Tuesday 31 December 2013

Back online

So Sunday saw us leave our Branston mooring for the last hop back to Fradley. We have done the Willington run in a day before. Canal plan says it's about 7 hours but we did not need to rush.

This is Rachel bringing Percy into Branston lock, it was quite frosty, no ice on the canal thankfully as I have read elsewhere the canal did get some ice overnight.

We saw the effects of the recent high winds, good job there was no boat moored when the tree came down...

We did not meet any boats until we got to the river then we timed it right at Alrewas lock as there was a boater ready to come down who set the lock for us. The river although was advised as normal did have a decent flow, nothing Percy could not handle, it just gave a nice bow wave !

We stopped for dinner in Alrewas, it was quite deserted boat wise.

The final approach was done in twilight.... A nice time to cruise, even if it is cold. The land around common lock was recently up for auction. We made some enquiries but CaRT advised as part of their mooring reduction policy they would not allow boats on the canal adjacent to this land. Shame as looking at it it would have made an ideal small holding, similar to the pig farm at bridge 69. It did sell and only the part next to the canal so someone wanted water frontage... Hopefully not a developer!!

I approached our mooring at absolute tickover, not really wanting the cruise to end.

It was nice to see the friendly faces of the fellow moorers at Hunts, they are a friendly group.

So that was our cruising for 2013. I am part way through a blog entry reviewing the year, it is always good to see what you have done and where you have been....

Happy safe and prosperous New Year to anyone who reads my blog.

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Location:Branston to Fradley

Saturday 28 December 2013

Willington is behind us

I guess not too many will read this post due to the lame title. I get more hits when there is a bad news feel to my title...?

Anyhow we were not too unhappy to slip out of Mercia marina at 12 today. It is not a bad place, just not out type of place. Plus the cost of being there with no work done as agreed is also hard to swallow. The exit/entrance is also a bugger, did it ok today despite the wind hitting Percy broadside. I guess the canal must collect the south westerlies as just about every trip this way the wind is either in our face or our backs. Today it was in our face and still quite strong despite the forcast. To add to the challenge the sun was bright and low also in our face.

The pics do not really show the brightness, it was uncomfortable at times.

We are moored up at Branston for tonight and if the river is ok tomorrow will be back at Fradley. The weather and stoppages drove this trip, but it is good to be on the boat.

The Waeco fridge is in and working, not in its final position look wise but at least we have cold beer and wine.

Also I bit the bullet and took a 12 month contract on 3 with all you can eat data for £15 only silliness is it has to be in a phone, so I brought a galaxy from John my friend in Scotland and have it tethered. If you put the sim in a dongle it detects it. So no more worrying about data, the last few times we have been on board we have had to top up as I have been streaming some YouTube stuff.

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Thursday 26 December 2013

What a let down.....

So we had Percy in Mercia marina ahead of the stoppages so we could get some work down on the kitchen by the boat builder there. Only we got an email with a revised price as we had altered the work we needed (less) to be told due to shifting boat building priorities the work could not now be done until late February early March. Now that would put us within the stoppages and mean another two months  (over £500) in the marina.

So after that let down we will be leaving Mercia hopefully this weekend to bring Percy back home to Fradley. We do have one more iron in the fire as we got a recommendation form Norwyn ex ShellBell for a cabinet maker who does all sorts of boaty bits. Adele came to see us and is preparing a quote, the work will have to be done on line at Fradley, so we'll see. Plan d,e,f will see me doing the work, using some holiday up in the early spring, I could do it but wanted a quick job quick being a one hit rather than over a few weekends of using valuable holiday.

So even when you think you have a contractor who does not work on canal time.... you get bitten!

Hey-ho, not all bad, it has allowed us the scratch the itch of marina living or mooring and we have found it not to be to our liking so while expensive, we have been able to do a few jobs while local and realised that our online mooring is where we prefer to be, albeit with its limitations.

So now looking forward to a weekend cruise back up to Fradley, maybe stopping off at Branston or if we make good progress Alrewas for a short hop to Fradley on Sunday.

