Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Les Biggs

Sadly Les has to quote Maffi 'swung his last windlass in this life' It's always hard to accept someone is no longer with us  but now a loved and cherished memory for all those who he loved and befriended in his life.

My thinking on death is that you move to a memory and live again in everyone's hearts when you are spoken of .... this keeps going until the last one who loved talks no more and you pass to whatever and where ever  - I do not know.

I hope and I am sure Jaq will cruise on and we can raise those memories out on the cut where Les was at his happiest.

Too many are passing on in my life for it not to be a reminder, a strong reminder that dreams are only reality for those brave and strong enough to pursue them.

Last time I meet Les was on the Coventry and I blogged about it here.... 

In memory of that day I have copied the post and the picture so I have the memory on two of my blogs.

Canal Royalty

It's something you hear about when people refer to the old working boatmen and women, and rightly so. They had a hard life and the latter workers stuck at it and in some ways bridged into the next 'life' of the canals. This new life is characterised by the live-a-board, those who take a brave decision to move aboard, yes I think it is brave to step aside from the umbilical cord of bricks and motor and all the connectivity that comes with it. So these people are the new generation and in my opinion true custodians of the waterways, they look after it for me while I am at work ;-)

So today I met canal royalty. I have hailed Les on a couple of occasions when doing our own bit of cruising. I then started to read of a true romance (and I'm a bloke remember) his princess lived thousands of miles away, living a completely different life. I started to wonder if was reading fact or fiction, it was so unlikely but so worthwhile, especially as the two life journeys had been so seemingly difficult. The writing was compelling, the story was absorbing, as soon as a blog entry had been consumed you were left waiting and wanting more update, the next instalment.

Like all fairy tales this one had the very best of endings, the English gent gets his bride and the princess gets to live in her stately home.

So back to today, I visited that stately home and it rivals the best. It's one full of love and laughter. It represents everything that those desiring to live-a-board must aspire to. It was certainly helped by the lovely smell of baking cake when I was invited aboard!

We chatted for a good couple of hours about life, boats, culture plus much much more that will no doubt come to me in reflections as the days pass.

So in my book this pair are canal royalty as they represent so many canal users but they are at the top of the tree in their story, their use of the canals and what came over most was the love of the life they lead. Better not shout about it too loud otherwise there would be a massive rush to buy boats.... and I know how hard that can be !

I came away inspired, certainly by the lifestyle but I think more so by the obvious love and affection between the pair, it was nice to see the last chapter of the book in real life. Long may they cruise the waterways.

Monday, 16 January 2017

About as low as it gets

Dark nights are one thing, dark wet drizzly nights are pushing the test to a new low. Offside moorings, a good trek from the car in the pitch black are joy on a crisp moonlit night, or a warm summers evening . But a crappy January with towpaths muddy and dangerously slippy have no appeal.

All with the catalyst of events well outside of my control deliver a less than ideal experience. Thats the bad stuff.

Down south this weekend we saw a truly beautiful thing.  First off we are privileged to be able to carry out a semi remote south Downs walk. We have good fitness. We inadvertently went off the track and met up with a beautiful white stag.  Ghosting through the woods like some form of etherial being. I'm pleased we have no photo as my memory will last longer and it so much more detailed.

As if by magic it and the heard of red deer melted off into the woodland  - it felt like a dream a sweet dream you wish to remember for a long long time.

So we have to seek out the small beautiful things especially at this testing time as the year turns and the sun starts to ever gradually warm us all again.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Grrr.... feeling envious!

I do not like envy,  I try and strip it out of my life as I already have so much. So what am I getting envious of....

Well a blogger and a Vlogger have got my feet itching, especially David's cartographic masterpiece that describes a route I'd love to do, but maybe with a loop de loop on the four counties clockwise so we get to do the upper Staffs and Worcs three times   - those who have done it will know why.

So they are planning their 2017 cruising routes.

