Tuesday, 29 September 2015

No wonder the paint was peeling!

I started having a go at the front doors today, scraping the flaky paint from the woodwork.

I started using sandpaper, but found a much more effective tool was an old knife. This got under the old paint, flaking it off easily. The wood underneath looked completely untouched by paint. I suspect primer hadn't been used, or perhaps it had been stained in an earlier incarnation. It looks very dark.

I sanded and primed the bare wood, ready for an undercoat later.

We are currently near The Galleon, just east of Cosgrove's Iron Trunk Aqueduct. It's an excellent mooring, getting the full effect of the sun during the day and with great views of sunsets over the canal in the evening.

When October comes we'll move up to Thrupp Wharf Marina for overwintering. We won't be back on our original pontoon but online initially; we'll move to a pontoon with electricity when one becomes free. We had been looking forward to an online mooring with its greater connection to the canal and passing traffic, but mains hook-up will be useful when the weather gets colder. We have a small thermostatically controlled fan heater to reduce the likelihood of pipes freezing up.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

90th birthday celebration

It was Jan's mother's 90th birthday recently; today we joined a family gathering at the Ivy Hill hotel in Margaretting, Essex, to celebrate the occasion.

There was a similar bash last year for Jan's dad's 90th birthday.

26 members of the family enjoyed good food and conversation.

And there was, of course, a cake to cut.

Next year they will celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.

Oh, by the way, spot the deliberate mistake.


Saturday, 26 September 2015

The axeman takes a break

By a bridge a little way below the Buckby/Whilton Locks I was surprised to see someone apparently taking a boozy break from log splitting.

It didn't take long to realise that the whole scene was a carefully constructed tableau. (Brian of Harnser mentioned this a day or so ago.)

I love these random homemade pieces of art. Others on the system include the old man holding a lamp (or is it a glass?) on the Trent and Mersey near Armitage, I think, and the sculpture of (I believe) Christina Collins near Stone, also on the T&M. There must be many more; please use the comments box to tell me about them.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Tove stoved in?

As we came past the River Tove outfall below Stoke Bruerne Locks I saw that the pipe appeared damaged.

Unfortunately my camera was still in its bag; by the time I got it out I was almost too late. But you can just see part of the black metal peeling away. Perhaps someone didn't beware enough.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

One more lock to go

Despite a couple of spells of rain in the night my window fix wasn't properly tested. It needs a good heavy downpour to do that. I did run another line of Capt. Tolley's solution along the top of the window seal but it all stayed put, showing that there might not be a leak there. We'll see.

We passed three boats in Blisworth Tunnel; we were following a boat and one came in behind us so it was quite busy. At the Stoke Bruerne locks we had the assistance of two volunteer lockies; after the top lock we waited for the following boat to join us for the remaining locks. At the Long Pound I was surprised to see it completely devoid of moored boats; the first time that I can remember.

The female crew member of the boat we shared with (Allm....?) was a wrgie; she was telling me about some of the work camps she'd been on this year, including Cromford, Inglesham and Chesterfield. It sounds a lot of fun, but I'm not sure Jan would appreciate the often basic accommodation. They were stopping at The Navigation at Castlethorpe (by Thrupp Wharf Marina, to where we are returning for the winter) to celebrate a birthday. Since its rebuild it has, apparently, quickly gained a good reputation and is very popular. The only time they could get a table was 1700!

We stopped for lunch at the bottom of the locks; we stopped again to chat to Helen on Pipistrelle, whom we'd last seen on the Huddersfield Narrow.

Then we passed TWM and The Navigation.

That's a lot of glass! It did look good.

Now we're visiting Ally and Ben in Wolverton. Having come down Cosgrove Lock all we have to do is go up it again to return to Thrupp Wharf Marina and that will be the end of this year's marathon cruise. As I think I mentioned, I'll have to come up with some stats later.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Windlass hands

Today it did not rain!

Doing the Buckby locks was a pleasure in the sunshine.

At the bottom we met Tentatrice on its way up the flight with Chris and Jennie.

It was good to meet you, if only very briefly and from the other side of the cut.

