Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Ashby Canal

It took an hour this morning to drive from our marina, up the M1 and the A5 to Hinckley, then to just outside the town, to Bridge 22 on the Ashby Canal, where we were meeting the owners of the boat we were testing.  There are decent moorings here, and good car parking too, plus a winding hole just beyond the bridge.  The sun was out, then in, then out again.

Monday, 14 July 2014


I came up to the boat this afternoon, as I have a boat test first thing tomorrow morning.  It was a lovely warm sunny day, and the marina was absolutely alive with swallows darting about and swooping over the water.  They're also quite keen on perching on the boats, and seem to have a knack of sitting on the handrails and making a mess down the side of the boat!  I got a cloth and cleaned off the worst from the pontoon side of the boat.

After a bite to eat, I walked down the towpath to Cosgrove, because I'd ascertained that Carol and George on Still Rockin' were still moored there.

It was great to see them and have a look at their vast new boat.  It really is very wide!  Sitting in the saloon, you could almost forget you were on a boat, there's so much room.  But perhaps the best thing was to see how excited they were about this new adventure.  Molly the dog was also great fun, doing a tug of war, and chasing balls around.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Ecofan refurbishment

Last week I cut down a cardboard box to about the right size, found some padding material, and posted our Ecofan off to Calfire for some checks.  This past winter it's taken longer and longer to start spinning, and less and less time to stop again.  The deal is that they take a look, email back with information on what's wrong and a price, and then you decide whether you want them to fix it or not.

I think it was Thursday that I got it in the post, second class, for just under a fiver.  On Monday, while I was sleeping between night shifts, an email arrived saying there was something wrong with the motor, and it would cost just over £23 to fix, including return postage.  Yesterday, I phoned and paid.

And today, the fan arrived back, in much more professional packing than I'd managed.

Apparently it's been tested and works -- starting to spin in 1'45", and spinning well in 4'.  I'm hoping it'll be several months before we get the opportunity to test it ourselves.  Assuming it really is fixed, that's what I call good service.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Shackleton on test, and 22 other boats

The August edition of Canal Boat is out, and includes my review of the Crick winner, Shackleton.

There's also ten pages of other Crick boats -- 22 of them in all.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Braunston Rally

Adrian got back to Cosgrove at around 11.30 last night, parking the car in the village and walking through the horse tunnel.  This morning we were awake surprisingly early, and about 8.30 set off back through the tunnel to the car, and off to Braunston for the rally.  But we had an appointment en route, a visit to Lesley and Joe of Yarwood, who were moored by bridge 102.  It was about October when I last saw them, but Adrian hasn't seen them for well over a couple of years -- in fact this was his first look at Yarwood.  We had a good hour catching up and hearing about their plans (not to mention a delicious cake, which was still warm), before we left for Braunston.  We gave Joe a lift into the village, as he had some shopping to do.  We parked and made our way through to the marina, where a brass band were playing.

We were expecting to see lots of boats moored in the arm as usual, but in fact it was almost empty.  The boats which had spent the night there had left early, gone down to the turn, and were waiting for the parade to begin.  It meant the parade itself was much less chaotic than usual

We'd been invited to join Sarah on Chertsey  for the parade, and when we located the boat Kath and Neil of Herbie were already on board.  The plan was that they would play music, but the weather didn't look conducive to that.  Shortly afterwards were were joined by James and Amy of Willow and the Moomins.  We also saw Kathryn of Leo No2 who was on Sculptor, the Stoke Bruerne Museum boat.  It started to rain as we waited to set off -- which was unfortunate as we'd refused to believe the showery forecast, and not even brought coats.  Sarah was well equipped for the weather, though.

As the rain became heavier, Adrian moved inside.  The under-cloth part of Chertsey is now looking really good -- very homely, with lots of pieces to look at.

The parade started rather slowly, but once we wer doing the loop of the marina things speeded up a bit.  The rain got heavier and heavier, and gradually most of us moved inside -- except Kath and Neil, and Amy who had an umbrella.  Kath did empty about five litres of water out of her hood at the end, though!

Sarah did a great job of reversing Chertsey into the arm, and then mooring up across the end.  Once we were back, we said our farewells and went to get some lunch.  As it was still pretty miserable, we then headed back to Cosgrove.  It was still chucking it down when we arrived, so we parked in the village again.  Later, when it had dried up a bit, I took the car to the marina and walked back along the tow path.

Now, of course, the sky has cleared and the sun has come out.  It's really warm, so I've rolled up the cratch and am sitting out there writing this.  We'll probably stay out here until after dinner, then go back to the marina.  I have to be at work at 7.30 in the morning, so it will be an early start.

1 mile, 0 locks.  (7 miles, 2 locks)

Friday, 27 June 2014

Not the day originally planned

We came up to the boat last night.  Adrian had been working in London, so came and sat at the desk next to mine and did some work, until I was finished just after 10pm.  The drive up was mostly in heavy rain.

This had been planned a couple of weeks ago.  I was due to do a boat test today, Adrian was going to work from the boat (probably moving down to Cosgrove where there's a decent BT wifi hotspot), and then we'd go to Braunston for the rally tomorrow.  But my boat test was postponed, and Adrian needed to go to a funeral near Belfast today.  It turned out that by far the best air fares to Belfast were from Birmingham, so this morning he was up before 6am, a drove in my car to the airport.  I was due to have a pretty lazy day doing not very much, especially if it was going to rain all day like the forecast said.

But when I got up this morning (having gone back to sleep once the shower pump had stopped), I discovered that the loo wasn't flushing.  Boaters will probably find the next few paragraphs fascinating; non-boaters should probably skip them; and potential boaters should read on to discover what boat owenership is really like.  I tried the usual thing of massaging the big black pipe at the back of the loo, but that didn't have any effect.  The motor was making a rattling noise, and I was a bit concerned that the impeller might have disintegrated or something.  I had breakfast while I thought about what to do.

