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 !

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Mission accomplished

Percy landed back on her moorings 4pm on Thursday 8th October. We left our mooring on the 28th June, so over three months but I think it was worth it. It was a 49 mile trip with 43 locks.

We have had so many compliments on both the boat and the engine. Of course while it is nice to receive such, asking where is Cobden junction is and what is the engine etc we have had Percy painted as is was due and with some TLC should see us through our boating 'career'.

We now have a boat to be proud of and apart from some furniture modifications plus a new stove in the back cabin should be sorted for the foreseeable future - Ha whatever that is.

Sadly I had to leave Percy to come back for family stuff at the hospital.

This weekend sees me wizzing off to Chichester then London back to Chichester then Derby for work (ergh) next week.

What a contrast to the last two weeks in beautiful wales and then the beautiful English canals.

Before and after on the moorings ......

Friday, 9 October 2015

What you might call 'technical' boating

When the wind blows it adds another dimension to boating. Thankfully for me it was the right type of wind today, well for the vast majority of the trip from Tixall wide to the top of Woodend lock. The right type being an east north easterly when I was travelling south west, meaning I has the wind at my back or over a shoulder most of the trip.

Not so the start....the wind was blowing straight across Tixall Wide trying to pin Percy to the armco. It was so bad I had to wait for a lull then push off and reverse off the mooring. The heavier stern with prop and rudder control thwarted the wind and I was able to get out enough to put in an arc without the bow hitting or the stern as I swung out..... the ramblers were not so keen on the black smoke from Percy's engine !

I got another question today - where is Cobden Junction ;-) The guy was walking with me for some distance off the wide, he was one of the ramblers, curiosity/frustration got the better of him so I gave him the story....

After the turn on the junction, the ramblers were amassed watching so I was pleased I did not give then anything to cheer about, the wind was my friend (ish) it was still trying to take Percy to the cafe at Haywood lock. The guy following who came to help with the lock, left me to it as he was concerned his wife would not be able to hold the boat, she seemed to be doing ok, had the centre rope around the bollard on the landing..... but he still went back to give advice/check. They were heading for Alrewas but I did not see them again after Colwich lock so I guess the wind was too much for them. I forget sometimes how heavy and low Percy is, much easier than Waterlily that was like a cork on the top of the water.

It still took some concentration to get the boat positioned correctly. After Colwich lock where I once again met the retired boater /lock wheeler who complimented me on the boat and then advised the forecabin was not authentic as it needed a pot bellied stove as was in the one he was born in ! Lots of help at this lock unsurprisingly as it is the first lock northward from Woodend just above Fradley. That makes this stretch of canal also quite a challenge, in that most stretched 'pulse boats' via the locks, one every 10 minutes or so, such a long pound you can see no boats for a while then 2/3 or 4 can be met at a bend or bridge hole and this canal can be bendy. As it turned out I was very lucky meeting quite a few boats but all in the 'right' places, even meeting a boat just exiting the narrows at Armitage.

It was a beautiful autumnal cruise in warming (for me  - those approaching were coated up into the wind) sunshine. I decided to moor up in perhaps my favourite canal location - just above Woodend lock, very quiet and atmospheric, especially when the buzzards are circling with their echoing cries in the sky.

Here are some pictures taken on this special mooring... kitchen window view Thursday morning 8th October, it really has been a great few days weather wise.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

He checked out the boat and did not like it....

I had the pleasure of a real fisherman come calling but he did not stay long. I made it to Tixell wide before the heavens really did open so I hastened a mooring and took shelter... from this 

To this  - the lights are on in the back cabin it got so dark.

In the early evening I did a spot of fishing, while waiting for a fish to be hooked a Kingfisher zipped in and perched on the T stud, took one look at me and was off. I think he would have used the T stud as a fishing place if another less able fisherman was not already in residence.

