Monday, March 30, 2009

Getting ready to go

Only just over a fortnight till the start of phase 1 of our 2009 grand tour, and preparations are well in hand. We have maps and charts all over the house and attempts at preliminary schedules. A lot of the effort is planning how we'll get to and from the boat each time we leave her and come home for a few days. No doubt real life will upset our careful planning.

Today I've been sawing logs for the stove, and putting finishing touches to the refurbishment of the old Buckby cans we bought a little while back. Filling in the paint chips and recoating some of the trim has made all the difference. Not bad eh?

A phone message from Glenda tells us our new cratch cover should be finished tomorrow morning, so we'll be driving to the boatyard and then walking two or three miles up the Slough Arm to collect the boat.

Sue on Indigo Dream started her big cruise yesterday, passing the empty Herbie as they left Packet Boat Marina. A pity it wasn't 48 hours later as we would have been there to wave them off. Anyway she writes a mean blog so we'll be following her cruise with interest. I've added a link to them on our favourite blogs list on this page so you can follow them too.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

In praise of GOBA

Wow, I'm impressed. Everyone who visits or keeps a boat on the Great Ouse recommends joining GOBA, the Great Ouse Boating Association. So we just did.

I visited their website, had a general read and then joined on line, paying my £17 through Paypal and filling in a simple form with sensible questions. I got the usual email receipts and a welcoming mail saying the paper work should come by post with 28 days. It actually arrived in 48 hours - a membership certificate covering us immediately and until April 2010, a sticker for the boat and a very professional looking club magazine.

As members we get free use of 21 club mooring sites on the Ouse and its tributaries for 48 hours at a time, which is of course the reason for joining.

What impresses me most is that this is not a big business but a society run by unpaid volunteers. They could give a lesson in efficiency, value for money and customer care to a lot of the big boys.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rail links to waterways

Never say I don't take notice of comments. On the suggestion of Sue on Indigodream I've adapted my tube style map of this year's cruise to include railway stations. Actually it's not too much of a sacrifice to do the job since we'll be wanting to get back home by public transport from time to time, so It'll be handy for us. It now looks as though it has measles, but anyway here it is. Click to see it big.

As for Halfie's suggstion that I do a similar map for the whole system - you'll have to wait a very long time. If anyone elase wants to have a go and add to the library, that'd be good.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Picture problem cracked

When I posted my map yesterday I noticed that it enlarged properly if clicked upon, whereas other pictures lately seem not to. So I did a bit of research and bingo, I've solved the problem. Other Blogger bloggers take note.

After you upload the picture, it comes in at the top of the posting and of course you often drag it to a new spot within the text. Yesterday I left the map and the top and it enlarged with a click. If you drag and drop it doesn't. Thankfully there is a way round it. All you have to do is click on the HTML tab,, identifiy the code for the picture (you can't really miss it) and drag and drop the whole of that code.

Aplologies if a) you already knew that or b) if you couldn't care less because you are not a Blogger blogger.

Anyway to celebrate, here is a picture of Brentford basin that should enlarge when you click on it.
In future all my pics should follow suit so get clicking.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cruise map a la tube map

I've had a go at creating a map for our summer cruise and thought it would be fun to do it in the style of the London Underground map. As a quick reference I've added approximate time in hours between possible stopping places. A full size version as a pdf is available here on my canalometers page. Or you can follow the link to the Herbie Files on the right of this blog page.

What do you think?

Boaters complain about Boaters at Cowley Peachey

I'm not generally given to grumbling but . . .

Glenda says the BW man told her that they would be putting up No Mooring signs at this pleasant spot just inside the Slough Arm. Apparently there had been complaints from boaters mooring inside the adjacent Packet Boat Marina about boats moored outside continuously for free, running their engines at all hours etc.

Now I'm not one to defend people who continuously moor on visitor moorings, taking up room for travelling boats that need a short stop, but to close these moorings would be unreasonable. These are the only decent towpath moorings on the Slough arm, and I would have though quite out of sight and earshot from boats inside the marina as you can see in this picture.

Every boat on the move needs somewhere to stop, it's what we pay our licences for. And we all from time to time need to run our engines whilst stationary to get power and hot water.

