Friday, November 27, 2009

Job done, and on to the next

Vally P asks if the folding table is finally finished and installed. Yes it is. Complete with hardwood trimmed edges.

Now I turn my attention to a new window insert for the side hatch. The old one was never very nice and it's very scratched. These doors open

and then we either leave the open space if the weather is nice, or put in the perspex window insert to protect against rain or midges.

This time I want to make a smart frame and get a good fit, so I have been measuring very carefully.

By the way here is Herbie (with our winter deck cover erected) next to her new neighbour Humbug.
You can see why we're happy to be there, Glynn has done a super job of restoring Humbug, and after two weeks in the spot we have NO leaves on the roof. Hooray!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Contortionist wanted

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Wickes are selling hot water tank insulating jackets for under a fiver, subsidised under some green scheme or other. Anyway I bought one to put over Herbie's calorifier tank so that the hot water stays hot for longer, and today I attempted to fit it.

The trouble is the tank is at the back of the engine bay sandwiched between a bulkhead corner and the engine. It's surrounded by pipes and cables, encircled by a retaining chain, and quite close to the alternator. The insulating jacket (too big really for this size of tank) comes in four panels that you have to lace together and encircle the tank. And of course you have to do all this with your body squeezed into the tiny space at the side of the engine.

I got two of the panels on and one is dangerously close to the alternator. Nothing is ever simple is it? I'll go back next week with some sticky tape and something flexible to push round the back of the tank to feed a tie round.

I will not be beaten.

Well, I might:-)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Doing things proper -or overdoing it?

At our boatyard they're sticklers for rules. We get reminders about licences, insurance, boat safety checks etc. and we have to give them copies of the relevant documents. Any tradesman allowed on site has to complete a written risk assessment. And so it goes on.

Craning is no different. They hire a crane once a month (apparently costing £1500 for the day) and then its hard hats and yellow jackets all round.
When Amy was craned into the canal last Monday there were eight (yes eight) people involved. The crane driver, someone to give signals to the crane driver, people holding slings, and people holding ropes. It's all about Health and Safety rules, or Elfin Safety as we have taken to calling it.

Its not surprising they have to charge about £300 to each boat for being lifted.

Interestingly the crane not only carried the boat's weight but also its own. As you can see here it lifted itself in the air too.

Contrast that with the little boatyard at Earith where our son Richard had his boat pulled out. They had a crane driver and ... er, well, nobody else really except the crane drivers dad who watched from a safe distance. Richard gave a hand as you can see here.
Not much Elfin safety here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Reberth of Herbie

No that's not a spelling mistake, Herbie does have a new berth. Cruelly evicted from our spot alongside Lady Elgar due to the arrival of Geoff's new widebeamer Amy, we now nestle up against Humbug.
So we move from one well known boat to another. Lady Elgar has a book, Living the Dream about her earlier exploits and Humbug was the subject of a double page spread in September's Canal Boat magazine. Humbug's owner Glynn wrote up her tale of restoring this old springer cruiser to the pretty boat she now is. This was her first boat and she has done pretty much all the work herself, including a full repaint, so we're looking forward to getting some tips.

Sad though we are to leave our old spot, the new one has its advantages. Much nearer the car park, and not under a tree, so maybe stains like this

on Herbie's roof will be a thing of the past.

We watched Amy being craned into the water yesterday and I even hitched a ride on her as Geoff steered her to her berth. I'll leave Geoff to give you the details when he finds time to write up his blog, but meanwhile here is the proud skipper at the helm of his new home

and Laura looking very excited, unlike baby Lilly who was stangely unmoved by the affair and slept through the launch. Kids today -thay have no stamina do they!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Table success

My new folding table design for Herbie works a treat. We installed it at the weekend and it fitted perfectly except I've decide to trim an inch off one side to make more sitting room. Folded away it takes virtually zero space and the legs are completely concealed.

Erection takes five seconds and it sits as solid as a rock without any movement even if you try to wiggle it. All I need to do now is to affix some trim to the edges.

