Monday, 30 November 2020

Eight years of ownership today

I was browsing my blog today and happened to note the timer on the top right telling me we'd owned Percy for eight years today.

It's funny how some memories are etched into your brain while others dribble out over time. I remember so clearly the first few minutes of cruising Percy away from Tony's old place at Braunston. I looked back just once to see Tony standing watching no doubt himself recording the day he let his boat go after 20 years of construction and ownership. 

A couple of pictures.... how long have you owned your current boat ? 

The last picture is the first nights mooring just above Hillmorton locks. I was on my own aboard, Rachel and Callum joined me the next morning for the eventful cruise back to Fradley ( in the ice !) 

Sunday, 29 November 2020

Beauty wrapping itself around me

There is no doubt about it, winter has the best light  - certainly for a fumbling photographer such as me. 

I woke the other morning and while out with Leia for her first of the day pee the mist and sunrise was enchanting. I quickly got the drone out and sent it up to see what it could see and it brought this beauty back for me.

Later that day we went for a walk and on the lane overlooking the valley in the evening nature had borrowed dawns blanket for her night time sleep.

Note to self carry my big camera more and get the drone up more 

Friday, 27 November 2020

A boat blog - stove ordered

Sadly the Ex GWR guards stove I have on Percy in the back cabin  (not connected  - no stove pipe) is not really safe enough to use. Ironically it will pass a Boat Safety test with an advisory on a not sealing 'door' the door is really a drop down flap and could not easily be sealed. The same for the ash door  - there isn't one just a 'stopper'. 

Don't worry dear reader the Ex GWR stove will give heat but it'll be in my workshop at home. There used to be an old copper  - remember them, that I took out, so there is a chimney I can drop a liner down and fashion a connection to the top for the GWR stove  - it'll be a lash up but a safe one I will aim for. 

I need a replacement as I do intend some winter cruising ( best time of the year to cruise if it's dry)  So a Friday of colour is here and Midland Chandlers are doing a deal on their stoves with 10 % off. So a Puffin 4kw has been ordered. British made and steel construction with a cast door. The reason for this stove was availability, size and critically flue size of 4" which is what is needed for the collar on the boat. 

I've ordered what I think is needed for the flue and need to sort out the area its going in. I have the details for the recommended safe install  - the section on to be installed by a competent person means I'll have to be sober when I do it and I need to get some fire board, concrete board  and tiles. It will be a nice winter project allowing me to spend some time aboard while doing this and it'll be another job off the list of boat jobs. 

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Briefly top dog (blog)

My recent flurry of posts saw a heady position of top blogger .... soon kicked into my normal position but nice to say at the time Top Blog. Thanks to those that follow my self diary. I’ve got the builders in at home  fitting of all things another multi fuel stove so I’ll entertain myself with reading what I was up to at this time going back through the 8 years of ownership of NB Percy.

Saturday, 14 November 2020

An essential trip for sewage

We have a cassette loo on Percy, we've had boats with pump outs before and they were inconvenient expensive and smelly. So when we looked at Percy 8 years ago about now, the cassette (well it was a porta potty then) was an attraction  !! 

Having the car by the boat really helps and very much the case when it comes to moving cassettes to be emptied when static on the mooring. However the cassettes have a tendency to weep  (!) when sloshed about in the car so they have to be bagged up. On out last visit we topped up the second cassette but could not bring it back with us as we were black bag less.

So Friday I used the excuse of exercise and an essential trip to nip over the Shebdon to collect the cassettes and check on the boat. I can understand some not agreeing with my logic but its an interpretational position and my speedy risk assessment suggested I'm more likely to get Cholera than C19 on this trip. 

All was ok with Percy, the sun was shining the boat looked well and I would have liked to have stayed a few days to undertake a full engine service that will involve taking the side off the engine to get to the oil strainer and sump.... when I do do this I'll be sure to blog about it.

I called on my neighbour Mandy off NB Don't Panic to see if she would facilitate a gas bottle change by coal Boat Bargus and she readily agreed - good to have good neighbours. I try and use the coal boats as they have helped in the past.... the gas bottle was a whopping £33.95 .... I can remember when they were about a tenner !!

When I got home I got a message my new gas was safely stored with Mandy for my next visit, a combination of internet for notification of delivery schedule as well as texts to order and then electronic banking to pay mixed with an old boat plying trade on the canals still finally topped off with good friendships and helpful people ..... it all worked.

The little Toyota IQ swallowed up the two cassettes and my fishing gear.... I have been gifted a second hand fishing box and another pole so I can retire my fishing box to the boats forecabin so I have a decent seat and storage of my gear for the future cruises that involve fishing  !!

Plenty of jobs to do at home and then get onto Percy for that engine service. I do need to book a dry dock for self blacking next autumn and a hull survey ! 

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Carpe Diem

Never has there been a better time  (in my life) to Carpe Diem....

