Sunday, 9 February 2020

Storm Ciara arrives so where do I head to...

The plan was to go to Percy on Saturday morning to see out the storm but a need to do some diy on the cottage plus two Rugby matches and a football match saw that plan fail.

However I was a bit uneasy over the solar panel on the roof of Percy and the wheelbarrow wedged into the newly made compost bin at the mooring. The solar is fixed with 4 ‘taxi sign magnets - well thats as they were described with a guarantee of holding to 70mph. So a lights out at 10.30 pm and an alarm set for 6.20 am saw me sleep through the storms arrival in the moorlands. A chilli in the slow cooked and two spuds in the Rayburn with the timer set on that saw me head off  across  Staffordshire’s deserted roads to Percy.

As I had suspected looking at the storms trajectory the winds were coming across the canal at Shebdon. The canal runs nearly east/west where we moor so the winds and rain despite swirling around were hitting the high hedge on the opposite side giving a fair degree of shelter to the Moorers here. We are a little luckier as the hedge across from us for some reason has been left to grow giving even more protection. That’s not to say Percy isn’t rocking and the wind is whistling around us, its quite a nice place to be  - but then I do like weather extremes.

Not a wave to be seen thankfully - we also have the same protection back at the cottage with our south westerly aspect protected by a row of cottages that take the wind for us. Anything Northerly then the cottage takes it on the nose.

Not a long stop over so no fire but the much used hotties in use with a blanket so with a coffee and a book to read like I said a nice place to be.

Monday, 3 February 2020

Fubarr'd starter battery and the Junction Inn passes its test

A lazy start out in the sticks last Thursday. It took me four attempts at extricating myself from the bank, a combination of a less than favourable wind and a shallow mooring reminded me of my need to refresh my simple boating skills such as they are.

We then met the only other boat on the move of the day just as we approached the couple of Bridges before High Onn moorings plus wharf winding hole. Another near perfect wind (so not all skills lost) saw us on the furthest extent of our cruise. I then took Leia for a muddy walk along the tow path as Rachel expertly steered Percy to a lunchtime stop off at Brewood for an amble and a few supplies.

Brewood does not have a centre as such but does have some fine mixed properties, this unusual gate caught our attention

Suitably ambled and supplied we set off again, this time with Rachel walking Leia to our planned overnight stop at Norbury Junction. 

All quiet now, give it another eight weeks and there will be no moorings available after 3pm....

Percy was quite a way down, when we get the chance we moor away from other boats if we have Lilly the cat on board with us.

On both am startups the starter battery failed me. For a starter it's not great, just over 5 years as my blog tells me it was replaced in November 2014. However it was a 'duel purpose' battery, the same as the three leisures I brought all together so another hint at not really being the right thing for the job.

I have a Smartbank on Percy that with a touch of a button on the control panel it connects the starter to the leisures via a very beefy relay which got us going. So I called into  Norbury to check their prices....

As for starter batteries  - Norbury were selling starters for £77 each - 643 and 644 I worked out were different based on the location of positive and negative terminals. My only question is the CCA (Cold Cranking amps) which I understand to basically be the 'torque' of the battery. Now Percy is a big three litre 2 cylinder engine  - think 2 BMC 1.5's side by side and for each of my cylinders they have four - so that some heavy internals needing spinning up from within a lot of cold sticky oil. It needs some beef so my research is what is a good CCA for such an engine?

Finally we tried the Junction Inn for food. Last time ( a long time ago) it was not a great experience. This time we got a warm personal welcome as well as a warm room welcome. 

The food was good, on recommendation I had the steak pie that was just lovely. We'll do it again.

On the Friday morning we got the donk started and had a lovely cruise back up through Grub Street cutting and back to our mooring.

Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Offered £60,000 for Percy while out winter cruising

Well 2020 is boats bikes and fishing for the retired Nev and so it continues.

Rachel has a week off so we took the opportunity around other work (Rachel) and family commitments (Rachel) to get to Percy for a few days. I see no value in having a great asset in enjoyment and experience terms sitting unused as quite a few boats are for the whole of the winter.

I went as the forward party to get the boat cleaned, provisioned and warmed up with Rachel joining me in the early evening. A relaxing evening on a warm boat was enjoyed.

Today we set off on a mini cruisette (as my neighbour Mandy called it) to moor in the middle of nowhere past Cowley Tunnel (the only tunnel on the whole of the Shroppie apparently). Tomorrow we will wind at High On wharf then stop for the night at Norbury Junction to test the pub again - many years ago we had a cold cold meal in there as we were I recall one of the first customers of the then new tenants  and the heating was not working/playing up. A quite unpleasant experience as I recall, it can only get better hopefully.

On the way out I was hailed by a pair of gongoozelers who stopped to watch and listen to Percy pass by.... the first complimented the boat and the second said sixty thousand for the boat - now !! I was tempted to hit reverse and talk in more detail.... only Percy kept on plodding along, subconsciously piloted by yours truly, not the time despite the very fair valuation ! 

I have a 'condition' not doubt shared by a few of needing to be 'ready and sorted' for the next days cruising, invariably meaning if I am due to wind I'll do it so it's one less thing to do/worry about the next day. Today I was within 20 mins of the winding hole but I deliberately stopped to teach myself I can be easier with my planning .... and I was rewarded with rain  - if i'd gone on I'd have been wet through so there was my happy lesson of today, you can  put of today what you can do tomorrow !!

So a few photos of the cruisette

High Offley church in the distance 

A beautiful day to cruise

This pair followed me for a while ! 

