Tuesday, 17 April 2018

When a job gets a bit bigger...

On and off the boat at the moment. It was convenient for Rachel to drive to me last Thursday late getting to the boat at 11pm but it gave us a lazy Friday. It also enabled us to leave a car at Fradley so on Sunday I could drive Rachel back to Fradley taking an hour off her journey south !

I was staying up at the cottage as I needed to do some work on it as well as Percy as well as lots of other bits and bobs....

We had a great vegan Sunday lunch at the cottage and was able to play with Teddy for a decent time  - he is growing rapidly and getting ever more interested in everything.

Anyhow yesterday I was on the boat and repairing the hole I opened up to sponge out the water we (Rachel) put in there whilst cleaning up last year. She left the tap running while Dysoning and it overflowed into the cabin bilge - not a lot but it made me make the inspection hatch that was missing and ID'd on the survey five years ago !! So now we have an inspection hatch!

After that I started to get curious about the back cabin bilge area (the engine room has an open bilge /open floor) Tony had said there was coiled hydraulic hose for the pump that drives the prop under the floor. So I set to to lift the floor which thankfully was laid to allow this.

The good news was it was relatively dry  - a little water but nothing to worry about and more than likely come in from when I left the back doors open in the rain the other week !

I cleaned it all out and applied some rust treatment and maybe tomorrow I'll paint it with red oxide as I did the gas locker.

As to how long I need to leave it before I do it again.... well there was some paper in there and I was able to see it was from Saturday January 23rd 1999, 7 years after Percy was floated and some 19 years ago so when done I'll stick some more paper in there and hopefully be blogging about changing it when I'm 74 eeek !!

I spend the rest of the day mowing grass and general mooring tidying. I did want to get out on Percy but now the floor needs painting that'll be my boating this week !! 

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Women on the cut

Youtube has some fantastic content - very eclectic and much more interesting than mainstream TV nowadays.

This film popped up and is a fantastic insight and record of women on the cut. It features Alex who sadly died on her boat, it is a great tribute to her and her ownership on working boat Tench.

Spend some of your bandwidth on this production, it is beautifully put together.

Saturday, 7 April 2018

The end of blogging ?

For lots of reasons I am retired but still not spending much time aboard Percy. That's a bad thing. I am sure if you read blogs you will also be watching many Vlogs on narrowboat life. I have a subscription to many and they are tv quality in the main with episodes released that are devoured with much relish.

Problem is they are so good I am starting to feel like I have seen and done most of the system, albeit vicariously on lots of different boats.

Don't get me wrong I do enjoy following the vlogs and they give so much more than reading many on the list to the right ...but in a simple way they are showing me the system in great quality from my armchair. Not sure if it is the start of the demise of blogging about the canals, I blog of course as my online diary that I can look back on - so will continue but are the Vlogs demising my future exploration/enjoyment of the canals?

On an unrelated note other than related to this being my diary of sorts I have enjoyed the last two days of good weather by getting out on my motorbikes. All over the south coats and south downs .....

Some pictures just as a reminder when we are no longer down here .......

I test rode this yesterday.... its an NC750 (New Concept) it has half a Honda Jazz engine in it  - low revving super economy quite a nice bike

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Let's talk stoves....

No better time to fit a stove than spring  or summer. Hopefully the deals are on and the time to fit is not pressured by cold or adverse weather  - there I've jinxed you all now !!

So what to fit ....

My good neighbour recently had some issues with a stove glass and posted a picture of her Heron stove which I liked.

This might be overkill for the small back cabin as its a 5kw stove.  Villager do a Puffin (smaller sibling) to the heron above.
I like the two doors  (main burner and ash pan) I also like the riddling grate and air wash system. 

There is another option a GBS mariner a bit smaller and a lot cheaper ...
This one had less air gap to the base where it will hopefully be mounted in a spare hearth I have from the guards stove that was fitted before it rotted through. 

There is another option a boatmans stove - made up in Manchester and between the other two in price.

The Puffin is favourite at the moment  - have you any suggestions  or links ?...

Just found this little beauty ... but a 3 inch pipe ?

Can't stop now....

Thursday, 29 March 2018

One thing missing from Percy....

Whilst I  have lived aboard Percy we still have a cottage. I could live full time aboard if I had to but it would be a challenge and there would be compromises that I would not enjoy. 