I try to limit my news intake and discourage discussion over current affairs if I can. I can't influence it so why worry about it . (OK I can follow government advice and as a law abiding citizen I do so )
So today was a walk to a place I've long since planned for while in my working life. The A53 runs between Leek and Buxton and we  (the University) had sites in both towns and when I visited them I drove past the Roaches and Hen Cloud promising myself that I'd be up there in my retirement.
Well it only took me just over three years but today I was up there and boy was it worth the wait. I arranged a socially distanced meet with my long time friend Graham. We had planned the Roaches and Luds Church but decided to tag on Hen Cloud as our 8am arrival saw us have the whole place to ourselves. 
It's beautiful up there with the ridge walk of the Roaches giving great views and Graham checked we were looking as far as the Black Mountains in the far far distance. There was so much to see and the weather albeit windy on the ridge later in the day was perfect for it.

Tuesday, 10 November 2020

A joyous walk but a sad sight

On Sunday we set forth with Leia to get into the valley ( as the Skids once sang) to get some natural Vitamin D and put some clean air through our lungs. All very safe apart from it being slippy going down through Hazles Wood. 

A few people about, no boats moored or moving just a quiet canal and a quite steam railway waiting for next year. It was joyous to be out and has kicked me into getting broader walks undertaken and I’m out again later in the week walking somewhere I’ve dreamed about and driven past many times ....more on that later.

So what was it that brought me down, well it was a family at play. As we got towards the tunnel ( Froghall Tunnel) as I’m talking about the Caldon canal there was two fellas fishing and bantering as they do. The sad sight was the little lad, maybe 6 sitting in a folding chair up against the railings with a phone in his hand totally oblivious to us, his parents and his surroundings. He was engrossed in whatever the little four inch screen was transmitting  to his eyes and brain. So much else to see, so may hundreds of square yards of beauty and tranquility to behold yet his universe was a little four inch screen, held 9 inches from his face. The real sadness was he looked so happy.......

When we (I) worry about the future generations and how we are buggering up the world for them, maybe it’s an unnecessary concern, could their future lies in a two dimensional universe fed to them over the invisible harmful  wireless signals keeping them head down eyes focussed on an real unreality

Prove me wrong young people 

Sunday, 8 November 2020

Heating - your input is sought.

I think next to toilets this is one of the most 'raised' topics on the forums and possibly between owners. On Percy it is  KISS  - a Squirrel with a back boiler which in turn feeds a run of 40mm (?) copper pipe all the way up a slight incline to the bathroom and back. Very simple very efficient all working on thermosiphoning so no pump and no power needed. It saw me through two winters aboard Percy 

Why am I blogging about this  - well our boiler at home broke down the other day. Well not so much broke down but stopped working due to loss of pressure because the joint to the pump from the gate valves (that are used to isolate the pump for changing) was weeping. It should have been a simple job of isolating the pump by closing the two gate valves on either side of the pump, undoing the pump and replacing the rubber seals. Only the joint between the gate vale and pump was solid (no doubt a function of the slight weep.) I tried muscle, tapping and heat but they would not budge so I had to drain the system down and took the pump out complete with both valves either side. Even then in the vice in the workshop I still could not separate the pump from the gate valves. 

So I had to call the boiler manufacturer  - Mistral in Telford and drove over yesterday afternoon to collect a new pump and gate valves ( I could have got them online but it would have taken a couple of days) I was only able to get the pump back in before I lost the light  - our boiler is outside as its an oil boiler. It lives in a boiler house I built to keep it warmer and dryer. 

So last night it was oil rads and strip washes. We could cook on the Rayburn so we were not too bad off even minus central heating and hot water. a first world problem as they say.

So why the post, well firstly to congratulate Tony Redshaw on a very simple but effective boat heating set up and then to reflect on how I might better improve the heating at home....

We looked at air source heat pumps but our cottage is not well insulated and the consultants wanted my £££'s to commission a heating engineer to agree or not the rads we had would work with an air source heat pump. I should say we are very keen to move away from oil as a primary heat source in favour of electric as it is renewable and getting ever more so.

I got to thinking how well the little oil rads did for us and how well the electric towel rad I put into the bathroom when we first moved in works for us - that is on a fused spur that is connected to the home network so I can turn it on/off and set timed programmes for its use - it works well. 

So here is your point of input if you have an opinion/experience I got to thinking why now convert our lovely Victorian plumbing rads to electric. It can be done and would remove the need for the boiler for home heating and we could either add an emersion cylinder for hot water or use the Rayburns hot water boiler. I need to look to see what options there are for remote control of electric rads as this would be very useful.... I like remote control and intelligent control.

So if you have any ideas comments or experience please comment  - I need inspiration to do this !! 

Friday, 6 November 2020

Narrowboat insurance and finance in general

I received an email the other day from 'Premium Credit' advising Towergate Insurance had let them know we were reinsuring with them and they would be taking payments to a schedule.... now I knew our insurance was due but nothing had come via email or post from Towergate. 

