Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Wanted - More bloggers, your canals need you.

I have been following canal blogs for many years, well before I owned my own boat. We were sharing within the Ownerships scheme when I discovered Snecklifter, a dry witted and entertaining blog of 3 year life that extended to 5 years on the cut. It was regular, informative and entertaining. I exchanged a few email with Mike the blogger and was saddened when he went back to the bank - somewhere Matlock way I recall.

Since then I have followed many and still have an extensive blog roll on the right. There are a few that sadly pass on, not so many pleasingly, but there are a few who give up and take to the land and a few who just stop without notice.

This last group I find the hardest to contend with as it is like a friend walking out of your life with no goodbye, selfish on my part to think this I know.

Some you can see the writing on the wall so to speak and I cannot blame them for seeking out a little home comfort especially when they have done much of the system, more than once.

I hope one day to be one of the group on the right giving others a vicarious fix of canal life, even if it is 8-10 months a year. Of course this time of the year only the hardy are out and about and I include those I know who spend a good deal of time aboard on my moorings. I did it last year and it is cosy, satisfying but ultimately  hard work and can be lonely.

But for now and the reason for this post is to add another new blog to my blog roll.

My view from the loo please click the title to take you to the blog.

I'll leave the explaining of the title to Mandy, I know it will be an interesting read so I would encourage you to bookmark it or whatever you do to get a reminder there is an update.

If anyone else reads my musings and wishes to have their blog linked to on the right please drop me a line  - happy to oblige and get another slice of canal life to read about.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Possibly why people end up living on boats?

This is quite a 'foot on the breaks' equation.

It comes from this blog post.... Click me 

We all have a reality, it is the expectation that is sold to us via many different channels and peer groups. It is all predicated on pressure to do well. Work neighbours family and friends all contribute in some way, some give us the feel good some add to the pressure. 

The internet is devious, it cleverly knows what I have been 'aspiring to' and feeds me images and reminders of what I think I want to the point I start thinking I need them. Top notch subliminal marketing - not allowed on TV but everywhere on the internet. 

Clever, it really is a mind altering experience.

Ironically it is the internet and its global availability that is selling the western dream to those aspirational people in less financially stable counties to come and 'achieve'. Economic migrant they are called. 

I guess it is a real privilege of those that have seen their future, or  arrived at it to know it is not all what it is sold to us to be. So we live on boats and downscale our lives to remove the pressures of what is sadly seen as success. 

The real success is achieving happiness which is your reality if you can remove those expectations. Better still if those expectations are less than your reality you are living a positive experience?

Of course the internet is fill of blogs like the one in the link but every now and again one comes by that does make you challenge your thinking on life - well it does for me anyhow. 

One final thought, slightly depressing and delivered to me by my recent raw experiences of supporting ageing loved ones into the final stages of their lives, it arrives sooner than you think, we all will take those last days weeks months or in some cases years of relative non existence to what we have lived in the time leading up to the final chapter, albeit however brief.

So the learning point, manage your expectations, they impact significantly on your reality which in the end is your happiness. 

Monday, 2 November 2015

Misty last cruise of the year.... Maybe ?

The blog post is a little misleading as we are now able to go a long distance if we wanted to (tempting). Sunday we were pointing into the stoppages with no winding hole between us so we either left Percy as she was or took an autumnal cruise to point her back the way we prefer - to Hunts lock and cruising routes beyond.

In reality we may not move again this year but that will not stop visits and maybe some work parties. 

Sunday when we got to the boat was misty and foggy - I have always wanted a foggy cruise, very atmospheric. I would of course prefer a real pea souper, this was more heavy mist I guess, but still a nice cruise. 

What we did not expect was the amount of boats moving. I guess they were all scurrying past the stoppages that start at Bagnall lock today (Monday 2nd November). We were even quizzed by a boater as he came up Bagnall - "am I clear of the stoppages now?" The tell tale surveyors marks on his newly acquired P&J showed he was either a new boater or a boater with a new(ish) boat.

The fencing was ready for the shutdown. A couple of my boating neighbours were looking forward to the peace of 6 weeks of no boat movements.

