend in with the roof surface.  Sand harder at the edges to feather out. At this point I brought out the little hand held Dyson and sucked up what dust I could before washing the whole area off again. If the weather is right, the roof dries in minutes. (If it steams, stop right there, it’s too hot to paint). When dry, brush on some good metal primer, again extending beyond the prepared patch and feathering out as best you can. That’s all you can do today, most paints need sixteen hours between coats. Again only about an hours work.

Day three.  This depends a bit on how many days you can spare in total.  Another coat of primer would be good.  I didn’t have that much time, so after sanding down and washing yet again, it was on with a coat of some high build undercoat.  By now the patches over smallish areas of damage seem enormous.  Here I do have a couple of photos.

roof1 (1 of 1)

roof2 (1 of 1)

Some of those smaller patches cover an area where the damage was only a few millimetres across.  Yet again, less than an hours work today.

Day four. Another undercoat would be a very good idea, but I didn’t have any days leftNow you might say just leave it for another time then, but undercoats and primers are pretty porous and it’s not a great idea to leave them exposed to the weather for long for the damp will get in. So I pressed on. Out comes the old sander again – last chance to get a smooth surface before the top coats. Feathering out still further.  It can seem a bit daft slapping on all that paint then sanding half it it back off, but that’s what you have to do.  Then, a final light sanding over the whole area to get it clean and smooth, a quick vacuum if you have one, and a good rinse with clean water.  When that is dry, a final wash with a white spirit soaked rag to remove any grease and you’re ready for the top coat. Getting it all really clean is vital. Work so far today, about an half hour. 

Now the first top coat of, in my case, raddle paint.  Four inch brush, well stirred paint and work as fast as you can to keep a wet edge, working the paint in then quickly laying off the paint side to side right across the roof. I was cursing the met office because half way down we got a short light shower of rain. I stopped and waited for an hour.  It dried off and looked ok.  Better to start off against a touch dry edge than a half dry sticky one.  That ten foot section took about twenty minutes. Here and there the paint “grinned” a bit (showed through). Ignore that and keep going, never go back over sticky paint, the second coat will sort out all that.

So that’s where I stopped because we had to go home.  That single top coat will hold out the weather till I resume sometime soon, but I will have to sand and wash again first.

So that’s four days to do less than five hours work.  Each time I chose to do the work mid morning, after any dew has gone and leaving plenty of drying time before the evening damp descends, and  hopefully before any sun makes the roof too hot to work on.

On the other hand, also this weekend I went from this:

frontb4 (1 of 1)

to this:

frontafter (1 of 1)

in about five minutes.  Yes I just screwed on the front panel I had painted indoors at home.  I think it has worked out OK.  Herbie looks instantly smarter.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Finished paint plus a hidden gem on the Avon

Here’s my finished (all bar a coat of varnish) cratch mullion.  True to form the masking tape had bled here and there because of the grain of the wood, but nothing a tiny dab of white with an artists brush wouldn’t cover.  I’ll fix it to the boat next time we’re there, then you’ll be able to recognise us when you see us coming.

boardfinal (1 of 1)


Now then, this hidden gem.  Yesterday we went to Offenham (near Evesham) on the Avon to join in my big bruvver’s 80th birthday bash.  Little did we know he had arranged a treat for a group of us in between lunch and the afternoon festivities he took us for a walk down his road, Boat Lane, which as you might guess leads to the river.  Only about a hundred and fifty yards from his house he led us into the little Boat Lane (micro) Brewery where the proprietors were ready to welcome us with a tasting session and a tour.  Well what a cracker it is!  The owner/brewer is a a true artist with the recipes and the brewing process is meticulously carried out to produce some quite outstanding and interesting beers.  I suppose these days you would refer to their stuff as Craft beers. On sampling one of two draft beers on offer  I was pleased that I was right when I suggested it was made with cascade hops.  Anything made with cascade is invariably delicious to me, even if it is an American hop. Due to issues of scale, they sell chiefly in bottles at the moment, but they do have a small amount of draft beer too.  They are already selling all they can make and over the next year or two the scale is bound to grow.  As well as superb bitters and stouts, they do a range of really nice beers and stouts with added fruit flavours,  - oranges, mango, raspberry, ooh I can’t remember the rest but all really good (hic). We came away with a few bottles of the Offenham Orange.

