Monday, November 29, 2010

Un-remembering the memorable

What a brilliant lot you are! Many thanks for all the suggestions for the 2010 Herbie awards, some of which I'll incorporate.  Others might be more difficult as my memory is so useless.  I have had some bizarre conversations with other boaters this year, but the details escape me, so that category might have to wait until next year when I should keep a notebook.  As an example of how bad my memory sometimes is, here is the script of what happened when we were getting a meal in the Moorhen pub on the Stort.

Me:  I'll go and order the food.  What do you want?

David (Rainman):  I'll have the fish and chips.

I walk six paces to the bar, order my meal and Kath's, and fish and chips for David

Barman:  Is that with garden peas or mushy peas?

Me:  I'll go and ask.

I walk over and ask David.  He wants garden peas.  Six paces back to the barman.  Ten seconds at most.

Barman:  What did he say?

Me:  er . .er . .   I can't remember!

All:  General laughter.

At least the lads behind the bar saw the funny side.

I know there's something I have been using on the boat this year that I have found a real boon.  I kept thinking to myself, that'll be good for the Herbie Awards Best Gadget.  Do you think I can now remember what it is?  I expect it'll come to me.  Probably at 3 am and I'll forget it again next morning.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The 3 stages of boat frost protection

As temperatures plunge, and the kids wait excitedly for the snow to arrive  I start to fret about Herbie and frozen pipes.  Normally in winter when we abandon ship to go home, we frost protect Herbie at Level 1 - turn off the water pump, turn on the water taps to get rid of water pressure in the plumbing, and drain the morco gas water heater.  All in all a 2 minute job.  That's all we ever did until 2 years ago.

Now with the benefit of experience I know that escalating to Level 2 is not all that much bother.  So today with a prolonged sub zero period promised, I made the journey back out to the boat to escalate the protection.  Our moorings at Iver are some way out of town and they do get colder than built up areas nearby.  There was some ice on the canal today.

Level 2 requires me to:

1. Properly drain the plumbing by bleeding off the taps on the floor at the rear of the cabin.  This gets the last couple of litres out of the pipes.

2. Remove the water pump, empty it and store it in a well insulated cupboard.

At one time I would have thought that removing the water pump was too big a job merely for precautionary purposes, but experience shows that it only takes a couple of minutes, and as I learned to my cost last April, a new water pump costs nearly a hundred quid.

"Is there a level 3?"  I hear you ask.  Why certainly there is. When the temperature really drops and you can walk on the canal, more stringent measures are called for. In fact there are two options.

1.  The unpleasant option.

 Drain the calorifier (hot water tank) which sits in the engine bay.  I have never done this as a) it is a lot of water to somehow collect and try not to spill and b) it is quite well lagged and c) I am too lazy to work out which pipes to disconnect to do it.

2.  The rather pleasant option

Move on to the boat for the duration of the big freeze.  Light the fire, run the engine or the Eberspacher to heat up the calorifier, get a good book, put your feet up and enjoy.  Being snug and warm on a boat when there is ice and snow outside is one of the Best Things.  Herbie enjoys it too.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Nominations for nominations for the big awards

The red carpet is being cleaned, the old Tuxedo pressed, and the glittering stage is being set for the major event of the year.  Yes, it's nearly time for the 2010 Herbie Awards.  Each year excited virtual crowds gather round the blog, breathless in anticipation to see which bit of canal bank we most liked to stop at, and anxious publicans thrill at the thought of their establishment being nominated for best pub or best pint.  It all gets very emotional, the winners' tearful speeches and the brave smiles hiding the anguish of disappointment for the runners up,  but I try to keep my head.  If you have missed them in the past you can always look back at last December's postings to get a flavour of the event.

The first task is in many ways the hardest, deciding what the categories should be.    Best pub is always a favourite, so we'll keep that in.  Most scary moment is another good 'un.  Best bits of waterway cruised and overnight stops are always a favourite.  But, we need to inject some drama into the affair, a new category or two.

