Thursday, 15 April 2021

Oil in engine serviced windows sanded and varnished

Tell me 'you are supposed to go cruising on a canal boat' ? Not sure if we leave it too long between cruises ( pandemics permitting) but we do seem to spend an awful lot of time messing with Percy instead of cruising. I guess it's part of the enjoyment  of boat ownership. Might be because we also spend a lot of time doing stuff at home, or on the bikes, or in the garden. Maybe I'm getting confused with doing stuff against being just lazy?

Anyhow Tuesday we are aboard I refilled the engine with 6.5 litres of Morrisons SAE30  - Golden film.... sounds almost good enough to drink ! I also opened the two big end engine casing bolts to give the required quart of oil when the engine has been standing for a long while or rebuilt. Not sure it was really needed but when it comes to engine internals good regular clean oil is important for longer life  - certainly what I practice on my motorbikes. 

So for the record oil changed April 2021 at 826 hours on the engine. Checking back it was last changed March 19 at 600 hours  - I thought I'd changed it in 2020 but the eff'ing pandemic has not helped access to the boat or my memory. Just checked Ebay where I buy my oil from and I brought 10 litres in Feb 2019 and again in July 2020. So it was due, when it came out it was not in bad condition critically didn't 'stink' which normally indicated carbon in the oil so all good there. 

We've treated Percy to new curtain and in celebration of that Rachel sanded stained and varnished the windows surrounds.  I cleaned to Bathroom and Kitchen while Rachel vacuumed so we are ready to stir up some mud just got to wait on Rachels second vaccination ....always something. 

Must give the engine room a good spring clean ( based on the dust from the picture above)  as well as the forcabin ..... see more fiddling jobs ! 

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Boating - at last

I think since we've owned narrowboats including share boats  - checking back on my photos that was 17 years, we've never had such a long break away from cruising. Again with the wonders of digital devices I can see from my blog it was late September when we came back from the Llangollen canal . So over six months of Percy just sitting in the mud.

Last visit late March I sorted the day tank pump as it had leaked air meaning I could not pump up diesel to the day tank. I made a new gasket ( I have the punches and gasket material and judicious use of a ball pein hammer to 'mark' the cuts for the gasket plus a couple of new bolts) saw a new seal achieved and diesel in the day tank. That allowed me to start the donk on Percy which pleasingly fired up with a fast spin first time. The solar panel and the split charge relay having done its job of keeping all batteries on Percy topped up even in the weak winter sun. 

Percy might just have faired better than the stop gate under bride 44 at the start of our moorings.  

I'd worry it would not swing shut if Shebdon embankment breached - it certainly can't be tested in this state - an email to C&RT I think.

So despite yesterday being the other glorious 12th we were at home gardening and today we are going to Percy but only to finish the engine service and clean and prepare for ...... a trip away later in the week for a little while.

Where are we going - well in time honoured tradition I'd be planning a route to the day to get there and back or around a ring.... but this time I think we are pointing Percy north or maybe south and just going and turning round when we think we need to. We are NOT going onto the Llangollen, next time we do that it'll be late autumn when the hire boats are in bed and only the hardy with stoves in the back cabin or double hardy with lots of thermals on are on the cut. 

I suspect we will struggle to get Percy free of the mud, and I also suspect the canals will be summer holiday type busy but thats not an issue ( hopefully don't regret typing that). So next update hopefully should be from Percy somewhere on the Shroppie. 

Sunday, 11 April 2021

Well that was a gap .... what next

Missed all of March out basically because there was little blog about boat wise. I've been entertaining myself and wearing my already worn out back a bit more building a pond in the garden of the cottage. I've also been improving the drainage in the yard by digging out and putting in land drains and doing the same above the workshop in the farmers field before the cows reappeared ( they are back grazing now).

That was two and a half tons of clay out into dumpy bags for the grab wagon to take away 

Then the pond excavation ....

When I look at each of those stones I recall how many times they were handled to get them in the right position. Towards the end you get a 'knowledge' of what will look right so move the stones less.  It's all planted up now but I'll wait until its established for the full reveal ( with fish of course) 

In between I drank some of this ....

.... and some of this 

I also rode my bikes .... in the cold!

Did I introduce you to my latest bike ....

This one hopefully will take me to Colditz in 2022 

I did visit Percy on a couple of occasions - I wasn't really allowed to but I could not leave Percy to the elements without a welfare check.

