Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Future Banbury canalscape

I came across this youtube video showing how the canal area in Banbury will look after they complete the regeneration they are supposed to be starting sometime soon.  It includes a sort of fly-through along the canal, CGI I suppose.  The canal and towpath look unchanged.

I think I'm right in saying that the towpath itself belongs to CRT so hopefully we'll still be able to moor in the centre.  The video certainly shows boats moored along there.


Monday, June 17, 2019

Wet paint

"Oooh that paint has beaded up nicely in the rain," I might have said, but I flippin' well didn't.  besides the paintwork being wet in the rain, it was wet paint!  The next meteorologist I see, I'm gonna bust him in the nose. "Less than ten percent chance of rain" said the forecast for that day, and then only light rain.  So as the gas locker lid and the cants were in need of a fresh coat of the old Hempel Bordeaux Red, I got out the kit and sanded and masked and slapped on a  quick coat of gloss.  Job done I retired to my folding chair on the towpath verge and set to The Week crossword feeling pretty pleased with myself (albeit not with my efforts at the crossword)..

When the first tiny spots of rain arrived I wasn't too concerned, then Kath remarked that it was looking very black over Will's mum's and disappeared inside.  That was when the heavens opened.  Not just a light shower but a full blown downpour all over my fresh paint, barely an hour after I brushed it on.  Then to cap it all, it stopped raining, but replaced that with hail!  Anybody looking for happy bunnies aboard Herbie would have been sadly disappointed.  After the rain stopped, the water beads stayed put of course, but I couldn't wipe 'em off because the paint was still really gooey.  So I just had to grin and bear it and tried to get used to the idea of a Hammerite finish on the paint.  What really happened was that when it did finally dry a day later it wasn't too bad - more of a silk lustre finish than gloss.  Hey ho.

We were moored below the Claydon lock flight at the time, planning to have a bankside BBQ - well that never happened of course, but we had a nice relaxing weekend.  On the upside, all this rain will have put another couple of inches on the reservoir levels.  The reservoir figures are out any day.  They might make encouraging reading although they are about a month in arrears.

Saturday, June 08, 2019

One small step for a man

Are you a jumper or a walker?

The latest Boaters News from CRT contains an article warning of the perils of  stepping across the opened gate at the bottom end of double gated narrow locks.  Your feet might slip, the grab rail might be slippery etc.  so don't do it they say.  Of course they're right, but I'll go on doing it.

I would certainly never advise or encourage anyone to do it.  It's a long drop  into the water and you could easily bang your head.  I mean why would you do it?  Or should I say why do I still do it?  Well, to save a walk of 150 feet I suppose.  One pace or 50 paces.

The gap you have to step (not really jump) across is about 3ft 6in I suppose.  Sometimes I stand on the edge and look down and think "not this one" and walk round instead, but more often than not I check that my feet have grip, that my clothing won't snag the paddle gear, that my windlass is safely in the hand away from the gate and make an exaggerated step across, ensuring that I am well onto the opposite footplank and grabbing firmly on the opposite rail. It's not a huge step but I do think and take care each time.  Well like I said, I won't encourage anyone to do it but lots of us still do.  It's funny how at some locks it doesn't feel or look right and I walk round whilst at others e.g. at Broadmoor lock (The one above Cropredy where they sell fenders and windlasses) the other day the step seemed like nothing at all.  I suppose they must all be the same distance.  I must admit, if it doesn't feel safe somehow, I don't do it.  I'm not that cavalier.

Kath, I ought to add, walks round and I'm fine with that.

Are you a stepper or a jumper? It'd be interesting to take a straw poll.  Also has anyone knowledge of someone falling in in the process?

We're back out to Herbie today for a little bit of sanding and painting up at the pointy end.  I noticed the other day how scruffy the bow cants and the gas locker lid have got.  It's really noticeable how horizontal surfaces suffer paint degradation more than vertical ones.  The area I have to deal with is so small that the sanding should't take more than ten minutes and the masking and painting no more than half an hour, but we still need two or three days to get it done because of drying times.  So I have to work a few minutes and then take the rest of the day off.  That's my kind of hard labour.

We had a lot of rain last night but I'm not complaining.  I spoke the other day to one of the CRT chaps walking down Claydon locks and asked him about reservoir levels at the summit.  He said they were pretty grim.  Now I read that they're putting restrictions on the Leicester line and on Buckby locks. I hate to say it folks but we need a wet month.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Food and drink

Having got a letter from the cardiac consultant saying that after the angiogram and the echocardiogram they can see nothing wrong with my ticker,   I've decided to ignore my symptoms unless they get bad and just carry on.  Maybe I just had a virus or something, or maybe I have a nasty case of acute hypochondria (Oh no, not that as well!).