Any ideas?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Famous names

Herbie is not a bad name for a boat, although we didn't choose it.  I don't know why the original owners chose it, but I like to think it was after a nice friendly person rather than a Volkswagen car.    Mercifully we get very few references to VWs from people we pass, and I can truthfully state that I have never seen (or wanted to)  the Herbie film, or is it films.  I'm not into anthropomorphism.  I have enough to put up with having Herbie's pizza leaflets through the door every week.  I've never had one of those either.   (Blimey, I just looked it up, and there were Six Herbie films! ).

However we have this year seen a couple of film related boat names that I did like.

First, up at Rammey Marsh on the Lee we see this.  Complete with photos of Bogie and Katherine Hepburn in their respective parts.

How do they do that?  Put a photo on the side of a boat.  They do it on buses and vans now don't they.
Anyhow, I like the idea because it's a great film and at least the African Queen was a boat.

And at Crick a couple of months ago we saw this:

More a book than a film, but a neat idea.  In a similar vein, Our friends Robin and Laura have Miss Matty - Cranford on their boat.

No, we will not be having Herbie - Duisburg on our boat thank you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Too much electricity?

This is hardly the time of year to get the benefit from a solar panel, but I know you've been itching to know whether our solar panel on Herbie is proving its worth.   I was just going to write that it's worse now the clocks have gone back, but then realised what a stupid statement that would be.  As far as I'm aware, solar panels don't care what the time is as long as there's light.

What I can report is that on our recent cruise we kept the batteries in a much better state than we are accustomed to.  Now this is not all down to the panel.  I think the new LED lights have made quite a big difference.  Instead of two or three fluorescent lights at 16watts each we were using three or four LED lights at 1.3watts each.  That's a saving of  about 89% or over a 5 hour evening, 17 amp hours.  

Working on Carrie's advice that you don't need a fridge in cold weather, we switched off the fridge whilst we were stationary for a few days at Paddington.  What little food and milk we needed to keep cold did very well in a plastic bag on the rear deck.  The result was that all the time we were there we didn't need to run the engine.  The solar panel looked after the lights, the radio, the laptop, and the water and shower pumps, even though the days were short and overcast. That alone saved us about ten quid in diesel, not to mention not having to put up with engine noise and vibration which is annoying when the boat isn't moving.  That's the main reason we got a solar panel.

However, when you are cruising, you get a different problem.  In the summer, when we're on the move each day we will get too much electricity!  We've had a taste of this already. The combined input of the alternator and the solar panel fills up the batteries more quickly and the voltage rises until it is just reaching the point where it could be a tad too high for the good of the batteries.  On summer cruises we'll reach this point fairly early on in the day.  Then the battery protection gubbinses switch in and any extra power is effectively dumped.  What a waste!  The answer?  Add another battery, so we can collect the extra.  Then we can be less frugal with our power use in the evenings.  I confess that I am a real power miser on the boat.  Last summer we sometimes turned the fridge off overnight to save the batteries.  Next summer we'll be able to leave it on and watch the telly.

The final good thing is that when the boat is left alone for long periods, the batteries won't self discharge.  I went out to visit Herbie yesterday to put in a new engine thermostat and the Smartgauge showed the batteries were at 100%.  That'll do them no harm at all.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The oddities of Lee locks and how they keep you fit

One of the things I like about canals is the variation in lock architecture as you move around different parts of the system.  Paddle gear (the gubbins you use to raise and lower the sluices that fill and empty the lock) has a number of different regional designs.  They are generally easy to work out how to operate, but the ones on the upper Lee Navigation caught me out all the time.  This is Rammey Marsh lock (note that the gates are opened by hydraulic rams).

The paddle gear is dead simple.  Look at it .  Just slide on the windlass and wind.  What's the problem?

Well let's look more closely at the one on the far side. Note the position of the ratchet.

It's identical (we're looking at the "back" of it of course).  I can feel you losing patience.  "What's so special about being identical?" you ask.    The answer is that they are normally made in matched pairs, one right handed and one left handed.  So when you stand ready to wind on a normal GU lock paddle you always swing the windlass from the top of the swing towards the lock to raise the paddle.  It's a habit that's hard to break when you've done a thousand of them.