We ended up at Blisworth where Ally and Ben joined us for a meal in the Royal Oak pub. I don't usually go for curry in a non-Indian/Bangladeshi restaurant, but I saw - and smelled - what other people were eating and ordered a Beef Madras. It was rather good, with plenty of distinguishable spices.

As we were approaching Gayton Junction a helicopter buzzed low overhead.

We're nearly at the end of our six-month cruise with just seven more locks to go (eight if we go past Cosgrove). We have had a great time, and have met and made loads of friends en route. It will be quite hard to go home. But we will be able to visit the boat from time to time over the next few months, of course, even if we don't take it on such a mega cruise for a while.

Oh yes - I applied some of Capt. Tolley's Creeping Crack Cure to one of our windows this morning. We just need some rain (!) to see if it has cured the leak.

Nearly forgot: the title of this blog post. My hands, especially the right hand, have developed patches of hard skin from all the paddle winding they have done. I'm quite proud of them, although Jan isn't so impressed. Once we've got home I'll have to calculate the number of locks we've done; I'm anticipating quite a high number.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Alternator belt replaced in the nick of time; meeting our old boat

This morning, as planned, Terry helped with some jobs on Jubilee in the rain. First we moved the boat over to the pub mooring opposite, then attacked the rusty patches by the leaky window with a scraper and sandpaper, then I applied Fertan. The intention ultimately is to feed in some of Captain Tolley's Creeping Crack Cure. Oh, and touch up the paintwork as well.

The next job we tackled was the replacing of the engine alternator belt. All was going well until we found that the large diameter pulley for the domestic alternator would have to come off before the engine alternator belt could be removed. This is, apparently, a known thing with Isuzu engines - it's exactly the same on Grace, Terry and Christine's (Isuzu powered) boat.

So we put it all back together again. The engine alternator belt was on its last legs, hanging on - almost literally - by a thread.

After waving goodbye to Terry and Chris we moved on to Wharf House Narrowboats where we found that the engineer was off site. We were directed across the cut to Union Canal Carriers, where their engineer, Jono, had the tools for the job and quickly had the pulley off and the belt replaced. He pointed out that the engine alternator's pulley was the wrong one inasmuch as it doesn't match the other pulleys the belt touches. That explained, Jono said, why the old belt was in such a bad state (although it's been on for at least three years).

Jono tried to remove the engine alternator pulley but his "drill" socket tool wouldn't fit in the space, so he said I'd have to get it done at the next major service. I'm not really sure what that means; I do all the routine servicing, so what's a "major service"?

I spent more money today on a new set of mooring lines from Tradline Ropes and Fenders; also a pot of the Captain's sealant as mentioned above. Oh, and a spare engine alternator belt.

As we were preparing to continue up the Braunston Locks (we'd stopped above the second lock for lunch while it rained) we saw our old shared ownership boat Shadow in the bottom lock.

It was great meeting up with Bruce and Christine again. We hadn't seen them since the great OwnerShips collapse saga a few years ago. They carried on up the locks while I went to get the ropes, but we met again at Buckby where we all ate in the New Inn. (Much better food that the last time I ate there, by the way. Big portions too!)

They came back to Jubilee afterwards where we spent a most enjoyable evening showing them round the boat, chatting and drinking whisky.

Christine, Halfie, Bruce, Jan.  Perhaps I should have used flash.
Bruce and Christine come over from the USA every year for their three weeks on Shadow; they are nearing the end of this year's cruise. If you read this, B&C, I should explain that "Halfie" was my work nickname.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Rain, grease and sun

I thought it was supposed to be heavy rain this morning. Instead we had what I call light rain, the best sort of rain if you're out in it. Not the all-pervading gets-you-soaked-eventually drizzle, nor soaks-you-in-two-seconds stair rods, but the sort of rain which leaves dry shadows under balance beams.

We did 19 more Hatton-style Grand Union locks, all uphill;  I'll be glad to get back to using the small-eyed windlass tomorrow, when we go up Braunston Locks.

This is Jan steering Jubilee into the bottom lock of the Bascote Staircase.

A CRT team was using a grease gun to regrease the paddle gear on the Stockton flight; I told them about a malfunctioning paddle at Bascote (the towpath-side middle paddle on the staircase).

