Sunday, August 14, 2016

Twelve quid to see Mo Farah

It's been a bit frustrating on Herbie cos I love the Olympics and we haven't been able to watch in the marina due to a poor TV signal. Yesterday morning we popped into Banbury ( in the car) to get a couple of bits and bobs ( the fact that the bakery stall in the market sells Lardy cake was nothing to do with it - alright, a bit to do with it) and I bought a little aerial booster from Argos. I wasn't too hopeful, especially when we first tried it by pointing the aerial at Oxford and got no programmes at all. In desperation I pointed it at where I think Sutton Coldfield might be, and although it's twice as far away as Oxford we got 105 programmes! I only wanted BBC, but as that was one of the 105 we are now happy bunnies. £12 well spent. Total Control TV Booster if anyone is interested. Yippee! Olympics here we come.

The wind seems to have dropped and last night we could hardly hear the music from the festival site. On Friday night it was a lot better and we could clearly hear Steeleye Span and the Bootleg Beatles. Listening to it from here is a bit like sitting on Henman Hill, except we don't get a big screen. The BBs I thought were amazing. They charged through what seemed like dozens of Beatles hits sounding pretty much like the real thing, even on complicated arrangements like Penny Lane.

In the afternoon we strolled into the Brasenose garden where the fringe event is held in a very pleasant atmosphere as I am told the main festival has. They had some very good bands on (depending on your taste in music, I liked one of 'em anyway.) Looking round the garden, I reckon the average age of the audience was well north of 45. For a change I didn't feel old :-). Everybody was relaxed and friendly. I can see why they come every year as lots of them do.

No pictures today, our internet signal is a little bit better, must be atmospherics I suppose - what I need now is an internet signal booster.


Friday, August 12, 2016

Madness on the wind

Here we are at our berth in Cropredy Marina in semi electronic isolation. This is how people live out in the sticks I suppose. The phones don't get a signal, the TV can't find a station (big Boo 'cos it's the Olympics) and the internet signal is pretty poor, so no photos in this blog. Actually, while typing this, I'm not at all sure I'm going to be able to post it.

Our entertainment this weekend comes on the breeze. The Cropredy festival is on, about a quarter of a mile away, perhaps a bit more. With the wind in the right direction we can hear the acts pretty well. Last night when Madness were on stage it was very gusty, so their music came and went, as if someone was trying to tune a radio. Most of the time it was OK, occasionally good reception. Anyhow, I thought they were really good (and I am pretty very picky when it comes to bands). I should have liked to have been closer. Tonight we get Steeleye Span (with mostly new members so I'm not too hopeful) and the Bootleg Beatles who I have seen before and I know they are excellent. Tomorrow we get Ralph McTell and of course Fairport Convention. Do you get the idea that this festival plays to an audience of a certain age? Let's hope the wind is in the right direction. We might stroll into the village today to take in "the fringe".

Our WOWBoys volunteer team has been receiving plaudits for the work we did at Batchworth last weekend. People are easily impressed it seems. Sometime soon the London Towpath Rangers will be holding an event showing one of the boating papers (I forget which) what we do, so look out for us, except I won't be there on that day, 'cos I'll be away.


Saturday, August 06, 2016

Foreign Service

Such is the reputation of our towpath ranger volunteer team the WoWBoys aka the Way out West London team, that we have been called upon to undertake a hazardous mission in foreign parts. Well Rickmansworth to be exact, which is outside of the CRT London region.  Here be dragons, says the map. Today the WoWboys set up camp just north of Batchworth lock by erecting a gazebo over the towpath at a spot where there have been “incidents” involving cyclists and boaters of late. 

I was a bit nervous because CRT appeared to have forgotten to order our kevlar suits and riot shields so we had to make do with our blue volunteer T shirts and black baseball caps comforted by the fact that I had some sticking plasters and antiseptic cream in my rucksack. Kick off was scheduled for 11am.  The whistle blew and wishing each other good luck we went over the top to face our first adversaries, two old ladies out for a stroll, then a young cyclist couple who dismounted and showed polite interest in our work.  Maybe it was just our charm offensive, but in the three hours we spent there, the approx 50 each of cyclists and pedestrians were virtually all friendly and well behaved.  We didn’t know whether to feel pleased or disappointed.

We were led by Sarah from the Milton Keynes CRT office who had asked for our help and who brought along the South East region version of our little share the space maplets.  These were interesting to me because I hadn’t realised that the S.E region extended right up to Hawkesbury near Coventry and also over to Foxton.  Apparently the cyclist nuisance hot spot in the region right now is in Oxford where they come bowling down the towpath en route to the railway station, so if you are boating down there do look right and left before you step off your boat.  Sarah said there had also been botheration in Oxford from house owners by the canal trying to stop boaters from running their engines in the permitted hours of 8am to 8pm. Boaters will be well aware of similar situations where people buy canalside properties and then complain about canal activity. A bit like building a house next to a pig farm then complaining about the pong.