For the record, we had a good but busy Christmas, going to our son Toms for dinner and back home to host half of Rachels family for tea. (we do dinner and tea not lunch and dinner) Today we have been invited to Rachels other sister in Walsall for tea, not 100% sure on that yet.

One thing I need to do before cruising back is to fit a new oil pump on Percy. I have it on the boat from Engine stationary parts, only problem is came painted red... so I need some water based paint stripper to remove it before I can polish up the brass before fitting.... so today next job is a trip to B&Q for said water based paint stripper. The one fitted I am not happy with its performance I'll blog about that hopefully after the successful swap over

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Ok, so let's test your cruising knowledge

So back to the boating blog. Part two of my hastily arranged annual leave brought me to this location, it is quite relevant to a future blog post and not a place we have been to before.

How good are you.

First correct guess will trigger the reason for the visit .....

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Tuesday 17 December 2013

Please blame me... it will be my fault

There will be payback and I am sure it will be extreme. To be able to knock up over 275 miles on a ride to and around the north Yorks Moors on a motorbike a week before Christmas says something about our weather.

Ok so I was scraping ice off cars to move them to get my bike out this morning and it was 2c when I set off and it never got above 7c all day, but I was still out there enjoying the roads.

I have to thank my friends Alan and Bob  (plus Mike who was there on his CBR1000) for planning the day and inviting me along.

After a refreshing 100 mile blat up to Thirsk we took coffee then over the hills for a full English  at the Manor cafe..

... Unsurprisingly we were the only bikes there

Maybe I should have topped up the Christmas drinks cabinet

So when the real winter starts I'll look back on my December day and hopefully I'll not be reliving it in April/May !!

Next post will be about the boat as I have some not so good news there...!!

Sunday 15 December 2013

The two B's in one day

One is a 40 year passion the other half of that.

So we overnighted on the boat as we had arranged to meet Adele from Watercolour property solutions (as recommended by Noryn ex Shellbell) for a price to do the alterations on our boat. The fridge is now on the boat ready....we suspect the work will have to be done back on the mooring, we are not too sorry about that as marina life is not for us and we are missing our off line mooring a lot more than we imagined.

After Adele left we hot footed it back home and got the bike out and went for Sunday lunch with a good friend Steve. My lovely clean pan European now is covered in crap... but the 80 miles were worth is as winter riding keeps the focus everything needs to be smooth as the roads were wet and greasy and most car drivers have forgotten what a bike looks like let alone its capabilities and vulnerabilities.

Off to the boat painter on Wednesday hopefully to discuss options for a September 14 repaint. At last we will get Tony's name off the boat !!

Tuesday 10 December 2013


That is how I felt as I was dismantling in an aggressive way (some of it is in the fore cabin for winter fuel now) Tony's hard work and well engineered saloon.

Before with cushions removed.....

Now how it looks....There is maybe a little work to do to age in the lighter areas. The water pipe and electric cable previously hidden will now be boxed in along the floor. It has revealed Tony's 'secret cupboards, the top one will now be a tablecloth draw I am told ! We did have some plans for a washing machine in the lower corner but size will make it difficult so we now plan for that to go in the fore cabin.

We went off and brought some nice red carpet for a change that I have not laid as we will do the messy alterations over the next few weeks and that will be the final job plus deciding on settee or two chairs  - I prefer the latter but we shall see !! We have two Ikea chairs in there now as a temp seating solution that are comfortable but a bit ugly and big, but for the first time I was comfortable all evening watching TV.

For now we have put the butterfly table up against the bulkhead which works quite well.

How is marina life.... not for us I am afraid. Too closed in and not enough to see going on. It feels like a bloody big boat park which is not surprising as that is what it is.... Nice people and the one thing we commented on was they were all smiling !!

I suppose we see boating as an off grid pastime, seems little point in being connected to all services (apart from waste) and living in a pencil case. Plus the thought off all that slowly fizzing metal does not appeal !! We brought Percy to be simple and easy to use, might have buggered that up with the fridge but it only draws 0.9ah and the solar was making that in a week low sun on Sunday.