But these on the Lee you always wind clockwise (or is it anti clockwise?) whichever side of the lock you are on.  It caught me out every time.  I'd end up straining and then realise I was pushing in the wrong direction.

Whilst I'm on the subject of Lee locks, there's one other feature I don't care for.  There is no way of crossing the top gates even when they are closed.  Imagine this, we are coming upstream and find a lock full (against us) and the top gates are left open.  Lee locks are big. Generally 90 feet long and 16 feet wide.  Let's say 36 paces long and 6 paces across the gates

I walk the length of the lock, 36 paces, and shut the first top gate.  I walk back 36 paces, across the bottom gate 6 paces and up to the other top gate 36 paces.  I shut the second gate.  I walk back 36 paces and open the bottom gate paddle, the 6 more paces over the gate to open the second paddle.  So far, that's 156 paces.  The lock empties and I open one gate.  Gates on the Lee are wider than normal so you really don't need both.

Kath brings in the boat and I close the gate and the paddle.  Then 6 paces over the gate to close the other bottom paddle.  36 more paces up to the top to open the first top paddle, then 78 more round to the other top paddle to open that. Now were up to 276 paces.

The lock fills.  I open the top gate and close the paddle.  Then 78 more paces round to close the other paddle.  That's 354 so far.  It's likely now that I have to do yet another 60 to get back to the boat on the other side before we leave.  So we have a total of 414 paces which is about double of what you would have to do on locks where you can cross the top gates.  Luckily the convention on the Lee is to leave gates open so we don't have to stay behind and close up after the boat.

One guy we saw last time we were up there had learnt the trick of running across the unguarded  top gate beams, but rather him than me.

It keeps you fit, this boating.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A find for waterway history freaks plus a spooky coincidence

I just found this super duper web site on the history of the Lee and Stort navigation.  No time to read it all now, but I surely shall, because it has the info on George Jackson /Duckett (see previous post)


Warning: for anoraks only.  Unsuitable for normal people

PS  I now find that  John Halfie discovered this site only the day before I did and wrote up some of it on his blog.  It seems he was looking for info on Ware weir and found it , and I googled Ware Lock and found it next day.  Spooky.  Interblog telepathy needs some serious research.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Strange mysteries of Sir George Duckett

This lovely little lock cottage on the river Stort is up for sale.

Maybe because it lies opposite a brand new, about to open, marina.  Let's look closely at the sign over the door.

GD 1830 and a mysterious hand. That's GD for Sir George Duckett.  We presume that is the man after whom Duckett's cut, or the Hertford Union Canal, is named.  Here I get confused.  Sir George Duckett died in 1822 and Duckett's cut was er cut in 1830.  Is that anything to do with the 1830 over the door?   And what is the hand all about?

GD had been a leading light in the creation of the Stort Navigation and in Bishops Stortford there is a Duckett's Wharf.  Reading up on the man, is confusing.  For a start he seems to have been called George Jackson until he became a Baronet and changed his name to Duckett.  It gets a bit easier, or not, when you find he had a son George.  It seems it was George Junior who sponsored Duckett's cut.  He went on to try and get the Stort Navigation extended to Cambridge, but failed.

Hmm all the bits I have browsed on this are unclear about which Duckett they are talking about.  Anyway, on to the final spooky mystery about Duckett's cut.  Has anyone else noticed that it is a straight line pointing directly to the Gherkin building?

How did GD work that one out?  Is it on a lay line?  Is the Gherkin more than just an office block? We should be told.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Scary stuff on the Lee and Stort

Take heed of warnings dear boater when you venture up the Lee and Stort. Chatting to another boater up there he mentioned "scary lock", and I instantly knew which one he meant because we'd been there before.  It's the one at Stanstead.  Not only does it have a swing bridge over it that could crush or sink your boat if you are under it when the lock fills,

but it also has no ground paddles and the scariest gate paddles I have come across.

BW gives you fair warning.

I'm not sure why the current is so fierce through these paddles but it is.  Here we see it with the paddles just open a small bit

Special baffles have been put over them to reduce the impact, but as you can see, you don't want the end of the boat too near it if you can help it.