I've also done miles and miles of walking and have just about covered many of the footpath's I had identified on my latest app...

I'll blog about our upcoming trip in a few days .... at least I feel I'm back on the horse so as to speak ! 

Saturday, 20 February 2021

Wanted one for ages....

When I brought Percy back from the bonded warehouse in 2018 after blacking the hull I did the first day and part day single handed. Our good friend and boaty neighbour Mandy brought Rachel from Shebdon to the Bratch locks to meet me where we cruised from the Bratch to Wheaton Aston in one hop then home to Shebdon the next day. I titled it 'The freedom solo cruise'  - treat yourself read it here click me 

One thing that I'm not so keen on it getting in and out of the locks solo - especially the rather deep staircase lock - Bottersham staircase? It entails as most will know a challenging climb of an often wet and greasy ladder up the side of the lock chamber wall. Hard enough on its own but with a windlass in hand even more risky. 

I have adopted a stupid system of getting half way then chucking the windlass up onto the bank.... risky in that its a manoeuvre done by taking one hand off the greasy ladder half way up and also those that have ever dropped a windlass will attest to the fact they adopt spring like tendencies when dropped and luckily up until now the said windlass has not bounced back to either hit me on the head or worse still hit the boat roof from a distance !

When I did the Bratch one time single handed - it may have been the solo cruise back linked to above.... I thought 'I'll buy one of those expensive windlass holders from the Bratch lock lockies'.... however one of them was an arse and by his actions had me climbing up the lock ladder ( with windlass) to close the bottom gates while he stood waiting at the top gate - instant decision not to give them my trade in some form of peevish revenge !

Of course I've regretted it since when solo boating through locks... 

Facebook is great and I recently saw a link to a boater who makes these holders, so in support of the community I ordered one...  could have had Percy's name on it but I thought that a bit anal so I opted for a functional black belt type.... a tad expensive but if it keeps someones dream of living on the cut alive happy to support.

It arrived and will be tested at some point - it's in the bag of stuff to take to Percy next week when we go over for a check and maybe start the stove install. ( The stove install will be completed in time for high summer for sure !)  is the link to the boaters who supplied it.... 

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

A day in the life of lockdown Nev

I'm writing this on the 9th February, I have two posts scheduled over the next few days so this one will not appear in blogland until next week .... but for my diary I thought it would be insightful to have a small snippet of a view into a day in the life....lockdown life. I can't use the boat and its too cold to visit to do work so much of the focus is on the cottage right now ...

I'm ashamed to say today I did not wake until 8.30am.... but I did not turn off the lights the night before until gone midnight so over eight hours sleep.... why not. Up and dressed in casuals to take Leia out for a wee and a sniff then it was back into the warm for porridge with added Turmeric and Hemp along with Pumpkin seeds and crumbled Walnuts topped off for sweetness with a banana - quality breakfast that keeps me fed until lunchtime.

After breakfast social media catch up and news. Then it was 15 minutes of Yoga that is a big help to my core and my back.


Then nip outside to start the car for a trip to Cheadle for shopping and posting stuff. Get my stuff together and a 10 minute drive to Cheadle - I could drive to Leek or Ashbourne ( 20 mins) but I have booked a pick up of one of the last bits of motorcycle parts I sold on Ebay the night before ( BMW Nav 4 for £160 !) 

So first stop is one of the small shops on Cross street to pick up a couple of test pots of chalk wall paint for the chimney breast since we had the new wood burner installed it needs doing. Then to the post office to post a small package of nice stuff to one of my sister-in laws from Rachel. Finally a stop off at Morrisons to drop off my parcel for DPD to pick up and deliver to a fella in Guildford  - back home.

Cup of tea

Then lunch - cheese and pickle sandwich - tell me your life is more exciting than this  !!


Tog up for a walk with Rachel and Leia  - just under three miles but its bitter and light snow.

Back at the cottage straight into the workshop for an almighty sort out and reorder  - I've had the heating on ( two rads heated from the Rayburn in the kitchen) Rachel and I set to moving in a sequence ( it was jam packed full and badly organised ) we had discussed while walking - rock and roll or what ! 

Tea and shortbread taken in the workshop

Rachel bows out as its getting dusty in there and I continue with much satisfaction on the progress. I want to make some more bird boxes and a feed tray for the Robin's as I brought some mealworms for them. I want to make a Robin next box as well ..... I can now access my wood store and my chop saw ... happy days. 