I suspect the complainers might be folk who hardly ever leave the marina. It is regrettable that some people who don't "use" their boat should hold sway over those who do. By all means ban overstayers, but don't penalise everyone else. I would have no objection at all to signs limiting mooring to 7 days or thereabouts. Let's hope that's the intention because to lose this pleasant sheltered spot is unnecessary.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Credit crunch threatens developments on the Slough Arm

I've received the latest minutes from the Friends of the Slough Canal (FOTSC). Its a good example of how the current state of the economy is getting in the way of progress in improving the canal. In brief the main items of note are:

The idea of a Thames link through Slough is still alive, and although it has symapthetic support from BW and the Slough Council, the current economic situation means that it is a long way off.

The idea of giving a much needed face lift to Slough basin is still on the cards. BW owns some of the adjacent properties and would like to make the basin "an attractive and safe place". (so say all of us!) However, once again the credit crunch is sited as a hindrance.

The Council cannot this year afford to fund the Slough Canal Festival (September). Unless alternative sponsorship can be found the festival will not go ahead.

Lea school in Slough is considering some kind of docking arrangements on the canal next to the school so that boats such as the Floating Classroom can tie up at the school. Its a lovely idea but
I'm tempted to say the school (and FOTSC) must be having a laugh. The floating classroom, currently moored up at Cowley is a big boat by canal standards. I took its photo this morning. Maybe it could just about get down the Slough Arm but I'm sure after one trip, they'd hesitate to repeat it.

Tragic end to missing man saga

Apparently the man's body surfaced near his boat on Friday afternoon. It was spotted by poor Glenda who, by virtue of being the neighbouring boat, has since had to deal with visits by police, BW, undertakers, and distraught relatives. I think she'll be glad when she finishes our cratch cover and she can move off. I did offer to move Herbie to another spot but she declined.

That's twice in recent weeks that we have been close to bodies in the canal. I sincerely hope it's a coincidence that won't be repeated further.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

No news on missing man

I popped out to Herbie this morning to put another coat of paint on the (ex) rust spots. Nobody around but the missing man's boat still looks deserted although now locked up by his daughter.

Rain is forecast for Monday and most of next week, so tomorrow (Sunday) I'll go out again and put a top coat on. That should hold it until I can overcoat the whole roof. While I'm there I'll get the latest on the missing man.

It really is beautiful weather at the moment. I bet you when we start our mega cruise next month we won't be so fortunate. Next Wednesday the met office publishes its revised seasonal forecast for the remainder of spring. Fingers crossed.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I couldn't resist showing you this

Three posts in one day! Well I had to show you this.

Last night I went in to Westminster for our monthly pipers session. Walking up Horseferry Road I came across this "scultpure" of illuminated umbrellas.

Very good, but why? Futher up the road I looked back and the answer was revealed

The Channel 4 offices.

Minor roof repairs and more on the cratch cover

On a more cheerful note (see post below) I made good progress on the roof yesterday. There were a number of tiny rust spots like this one (about the size of a pin head).

I rubbed them all back, treated them with vactan, put on primer which dried really fast in the warm sun and the breeze and got on a dab of primer /undercoat too. Next week if the weather holds I'll put on some more layers before repainting the whole roof with a fresh top coat.

Actually I was was quite encouraged. When you rub these rust spots back, they are tiny. In some cases I think it must be a fragment of metal dust or swarf in the paint because there is fresh paint beneath the rust spot. Anyway the roof now looks like this. The undercoat is a darker grey than the top coat. With a fresh top coat we'll be as good as new again.

Meanwhile Glenda was popping round looking at strap positions for the cratch cover and still offering me choices of this and that regarding the design. It was too breezy for her to mark out her paper template in situ, so she was getting on with making straps etc. She was also preoccupied with the missing man.

Moored the other side of me was a boat for which Glenda had just finished the cratch cover. A bit different from how ours will look but here it is. Ours will have bigger windows and I think wider "doors". One of the main features we are seeking is a shorter "tail" pressed studded out of the way of marauding lock gates.

She was regailing me with tales of how asymmetrical some boats are. Cratch boards not central, one side of the boat an inch higher than the other etc. I suppose that's because they're hand built. It doesn't make her job any easier.

Fear of tragedy - boater missing on GU

When I went out to Herbie yesterday to do a spot of repair painting on the roof, there was fear and consternation in the area. I'm moored up close to Pete and Genda who are making our new cratch cover. Behind them is another boat usually occupied (living aboard) by a chap on hs own. This man, whose name I don't know, seems to have gone missing about a week ago. His boat was left with the door open and fresh food lying about.

Apparently he is known to go on the occasional bender, and the fear is he might have fallen into the cut whilst not in full possession of his faculties. The police have been called, BW is on the case and his very worried daughter has come out to the boat to investigate.