People also warn you about a very low bridge at Roydon on the Stort.  So you arrive at Roydon Mill and see a little bridge and think "That's not too bad", people up here must be whimps

Then round the corner you meet the road bridge by the station.

Aaah yes that must be the one.  See the big concrete blocks to guide you through the middle of the arch.  I suppose it's fair to warn people, although I've seen worse.  So you get through OK and think you've managed OK despite the warning.  The just round the next bend . .

Blimey!  Now I see the problem.  Can a boat really get under that?  That little cruiser looks as though it wouldn't.  If we get through and it rains, we might not get back.

Well, here we are on the return trip, and thankfully it hasn't rained.

The moral of the story?  Listen to the locals, they might just be right.

Is this our lowest ever bridge?  No.  If you want really low bridges you have to go across the Middle Levels, but take your chimney off first.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Playing with numbers on the New River

When Rick and I were young engineering graduates, we worked together in a research department.  Well, when I say worked I mean played really.  Time pressures were few and we indulged ourselves in fascinating computations such as investigating the claim that the entire human population of the earth could stand together on the Isle of Wight.  Maps would be obtained and areas calculated, average sizes of people estimated and solutions to difficulties overcome (such as dealing with all the obese people and pregnant women by standing them along the coastline facing out so as to save floorspace).  The answer to the problem is of course "No" because population growth is so fast that the Isle of Wight ferry couldn't keep up with the demand.

So you can imagine my delight when I came upon a book "London's New River" by Robert Ward who seems to have the same ridiculous penchant for investigating and reinterpreting obscure statistics.

I walked along part of the new river here,

 quite near the source, when we were moored at Stanstead Abbots recently.  It is a 42 mile aqueduct, built in the early 1600s to carry drinking water from springs near Ware all the way to Sadlers Wells in Islington.

In Mr Ward's rather wonderful book he includes loads of detailed information, but better than that ( to me anyway) he likes to play with the numbers to give them more meaning.  E.g. the difference in height over the 42 miles between the beginning and the end is a mere 17 and a half feet.  He works that out as  a tiny 5 inches a mile or a gradient of 1 in 12500.  Just enough to provide a steady flow. That's no mean feat of surveying and digging for those days!

The cost of digging the cut is worth translating by doing a few sums because it shows how much more expensively we do things today, even after comparing historical money values.  The river, which is 10 feet wide and four feet deep, cost something over £10,000 to dig, ( Mr Ward has it to the nearest shilling somewhere but I forgot to note it down)  and it comes out as as 2s 10d a yard.  I found a web site giving a conversion of what that would be at today's labour cost and it comes out as £286 a yard, still amazingly cheap by our standards.  No elf and safety then to add to the costs.

Quite a lot was spent on the construction or road and foot bridges and our author calculates this to be at a rate of £2 per bridge or £4000 in today's money.   The nice little hump back bridge rebuilt over the Wendover Arm a few years back cost £233,000.

128 men did the digging and achieved a remarkable 90 yards a day over a six day week or at my calculation 83 cubic feet a day per man.  How long do today's restoration groups take to dig 90 yards of canal?

When the water arrived in London, the demand exceeded the supply.  It was distributed to customers along pipes made from hollowed out elm trunks.  Stopcock men would do a weekly round in which they would let water through to particular customers (landowners, street landlords, workshops) for an hour or two, two or three times a week.  I suppose the customers would then have to store what they could to eke out the time until the next dose.

The new river is still all there today, neat and well kept and it still provides water to London.  The original springs remain but they are supplemented with water stolen from the river Lea via pumping houses such as this one I walked past.

If you are ever up at the top of the Lea, it's worth a short walk to see the New River.  The easiest place is at Stanstead Abbots 100yards from the Railway Station.  I believe it has attractive stretches around Enfield too and in Islington you can see the New River Head where it all  gets integrated with the London water system.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Don't it always seem to go . . (plus the story of the Ware gazebos)

 . . that you don't know what you've got till it's gone.  Only when packing up and leaving the boat today did I realise that the storm the other night had blown away a piece of Herbie.  Our life ring.  I guess it's floating around Paddington basin somewhere, blown away by the wind.