It was apparent to me when I got back to the cottage yesterday and decided on food. Now we have a freezer of a decent size here at the cottage and it has a dedicated space for ice cream and ice lollies. I have a weakness for both. Percy is a  simple boat and we enjoy not having complicated systems of heavy electrical loads. The latter means I can live aboard for three or four days at a time and not need to run the engine. In fact during the summer with decent solar input this can be stretched as we have shorter  nights so less lights. 

One thing anyone living afloat will know about is fridges and freezers being the biggest consumer of your amp hours. It is easy during the winter as we use the back cabin as our fridge. It makes for a decent if distant location to store all the stuff that normally goes into the amp hour eater in the kitchen. Our little 12v fridge has an ice box but it needs running quite cold to make it work. We have when been out cruising each day used it for frozen food, but we have to turn the fridge cold and rely on a few hours running the engine while we cruise. 

So a freezer would be nice but not essential and not something to push us to more static engine running.   

Now about stoves .....

Monday, 26 March 2018

Sometimes nature just gives back

This winter has been long - not a big issue for me and one of the best winters I've had in a long time. I normally get SAD  - read here   In recent years I took St Johns Wort  - basically a herbal antidepressant. Thankfully I have never had petrochemical anti depressants. I understand they come with side effects St John's wort does not other than like most medicines it has to be removed from the system slowly so as the weather warmed and the days got longer I cut the tablet up in halves then quarters !

This year I have not needed it  - I attribute that to more daylight, more exercise and more fresh air - walking and seeing daylight rather than being cooped up in an office or office buildings. +1 for retirement.

Anyhow for the record we jumped on the extra hour gained when the clocks went forward and took a late evening 5 miler around Bosham and Chichester harbour. We were rewarded with still tranquility, isolation and a beautiful sunset. I do not have the words but do have the pictures.

Click on them, they look better bigger (except the selfie, that'll scare the kids to bed !)

Friday, 23 March 2018

Lets talk alternators ....

We need them more than they need us. They go about their business charging our batteries until one day, usually at a quite inconvenient time they just stop - or worse, become inconsistent, sometimes charging and sometime not.

To my great shame I have not even got a spare belt on Percy, I know  - I had problems with belts and alternators when we were out on Waterlily in June 2012. I think the breakdown we had that day put the seed of doubt in my mind about engines under deckboards with the result we had Percy (with an engine room) a year or less later.  The problem then was a shorting wire under the alternator that was under or below the engine. Phil at Oxley Marine did a sterling job that day to find and repair the fault.

Anyhow the reason for the self reminder on belts and alternators it we got the charging light pop up on the dash on the car on Sunday just as we were about to set off on our weekly (for the last several months) trip back down south. Breakdown guy turned up - no meter, and said alternator is dead. 13 hours later including 4 hours at Leicester Forest East waiting for the second relay truck to relay us back south we were back in West Ashling. That was on top of 5 hours Friday afternoon/evening getting up... a pivotal weekend of crap journeys.

I live in a wonderful age of the internet where there is endless knowledge and some fine forums. The Rover  75 and MG owners forum is one such, masses of not just info but enthusiastic advice to get things repaired, not just thrown away.

So with all my virtual friends helping I went at the alternator in situ and took off the regulator and brush set. Now the real reason is this job is a pig on the car, a breeze on the boat (when ever I will do it) A bike ride to Screwfix for some deep small sockets and a tiny 1/4 inch drive ratchet, got the query defective stuff off. I think the brushes have just worn out after 130,000 miles ( its the original alternator) I could try a £1 fix, I had the new brushes in my hand at a little workshop that sells such stuff, but bottled it and decided to order the regulator and brush assembly. Fitting hopefully later to see if the diagnosis is correct....

So much easier on a boat that a car  - in the main. A pic of the exposed slip rings waiting for their new brushes. They are worn but the consensus it they have many more miles in them.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

The valley monster is observed

I lay in bed in our Staffordshire cottage in the Churnet valley last Sunday, pondering my day. I was called to the valley by the distant whistle of the early morning 'track check' train heading to Froghall through the valley.

Boots on Leia in tow (well, in front) off we set, We did not quite get to the canal before the train started its return run to Cheddleton, but we did capture it clickety clacking back through the valley. Its a magical sight and sound - especially the distant whistle the echoes through the valley.

When we did eventually get to the canal we could still smell the smoke from the hot engine - magical.

Watch to the end for the whistle echo up the valley !

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Yep, we got burst pipes !