One thing I learned during the tour was how HMRC calculates the alcohol duty the brewer needs to pay.  I imagined that they came round with the old hydrometer to measure the specific gravity of the beer.  That would of course indicate the alcoholic strength but not of course measure the quantity being made.  What in fact they do is require the malt sellers to record how much malt ( and presumably other sugar producing grains) is supplied to the brewer then apply a calculation to estimate how much alcohol that would make.  Simple really.

Boat lane brewery is open to the public on most days and if you moor your boat at the Bridge Inn (where perversely there is no bridge, but an old chain ferry) on the Avon it’s only a couple of minutes walk.  Highly recommended. You can find them on facebook where a number of customers rave about their wares.

While you’re in Offenham take a stroll down the main street past the thatched cottages and marvel at the village maypole, which at 64 feet is the tallest in England.  It is painted nearly as nicely as Herbie’s new cratch front.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Banbury Canal Day revived

The formerly cancelled Banbury Canal Day has been un-cancelled.  A planned building extension across the canal was supposed to be started by now, but for some reason or other it hasn’t, so as former attendees, we got a letter from Banbury Council saying they were reinstating the canal day to take place on October 1st and inviting us to apply for a place.  Well Banbury is practically Herbie’s home town at the moment so, if we’re spared, we’ll probably put in an appearance.

Meanwhile, my cratch front panel is progressing.  Two days ago –all masked up over the white base so that the white borders will reveal later:

boardw (1 of 1)

Today after two coats of the greys:

boardg (1 of 1)


The grey paint didn’t want to sit well on top of the white gloss despite rubbing down first but I managed to persuade it in the end although at the expense of an ultra smooth finish.  I doubt the brush marks will show at normal viewing distance.  As you can see, any precision is in the masking and not in the painting.  Tomorrow morning one more coat of the greys and then the big reveal when I pull off the masking tape.  I am mentally prepared for the inevitable bits of bleeding under the tape as long as there’s not too much of it. hopefully a little dab of white here and there will make good.  Then I think a couple of coats of clear varnish will finish the job.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Disappearing water

The schools have broken up and now it seems to want to rain.  Aah well, it does that.  The July CRT Reservoir Watch figures show quite a variation in the change in water holdings for the canals. Over June The Oxford dropped 16.8%, GU North dropped a somewhat alarming 26% while the GU South dropped 11%.  How do you work that one out?  At least holdings are still somewhat above 2010/11 levels when we were all worried about being left high and dry.

Last week we had an interesting episode at Grant’s Lock, that’s the first one south of Banbury, where the overspill weir pours under the lock cottage floor.  I had the lock empty ready for Kath to bring Herbie in when a lady appeared asking if we would kindly let some water down because the pound below, which includes Twyford Wharf, was very low.  No surprise there, I thought, it’s always really shallow down there (don’t go near the sides or you’ll be aground in no time).  So, anyway we had a bit of fun bringing Herbie into the lock with the top paddles open for a few minutes.  I think Kath enjoyed driving her in hard against the current and I suppose we donated a few thousand gallons to the pound below.

It turned out the the lady was one of the owners of Twyford Wharf where they have a little hire fleet.  She was convinced that there must be a groundwater leak in that pound although she couldn’t find where it might be.  Certainly round the corner south of the wharf, the canal sits on a high towpath side embankment above the Cherwell, so there’s plenty of chance for gravity to take away any leakage.  Actually Grant’s lock is fourteen inches less deep than King’s Sutton (Tarver’s) lock which is the next one below so that according to my calculations that would account for a fifty gallon loss each time a boat passes through, but, if I recall rightly the overspill weir at Grant’s lock was flowing so that would make up fifty gallons in no time.  I think the lady is right, the water is escaping somewhere.