We did wake up to a nice winter sky - dust in the atmosphere I am told.

See what I mean about the hemmed in feeling??

Still waiting on prices... hopefully I should have some laminate samples at home tonight and the fridge was delivered today.

Thursday 5 December 2013

Feeling frustrated....How hard can it be??

Quality Sun headline.....

I am getting to the end of my rather short fuse (short bloke short fuse) I just want the kitchen altered. When we brought Percy we both knew the kitchen was not to our liking and would need to be altered.

But it is proving to be very difficult, the size being the main constraint. We want to keep the cupboards as they were hand made to a good standard by Tony Redshaw and give the boat an age signature. We want to get rid of the fridge on the worktop....

Ideally gas would be preferable but dropping it down and the need for ventilation and our concerns for safety mean it has to go and a 12v model replace it. However as the cupboards are such a small size it is not just a case of taking one out for a 'standard' 12v fridge.We toyed with the idea of taking the cooker out and moving the fridge there but then we would have to replace the worktop fridge with a worktop fitted oven and grill, and Jaq says they are not as good as a standard over !! (not that we are great bakers at the moment.)

The 12v bothers me as plenty have advised they are a battery drainer for sure, I have options on that front and we do have a nice engine to listen to if we have to add a bit to the batteries while staying put.

The twin bowl sink is very 1980's and not very functional so that has to go.

We miss a microwave as we do use one at home for bits and bobs ... porridge is easier in a microwave ! So the latest halfway design is a microwave where the fridge is at head height....

Excuse the 'mock up but it gave us an idea of what we might gain. The microwave will be under the cupboard.

We will drop the microwave back in depth and line it up with the little plate rack and a shelf for bits and bobs lined up with the cup rack. Then we gain a decent amount of worktop... we will recover the dead space in the corner as well.

There will be a need for some rewiring but it is all there what we need.

That leaves a new sink and work top. We have ideas on the sink but really don't want a 40mm thick worktop. So any links for sheet laminate, the sheet stuff not the roll on stuff as we will most probably replace the aged 15 mm marine ply and recover it, just need a supplier for the sheet stuff?

We should end up with a much more spacious kitchen.... O' the replacement fridge will be a painfully expensive Waeco model that will fit into the bottom cupboard and draws I think 0 .9a/h It is smaller but it does have a 2 star freezer compartment for those essentials.

We are waiting on a revised price from Aqua at Mercia for the work, if it is too much I'll be doing it... the other problem is stoppages and boat withdrawal so all three will be factored in before we make a decision on who does it.

Watch this space.... please let me know if you know of where to get the thick sheet laminate from?

Tuesday 3 December 2013

T'other end ....

Well the Saturday before I was in Scotland this weekend Rachel and I were in London seeing no.2 son Callum.

It is a contrast and I am afraid to say not a place I'd like to live. It is exciting with so much to see and do and the travel is soooo cheap. Callum brought us an Oyster card each and we traveled into London Bridge then out to Greenwich and back for less than a fiver !!

The Shard overlooks London Bridge station, now that is a tall building !

We went onto Greenwich to see the Cutty Sark and spent an excellent afternoon in the free maritime museum. You come out feeling proud of our early navel adventures and supremacy of the oceans.

We  trained back to Callums house and took the car to Bletchingly for an overnight in White Hart... slowest food ever and the noisiest bedroom ever... not to be recommended.

After a full english and some critical feedback on paying the bill we headed off to Leeds Castle. It is a stunning place and has lots of history. Its most recent claim to fame was it being the location of Tony Blairs Northern Ireland peace talks as well as the UK base of the Arab Israeli peace talks.

 It is a stunning place with beautiful grounds 

Callum could not help himself and we spend a little while getting lost in the excellent maze. I did offer to buy him a plastic sword and shield so he could run off and play in the kids play area, I think he was a little tempted !!

