Monday, February 28, 2011


I love Canalplan but today it has me foxed.  It seems to think I have to pass through some lakes on the way to Crick.  I planned a journey from the Slough arm junction to Crick via the Thames and the Oxford canal, and here is the summary.

Total distance is 172.33 miles and 98 locks. There are at least 22 moveable bridges of which 16 are usually left open; 3 small aqueducts or underbridges and 2 tunnels.

OK so far.  Then :-

This is made up of 54.57 miles of narrow canals; 18.81 miles of broad canals; 0.40 miles of small rivers; 93.44 miles of large rivers; 5.10 miles of lakes; 46 narrow locks; 18 broad locks; 33 large locks; 1 none lock.

5.1 miles of lakes??  Any ideas where they might be?

Also I love 1 none lock !  I wonder what that is.

Lakes or no lakes it looks like about a fortnight on the move, although we may well take longer if we decide to linger somewhere nice for a day or two.  I'm hoping my brother Graham and sister in law Jackie will be able to join us as we ascend the Oxford canal, but finding places to pick them up and drop them off so that they can get public transport back to their car is not easy.  That's the price of a lovely rural contour canal.  It rarely touches villages and towns, and when it does, they have limited or no bus service.  If that were the Grand Union there would be a railway station every few miles.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

River Canal Rescue

I can't help thinking that River Canal Rescue (RCR) may have shot themselves in the foot.  For anyone who doesn't know RCR attends breakdowns of their members boats and tries to fix the problem.

I just received my annual renewal notice and they have changed the offering.  For bronze, sliver and gold membership the price now goes up by £45 (our silver goes up from £110 to £155) because they have added compulsory replacement parts cover for things like starter motors and fuel pumps.  Well I suppose I only need to bust an alternator to get more than my money back on the parts cover, but £45 is a big hike in premium.   I have called them out 4 times in 5 years and only once did it need a new part, and then they couldn't fit it.  I'm inclined to drop my membership down to Retainer at £55 (they then will come out and do an hours work for £40 as often as you need them, but no parts cover) .

I think optional parts cover would have been better.  As it is, a lot of people might take the same view as me and drop back to retainer and RCR will lose out.

Can anybody out there persuade me otherwise?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A most peculiar lock

What's this? It looks like a very short inside out lock, which in a way is what it is.  The V gates in a lock always point to the higher water.  Well in this case, that could be either side because to the right the level might be high of low according to the tide.  Let's look at the bigger picture.

Now you can see we have a normal lock in the background, with an extra pair of outward pointing tidal gates at this end.

Where is it?


Literally a stone throw from the Olympic Stadium.  It is City Mill lock on the Bow back rivers, linking the City Mill river with the tidal Waterworks River which goes on to flow past the stadium.  We came upon it when we were there last week.

Good innit?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Disturbed nights

Imagine the scene.  The middle of Friday night at Kensal Green.  The only sounds, the pouring rain on the boat roof and the extraordinary shooshing of the mighty gasholders receiving their overnight fill.  Suddenly I am woken by a shrill shriek.  I struggle to make sense of it as I am half asleep.  Oh lord, it's the 100 decibel thief alarm on the solar panel.  In the dark I stumble up the boat steps, cracking my shins on the way, fumble with the door bolts and climb out into the rainstorm clad only in my boating jimjams.  I am instantly soaked.  There is no thief.

Earlier in the day I had replaced the alarm battery, so it shrieked good and loud and it would take ages to stop. Back into the boat to find the key to disable the alarm, than back out into the rain to wrestle with it until the alarm stopped. I think it was a short circuit caused by the ingress of rain into the device.  By now I was cold as well as wet and let's just say I didn't get a good night's sleep.

Now cut to Saturday evening. We had failed to get into the Natural History Museum with Grace on account of the queues being miles long -far too long for a three year old to endure.  So we went to the V&A over the road where Grace, much to our surprise, actually seemed to enjoy a lot of it.  I didn't think she was into antique silver ware but it just goes to show something or other. 

Anyway she eventually tired of it and for a treat we took her to Wetherspoons in the Edgeware Road.  Grace is a big fan of their Spag Bol.  Before leaving I availed myself of the very swish toilets (recommended), and on stepping out of the gents, failed to spot a downward step.  It was a good job no-one was there to see, as I must have looked like a drunk, although I was stone cold sober -  I swear.  In the confined space between two doors I crashed to the floor with the full weight of my body upon my left elbow. 

That night, as Grace was staying, she slept in the big bed with Kath, and as I was too lazy to erect the spare bed in the saloon, I threw the mattress on the floor and settled down on that.  My elbow was giving me such gyp that I could only lie on one side, which for me is useless.  I like to turn over every few minutes.  So another bad night.