The rain persisted as we climbed Stockton Locks, then, as it was lunchtime and we were hungry, damp and not too warm, we treated ourselves to lunch in the Boat Inn.

By the time we paused by Heaven Sent to see Julie (she came to us for a cup of tea) it had stopped raining. It was nice to do the Calcutt three in the dry; as we came along the Oxford/GU to Braunston the sun came out.

At Braunston we tied up next to Grace, where Terry and Christine had invited us for tea. We spent an enjoyable evening discussing ways of doing ourselves all the jobs I had lined up for a boatyard to do; we'll tackle some of them in the morning. Thanks for the offer of help, Terry.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

I thought I was waving through just one boat ...

Coming through Leamington Spa this afternoon I saw a boat approaching the other side of a bridge hole. I was nearer the bridge, but there was a moored boat the other side so I held back and waved him on. I didn't expect the Spanish Inquisition there to be three more boats behind the leader. One of them was this unusual wide beam which I've seen several times before.

The convoy was making rather a lot of noise, perhaps fuelled by the alcohol in evidence on the boat tops.

The day had started with sunshine; we walked to Saltisford Church for the 1030 service. We were due off our mooring at 1200; when the speaker hadn't even begun his talk by 1120 I knew we were going to be a bit late. As soon as the service finished, at 1200 (!), we left and hurried back to the boat. Another boat was hovering waiting for us to vacate our slot!

At the very end of the Saltisford Arm, where we had moored, is a new sculpture called "Celebration".

The plaque (with dodgy punctuation) explains that it was "opened" (unveiled?) in 2014 in recognition of the volunteers of the Saltisford Canal Trust who had worked over the previous 30 years to make the place what it is today: a really lovely boaty spot.

Tomorrow's weather forecast is for rain, and lots of it. We might delay departure until lunchtime, when it's supposed to ease slightly, but we have to make Wigram's Turn which is five hours away. So we can't leave it too late.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Fog, smoke and visitors

I got a surprise when I looked out of the boat this morning. Fog. We could barely see more than one lock at a time when we started down the Hatton flight.

At first we were on our own and working efficiently and quickly. With Jan steering Jubilee into a lock I would raise a paddle to start emptying it, then cycle on to the next lock to raise a paddle to start filling it. Then I'd cycle back to the lock with the boat in, cross the bottom gates to raise the offside paddle, lower it when the gates began to move, cross back to the nearside, open the gate to let Jan out, close it behind her and cycle down to the next lock which by now would be full and open the gate to let her in. And so on.

After a few locks a volunteer lockie appeared and looked after the closing up part of the operation. Then a second volunteer turned up and informed us that a boat two or three locks ahead of us would wait for us. When we caught up we went down the rest of the flight together but, even with now two lockies, our progress was slightly slower. The fog gradually lifted as we descended, and was completely gone by the last lock.

We got to the bottom where we picked up Ally who had driven over to meet us, then continued to the Saltisford Arm where we tied up. Ally had brought marking to do on the boat; she stayed for tea before driving home. During the afternoon we sat on the benches in the sun - this is a lovely location. (Just ignore the traffic noise.)

Back to the fog: the moisture in the air highlights all the cobwebs, including this one on the swan neck.

I wouldn't be surprised if there's a similar web in just that position every day, but it's usually invisible. Isn't it amazing?

As the temperature dropped in the afternoon the smoke from boat chimneys rose and formed a layer in the air.

A little later on Jo and Keith of Hadar came over for drinks and chat.

It was good to meet up again.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Lovely Lapworth Locks

We set off from Hockley Heath just after half past nine this morning having seen no sign of life on Waiouru. As we slipped past a figure hiding behind a camera lens appeared in the side hatch.

A few seconds later the camera vanished and we could see Jan and Tom to wish them "bon voyage".

We continued to the Lapworth flight in glorious T-shirt weather - warm and sunny. (I thought the forecast was for torrential downpours.)

Some of the locks are so close together that to pass boats coming the other way a side shuffle has to be performed by one or both of the boats. Here the oncoming boat moved over giving Jan a clear run into the next lock.

We paused at the services at Kingswood Junction, then tied up on the short link canal for lunch. Our original schedule had us stopping at Rowington on the GU, but we carried on to a little way above the Hatton locks ready for that delight in the morning.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

24 red shirts hanging on a line; and a blogger met at last

This has to be one of the more unusual sights on our travels.

