Monday, 31 December 2018

For the record we were on board New Year 2018

A bit of a cheat of a post really as I wanted to get to 62 for the year beating previous years. But I also wanted to record the fact we were having a different NewYear 2018 compared to 2017.

We are spending it quietly on board at Shebdon. Rachel is getting over the cold that is doing the rounds that has made her very tired which is unusual. I had it before Christmas and soldierd on as blokes do !!

This time last year Rachel’s Mum was very poorly in hospital that saw us turning round on the M40 and returning to the cottage on New Year’s Eve. The result was on New Year’s Day I did a 450 mile round trip to collect the cat from Chichester ! Hopefully this years turn of the year will be less challenging.

Food is in the oven, the donk is running to give the batteries one last hurrah before they go to the scrappers in the New Year.

Let’s hope it’s a quiet one if you want such and a merry one of that is your bag, regardless let’s hope it’s a healthy one as that is really all we need.

Friday, 28 December 2018

The flying of time - my career(s) in X words

In reviewing my years blogging i found this draft that should be shared for my kids - excuse the indulgence and the fact it was written in the last few weeks of my employment ...

As some will know this blog is a small diary of interesting (to me) things I would want to reflect on when I am in my nursing home. I have kept a blog for many years and have one year put into a book and intend to have all years put into print to pass to my Grandkids so when they do their genealogy down the line my story will be easier to tell. 

So this is a wordy post really to my grandchildren, but you can have a peek if it interests you .....

I started work on the 4th September 1978, Monday. I was a print apprentice at RB Macmillan, an old family firm of label printers. I was on a 4 year lithographic print apprenticeship. I had turned down three electricians apprenticeships in favour of this job as my mums friends'  next door neighbour worked in print and was well paid !! Jobs were plentiful and those jobs were skill and craft based.

I was introduced to my mentors for the day Malky Stevenson (master printer) and Herbert Bramley (machine assistant and chief clown) my god those days were full of trepidation but fun and learning by decent blokes. It was a good time to get work, good trades were on offer, skilled crafts. When I was banged out see here for info on that ceremony I was a journeyman printer after a four year apprenticeship.

I stayed for nine years printing and then in the technical services section. It was a good place, lots of history and good people. We had fishing clubs, football clubs and the odd after work drink and curry club!

I saw a job to set up an Inplant print operation at the then Derbyshire College of Higher Education. I was interviewed at the Green Lane College of Art and got the job.  

Once again I set to work with some decent people, lots of happy memories of the other technicians, the cleaners and porters. It was a family, all working for each other looking out for each other. It is experience like that that form people and I have tried to do the same, looking out for colleagues, working with people rather than against then all my working (and private life) since. I know a good few are no longer with us, some taken far too early, some took their own lives and some still taking the pension.

I did leave to help set up what is now a multi million pound printing business Plan4 Print  - now Excel Print  It was a good but hard time as I was stretched. Just had Tom my oldest and I was leaving in the morning when he was asleep and getting back in the evening when he was still asleep. I decided family comes first so left and was lucky to get back to the college with the help of Dave Bush, a top bloke and someone I owe a lot to. Both Dave and Kelvin the owner of Plan 4 Print  (now retired and spends half his time in Portugal !) came to my retirement do which I really appreciated 

Coming back could be seen as failure, I saw it as an opportunity to rise as far as I could and I did. I put three hard year in to get my MSc  - success does not come and should not come easily. I wanted to prove my experiential learning was as good as theoretical so I got both. I was very proud of myself and my qualification, one of the highest you can get - not bad for someone who left school aged 15 with three 'O' levels and three cse's (Certificate of Secondary Education)

Sadly the university did not practice what it preached when it comes to the need and use of high level degrees and my career hit the buffers, not for anything else ironically other than one person did not like the fact I'd not adopt their style of confrontational leadership. A terribly  hubristic egotistical person, the antithesis of who and what I am and I am very proud to not be like that person and proud I held my principals and ethics despite the damage it did to my career.

Not that I did not still enjoy my work and the good people I worked with, they will know who they are as I shared the fact I blogged prior to my retirement.