This very large house always impresses just before the Anchor pub

Then into Grub street cutting 

Pearl Barley (lovely name) passed our mooring on the way to wind at Shebdon wharf before heading to Norbury and back to their mooring opposite the Anchor. A lovely looking boat - so low in the water 

There is a stream running above the arch and below the road of this bridge

The telegraph (high arch) bridge was having work done not to it but the water pipe that runs across the outside of it 

Lots of boats both sides as we approach Norbury

Looking back at Cowley tunnel

Sadly this boat was floating last time I passed .... a sad end.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Another influential and much travelled boater swings his windlass for the last time

How very sad I am to receive the news that Bruce Napier from NB Sanity again lost his battle against pancreatic cancer yesterday 24th January. Bruce and Sheila being local to Fradley for much cruising latterly residents in the marina and with a lodge at Mercia meant I saw them a few times. I was always welcomed onto their boat for a brew and a chat if they were on the area of Fradley where I moored until 2018.

Their combined knowledge of boats and the system was extensive and well enjoyed. Bruce’s blog was always pleasantly honest, enjoyable and informative. It was so sad that just after Bruce and Sheila announced their plans for a smaller new boat to be commissioned Bruce in his typical open and frank way announced his illness. It is a great credit to Sheila and to Bruce as well that Sheila is looking to continue with that build with some adjustments for solo boating. I am sure Bruce will be with Sheila and us on the cut as we chug along enjoying all he did for so many years.

I am sure if there is a boating heaven he is discussing the relative merits of hybrid drives with Les and they now will share a sad anniversary together.

Rest in Peace Bruce.

Friday, 24 January 2020

A boater to remember and talk about Les Biggs

I don't have a faith I believe when you die you are kept alive by others thinking and talking about you, as those people themselves pass on then your name gets spoken less and you gently rest in peace.

So while I can I'll remember Les Biggs who was a true boater and who was one part of an amazing couple who met fell in love and lived and laughed brought together by the love of the canals in England and Wales.

I have one profound regret and that is not spending more time with Jaq, when returning from my retirement cruise I spotted her on NB Valerie. I jumped off letting my friends cruise on and we had a hug and tears and spoke briefly of Les and Jaq's immense grief. I wanted to stay longer, talk longer but as is the case on the canals boats move apart like an invisible watery tug of war with a rope of hope and friendship never really breaking. Jaq his lovely soul mate who carried on showing her true Alaskan grit on the canals for a couple of years afterwards will always be held in the highest of fondness and we do keep in touch but facebook is the canal we both cruise now.

Today is the third anniversary of Les' passing so I'll raise a glass tonight and have a laugh with the love of my life while talking of Les.

Two photographs, one on the Coventry canal when I drove over one weekend just for a cup of tea and some lovely cake and the other when I managed to get Percy in the same shot as Les had done with Valerie on the Caldon canal. Les should know how much he inspired me to make that journey to get that picture to remember him.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

On board in January and the cat poo’s in the bath !

Our cat Lilly is a large stupid ball of fluff. She is a rescue cat and bless her she I think was badly treated in her previous life. She is very scared of people and noises and ghosts around the cottage and the boat. When my very large Hi vis clad friend arrived at the cottage once she hit up the chimney !

When we went to America last year we arranged for the local chattery owner who luckily lives across the lane from us to call into the cottage and feed and check on Lily so as not to have to put her in ‘ cat prison’ for a couple of weeks. However Lily managed to get stuck in the cat little box and this freaked her out so much she decided to use the cottage as her toilet for the rest of the two weeks.... nice find Neville and a lovely lingering wee smell until I had to cut part of the carpet away.

So we are on the boat and we have brought her with us. But she is very scared of the outside even when it’s super quiet and not much else is about ( although there are more cats here than our other Fradley mooring) so this morning we were woken up with the tell tale sounds of her in her litter box, then we hear the sounds of paw against bath .... yep she had took a dump in the bath !

No point in telling off an already timid cat.... anyhow, that’s pet ownership for you.

We were due to go off for an overnight cruise today.... I spent some time yesterday fettling the engine which included trying to balance the injector feeds to the two cylinders. A fiddly process involving small adjustments to the threaded bar that links them from the speed wheel. I used my laser thermometer on the same part of each cylinder exhaust port to gauge the temperature of the cylinders against each other. They started quite a bit out, no doubt associated with the decode and gasket replacement last year. Now I have them to within 2c of each other but the engine really needs a proper run under load to get a better test.

I did the test and after a good run they are still 9c out so one is working harder than the other.... more tweaking needed.

Friday, 17 January 2020

My Christmas present in action

Yes I did ask for this specifically. I do a lot of walking and am quite ofter angered by litter in the hedgerow. It seems worse in the country lanes as there are some $hitbags who decide to just toss anything out of their car windows....

So on my 'Village walk' a nice 2 miler out of the little hamlet where I live through the local village and back up the lane that literally clings to the side of the valley.

On the test run this was my collection...

Yes I got a litter picker for Christmas. The bottles and cans went into the recyling everything else went into the bin.

I'll do the canal walk (in the valley... along the Caldon canal then back out via the woods ) I know there is a pile there waiting for me as I have past what is obviously a boater dump - aaargh !!

I also got the circular bag holder for black bags for bigger litter picks. On one of the walks at Shebdon there is a lot of lane side litter that I'll collect next time we are aboard.

I have an old bathroom cabinet and a car parcel shelf that someone fly tipped on the back lane that we recovered and the cabinet I'll reuse in my workshop for washing power for the old washing machine I use for rags and overalls and the parcel shelf will go to the tip on my next run. Gotta do you bit as the litterers are all around us seemingly....