24 red T-shirts hanging next to each other on one washing line by the Stratford Canal to the south of Birmingham. They all seem to say "A Support Team" on the back. Fortunately one has been hung up the other way round so I can see "Angel Canal Festival" on the front.

Having looked up the Angel Canal Festival I can see that it's "Angel" as in "The Angel, Islington". The T-shirts seem to be a long way from London.

We set off from Bridge 5 (Yardley Wood Road) on the Stratford Canal at about 1430, arriving at Hockley Heath three hours later. This is where we had planned to stop, so we could eat at the Wharf Tavern and be ready for the Lapworth flight in the morning. I got Jan to drop me off as we approached the moorings so I could see where the best place to stop would be. As I walked towards the pub three things happened more or less simultaneously. I recognised a boat (from photographs); I recognised a man (from photographs); said man greeted me by name.

The boat was Waiouru (in the middle, above) and the man, of course, was Tom. One of the lovely things about canal blogging is that we already knew each other despite not having met "in real life" before. I said we'd be eating in the pub; Tom said he'd see us in there later. Well, the food took a long time to arrive. Tom appeared before the food did so he had to witness us getting through it before we retired to Jubilee for more chatting.

It was good to see you, Tom, and we hope to meet (your) Jan in the morning.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Repair to collapsing towpath on Worcester and Birmingham Canal

We moved from Cambrian Wharf in Birmingham to the top end of the Stratford Canal today. On the way, in the Selly Oak/Bournville area, we passed what looked like a load of rubbish dumped in the cut.

As we passed I could see that it was builders' sacks filled with stone positioned against steel posts to try to prevent the towpath collapsing further. Not a terribly elegant solution, but I suppose the canal is wide enough here and you don't get many moorers.

Went for a fab curry at the Sweet Chillies this evening - our favourite curry house.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Saltaire (the boat) and winter mooring news

We got up earlier than usual this morning and were out of the boat by 0800. This was because breakfast had been promised in the beer tent for volunteers helping to derig after the Black Country Boating Festival. It was a good job I'd taken the precaution of having my usual cereal beforehand as the promised fry-up didn't materialise for another hour or so. By this time we'd both been busy - I'd been coiling cables and Jan had been doing more litter clearance.

I continued to help in the beer tent after rolls filled with bacon, sausage and baked beans - moving on to assisting in the dismantling of the stage. Jan did washing up and helped with bunting packing.

As we had to get to Birmingham today we said our goodbyes and returned to the boat at about 1130 (it felt more like 1330). We invited Barry and Sandra of Areandare over for coffee; it was good to welcome them aboard for the first time and chat before we moved on.

I reversed a few yards to the four-way junction at Windmill End and winded to head along the Netherton Tunnel Branch and through the tunnel. As we cruised the New Main Line a light drizzle turned to proper rain. We were slightly surprised to meet Saltaire going the other way as it had also been at the festival.

The moorings in Brum were busy, but we got a good spot in Cambrian Wharf, tying up at about 1630. We walked to the large Spring Hill Tesco for supplies then returned to the boat where Jan prepared tea and baked a cake.

After a pretty tiring long weekend a reasonably early night is called for (and we may even lie in in the morning!)

Oh, we have sorted a mooring for the winter. We're going back to Thrupp Wharf Marina on the GU, this time to an online mooring with no electricity. It will be a longer walk from the car park, but we'll be able to see (and hear) passing boats on the canal. I'm envisaging not having to use the fridge much, so the batteries should survive with solar charging - especially when we're not there to use any power.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Bin bagged out

Day two (or is it three?) of the Black Country Boating Festival, and I've been busy, busy, busy. Not this morning, though, when we went to the service in the beer tent, part of the Churches Together in this part of Dudley/Sandwell. The talk, loosely based on the parable of the Good Samaritan, was good but a little long.

The service included a collection for Syria; at the end everyone was given a helium-filled balloon with a message attached: "Pray for Syria" (in Twitterspeak). It was a good ruse to get everybody out of the marquee promptly so that the tables and chairs - and stage - could be reset for the next band and so that the bar could reopen.

