Saturday, 31 January 2015

The coal man delivers

When we brought Percy back from Braunston we got iced in at Nuneaton, the dog poo capital of the canals as I recall ! We were stuck, gave it a go and failed plus we were getting the usual hard stares from other boaters worried about their blacking.

Then like a knight in shining armour we heard a chug chug chug and coal boat Callisto appeared, forming a channel for us to follow on our timed return to Fradley. Read of it here ...

We have stayed loyal to Mark and Calliso, so far this year having two deliveries. We have used Shobnall for 4 bags of Excel at the start of autumn.

Re the coal we have tried..

Orange bag - not sure it has a name
Homefire ovals

The latter is now our favourite, small ovals and much less ash than the Homefire stuff. I can easily keep the fire in on all three but the ash pan was being emptied twice a day with the Homefire ovals and only once a day with Excel.

Mark delivers to the boat of course and while down south last weekend he kindly dropped off gas and coal to my store - anyone who has humped many bags of coal across lock gates will appreciate the benefit of boat side deliveries. We use little diesel so do not top up often and Percy has two massive tanks.

In this cold snap I have been using about a bag and a half a week - so £15 cheap living I say

So for my records....

Since autumn I have brought 17 x 25kg of coal = 425kg and I have 7 bags left  175kg so I have used just under 250kg of coal.

I post the above in case I do this winter living again next year.... I will then order one big drop when Mark comes by.

Finally it is good to keep the canal coal boaters in business, they provide a very valuable service.

Monday, 26 January 2015


I had a nice surprise on getting to work today....a single malt was waiting for me sent from Callum my youngest for helping him buy his car late last year. I did the running about for him and haggling for a good deal. Its nice when you start receiving the return on your 23 year investment !

He chose well. A 20 year old single malt from the Balblair distillery

I am no connoisseur for sure, but I know what I like and do not like. There are 4 regions for whisky in Scotland   I do not like the Island whisky  - the peaty (read smoky for me) is too strong a taste. I prefer the Highland whisky and Speyside whisky, and the bottle Callum has sent me is a real nice smooth drink.

For my 50th birthday I was treated to a family holiday on the Moray Firth at Whitehills, not too far from Banff where Princess Matilda overwintered and featured in Shane and Tim Spalls great TV adventure when the took their boat around Britain. We took in a distillery - the Glen Grant Distillery  and when we (I) did the whisky tasting one thing I learnt was how much better whisky tastes with a very (and I mean very small) application of water to it. I now always take it with a little water and it makes  for a much more enjoyable drink. Sounds really pretentious I know but I have drunk this whisky so I can tell you how nice it is!!

So after very long day, 5am start and the drive up from the south coast, the dram is one of my final acts of today. I was lugging coal around putting gas bottles back and finally watered up - I think I last watered up just after Christmas, so not done bad there. The weather is set to go cold again so best I have lots of coal, lots of gas, lots of water, empty cassettes and a full bottle of whisky...

Monday, 19 January 2015

There's one thing doing it in the light...

Yesterday I met up with Maffi - a chance meeting as I did not know he had made it to Fradley. We had a great walk in the late winter sun to Woodend lock and had a chat with my friend Adele who did some  work on Percy last year.

Tonight I got back to the boat and Leia had been home alone all day after Rachel left to go south in the morning. I was not too hungry on returning from work  so after riddling the fire, de-ashing it ( the home fire ovals are good but produce too much ash so Excel is my fuel of choice....) we set off for a blackness walk to Woodend. It was great, my favourite bit of canal so quiet and atmospheric and frosty.

Anyhow after a great walk out and back we had our food (rice sweetcorn and peppered mackerel for me) and some of the same with dog biscuits for Leia we are settled down ready for bed in a pleasant 24c cabin thanks to the Morso !

Thursday, 15 January 2015

A picture or three is worth many words....

So far so good on the battery front. Those of you reading this who are land based may never fully understand the fixation boaters or rather this boater has with power (specifically batteries for me as I have no land line).

