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)

Sunday 15 June 2014

June weekend - Day 2

We had a good evening last night.  We walked back up the locks at around 7pm, and the food (brought across from The Boat pub by Mike in his trip boat, Charlie) was available from about 7.30.  It was pretty good.  Adrian had a chicken curry and I had beef stroganoff, both with rice, and both very tasty.  We ate with Kathryn, although the band playing in the tent made it a bit difficult to talk.  Later we wandered along the boats moored towards the tunnel, as it was a nice evening, before returning to Briar Rose.

We saw a boat yesterday whose supposed owners name made me smile.  Anyone who knows Rochester knows that the town is famous for its Norman castle.

This morning we had a very relaxed start.  Adrian's been working very long hours recently, so it was good that he could get some really good sleep.  We had scrambled eggs on toast and set off after 9.30.

We passed our marina, and carried on to Cosgrove.  Adrian jumped off to go to the shop at the caravan park, while I headed for the lock.  Fortunately, a boat had just come up and another was going down, and they waited so I could join them.  The boats were almost ready to leave the lock when Adrian arrived back, but in time to drive the boat out.  On the water point below was the Braidbar boat, La Suvera, whose owners we know from the Braidbar group, so we had a quick chat as we passed.

We continued over the iron trunk aqueduct and through Wolverton.  At the Grafton Street Aqueduct one boat was already coming across, but then I could see another.  I've never actually passed anything on the aqueduct, although it must be wide enough, so I decided to go for it.  Of course there's plenty of room, even though it looks a bit tight.

We had lunch on the move, and carried on to the winding hole at Great Linford.  We turned there and made our way back to Bridge 75, where there's a nice quiet, open mooring.  It's a popular spot and there are quite a few boats here.  We were moored by around 2pm, so I've done a bit of cleaning and Adrian has done some work.  I keep thinking about washing the side of the boat as it's very dusty.  But so far I've got no further than thought.

12 miles, 1 lock.  (17 miles, 1 lock)

June weekend - Day 1

We came up to the boat last night.  I was working until late, so Adrian came up to London on the train, then we drove to the marina, arriving about 11.30.

This morning before we set off, I topped up the batteries and we filled the water tank.  We were ready to leave at around 9.15, and made the turn out of the marina towards Stoke Bruerne, which is having its family canal festival this weekend.  It was warmish, but not hot like it has been, and bright, but not sunny.  It took the usual hour and a half to get to the bottom lock, where I winded in the arm and we moored up.  Yet again, we had our pick of the moorings so opted to stay at the end closest the locks.

Adrian was finishing some work, so it was just before lunchtime that we set off to walk up to the village.  Halfway up the locks, Ryan Dimmock was winding Southern Cross and its butty, and returning up the locks.

In the village there were old boats, a craft tent, beer tent, a cheese boat, and an ice cream boat.  We met Kathryn, chatted to Steve Parkin from the Albert blog, and had some lunch.  There were radio controlled boats, including a one-twelfth scale life boat, and Morris dancers.  It's been a day of sunny spells and sudden heavy showers which leaves everyone dashing for the nearest tent.

Today's big local news was that Stoke Bruerne resident David Blagrove has been awarded the MBE in the Queen's birthday honours, for services to the restoration of the waterways.  There was a short congratulations ceremony by Richard Parry, the chief exec of the Canal and River Trust.

We've come back to the boat for a while, but we'll be wandering back up this evening as there's food available later.

The mobile broadband seems really weak here today, so I'll try an upload with small photos, and replace them later.

5 miles, 0 locks.

Thursday 12 June 2014

New Tilley hat

My Tilley hat has become something of a trademark -- and I often get people saying they recognised me because of it.  But lately it's been looking a bit worse for wear, and when it came out of the wash a week or so ago,the front was full of little holes.  It's maybe not surprising, given how much I wear it, that it gets regularly soaked (as I like to have it on under the hood of my waterproof when it's raining), operates as a sun hat, and once had to be rescued from the canal when the wind took it (they're designed to float).

So I emailed Tilley in Cornwall, who said the hat was covered under their lifetime guarantee never to wear out.  After a few checks, they've sent a replacement.  All I had to pay was a fiver for postage.  It's only when you see the old and the new next to each other that you realise how battered and faded the old one is.  Anyway, well done Tilley; a guarantee that really does mean something.

Thursday 5 June 2014

Mogoch on test

The July issue of Canal Boat is in the shops, and includes my boat test on Mogoch, a 70ft widebeam by Bluewater Boats.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Successful Day

There was some rain first thing, but it was dry by the time I set off at about quarter past eight -- just as the clearance of the site over by the pub (which is to have seven houses on it, facing the canal).  Within half an hour I was back in our berth.