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Summer cruise plans shaping up

I'm feeling somewhat upbeat today. Firstly, my computer is working again -hooray!

Then, our summer cruise of the fens is beginning to look like a reality and we now have a number of preparations in place.

Start date 15 or 16 April
Pause for boat blacking at Cowroast 22-25 April

Pete H then joining as crew to Long Buckby where a friend of Rick's has offered us end of garden moorings for a couple of weeks while we go sailing in Norfolk and then attend Ricks wedding anniversary party

Rick and Marilyn then accompany us down the Nene. Its great knowing we have some crew, we really enjoy travelling with friends.
After that plans get hazier, but it'll be middle levels then Ouse and tributaries.

We have now applied for our gold licence so we can go anywhere and stay as long as we like on the Ouse and Nene. I must next organise temporary membership of GOBA (Great Ouse Boating Assoc), because they have lots of good mooring places for members.

At our boatyard we've officially booked ourselves as away from Mid April to the end of July, so there's a chance we might get some mooring fee remission if they can temporarily let out our berth. If so I hope its to someone nice, as they'll be moored next to Salty and Laura leading up to the birth of baby peanut who is due in July.

And we'll be sporting our new cratch cover which is being made to measure as I write. That'll take over a week. Yesterday we moved the boat up to Cowley for the job and I walked in the sunshine back to the boatyard to get the car. Spring is definately springing on the Slough arm.

Its all a bit exciting really.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Stainless steel pros and cons

When we replaced the stove recently the only part we didn't have new was the chimney. I thought our old one was a bit ropey so I took it home for a refurb. On investigation I was amazed what good nick it was in, because it seems to be made out of stainless steel and it was sound as a bell. Here it is now I've repainted it.

The problem with the stainless steel though is that its a swine to drill. I had to make a little hole so I could rivet on the leg of the new chimney hat I bought. Using a tungsten drill it took ages, and a broken bit, to drill through the thickness of only about a millimeter.

Tomorrow it goes back on the boat as we take her up the Slough arm to rendezvous with Nb G's Cargo for them to start making a new cratch cover from Wednesday.

We've got a horrendous trojan thingy on our main home computer. I've spent all day trying to fix it. We've got two firewalls, two virus checkers, two spyware checkers and removal tools, and still we're infected. Most of all I'm disappointed that the removal tools can't seem to fix it. I want my money back.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A chance encounter = new cratch cover

When we were at Hertford last year we shared a lock with Nb G's Cargo and got chatting like you do. It turns out that they are a travelling workshop making cratch covers and other sewn items for boaters.

Well, we need a new cratch cover as ours has sustained a fair amount of rips and tears, partly because of its design. The lower edges hang too deeply over the gunnels at the bows and are too easily caught against lock sides and gates. Here's a bit from an old photo showing some of the damage. There are also some splitting seams here and there.

A repair done by the makers a year or so ago was less than satisfactory and cost over £100.

G's Cargo said they could make us a new one for £375 and best of all will do it while they are moored next to us so that they can do on site fitting. Their work looks good and they operate entirely by personal recommendation, so we made a provisional booking for this spring. We have to let them have the boat for five or six days while they do the job.

Last weekend we met them again at the end of the Slough arm and agreed the deal. What could be more convenient? Hopefully they can fit us in in the next couple of weeks. Better still we have discussed the design problems and we reckon we can make it fit better and less likely to collect damage.

We'll let you know how we get on.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

A change of pace.

Using your own boat leads to different habits that hiring one. When we used to hire boats for canal holidays we used to put in long days cruising. We did the four counties ring in six days. 110 miles and 94 locks. Now we have our own boat we’re not in such a hurry. In the last eight days we cruised 22 miles and did 22 locks. We used to cruise eight or nine hours a day, but now we generally aim at five.

Have we got lazy? No, we make more time to explore the places we visit. From Brentford last week we took buses into London to visit the British Museum and see the Sutton Hoo treasures. From Hanwell we twice walked to Osterley park to visit the National Trust house and gardens.
About two miles each way including negotiating the puddles in this narrow footpath by the railway. Here Kath does her high wire act to keep her feet dry.
Not only that we fitted in two pub quizzes and a pub music session. Simon (nbTortoise) took some great pictures of the session using a camera with real black and white film. See them on his blog -that's a great one of me at the bottom. So, not so much a cruise as a holiday using the boat as a travelling base.

