Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Health is not a right it is a responsibility

Ok, some close to me will rightly challenge that single statement as there are exceptions where for no explainable reason loved ones are taken despite a healthy love for life and respect for their bodies.

One thing I have a focus on is my health as I get older it is very obvious to me we have a majority population that thinks they have a right to be healthy and that is what the NHS/medicine and surgery are for. Well in my humble opinion that is not correct, we have a responsibility to feed and exercise our bodies to give them the best chance for longevity.

Having ranted that I have had a crap Christmas, I started with a cold at the beginning of December that has tracked up and down my respiratory system trying its best to infect me. My body is fed and exercised well so it has not succumbed, until Christmas eve when I got Flu for Christmas.  Now some confuse a heavy cold with Flu, however Flu does really hit hard and puts you into bed with a temperature and associated aching of the limbs. If you suffer from Fibromyalgia this muscle ache is there at a low level much of the time and the Flu virus sparks it off like a muscle ache fireworks display - really really crap.

Last time I had Flu was Christmas also  - it coincided with my sister Trishs' wedding in which I was giving her away, and had to make a speech while feeling particularly crap. That must have been over 12 years ago so I guess I was due. However in past years I have paid for a flu jab, so that will be next years Christmas present to myself !

Anyhow, starting to feel a bit better now and I'm sure I will be fighting fit in time to go to work, (which for my record I was called in to on Boxing day after taking calls Christmas day)

I'll spend a couple of days compiling what for me will be a low level review of 2016, as I have done for other years. i think on reflection (unless I surprise myself) 2016 will go down as a 'working year'

Right, plugged my windows gaming machine into the network here at the cottage now to see if the broadband will support some gaming - after the massive update download Microsoft has no doubt been saving up for me (it).

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

One of the best days of the year - for SAD people

I am a SAD person  - Seasonal affective disorder.... not the best place to live in the winter -a canal boat. It is dark when I leave for work and dark when I arrive home during a decent chunk of the winter.

Well today marks the shortest day so tomorrow it will be a smidgin lighter in the morning and the same in the evening. OK it is barely noticeable but like old age and obesity it sneeks up on you and before you know it I'll be fishing again to 10pm in my T shirt !!

So I will toast nature and the universe tonight as they tip me back into the warm months I need and the light my body demands.

Roll on summer !!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

£120 lighter for an essential (for me) reassurance

For those waiting with bated breath to find out about the outcome of the Smartgauge E11 error.... as blogged about here  - the outcome was a reported Fubarred Smartgauge and/or Smartbank as advised by Merlin who now supply the units.

Options were to keep my maggot box switch that manually connected the leisure and starter while charging (never going to do this despite the ingenuity it looked crap and I'd forgotten to disconnect the starter from the leisure bank a couple of times and this could be my undoing by draining down the starter so I could not start the engine to charge the leisure bank)

So as the units were out of any warranty I paid up the £100 plus vat for a new Smartgauge and Smartbank -the relay being tested ok. Daft you cannot buy the Smartbank as individual items - you have to buy the full set including the relay !!

I have to assume I buggered it up when re wiring the battery bank here .... so an expensive lesson learnt. It has taken me to now to reinstall the supplied parts and I have been living back on board for about three weeks - relying on the MTTP controller that shows three states of charge for the batteries good, needs charging and 'o' dear ! I got down to needs charging but no idea what state of charge other than I needed to run the engine.

So I conclude I need the Smartgauge and the Smartbank to keep my batteries charged as they should be and to tell me when to charge. I am one of those that the canal forums refer to as a serial Smartgauge watcher.... but the the batteries are an essential for the boat and comfortable living.

Knowledge is power so they say...!!

The relay back in place replaces to maggot box and manual switch that I forgot to switch off the connection between the leisure bank and the starter..... risky 

My temp lashup ....

I celebrated by leaving the engine charging while emptying the cassette in the last light of a deserted Fradley junction. The smartgauge needs a few cycles of charge/discharge to establish the current state of charge of the battery bank, it is a fit and forget system, only I'll be checking the %'s as is my habit. 

Saturday, 10 December 2016

The madness of men

... ok I am sure there will be a few ladies out there doing what I (we) did the first Sunday in December.

My friends in the south organise a SBC  - Sunday Breakfast Club, a meet for a coffee, a ride around the south east somewhere finishing at an establishment that serves cooked breakfasts. Now when the sun is high and the fields and hedgerows are green this is a good idea. However when the sun is low and bright and the temperature is minus 4 c at 8am you have to question the sanity of those involved.