What do they have that I do not have, well I could say time as neither seems to be working (job stuff, I am sure there is work in their lives somewhere). Alas it is not time they have got  - it is the courage and conviction to make/take the time that I guess we all have.

So I'll be vicariously cruising with them this summer and maybe bump into them and you when we do move Percy at some point this year !

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

A weak milestone but useful blog data

....As I reflected on this milestone I was quite pleased.

It is the 400 hours on my engine counter. Lets see I fitted this here. For those not boaty people we use engine hours as we cannot record miles run to gauge the wear on an engine and to work out service intervals. So for those not clicking the link it was fitted January ish 2013 - not long after I got the boat. So that makes the maths easy to work out 400 / 4 years  = average of  100 hours a year.

Ok we may not have travelled much but I have lived aboard for over a year so far in the four years we have now owned Percy.  It really helps having a gas water heater as unlike Waterlily where we had to run the engine for hot water we have what we use at home hot water on demand. This for a boat helps by only really needing run the engine to charge the batteries and during the summer and some of spring and autumn nature helps here with the solar panel.

As for diesel use, lets see I last filled up here  February 2016 when the engine counter was on 347. So I guess in the last 11 months I have only used around 50 litres of fuel. It is a sad reflection of the lack of cruising we did last year.  As Percy has two very large fuel tanks I guess we could go years based on that consumption before another fill up. However I'd like to cruise more and will so we will use more up in the next year or so.

So to servicing, a quick search of my blog tells me I fettled the engine  - including oil change in May 2015  - with the engine counter on 271 hours. So 20 months and 130 hours of use I think Percy's donk is due another oil change so I'll order some Morrisons oil again.

Percy's engine does not have a modern filter for oil, it relies on the oil not holding the minute particles that a modern oil does which are then filtered out via the oil filter under pressure. The Morrisons oil dumps the sludge in the bottom of the crankcase so at some point I need to open her up and check if I need to clean this area out. There is a decent sized door to gain access but it will require removing the water pump ..... a summer job so I may delay the oil to May and do a bigger strip down then.

Anyhow there are some uses for the blog, recording the above has been a useful reminder of what will need doing (oil change) and what does not need doing (diesel fill up)

Friday, 6 January 2017

All ship shape for the New year

I'll let my mammoth last post  - or first post of 2017 sit a bit longer in everyones blog roll before I update with the normality of life  - or my life.

Yesterday, New Years day we took the sea air in a late afternoon walk around Bosham and got well and truly wet on the return leg, should have been more attentive to that large black cloud!

Rachel was due at work today  (2nd January)  and as I did not fancy a 5am start to a cold boat then a full day at work I travelled back to Percy from the south coast this morning.

Not before sorting the carnage of leaving a cat home alone....when we got back after Christmas Rachel found two dead mice and we started to get a smelly fridge..... now from experience of an escapee mouse making home and then dying in the motor of the fridge this meant a strip down and sure enough there was another dead mouse slowly cooking on the motor - nice !

Then it was a gas cylinder change at the cottage. The dumb cheapskate landlord has a Calor gas system for heating of the cottage but it is fed by the 47kg cylinder of gas in a pit. I have just checked the full cylinders weigh over 90kg. I had to replace an empty one before I left as this is not a job Rachel can do - I struggle lifting and dropping the full cylinders onto the pit!

Then it was a drive that should have been about 2 hours 45 that took 3 hours 15 as there was a delay on the A34 so I took the A3 instead but then hit an hours delay on the M25 so detoured off the M4 to get back on the M40. Still all in not a bad drive, I listen to audio books and they pass the time quite well.

Fradley was very busy, lots of people lots of boats moving before the 2 month stoppage.

I set to and cleaned and lit the stove and emptied 2x cassettes and unloaded the car. Once done and the coal scuttle (good word) filled I prepared a large pot of chicken stew. This will now last me for three nights so little by the way of cooking and washing up.