So a 'work' without waiting for the phone to ring with a problem. Or sitting penned in to emails and judgment calls. Keeps plates spinning or balls in the air -choose your metaphor. But I am ready. I need to let go of that nut... see here for that blog post, but I like the story so much I am pasting it below

In order to catch spider monkeys, hunters in South America simply walk through the jungle and drop heavy containers on the ground. These containers have very a narrow top and a wider bottom. Inside the containers the hunters drop a special kind of nut which is particularly attractive to the monkeys. Sometime later, the spider monkeys come down from the tops of the trees, smell the nut, but the tops of the containers are so narrow they have a tight squeeze to get their hands inside. Once they grab the nut at the bottom, their fist is too large to remove if through the opening. And the container is too heavy for them to carry.
So instead of letting go of the nut, the monkeys just sit there until the hunters come back, pick them up, and throw them in a bag.
The spider monkeys are not prepared to let go of a small nut in order to gain their freedom.
See where this is going.... it does not take too much of a leap of imagination to transpose the nut for much of modern life.... we grab hold and are afraid to let go, but when we do we get freedom.
Anyhow that's why I retired - just letting go of the nut !!!

So the clocking off clock will be changed  to be a counting up clock. I have made pension decisions that mean I have to live long to beat the system and I hope to do so.  I hope the next stage of my journey is fun, it should be full, you can share it with me here in this blog.

One final thought  - our universe will live for 19 billion years. It has been around for 14 Billion and has about 5 billion to go. If I get to my predicted expiry (currently 83 years !) I would have been part of this Universe for 19 billion divided by 83 so by my maths that makes my life...... forget the maths... a minuscule portion of time in the great scheme of things.... as the title says in a slightly rearranged way, time flies - please please make the most of your time

Happy New Year !

Thursday, 27 December 2018

The care of batteries

I am a member of the 12v boating group on Facebook. They are a group of knowledgable and very helpful individuals who are happy to help with good and detailed advice.

The mantra of the group when it comes to batteries is know how to care for them - first and foremost. There are many many types of batteries, charging systems and installs but it all comes back to knowing your batteries and what is going in and going out. The other message constantly made is know the power demands - do a power audit ....

So one thing I am looking at now from my recent learning it how many amps are going into the batteries as part of the charging process - this gives a good idea of the state of charge of the batteries. I do have a Smartgauge and this has been very helpful on Waterlily and Percy in helping me manage my batteries - the % SOC is, I have read around, the 'best' way to know when to charge. This I understand is because the system is doing many calculations on charge and discharge over the batteries life so it adjusts the SOC % to account for the natural 'ageing' of the batteries. Many ask for the banks combined AH and use that as the starting point for calculations, not ever changing so not allowing for the reduction of AH capacity over time = incorrect information ( my understanding)

However I'd still like to see that amps in and out.

Now my understanding from this group - thanks Brian, is I need a (at least) a DC clamp meter to read the amps on the main cable to the batteries to see what is going in at any point - and I guess on the same cable to the 12v side to see what is going out etc. £20 - £35 so not too much but very manual.

Now I could fit a BM2 or Victon or Phil meter ...... all three do what I am looking for  -  I'm less fussed about the % remaining as I have the Smartgauge which I trust for that. I guess it could be down to the install ease and also the ability to get the information... meaning the Victron with its Bluetooth is best here as i can  be around the boat and get the info I need  = lazy man

So I guess the two questions I need to resolve is can I fit either the BM2 or Victon alongside the Smartgauge and should I cut my costs and just buy a cheapish clamp meter and take occasions readings  (meaning opening up the batter cover - not a big job to be honest? )

I did have this post scheduled for automatic posting on Friday.... however I have just got into some deep reading of an excellent thread on CanalWorld forums about this subject. So now I have volt meters and ammeters to think about.... I may yet edit this post again before it's posted....

Here is the link to the post I am reading - its long !

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Well worth a follow for all BCN enthusiasts

If you are looking for a bit of Boxing day canal entertainment I can recommend Andy Tidy's new mini Youtube series on the lost 60 miles of the BCN. 

As someone who has shamefully never visited the BCN it's an excellent watch and a strong encouragement to get to cut end and use the Wolverhampton 21 to this hidden jewel. 

Monday, 24 December 2018

The Shebdon v's Fradley decision tree (well table actually)

Who doesn't like decision list? I use them a lot for decisions in my life - ok not about what I'm having for my tea etc  but moving a boat from one nice place to another needs some care as the last thing you want it to have regrets by making a rash decision.

