Adrian is down at his mum's, so I've come up to the boat to do a couple of jobs. I set out from home mid-morning and had a rather slow journey up. The A34 was at its frustrating worst, with long lines of traffic stuck behind lorries trying to overtake other lorries at more or less the same speed. As I came north there was a mix of sunshine and showers, the worst as I came around Bicester and Buckingham. At the marina, I unpacked the car and moved it to the secure car park just as it started to rain. So I lit the fire and had lunch before assessing whether I'd stay in the marina or head out -- by which time the sun was out again, and I decided to go for a little trip.
This is the first time I've left this marina, and I wanted to turn left towards Stoke Bruerne. The marina entrance is angled back completely the wrong way, although alongside is the remains of a winding hole (actually, it still is a winding hole) so there's plenty of room to swing the stern around. I was pleased to get out and round without touching anything, particularly as there were quite a few people watching from the balcony of the Navigation Inn.
I was fairly certain that I'd get rained on at some point so I'd changed into old jeans and put waterproof trousers over the top, but it was surprisingly warm as I chugged along, and I even had to take my jacket off. There are a couple of bridges with nice curved iron decks along here, and the countryside is full of oilseed rape.
As I continued, black clouds built up on my left and it was clearly raining underneath them, although in other directions there was still blue sky. There was so little wind, though, that it was difficult to tell whether the rain was coming my way.
When the rain did come, it made a serious job of it. It was torrential for a few minutes and included hailstones. I wished I'd had some gloves within reach, because the hail was stinging my hands. I considered stopping, but thought that by the time I'd moored up it would have stopped. Sure enough, about fifteen mintes later the sun was out again.
When I got to the bottom of the Stoke Bruerne locks I winded in the arm. There were only three boats on the moorings, so I had my pick of places to stop. Once I was tied up, at around 3.30, I did the first of my planned jobs. The weed hatch cover, which is just a piece of steel without being hinged, often rattles as we go along. So I'd bought two metres of rubber U-section, to put on the supports. With luck, this will stop the noise.
The other job earmarked for these couple of days was the bathroom floor. Now I have already re-done this once -- but the vinyl tiles I used have not been a success. Within days they started moving about and now they're nearly all beginning to lift at the edges. I'd chosen them because I thought they'd be much easier to fit than a sheet of vinyl; and if you make a mistake in cutting a tile, you can use another one. A sheet of vinyl doesn't give that luxury: you have to get it right first time. But I'd bowed to the inevitable, and bought a piece of vinyl flooring. The bathroom is about 1.15m in each direction at its widest, but the smallest width for vinyl is 2m, and I'd had to buy a 1.5 metre length. I'd gone for a dark grey square tile effect.
But I'd had a thought while I was driving up: diamonds suit narrowboats much better than squares, so was my sheet of vinyl big enough to have the squares on the diagonal? I'm sure there's a mathematical way of working it out but I didn't know what it was, so I thought the only way to check would be to make a template of the room, and see if it fitted. I just needed something to make a template with, so I had a look through the galley drawers, hoping to find a roll of baking paper. There wasn't one, so I resorted to using what there was: tin foil. As I scrabbled about on the bathroom floor sticking lengths of tin foil together with masking tape, I kept thinking what a mad idea this was. It's the sort of thing Neil from Herbie would come up with! Once the template was made, I rolled the vinyl out in the only space that was big enough, the bed, and put the template on to see whether the diagonal idea would work.
It did fit, and the template meant I could make sure a diagonal line started in the corner of the room, and trim the vinyl to a manageable size. This whole job had been pencilled in for tomorrow, when it's meant to rain quite a lot, but I knew that if I didn't see whether my idea worked, I'd keep thinking about it and wouldn't get much sleep. And now that I'd started, I had to keep going.
I'd planned to lift the tiles but leave the old vinyl underneath as a bit of extra cushioning. But while the tiles came up easily they left behind a terrible sticky mess. It was clear that I wouldn't be able to work with that, so the old vinyl came up too. A much more time consuming job was removing all the old sealant. Every now and then I'd pull a bit and several inches of the stuff would come away, but mostly it had to be removed in annoyingly small pieces.
Laying the new vinyl was another challenge. The problem is that you can't fit it round obstacles without making cuts, and that's a bit nerve wracking. There were one or two cuts that I immediately regretted, particularly around the loo. But I managed to cover the damage, and knew that new sealant would cover a multitude of sins. Once the vinyl was cut to shape, it was a matter of sticking it down. I'd bought proper double sided tape, and that proved to be another frustration. Sticking it down was easy; removing the paper to reveal the other sticky side was a nightmare, particularly when you're kneeling on a hard floor and trying to work underneath the vinyl. Eventually it was all stuck down, and I was starving (it was gone 6) so I started dinner and thought I'd tackle the next job while it cooked. I masked all around the edge of the floor and the bottom of the walls and cupboards, and got out the translucent sealant I'd bought. This proved to be my next problem. It turned out to be in a cartridge that needed to go in a sealant gun -- which I don't have. In the end, I put on a pair of rubber gloves, cut open the tube, and applied the sealant with my finger. I knew that the masking tape would mean it would look neat enough, and sure enough when I removed the tape, it looked fine. Overall, I'm quite pleased with the finished product.
It's been a beautiful afternoon. I've had the side hatch open most of the time, and there was a lovely sunset.
After dinner I loaded the old floor and the debris from the new one into a plastic sack, and took it along to the rubbish point by the bottom lock. Of course now that I've completed tomorrow's job today, I'm wondering what to do tomorrow. The forecast is OK for the morning, but heavy showers in the afternoon.
5 miles, 0 locks.