Access to the loo workings isn't easy.  I didn't want to have to unscrew it from the floor, so you have to go in through the dinette.  This means taking out the big drawer, and laying on the floor with your head in drawer space.  I took down the table and moved the dinette cushions to give a bit more light.

I tried phoning a few local boat yards, but the first few didn't have any suggestions.  Then I spoke to a helpful chap at Grand Junction up at Gayton.  From what was happening, he thought a blockage was more likely than a motor problem, as the motor still appeared to be working (it just wasn't having any effect).  He was willing to have a look, but it's a journey of at least four hours, and has the Stoke Bruerne flight en route, so I really wanted to sort it out myself.

Then the marina pump out tractor turned up.  I usually don't like using it, because it's a bit too powerful.  That sounds odd, as you normally want a thorough pump out, but when you can hear the tank flexing, and even the water in the loo is sucked away, that seems like a step too far.  However, this morning, I was quite keen for the loo to be sucked dry.  The marina owner, Roy, did his stuff with the machine, but it had no effect on the loo.  This was more evidence that there was probably a blockage.

Back laying on the floor, I found that getting access to the main part of the macerater was impossible.  So I decided to undo one of the few jubilee clips that was accessible.  I prepared by cutting in half a five litre battery top up water container, to catch whatever came out of the pipe.  This was largely successful (although there was one mis-hap, the details of which I'll spare you).  Miraculously, it appeared to be where the blockage was, too.

I'm trying to remember if we put some lemon juice down the loo before leaving last time.  Because the blockage appeared to be mostly large bits of scale which had come free, and failed to get through the smallest part of the pipe -- and had then stopped everything else getting through too.  Removing it was a pretty unpleasant job, but at least once everything was back together it worked.  It sounded normal, and the flush flushed.

After all that I thought I deserved to go out somewhere.  Wolverton seemed the obvious choice, as I needed something for lunch, and I also wanted to get some decent disinfectant to give the whole area a scrub.  What's more, the promised showers hadn't arrived -- in fact, it was sunny.

It was about 11.30 when I set off.  Cosgrove lock needed to be turned, and I met two boats who waited while I crossed the iron trunk aqueduct.  Just before Wolverton it began to rain, but only lightly. I moored up on the first rings, and it now being 1pm, went to Tesco for shopping.  After lunch I donned the disposable gloves again, got the disinfectant out, got back on the floor, and did some serious scrubbing.  With the sun now beating down, I then went on and washed the towpath side of the boat.

At about 4pm I set off again in warm sunshine, heading for the winding hole at New Bradwell.  I even took a photo of a nondescript bit of canal to show just how sunny it was.

I turned without fuss and retraced my steps, passing through Wolverton heading for the aqueduct and Cosgrove.  Shortly after Wolverton, it began to rain.  It was gentle at first, then torrential.  As I approached the aqueduct there was a bright flash of lightening followed very closely by a loud clap of thunder.  It had gone incredibly dark, yet looking back towards The Galleon pub, there wa still blue sky.

Crossing the aqueduct, the rain was coming down in stair rods.

By the time I'd crept past all the moored boats and reached the lock I was soaked -- only marginally drier, I reckoned, than if I'd fallen in.  The rain eased off while I worked the lock, and I bow hauled the boat out.  I'd just shut the gate and set off when a boat came round the corner to go down.  The steerer asked me if I'd been waiting in the lock to dodge the rain.  Did it look as if I'd dodged the rain?  No, I looked like a drowned rat.

By now the rain had pretty much stopped.  I was hoping the mooring right by the bridge at Cosgrove was free, because of the BT wifi.  I slowly edged round the corner to have a look, and saw there was a boat on it.  It meant I had to reverse a couple of boat lengths back round the corner to an available space.  The BT wifi is too weak to be of any use here, but i've got a nice view of Cosgrove church instead.  Not long after mooring up, the sun was out again.  I needed a change of clothes and a shower.

Adrian is flying back tonight, but will be back quite late.  Tomorrow, we'll drive over to Braunston to have a look at the old boats, and with luck meet up with some old friends.

6 miles, 2 locks.

Monday, 16 June 2014

June weekend - Day 3

Bridge 75 is another quiet mooring.  Last evening we decided to go for a walk, so went back along the towpath to the Black Horse, and through the new housing estate, marveling at how other-worldly the whole place seemed.  We found our way back to the field which borders the canal, and a path down to the bridge.

This morning was sunny first thing but had clouded over by the time we set off at about 9.10.  When we got to Wolverton we moored up, and while Adrian did some work I popped to Tesco.  The reason we were there was that Adrian had to go to London, and getting a train from Wolverton is very easy.  Having the extra night on board also seemed much more appealing that driving home yesterday and having to get a train from there!  Later in the morning Alan Fincher arrived, single handed, on Chalice, so I helped him moor up.  Cath was due to arrive at Wolverton station, having done a car shuffle.  It really is a very convenient station.  Adrian left to get the 1137 train; he'd be in London before I was back at the marina.

I set off to take the boat back to base.  I passed Fulbourne, moored up -- if you can call it moored, as it was about five feet out from the bank!

Cosgrove Lock was about three-quarter full, and a boat was just arriving at the top.  They came down and left a gate open for me.  Once I was in the lock another boat arrived to go down, so I had a bit of help with a paddle.  On leaving the lock, it started to rain and was also pretty gusty.  But fortunately by the time I got to the marina things had calmed down, and I was able to reverse into our berth without incident.  Then it was just a matter of packing up, loading the car, and driving home.

5 miles, 1 lock.  (22 miles, 2 locks)