But hardy and roughty tufty biker I am I was donning my thermals at 7.30 am Sunday morning and heading out to Newlands Corner via Watery Lane.... but it was Ice Lane. When I did the 50 plus miles and met my fellow bikers I was advised on the Pan it was showing -4c I think if I'd known that I'd have turned round before hitting Icy Lane !

My BlueDeau is in the foreground

The view from Newlands Corner

 Yep - very icy, but riding in such conditions keeps your awareness sharp !

Warmth and sustenance 

It did not last long the body furnace was burning hard to keep me warm 

Might have to miss the January one as I think I'll be on the boat that weekend, but we'll see !

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

How I like it

I do feel the cold..... when I have been out in the cold for a decent amount of time it feels like I am exhausted -   think my body works hard to maintain my core temp, I am sure this is the case for everyone but it just seems to hit me harder? 

Anyhow don't feel too bad for me, that common question/perception  -isn't it cold living on a boat, well my simple (no pumps) central heating system from the stove has the boat just under 25c inside against an external temperature of just 1c - ok the gauge is up near the ceiling but suffice to say I'm not cold nor is the rest of the boat apart from the engine room and rear cabin  - that doubles as my fridge. 

We had a bit of a move around after we got the sofa in so Leia no longer can sleep under the sofa but she how has the true dog position in front of the fire.

A have made a large pot of stew that'll do me for the next three nights - easy living just heat up a pan full a night, no prep and minimal washing up. Shame there is no such thing as smellivision as the boat has a lovely aroma as I prepare my vitamin C special !

Monday, 5 December 2016

Fradley and Percy give me a special welcome home

So I am back living aboard NB Percy. Some might say its not the best time to re-start a life afloat (I lived aboard in 2014/2015 but that started in July  - a very different approach was needed then.

Fradley and Percy looked at their best when I arrived this morning. The canal is frozen just past my neighbour Mandy's boat but as the forecast for the next few days is no more frost I guess this will recede.

Percy was covered completely in a duvet of Ice crystals, inside all was well as we had visited and Rachel had kindly give the inside a good clean through.

The sun was still very low in the sky and I doubt much was going into the batteries from the solar.

I had brought my super sized fire lighter - basically one of the 2 hour instant logs that cost about £1.80 from Sainburys.... I cut it in half and lit it surrounded it with coal and the boat was on its way to being my home again for the foreseeable future. 

Then it was the real test to see if Percy had survived the -7c from last week. Water on, taps closed, Morco refilled and waited for the pump to stop  - and it did. If the pump keeps pumping you have either left a tap open or a pipe has opened up somewhere on the boat. 

In 2010 we had this happen on our last boat NB Waterlily - I blogged about it here 

So I have gas/water/coal and hopefully on my return later today a warm boat. I brought he large stew pot back from the cottage and stocked up on veg and stewing meat so tonight a large pot of stew will be made that'll keep me going for the next couple of nights..... a simple joy !

Let the adventure begin (again).

Monday, 28 November 2016

The river in flood and things that cannot be thrown away

We had last week off to pack the house ready for storage (not the house its contents  !) I took the chance to walk Leia across the park to the river that was well in flood after the heavy rains of last Monday.

Darley park is the most beautiful park in Derby and starts at a world heritage site of Darley Abbey mills When we were just married I always aspired to live the other side of this river and we were lucky enough to buy a house just 5 minutes walk on the right side of the river (for me) We have lived in this house that we converted to a home for 21 plus years. it is now back to a house and ready for someone else to make into a home.

A few more pics from my park walks this last week or so.....

Part of our clear out was the loft and the garage.... 21 years of accumulated stuff.

One of our Callum looking angelic 

Another small snippet of Toms childhood and his application....."2 days work" !!

Whilst I was filling a 6 ton skip from the garage and any other place I could empty this little crew had a trip in a washing machine and went off to charity - or so I was told, I have a suspicion I might see one or more when we eventually unpack !!

Happy days and sad days but if we want adventures we need to press on with some change.... keep reading ;-)

PS - Absolute respect to those who empty their homes to make a life on a narrowboat. All I can say is Rachel is good friends with the Derby Park Farm charity shops who were nearly fighting over my gaming chair (sob) plus a lot of other stuff.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Don't get too carried away with the romance of boating

Whilst there is no doubt there is a romantic and peaceful bias when people consider boating and living aboard there are some realities.

I could not detail the precise number of times on canal forums people join and their early post is a open statement of a desire to get a boat and live aboard and what's it like. The standard answer is hire before buying and ideally hire in autumn/winter to get the real deal feel.