You may have read my blog post about the need to be aboard - or have a warmer boat during periods of really cold weather. I still have the section of pipe I repaired when the frost took a nip out of Waterlily  - I blogged about it here Click me

So lesson learnt I headed off to Percy a week ago today to light the fire and sit tight during the worst of the bad weather. I think -6.5c was the lowest temp I recorded and Percy stoically saw out the 'beast from the east'. 

I'll detail my mad travelling at the end of this post as I doubt I'll do it again anytime soon - hopefully but suffice to say I arrived back at our Staffordshire cottage 10.30 pm Sunday night. The postie is good in he leaves any parcels in the outside loo so I went and checked and as I approached the workshop - yes I could hear the dreaded post freeze sound of running water.

This was the scene ...

The bits of carpet I leave down had absorbed much of the water

You can see the central heating pushfit has been pushed off by the ice bottom right.... this is close by the door and was lagged as you can see so I have to assume there was wind chill involved. This was the same with Waterlily as the burst there was below an open window we left for ventilation - we do not do that now !!

 The ice stalactite was quite impressive 

What was more impressive  - if I was impressed at all, was the ice stalagmite when the ice had blown off the radiator valve and lifted the radiator off its bracket.  (the reason the rad tail is lower than the copper feed is the rad is tipped off the bracket)

The running water was coming from the non feed side of this isolator where I presume it had pushed the compressed olive out of its seal. 

I was able to turn off the stop cock that we have in the workshop - for the workshop and headed to a long sleep. 

The following morning I was able to re fit the push fitting and re attache the rad valve then isolate the leak and re test the mains water  - all nice and leak free (I then turned off the mains water until I can fully repair the non feed side of the isolation valve. )

I re-pressured the central heating and slowly by turning on the Rayburn that heats the workshop got the workshop central heating up to temp - no leaks.

I was lucky.... There was not a great deal of water in the workshop as I think I arrived just after the thaw had allowed the water to start leaking and it was not a full open pipe just a bypass of the compressed olive - I'll know fully when I have my tools back to effect the repair fully.

Yes the last thing I said to my son in London was - "I'll leave the plumbing tools with you as I'll not need them for a while !!"

The week that needs recording was as follows...

  • Tuesday 27th February - Chichester to The Boat (fire lit) Fradley to Derby to see my oldest son who birthday it was on the 28th, then back to Fradley 220 miles
  • Friday 2nd March Fradley junction to Chichester through the snow in Oxford, a very slow but traffic free journey 178 miles
  • Saturday 3rd March Chichester to London and ending up tiling sons bathroom to midnight !! 101 miles
  • Sunday 4th March leave London at 6pm to Derby to drop Rachel off so she can stay with her ailing mum then me on to our Staffordshire moorland cottage - 180 miles 
  • Monday Back to Derby from the cottage to see my mum and my other son  then back to Chichester  - 224 miles
So the total for the week was ....903 miles ! 

My two other big days were New Years day when I drove from Staffs to Chichester and back to pick up the cat as we were needed to look after Rachels mum when we thought we would be south  - 440 miles in a day.

Then one trip out from London to pick up Rachel in Derby check on the cottage and back to Chichester - 405 miles

In my distant future, if I have one, I will look back on these journeys  and marvel at my commitment  !! 

They told me retirement could be boring!

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Ice v's boat - and the winner ?

Us Brits do like to talk weather don't we? Being a Brit Boater the weather is always on your mind, wind rain snow ice.... but it is the last one that does have the biggest impact. When we brought Percy home in November 2012 we were thwarted by ice (in early November), until the coal boat came and saved our day. Here is that post 

This morning I clocked someone prepping Hunts lock. They were on their way to Shobnall in Burton for a blacking booking. I have lots of sympathy as come 1st March you would not have factored in 2 inch ice and -6c temps.

Here is what it sounds and looks like from a 21c boat  - excuse the split video, you will hear my priorities !! First the scene as I let Leia out for her wee

Intrepid boaters working the lock 

Now the view from my cocoon 

Needless to say the ice won. The intrepid boaters have taken a temp mooring across the cut to see if the ice gives up a little during the next few hours. It really was a one way contest with the ice being well over an inch thick, you would need a decent engine and a heavy boat - like a coal boat to smash through that.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Minus 10c - where to go but the boat

In my past life as one of those working persons when the temperature got really low as it is forecast tonight and tomorrow night, into the minus teens in rural areas  according to the BBC I kept a fire going on Waterlily.