I blogged here about my location of the third battery I recently purchased. The install came with some limitations  -specifically the cover for the old inverter was metal and would be quite close to the battery terminals. I could not see a scenario where the top of the box shorted out the terminals, but for belt and braces safety and no doubt the boat safety certificate I had a small alteration made that cost me two packets of biscuits to the joiners at work.

They had a off cut of plastic that they secured and here the pictures will make it all more understandable....?

I left the plastic caps on and taped over them ....

What battery ....

Back to its easy accessible tool use 

I installed it and ran the engine for an hour to put some charge into the batteries. They were at 85% on Monday night, 83% Tuesday night and 80 % after watching the tv for three hours and associated lights last night. So hopefully I have a better more commensurate amount of power for Percy  - or rather my needs going forward.

Hopefully you will not read of power issues again..... well until I knacker the batteries in a couple of years. Still cheaper than my OVO electricity bill I still pay at the house !

Monday, 12 January 2015

And then there were three - well four actually

Yep it battery update time.

Percy came with a lowly 180am/h battery bank. Two 90's and a starter - all standard open as I refer to them wet cell types. I replaced them within a month or so with a couple of cheap 110's same again open - or the type you 'should' top up.

In November last year out went the old abused open types to be replaced with a couple of sealed maintenance free 110's and I replaced the starter at the same time . I should of brought 135's but the scrooge in me took over in the shop and for a reason I still do not know I came out with a pair of 110's.

Since then I have not been happy with the performance, might be they need a really good charge, they have had a few long charges. I don't have much in the way of expensive battery management that tells me of the stages etc that some boaters have. I have a Smartgauge that tells me a % and voltage of the leisure side and starter side.

Problem was to add a third I needed to be creative as space was an issue. Tony had two inverters, an old mechanical Red line job and a sterling. The latter I use, the former disconnected. The former is under a cover just across from the main battery bank, with the sterling above it obviously connected to the battery bank. So I have removed the Redline and  put in a third 110 connected via some hefty 240amp cables.  It is nicely hidden but will need a more secure fitting when the weather improves. All in all I think a good solution, time will tell, so now I am back where we were on Waterlily with three 110's and that was ok.

The engine is getting a bit of a run, I took the trouble to add a fibre washer to the oil pump as there has been a weep. All this on a 5am start and 230 miles plus a days work.... veg hotpot is in the oven that my lovely wife made me yesterday.... that'll go down with a nightcap and hopefully I will sleep for England tonight, goodness knows I need it !!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Quality on-canal moorings available

In case you are thinking of making a move from a Marina or just want a different on line mooring. Our friend Adele has taken Woodend Cottage and has the moorings. There are now some vacancies. Not sure of the lengths but worth a call if you are interested.

Best way to contact her is via the following Facebook page.

Click me 

Please circulate if you feel you want to.


Sunday, 4 January 2015

2014 - a reflection on our year in blogland

I now seem to do these every year, more for my benefit than yours but if you are interested this was a summary of our year, in text and pictures.

If I was doing an exec summary it would be less blogging but more time spent on the boat. Lots of miles travelled but all by car. The bike that was ever present in 2013, took a back seat or a garage position for 2014. More time apart than we have ever experienced since we were in our teens. Excitement and sadness still missing loved ones.


January 4 posts starting about the cost of living afloat and some useful observations on engine use. When we filled up with diesel at Burton upon Trent as we came back to our mooring from our failed (not our fault) kitchen refit cruise from Willington the engine hours had 131 on the clock. I recall when leaving the boat earlier this week we had about 236 hours.... so in the whole year I ran the engine for just over 100 hours.... and we did a cruise to stone and back over one week.... when you consider I have lived aboard for 6 months it shows how well the boat performs  - or am I a power minimalist freak !!!! More to blog about in the coming weeks about power and the batteries.