Well today was one of those not so romantic boat chores. Akin to the vet with arm up the back end of an unfortunate cow is the task of chimney sweeping our front stove. Unlike conventional sweeping, on a boat this is done top to stove so all the claggy muck drops down. Now on a standard  Morso there is a baffle plate to stop the flames going up the chimney and no doubt setting it on fire... This plate comes out to allow all the crap from the chimney to drop into the grate. Easy !

Now on my back boiler Morso the plate is the back boiler so it does not come out. Two options

  1. Remove the chimney from the stove and dig the bad stuff out - time consuming and seals have to be remade 
  2. My option is the vet type option - get your hand in over the plate.
No 2 sounds simple but it is messy and contorted. Now I know why 12 year olds were sent up chimneys - supple. However I did not have one to hand so had to DIY...

The happy looking stove ...

Ready to get stuck in.....

The glove had limited protection....but my Mr Tickle moment was underway

That is all the ash that I scooped off the top of the back boiler plate  - a fair bit

The rest of the fire got a decent clean... fire bricks out and the back of the ash pan was cleared out also.

Finally the door was off and the glass given a decent clean.

So that nasty job out of the way Rachel followed through the boat with the Dyson running off the genny.

Hopefully I'll give a fuller update on all this shortly ... but for now the fire is set fair to keep me warm all over what might just be a cold winter this year.

... and don't let me dent your passion for all thinks boating, when we sadly left as we needed to go and sort Rachel's mum out the sun was just setting and Fradley was at its best....

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

It's a good job Narrowboats do not have lofts.....

... because f they did ours would be full of 'stuff'. Much of which is sentimental paraphernalia collected when you live in the same place for 21 plus years!

I normally like a photo or two to ease the burden of my poor prose.... but dear reader the state of the house  especially the third floor bit is a site to behold  - or not, so just my words for today.

It's tea time  - of the drink variety, (remember I am a midlander who does breakfast dinner and tea) then its an evening shift in the garage. You have got to love a skip, all like me who find the art of clearing up, tidying up and especially throwing away surplus (look away to environmentalist - the skips are sorted and all my tat will be recycled - so I am told and why I have to pay so much for a large tin on my drive) The garage has been my man cave for 20 plus years and I am actually looking forward to giving it a good sort.

Maybe some pictures and broader explanations later but for now  - off to the bat man cave we go !

Monday, 14 November 2016

A question for the electrically competent people out there .....

I have read on a few forums recently about damage done by not having  galvanic protection. 

I know they are an essential piece of kit for those boats that sit with shore power in marinas. How about the boats that are moored on line, but with people running inverters and in a few cases on board gennys?

Do we need to worry about galvanic processes or is it just when connected to a hook up (which none of our boats are?)


Saturday, 5 November 2016

It's only taken a year......

A year ago we were hosting a visit from Rachel's good friend Charlotte as she was over from the USA visiting her mum on the occasion of her mum's 80th birthday.

While Charlotte was over she went shopping at one of Rachel's favourite 'retail' stores - St Wilfreds charity shop. Now remember this is Chichester, quite a well to do area so the furniture is very good quality. So they noted and brought a nice little double sofa, ideal for the cottage but with a view to getting it to the boat at some time - if it would fit.

It lived at the cottage down south for a good while but was brought up to Derby in the summer as another slightly bigger sofa was once again sourced from Wilfreds' place.

Now we have to empty the house - more on that later hopefully so today was the test ..... two cars, one with a sofa and the other with garden furniture set off in convoy to Fradley, here is the little sofa on its way to the boat ....

 Here is our set up  - or was our set up  expertly modelled by Leia and Lilly

.... and this is how we have left it today - minus Leia. 

It was a perfect fit onto the boat with about an inch to spare top to bottom via the front doors. We have switched the table over to the other side so the two large cooper heating pipes are uncovered now (they need a polish) so when I am back on the boat the heating will be performing to its best. You can see the pipes run slightly up all the way to the bathroom via the kitchen and bedroom. Proper thermosyphoning, meaning efficient, no pumps no noise.

Froze our bits off taking over a chiminea plus a love seat for the decking. You (we) forget the distances needed to walk to and from the car for anything that gets brought to the boat.

All in all a good day, house a bit emptier and the perfect fit for the little sofa on the boat.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Smartgauge and greasomatic

I chased up my return to Merlin on Friday after not hearing anything from them since sending the Smartbank unit back. friendly as ever but the I was frustrated to be advised they needed the Smartgauge unit and the relay to fully test the system..... I was not told I need to send those unit back so another delay. Not a great issue but I'd like it sorted before I get the BSC done.