In 2011 I was actually driving to the boat at lunchtimes to keep a fire in. It would have been 2011 as we had a frost burst in 2010 - the last really cold winter. Now with some planning  - well a lot of planning I have driven up from Chichester to be aboard for a few nights. It also gives me the chance to see my 29 year old son before he becomes 30 !! Also help a friend to move house and to catch up with my old boss to compare notes on retirement  - plus make some golf and fishing plans !!

Then it'll be a late night Friday run to south London for more bathroom duty (plastering and tiling this weekend ) with Rachel coming the other way. We knew these few weeks were going  be a challenge and so it is. A large batch of stew made last night with a bread and butter pudding has set us both up.

Lets see what the weather brings and let's hope it is the last of the cold stuff.... I have hobbies that do not fit with snow and cold !!

Just put the external temp probe above the boat at 6pm its 22.5 c in the boat (nice) and -1.5 c outside. Well done Squirrel !

We survived, as did Percy, down to -6.5c last night. Ice on the windows and the canal well frozen. Tonight is going to be colder apparently!

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

A hand in the loo....

We have had four boats if you count the share boat. Two with pump outs and two with cassettes. Our current boat has a cassette and that was part of the buying criteria. Pump out are expensive, can be smelly and limiting in time and cruising, IMHO of course.

However today was one of the few times I'd have preferred a pump out. Two of my three cassettes were out of action  - for the same thing, both had the 'holding' tray off its runner by too heavy handed use of the loo brush.

There is only one fix and that involves getting your hands inside and stripping the mechanism to get it all lined up again. I do carry rubber disposable gloves for working on the engine so they were very much used.  Rest assured both cassettes had a very good clean out before the open loo surgery took place.

The problem is my third cassette does not have the level indicator on it so it really is the emergency cassette. I did the fix and stowed them away hopefully for  another few years trouble (and cash free) use. 

Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Genny gets some tlc

I can’t remember how long I have had the 2kw genny. I think we must have had it when we had Waterlily, it must be a good 5 years old. It does not get much use, we have used it for powering the flymo plus the chain saw and most often the Dyson for a decent clean of the boat. Last time I needed it it refused to start, so yesterday I had opportunity after watering up to give it a look at.

It needed an oil change for sure, like most generators they are emptied by tipping the device over while the oil plug is out. A fiddly and messy process. I wanted to have a decent look at it so took the side off. Lucky I did as I spotted the choke cable was out of its housing meaning it was running rich and no doubt part of the problems of poor starting and running. I also drained and cleaned the float bowl, not too dirty.

Once fixed and fresh oil added, reverse sequence of filling, tipping the other way and filling until it was jut on the lip of the filler when on the level.... not a great idea but the only way.

It started after a few pulls which would be the system priming, then ran very sweetly with the econ mode working well again.

I have not put the double skin chimney on as the base of the outer skin does not allow the inner skin to fit into the flue, resulting in a little seepage of tar onto the roof  I stopped with damp rags but far from perfect. So I fitted just a liner and have been running the fire with just that sticking 16 inches out of the collar, it's a tight fit and had proven reliable in keeping tar off the roof. I went to Midland Chandlers today to get single skin chimney but they had non on the shelves, having removed them as most were not big enough to drop well over the collar, the helpful lass got quite a few out to measure but did say many had been brought back as they did not fit . My collar needs six and a quarter inches so it looks like I will be visiting a few other chandlers with a tape measure. One thing having printing contacts I will not be paying nearly £20 for another liner, I’ll cadge a few plates from people I know and cut the plates to fit.

Tomorrow I’ll be putting a few loops into some rope I got from MC so I can make up some smaller mooring ropes and use the existing ones as cruising ropes when I may need he extra length.

Plenty more jobs to do, just need time ..... daft I know being retired and all !!

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

A good place to be

Over the years while we have owned boats we have spent many or most of our wedding anniversaries on board. We rather foolishly got married on Valentine’s Day which while could be considered romantic also means getting a restaurant table and decent service on our wedding anniversaries is a problem. So we get some nice food and head to Percy.

No different this year with me coming up from Chichester after a weekend in London at no2 sons flat DIY’ing and Rachel coming from Derby after being in London with me.