We've had nearly two weeks on the boat and tomorrow we return home needing a holiday.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The best bit of the Olympic games site so far is this yellowy green structure which we went to see the other day.  It's a community run facility where you can look out over the Olympic Park and have a rather splendid bacon baguette (or something more exotic).  It took a bit of finding, and you have to walk through a maze of security fenced alleyways to get there but the view over the mega building site is impressive.

 Here we see the stadium, which will one day be West Ham's football ground.  Apparently they will have to spend £90m on converting it after the Olympics.  Hmmph!

 Above we see the start of a huge "statue" like a big knotted mesh tube which will cost another huge sum. Hmmph!
 Above we see the Aquatics centre, not far off complete, except it will be encased in glass. Its hard to imagine that the people in the top rows of seats will be able to see the pool, but I suppose they will.  All that seating will be removed after the games.  Hmmph!

Now we see how close the Bow Back Rivers get to the stadium.  Hopefully we will be able to take Herbie through there after 2012.  The rivers wind right through the site and if they get it right, and if they allow mooring, it'll be a major asset to the waterways. Some of it is tidal though, I think.

Despite a very long bus ride from our mooring at Paddington, it was worth the visit.  There still seems masses to do and only a year to go, but it looks like they ought to be ready, although as they say, the devil is in the detail.

We've now left Paddington it's nice to be in the greenery of Kensal Green.  It's noticeably less windy here, although the rain seems to have set in.  We have had visits from Simon and Carrie, including one where we sat up unitl 2am drinking sloe gin.  Now I'm on the waggon for a couple of days. 

Grace has joined us for the weekend and today it's off to the Natural History museum.

Lots more to tell you later, including the tale of a mid night alarm.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Illustrated London News

My reader has complained that I have been neglecting him, so here at last is the news from London.

This is really for folks who know Paddington basin, but if you don't, I'll allow you to read it anyway.  Paddington basin is windy.  No news there then, it always is.  However quite a lot else has changed.

 The building and paving work along the north edge of the basin is now virtually complete, and you can now walk the entire length of that side and round the end and out to the end of Praed Street.

There is much stainless steel and glass and it is all very angular.

At the end of the buildings, where all the portacabins were there is a lawn! (currently roped off). 

As ever it is patrolled all the time by security men and they are not keen on people taking photos, so I had to risk incarceration or worse in order to bring you these.  They might even have confiscated my new camera (with which these pictures were taken).  Here comes one of them now in the picture below.  Luckily he didn't see me, or if he did, he chose to turn a blind eye.


We have been up to all sorts of shenanigans whilst here, but I'll save that for later. 

Bye for now

Monday, February 07, 2011

Whether we'll weather the weather

If this wind doesn't abate we'll be making our trip to London sideways!  I'm interested to see if our TV aerial is still standing when we go out to the boat today.  I fear that my lovingly restored chinese hat on the chimney may have gone AWOL while we have been away. On the up side I suppose we could always mount a sail on the roof and get some free push, although I don't fancy tacking up the Slough Arm.

Anyway that nice Mr Metoffice says it will have stopped blowing by the time we move off on Wednesday
 and it seems that it should be reasonably mild for the remainder of the week.  However  what Mr M doesn't know is that on the outward trip I will be accompanied by Rainman.  This morning I sprayed waterproofing on  my shoes!

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Herbie's Capital Farewell Tour

Workers in London's smart Paddington Basin are looking out the red carpet this weekend after news broke of the imminent arrival of narrrowboat Herbie on her farewell tour of the capital city.  The boat's owners, Kath and Neil Corbett (127) revealed that this will be their last floating visit to the metropolis for some years.

"I know that London will miss us terribly, " said an apologetic Mr Corbett, "but we have neglected our followers of the East Midlands for too long.  The people of Leicester and Leamington deserve a visit.  So we are moving our operations to Crick.  Sadly, this will be our last appearance in central London for a couple of years at least."

If things go according to plan, Herbie (9) will make her entrance to the capital on Wednesday and remain on view in Paddington basin before making a farewell parade through Little Venice early next week. "We may even fit in a procession through Regent's Park to show our gratitude to the wild pigs and African hunting dogs in the zoo." said the couple. " They usually come out to see us as we pass."

If it is not too windy, Herbie will be displaying her full regalia of decorated Buckby cans and as a special treat Mrs Chippy the strangely comatose ship's cat is expected to put in an appearance on the roof".

"As it's our last visit for a while," said Mrs C. we really wanted to push the boat out."

" I thought we were using the engine" muttered her other half.