Meanwhile I wonder if this recent spell of unsettled weather will make much difference to the reservoirs.  I doubt it somehow.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Cratch front designs

Phew, despite frequent rain showers, I've repainted Herbie's cratch front over ten times today. All in a search to find a design Kath likes. If you don't believe me, take a look at some of them.

cratchc   cratchb  cratchd

Alright, I admit it, I wasn't using paint on the cratch, I was using Paint on the computer. Useful though because my original design idea which looked good on paper, didn't look at all right on the boat. One thing I learned is that the designs look better if they don't extend through the full height of the “mullion” board.

Of course the Met Office (never the same since they left Bracknell where I could keep an eye on them) have supplied us with weather unsuitable for painting all this summer – either too hot or too windy or showery. So my solution is to make a new “veneer” board to pint at home and then screw over the somewhat weatherbeaten one on the boat.

For the designs, I have been using colours that are already in use on Herbie, the two greys from the cabin sides, the red from the cants and the white lining from the bow flashes. Also you will see that I was keen to reflect the red diamond on the bow flashes. Our final choice is this one:

cratcha

The board is cut, primer-ed and undercoated twice and once that last coat is dry I'm ready to start on the real fun, the marking out and painting. That'll take several days because of the different colours and abutting edges and multiple coats of paint, although only probably twenty minutes at each session. I'd never have got it done out in the open.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Learned Treatise on Dogs on (Canal) Boats Part II

When I said in my last post, part 2 “tomorrow”, I meant that in the Donald trump sense.  Don’t worry, it’s gonna be great.

I feel I have adequately demonstrated my credentials as a world authority on DogsonBoats, but as further proof of what I said last time, I have located a photo of our Sheltie Jaz attempting to walk the gunnel of a hire boat.

Photograph (10)

As you can see, she is having second thoughts.  I don’t recall if she tried to turn and then fell in the canal, but probably.  I shall not be recommending Shelties as ideal DogsonBoats.

And so to the meat of my thesis, popular breeds and their owners.  Let us start with the ubiquitous Staffordshire Bull Terrier. 

Staffies are acquired, mostly by single men of socio economic groups D and E, in the mistaken belief that it will increase their macho credentials, and in the eyes of the non cognoscenti, this may work.   It is true that they could probably bite a windlass in half, or crunch through a mooring chain, but unlike their nasty cousin the American Pit Bull, you are far more likely to be licked by one than bitten by one.  So they sit on the rear deck, quietly watching the world go by, generally doing as little as possible and putting on weight. Their owners quickly learn that despite their often terrifying appearance, they are soft, sweet natured and afectionate.  This is the ideal dog for the low energy boater.  It is pointless throwing a Staffie a ball or a stick, because it will demolish the missile with a single bite on reaching it so there’ll be zilch to bring back.  As to feeding, they eat anything.  If you run out of biscuits, they might be perfectly happy with half a dozen nuts and bolts.

Now to the other end of the energy scale.  The Border Collie – living proof that genius is close to madness.  These brilliant dogs can operate see saws, run through mazes, drive sheep through a gate and into a pen, and could probably solve third order differential equations if they could hold a pencil.  On the downside however they all seem to suffer from ADHD and have to be doing something all the time.  This is the reason that Border Collie owners are either superbly fit or completely knackered.  In truth ColliesonBoats prefer to be ColliesontheTowpath.  If only they could be trained to go ahead and set the next lock, they’d be perfect.