I also saw something today I hadn’t seen before (I’ve led a sheltered life).  We’ve often talked about getting a couple of mudweight anchors for Herbie.  How about a couple of these:


Of course we’d need to employ a Geoff Capes to fling ‘em overboard, but I reckon they’d hold the boat still.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Woking invasion Mark II

According to HG Wells, Woking was last invaded by Martians.  Well now it’s even more terrifying as the Historic NarowBoat Club (HNBC) have rolled up for the canal festival.  As we are unable to be at the festivities over the weekend, Kath and I drove over today to see the boats and say hello. 

Being well up the the Basingstoke canal Woking doesn’t usually see a lot of narrowboats and certainly not seventy footers.  Apparently the lady in the house by the winding hole where they all went to turn was somewhat alarmed by the bows of these leviathans nudging the garden plant pots.

Near the edge of the canal, the bottom is a bit too near the top, so nearly all the boats had to use long mooring ropes and make use of their top planks as extra long gangplanks to get ashore.

woking 2

It looks like it ought to be a good do over the weekend. The boats are in a very pleasant spot quite close to the town centre and there is a little park adjacent where there will be stalls and entertainment.  We can’t make it ‘cos I have volunteer duties tomorrow and a wedding to go to on Sunday.  (Yes I know Sunday weddings are a rarity, but this one has good reasons).

We walked the plank to get aboard Chertsey for tea and cakes with Sarah and Jim and with Pete and Irene who were alongside aboard Renfrew.  It was nice to meet up again.  The last time we met S&J was when they terrified the life out of us by suddenly looming through a bridge hole as we tootled on Herbie between Hillmorton to Braunston.  Chertsey can be a terrifying sight at the front end.  Sarah likes to say Chertsey is a Large Woolwich.  Large?  Pah!  This is what I call a large Woolwich:-

woking 3

As we left Pete and Irene were enjoying their ringside seat opposite a fishing heron.

woking 1

I hope the sun keeps shining for you folks.  Have a good one.

PS. Whoops, forgot to mention Rocky Ricky.  Woof woof me old mate.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Airhead toilet - 12 month review

It's now over a year since we replaced our old cassette toilet with the Airhead composting toilet. So how have we got on? Was it worth it? Might we consider going back to the cassette loo which is still stored in our shed at home just in case? This might get a tad explicit for some so those of a delicate disposition might like to go off to read someone else's blog at this point! Hold your nose and here we go.

Well it's been an interesting year. It certainly didn't start too well because the original Airhead installation wasn't airtight enough and leaked the "exhaust" gases back into the boat. Most unpleasant. The trick is to ensure that the exhaust fan housing is properly sealed where it fixes to the side ( or ceiling in some cases) of the cabin. We eventually got that right (thanks Rick) by gluing a thick board to the wall to give the fan housing retaining screws something strong to bite into. That and plenty of sealant.

The toilet itself operates well, easily keeping solids and liquids separate, and because the fan draws air inwards into the toilet and out through the exhaust, the toilet waste tank itself is remarkably odour free even when the lid is open. Considerably more odour free than a cassette toilet. It is easy to keep clean and is I think pretty hygienic.

The daily emptying of the liquid tank is easy and quick. It's a lot more portable than a cassette. If there is a sanitary station nearby we use that, if not, we tip it on waste land, not into the canal.

We've only had to empty the solids tank three or four times. When I say "we" I actually mean Kath, bless her.. She says that whilst it is not fair to describe it as pleasant, neither is it dreadful and she much prefers it to regular emptying of cassettes. We bag up the waste in plastic coal bags which can be safely deposited in a rubbish skip.

We've been on a learning curve as regards the addition of a composting medium. This does seem to make a difference to the frequency of wafts of whiffs emerging from the exhaust port on the outside of the boat. This has on occasions caused us to worry that we were a little unpleasant to be near in confined spaces like locks despite being odour free inside the boat. After talking to other Airhead users, notably Adam and Adrian on Briar Rose, (more thanks) we are now using coco fibre ( compressed powdered coir from pet food shops). There needs to be sufficient so that the daily turning of the stirring handle stirs the "donations" into the coir. This seems to work well and now occasional nasty niffs outside the boat are largely avoided.

The final thing to mention is the electric fan itself. Although it draws only a tiny current it could drain the boats batteries over a few weeks if the boat were left unattended over the winter. For most of the year our solar panel takes care of this, but in December and January when daylight is short and low it doesn't. I decided to switch off the fan over this period, but this created another problem. After a period at rest in the cold and damp, the fan was reluctant to start again when switched back on. I solved this by spraying WD40 in through the exhaust hole outside the boat and giving the fan blades a flick with a stick poked in the same hole. I think next winter I may leave the fan on and just visit the boat now and then to recharge the batteries, or I could leave Herbie plugged into the shore power, although I would be reluctant to do this unless I get a galvanic isolator to prevent hull corrosion.

So what is our conclusion? Despite a few problems, most of which we have overcome now, we much prefer the Airhead to our previous cassette toilet. It is probably more hygienic, considerably more pleasant to use, uses no chemicals, and removes the need to seek out sanitary stations every few days, and of course, compared with a pump out loo, it costs nothing to empty.

Every boater has views on toilets, and these are just our views. Other makes of composting toilet are available.