Some people you just can't trust.  On our last day there Carrie dropped by for a cuppa.  Hooray! I was about to reward her for having got the correct answer to my "where is this?" quiz (see two posts back), when she admitted that she had read my answer before entering her guess.  Tut!  However, to err is human and to forgive is divine.  Carrie has erred and I have forgiven :-)  Nevertheless I have decided to withhold the £1m prize on this occasion to teach her a lesson.

21 days afloat and we travelled about as far as a car would take you in a short day. That's about the right pace I reckon.  We had time to enjoy and explore places and entertain friends and family.  I also got a fair bit of interesting ( I hope) blog fodder stored up.  I'll start with this:

The Ware Gazebos

Boating on the river Lea through the town of Ware you can't fail to admire these gazebos.  Only 10 of them now, but there used to be 25 or so, and the originals date right back to the 1700s.  They lie at the foot of the gardens behind the High Street shops, and for ye olde shopkeepers  it gave them some respite from the bustle of the town centre.  Lucky them.   I want one.

Ihad a mooch around the Hertford record office and found some old copies of the Ware Society magazine from which I learned that the remaining gazebos were in a very poor state by the 1970s,  and in 1980 they started a campaign to save them, raising a couple of thousand quid to get a local builder to do some restoration.  Someone better tell Dave C that the Big Society was here all along.

But what about the owners then?  They must have thought it was their birthday. I wish someone would raise funds to restore my house.  I also found a note saying that one was for sale at that time and the society was looking into raising the cash to buy it.  I wonder if they ever did.  I bet they'd fetch a pretty penny now, what with  a beach hut in Southwold  up for sale at £40k (yes £40k !!!) earlier this year.

Anyway the 10 remaining look in fine fettle, like this largest one in very good nick.  In a book I found an old sepia photo of the same, including the little gatehouse.  At that time it was in a poorer state.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Retired couple marooned in storm

by our roving reporter Paddy O' Basin
As severe storms battered their narrowboat Herbie, retired couple Kath and Neil Corbett (126) were stranded miles from home yesterday.  Tied to a floating pontoon in Paddington Basin in a howling gale, down to their last shovelful of coal, the couple were rocked and rolled  and bashed all night by the storm. 

"We were due to go home today, but the chances of a safe passage are virtually nil." said the skipper.  "I doubt we could even escape the basin without coming to grief.  Worse still we could get lee shored on the uninhabited island in Browning's pool and have to eat the geese, or we might get stuck to the side of the North Circular Aqueduct.  Our coal is nearly all gone and we are on our last toilet cassette.  If it doesn't blow over soon, we'll have to spend the whole day in the pub."

Every movable item had been taken off the roof of the boat, or it would have been lost.  Luckily the new solar panel weathered the storm without damage.

As Friday morning dawned, help arrived in the shape of Baron, the coal boat.  Emergency supplies of coal and diesel were taken on board while the lad on the boat relayed his version of the storm.  Apparently his mate was very nearly blown backwards off the stern yesterday afteroon.  The butty towed behind the motor vessel was blown sideways on to the canal on several occasions. (And  this is in a very very heavily laden boat sitting low in the water).  Lastly he reported that a boat had actually been blown sideways onto the island in Browning's Pool suffering serious hull damage.

"  These coal boat men are real heroes," said an emotional  Mr Corbett " without them we would have had a cold night tonight.  Although we have a backup diesel fired heater, we were getting too low on diesel to risk it.  Tomorrow promises to be calmer and dry so we can make a dash for home.  Only one problem remains.  Before we left the boatyard at the start of our cruise, our car engine was proving very reluctant to start.  I fear we may need to call out the RAC to get us going."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

London by night

Tomorrow promises to be stormy and wet.  Will we be moving on?  Are you mad?  No, we're staying put. Here in Paddington basin, one of the great canal mooring sites.  Not that it is especially lovely, although it is clean and smart and safe, but the real benefit is to be moored up in central London with the whole city available from the bus stops.  Not only that, I notice there is a rack of Boris's bikes nearby.  If only I could be bothered to work out how to pay for one, I could go out and risk my life with all the other maniacs who seem to be using them.