On a countdown we all released our balloons.

I wasn't too comfortable with the prospect of littering the countryside with rubber and an invitation to pray, but I joined in with the crowd. Have I just shouted "Free Barabbas!"?

After lunch I saw the state of the ground outside the beer and food tents and got to work with a litter picker and a bin bag. I also did more replenishing of loo rolls, and assisted with clearing chairs and tables at the close of play. I think I'm probably quite tired.

The festival officially ended at 5 pm; boats began to move away.

I shifted Jubilee to a better mooring, away from the "hooting bridge". Perhaps we'll get more sleep tonight - I was woken by a car hooting at 0220 today!

David, Mary, Richard and Peter joined us for a meal on board, then I went to the beer tent where a debrief was in progress. I discovered that there would be a breakfast for volunteers/staff at 0800 tomorrow - mustn't miss that!

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Black Country Boating Festival

It was the first day that the public were invited in to the BCBF, but I started the day in more potentially back-breaking labour. I helped to erect the second stage, which involved a lot of screwing, unscrewing and rescrewing nuts and bolts holding lengths of stage "scaffolding" together. This is the finished result.

After a coffee back on the boat I treated myself to a wander round the festival site. By this time the rain had stopped and the sun had come out, bringing the crowds with it.

Jan and I spent some considerable time litter picking in the afternoon. Oh, I also restocked the loos with loo rolls more than once - they get used up almost the instant they are replaced.

For lunch Jan and I went to the nearby church which was providing good value food (I had a bacon and sausage cob, quiche and salad, chocolate cake and tea. The tea was made with UHT milk - I couldn't drink more than a couple of mouthfuls).

I saw Andy and Helen on their Wildside (boat) stall; also Barry and Sandra on their homebrew (boat) stall. BCF boat Kew had a good central location and was doing a fair trade in showing people round the boat.

Tomorrow - well, I'll write about tomorrow tomorrow, when it will be "today".

edited for corrections

Friday, 11 September 2015

Lifting. Some of it heavy.

After breakfast I was going to go volunteering. Only before I'd even had a cup of tea we became aware of a boat in difficulty by us. Therese, on a boat with no name, had her bow in the reeds and obviously didn't know how to extricate herself. I offered to help, and found myself accompanying her to the next winding hole and back. When she was safely tied up alongside us I had my cold toast and tea and went to see what I could do at the festival site. As there was nothing specific for me to do I took it upon myself to hoik flotsam out of the canal for a couple of hours. I filled a bin liner with plastic bottles, bags and a wheely bin lid. Oh, and a clip board and two highlighters.

After lunch I did a lot of metal fence moving and more rubbish operations before treating myself to a pot of tea.

Then I chatted to Andy Tidy before meeting up with Jan and others for the evening meal from the boaters' on site catering facility. We had the pork stew, which was very good.

In the beer tent we talked to Simon of Lady, a boat I'd seen moored up on the site.

Sorry there are no photos today - I thought my camera would get in the way of jobs.

Tomorrow the Black Country Boating Festival is open to the public.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Festival volunteering

The weed was less of a problem today as we made our way back to Factory Junction and down the three Factory Locks to the New Main Line. In fact, my first trip down the weed hatch was just after emerging from Netherton Tunnel, when I tried to slow down to see if we were on the moorings allocation board for the Black Country Boating Festival. (We weren't, but I'll come to that.)

When I pulled out a large sheet of rather clean polythene it was the biggest single haul I'd had for quite a while. It stayed on the bow deck until just before Gosty Hill Tunnel on the Dudley No. 2 Canal, when a man out litter picking offered to take it.

He and his wife look after the area to the north of the tunnel, conveniently right outside their house. They've made a good job of the information sculpture thing.

We had stopped there for lunch; I took the opportunity to cycle to Tesco. I'd been given the directions; what I wasn't told was that the route involved cycling to the top of the hill and down again, doing another climb of the hill coming back! Still, with only the three locks today perhaps I needed the exercise.

One bonus of the ride was seeing the air shaft in someone's front garden. What a strange feature to have!

This is the same shaft as seen from the tunnel.

We went to Hawne Basin for diesel which, at 49p per litre base price was an opportunity not to be missed.