February 3 posts reflecting on where our previous boats now were on the cut. Spooky really as when walking over the Christmas period along the Coventry canal we spotted our shared boat Sylph moored up looking good and obviously in private ownership now.

 This was taken when we were going up the Tardibigge flight some years ago now...

I blogged about the sinks we had found and were cleaning up for the kitchen refit on Percy...



I finished by blogging about where we were for our 29th wedding anniversary...Wales looking at cottages to buy, if only we knew ! One thing for sure for our 30th we will not be celebrating - in February, all leave in cancelled at Rachels hospital for senior staff due to an important visit so like our honeymoon which was also not permitted by the NHS.... we will have to wait !

March 4 posts, mainly about the excellent job Adele did on our kitchen. But there was detail of me riding the bike... gratuitous Bike and Alfa shot here....

Some blurb about the greasomatic - a reminder I need to change it in the next couple of months, I did check it before leaving to come south and it was still performing well.... seemed like it had a couple of months left.

The work done to make Percy a little more accommodating for us....





What makes me happy is I now recall how nice the weather was in March... bike riding and also I recall cutting the carpet on the dry grass outside the boat... roll on spring, I hate winter !

April 5 posts. Dominated by two events, a great trip to America to see family and friends and news of a life change job opportunity resulting in me living on Percy and Rachel taking a cottage in the South Downs.

Before that I was blogging about oil pressure gauges - a failed experiment as I have now reverted back to Tony's very simple but logical mode of checking the oil is pumping on Percys' Lister. It is a splash system that relies on a pump to refresh the oil bath that the cups on the crank use to flirt oil over the engine inners, simple but effective.

May I peaked at 6 blog entries !! Mainly a lot of images from America...

We ended the month in Somerset with the bike group I ride out with. A great couple of days, some wet but that helps hone the skills....

June just 3 blog posts.... really about boat painting and downsizing - or decluttering. Ironic as neither came to full conclusion, the boat painting was put off 10 months due to stoppages & me living aboard and the house not selling meant the decluttering was a only part one. We have to hope both were for a reason, certainly we can see the former was.

July a heady 5 entries into my blog.... And perhaps the most intense month emotionally and activity wise for many many years in our lives.

My 1st July entry, that is quite insightful...

Sitting in the warm late summer sun, garden in full bloom and beer with wine to follow flowing, contemplating being homeless for the first time in 30 plus years.....
We will have houses but not homes... well not just yet. We have a house full of belongings behind me waiting to be spread out 200 miles away on the South Downs.
This time next week I will be a liveaboard on the Trent  and Mersey canal. Going into that eyes wide open, maybe with a tad too much focus on the long dark winter months.
It is funny to see how breaking down the home affects the cat and dog... both have become so much more clingy  - certainly the cat cannot be closer to us right now !
It's a adventure, one quite off script, interesting to re read this in 12 months to see how the pages of our lives have turned and what chapters have been written,
So the next post might just come from a floating home in Staffordshire .... or a South Downs cottage
.... to be continued !!

In some order we had a great few days in North Yorkshire - I still have cottages saved to my Rightmove list in Masham.

I embarrassed myself with a crash whilst racing Callum on the Segways !

During our good news developing Tom announced he was to marry his girlfriend Courtney and we all came together for a beautiful day in early July for the wedding.

Without taking too many sleeps we were then off on our adventure with a move down south to a cottage in the south downs.

Leaving our home of 20 years behind..

To come pretty much straight back up take up some degree of residence on Percy

I caught the middle of summer... then the dark winter, maybe something to blog about in the future

The joy of living aboard in the summer is the endless fishing....something I am looking forward to again this year.

August 5 posts.... and all fairly reflective of the new living arrangements. Not surprising really. Seems there was a lot of work going on on and off the boat to make it better, I am looking forward to finishing the decking I got installed around this time. Plus we will be adding a small bench on the water side in memory of Charles my father in law, so we can sit and reflect. I will need to add some slabs for this and a small retaining sleeper.... that will be a springtime job I guess this year.

