Sunday, August 31, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
Monday, August 25, 2008
Saturday, August 23, 2008
You see the Slough Arm of the GU is little used and could so easily be lost if not cared for. You know what they say, "Cruise it or lose it". Apart from the 80 odd boats moored at Highline Yachting, many of which never move, hardly any boaters go down there.
This is strange because
- it's accessible, being just off the GU on the main canal route in or out of London
- it is of historical interest, apart from the Manchester ship canal it is the the last new British canal ever dug (1880s )
- it probably has more aquatic wildlife than any other canal or arm
There's a little film about it here
Why don't people go down there? Mainly because it’s a bit difficult i.e. shallow and weedy, and because it doesn't have a finale, i.e. somewhere attractive to stop at the end.
However the journey is well worth it if you like wild flowers, birds, seeing fish, and waving to Herbie.
The festival is small, friendly and free. The samosas are tasty, and the kids get fishing lessons. If you don't have a boat, come anyway, you can get boat rides too.
Come on down. 13/ 14 September. http://www.slough.gov.uk/mytown/events/16792.aspx
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Well the narrowboats there were few and none had any good signwriting, but there were of course lots and lots of punts. Peter remarked that Cambridge colleges tend to have themed names for their own punts. At Trinity, their punts are named after something known to come in threes only without actually including the word Three - e.g Bears. Perhaps they have Blind Mice, I don't know. Anyway, the one he likes best is Mile Island. Neat.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Gymnastics - take a boat through Pyrford lock on the Wey. This requires balancing on one leg on a narrow beam performing complex arm movements requiring great strength. Marks for agility and not falling in.
White water narrowboating - negotiating through the dangling sticks below Coppermill Lock on the GU where the river belts across the canal.
Weight lifting (well, weight moving) opening or closing one of a selection of the heaviest lock gates on, say, the Regent's canal.
Towpath cycling - marks for the number of pedestrians you knock into the cut
Towpath steeple chase. Running up the Tardebigge flight, jumping over the balance beams and a water jump over every fourth lock.
Equestrianism - taking a horse drawn boat through an obstacle course
Rope throwing, diving in to retrieve your hat, high jump off boat roof to lockside, hammering the stake - the list of possibilities is endless. And think of the lottery money we could get!
All suggestions welcome
Sunday, August 17, 2008
30 of us paid their £60 and turned up, so you can see how many people want to learn from the master. With that number of course, there was no chance of hands-on teaching so it was a lecture and demo over two days. Starting with a bare sheet of steel, Phil showed us how to prepare it, paint the various layers of primer and undercoat, and sign-write and finally decorate it. The rubbing down bits were described, but not demonstrated (imagine the mess).
I can't go into all the detail here but here are a few things that particularly struck me.
To get a good finish you need to paint much faster than you might think - and with what most folk would consider big brushes. Phil reckons to cover the cabin side of a 60 ft boat in about 20 minutes. The finish Phil gets with just a brush is amazing. It all looks very simple. Hmmmm.
There seem to be a hundred ways you can spoil the job - condensation, inadequate ventilation, skin oils on the prepared surface, tiny bits of silicon from sealants etc etc. You do need to plan and to be meticulous about prep and cleanliness.
Even when you have done a nice paint job, it can easily be ruined by lack of after care - regular washing, stuff on the roof etc
Amazingly, Phil does his sign writing totally freehand. No measuring, no accurate marking out, no rulers or straight edges, and masking tape only to mark the top and bottom of the letters. Watching him pull a perfect freehand arc in masking tape is a bit jaw dropping!
From very close up you can see it is not perfect, but from a couple of feet back it looks right. From across the canal it will look perfect but much livelier than geometrically set out stuff.
Phil likes what he calls the all or nothing approach to the paint design on a boat. On the name panel, great big bold letters and lots of decoration, then going forward a very plain minimalist look until at the bow another blaze of decoration. Here he starts on bunches of roses
On the second day, Phil forced us to endure (his words, not mine) his lecture on the origins and styles of traditional narrowboat painting and he brought along a wonderful display of the real stuff by the old masters like Frank Nurser.
Here it is almost done.
My pic is a bit blurred because it was all to shiny to risk flash photography!
You might gather that Phil is a Ferrari fan. Well, nobody's perfect :-)
Saturday, August 16, 2008
As well as stirring walks on the Long Mynd (can you spot Jacob?),
we couldn't resist a bit of canal spotting and we took a trip out to revisit the aqueducts at Chirk and Pontcysyllte.
The Chirk aqueduct is somewhat overshadowed in reputation by the mighty (and 50 ft higher) Pontcysyllte but in some ways I like it better. Its proximity to the adjacent railway viaduct lends it a feeling of solidity, and of course you get the extra bonus of a 500yd canal tunnel immediately after crossing the aqueduct. What more could you want?
Pontcysyllte is only a few minutes away by car. We parked up and strolled over, somewhat nervously clutching the handrail on the towpath side and peering over the 120 foot drop. Reaching the other side, we were surprised to see a familiar boat just about to do the crossing. It was Floss, who moors at our base in Iver. What are the odds against that I wonder?
Kath lost no time in chatting them up for a ride (thanks guys) and so we sat in Floss's fore deck as she flew (or so it felt) over the valley below. If you've never been across this aqueduct, its hard to imagine. When the boat leaves the hillside it seems to launch itself into the air. There is not rail or safety guard on the non towpath side so from the gunwales upward there's nothing between you and the drop.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
One was Tir Na Nog which had a new interior fit out on a Reeves semi trad shell. The fit out was very nice indeed but the boat had only small portholes and no glass in the front doors so it was very dark inside. It also had a diesel stove, which in retrospect might have cost a lot to run now that diesel is so dear.
Another was Swanley, a very nice trad boat, tastefully fitted out and with a Russell Newbury engine in a centre engine room. The owner had left copious notes on managing the boat and obviously had taken good care of her. However the notes on how to start the engine took two pages. Today, I wouldn't mind at all, but we didn't have the confidence then to take it on. I bet it sounds lovely. We were also concerned about the faint smell of diesel throughout the boat and the exposed fan belts alongside the corridor.
Then there was Faith. A very smart Colecraft shell, and nicely painted. Externally it was a really smart looking boat. The interior had a modern fit out with a walk through bathroom and didn't feel very boaty inside. Also the engine, a Lister, wasn't so easy to get at under the back steps. The final nail in the coffin was a rubbing noise coming from the prop shaft when we went for a test run.
If I bought a boat again today would I consider any of them? Swanley probably. It took ages to sell too and eventually went for a good bit less than we paid for Herbie.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Sunday, August 10, 2008
Thursday, August 07, 2008
I can't think of a single thing that would do more for Herbie than completing the paintwork, although we have quite a list of other planned improvements inside too.
We're quite close now to a final decision on the revamp of the sofa bed after visiting an upholstery place in Bristol last week. It's always worth discussing plans with these people because we came away with our ideas improved and with one or two more measurements to check. That's the thing with narrowboats. Space is so precious and so fixed that you have to be really careful in planning stuff. You have to think carefully about cushion thickness because as some of the cushions form the back rest, they take up sitting space. Too thick and you end up perched on a ledge. Too thin and you don't have a comfy bed. Then there's all the business of grades of foam etc etc. Anyway we're getting a handle on it now.