I did not quite make my destination as I lazed in bed and did not have the first Penkridge lock set with Leia's assistance until 7.30am, the half an hour would have been enough to get me onto the T&M. I was hailed by a lady from NB 'Poppy' I think, one of the few that reads my ramblings, she correctly commented I should have beed past sooner - sticky head on pillow syndrome - sorry and sorry I did not catch your name, please let me know.

This made me smile, clamping is illegal now, not sure how this would be viewed....

A good cruise in mainly autumnal sunshine.

Tomorrow is once again a reverse of today, late start late finish as it will be raining hard when I get up....

Now stoves or rather chimneys, as I do not wish my new paint to be stained by tar from the fire smoke I have purchased a new double skinned chimney, Only to find the internal skin is not making a joint with the inner flue... I have read up and the common sense thing it to get a cheap internal flue extension and cloak it with a single skin chimney..... any advice?

Monday, 5 October 2015

Out of the dock at last - and back towards Fradley

Having done all the Derby chores and left those we care for in the good hands of family we dropped my car off at Fradley and drove over to Johns dock on the Stourbridge canal. ( Saturday)

We did a few last minute jobs and got Percy about ready (not all boxes got unpacked but I will do that  later in the week. then it was a slight boat shuffle to release Percy from her dressing room out into the daylight proper.

Here is John the guy who has took so much care over the paint job over the last 8 weeks. He really did not want his photo taking  - can you tell !

It was one lock up to wind in the pound - just, then with the help a a local lock wheeler called John we headed of to the junction.

Sunday was progress day.....Rachel was heading back down south Monday am and I was to bring Percy home so we tried to clear off as many locks as we could - certainly Botteram  staircase and the Bratch.

The S&W is a beautiful canal and it was very quiet  - lots of cyclists and walkers but few boaters. The lockies on the Bratch said we were just the ninth boat all day and we went through after 4pm. We pressed on stopping at Wightwick, clearing another three locks for me. Then it was a taxi ride for me back to Johns yard to collect Rachel's car and a drive back to the boat for a last supper before Rachel left in the very early AM....

Monday was true to the weather forecast - rain am. After seeing Rachel off before 7 I set to unpacking the rest of the boxes we had packed prior to the paint job, more chores then I set myself the task of putting a spliced loop in the centre line  - wow am I dumb, it took me ages but true to my stubborn nature I mastered it. Well, looking at it now I think it is not quite right but it has held after hauling Percy out of quote a few locks today.

I will post another blog about single handling  - respect to all those who do it all the time - it is really hard work and you have to concentrate !

I only met one boat prior to cut end....a small hire boat who kindly put a few scrapes onto the newly cosmastic'd gunnel as he tried to get into the lock while I was still coming out -tw@t .... he did not apologise, just had some sort of strange simple grin, hopefully embarrassment, I do try hard not to take issue, we all have to learn. As soon as I hit the northern S&W after cut end I started to catch up with NB Catherine, I was happy to stand off but another boat came off the Shroppie and appeared from nowhere behind me, how fast some boats travel, but then again I was catching NB Catherine to the point of having to hit neutral to allow me to keep a respectable gap.

He eventually slowed and indicated for me to pass, he did not look happy, but (see above) I was pleasant then I pulled over to let the boat behind me overtake !

I did pass the overtaking boat at Gailey as she had stopped for the day on a private mooring there.

Steady progress to the top of the Penkridge locks, when a combination of bad light and tiredness plus a healthy dose of common sense prevailed and I stopped for the night.

Leia had her tea and crashed out ..... she has been on the back with me all day, loyal hound or what !

Tomorrow looks like the reverse of today, dry start rain from 1pm ish

CanaPlan AC  says...

Total distance is 10 miles, 4¼ furlongs and 7 locks. There are at least 4 small aqueducts or underbridges.
This is made up of 10 miles, 4¼ furlongs of narrow canals; 7 narrow locks.
This will take 5 hours and 36 minutes

So I will be aiming for a first light getaway, destination Great Haywood... sunrise is 7.18am I'll aim for 7am  - watch this space !