So here we are sneaking a few days away on Herbie.  Tomorrow we head just three locks up the hill to a favourite stretch below the foot of the Claydon flight  where we plan to do not a lot except potter about and I'll do some guitar practice following some cool theory stuff I just learned.

Having had an exhausting day getting packed up and driving here, tonight we succumbed to one of our favourite ready meals (not that we often have such things) - M&S Gastropub Moussaka.  I challenge you to cook me a nicer one.  Anyway we scoffed it sitting outside Herbie at the marina and washed it down with another naughty but nice treat.  Here's an appropriately blurred picture of Herbie with the treat in the foreground.  If you like wine with bags of flavour this a good 'un.
 Tesco's finest.

I've been cutting back severely on the old alcohol in recent weeks and experimenting with alcohol free (or nearly free) wines beers and ciders.  Most Wines of this genre are pretty ghastly, the best we found was from dear old Tesco.

Ciders are generally ok - just sweet fizzy apple juice mainly.  Beers are very mixed.  Low alcohol wheat beers are pretty good if you like that sort of thing.  Sainsbury's do a good one.  As for English type beers, many illustrious brewers have had a bash at it and most have produced quite nasty stuff.  There is one however that is a belter if you like beers of the Ghost Ship genre(American hops and light malts).  Look out for Infinite Session Pale.  They describe it as an American Pale Ale and it is typical of that type of beer, which I happen to love.  I've seen it in bottles in Sainsbury's and cans in M&S.  Virtually alcohol free but really really good.  Very hoppy, and I'm pretty sure I could be fooled into thinking it was a 4%er if someone got me one from the bar.  And only 36 calories in a 330 ml can. Sadly (there has to be a down side) it ain't cheap.

So tomorrow he head up hill for sea trials of our new steerer's seat and to check that lock working doesn't give me a heart attack.  I'm quietly confident.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Uncomfortably numb no more

Pink Floyd may have made a lot of dosh from being Comfortably Numb (at the same time as inspiring the naming of a narrowboat or two), but sitting on Herbie's rear end whilst steering makes my rear end uncomfortably numb.  So flagrantly copying an idea from Oakie, Kath and I have manufactured ouselves a padded steerer's seat covered in an alarmingly scarlet shade of vinyl.

Held in place by two bolts and wingnuts we sincerely hope it will not deposit us in the cut.  Sea trials have yet to be carried out.

Anyhow our couple of days aboard Herbie in the marina have not been entirely wasted. I even washed and polished Herbie's port side.  What a good boy am I.

This picture fails to show the full glory of my efforts but at least you can see the full glory of our lovely spot in the marina.. The starboard side will have to wait until I don't have to risk life and limb to get at it.

Tomorrow we depart by car for Cambridge for our annual assault on the beer festival on Jesus Green. In deference to my current medical predicament I promise to exercise a modicum of restraint and stick to halves of lowish alcohol beers. Actually the hard bit will be to refrain from the delights of the cheese counter. It's a hard life.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Not a Constable

I don't do much sketching and I do even less painting, but I though I might as well make an exhibition of myself and show you this pencil and watercolour sketch I did of Kath sitting outside Herbie at Abingdon last autumn. Not that you'd recognise Kath or Herbie from it, but you might at least be able to make out that it's Abingdon.

Today we're off(by car) to Long Buckby to help celebrate Rick and Marilyn's golden wedding anniversary.  If she'd have strangled him all those years ago, she'd have been out by now.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Good news = not so good news

Hmmm, I'm not exactly a happy bunny after my angiogram yesterday.  The good news is that my coronary arteries are narrowed a bit but not all that much.  The bad news is that my coronary arteries are narrowed a bit but not all that much.  No, I haven't made a typo there, the bad news is the same as the good news.  After taking measurements they concluded that stenting was not the answer, so I'm back to square one.  I was really hoping for a quick fix. So now it's more medication and they'll book me in for an ultrasound scan of the heart so they can see how the valves and muscles are operating.  Ho hum.

I'm far from being an invalid, but I certainly couldn't safely manage a hard day's locking down the canal.  Ten minutes raking up hedge trimmings in the garden leaves me feeling breathless and in need of a rest.  Maybe my new medication will help.  We'll have to wait and see. Meanwhile I'm lucky enough to have lots of other interests to get on with.