In an official statement today, the Mayor of London welcomed the news of the visit but asked people to show restraint in throwing ticker tape because of funding cuts in the litter clearance budget

Friday, February 04, 2011

Thames thoughts

Less than a couple of months now until Herbie  moves home, and plans for the journey are afoot.  If the good people at the met office can arrange for it not to rain too much, we'll make the trip to Crick via Old Father Thames and the Oxford Canal.  Tide times at Brentford have been duly checked and we should be able to go out at Brentford at a civilised hour and make the short tidal dash without having to get up at the crack of dawn, or risk finishing in the dark. Tentative crew bookings have already been made for the Thames bit, but after that, who knows?

The Thames visitor licence is cunningly priced so that you pay for more than you need.  You either get a one day ticket (that won't get you to Henley, let alone Oxford), or a 15 day ticket at £90 odd, which is far more time than you need.  Still, if the weather is nice we can dawdle  in the lower reaches and / or continue past Oxford up as far as Lechlade.  I do like the upper Thames, and have done a fair bit of camping up there in the old days..

We pass the Thames at Datchet every time we drive out to Herbie's current base and we always look to see what the current is doing.  Mostly it's OK, but after a lot of rain it's ... how can I describe it?.. well, let's just say I wouldn't want to be sideways on to it in a narrowboat.   As for leaving a boat on the river when it is in flood - don't even think about it.  Too often I've seen large areas of submerged flood plain at Reading and Dorchester.

So come on you Met Office chaps, do your bit and give us a dryish period in late March and early April.  Otherwise we'll have to go the quick way up the GU, and doing things the quick way isn't what I call boating.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

A little weep and camera surprises

Our drinking water filter is installed!  Well, nearly.  There's just a little weep from where the pipe runs from below into the tap.  I hope to put that right on my next visit.  Pete's tank cutter made a very neat mounting hole for the tap, although you have to tighten it so hard it feels like something is going to break before the punch cuts through.  Now we have filtered water we can dispense with the 5 litre bottles we have been filling up at water taps and fill the kettle from Herbie's main water tank.  It'll be interesting in a few months to look at the filter and see what sort of gunge it collects.

Now onto cameras.  A few readers commented on my new camera posting so I thought I'd report on preliminary findings, which are not what I expected.  If you have an up to date SLR you might know these things, but my SLR knowledge was from the good old days of film, so I didn't

1. Does the SLR produce a sharper image than my Lumix compact?

Not so far.  At least the big zoom lens doesn't.  It has to be said that the Leica lens in the Lumix is amazingly sharp. Up until now I have use the SLR only in low light conditions and I have been using a big heavy lens to take handheld shots at long exposure times ( like a tenth of a second) - a recipe for camera shake.  Even then the image stabiliser in the Canon lens is amazing.  At full zoom, looking at a clock face, the clock numbers were dancing about as my hand wavered.  Then as I half depress the shutter button, the image stabiliser comes on (you can just hear it whirring) and it's just like an unseen person has grasped my wrists and steadied my hand.steadied my hand and the image stands still.  I haven't clue how they do it.

2. Does the SLR give better portrait shots?

Oh Yes!  With this biggish lens I do get one of the things I wanted, which is the ability to narrow the depth of field to give nice blurry backgrounds to the subject, which brings out the subject so much better.

3. What about colour and exposure?

This is the biggest surprise because the difference is very striking.  The range and gradation of colour and light tones on the SLR is something I hadn't expected.  Quite dramatic.  It tends to make some shots quite atmospheric, especially in low light.  Maybe this is because I am shooting in RAW format, or maybe its something to do with the lens or the sensor.  I don't know, but I like it.

4.  Does it take ages to set up a shot with manual controls?

Surprisingly not, although it needs practice.  Instead of trawling through menus to set this and that parameter, the main ones have their own button and a little finger wheel selects the level. Most things can be done without taking the camera away from the eye.  I especially like how I can quickly pick the focusing spot from a selection of 9 points on the screen.

5 Anything else?  Something I haven't explored much yet but I know is going to be useful is the rapid firing of multiple shots.  The Canon can rattle off 6 in a second.  If you ever have to photograph a toddler you will know why this is good.  They just won't stand still and the compact takes so long to fire that I always miss the moment.  Now I think I have a sporting chance of getting the shot.

6. Any examples?  Just a couple. Remember these are reduced in quality to make them bloggable.

Well on the first day I wandered round the churchyard behind our house.  The light was fading as I grabbed this shot of an er, unusual grave.  Someone needs a spelling lesson.  Not a sharp picture as it was a slow exposure, but the colours have a richness in the gloom.  Click on it to see it big.

 A quickly snatched shot as we left the boat the other day, showing how easy it is to get a defocussed background.  Kath looks pale but she was 'cos it was flippin' freezing.

Well there are some first impressions.  I hope to have some better examples as I get more skilled and we have more things to shoot at.