I did a bit of work emailing then cracked open the bottle of single malt Callum my youngest brought me for Christmas, the first real drink all over Christmas as when I get ill I drop off alcohol and coffee first thing !  For the record the drink is 'The Macallan' Gold  - a really nice drink, one of the best gifted to me so far.

When I got to the boat the temp was 4.5c indoors and 3c outdoors. Now a couple of hours later it is 21c in the boat and 0c outdoors. I recon it is going to be a real cold night in the sticks where we are tonight....!!

Sunday, 1 January 2017

2016 - A reflection of our year in blogland

Well, tradition dictates that I review the year of postings that have some semblance of my/our lives afloat and land based. Very interesting when I re read the 'executive summary' from last years summary blog post.

In 2015 I started the year living aboard Percy and ended it land based... in 2016 I reversed this again and spent the main part living  (and doing up) our home in Derby and spend the last month back aboard Percy. Anyhow.... the executive summary for 2016

3% less blog post in 2016 than in 2015. I did of course start the year  DIY'ing for England on the family home and finished the year living aboard Percy again while waiting for the house sale to complete. Not enough boating not enough biking no cycling some nice walking too much driving to much focus on work not enough laughing, some loneliness loss of loved one (again) and possibly the most exciting and life changing year to look forward to and to blog about - but you will have to read into the new year for all that news !

However there is promise and lots to focus on.

Here was 2016.............  

January 5 posts, which started with some good news about me buying a second bike. Blue Deau, a little 650cc touring bike. It has proven to have needed a little fettling over the year but had provided some fun rides mainly in the South Downs. It may end up in Staffordshire.... but that is part of the 2017 news to come.

We were still doing the coastal walks down south around Chichester harbour, and constantly being amazed at the property prices down here. 

I finally got some movement  from CART regarding the damage to the Percy from the strimmers, more of my time out to meet their staff and a surveyor but it was progression. Still makes me angry when I see this picture...

I ended up removing the stove from Percy's back cabin as I found it has a hole in the chimney. It took me a long time to find a replacement only to realise the BSC regs had changed and it was no longer suitable !! 

February 7 posts - the top month for posts in 2016, early February saw me boating and biking, what a hero ! I did have to re-attach the rear fenders (x3) to the boat before we had a 31st Anniversary cruise to Great Haywood plus a ride out in the South Downs with the Honda Deavuille group. 

I'm unsure what happened to me in February  as I seemed to go into photo overdrive, some  more from the return trip from Great Haywood....

I did blog about the bath, with no stove at the back end winter cruising was reliant on the heat from the engine room, not insignificant but I did enjoy a good soak at the end of a long days cruising.

It also seems the last time I filled up with diesel was February 2016.... I did not use the engine much when stationary but based on just under a litre an hour consumption I need to check the engine hours meter to see roughly what diesel I've used. As we are facing towards Shobnall now and in a few days (I'm typing this section on the 29th December) we will be blocked from going out of Fradley as Junction lock is due for works for 2 months, we might have a little cruising to get fuel and possibly coal as the coal boat now will not come this way due to the stoppages. 

I finished the month off with more miles on my new to me Honda Deauville with a trip to the sea side for chips in February ! Littlehampton I recall. 

Then it was more walking - I am off to re do the Stanstead Walk in a short while to hopefully fully clear my head of this horrid cold/flue bug that has been my companion through December.

This is the Stanstead walk....

This is the West/East Ashling walk more local to us...

Exercise is my focus in 2017.... as it should be everyone's.

We completed our 31st wedding anniversary celebrations with a drive this time to the red carpet cinema at Barton Turns 

We did it buy boat in 2015... and timelapsed the journey !

March 5 posts. I must have been a little board at the beginning of March as I compiled a list of You Tube videos of vintage engines in boats and their starting procedures ! I'll get me anorak! link here for fellow anorakers click me 

I was also blogging about the start of the flush through of boaters (moorings) that saw quite a few go but as we start 2017 Hunts is once again full (apart from a 40 foot mooring. I have a new neighbour - NB Sam as my old neighbours pulled back into the second mooring on the patch. All due to the caravan park owner taking on all of the moorings between Junction and Middle locks and serving notice, plus taking on the boat yard - seems he wants more day visitors to Fradley and his cafe !  It'll be interesting to see how he fights the gravel extraction plans.