Now we come to a dog with supernatural powers.  The Greyhound.  These come in two types, the normal, and the retired racer.  Both types have a common skill, which is hypnotism.  In the verbal sense, Greyhounds don’t have a lot to say. They slink about in complete silence, find your favourite chair and lie in it. A big racer can easily occupy a three seater sofa on his own. However they have acquired to power to instruct their owners through their eyes with subliminal messages such as “You will adopt another three retired racers as company for me”, or “I refuse to pee here, please take me to my favourite spot fourteen miles away or my bladder will burst and you’ll have yet another expensive vets bill.”  The dogs’ powers of hypnosis ensure complete and utter dedication and devotion to their every need. What these dogs are operating is a secret cult like the Moonies or something. Perhaps their ought to be a treatment centre somewhere to cure owners who have escaped.  

The reason vets have expensive Range Rovers and nice houses is principally due to the retired racing Greyhound, which like all finely tuned racers is prone to injury.  This is especially true of the creature’s skin, which appears to be about one micron thick, so that a brush against a dralon sofa will produce a wound needing medical attention. These are of course supremely athletic dogs capable of running along the entire grand union canal in about three minutes.  The only sound they make is the sonic boom as they pass. Despite this they are fascinatingly reluctant to step over a six inch gap between boat and bank and so need lifting across.  So we come to their boating owners.  Those of “normal” greyhounds tend to be single people who enjoy the quiet telepathic bond with their dog.  Those owners of ex racing greyhounds are almost always couples with a good joint income to cover the vet’s bills. Generally speaking their sacrifice and generosity (even to humans) knows no bounds. What else could you say of a lady who willingly stood on a boat for a whole day in the cold pouring rain in a soaking Womble costume to publicise a Greyhound charity? The most impressive special skill of owners of racers is that of recognising one greyhound from another.  To the rest of us they all look identical.  Having cruised on a narrowboat through the Thames barrier with five of these animals, all I can say is that I was glad they all had colour coded collars. So to keep a Greyhound on a boat, you need to prefer non verbal communication, not have a favourite seat of your own (or fool the dog into thinking it’s a different one), and never look into its eyes or you will be lost.

Finally a dog which will follow you around like a, um, well, like a little dog I suppose.  It is the ever popular Jack Russell Terrier.  These come in a range of colours and sizes and temperaments.  The good ones are sweet and gentle and the not so good ones will display a savagery worthy of a beast ten times their size. On the deck of your boat, a bucket of soapy water and a scrubbing  wouldn’t go amiss, because the JRT does like to roll in the leavings of other dogs and, worse, of foxes.  A good JRT, being of small stature is happy on a boat, is a good guard dog and will get on well with your friends and not mess up their boats.  They live for ages and the running costs are low.  Being so portable they can, and will, go everywhere with you.  JRT owners are a very mixed bunch, singles, couples, rich, poor, high energy, low energy.  Could this be the ideal DogonaBoat?

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A Learned Treatise on Dogs on Boats

There follows below, a Learned Treatise on Dogs on (Canal) Boats and Their Owners, and as the author of said Treatise I shall commence by describing my credentials as an expert on the subject.

Our first DogonaBoat was Treacle, our dear little Jack Russell Terrier who we had not long after we got married about forty years ago. Treacle was small even by Jack Russell standards and had little of the bravery supposedly attributed to the breed. She once attempted a confrontation with one of our Guinea Pigs and came off much the worse. Rick and Marilyn invited us for a day out aboard Nb Amos, a converted Ice Breaker kindly lent by a friend of theirs. We travelled from Blisworth and went a long way down the Northampton Arm before turning and going back. Treacle wasn't at all sure about the boat and was keen to join us on the bank while we worked down the many locks. At one of the locks the crew of us and our various children elected to reboard the boat to get to the next lock, which, knowing the flight, couldn't have been very far. Unfortunately we forgot to tell Treacle who was left stranded on the bank, so we called to her, intending that she should follow along the towpath. After a moment's thought she remembered her obedience training and decided she ought to follow us, so against all her instincts she plunged into the water and struck out after the disappearing boat. Her little dogy paddle swimming style was admirable and before long she caught us up and was scooped aboard, never to go near water again.