All too soon it was time to go home. We plotted a route to Sevenoaks where we dropped Callum off to get the train back to his place and we drove in heavy but moving traffic back to Derby  - about 2 hours 50 minutes.

There is no doubt there is lots to do and we look forward to visiting more in the New Year to explore London. However I prefer the less populated north of the country, but hey that is just me being my normal antisocial self !!

Back to the boat and the big kitchen deliberation ........

Thursday 28 November 2013

Scotland and Ireland in one video....

Visited my good friends John and Carrie to undertake some RC flying on their land... great views and a great place, just no canals !!

This video was about 100m up looking up the west coast of Scotland then yaw'd over to look at the Irish coastline then back down Loch Ryan.

Lots of canal stuff to come as we get the kitchen sorted then the boat painted, and did I mention we are berthed at Mercia until the New Year?

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Heat your saloon for 8p a day?

Click here 

I will certainly give this a go.... would be a good solution for those half and half days when the fire may be too much.

If you liveaboards do it or try it let me know how you get on?

Monday 18 November 2013

A cracking boat for sale - Starcross

This is a real nice boat. I understand Jim is trading up so to speak.

When I heard it was for sale I guessed a price a little higher than the sale price so I think it is a real bargain.

I think it should sell nice and quick,

Link here....Click Me 

Hope to see you on the new boat sometime soon Jim....

Thursday 14 November 2013

Tempted by marina life...??

We took Percy to Willington the other week to get some prices for kitchen alterations. It was a nice trip and apart from making a real dog dinner of the entrance when a wide beam appeared as we approached it was just a great autumnal cruise.

While we are waiting for Justin and his team to get creative on what can be achieved (more on that later re electric fridges) Percy is moored up on Justin's moorings. Mercia is only 10 minutes by car from our house so i popped over to sort out the oil pressure gauge - see previous post.

I have to say it was a very nice place to be, some activity but not a lot and very quiet and peaceful.

Not sure if Mercia would be our first choice, Kings Bromley has always been a better marian for how we like to boat. Plus I am not sure I could live so close to another boat. We are lucky on our linier moorings... just fine views !!

Sunday 10 November 2013

Under some pressure

..... in more ways than one but that is another story......

The pressure my 'Sun' like headline refers to is oil pressure, let me explain.....

Yogi has recently had a Lister CS 2 put into his boat and we have been exchanging information. We got onto the question of oil pressure. Now the CS2 has a splash system - there are dippers on the crankshaft that basically flick oil all over the inners of the engine. It get this oil from a trough that is replenished by a simple plunger type pump. (the pump does also have dedicated oilways to get oil to important parts of the inner engine, all simple, and I like simple, it reminds me a lot of myself !

Anyhow when Tony Redshaw marinised my Lister he added an external oilway from the top of the pump that had a sight glass in line that returned the oil to the sump. Very simple and elegant with one drawback, you could only 'check it  maybe on startup then close the valve to allow the oil to go to where is should go to and not be allowed to use the sight glass route.

I wanted to have a constant visual check the pump was pumping - paranoid I know as these things go on for ever with very little attention in the off grid generator community.

So I purchased and fitted the correct oil pump. Rather than explain I'll show you it working

Nice sound.....I nearly nodded off when bringing Percy back to Willington, such a sweet rhythmic sound.

Anyhow it works and shows me I have oil pumping, so Yogi, a reasonable investment £30 from Stationary engine parts, link here

Now the pump is very basic, there is a replacement that is described as better machined so I think I'll order one up and fit at some point  - after all it is a pretty important part of the boat, plus it is a pleasure working on and around the engine in the light and warmth and the dry !! !!

Thursday 7 November 2013

Slow up fast down

I like a hobby or two.... when not on the boat I have been experimenting with quadcopters and flight boards/software/electronics.

Now I have to start again. Good job it was not filming the canals which is what I wanted it to do eventually !!

Friday 1 November 2013

The carpentry cruise

.... may not happen this weekend, it depends how much more rain we get and what the Trent does.