The plan for the morning was to tackle a job I've been putting off for a while -- replacing the hose between the loo and the tank.  It's routed through the dinette, under the bathroom cupboard, through the boxing under the bathroom radiator, through the airing cupboard, and finally under the bed to the tank.  All those cupboards have had a certain odour; last year I wrapped the existing hose in impermeable aluminium tape, which helped, but this week I ordered four metres of new hose from Vetus.  The hoses have a bit of a reputation for staying impermeable to liquid, but not to odour, and about five years seems to be the life of them.  I note that these days, Braidbar does the bathrooms the other way round, so the loo is immediately in front of the tank, so the hose needs only to be a few inches long.  I'd had a chat with Peter Mason from Braidbar about the best way of doing the task while at the Crick Show, so I now felt more confident

Getting at the hose was the first difficulty.  To get to the back of the loo I took the drawer out of the dinette bench, took the table down, moved the seat cushions, and then had to unscrew all the slats.  The ones at the far end remove as one piece, for access to the storage; but the ones I had to take off all needed to be unscrewed individually.  It's similar with the bed base.  Lots more unscrewing of slats.

Even then, the fitting at the tank wasn't easy to get at, as the boxing round the tank is in exactly the wrong place.

Having flushed plenty of water down, and then tried to empty as much as possible, I thought I'd tackle the tank end first.  I undid the hose clip, but struggled to move the hose itself, eventually deciding I'd need to cut it off.  I'd just cut through the pipe (not exactly pleasant), when my phone rang.  It was Tim the cratch cover man, at the marina gate, needing to be let in.  I wrapped the partially cut through waste pipe in cling film, and went to open the gate.

The new cratch cover we had a few weeks ago is lovely, but some of the fixings have proved very vulnerable, and we had a bit of damage in locks on the way to and from Crick.  The problem was that they're below the gunwales, and use elastic cords with plastic balls on the end, through eye holes.  The balls were making it stick out more than the rubbing strake so we were catching on lock sides and gates, and even boats we were sharing with.  I'd rung Tim yesterday, and he'd offered to come and have a look.  We talked about a solution, he drew some lines on the cover, we mocked up what it would look like, and he took the cover off.  He said he'd take it back to the workshop, make the modifications, and bring it back today.  I was surprised and pleased it would all happen so quickly.

Then back to the waste hose.  Peter Mason had said a hairdryer could be used to soften the pipe, so I tried that and it came off easily.  I cable tied some cling film over the end, and also wrapped the outlet from the tank.  The other end, at the loo, came off easily, and I did the same there.  Then it was just a matter of pulling the house through all the cupboards, and getting it outside as quickly as possible.

I threaded the new hose through and was relieved to find I'd ordered enough.  I started the reattachment, using a bit of silicone sealant round the fitting, warming up the hose to loosen it, and putting it in place.  Peter Mason's words were in my head: 'make sure you put the hose clip on before you start, because it's a real pain having to take everything apart again if you've forgotten'.  I did the loo end first, put a bit more sealant round, then did the tank end.  The hose had to be shortened a bit, to make sure the curves were nice and even.  Then I cable tied it to the various existing fittings.  While I had the bed in bits, I also put silicone sealant round various other fittings in the tank.  The good thing is that because none of it is visible, it doesn't have to be pretty -- I just wanted to make sure I used plenty!

I'd only just finished when Tim arrived back.  The new shape lifts up above the gunwales much sooner, and uses a couple of press studs in places where they should be safe from knocks.  It's been nicely piped round the edges, and still fits nicely.

I was very pleased, especially when he refused any payment saying he regarded it as a warranty issue, and that he just wants customers to be happy.  On that basis, we can heartily recommend Tim Garland.

1 mile, 0 locks.  (2 miles, 0 locks)

Monday 2 June 2014

Heyford Fields and (almost inevitably) Cosgrove

I've worked night shifts over the weekend, and at the end of my shift this morning I drove up to the boat.  The reason was a boat test scheduled for midday at Heyford Fields Marina, just about half an hour's drive away.  It was the only day this week that both Andy the photographer and I were available.  I had enough time to heat some water, have a shower, and get changed before getting back in the car.

The weather was much better than forecast -- cloudy but with sunny spells, and warmer than predicted.

I was back at Thrupp Wharf at just after 2, and decided it was too nice to stay where I was.  I thought about heading north but eventually took the easier option of a short run down to Cosgrove.  The moorings were the busiest I'd seen them for a while, but there were still several spots to choose from.  I turned above the lock and headed back, to the first (or last) place before the bridge.

This spot is within range of  a decent BT wifi hotspot.  My phone and the laptop are happily connected, but the iPad seems to be objecting for some reason.  One of the boats moored a little further back is Piece of Pearce, which was on the Olympic Waterways cruise we did on Chance.  I had a quick chat as I passed.

A bit of land next to the Barleymow pub, which has had an all but derelict building on it ever since we've been based around here, is finally being cleared.  It was pretty noisy earlier on, but the workers knocked off a while ago.  I must try to find out what's being built there -- canalside houses, I would think.  Anything would be an improvement.

Since I've been here I've written about half the boat test, has a visit from the local swan family (the cygnets are a lot bigger than they were a few weeks ago, and seem to be down by just one to nine), and been passed by several boats including an enormous barge.

Tomorrow I'll head back into the marina first thing, as I want to do a job which will be better with shore power, and I'm due a visit from the chap who made our new cratch.

1 mile, 0 locks.