Anyhow March saw me back out on the Blue Deau (my other bike was still in Derby) over in Kent and then we were over in London with Callum who treated us to War of the Worlds - perhaps the best theatre trip I have ever been to.

March was finished by a flurry of Easter activity with me on my other bike into the Staffordshire moorlands plus a visit to the boat to cut crass and celebrated by carrying on with the DIY for the house  - I must have done the stud walling and plumbing and was in the bathroom now !!

April was a lowly three posts, no doubt influenced by full on DIY in the Derby house trying to get in onto the market. 

The bathroom apart for other areas was a complete rip out  - I fitted in many years ago and corner baths while very nice are not the fashion anymore !

Just revisiting that image makes me proud of the work I put in. Full days work, then home to three hours DIY then food then bed, repeat repeat repeat .....

Not much in the way of boating, I was biking in the South Downs again - over towards Portsdown hill and when in Derby out to Chesterfield for a bacon sarnie and look at others bikes. 

Mandy my neighbour was off on her retirement cruise - lucky bugger.

It was wet down south  - we live with Watery lane at the back of us.... says it all really !

May 6 posts....

Some high comment over a video I posted about families being forced off the cut.... still not sure how I feel about the rights and wrongs of enforcement against non conformity.

C&RT agreed a payment for the damage to my boat.... finally. I only took it on the condition it was recovered plus C&RT's costs from the contractors.

I was living aboard Percy again while the painters and carpet people finished off the house. I was a great time to be  back aboard, warm with long nights.

We were still walking in the muddy south and my 2x Three Peaks walking boots gave up (I still have them and cannot throw them away ! - they are ok for dry summer dusty walks)

That ever present bedfellow to the boaters - electricity and batteries was an issue for my fridge while back aboard, I knew the issue, (voltage drop) but needed cable and enthusiasm to pull it back to the distribution bus bars... I did eventually sort it and was pleased with the work(ing fridge)

Finally as I was back aboard mobile internet was also on the menu. I put up some impressive scores for speed..... its just I eat it so quickly. I now have a phone that has 30gb tethered limit and 32gb of EE wifi data.... The EE is better faster and more reliable but the 3 backup is used specially as I am back aboard full time now and winter time sees more streaming and I rarely watch terrestrial TV.

June 3 posts but....we were on holiday ! Before holidays I had the house to dress to make it look well for the market. Sad times as it was our home for 21 years, safe secure happy convenient, just nice and right for the time.

I did make lots of plans for work on Percy but that all went west as I just rested and fished !  Even the boaty neighbours commented !

Life aboard Percy was good, lots of long light evenings to enjoy and whisky to drink post fathers day  - both now gone and I have drunk them myself as no one else came calling who wanted a glass !

We had a nice trip on the bike to Normandy with three other bike friends. An early start to get us to the Tunnel after a wedding (about 5 hours kip as I recall). Good times and good things to see while abroad.

 Gold beach ....literally 

 Ypres  - Menin gate 

Happy bikers 

On the return I winded Percy, single handed in a morning before work .... - yep first boat movement since February so she was pointing the right direction for a trip up to Kings Bromley for blacking. last done three years ago at Norbury, but not happy with with that episode, despite the nice cruise there and back.