By way of explanation. We want some work done on the kitchen to make the boat more habitable for longer stays. We have a gas fridge that by all accounts is still the best mode of cold food on board. This is especially so as Percy only has 220ah of battery capacity. The fridge is a good working three way and when cruising we drop it to 240v and it get very cold but uses up the free power we generate when the batteries are topped up.

We want it dropping down under the worktop to open up the kitchen a little. We also want a new work top and sink unit. We would like to replace the fridge with a flying cupboard to keep some storage but still take advantage of the extra work space for maybe a small microwave.

I have one estimate but would like Justin at Aqua narrowboats to have a look. His joinery is excellent and we know we would get a good job done. If the weather stops the mini cruise down to Willington we may have to see if Justin will come to the boat.

We do not mind rainy cruising, you get more of the canal to yourself and the scenery takes on a bucolic feel. Our other boats would have been less appealing, Sylph and Comet both being cruiser sterns cold lonely places in the winter. Waterlily had a covered semi trad back, still cold a little less wet but difficult to use in position to get in and out of the boat. Percy has a great railways guardsman stove next to the trad back end and with the doors shut and the hatch partially closed it is a warm and dry place to be. An umbrella can be used in the really bad rain.

So we will be aboard, depends if the rain keeps coming and the Trent comes up..... watch this space !

Thursday 24 October 2013

The gentleman thief

Those of you who read Narrowboatworld will have seen the recent story of the final death throws of Ownerships

Click Me 

We had a share in Narrowboat Sylph for a few years and had some great times on her. The principal for the scheme was sound, and seemed to work up until the point Allen Mathews ambition got in the way. We only really met him once at the annual owners meeting somewhere over in the West Midlands as I recall. He was a gentleman well spoken and very affable.

NB Sylph on the Tardebigge flight Feb 2008

The only thing that did not sit well with me was the way he attracted the sycophants, maybe a little harsh but there seemed a club around him and maybe it was this club that lost the most by investing in his ambitious but ultimately flawed or fictitious schemes to keep the money coming in to plug the holes left by the illegal use of others hard earned cash.

He died in 2010, maybe his blessing as the shame and fraud investigation would have sent him to jail for sure as others suffered - Ed Rimmer from Challenger ( what was it about shared schemes that attracted such dark endeavour?)

I have a personal thanks however that without Ownerships we would not have had the great holidays with family and friends we had, plus it set us onto a journey of our own now having owned three canal boats and having plans for retirement that see us out there on the network !!

So a chapter closes on an unfortunate life, a gentleman, a fraud and a thief, but also a conduit for a direction in life for more than just us.

Saturday 12 October 2013

Battern down the hatches

What is predicted

Get the coal in and the wood, empty the poo tank, get an extra cassette, fill the water tank..... it is predicted to get bad. They say a harsh winter follows a good harvest, we have had the good harvest and good summer now it appears we are about to pay for it !!

From the express pages......

Worst winter for decades: Record-breaking snow predicted for November

BRITAIN is braced for the "worst winter in decades" with the first major snowfall expected in weeks.

Snow-last-year-caused-havoc-on-Britain-s-roads-GETTY-Snow last year caused havoc on Britain's roads [GETTY]
Forecasters last night warned the entire country is set for a horror freeze which will bring brutal winds and fierce blizzards.
Temperatures have already started to plunge as a swathe of cold air from the Arctic has swept across the UK in the past few days.
The first long-range forecasts warn of "recordbreaking snowfall" next month.
Heavy wintry showers are expected to cause widespread chaos with below-average temperatures possibly lingering until February.
Long-range forecasters blamed the position of a fast-flowing band of air known as the jet stream near to Britain and high pressure for the extreme conditions. Jonathan Powell, forecaster for Vantage Weather Services, said: 'We are looking at a potentially paralysing winter, the worst for decades, which could at times grind the nation to a halt.
'Persistent cold snaps with some very heavy snowfall are likely, and I would not be surprised if some records are not broken this year.
'The main issue will be the extreme cold which is showing signs of really bedding in, thanks to freezing winds from the north."
He blamed the 'poorly positioned" jet stream which is expected to be 'blocked" south of the UK, allowing a continual flow of freezing Arctic air.
James Madden, forecaster for Exacta Weather, said it was likely to be the worst winter for more than 100 years.
He said: 'A horror winter scenario is likely to bring another big freeze with copious snow for many parts.
'There is also a high risk that we will experience a scenario similar to December 2010 or much worse at times, especially in January.
'This is likely to produce major disruption to public transport and school closures on a prolific scale."
He went on: 'The cold theme from the latter part of October is likely to continue into November - and for the vast majority of the month.
'November could turn out to be a record-breaking month. There is the potential for some significant falls of snow. The northern half is likely to experience the worst conditions.