When I got my first boat it was in many ways brought to get the mooring. Then moorings were quite hard to get and the advice was to get the mooring before the boat. When we brought Comet we got both at the same time. It was still a bit of a fiddle as I recall we became 'joint owners' to enable the mooring to come to us... but we got a much wanted mooring at Fradley.

But then life changes, Fradley was great for me when living aboard or commuting from Chichester as it was en-route to Derby and my place of work....

Good old work, I think  can remember that, that's the place you go where you don't want to be to be instructed to do things you do not want to do..... horrible concept, but the money... Ahh the money thats what it was all about !!

I digress, here is my decision table.... I am lucky Rachel was relaxed about the move knowing I needed to be clear in my head it was the right thing to do.

So far so good.... but let's see what the new season brings and the re opening of the Middlewich branch.

One final thought.... I have said to those who have been in earshot I could spend my retirement doing the Four Counties.... well now my boat is on this ring so I am planning a two/three weeker in the springtime to do this, it'll be mainly solo with Rachel joining me at the weekends wherever I am .... so thats six holidays I have planned so far for 2018 - and that is only to the end of July - good old retirement !!

Shebdon is isolated
Fradley is active
Travel distance
5 minutes closer for Shebdon but then another 10 for car parking so 15 minutes closer . Not closer to Derby however for Rachel to visit after work ?
Car parking
Shebdon wins easily and will allow good access for work on the boat
No Elsan but water on mooring at Shebdon
Shebdon is £300 p.a cheaper
Cruising routes
Better more rural from Shebdon and newer to us ? Also decent solo routes with no locks each way for day trips etc and winding boat for cleaning
No other dogs passing so Lillie is safer bit closer to a quiet road

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

BOAT - Bring Out Another Thousand - so true

My latest 'package' arrived yesterday. It was two genuine Lister head gaskets for the CS range of 'pots'.  Richard, the fellow who used to have our mooring at Shebdon is a marine engineer and seems to know his stuff so I asked him if he would do me a head gasket and decoke on Percy. He straight away suggested I get the original head gaskets from Lister rather than the many copper types available on line. The reason - the originals have a lovely asbestos core that helps the 'fit'. He will be taking the heads away and getting them checked and skimmed if needed.

On the original survey Balio Fowden my surveyor advised there may be a slight weep from the head gaskets. I have tolerated this as it was external albeit it has damaged a bit of the block and head paintwork. The recent overheat make it prudent to have the heads off and the gaskets replaced.

Anyhow the cost for the two gaskets was just shy of £100 eek!! There is a reason people use the above acronym... and I still have to buy batteries and now I'm looking at other 'tech' in the engine room to measure the input and output of the amps from the alternator/battery bank to better manage my batteries - another blog to come on that one  !!

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Am I on a busier canal ?

When we (I) took the decision to move moorings one consideration was how much busier Fradley Junction had become.

It had become busier in two facets.

1. People (Gongoozlers)
2. Boats

The first I've explained by the growth in leisure facilities at the Junction The two cafe, the pub and no doubt the seemingly enlarging caravan site - who was planning to get tourers in I understand.

The second more about boats mooring opposite - 14 days. In the majority of time the boats opposite were an exception rather than the rule and mainly in school holidays. The last year or so they were there more and more and stayed for the full 14 days. Not a big issue as in the main they were respectful.

Now we have moved from one cruising ring (Leicester ring) to another (Four counties ring). So we can expect boats to be passing as they do the ring but only one way in the main depending if they are doing the ring clockwise or anticlockwise. It's the numbers I'm interested in to see if we have moved to a busier boat passing section of the canal or not.

Luckily C&RT produce annual statistics for lock use across the system. Some locks have recorders on them to sense filling and emptying locks. the nearest record on our 'old ring' is Wyncnor lock and on our new mooring Wheaton Aston lock.

The scores are in and in 2017

In 2017 there were the following lock movements

Lock 11, Wychnor       5950
Wheaton Aston Lock  5486

So thats nearly 8% less busy where we are now than before. however there is one big influence on these figures - the breach on the Middlewich branch that in effect closed the four counties cruising route - a very popular route for hirers and privateers. We have done this three times I think, but never in Percy  (yet)

It is opening again later this month - well done C&RT so it will be interesting to see what the 2019 boat movements will be  !!

In fact I have revisited the 2015 statistics  - before the breach

Lock 11, Wychnor      6606
Wheaton Aston Lock  5950

That is nearly 10% less busy when both rings were operating.