Those in the know will tell you this is Bagnall lock

I did a summary of June's activity....to show what a crazy life this is/was 

By the time we left on the tunnel train for our bike holiday we had;-

  • Shopped for a sofa for the boat in a charity shop in Chichester.... still to be moved and the older Ikea Poang chairs brought back to the cottage
  • Hosted Rachel's nephew Richard and his partner Amy as they were down for a sailing race  -we had a great pre race night in the sailing club.
  • Driven over to Greenwich to help our youngest son and his partner Emma move fully into their flat
  • Drove back to work to complete the preparation for the house to go on the market
  • Finished all my work obligations prior to the holiday... late finish again !
  • Then drove back to Chichester to pick Rachel up and make sure she did not wake up on her own on her birthday
  • Left Rachel's car in Chichester and drove back to Derby the next day (That's over a thousand miles in 6 days)
  • Then met the Estate agents and signed all the forms - took the pictures and agreed to have the house on the market !
  • Sadly Rachel's dad Charles passed away three years ago on Rachel's birthday so the girls had arranged for a memorial bench to be installed at Crich tramway museum where Charles being an engineer loved to go. So we met Sharon and her son Aiden to check the install was ok  - it looked stunning and a perfect location.
  • Then started to prep the bike and luggage for the trip to Europe
  • Then had a great night out to celebrate Mike (Rachel's Brother) and Katie's marriage (they got married in Hong Kong last year. (.... and yes Katie I do remember we are visiting Hong Kong in 2018 so we need you as our guide to your country)
  • Got back home at just after midnight to pack and got to bed at 1am
  • Up at 6am to walk the dog and get her ready for her holiday with Rachel's sister Sharon - (thanks again Sharon)

Then the holiday began with a ride to the tunnel..... I blogged more on some of that in July  

July 5 posts and lots got done ! 

I was taking pictures of my room with a view as my neighbours had all left me .....6.30 am on my way to work I guess...

 The other end of the day I was netting this nice Bream at 10pm .... how different it is now with minimal daylight and maximum darkness.

Some of the images from my mad June were appearing on the blog...

Mike and Katie's Uk wedding celebrations 

The bench Rachel and her sisters organised for their late Father Charles Lambert at Crich Tramway museum. 

The London trip to help our youngest unload his van he had driven to Leeds and back to collect furniture. We enjoyed an expensive pint by the Thames (one day Percy will be here I said !)

We hosted Richard (our nephew) and Amy at the cottage as they were sailing at a local club. Sadly no photos. Richard passed away later in the year after his very brave battle with cancer. It was a raw time and I did not think it needed to be blogged about at the time. I will put something together when the time feels  right.

I finished the recabling of the fridge....

...... and needed it as moving Percy back from Blacking in July I was so hot even at 9.30am  I was drinking cold john Smiths ! 

I recall the trip from The woods at Kings Bromley back to Fradley  - it was a 6am start and the woods were so peaceful, beautiful boating 

The night before it was so hot I took the executive decision to stop in the woods and drink beer....

I was still very much home alone on the moorings three of my direct neighbours had left... Percy is there on the right all alone click any image for a fuller view.

Back down south Callum and Emma came over to help on another very hot day to construct a new window so we could add a cat flap for Lilly the cat. We celebrated with a nice walk around Bosham harbour. 

July ended with a promised trip aboard Percy for Rachel's mum who sadly does not get out as much as she used to. I am sure she enjoyed the change of scene and it was a nice memory for us to have her on the boat again. 

The end of the month saw me summer cleaning the forecabin, much needed but it is now as full again, with patio furniture !!

All in all a busy two months 

August - the low record of 2 posts in August - hardly surprising after June and July I guess !

I was in fix mode - must have been missing the DIY on the house that was now on the market. 

Bike strimmer and cooker were being sorted ... and we also got in a nice hot walk in the woods overlooking the area  we live in down south.

I was still fishing  - a lot even in the rain as I treated myself to a decent chair and umbrella

The big bike got a ride out to the North Yorks moors  - then onto the Middlesborough suspension bridge with some very able and biker friends I have up north !

Mid month we were back in London for another show, this time 1984, dark but entertaining. We had a few days off around my birthday and used our sons and partners London flat as a base - perfect !

I still got out on the Pan.... over towards Staffordshire and I was wondering if we would ever live in Wales... we I know the answer to that now possibly !

I finished August re reading narrowboat by Tom Rolt and cited a section of the book that I really liked and explains a lot about why many default to the cut ...

