Monday, October 30, 2006

We've been away at Launde Abbey in Leicestershire for the annual bash of the Nonsuch Dulcimer Club. As well as meeting up with old friends, and having an AGM and a great concert, and some lat night tune sessions, I spent the daytime in workshops with Butch Ross , a great young dulcimer player from Kentucky. I'm not really a dulcimer player (Kath is rather better at the hammered variety), other instruments being my forte, but Butch managed to inspire me quite a bit so I'll have to get down to some more practice now.

No boats at Launde Abbey, but we did call in at Whilton marina as we drove past on the A5, to pick up a gas leak tester from the chandlery there - and to have a bite to eat and a cuppa in their excellent tea room alongside the canal. Whilton have more boats for sale than practically anywhere else, and whilst we're not boat shopping I couldn't resist having a quick glance over the for-sale bay. I didn't see inside any boats, but there were some lovely paint jobs in evidence.

Only three more days till our boat safety inspection. Tommorrow I need to get out to Herbie and do some last minute jobs to meet the requirements. I have to re-secure the batteries after I moved them about recently, and get rid of some redundant wiring left by the RCR man a while back.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Still not expert but a lot more knowledgable

I'm just back from my weekend course on Boat Electrics, complete with my certificate to prove it.

Of course the certificate doesn't prove I had to pass anything - just that I showed up! However, it was a great course run by Tony Brooks at Reading College (part of Thames Valley University). We not only covered basic electrical theory on engines and on domestic systems in the boat, but we also, in small groups, got to wire up all the electrical bits of the engine - starter, alternator, glow plugs, solenoids and relays, warning lights and dashboard meters etc. Not only that we built a small domestic circuit with lights, a motor (eg for a pump), fuses etc, then coupled the two circuits together for charging purposes using a split charge system. Finally we did a lot on battery planning and management and on diagnosing faults. My brain is now officially full!

If you have a boat, and you don't have a clue on electrics, you should go. Well worth the money.

Friday, October 20, 2006

We enjoy a pleasure cruise while the workers work

Just back from a few days on Herbie with friends Jan and Stephen. The weather forecast was for rain, but luckily it didn't, so we had a great time tootling up to Batchworth and back. Amazingly warm for the time of year, although we did have the coal stove to make us cosy in the evenings. This was Jan and Stephen's first trip aboard Herbie and they seemed to enjoy it. Anyway we got them home safe and dry and as you can see they were all smiles as they posed with Kath (and Herbie) at the end of the trip.

While we were relaxing, the workers on the canal were still hard at it. First there were the gravel boats which go back and forth all day between Denham and Hayes. When they're full they carry 70 tons of gravel and sit very low in the water and need a depth of six feet of water, so they sit mid channel and you have to move aside for them. Here's an empty one (except for a lot of water as ballast) approaching whilst in the background you can just see a full one going the other way.

Despite always having to give way to them, we really enjoy watching them and talking to the boatmen as we wind the locks for them. Its great to see the canals still being used for freight transport.

Then further up the cut, we came upon a gang relining the banks with sheet piling above Coppermill lock. They had an amazing machine sutting on a huge steel raft. Looking at first like a caterpillar tracked digger, it actually had a brilliant swiveling device for handling the piling and ramming it into the ground with a shuddering action.

The raft was so wide that only 7ft narrowboats (that's us) could squeeze past into the lock. Others had to wait for a couple of hours.

Strangely for the time of year, we saw more kingfishers this trip than ever before. There were even a couple flying past Herbie after we had moored up back at base.

Tomorrow I'm off on my 2 day Electrics for Boaters course at Reading. I've been busy trying to map out all the wiring on the boat because it came without useful circuit diagrams and nothing is labeled. It's all beginning to make sense, but I have plenty of questions to ask on the course.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Gone gongoozling

Over the weekend we walked the canal rather than boated it. Visting friends Rick and Marylin in Long Buckby we went for a walk in Braunston, perhaps England's most famous canal village, and took the opportunity to walk overland above the 2000 yard Braunston tunnel and see the air shaft chimneys.

Its quite a hill so its easy to see why they needed to build the tunnel.
Here we are at the southern portal as a boat emerges from its half hour trip underground.

Hopefully next year we'll be taking Herbie through here on our summer cruise.

Herbie now boasts a beautiful name brass made by Rick. We're not quite sure where best to hang it yet, but here it is alongside our quirky pressure gauge quartz clock.

We'll be back on the water next week for a few days with our friends Jan and Steven after their son's wedding at the weekend.