Our second DogonaBoat was ten years later. Jaz was our gentle and clever Sheltie who had an inbuilt dislike of water. Well with all that long hair I suppose she would. We hired a boat from Weltonfield and cruised down through Braunston and the Oxford canal, getting about as far as Enslow. I don't remember if we had a day without heavy rain, but I think not. Having a bedraggled Sheltie on a carpeted boat is not something I'd recommend, not that she was particularly bedraggled by the rain, more by frequent accidental plunges into the canal as she attempted to herd the ducks. She was a sheepdog after all. She fell off the deck, the roof, AND the gunnel (yes she was stupid enough to attempt that). Her first plunge actually took place before we had actually set off from the hire base, as we were loading our gear onto the boat. But her most spectacular plunge was off the footway across the bottom lock gates at I think maybe Cropredy. She decided to follow me across, then half way thought better of it and attempted to do an about turn. There being insufficient room of course she dived several feet into the canal below. Well she survived to tell the tale and on the return journey she did do something to impress us all. Coming back through Fenny Tunnel (which boaters will know is no longer a tunnel at all but a narrow cutting), we were so close to the bank that she assumed we we about to disembark so she jumped ashore. The boat and its crew continued on, leaving her stranded. Would she do a Treacle? Not Jaz. She thought for a minute then raced along the bank ahead of us and waited at the next bridge. Clever or what?

Moving on many years I won't dwell on the SomebodyelsesDogonsomebodyelsesBoat, except to say that we have survived a number of Thames Tideway thrillers in the company of a large number of large Greyhounds aboard Nb IndigoDream. I think I'm right in recalling there being five of them on board on the trip to Gravesend. More on Greyhounds later.

So we come right up to date with our dog sitting trip this week with Ronnie, our Claire's Chihuahua/ Yorkie cross. Rarely has a DogonaBoat attracted so much attention. I have completely lost count of the number of people who have come up to admire him. Despite never having been near a canal before, he has not fallen or jumped in once, although he has had many opportunities. If I walk between locks he follows me dutifully like a, um, er well like a little dog. Returning to the boat after a walk, once he sees it, he runs ahead to our boat and sits at the rear, waiting to be lifted aboard. What a sweetie. Kath won't want to give him back.

So you can see I am practically a world authority on dogs on boats and I await the call from the people who nominate the judges at Crufts. And so on to my Leaned Treatise on Dogs on(canal) Boats and their Owners, where I shall analyse the most popular breeds and the types of people who own them. However, looking back at the amount I have already written and being aware of the short attention span of readers these days, I'll save that for tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Animal magnetism.



As the sunset falls over our peaceful mooring tonight at Kirtlington quarry, I ponder why I have suddenly become attractive to young women. Way back in the last century I seem to recall having my moments, but things have slowed down a bit over the last thirty years. Today however I have been approached by three or four attractive young ladies, and it was the same yesterday. Of course they all made the excuse that they were coming to stroke and admire little puppy Ronnie, but I think it's my animal magnetism.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Slow going

Having cruised down to Oxford in three days, we're now aiming to take seven days to get back. After two very short days we find ourselves at the Jolly Boatman at Thrupp. Luckily the old solar panel is helping out with the battery charging with the engine only running for an hour or so per day.

Our novice crew member Ronnie is taking to boating like a dog to water.


Although he's not too sure about his life jacket.



Sadly he appears not to have the strength to carry a windlass, but you can't have everything can you?

Now we have to look out for dog friendly pubs. I'm pretty sure the Jolly B is ok as I recall Maffi taking Molly in there. Ronnie appeared to approve of Annie's Tea Rooms, as do we.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Here we are - with a new guest crew member and a posh extra for Herbie

I suppose you might be wondering where we are. (At our age we keep wondering that too.) Well we're down amid the dreaming spires mingling with the tourists. At least half the population of Oxford appears to be American if you go by the accents you hear as people walk by. Apart from the normal reasons for visiting the city, we had an extra two. The first was to attend a pre arranged collogue (look it up) with Bones and the Moomins to attempt a re-enactment of the splendid jointly prepared meal we had aboard Nb Melaleuca a couple of years back. It's always dangerous to try to recreate such a memorable evening, but with certain essential changes we managed it splendidly. The changes were that we ate al fresco, having a barbecue in the little park at Aristotle lane. I won't bore you with the menu but it was suitably sumptuous and a jolly time was had by all and a box of cider is now empty.