What was noted since we last did this run was the new moorings between Common and Bagnall locks. Plus the mooring x 3 above Common lock.

Interesting since when I enquired about two pieces of land in the area on both occasions  was advised it was unlikely under the mooring reduction program - remember that as I think it might have been lost in the BW to C&RT change over  !!

Another blogger passing through, this time Barry and Sandra from 'The Home Brew Boat'  Sadly  only got time to exchange a few pleasantries with Barry before they went off to their winter trade mooring at Mercia (a great idea) As I am less than 5 miles from Mercia  based I may visit to check out their merchandise.

I took this photo to remind me how the rear fenders are installed as I have brought them home to 'creosote' them as advised by Joe Hollinshead who made them for me. The same Joe that was helping Tim and Pru down those challenging Knowle locks on TV last night.

Finally a little YouTube video to keep me reminded of what my boat sounds like ! The wobble half way through was me dropping to neutral as I thought there was a boat coming down.... the reality was Rachel was waiting for me to deliver a windlass - basic boating error - we were rusty !

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Dear diary....

Just for my record a few other non boaty bits to look back on at the end of the year.

After getting Percy back on the Thursday 8th October it was down south with my mum and my aunty for a visit to the cottage. A small detour off the A38 to clean the grass and mess off the boat then the 200 mile commute.

On Saturday I drove another 100 miles to Greenwich for a day with family and to show my mum where Callum and Emma live. We took a walk into Greenwich.

Its a lively dynamic place - ideal for young people or people who want that lifestyle, nice to see, not for me. We caught the tube to Canary Wharf then into London central to catch Miss Saigon in the West End

We ended the day at The Green Pea.... a mad eatery that has a real character of an owner. It is rated as the 19th best eatery out of 19,000 London restaurants - no small feat for the place -well done Tom. A great meal then another 100 mile drive back to Chichester.

On Sunday we took a trip into Chichester for shopping and then a walk on the beach at Bosham before I drove the 200 miles back to Derby.... ready for work on Monday !

The bike did get a run out the following Sunday, breakfast at CMC in Chesterfield then a great run through Derbyshire and Staffordshire.

As I type this I am back down south, helped by Callum to cut all the very large Beech hedges and generally tidying up the garden. Our lovely neighbour allowed us to help her collect many apples from her orchard.... baked apples for pudding tonight ! Then an early night and a 200 mile drive back to Derby in the morning for a days work..... then rest (ish) more on that later.

Most of the post was written on Sunday, Wednesday now and fencing ordered and DIY planned for a Derby weekend. I would like to get to Percy to wind the boat at Alrewas before they close Bagnall lock meaning no opportunities to wind the boat before Christmas. It will also make our pound very quiet as there should be no boat movements apart from the regular trips to the water point.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Free power...

Why would you not take it... well it is not really free as it has a capital outlay for the solar panel and the controller. I took the solar panel off Percy before she went to John's for painting and took advantage of some flexibility  - well a Saturday at work to call over at Fradley last Wednesday to re-attach the nuclear power converter to Percy's Batteries.

Photo's pinched from Kev & Anne's blog

A bit of time warp as the above were taken by Kev & Anne who came through Fradley later in the day on their way to Willington for some new batteries.

While I was reviewing the pics I took of the connections to ensure I reconnected the solar panel back the right way I got a toot as a boat passed. It was Maffi doing the 'Cressy' cruise ....

What a smile this fella had on his face, as did Molly !

It must be close to Maffi's birthday as it was nearly 4 years ago when I last met Maffi  - just after I brought Percy back from Braunston.

I locked Maffi up Hunts and Keepers then went back to complete the re-install.

I had left Leia at home so I had to lock Percy up despite it still being a lovely calm evening .

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Pending C&RT rant/complaint

I had cause to take issue with C&RT the day after I left Percy back 'safe' on her moorings. My good fellow moorers were in touch to tell me C&RT had been and strimmed the grass all over my new paintwork. Those who have been with me for some time will recall on two separate occasions jut after I had Waterlily repainted the contractors broke windows on my boat strimming against it.