So regardless it seems we have moved to a less busy canal and I would not have expected that !!

I am guessing the two large marinas at Baron Turns and Mercia pump out a lot of boats during the summer which accounts for these figures.

Intersting !

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

All seems well on the cooling front but not so good for the batteries

I (we) have been on the boat last week for a three day stay as Rachel was attending a conference in Telford and it made sense to use the boat as a base.

The weather has been a little challenging  - lots of rain and high winds so on one day I literally hunkered down on the boat and read and slept ! A bit of cabin fever sent me off on a mini cruise to explore the local winding holes the next day. One draw of these moorings was the frequency (and no locks) of winding holes. There is one at the end of the moorings but it is well populated with boats from the Shebdon Wharf - a cratch cover making business I understand.

No problem just 40 minutes further on and there is a nice open country winding hole. You guessed it a boat was approaching as I winded.... he did close in on my to the point I waved him through as my bow was deep into the turn, this had the positive effect of dragging me backwards when I was over the 90 degrees in the winding hole.

I returned to my mooring in under two hours - about 1.45 whereas Fradey was two hours and two locks. I took lunch, a wee stop and tea stop then set off again to the winding hole in Grub Street cutting just past the wharf with the Rolls Royce in it !!

Yes you guessed it another boat approached. This winding hole is quite tight so he respectfully held back while I turned and tried without success to take a picture of a Kingfisher  - a camera blog is pending.

Then a slow cruise back in failing light  - about an hour and a half so I was back to where I started. I prefer to moor looking up the country so's to speak. I will have to alternate as the sun only hits the water side so to prevent uneven bleaching Percy will need spinning every now and again.

The test was the cooling system that did its job, got hot as it should to aid proper combustion but not anything like as hot as the Heaven and Hell cruise.

What did not fair well this little stop over were my batteries. They are knackered, they get to 100% on the Smartgauge but a bit of lights and pumps plus some telly and they are below 11 volts in the morning and we get an E02 on the Smartgauge - below a safe voltage level.They are consumables, expensive consumables but their time is up.

So is it 3 x 105ah as current, or 3 115's or even 3 135's? I relocated the starter so I could get three leisures in the battery box, so I am tempted to put in 2 135's and drop  the capacity 40 ah.

My power audit suggests about 85 ah per day with no solar input. Therefore for two days use - no engine running I'd need 170 ah but to only go to 50%  charge that would mean I'd need 340ah of capacity. So 3 x 115 would do me  - but that is if I do not want to run every day or cruise.

I'm still unsure, I'd like to drop to two leisure and one starter to de clutter my lovely engine room. Then it's type, cheap sealed lead acid as I have now would be under £300 I could go glass mat type that I understand can go down to 20% and recharge faster but are much more expensive  - certainly for 135's but a battery that can go down to say 35% is attractive.

More research and thinking but for sure what's there is Fubarr'd

Saturday, 8 December 2018

One last visit ....

On Friday a couple of weeks ago now I called over to Fradley to pick up one last item I'd left that no one wanted - a container of old diesel.  Technically it was no longer my mooring as my agreement ended on the Thursday 15th November.

Now we took it January 2008 so just short of 11 years. Let's say average of £1500 per year thats well over £15,000 of just mooring fees!!

I had a nice chat with Maggie our recent neighbour who had just had their boat painted by Kev who had the boat next one up and who also had recently taken the dry dock at the junction - he made a smashing job of the paintwork.

Back to the mooring, it looked a bit sad, certainly ready for whoever takes it. Now here is a note to the new owner of they ever read this  - I did not sanction the removal of the slabs that made up the steps. I ok'd the other moorers to take various bits and they helped me in doing so, but the steps... I know who had them they never asked and should have left them alone - not good. One other disappointment was the mooring has lots of dog mess on it. Now that is just bad manners and not the best welcome to whoever has paid over £1800 for it. I should not really care but I do, we had lots of happy times there and good memories, and I'll retain them  - thank you to my friends at Hunts.

Old and the New 

I was back at my new mooring on the Saturday to check Percy and do some jobs. I was especially pleased to be able to load/unload by the boat and water up without moving the boat as there is water adjacent to my new mooring - simple things but they please me. 

I have been running the engine and it is so much cooler. I need to chase an enquiry I put in for a set of cylinder head gaskets so Richard the marine engineer can sort that for me - no hurry.