So this AM I set to with coffee as us retired types do and did a comparison check on here  Within 5 minutes I had a quote seventy quid less from the same company - Towergate. On the phone to Towergate who apologised for the over enthusiastic credit company but advised they could not match their own price from the comparison site ? 

So all I could do was tell them I'd set up the policy on the comparison site and then phone to cancel the auto renewal on their site ?? Crazy or what. I fully expect the comparison site to call me in the next few days and say there is an issue .... I'll report back.

As to finance in general with all the 'little' subscriptions you easily forget and they all add up. There was no reason why we need to have our insurance on credit and they were charging about 27 quid for the credit we did not need. It all adds up so every now and again I trawl my bank statements to look out for those little 'missed' subscriptions. 

We also got the mooring renewal which is a heavy cost but not as bad as it could be. It's a good thousand pounds cheaper than a marina mooring and a few hundred cheaper than we were paying C&RT at Fradley. So a breather before the license in January. Then it's the boat safety, blacking and a hull survey for the insurance all October time next year so another expensive year. These things are not cheap !

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

N is for a November boat visit and internet improvements

With the impending lockdown approaching we carried through with our planned overnighter to Percy, the only one we can do in November. We arrived to a nice clean boat so all we had to do was light the fire and start a few planned jobs 

Rachel set to sanding and varnishing the window frames as we have ordered some new curtains for Percy! I set to undoing the work I did installing the router ( TpLink ) specifically the screw in terminals I put on after shortening the cables. This was the advice I received from the internet as the cables were too long for the location of the router and were a spaghetti mess that it’s advised increased signal distortion and reduced speed. I had brought a small packet of 5 end terminals that needed the cable stripping back and the terminals crimping on.... here the hydraulic crimper I purchased for my engine battery reconfigure came in handy, this time using the 6mm crimps. 

On the last visit I was unhappy with the performance of the cut back cable set up - especially as my neighbour Mandy with the same set up was getting over a steady 10mb download on my old 3 router I had swapped for a coat ! This trip with the help of Rachel I was able to test a EE sim ( crap) and my 3 sim from my phone as just putting the phone in the front window was getting around 4mb. It soon became apparent moving the cable altered the signal strength indicating a dodgy crimp..... so I re did them with more care and attention. 

I also mounted the TpLink router on the outside of the unit above the kitchen so it was now visible ( signal strength) and we were able to reuse the pan cupboard again. I also made up an extension so the router shares the plug with the digital radio charger and microwave..... tidy job.

Bottom line last night we were getting 11mb ..... best I’ve ever got here. I think Mandy gets more but her mount is higher, we are very happy with the speed now. 

It was a stormy night, rocking the boat and rain hammering down, the fire was lit we were warm and cosy.... boating or being in the boat  in the Autumn is to be recommended. 

Today was a lovely full on blustery walk along Shebdon embankment then it was rest pack up and go home for the rest of November. Wherever you are please keep safe and follow the guidance it’s for all our benefits.

Some pictures ... 



Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Exercise and Recreation

 We can go out for exercise and recreation in November 

Just checked and subject to the rule of common sense being applied I can visit the boat ( not stay aboard overnight) and ride my motorbike. .... edited to say this has now been removed from the website so not sure if Percy will get a visit in November after our overnighter ( post to follow) 

  1. activity done for enjoyment when one is not working.

Sunday, 1 November 2020

M is for murder

Others specifically Sara from NB Chertsey are avid readers seemingly devouring a book in hours not days. I have a friend Colin who reads for free as he is in some form of internet 'club' that reads and critiques authors work in exchange for the book for free. 

Me I have never been a great book reader and the dammed internet for all its value whisks me away into Blog land, Facebook and YouTube. But I enjoy books when I get into them so have made it a November Book month where I shall (don't laugh) read a book a week for November.

I'm mainly a Kindle reader and I guess thats the issue - I read on my Ipad and then I get a message and I'm off the book on email or many of the other services that ping me 'reminders' they are missing me. I do have a kindle and shall fire that up for November reading challenge.

So in catching up with my favourite authors I put the books I have read by authors name into the computer to see what new releases they had and blow me the vast majority coincidentally (or is it as they get to choose their 'names' ) all began with M .... and my style/topic/subject of choice is Murder novels with the odd exception.

In no particular order of preference

Angela Marsons (West Midlands setting)

Peter May (Scottish Islands setting )

Faith Martin (Canal link)

Simon McCleve (North Wales setting )

Stuart MacBride


James Oswald ( Stuart MacBride style  - very close)

Neil White (Lancashire moors )

I'm a sucker for series and like to follow my friends the detectives.... I'm dreading book 18 in the Hilary Green series by Faith Martin, it'll be like loosing a friend !

There are a few more that I have read or will read, a few biographies and some chick lit (yep) even some Jeffery Archer (more on audio books than Kindle) The I have a few books Rachel brought me and some my niece dropped off at a family do a while back (she reads detective books)