Thursday 3 October 2013

Two nice videos of Percy

I took the opportunity to get a couple of videos while out on our recent trip.

We were ticking over approaching Colwich lock. Even so we ended up behind a few boats.

We were homeward bound through Great Haywood, a beautiful autumnal morning with much of the canal for our simple pleasure.

Possibly the best mooring....

Whenever we go away returning via the wooded section before Woodend lock is special. We are now moored here after a 6 hour run from above Hoo Mill lock. I really think this is one of my top five favourite moorings.

We stayed above Hoo  Mill lock for a couple of days, venturing into Uttoxeter via Hixon on Wednesday. It should have been Stafford but we misjudged the walk to Hixon and missed the Stafford bus ! The only problem with going to Uttoxeter was the last bus was not until 5pm and we were dropped in there at 2.15pm. We ended up getting a taxi back that whilst more money meant we did not have the walk from to the  A51 from Hixon.

Today the weather forecast was for rain at 2pm so we left at nine hoping to miss the rain, we took it in turns to breakfast, and make it most of the way back. It started raining at 1.30 so we can't really complain but it did rain heavy. The benefit of the trad is little of you gets wet or none of you if you use a brolly. I did get a little cold so the bath is being run... !!

It was a really misty bucolic morning, lovely autumn cruising, best time of the year. 

The Great Haywood water point was busy as usual. the nearest boat had untied ready to go but waited, I let them out in front, 

This boat belongs to Ian parrot who I used to know when in the print industry. I think he now works for the New and Used at Mercia. 

This bloke and his dog were videoing Percy, when he understands how to get videos onto the blog via Youtube you may even see it !!

The weather was closing in  Rugeley power station is in there somewhere. 

So I might get some fishing in if the rain stops, or I might just kick back and read with a dram or two. How you continuos cruisers do it i don't know !!

Wednesday 2 October 2013

That lock.....

After Woodend on the Trent and Mersey going north there is a long pound that culminates in Colwich lock. It is always a lottery as to the wait time based on the number of boats there from the long pound. It is not helped by the bridge 69 moorings that on departure is their first lock.

So yesterday we got going after waiting for a share boat to approach and pass. We were just short of bridge 69 and as I approached....

Diesel at 76p a litre was the attraction.

We manoeuvred through the departing and moored boats and as we approached the Woolsley bridge mooring a boat darted out in front of me.... now if I see a boat approaching I wait, but some do not, he did not look back at all ... says it all to me, but no problem we were out to enjoy.

I deliberately dropped to tickover knowing there would be at least two boats but there were five there...

Once again no problem, it certainly reinforces the fact you cannot and maybe should not plan each day down to the last lock mile !

It was a nice place to wait and to chat to other boater... interestingly the boater who nipped out did not catch my eye.

About 1 hour and 10 mins to get through the lock. We watered at an empty Great Haywood then departed for favourite waters north of Great Haywood not done for a couple of years.

Various phone and text messages saw us terminating well short of Stone at the winding hole up from Great Haywood after Hoo Mill lock, shame but needs must. We moored up on the 48 hour moorings near Hixon, a place we have stopped and enjoyed before, a little close to the road but it gets few walkers so nice and private.