It's been a fun week otherwise, and we still managed to fit in a few very pleasant hours on a boat on the Grand Union, even if it was stationary.  The lovely George and Carol of Still Rockin' fame were moored in Cowley and they invited us over for a chat on board their stately home.  Just what the doctor ordered and we had a great time.  Thanks G&C it did me a power of good.

More stationary boating awaits. Next weekend we have a few days using Herbie as a pied a terre either side of Rick and Marilyn's golden wedding celebration and before tootling over to Cambridge to join our Peter for our annual pilgrimage to the Cambridge Beer Festival where I shall attempt to drink just a few halves of not-too-strong beer.  It's not all gloom and doom :-)

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Getting a fix of boating

Don’t tell anyone, but a week ago  we sneaked out under my doctors nose and took Herbie down to Banbury.  I don’t think we were spotted by anyone except Eeyore who was out on NbSonflower and he won’t snitch I’m sure.  Not that my doc need have worried because neither Kath nor I lifted a finger at the locks as we were crewed by grandson Jacob and his mate Ian neither of whom are strangers to the gym as their bulging biceps will testify.

You can’t keep us away from the water, and this weekend just gone was our annual trip to the Norfolk Broads.  Sadly I had to admit that the stressful process of hurtling down a river in a little boat in strong winds, far from a phone signal, was probably not a good idea for someone with angina so I stayed ashore while the others went out.  The family honour was maintained as we had brought along Jacob to crew on our behalf.  Although he has done little sailing in his twenty one years, he has been weilding a narrowboat tiller since he was eight so he managed well. Not to be outdone we did jump in the car and visit a few favourite waterside haunts – Womack staithe, Potter Heigham bridge, and more staithes at Thurne and Upton.  At Upton (near Acle) we waited patiently for the return of our pals as they brought their boats back to base propelled only by the wind in their jib sails as they came up the little channel.

At Potter Heigham we had a treat as some men were refixing a warning sign on the notoriously low bridge so we sat and watched as we ate our lunchtime baguettes. 

Anyone who knows that bridge will know that the tide rips through it at a rate of knots, so the man in the boat with the outboard motor had to hold them in place while they worked.  Unfortunately no one fell in, so it was not quite as much fun as it might have been, but quite entertaining all the same.

It’s only eight days now until my hospital procedure which I hope will restore me to some sort of fitness.  I went to a “pre assessment” appointment last week when they showed my some typical stents like the ones they might fit if they find a good place to do it.  There ain’t much to them, they look like they probably cost ten pence a dozen – about the size of the little springs you get inside retracting ball point pens, but much flimsier.  I can’t wait.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

I have to tell you I’ve lost something significant, but I don’t want it back.  More of that later.  Meanwhile last weekend we took Herbie out on a cruise.  ‘Hang on’, I hear you say,’aren’t you supposed to be grounded pending treatment for your angina?’  Well yes I am but we threw caution to the wind and cruised all the way to this spot:

Cropredy lock.  It took us all of five minutes to get there from our berth at the marina and it was worth it because we’d arranged to rendezvous with the Moomins (aka Simon and Ann on Nb Melaleuca), so we spent a couple of jolly evenings eating and drinking and talking about batteries and toilets, like you do.  Melaleuca now has lithium batteries and a fiendishly clever battery control system devised and installed by Simon.  I wouldn’t know where to start – Simon’s brain works on a higher plane than mine.  Nevertheless now that the days are longer, Herbie’s solar panels are earning their keep and our conventional batteries held up well, losing only 15% over 48 hours of fridge, lights etc. If there is anyone out there who doesn’t have solar yet –get on with it. It’s a no brainer.  Interestingly, I did a quick survey of boats in our marina and I reckon that less than a quarter of them have solar panels.  I think that’s because lots of them never go anywhere. They just sit there plugged into the mains and quietly get eaten away by galvanic corrosion. 

I’ve now got a date (8 May) for my medical ‘procedure’ which I hope will include fitting a stent or two.  According to Oakie I’ll feel like a new man.  Kath say’s she’s felt like a new man for ages.

The thing I have lost as of today (see para one)  is a stone in weight since all this heart thing started a few weeks back! Hooray.  You may congratulate me. No faddy diets, just portion control and cutting out fats, sugars and alcohol (I allow myself a drinky once a week – well twice last weekend ‘cos we were dining with the Moomins).  Now I need to lose another stone- stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019


Here we are aboard Herbie and going nowhere.  I'm grounded.  You know when people get told 'You're under investigation - don't leave town.'  That's me that is.