Being first to the boat and with all the ‘stuff’ I set to bringing Percy out of hibernation. I last stayed on board in November when I based myself for the Motorcycle show in Birmingham. I have called in to check on a couple of occasions in between but this was a ‘water on’ moment. Having been caught out by frozen pipes on Waterlilty and a damaged water heater on Comet waiting for the pump to stop and the system to hold pressure is always a little tense.

Percy had survived another winter so the fire got lit, the cat and dog brought aboard and the bed stripped and remade. The Dyson got used to give the boat a fresh feel. The donk took a couple of spins and fired on one cylinder for 30 seconds while the diesel got through to the farthest cylinder from the fuel supply.

It was cold last night so the fire was kept well in and we slept the sleep of angels. We woke this morning to a frozen canal and a beautiful winters morning. It’ll rain later but we have nothing to do other than relax and recharge our batteries for the next few weeks that will be very busy.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Here is one you will not have travelled

There are many lovely canals in the UK. I read about them on your blogs and plan my visits to them on Percy. I have not done too many complete canals,


Not a good record for sure. I did do one many of you will not have done but I had to do it by cycle as it's disconnected and I don't think it ever was connected to the main system. It is the Chichester canal and I cycled it last week. It was really to test out my new electric bike, maybe more on that later but is was a nice if not short ride from Chichester to Chichester harbour.

That is the main A27 from Portsmouth going east ...

Off to the sea .... but I know the lock could never be used again

If you wanted the desres at the end of the Chichester canal overlooking the lock to the sea..£ 220,000 to you !!! Click me if you have cash to splash

Thursday, 8 February 2018

So, any recommendations ?

In my last post I rambled on about moving Percy to a marina. I have had such thoughts in the past and decided against and I may well do so if Fradley stays relatively untouched by developments around.

But if not I have a shortlist of 5 marinas I may consider.

  1. Kings Bromley marina
  2. Great Haywood marina
  3. Swanley marina
  4. Overwater marina
  5. Aston marina

Distance from home, cruising routes, marina facilities, marina 'feel', marina ratings all will be considered. I may well use it as a excuse to either cruise to each and spend a couple of nights there or use it as a bike day to get around them all. In fact I may well do the bike first then the boat this summer....

However if you have any experience good or bad please let me know?

If its bad then you may want to drop me an email ?

Monday, 5 February 2018

With a heavy heart....

'The times they are a changing'..... I have moored my three boats at the same spot since January 2007.

We owned Comet for just three months. She was a nice boat but I knew she was a maintenance challenge and having youngish kids at home and a full work life I did not have time to cruise and repair. Plus at that time you could transfer moorings with boats and Hunts moorings did not come up too often so buying Comet got us the mooring we wanted.

So Waterlily arrived Mid 2008  - I have checked for a decent picture of Waterlily at Hunts andf the first I could find was the following winter.... much of my Waterlily blogging was words and less pictures.

And four happy years later Waterlily was gone -this is one of the last pictures taken just before we cruised to Great Haywood where she was sold. 

 A little handover of the moorings between boats (I recall Mandy our neighbour allowed us to use her mooting while she was away, hence the location of Waterlily....

Those who know the moorings will see we really have not moved too far....

This is an old photo with all three boats in front of Waterlily being sold (The maroon boat, such as life) was repainted blue and sold and now lived on Kings Bromley Wharf. This photo is pre my other neighbour Mandy who brought Don't Panic there in I guess 2008 ?

So why all the reminiscing? Much chat on the moorings about marinas housing estates and gravel extraction is coming to a sad reality. There is planning approval for a 60 boat marina just below Common lock, and I think a larger marina at Alrewas buit this may not get build. I like the boats and the marina being a little closed than the winding hole at Alrewas would be useful.

The housing is extending out from Fradley and the field behind us is owned by one of the large builders - not that I expect it will get to Hunts in the next 10 or so years. The biggest sadness is there is approval for gravel extraction in the fields across the canal from us. So that will be noise, dust and a lot more traffic on the lanes.

Basically the beautiful Fradley junction is being changed from what is was when we first had a boat.

My mooring is up for renewal in July so I may have another year as I like it but as others may move on the community will dissipate and that is another reason not to stay. 

I am sad writing this but life moves on.

I may consider a marina next time, less maintenance but a lot more cost. Plus we can stay a couple of years and move on so was can base ourselves around the system.

I don't like change so it will take something to move me from Fradley but that something is on its way and the loss of fellow friends and boaters will be the real decider.