As one who habitually came bottom of the class in school woodwork lessons, I feel I have turned a small corner. Next a new removable window for the side hatch.
A big day tomorrow - Herbie will be moved to a new berth as Geoff and Laura replace Lady Elgar with Amy. We still haven't been told where they will put us but we've been dropping hints as to where we'd like to be. We aim to be there ready to watch Amy being craned into the water while Geoff's heart will no doubt be in his mouth:-)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Riders in the Storm

Winds gusting to 50 miles per hour. Only a nutter would go boating in conditions like that. So we did. It was on Saturday morning that we set off and things didn't seem too bad , for the first 150 yards anyway, then we came alongside the gap in the trees opposite the boatyard workshop. In a matter of a couple of seconds the wind neatly parked us 25 feet sideways onto the bank in a covenient gap between moored boats. When the wind catches your boat like that it seems there's nothing you can do.

Getting out of the spot was a lot more difficult than getting in it, but as luck would have it Geoff aka Saltysplash was nearby, looking over his new boat Amy (still on the concrete standing). He stepped out of Amy carrying baby Lilly and the wind slammed the door shut behind him, locking him out! Now we were all in a fix. Luckily Laura then appeared with Amy's keys and took Lilly back inside while Geoff gave us a hand shoving Herbie back into the middle lane and off we went. 150 yards done and only about ten more miles to go.

It sure was windy, but the Slough Arm runs in a sheltered cutting, then the GU and Paddington Arm are wide enough to allow for a bit of sideways drift and tree lined for the most part, so we arrived at the Black Horse without further drama.

Returning home today it was nearly as windy and as we approached the boatyard workshops again we were nervous. Should we break the rules and speed past the gap or go gently and risk being pushed sideways into the "For Sale" boats? We sped. However it probably was unnecessary because the wind had changed direction.

The moral to the story - go for it. Don't let the met office put you off or you'll never go anywhere. We had a lovely weekend. Sunday lunch at the Black Horse was huge - too big to face up to a pud, so we returned in the evening and had sticky toffee pudding.

Friday, November 13, 2009


This week we remember not only my grandad, killed at the battle of the Somme, but also our dear friend Alison who died suddenly at the age of 52 some six years ago.

Alison was the singer and Star of our now defunct band Man Sandwich (I was the filling, Alison and Kath were the bread!). Once a year a group of her friends and family meet up for a meal, and this year, on Sunday, it will be at the Black Horse in Greenford, so we will be going by boat. Sad thoiugh the occason could be, we know it won't because Alison was the funniest person we ever met and so we always end up laughing at memories of her.

I think the Black Horse may have WiFi so I might be able to do a blog posting from there.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Table

Herbie's new folding table is nearly finished. All that remains to do is fix some hardwood banding on the edges put some filler over the countersunk screw heads, and apply a coat of varnish on the underside. Tomorrow we'll try to install it on the boat to see if it is any good !

If it works it will give us a sizeable table when erected, but as it will hang under a shelf when folded it will take up virtually no living space when not in use.

Dimensions have been absolutely critical due to the space it has to fit, but the clever bit is the folding leg hinges which lock into place when either fully up or fully folded.

Here you see the underside with one leg up and one folded.

The clips along the edge will clip over a rail suspended under a shelf below the gunwales. They will (I fervently hope) support the whole table when folded and the rear edge when erected.
The perceptive reader may ask why the legs are in such odd positions. It's all to do with where we sit and where our legs are. It remains to be seen if we have them right ;-) The top currently looks rather like a rectangular piece of varnished plywood, which is what it is.

It'll all make more sense when we can photograph it in place in the boat. By then I hope to have corrected the light balance setting on the camera so everything doesn't look yellow.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Of tables and trepidation

I built a rickety MDF prototype of Herbie's new dining table on Saturday, and the we popped out to the boat to see if the design worked. It does! Now I have final measurements and some proper materials to make the real version which I hope to start tomorrow.

While we were there was saw Geoff (Saltysplash) who is excited about moving on to his new (yes, brand new) widebeam boat Amy. Apparently Amy will be craned into the canal on the 28th of this month and Lady Elgar who we have moored against for four years will be moved to make way for Amy.