Part of the reason for the jollity was the inclusion of our special guest (the other reason we came down to Oxford). Meet our new temporary crew member Ronnie.



Ronnie is our daughter Claire's dog, half Yorkie and half Chihuahua and we have him on board for a week while Claire and family take a holiday in Portugal. He's quite a character and loved by all but I don't suppose he'll be much use at lock wheeling.

At our BBQ we had a flying visit from Alex who some of you will know as a maker of classy (and very sturdy) boat chimneys, so we asked about replacing ours which is falling to bits. To cut a long story short Alex bowled up this morning carrying one which proved to be a perfect fit so the deal was done and Herbie's roof looks instantly a lot smarter. His chimneys cost about double the tin ones you buy in the chandleries but are about five times as good. The steel is thick and the finish is powder coated and baked on. The old chimney was indeed on its last legs because as Alex twisted it to free it from the collar, the chimney disintegrated in his hands!

The old one, ready for the tip:



and the new one made by Alex:



The canal is looking spiffing at the moment, well, when the sun shines anyway. The yellow flag irises and the may flowers and the elder blossoms have all gone, to be replaced with lush sprays of Rosebay Willowherb, Meadowsweet, white Convolvulus and Purple Loosestrife. It all looks like a lovely cottage garden, miles and miles of it. I know, I know, I really must take some photos.

The other thing growing with abandon is the flippin' weeping Willows which hang in big green curtains over the canal so you can't see where you're going or if your're about to collide with a boat coming the other way. As you come into Oxford you hit loads of them. Something ought to be done . . .

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Something hidden but worth seeing on the Oxford Canal.

Here's a find you might not know about. It's one of those things right next to the canal, but you never know it's there until someone tips you off like someone did to us.

First, a bit of background, so bear with me.

The little old river Cherwell has been known to flood a bit around Banbury. In fact, a bit more than a bit. In 1998 even Banbury railway station had to be closed because of floods. That year, flood damage amounted to 12m pounds. When they had bad floods again in 2007, the town and the EA decided enough was enough and 14m quid was spent on developing and constructing a Flood Alleviation Scheme. A major piece of this was the creation of a large floodwater holding area in fields to the north of the town by building a retaining dam 2850 metres (that's over a mile and three quarters) long and up to 4.5m (nearly 15 feet) high.

Not only is this worth looking at, it's right next to the canal, and you can use it to walk through to the retail park next to the motorway where comfortably off shoppers can visit M&S or the less wealthy can go into Primark or Poundland or the less healthy can eat at MacDonalds.(healthy menu options are available).

So how do you see all this from the canal? Well you start at the motorway bridge just north of Hardwick lock (that's the last one before Banbury if you are coming from the North). There's plenty of room to tie up on the straight stretch down to the lock. Walk back through the bridge and you'll find this gate.



See it there on the left of the picture. Walk through the gate and you'll be looking at a bit of the dam.




Climb up onto the dam to see the vista beyond, where all the flood water will be held. There are a couple of socking great concrete sluices which I suppose are there to control the release of the water at the appropriate time.


If you fancy a bit of retail therapy, it's less than a ten minute walk from here. With your back to the canal, turn to your right and walk along the dam and across a second sluice to join a path going under the motorway.



As you can see, M&S and the rest are just the other side.

There is a good write up of the flood alleviation scheme with maps and pictures available as a pdf. Google the scheme (other search engines are available) and look for the entry from WaterProjectsOnline.com.

What worries me is how they will manage post Brexit when we can't get any little Dutch boys to stick their fingers in the dam if it leaks.