Ladieees and gentlemen. Welcome to the tenth, yes it’s true, the Tenth Herbie Awards (pause for rapturous applause). Alarmingly it’s already that time again, when the members of the Herbie Academy (me and Kath) bestow our coveted plaudits and brickbats on the best and worst things we have discovered on our travels on the waterways this year. So charge your glasses with Prosecco (we couldn’t run to champers this year but Prosecco is so fashionable right now), sit back and prepare to be enlightened and perhaps mildly amused.
And so we move on to our first category for 2016. Best Gadget for use on a boat. Mundane they might be, but they do a great job for us. As with all the awards, this relates to things we have seen, experienced or acquired during the past year. Sadly I have to report that being boring old stick in the muds we have not acquired glamorous gadgets like a selfie stick or a radio controlled drone camera, or perhaps surprisingly, too many solutions looking for problems.
So this year’s nominations are actually solutions to real problems that we had and you might have too. And, even more surprisingly, they worked!
Our first nomination is for a solution for getting oily fluids out of awkward places. Ever changed your boat’s gearbox oil? The drain plug is underneath and you have to catch the oil in something then wriggle that something up and out. This gubbins would do it easily, but that’s not what we bought it for. We used it to get rid of a problem that had been urking us for a while. Our trusty old BMC 1.8 had been leaking diesel. A steady drip drip from the fuel filter that I couldn’t seem to fix. Ahaa, I hear you say, a drip stopper. Well no. The drip was actually stopped by the wonderful Ian at Calcutt boats and much as I would like to have him in a box in the cupboard, he is not really a gadget. No, the problem we had, was how to get rid of all the diesel in the drip tray. Mopping it up is slow, messy and ineffective; scooping it out is difficult and back breaking in the confined space, and hoovering it up with a wet and dry vacuum works, but is messy and last year led to me spilling some into the canal, not a good idea at all. Then, on ebay I found this
It’s quite a substantial piece of kit – bigger than I expected, and solid and well made, and comes with all the hoses and leads you need and has a nice on off switch. We attached the hoses, bunged the sucky end in the drip tray, stuck the squirty end in an empty oil can, attached the battery clips and switched on. It self primed beautifully and made short work of getting all the diesel out – several litres. You could use it for draining your oil instead of using the old plunger pump fitted to the engine or like I said earlier to change the gearbox oil. It’s a surprisingly robust pump for the price and I recommend it highly. Sadly, it ought not to be used for pumping water. I guess because it would corrode internally.
Our second nomination is a simple enough thing, but again it has solved a problem for us. We don’t often watch the telly on Herbie, but there are times when we really really want to - Wimbledon, Grands Prix, etc. Now that we are down on the South Oxford, TV reception is, how shall I put it? PATHETIC! Now there are all sorts of fancy gubbinses you can get to boost TV signals but a lot of them are sizeable objects that need cabling in and aren’t cheap if they don’t work. So, with low expectations I thought I’d gamble a mere thirteen quid at Argos on a basic aerial booster like this.
Not much bigger than a packet of cigarettes (probably not much more expensive either, although as a non smoker I’m not sure), its called a Total Control Aerial Booster and it works. You plug it into a 240v socket near the telly, connect up the aerial leads, and switch on. Our number of channels at Cropredy marina went up from zero to oh, I cant remember now, but lots and lots. The only downside when out on the canal is you need your inverter on to provide the 240v. It cant make something out of nothing however, and there are lots of places in the Banbury area for instance, where we still can’t get a signal, but neither can most other folk, no matter what gubbinses they have. I like it because its dead simple, needs no clambering about to fit, it’s cheap and given half a chance, it works. Oh that all gadgets were like that.
So they are our two nominees. Tune in tomorrow to see who wins and to see our nominations for something completely different – Best Day’s Cruise of 2016.