I like London at night.  Everything looks better.  Take the Grapes at Limehouse where we had a drinky a few days ago.  Here is the front door.

Here is the inside, unchanged for generations.

 How cosy it looks at night with that funny little door to the tiny staircase leading up to the loos and the fish restaurant.

And then in a sudden leap from Dickensian London to the 21st century, you step out of the back door onto the little back door platform overhanging the Thames and you see this.  

Last night we took Grace for a bus ride to see the Christmas lights in Oxford Street.

 She had never been upstairs on a bus before and was already really excited before we even reached the lights.  Always take a small child when you do these things, you get swept up in it yourself .  Even the lady sitting next to us on the bus was soon joining in with the "Oohs" and "Aahs"!

Coming back we jumped on a bendy bus and Grace's day was complete.  She was in paroxysms of  delight everytime we rounded a corner.  It's good being a kid.

Now the answer to the picture quiz in my last post.  It's the Wetherspoons bar at Liverpool Street Station.  Posh innit?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Herbie in security chase

Perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration. Anyway, coming down the Lee yesterday we were just passing the Olympic site

when a little boat with two men bristling with radios and binoculars drew alongside us.

 "Good afternoon Herbie, what are your intentions?"  Difficult one to answer really. Intentions regarding what?  To live a long and happy life?  To enjoy the rest of the day's cruise?  Whether to turn right into Ducketts Cut or to continue straight on the Limehouse?

"We're going down to Limehouse for the night"  I replied.

"Will you be stopping at the lock for water or going straight through?

"Er, straight through. Are you coming down too?"

He was and while the lock emptied we attempted to grill him for a change.  Was he Olympic security?  Nod.
Where do you patrol?  I think he wasn't supposed to say, because he mouthed his answer silently while looking furtively around him.  If I tell you what he told me, I'll have to shoot you.  Suffice it to say they followed us as far as Bow Locks before turning back.

Almost all other questions were answered with "I can't really divulge that" and an embarrassed smile.

It was rather fun being followed, and I suspect our boat name is now on some log somewhere.

Our trip out of the Stort and down the Lee has been enjoyable.  On Saturday we took a day off and caught a train all the way to Woking (I know, we must be bonkers) to go to a family history fair that Kath was reluctant to miss.

On our return journey with popped into a building with this grand decor.

Any guess as to what or where it is?  Answers next time.

Meanwhile, whilst you may envy our cruise, you are allowed to take pity on us today because it was not too much fun coming back up the Regent's canal in strong gales and rain.  We sometimes have to pay for our pleasures.  Most of the locks were against us too.

Tonight we are tucked up in Paddington basin awaiting the arrival of a new crew member, Grace, who we will spend the day entertaining in London tomorrow

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Stortum leaves

Aaw I know you spent a sleepless night worrying about Herbie after yesterday's near disaster, but really she is fine. The nice men redoing the towpath at Latton lock, scene of yesterday's smoke burst, were pleased, and somewhat surprised, to see we were still in one piece as we passed back through today.  Yesterday they had even offeerd us the use of their barge tug to tow us to a better spot if we were stranded.

Today we did yesterday's trip in reverse (not in reverse gear, just the other direction), and even after allowing for the time we lost with engine troubles yesterday it took an hour and a half less!!  The reason?  Yesterday all the locks were against us and today they were virtually all as we left them, set in our favour.  So few boats get up here at this time of year that if one has gone up before, it is very unlikely that another will come the other way to reset the locks in your favour.  The benefit of course is that all yesterday's locks were as we left them.

I enjoyed this morning's run.  The upper end of the Stort is like a slalom course.  Ninety degree bends every 100 yards sometimes and pretty narrow, so it's really good tiller practice. Up here you see alot of Dabchicks or Little Grebes.  These dainty litle birds scamper along the water in front of the boat before finally diving and swimming for cover under water.