Back in the house and computer work on Rachel's Macbook ( VPN update) 


Rachel has made fajitas for tea with a nice glass of red wine


Kitchen tidied up and dishwasher loaded 

Football ( FA cup on the TV while I type this).... all caught up 

Rachel will be working shortly for her teaching tomorrow leaving me to finish watching the TV and some YouTube stuff on French drains - sexy or what.  I have brought 25 meters of 4 inch slotted pipe to put into the ground to help drain the yard and stop a bit of annoying damp that is present every now and again in the garage. 

So that is what a day in the life of lockdown Nev looks like. 

Tomorrow I'll be in the workshop finishing tiding up so I can see my work bench  - might nip back to Cheadle for some ironmongery for a door I refitted. I have a bird box to put up to block the hole the sparrows have been using and I want to make more bird boxes... 

Got some fiddling to do on my new motorbike and might go for a longer exploratory walk along a footpath into the valley I've not done before. I can't take Leia as she's a bit to old now for such explorations.... if it's style friendly it might make a nice spring walk for her and me .....


Saturday, 13 February 2021

The Fradley express route

I sometimes miss Fradley as a mooring. We moored three boats at Hunts lock over an 11 year period there. We eventually moved when a mooring came up on the Shroppie, we'd done the routes out of Fradley and the new mooring was a little closer to our new (old) cottage in the Staffordshire Moorlands. 

I was watching one of the now many YouTube vloggers "Boating Beyond" * as they were cruising and now moored at Fradley. He took a trip on his folding bike to Alrewas and I was saddened to see C&RT has surfaced the tow path between Fradley Junction and Alrewas. It's a small detail but demonstrated to me the justification for our move as the whole area is being  over used now and this fast cycling path will see exactly that fast cyclists using it as a route. Lots of cyclists used the cafes at Fradley and why wouldn't they now use this new smooth surface to have a road free blast towards Alrewas from Fradley or vice versa. I've nothing against cyclist, I'm one myself but its spoilt what was a lovely rural walk. 

I was recently told there is now also a footpath on the non-tow path side that goes at the back of the Hunts moorings - maybe a walking path from the new marina? All in all a great place to visit by lots of modes of transport but one I'm glad I moored at but also glad I'm not there anymore to experience the move from rural tranquility to commercialised honeypot. 

YMMV of course !

* I wonder how much some of the Youtubers generate from being online and selling their lives to the internet masses via advertising on YouTube. I think some must make a tidy penny especially those who use Patreon.... basically a begging bowl (is that harsh as I guess it does take time to produce this content ?) Then there is the 'merchandising' mugs, T shirts and ever more  'art' in many limited forms. Good luck to them I say, if they can make a living  - some seem to make a good living out of it. But there is only so many composting loo installs, cost of living afloat calculations we can watch before the audience dries up.... there will be ever more click bait appearing, dramatic titles, cleavage shots etc etc. Then we will all move on to the next new thing..... whatever that will be !

Then there is the yesterdays headlines todays fish and chip wrappings  ( you have to be my age to understand that reference) Basically those that thought living afloat was the best thing ever.... and then slowly slip back to land with their windlass between their legs..... Journey with Jono ? I suspect Cruising the cut will follow having made a few quid and run out of ideas. 

I'm bitter this morning, maybe it's the weather, or my bad back or envy/jealousy. If you are a fan of any or all of the Vloggers please don't be too offended, after all us bloggers were here first and will be here when the last bit of crap art it drawn or the last composting loo installed. 

YMMV of course ! 

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Battery update

How smug I was sourcing and changing the batteries in my faithful Macbook pro  - I blogged about it here .... click me  Turns out the batteries from Ifixit were old stock.... I should have read their forums before ordering..... Their support was good and they eventually gave me my money back  after giving me the 'support runaround' of fixes and charge cycles. I should have guessed when the adhesive to hold the batteries in place gave up a few days after fitting them. 

I sourced some from elsewhere that initially looked very good with a increased capacity but as the charge cycles are used up the full charge capacity is dropping 

The battery was sold as larger capacity than the original which it was but as you can see its dropped to 97% already after just 6 cycles. Maybe I'll end up with three Lithium Iron batteries in the workshop to dispose of .... and based on my experience  of the local refuse centre recently where as I was taking things out of my boot they were saying.... we charge for that, we charge for wonder there is so much fly tipping !! 