Read it here 

And they did it again here 

Full proof this method fires stones at boaters boats (and anyone else on the towpath of course)

After the second event I met the contracts manager and despite some suggestions the only way I could guarantee no further damage was to sign a vegetation cutting exemption form or the like. BW paid for the windows but not my time  - I was generous in seeing it as a reason to cruise back to Willington to have the windows taken out and driven over the Wesley windows for replacement.

You could not have made it up less than 24 hours after I bring my undamaged newly painted boat back despite a good deal of lack of veg maintenance to the waterways C&RT did this .... click on the images...

I am aware that over time I will add some wear marks to my boat, but it should be safe on a mooring I pay C&RT well over £1500 per year for and I do my own mowing, not strimming. Until they vandalised my boat. The operative would have delighted I am sure in making such a mess of someones pride and joy.

I wrote to Cart and got a reply last Monday from Sandie Dunstan advising she had passed my complaint to the contracts manager....... then nothing, not even a holding email to say he/she was dealing with it. I held back to give C&RT the chance to respond to my claims, but no reply over  a week is not good enough  - I pay well over £2,300 just to have my boat bobbing against their armco, I mow my grass and have lodged the required form to tell them not to do the work, what else could I do?

I will forward on this blog post to the moorings manager again and also copy in Richard Parry, just in case he feels it is important to show from the top what customer relations looks like to some of his staff.

Watch this space......C&RT have a right to reply and I will gladly publish it here if they wish.

Update... C&RT have been in touch and advised my complaint is now being managed under their procedures. I received another supportive email from the mooring manager Sandie and a more formal email from Daniel Greenhalgh  - Operational Contracts Manager. He has stated I should have a response within 15 working days. 

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Single Handling - my thoughts

Sitting the rain out on Wednesday am so I put my mind to the single handers challenges.

Well to start with respect to all those single handed boaters out there who regularly cruise around the system. It is hard work physically and mentally. The latter may well be easier as you get a routine but I was very conscious I was on my own and any mishaps would leave me isolated and with no support, so much concentration and pre thinking of what I need to do.

I suppose conversely with people around it breaks your routine and can result in errors. At Gailey lock a very nice lady from a boat waiting to come up wanted to talk and not help and watched me going through my routine.... only saving grace was as there was a boat coming up I could leave the gates.

Going down is better for me than coming up. I like to have a rope with me so going up and  jumping off just as the boat goes in on its own momentum as some do leaving the boat in  tick over to drive at the top gates is an option but not for me..... it was the slippery ladder and slime on my jumper as I walked the gunnels.  I don't like climbing on the roof....

Using the ladders I can set the boat up against the top gates in forward about one and a half turns of the speed wheel. I can then open the paddles keeping a close eye on the rise to ensure the boat does not get caught on the gates or any lock wall obstructions. The boat will start to open the  top gate under its power so I then drop paddles and fully open the gate and get onboard, stopping in the lock throat to close the gate.

Dropping is easier, I leave a centre rope out to bow haul the boat out... the boat drops and gets naturally drawn to the bottom gates  - ensuring no cilling (just got to keep concentration) the challenge is to stop the boat drifting backwards when you open the gates.... there are so many leaky gates the boat can get a real cabin load if it goes too far back and Leia does not like it also - she has to stay on the boat so as I am not watching her. Mandy from Don't Panic suggested opening a paddle to wash the boat out.....better than bow hauling  - top tip.

It is the first time I have seriously thought about a windlass holder. It would be ideal climbing lock ladders with two hands and not having to throw the windlass up.... it could bounce back to me !! Also climbing back down a slippy lock ladder single handed is not clever. Also pulling the boat out and not forgetting where you have left the windlass..... a christmas present for family reading this perhaps ??

Also for those long days cruising I made a picnic and a flask of coffee.... really helps not having to stop and moor up. As a bloke toilet breaks are easier  - if I wanted the loo (go figure) I would leave the boat in the lock chamber paddles down so no floating away or having to moor up.

It does give a sense of accomplishment and something everyone should do so as to understand the challenges of the single boater. Of course I would always prefer my shipmate to share the boat with !