In describing the back cabin on the working boats, he writes;

A wide bench along the opposite wall to the stove is the only sitting accommodation, and does duty at night as a side-bed for the children. A second and wider cross bed, with cupboards above it and a folding centre portion , lies athwart the for end of the cabin. It is usually screened by a pair of lace curtains. This is the boatman's marriage bed; here, in this little space, he was born and will one day die. No simpler existence can be imagined. The boatman's life is stripped of all the complex comforts with which we have surrounded ourselves  at the price of contentment. He works and lives hard, but he has not heard of hire purchase agreements, while the collectors of lights and telephone accounts, rates and taxes know him not.

September  was back up to 6 posts.  I was blogging about consuming, boat v's home. I also started getting an E11 error on my Smartgauge, it turns out this is a general error saying the unit has a fault -  I found this out later ! It did start me on a campaign to re wire my battery bank to be more efficient 

This is what it looked like to start with ... Bad ! There is a third leisure remote which was bad....

I treated Percy to a hydraulic crimper and made up some beefy battery terminals. I also brought a remote starter battery box, not pretty but it allowed me to put my three leisure batteries together and connect with the same thickness and length cables for best performance

 Not bad now !! The smaller wires are from the Mttp controller and also to the smaller inverter.

While the smartgauge was off to test I fashioned my own split charge relay - manual maggot box type ! But at least it enabled us to go cruising, yes we moved the boat in September 

It was late September I recall but we had a nice few days to Fazely and back.

I went to the Seven bridge to collect a stove I won on Ebay... another long drive, only to find later I suspect it will not pass the BSC.

I also found some very worn wiring when I did the batteries so I was pleased to clear that job away !

October was four posts -  starting blogging about the little cruise we had had and the problems with the electrics. I posted a Youtube video of our return (slow) back up the Coventry. 

We gave Percy a real decent clean and polish on its return and left it facing Alrewas so the sun would bake the other side. The sun at Fradley hits one side more than the other so to keep the fading even we will turn the boat each year and leave it facing that direction. 

We took a walk to little Switzerland in October  - the name given to the Churnet valley. More on tis later (clue in the link )but it was a great walk in some stunning countryside. Woods, a steam railway and a canal plus a decent pub, what more could you need/want ?

One thing that was apparent and a reminder after our autumn cruise was the need for a longer exhaust pipe, we have one on board but it can get in the way of the odd bridge. So I detoured on a trip down south and brought the hinged exhaust bracket Tony Redshaw sells  so we can cruise with the larger exhaust chimney on and pull it back quickly if needed. Just need to cruise now ....

November 5 posts  - all about the move from house to boat. 

First we moved the old Ikea Poang chairs off and put the small sofa on we had brought a year ago.

Much better and the boat looks more homely now.

Then it was stove time, cleaning the chimney  a really dirty but essential job.

Then it was back to the house for a weeks clearance of many memories, some kept, some read and discarded. Very sad and happy at the same time. The house was cleared by the end of November.

Washed and off to charity... or storage !
December  - 6 posts 

I came back to Percy from the south to a picture postcard image... lovely 

The cleaned fire was soon lit and the boat warm and cosy again. 

I was on the bike down south again in sub zero temperatures, hardy !

I put the Smartgauge and Smartbank relay back together after getting new part from Merlin and £120 quid lighter in my wallet. 

I finished the year blogging about health as I had a horrid Christmas  - well December really having various colds and sore throats all the way to Christmas then Flu over Christmas with the associated temperatures and flare up of the Fibromyalgia I suffer from.

So today is the 1st January, back to the boat tomorrow and work on Tuesday. As I said crap Christmas, helped by the company of loved ones. 

A summery of the year then, only three trips on the boat, a fair bit of biking and walking. House hopefully sold, after a tremendous amount of DIY on my own and some exciting news early in the New Year. 

Let's keep that for some blog content in 2017 which I hope to be a pivotal year in my life .