I'll monitor the battery and report back to all of you waiting urgently for this news.... times like this I wish Bruce  ( NB Sanity Again) was still around, he was a big Mac user and would have had sage advice for sure.

Monday, 8 February 2021

A year ago tomorrow

We were on the boat sitting our storm Cara and had been out cruising looking at starter batteries at Norbury and going for a meal at the Junction pub at Norbury. All basic taken for granted activities much yearned for this year. I'm trying ever so hard not to be wish my life away as I guess most of the world is doing right now. We are lucky and know it and are thankful for it. 

It all seems like a life time away..... 

Anyhow today my bad back woke me again to a blizzard like scene  as I took Leia out for her early morning toilet. The Rayburn is on with both boilers going to give the workshop some heat.... it was March 2018 when I came back from Chichester at 10.30pm on a Sunday night to find the beast from the east had taken its toll on our workshop bursting a pipe and blowing the plastic push fits off the central heating in there.

I think this week will see both wood burners going at the cottage. The smaller Aga in the front room is perfect whereas big bertha in the middle of the house will heat the whole house when going well.... only issue is the house will look like an early years steam liner with both chimneys smoking. At least I'm getting through the 14 bags of Excel I brought last March when I could not get oil during the first lockdown. This time we have had no such problems so sorry Greta but I'll be burning some fossil fuels  (oil and coal) today but we do where we can supplement it with renewable electrical heat.

I will have to brave the elements as I'm on a mission to sell surplus motorcycle parts  - to give an idea of the scale of my years of hoarding bits from bikes sold on....I'm going to hit £1500 when I sell my last couple of bits. That's some expenditure to recoup that much selling on Ebay and forums. But at least my garage looks better for it as does my bank balance. I'm also on a mission to finally sort the paperwork  - shredding most of the stuff I've saved for posterity. I'll keep just a few old bills for the lads to look at and throw away when its their time to clear my life away ! 

One final job is to scan in the many hundreds of old paper photographs .... but then I need to catalogue the 35000 digital photos I have in my Iphoto library .... now there is a task to keep me busy. 

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

A warm welcome

As blogged about previously we went to Percy to check the boat having not seen her since early December. We did indeed get a warm welcome as the sun was having one of those rare days when it wins out over the clouds. 

Percy sits moored east to west or west to east depending where we have come back from. I think we prefer west to east as that points us towards the bottom of the canal .... or Autherly junction where there is about 15 miles of cruising with only one lock to stress the single handed boater.  

The orientation of Percy's moorings therefore provides sun on the side of the boat all day. Even weak sun such as we had on Monday was enough to warm Percy inside despite 4c outside.  It made leaving that little bit harder after we had mission accomplished status.

I took my old fishing box and pole set up as a good friend had donated his old gear to me. I also took two sheets of expensive fire board ( 25mm) that I'll use to make a partial hearth for the new back stove.... a lot more on that to come. I played around with the stove pipe I have brought to get an idea of what my challenges will be in fitting. Rachel meanwhile re measured all the curtains and they are now in production at a little shop in Leek.

We finished the day with a pruning of one of the Buddleia's  on the mooring. Maybe a little late as it was starting to leaf up... I did them all in November the year before ....

Here she is ..... patiently waiting for us to take her out. 

Sunday, 31 January 2021

Check ?

 Oil - Check

Engine Manual - Check

Karndean - Check

Fire board - Check

Stove - Check

Stove base - Check

Well thats all my supplied for the jobs lined up but one other check....

Check the boat  - ?? 

I will because I consider it safe to do so and I have work to do that'll keep my mind occupied as well as my body. 

Who'd have thought we'd be going through such mind summersaults just to visit my boat and do some jobs.

Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Off out cruising

....that would have been last year. This year it's sleep eat repeat, like most of the UK and the world it's groundhog day. 

I checked back on my last year blogs at this time and we were off out for a cruise and it was green warmish and we were free....

We went for a walk from the cottage today and it was I think the least enjoyable walk I've had from here in all the time we've been here. It was cold with a fine drizzle onto slushy icy wet roads. It felt like a million years away from the cruise we did in January 2020.

We are lucky we have a good friend and boaty neighbour who keeps an eye on Percy for us and has sent some pictures of Percy in the ice and snow at Shebdon ...brrrrrrrr !!

All pictures courtesy of Mandy NB Don't Panic 

In looking back at last years January blogs I was reminded of the sad loss to the boating world of Bruce Napier of NB Sanity Again. A full year, I often wonder what he would have scribed about the last year and the state of the world. His writing was always interesting and entertaining. 