Now our plans for the summer, that’s a real cruise. We’ve been researching the stats. If we complete our plan to cruise the fens going the long way round via the Thames and the Oxford canal, that amounts to over 550 miles and over 300 locks. I don’t know about you but that sounds pretty daunting, even though we plan to do it in bits over three or four months.

We also need a plan B because the rivers may not be kind enough to let us pass if it rains a lot. Hmmm.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Camera report

Vally P asks for an update on how I am finding my new Panasonic TZ4 camera, and who am I to refuse my most regular commenter :-)

Well I'm pretty pleased with it. I especially like the wide angle lense which makes some photos possible that wouldn't otherwise get in what you need. Look at this shot of the unique place at Hanwell where the road crosses the canal which crosses the railway at the same spot. The photo is taken from the road bridge. I tried it last year with my other camera and couldn't get it all in but it looks fine with this camera. The camera is also easy to use and feels very solid.

What Vally really needs to know is if it is worth upgrading from her TZ2 which has less megapixels. Hmm. I suspect it is but I can't be sure. I'm certainly pleased with the resolution and sharpness from the TZ5 although I find I can't hold the camera as steady as I would with a viewfinder camera. It is sharper than my other camera which is 5megapixel. Rick also has a TZ4 and took a good shot of a bird in his garden and the detail was superb. Sorry I don't have a copy of it here to show.

Would I buy this camera again? Yes.

Not just rubbish - shock horror at Osterley lock

Regarding my previous post, its not only rubish that ends up at Osterley lock. We read last night in a local paper that a man's body had been found in the canal beneath this lock early on Tuesday afternoon. This is very close to the time that we passed through there on our way down to Brentford which means that we either misssed the body by a few feet or the unfortunate man by a few minutes before he ended up in the water. Spooky.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

The trouble with the Brent

I forgive the river Brent. I’m sure it bears me no personal ill will, although it brings me pain.

This little river winds its innocent way through East London, inadvertently stealing children’s footballs from the parks, and rescuing plastic bottles from recycling bins before joining the Grand Union canal here at Hanwell. For less than a mile it shares the canal’s banks before it leaves on its own path at a weir above Osterley lock. When there is rain the Brent can rise quickly and as it does so it washes down dead twigs and branches from its banks along with the footballs and, the odd fence post, maybe a pallet or two and so on. This is all to be expected, but the problem is that the river seems to deposit all its gathered rubbish in the canal. The heavier stuff like waterlogged twigs and branches settles like silt, forming underwater banks to run aground the unwary boater. There are a lot of these obstacles at the moment.

Worse, the floating rubbish gets swept down to Osterley weir and lock where it lies in huge rafts, blocking the lock gates and looking pretty awful. Passing through this lock today was quite an event. The gates wouldn’t fully open because of all the rubbish behind them, then they wouldn’t close again because of more rubbish. Then when we finally managed to clear the gates enough to use the lock. We had to exit through umpteen yards of flotsam to get clear. Quite how we didn’t get the prop fouled I don’t know.

Maybe because Kath was at the tiller. She ploughed out of the lock pushing a huge lock in front of Herbie and a huge raft of junk in front of the log. Then she pulled off the neat trick of pushing the junk raft towards the weir, then backing off and darting clear. Good stuff.

Last night we had a boaters quiz team at O’Brien’s in Brentford. We decided to call ourselves the Navigators and we came away with some pride although we didn’t win. Tonight we may do the quiz at the Fox.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Dining and culture in Brentford

Even Brentford has its high spots. Yesterday we dined at the Magpie and Crown where they provided some of the tastiest Thai food I can recall. I supposed “dined” is a posh word for eating in the bar of an ordinary boozer, but I’ve eaten less well in many a restaurant. When eating Thai food always start with the soup, it’s the best thing in their cuisine I reckon. The rest of the meal was good too, washed down with a pint of a rather nice ale called 1648. Yum.

Then picking up Simon (well rescuing him from his recycling group meeting) we proceeded 100 yards to the small but packed O’Briens pub where we joined a group of “musicians” around a bar table. There was a bass player, two guitarists, a banjo player, two fiddlers, Simon on balalaika, and me on mandola and small pipes. Goodness knows what it sounded like. I couldn’t really hear myself properly, the pub was so noisy in general. Still it was a lot of fun. In the corner Kath was ensconced with Kevin and Karen from Nb Barnaby who had just come up the Thames from Limehouse along with Jeff (Geoff?) on Nb Roanoak who was one of the fiddlers round the table. Much talk of rivers and canals travelled.