We don't know what will happen to us. Herbie may be allowed to stay alongside Amy, but as Amy is wider we might be moved to another berth. Ooh er, such nice neighbours as Geoff and Laura are few and far between so we're a bit apprehensive. If they move us down the far end, that would be a good ten minutes walk from the car park and I think we'd be looking elsewhere for moorings.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

The BW questionnaire

I've just completed the survey questionnaire which BW sent me. GRRRR! Questionnaires are always so frustrating because they don't ask the right questions or, worse, they ask questions you can't answer properly.

How many locks and how many miles do you do in a normal cruising day? Well it all depends where you are doesn't it. Between our base and London we do 17 miles and no locks. If we're going north up the GU we might do 8 miles and 13 locks.

Does the canal in your area have sufficient depth (Yes or No). Well up the Slough Arm NO, but everywhere else in our area YES. But you only get to say one or the other.

Typically how much do you spend on a normal cruising day on a) eating in pubs or restaurants, b) takeaways c) food shops? How do you answer that? In any day you do one or the other rarely two yet alone three.

What worries me is how they draw conclusions from the answers to these questions. Any answers won't be worth the paper they're printed on, but worse still it'll be all too easy for people to jump to false conclusions.

Now in my professional career I designed a lot of questionnaires and surveys, and I know how hard it is. However there should be a golden rule. Tick box and one word answer questionnaires should only be used in unambiguous situations. For the rest, its far better to do interviews with a representative sample, and statistically that sample can usually be surprisingly small to get meaningful results.

Grumble over. At least I have a chance to win the draw and get a free year's licence.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Literal lateral thinking and the power of patronage

Choose your friends wisely. That's what they say and I must be very wise because my friends are a real boon.

Just lately I've been struggling over the design for a folding table in Herbie's saloon, and in a single sentence of the blindingly obvious, Pete has cracked the problem.

Opposite the sofa bed is a radiator which has at the top and a bit in front, a horizontal bar. The sort of thing you might hang a towel or a shirt on to dry. My idea is to hang a table top from it, so that you could swing the table up to the horizontal and drop down a couple of folding legs to support the side near the sofa. Simple. - Except that the required length of the legs is too much to fold up.
They would tangle with the bar. I was stumped.

"Well", says Pete, "fold them the other way - across the width of the table. There's loads of room if you do that."In the immortal worlds of my hero, "Doh!"
Why didn't I think of that. Sometimes I'm so dumb.

I've ordered some really neat locking leg hinges and I'm ready to make the table. I promise some photos when I do.

On the power of patronage: My usual readership is about 40 people a day, but this week my post on Brush Mate was picked up and quoted by both mega bloggers Granny Buttons and Mortimer Bones. The result - 130 hits one day and 57 the next! Well everyone is supposed to be famous for 15 minutes.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

An absolutely brilliant gadget - it works too!

Last December I wrote about getting a Brush Mate, which is a simple plastic box in which you hang paint brushes, and containing a chemical pad which prevents the paint from drying on the brush. Phil Speight recommended it to me.

At that time I hadn't actually used mine, but now after a long term trial I can report back, and I can honestly say it is simply superb.

I first used it in May, when I was retouching Herbie's gunwales with black paint. Finishing the job, I just hung the brush in the box - no cleaning - and every time I need to cover up a scratch I just take the brush out of the box and off we go. Very often there is enough wet paint in the brush to do a small job without even having to open the paint tin! What's more, because the brush hangs in a vapour, not a liquid, you can hang a paint with red paint next to a brush with black paint next to a brush with green paint next to . . .

The brush has now hung there for 6 months and the paint is still wet on the brush!! I really should change the chemical pad now I suppose. Replacement pads cost about £3. The box itself which holds four brushes costs about £12. I bought mine from

Not only does it make keeping touch up brushes ready for use really easy, it also saves a lot of time and mess in cleaning brushes AND saves on brush cleaning fluids. Looking after brushes is not the most enjoyable part of painting, and failing to look after them is expensive. This gadget does away with all that.

Downside? 1. Varnished brush handles will lose their varnish, but I've taken to using the lovely Purdy brushes which happen to be unvarnished anyway. 2. Brushmate only works with oil based paints and varnishes, so not with modern household paints where you clean brushes in water.