One thing did keep slowing us down though.  The autumn leaves.  The Stort is like leaf soup at the moment.  They cling to the prop as though their little lives depended on it and you have to give a quick burst of reverse every couple of hundred yards or even less. 

David (Rainman) has caught his bus home and know Kath and I are on our own again.  Five more locks and we're back on the straight and wide.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A little local difficulty! Herbie goes up in smoke!!!

Picture one. 9.59 am approaching Litton lock near Harlow.  We concentrate on the workmen.

Picture two 10 am!

You can tell I'm a die hard blogger.  First I took photos, THEN  I grabbed the fire extinguisher.

The engine cut out just as we came in to the lock landing stage, and as we lifted the lid we saw the smoke.  Pound signs flashed before my eyes.  Fear and loathing followed next.  Then a more pleasant thought - I've always fancied a new engine.

River Canal Rescue were duly contacted and we sat outside in the pleasant sunshine waiting for a response and chatting to the workmen making a new towpath.  A couple of phone calls and an hour and a half later and a nice RCR man arrived having had quite a good walk down the towpath to reach us.

"Ah Herbie, Roy and Val's old boat, I've just come from servicing their boat.  They told me you were in the area"  (we had met them at the weekend).

By now the engine had cooled down.  It had been very very very hot.   It looked as though both oil and water levels were well down, so the conflagration had probably been a mixture of steam, and oil vapour from the air filter.  Both were topped up, and cautiously we restarted.  No water leaks, no oil leaks and no further smoke.  It seems that we were more lucky than I deserve to be.  I normally check oil and water every week or so, but they were a tad low last time and because I was intending to do an oil change later this week, I hadn't bothered to top up the oil which was above the min mark, but not much.  Mea Culpa!

We appear to have got away with it, the boat went well this afternoon and the gauges showed no further overheating, but from now on my weekly checks will be daily checks. 

Two and a half hours were lost, but we elected to make a bid for Bishops Stortford anyway.  Every flippin' lock was against us and despite us setting a cracking pace, darkness was descending fast as we neared the town.  At times in the past we have entered into towns surrounded by swooping swifts and swallows.  Tonight it was bats.  We stole into town under cover of darkness, only spotting sharp bends at the last second.  Luckily the town moorings had light and space and you will I know be relieved to hear  that we are all in one piece and Herbie is shaken but not stirred.

An eventful day, and one I won't forget in a hurry.

Monday, November 01, 2010

On the benefits of staying put when you are cruising

"Where have we been?" you ask.  Ware, that's where.  And Hertford too, which is ware where we are at the moment.  We've been here for a couple of days and I love it.  A couple of readers have commented that they wished they had slowed down a bit when cruising this area and yes, they jolly well should have.  Going non stop is fine if you only have a week or two boat hire, but if like us you have a bit more time then it's a much richer experience if you can stop and really take in the best bits.  And Hertford is one of the best bits.

Hertford must be one of Englands smallest and quietest County towns.  It sits at the navigable limit of the Lee navigation.  Here to be precise, where you have to swing the boat round and head back under the (very) low bridge.

We came here on Saturday, with Simon (Tortoise) who had joined us for the day at Ware.  Keen to show off tis lovely stretch of the Lee, we set off upstream and across the water meadows to Hertford. The town moorings sit alongside allotments at the end of a row of charming old cottages, yards from the excellent Old Barge pub and a couple of minutes stroll from the sleepy and unspoilt town centre.  It never seems busy here and it feels like a town 50 years ago.  No M&S or other big chain stores here.  There are actually still some proper local shops.

As to the buildings, just look at this (click on it to see it big, the detail is worth it)

That surface decoration is pargetting.  Ain't it lovely?  Other buildings here have it too.

and how about this?

They don't make em like that any more.  No mention of narrowboats though.

.  Kath, a keen genealogist has forbears from Ware and we've been tracking down their history. Ware where? at the Hertfordshire archives, ware where we found out all kinds of good stuff.  I'll write about Where Ware after we have passed back through because I have some photos to take.  Suffice it to say it is more interesting then yer average town.