Sunday, February 28, 2010

On losing weight

Still it rains. The soakaway that drains my patio is saturated and I have two inches of standing water over the paving. According to the met office, relative air humidity stands at 93% and has done all week. Will my fire logs ever dry out?

Well yes it seems that they will. Spurred on by Halfie last Monday I weighed and marked a couple of new ash logs still heavy with sap and I plan to re weigh them over the coming months to see how much water they lose. (I know that probably makes me an anorak, but it keeps me off the streets).
Even after only six days in my unheated conservatory the samples have lost about 4% to 5% of their weight. In fact about 30 grams, that's about 2 tablespoons of juice, from a short peice of log. At that rate they would be very dry in about five months. I suspect though that they will slow down because the moisture lost is mainly from the sawn ends. Water trapped deeper in won't find it so easy to evaporate.

If only we humans could lose weight so easily. Five years ago I dieted very successfully and lost a lot of weight, and whilst I'm still not back to my heaviest, I have put a lot back on. I need to take action, but I fear that lying about in the conservatory won't do the same for me as it does for the logs.
This week I plan to resume the manufacture of the cratch table. Stay tuned.

Friday, February 26, 2010

And now for something completely different

I was in Portsmouth this morning on an errand and I couldn't resist my customary trip down to the harbour to see the boats. What a sky there was.

A little group of families stood atop the old round tower at the harbour entrance with little children excitedly waiting to wave a welcome to their daddies returning home on HMS Cornwall. Apparently before stopping off at Devonport on the way home to Pompey she has been down in the gulf keeping the Somali pirates at bay.

Here she comes.
Safe into the harbour just like Herbie getting back to Iver (well, a bit).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Feeling the strain

Once a week from now until the boat repaint in April, I need to do something aboard Herbie in preparation. This week it was clearing out the lockers on the rear deck because we'll be painting that area. As well as the usual windlasses, mooring stakes, hammer and so on there were old oily rags, cans, plastic bottles used to make oil funnels, scraps of rope etc. I filled a sack and took it to the tip, and in doing so somehow rigged a muscle in my back and now I'm fit only for lolling about for a day or so. That's my excuse anyway.

I also went to the Uxbridge where they supply craftmaster paint and talked about colours and quantities and ordering times. Interestingly, when I revealed our chosen colour scheme, the lady in the shop said it was exactly what they were planning for their new boat!.

Here is a view I knocked up in Google sketchup.

I say knocked up as though it was casual. Actually it wasn't easy and took me ages, but it gives some idea of how the boat might look. You can see the rear deck area plainly here. I think I might do some part of it in the light grey to break it up a bit.

Here's another view.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Next year's moustache

My trusty handsaw is a bit like a Gurkha's Kukri, in that once I take it out I never put it away without having drawn blood! In the case of the Gurkha of course it has to do with tradition and bravery whereas in my case it has to do with incompetence.

Today's very small wound was obtained whilst sawing logs. When we were last out on the Slough arm, BW's contractors were cutting down ash trees growing along the bank (please excuse the blurred photo, I was trying to steer a boat at the same time!) and in answer to a polite request from me they said I could take as many logs as I liked. Well you don't turn down ash logs. They are supposed to be the best of all for burning, so I took a dozen or so four foot logs of about 3 to 6 inch diameter.

Sawing them up this weekend has produced over a hundred short logs for the boat stove, but they are quite sappy and very heavy so into the shed they go to dry out for use next winter. I think I might weigh one and mark it, then weigh it again in the autumn to see how much water it has lost.

One day this weary winter will be gone
But won't be fooled it won't be gone for good
It will be back to freeze next year's moustache
Blowing snow as every winter should

Loudon Wainwright III

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Could this be the new look Herbie?

You'll probably need to click on it to see it big enough, but here is what might be the final design, provided that someone doesn't change my mind! What do you think?

Tonight I sat down with a spreadsheet and my boat measurements and calculated how much paint I'm going to need. The sides are straightforward, its the front and rear doors and well deck and the inside walls of the rear semi trad deck that bump up the quantities. It looks like the paint alone (including primers, undercoats, three top coats etc) will cost over £500 so I hope it all works out! I'm going to need you all to keep your fingers crossed when the time comes.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

No escape from big decisions - and the answer to the puzzle.

One thing about deadlines is that they force you to make decisions. Last week the Herbie repaint team met to discuss plans for the big job in April and the time approaches when I must order paint.

So over the last week I have been paying special attention to which boats look nice and why. I still haven't chosen colours but here are some things I have decided upon. Apologies / thanks if your boat is shown below

1. I'm going to have panels surrounded by a broadish border with a coachline in between. Like this type of thing

although the red coachline is a bit daring

or this
Outside of the coachline will be a different colour from inside.

2. The central panels will not run the whole length of the boat as above, but will break either side of the side doors (or on the other side, the bathroom window) so each side has the name panel, plus two long panels. A bit like the black and cream boat below.

3. I will use dark colours - dark grey, very dark green, or black for the panels

4. The outside borders too will be dark, but a different colour. Much as I love the black and cream of this:

I'm not sure it would look so good on a boat with windows rather than portholes.

5. My coachlines will have square corners, so they won't be scalloped like this

despite the fact that Mr Crabtree Goes Fishing is one of my favourite books of all time!

I'm realising that this approach makes it more difficult to paint than a straight one colour , one long coachline affair, but It might make it easier to repaint over scratches in future if I have smaller areas of one colour. I think Herbie will end up looking a bit chunkier.

Yesterday's puzzle? Well the scale was rather deceptive as it's over six feet long because it's a ...

coffin! Made in Ghana where they apparently go for such things.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Keeping us warm and food cold. and a puzzle.