It was getting used to the early morning starts and commute as well as the longer weekend commutes for both of us.

We did have a nice visit from Sharon and Andy - Rachels Sister and her husband.

September - 1 post ! Getting on with the routine at this point I guess, the days were getting shorter and nights colder, I do recall thinking a lot about diesel heating at this time.

October 3 posts and I have realised reading back now we only cruised ONCE in 2014... we may have winded a couple of times but we only went out one time up to the the winding hole at Meaford for a week, that is so bad and quite sad.

I also had only used 48 litres of diesel since the beginning of the year and that fill up was on the return from Meaford at the pig farm at bridge 69....engine hours 180 so I used 48 litres for 49 hours engine time.... cheap living for sure, well for diesel use !

November 4 posts... but quite an active month, and I blogged about how little I liked the month. From one end of the country to the other, well not quite but two countries in one trip when I went from the South Downs to my good friends John and Carrie in Scotland in a day.

Nice walks in the Downs...

Cycle rides in the Downs...

Window shopping at the NEC bike show

 First frosts

.. and the M25 

I also replaced the batteries and brought a twin tub washer... and there in lies another challenge to be updated in the New Year, the batteries that is, the washer is still in its box in the forecabin waiting for summer  and a forecabin refit.

December the last 4 posts of the year. No real happenings. I did catch up on the bloggers I met while about Fradley, thank you all again for the wine and coffee but more importantly the company.

So that was one of the slowest blogging years to date. A lot gone on that does not need blogging about. Let's see what 2015 brings forward.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Tiller arm safety

Looking at many boat pictures I see seats either side of the tiller arm. Really comfortable and sociable I guess but how risky is this 'driving' position? Recently Mags off Seyella took a dive - literally I understand when the rudder hit an underwater obstacle arcing the tiller arm with enough force to push poor Mags into the cut.

I am the last person to preach H&S, I prefer it to be the responsibility of the person to consider their own safety, and I am sure that it only takes a repositioning of the steerer and bad timing to experience the tiller being something akin to one of the 'its a knockout' type of apparatuse's.

Our boats have been Cruiser, Cruiser, Semi Trad and now Trad. The first two put the steerer right in the way of the arc of the tiller, mainly by virtue of the morse control. Waterlily was better, but you could very eaily find yourself altering your position for a change and being within the arc. Percy's position is more natural to the point Tony Redshaw adjusted the tiller arm to be about 30 degrees off centre to go forward so that when standing within the boat my arm is at a good angle, not directly behind me - if that makes sense.

The down side is that when there are two or more they are either within the confines of the hatch or standing on the gunnels (preferable unless you are very friendly)

Ultimately it is down to whoever is steering I guess, and the views on risk. However you do it just be safe?

Friday, 2 January 2015

Checking my thumps....

...not not been on the alcohol - if fact off it at the moment and feel better for it.

I brought one of these...

It is a digital tachometer. Percy having an 1929 designed engine only has a speed wheel and forward/reverse handle. From my research the CS2 makes 20 HP at 600rpm.... but what is 600 rpm.

We now I have a much better idea of the RPM at different speed wheel positions..

No turns = tickover is 330 RPM (under load it dropped to 312 RPM)

All other RPM figures are in neutral

1 turn = 380 rpm
1.5 turns = 440 rpm
2 turns = 490 rpm
2.5 turns = 545 rpm
3 turns = 595 rpm
3.5 turns = 650 rpm
4 turns = 685 rpm
4.5 turns = 732 rpm
5 turns = 781 rpm

I rarely have the wheel above 3.5 turns, as the boat is pulling too much water and it drops to near the bottom of the canal... we do not do much river cruising (yet) but I expect Percy motors on with deep water.

In fact I prefer moving along at tickover.... I have on a few occasions nodded off while moving along at tickover - not out of boredom but from the beat of the engine !

Anyhow if anyone wants to borrow it let me have your address and I'll mail it on so long as you mail it back !!