Back at Windmill End we found our mooring and tied up the best we could. The back end is about three feet out from the bank owing to all the detritus in the canal. I pulled out a car tyre and a long piece of metal but it made no difference.

We weren't on the list, by the way, as we had booked only yesterday. Our mooring is down the Dudley No. 2, near a bridge where it seems it is obligatory for motorists to sound their horns in the most annoying way possible. At least it's all quiet now - I expect it will start up again early in the morning.

I had indicated my willingness to volunteer at the festival; we just about managed to get to the 5 pm meeting on time where we were able to introduce ourselves. Jan has a job lined up for tomorrow helping to make up the boaters' packs; I don't know what I'll be doing.

I have already made a start, though. After tea I armed myself with a boat hook and a rubbish sack and spent some time pulling out floating drinks bottles and plastic bags from an area where they had collected. Jan joined me with a litter picker device. We gave up when it got too dark.

On the way to that (unofficial) job I saw Wandering Bark and the Jam Butty arrive and wind. We said hello to Andy and Helen; I saw Barry of the Home Brew boat later too.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Weed slows progress on the Birmingham Canal

We set off at 0930 from near Hatherton Junction and stopped for Morrisons just after the narrows of Pendeford Rockin. We were due to meet fellow BCFer Richard at Aldersley Junction; he walked up just as we tied up there for lunch on Jubilee. And then it was off up the Wolverhampton 21. Kew went first, so all the locks had to be turned for us. With five of us altogether, though, we kept up fairly well. No water was wasted down bywashes; nearly every pound was low.

Some of the balance beams were quite rotten; I expect some are due for replacement soon. The gates themselves didn't seem to leak much. This is Lock 7; soon the lock number will be even less legible.

At the top we decided, with Kew, to go on to the moorings by the Black Country Living Museum and the northern portal of Dudley Tunnel. This is where the condition of the canal threw a spanner in the works. Or, rather, a whole lot of weed.

With Kew out of sight ahead we were going slower and slower. The water was beautifully clear, but that could mean only one thing. Weed. This is usually fine if it's just growing at the bottom of the cut, but here there was a lot of blanket weed floating on the surface. Jubilee's base plate projects an inch or two forward of the stem post. This prevents weed trapped against the bow from slipping under the boat; instead it forms a great clump which doesn't improve the hydrodynamics much. Every so often I remove it by means of a long timber batten, but as soon as I was removing it it was collecting again.

The weed also wrapped itself round the prop quite readily. The second time we stopped to clear it I discovered a thick bramble trapped on the skeg against the rudder post. This, of course, was a good collector of weed; it was sticking to the thorns. I had to resort to the steak knife to cut this away.

By the time we got to the BCLM it was 1930 and getting rather gloomy. David and Mary joined us for a meal on board Jubilee - Jan had cooked a delicious chicken stew.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Budgerigar comes for an unexpected ride

Just below Lime Kiln Lock on the Staffs and Worcs Jan was most surprised when a budgerigar flew down from the trees and landed on a solar panel in front of her.

Budgie stayed for the ride up the lock and showed no sign of wanting to fly away, even when we got close in order to take photos.

Just as we were wondering what to do with it a cruiser arrived to go down the lock. As I started cycling on to the next lock I mentioned to the crew of the boat what had happened, expecting them to be slightly interested but no more. I was as surprised as Jan had been when Budgie turned up to learn that Sue on the cruiser was not only very interested, but was known as the "bird lady", having an aviary at home with as many as 500 birds at one time. Sue looked at the bird and diagnosed that he had probably run out of seed and was therefore hungry and weak. Being a domesticated bird he did not know how to forage for food in the wild. She picked him up and took him back to her boat (Lapwing) to care for him.

What are the chances of a) a budgerigar hitching a lift on your boat - in the middle of nowhere - and b) the very next person you meet being a bird expert? Astonishing!

Earlier we had tied up below Rodbaston Lock, within earshot of the M6, to have lunch. We are travelling for a few days with NB Kew.

We passed Tycho at Hatherton Junction. It was interesting to see some fibreglass "blue tops" - as on Kew - incorporated in the boat. But what is the curious fender extension thingy at the bow? Does it do push tug operations somewhere?