I need to visit the boat to retake the measurements for the curtains and today the two very well packed sheets of 25mm fire board arrived from Midland Chandlers so they need to go ( less packaging ). I fully intend working on Percy in the coming weeks, I think I have most of what I need now to put the stove in the back cabin and do the big engine service, just a shame I canot or should not overnight as it would save trips. 

I think the saving grace is this period of mucky cold snowy weather will depart and based on the time of the year we could get one or two quite cheery days into mid/ late February, hopefully it'll feel like instant spring !

Friday, 15 January 2021

Changing my batteries after 7 years !

Seven years from a set of batteries is not bad going. Over 1,000 charge cycles but I started to notice bad performance and I got a warning they needed a service ??

Ok, not my boat batteries as they have been in two years now  - need to check that ( was February 2019 so not quite 2 years

This is the battery  - or batteries as they are four linked together from my MacBook Pro late 2013. Still a fine machine I7 processor 16gb of Ram 500gb SSD and a lovely retina screen. So when the Macbook started shutting down unexpectedly I sought out Apple to see what they'd charge for a new battery   - just short of three hundred quid !! I have other things to spend that on so I sought the sage advice of YouTube and found a fella replacing one with an OEM battery from IfixIt. 

Eighty pounds DIY just don't puncture the thing that is stuck into the Macbook with industrial grade adhesive strips.

This is after removal, using adhesive remover and fishing line pulled under the batteries to separate the batteries from the case  - slowly does it. 

The new set it for hopefully another seven years - I'm retired so canot afford this tech but it is good tech. Charge up fully then leave it connected to the mains for another two hours. Then completely discharge it and then charge back up to 100% - this apparently is needed to calibrate the computer to the battery 

All done and I'm writing this using the same Macbook. Now what to spend that saved money on !!

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Who doesn't like a stat or two

I've always liked playing with numbers and recording unnecessary  bits of information. When we were younger and money a lot tighter I used to work out our spending and income each week ( remember when we were paid weekly in cash !) This extended to monthly accounting in a blue ledger book I still have for posterity. I moved on to Microsoft money in latter years but now in retirement thankfully I just spend ! 

I don't record all spending on Percy just fuel ( more for how much is left in the tank) or how many hours I have done since last fill up etc. 

One stat I'm pleased about is the number of posts I did last year - I smashed my Percy blog record by some margin.

Never hit over 100 before and my 113 for last year was 2.17 blog posts a week 

It was 20% more than my previous best year in 2013 - the first full year we had Percy

It was a splendid 135% more than my worst year in 2014.

Ironically it was the lockdown that gave us the opportunity to use Percy more and did those two long planned trips the four counties and the Llangollen and back. The blogging each day no doubt helped plus I had more time to blog about other stuff during the year.

Hopefully this year will be more blogging about Percy and a few jobs I need to do.... the next blog will be just that ! 

Reverting back to house stats that got me thinking of this post in the first place.... Today I upped our electricity direct debit as we are using more electrical heat sources as this is renewable ( remember my pledge to change here)  

I initially was a little annoyed as this was mainly due to Rachel working from home.... but then I realised she had not been doing the 50 mile a day 3 days a week commute to work. 

Look away those of you that live aboard or have a thermally efficient home. Our energy use is reflective of us living in a cottage over 200 years old with single glazing and three bedrooms so not too tiny. Also I do feel the cold - could be called a wuss lightweight etc but I can afford not to be cold and have always said I'll pay what it takes to be warm. Having said that we are looking at using more renewables and will be spending on double glazing this year to reduce heat loss. (Plus we have two wood burners now and each walk I bring back a chunk of blown down wood for next year) 

Reviewing the info it's interesting how over two years we used a difference of just 21 litres of oil. The savings was on cost with the pandemic dropping the cost of oil to a very low price. Savings on fuel for commuting was impressive even if we did have to heat the house more. 

When all combined we were a decent chunk of cash for Motorcycle spending up on 2019.

Anyhow better get to the vets with a wee sample from Leia. Poor Leia is getting old and had started with kidney failure, the vet suggested a choice of quality or quantity of life left sadly. I opted for quality as I would want myself, no point her living longer in pain and discomfort. 

As Forest Gump advised "My Mom said life is like a box of Chocolates, you never know what your gonna get" Leia and me are both heading for the coffee cream !