So a night of good food, good beer, live music to join in with and meeting new friends. What more do you need? Thank you Brentford.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Of home brew engine bays and old boats

Amazing the people you meet on the canal. On our run down to Hanwell we stopped at Bulls Bridge Tescos and moored up behind NB Brecon where the owner was busy rewiring his batteries. I wandered over for a chat and was interested to see that he was wiring them up so that they had an equal length lead each from a hub connected to the alternator. Same on the earth side. As it had six domestic batteries it was quite a spiders web, but very neatly done. I have read recently that this is the best way to wire up a battery bank so all the batteries get charged and discharged equally.

Anyway, there was something even more interesting in his engine bay - two five gallon beer brewing tubs. Apparently the beer brews nicely in the warm environment close to the engine. Quite how he gets it to settle with the boat rocking about I don’t know. Here was a guy who had got he knack of living aboard and was good at looking after his kit. He said his Kabola engine had done 12,000 hours. I suppose it terms of a car that’s over 400,000 miles!

Further on down the canal we met a couple aboard NB Peggotty waiting by Norwood top lock. It turns out this was the first time that had ever used a lock as they had only bought the boat days before at High Line where we moor. We gave some help and instruction and I suppose they were a lot more knowledgeable by the time they had descended the 8 locks down to the Fox. Later in the pub, they said they were off to Newbury on the Kennet and Avon and hoped to get there the following day!!!! I reckon five days might be more the mark, especially when you’re not used to locks and swing bridges.

Today, two days later, they’re still moored here at Brentford where we now sit behind NB Dane, a superb of working boat that we also met on the Hanwell flight. A young family with two kids live on her.Apparently Dane was rescued as a sunken boat and needs a lot of work, but it’s a lovely old boat. Just look at that oak planking. Best of all it has a Bolinder engine. Pop pop pop, pause pop pop , it goes. Probably a swine to start but I just love the sound. I’d give my eye teeth for a Bolinder were it not for the fact that a dentist already took them some years go.

Tonight we’re off to O’Briens pub with Simon where we’ll attempt to infiltrate a local music session, him with his mandolin and me with my pipes. Should be fun.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Stove adventures and bloggers in the pub

So much has happened since I last posted, I’ll have to do two or three separate posts to catch up.

The new stove. Well, its in and working, but it wasn’t all that straightforward. We needed a new collar on the roof because the old one broke when the old flue was removed, then the bolt holes weren’t in the same place etc etc. Anyway we now have new stove, new flue, new collar and I have painted the old chimney so it feels like we have the full set. We also have a lot less money :-( The old stove, when it came out, was in pretty poor shape so it had to be done.

People who have solid fuel stoves will know that they take a bit of skill to operate. Although our new one is the same make and model as the old one, the makers have modified the air controls so we have to learn all over again to get it right. When first lighting a new stove you’re supposed to treat it gently and only have a small fire, which is hard because small fires don’t stay alight very well, so the first night we had a short unsuccessful burn and then retired to the warmth of the Bottle and Glass where Saltysplash and Nora had their arms twisted (not very hard) via the wonders of Texting to join us for a meal. Salty was basking in the glow of satisfaction in making good progress on converting his boatman’s cabin ready for when baby peanut arrives in July. Returning later to a cold boat it was hot water bottles and bed. (We do have an eberspacher diesel heater driving three radiators, which we put on for a short while, but its not nearly so effective as a solid fuel stove.)

Next day we moved on down here to Hanwell, more of which in another post soon. We lit the stove again with more fuel this time and it started to get nice and hot. This is when the other feature of new stoves kicked in. As the paint and the sealants cure in the heat, you get smoke and fumes in the room. Quite a lot of it! Well, the users manual did warn us. Smoke alarms were set off, doors were flung open and we let the fire died while we repaired to the Fox for a couple of pints with Simon (Nb Tortoise) who we had persuaded to cycle up from Brentford to join us. Yet another good evening with a fellow boat blogger and High Line moorer.

Interestingly, the Fox is ten times further from the canal that the Bottle and Glass is. However as the distance from the door of the B&G to our moored boat was 15 paces you can see the Fox is pretty handy too.

Today we stayed put and lit the fire in the afternoon with all the doors and hatches open. I seem to have got the hang of the airwash control which seems particularly good at controlling the burn rate of logs. I think most of the fumes have gone now and the boat is at last getting warm. No excuse to go to the pub tonight.

More tomorrow of a great walk we did today. Meanwhile here's a picture of us moored up in the sunset near the Fox.