It gave me a reason to visit the boat as I wanted to give the grass one more cut so it was low for the winter, I then removed the required parts and packed away my 'summer furniture into the fore cabin so it will be well looked after over winter.

The way around frustrations in general I find is a good walk. Last weekend we did such by walking from Froghall basin up the valley sides (to look at a cottage for sale) then back down to the Black Lion at Consall for refreshments. I was just crossing the rail lines of the Cheddleston railway and commented how nice it would be to stand and watch the trains go by..... when one did such just for me  !

I do like this walking it is perfect nature mixed with historical industrialisation, just the right recipe for me. It did help we had perfect walking weather and most of the valley to ourselves - certainly on the walk back to the car.

Lots of stuff going on, some heartbreaking and some, well we'll see. 

We visited our eldest son and daughter in law this evening and had a nice walk over towards Shipley park , it was a good end to a busy weekend. We talked about our favourite season and Autumn seemed to win out for all of us. Certainly on the mooring on Saturday it was very quiet and relaxed as the inhabitants and the place had focus n the winter months to come. 
Finally for the record should I search for it again I replaced the greasomatic and set it for 12 months.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Something essential for the exhaust

Look away those who have one of the revvy 4 cylinder modern diesels. You have free passage through bridge holes and clean lungs !

One thing we always account for more than most is wind direction and direction of travel when we cruise on Percy. The reason is our engine exhaust comes out of the cabin roof about 6 feet  from the steerers position.

We have two exhausts pipes, a titch pipe - little about 12 inches tall that looks good but does not put the exhaust smoke above the steerers head and on a windy day it can be blown back to the steerer, not too bad for me but Rachel has asthma.

We also have a longer exhaust stack that does push the fumes above our heads and we should really use this one but we have not being doing so .... why you all cry??

Well it is a further steering challenge going under bridges. Certainly it does not fit under the Woolsey bridge on the T&M..... we had a near miss last year where I was described as a circus monkey by a passing boater for the speed and dexterity (and burnt hands) shown when getting the chimney off its socket just in time to get under said bridge.

So the solution.....

This is a hinge so that

  • I can pull the exhaust back quickly if I think I will not make it under a bridge/obstruction 
  • If I am not in time or mis judge a bridge the hinge will allow the stack to be pushed down avoiding either a bent exhaust stack or worst a kinked roof 
I got it from Percy's creator Tony Redshaw after a slight detour on my way south yesterday evening. It was good to meet up with Tony again and he pleasingly advised one or two had seen Percy and reported back she looked well looked after  in good condition. 

Another 2 and a half hours and we were mouse hunting at the cottage  - Lilly the cat is a good hunter but she brings them in and lets them loose. She also got the reward of a scratched eye for her troubles which was a £100 quid vets bill this morning - a nice start to the weekend.

Monday, 3 October 2016

On your marks get set..... BAKE !!

No nothing to do with cakes (sadly) more to do with what way Percy points on its mooring. At the end of the autumn cruise we duly followed John the boat painters instructions to give the boat a good wash and polish spring and autumn.

So on Friday on returning I gave the boat a good wash and left it till Sunday to complete the polishing job.

Hopefully you can see on this photo the extra finish the polish gives with the left side having been polished and the right side as was after a wash down with car cleaner.

It is no small task polishing the whole boat but together we did it and did the off side safely by motoring over to the tow path.

Originally we were going to take the boat to Alrewas and wind it so we could do the other side. 

While I was polishing away I recalled a chat with Graham, ex owner of NB Huff'n' Puff who kept his boat pointing towards Hunts lock for many years only to see in some degree how much more the east side of the boat had faded. On our moorings the sun rises and spends a lot more time on one side of the boat than the other  - hence the paint bleaching more one side than the other. 

We prefer to point towards Hunts lock as we are more likely to go that way than the Alrewas - more routes going away from Alrewas .... so that is how Percy pointed for the first year of its paint job. So this year we will bake the other side so we will keep pointing towards Alrewas. 

It has the added benefit that when the junction lock stoppage is on after Christmas if we need to bolt for a marina mooring (more on that later...) we will not be stopped by not being able to wind the boat. 

Anyhow a lot of hard work and this is how Percy looked yesterday in some autumnal sunshine. Click the photo for the best result !

We ended out holiday with a trip to the red Carpet cinema for a meal and to see Bridget Jones baby - great food and great entertainment.

This morning at 5.30 the boat was a tad cold but we were soon away leaving what would have been a stunning sunrise - to bake my boat !

Just remembered a funny thing...... when we were polishing the boat a young Labrador came up the towpath and started barking at its reflection  - a mirror finish, I kid you not !