A factory on fire? No just the Nescafe works at Hayes having a brew up.

It's a good job the coal boats were out and busy last week or we might have run out (of coal not coffee). They're doing a roaring trade in this freezing weather. We had the stove running 24 hours a day to keep warm in Paddington. Still, we were able to save battery by switching off the fridge and putting milk etc on the outside deck.

As ever we had a good time in the capital and deployed our bus passes to the max. I'm now getting quite expert on London buses and can't remember why I used to prefer the tube. A year or to back, if I was asked "What's the best way to Turnham Green?", I would probably have suggested a felt tip pen, but now I know it's a 27 bus :-)

Anyway, here's a puzzle for you. What is this object seen in the British Museum? Not a real camera obviously. I'll give you time to think and post the answer tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Flippin' 'ec, its been cold.

Sunday night we moored adjacent to the weir above Black Jack's lock, lulled to sleep by it's steady roar, but not before I took this picture in the failing light.

Our plan has been for a few days in London, so on Monday we decided to go for it, five locks and about twenty five miles in the freezing cold wind and snow. After we had cleared the locks we decided to take the steering in half hour shifts, the other one going below to make tea and get warmed up. This made it just about bearable and having started at 0830 we arrived in Paddington just after 1600. Our only stop was for ten minutes at Sainsbury's in Kensal Green to buy a bottle of ginger wine and some Jim Beam. That got us warmed up.

Here we are passing Indigo Dream near the Black Horse (Sue and Richard not aboard).
Yesterday, we needed a treat, so we took the bus all the way out to Kew and spent the day looking up our ancestors at the National Archives . A very friendly place and easy to use. I have always been sad that I never knew either of my grandads. One was killed in WW1 when my dad was only 5 and the other died a month after I was born. So I was quite moved yesterday to see copies of the 1911 census forms filled in and signed in their own writing. Both Kath and I have made good progress in tracing people back. One branch of my family goes back to needle making in Redditch which was a notoriously ghastly occupation with workers breathing in fine shards of metal all day. No wonder they didn't live to be old. They lived near Tardebigge, so maybe I have a bit of canal water in my blood after all.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Easy peasy

My first attempt at passing through a wide lock solo proved to be quite easy. Taking Simon's advice, after tying up and setting the lock, I brought Herbie very slowly into the lock entrance and stepped off carrying the centre rope as she drifted into the lock chamber. A quick nip up the steps and from then on all went pretty much as normal. I dare say not all locks would be as easy, but at Cowley it's a piece of cake as long as you have basic know how and a bit of lock experience.

Herbie waits patiently as I set the lock

Camera in one hand, tiller in the other, and rope in the other (how did I do that??) I approach the lock steps ready to jump off.

Safely in and tied up
All done and we're on our way out of Cowley bridge.

Once out of the lock I didn't have to close the gates because a pair of coal boats was waiting to come in. Very handy as I was bale to buy a bag of homefire ovals as we passed!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

A long overdue experience

I like to think I'm becoming a moderately experienced boater, but for one thing. I must have done easily a thousand locks, crossed the feared Walton maelstrom to enter the Wey navigation, made the dreaded tidal dash from Salters Lode to Denver, and rounded the impossible Briggate bend at Whittlesey on the middle levels. But there's one simple thing I have never had cause to attempt. Until now that is.

Provided we're not iced in on Friday I have to take Herbie single handed through a wide Grand Union lock. Cowley.

I've seen it done lots of times and different people use different techniques, so it'll be fun to have a go. Some people haul the boat in on a rope, others aim the boat at the lock and jump off at the last second. I think I'll opt for the easiest, but not the quickest way. Moor up the boat, open the lock, get back on the boat and drive in, climb out up the lock ladder etc.

I'm quite looking forward to it. Of course it might be spoiled by someone else going up at the same time.

Kath will be joining me on Friday night at Uxbridge, where I suspect we may find ourselves in the Swan and Bottle. Then on Saturday it looks like Rick and David will join us to take Herbie up to Rickmansworth. 17 minutes by car three and three quarter hours by boat :-)

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Splitting logs

A story for you boaters who find splitting logs for the stove a hard job.

Yesterday my friend Doug came round with a wheelbarrow full of maple logs for me. (on one other famous occasion he came round with a wheelbarrow containing two chainsaws and a banjo -but that's another story from which I'll leave you to construct your own joke.).

"A ha" I said, "a chance to try out my new log splitting maul, bought on special offer at Aldi last week."

You may well ask what a maul is. I didn't know until last week either. Well as you can see from the pictures, it's a cross between an axe and a sledgehammer. Fibreglass handle, six pound head.

The logs were about nine or ten inches across and about the same deep. Placing one on end on an old piece of chipboard, I stood back holding the maul like a golfer readying for his drive with the head of the maul an inch in front of the log. Lifting the maul like an executioner of old, I took a mighty swing - and clouted the log with the maul handle. You have to stand six inches further back than you think!

Next try - whack, the log split cleanly in one stroke and very little actual effort. Not only that but it practically demolished the chipboard beneath. And so it went. In no time I had done the lot. If I were you I'd get one.

A couple of tips though.

1. Stand holding the maul at arms length so that the head is six inches short of the log before you swing.
2. Make a good base from a big log placed on soft ground to use as an anvil. For goodness sake don't just put the log to be split directly on hard ground, the maul follows through hard.
3. Choose a big wide open space well away from the boat and the water, and keep people and pets away because the pieces fly about ten feet either side when the log splits.
4. Shin pads might be an idea - one bit of flying log left a dent in my shinbone!

So now you know.

Are all mauls the same? Well as Rick would say, "Once you've seen one, you've seen a maul".