No I'm not a criminal suspect, I'm awaiting an angiogram appointment because of a sudden bout of chest pains a couple of weeks back, so I'm not supposed to be out of easy reach of an ambulance - just in case.  I shouldn't be all that surprised, my dear old dad was an angina sufferer at my age, so I guess I'm a chip off the old block.  Strange though that it should come upon me so suddenly, although it isn't going away. No more English breakfasts at Wetherspoons (even though they were a rare treat).

Out here on the South Oxford most of the canal is away from roads and the phone signals are pretty poor too, so we won't be going anywhere until I get sorted.  Luckily our spot in the marina is very pleasant, so we can still spend time aboard, which is what we are doing now.

One good thing is that my closer attention to (my already reasonably healthy) diet has already knocked half a stone off my weight.  What's more, I have been forbidden strenuous exercise (although I have been to our regular exercise class a couple of times, taking it steady) for the time being, so I'm on light duties only  Every cloud has a silver lining:-)

Hopefully I might get a stent or something to put me back to normal.  Fingers crossed.

Anyone offering me medical advice or anything other than the mildest sympathy will be shot.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

How fast (or slow) is a canal boat?

“How far can you get in a week on your boat?” That’s something I often find myself explaining to people who ask about our journeys.  In the past I have usually guessed that “In a week on the canal you can probably get as far as a car can in an hour.” Of course if it’s an out and back trip you have to half that.

Well I was lying in bed wondering (like you do) how accurate that advice was, so I thought I might as well check it out and do the numbers.  As you all know I’m quite partial to a few numbers.  So between Google maps, Canalplan and my own Canalculator (I’ve just written a new Python version using about half the lines of code of the old one –sweet!), I chose a few routes and came up with the following

Route                                              Time by car/road                        Time by canal boat            Ratio(canal/car)

Paddington to NIA Birmingham              2.25 hrs                                       79 hrs                              35

Oxford to Coventry                               1.1 hrs                                        40.5 hrs                            37 

Brentford to Braunston                         1.75 hrs                                       55 hrs                              31

Stratford to NIA Birmingham                 0.9 hrs                                         21 hrs                              23

Braunston to Aston turn                        0.9 hrs                                         29 hrs                              32

Well there you are.  Averaging those out and rounding up we see that a car gets there 32 times faster than a boat.  So a distance travelled by a car in an hour takes 32 hours on the canal.  That makes my original statement not far off given that we rarely cruise more than six days in seven and do between five and six hours a day. When we were young an energetic, we did the four counties ring in a week and according to Canalplan that’s 55.5 hours.

“Hmm how about fuel costs?” our boat uses about 1.4 litres per hour.  A car might typically average about 5 litres an hour. So from Paddington to Birmingham a car might use about 11.5 litres, a boat would use 56 litres. So car transport would appear to be about five times as efficient in that respect.  Less fun though.

Then I thought it might be fun to try out some less typical routes.  I thought that boats might fare better against cars in a city, so

Paddington to Camden                         19 min                                         45 min                              2.4

Wow, the boat looks a lot better.  How about up the Thames?

Teddington to Lechlade                        2.1 hrs                                         44 hrs                              21

showing that the river fares better than the canal.  And lastly, just to push the limits I compared our longest ever trip,

Iver(Slough) to Bedford                        1.2 hrs                                          103 hrs                             85

Here the boat is 85 times slower than the car, but that’s because of the route.  The car can get there pretty directly but the boat had to go via Northampton, Peterborough, across the fens to Denver then down through Ely etc.  It might be 85 times slower but for enjoyment I know which route I’d take.

Well that was fun.  Having done that and replaced a tap washer today I think I can take the rest of the day off don’t you?

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Looking back and forth

In an effort to avoid doing anything useful today, (something for which I am especially gifted), I devoted a couple of hours to reading through my historic blog posts.  As a result, I don't know whether to be impressed or depressed. Having a boat blog is a useful diary of what you have been up to, or more often these days, what you have not been up to. When I look back at 2010 when we did the mammoth Herbie repaint, did numerous engine jobs, built the cratch folding table, did the signwriting, swapped out the batteries, installed our first solar panel and controller and made the folding stand for it and blogged on most days, I realise that nine years later I don't have that much energy left.

Then I read that last year (2018) I made and painted a new roof box, completed the repaint of Herbie's roof and the handrails, installed another solar panel and replaced the controller and tilting stands and completed my second (admittedly not exactly a best seller) novel, and wrote myself a useful new Android Canalculator app, I don't feel so bad.  Then I feel bad again because so much more needs doing and I doubt I shall have the energy for it all.  Hey ho. We soldier on.  This year I might replace the battery in the clock.