Friday, December 28, 2007
We had 8 hire holidays before we ever got a boat and I can truthfully say that the hirers we meet up and down the cut are generally a friendly and competent lot. Of the few pain-in-the-backside boaters we have met in the last two years, they have virtually all been boat owners. So you're welcome to share a lock with Herbie any time.
Moved to tears
I am so happy to be presented with this prestigious award. It is thoroughly deserved because of all the hard work that I have put in over the years.
But this is not just about me:
I would first of all like to thank my mother who brought me into this world, and taught me that nothing should be wasted – if you have twelve old cookers in the back yard then you can always make one good one from the parts.
I must also thank Mr Wheelwright, my woodwork teacher who taught me the important lesson that you should measure once and cut twice.
And then there is my daughter Vicky who toiled selflessly to find jobs for me in her house so that I could hone my handicraft skills.
And of course, there’s my wife Marylin who stuck by me through thick and thin and has accompanied me on many boat trips with only the slightest complaint.
There is also Peter John Alain del Strother who instilled in me my love of boats, mainly by capsizing his dinghy with me in it.
It is easy to have grand schemes, but not so easy to make every part of them work, so I must thank Martin Bryce for showing me the importance of atenttion to detail.
I must mention two people who sadly I never met, but who had a great influence on my career. The first is James Brindley without whose pioneering work on canals none of this would be possible. The second is Mr Tab Qwerty whose brilliant invention of the keyboard made nbherbie.blogspot.com what it is today.
(Sob Sob Sob)
And last, but by no means least, my heartfelt thanks to Neil and Kath for persisting with me when all was going wrong; and most of all for pretending to enjoy having me on board Herbie when this was obviously not the case.
(Sob Sob Sob Sob)
I love you all.
(Floods of tears, rapturous applause, exit stage left)
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Taking stock, and the million quid photo card
The stats log tells me I've had 3600 visits to the blog since I accidentally reset the counter, plus about 700 before it was reset plus and an estimated 350 before I started counting. So that's about 4750 visits in 22 months. Wow! Mind you the stats counter also tells me that a goodly proportion of visitors arrive cruelly misdirected by Google, whether they be trainee dentists researching into root canal fillings, or children researching films about clever Volkswagens.
Others arrive via links on other waterways blogs, most notably from Andrew Denny's brilliant Granny Buttons blog which exists largely to alert us all to good waterways related stuff on the web, although you can also marvel at his great night photography skills and empathise with his anguish over occasional mishaps such as his disastrous diesel leak which soaked the internal floor of his boat with the stuff. Top blog.
I started off this blog just to let friends have a look at pics of the boat, but having met a few people who actually claim to be regular readers (some of them total strangers!) I feel motivated to keep going. You of course are free to come and go as you wish. All I can say is I'll try to find interesting stuff to write about rather than just "got up, moved on a bit, stopped, went to bed".
In the coming year I hope to be able to report on the great Herbie roof repaint, trips up the Thames and some of its tributaries, and blissful days in warm sunshine. More pictures too of course. I just got a new 1 Gb XD card for my digital camera so I'll have no excuses not to take pictures. In the early to mid 1980's when I was in charge of a large IT project we bought a load of state of the art microcomputers. We could buy extra memory for them at £1,000 for a megabyte. That would make my XD card cost a million quid!! Actually it cost £17 a couple of weeks ago.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
This years award goes to someone who:
- Is an avid reader of this blog
- Endured several days cruising in torrential rain and kept smiling
- Emptied our 200 gallon water tank by leaving a tap running
- Retrieved the broken off drain nut screw from our gas heater
- Cracked our old boat pole
- Made us a smart new steerers seat
- Drilled out the broken off screws from the water tank cover
- Enjoyed a few good pints with us at a few good pubs
- Generally made us laugh
- Supplied and sponsored (along with the long suffering Mrs Bunnage) our new Herbie team strip
- Provided his hosts with tea in bed in the morning
It is of course Mr Rick Bunnage (loud applause) . A smart certificate will be winging its way to Rick in the new year. Meanwhile here are a couple of photographs to complete his embarrassment.1. Steering us across the Ouse Aqueduct (May)
2. Demonstrating the new steerers seat (October)
3. Helping with the washing up! (is there no end to his talents?) (January)
Absence makes the heart grow fonder
I'm really glad I changed the engine anti freeze recently, but I'm always a bit nervous about the domestic water pipes even though I turned off the main cock and opened the taps before we left last time. Realistically though, the pipes (which are plastic and can expand a bit) are all inside the boat's insulation layer and are also at least a foot below the water line so I reckon the likelihood of them freezing is not high. Let's hope I don't have to eat my words in a future post!
A trip out in Herbie with friends is planned in a couple of weeks time. Sadly we won't be able to cruise down to the Fox at Hanwell (an ideal short overnight trip) because the locks are closed for repairs.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Best shop near the canal
1. The lockside shop at Denham Deep Lock on the GU. Hidden at the back of the lock cottage where you can not only get an ice cream, but also lovely home made jams and chutneys.
2. Tradline Fenders at Braunston. They sell every kind of rope, shackle, cleat, pulley etc etc you can think of. They'll splice eyes on ropes while you wait and dispense all kinds of advice. We got good service and a bargain set of centre ropes. I feare thoug that they are not fully eligible because we went there by car, not on Herbie.
3. The ironmongers (I've forgotten their name) in Fenny Stratford. Not only have they got everything you can think of in ther hardware line, but they are really helpful and jolly with it. "Mops, have I got mops? I've got more mops than you can shake a stick at. What do you want 12oz head or 8oz head? Shall I fit a handle on for you? . . . " Screws, nuts bolts, taps, dies, the lot, and all come singly, no having to buy pre-packs. If you want one 6mm stainless screw, you can have one - for a few pence.
4. Uxbridge Boat Services -chandlery - because you can moor outside and they seem to have three sorts of everything
5. Camden market - hundreds of shops really, but all individual, amazing stuff, and very friendly. You can moor up 50 yards away.
And the winner is . . . .roll of drums . . . .
The ironmongers. An old fashioned shop with good old fashioned service. Not many of 'em left!
When I can remember their name, I'll post it here.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Most Coveted Boat
Lots of home comforts like microwaves and dishwashers? - NO
Bare bones traditionality? - not really -our boat carries people, not coal.
Fancy paintwork? NO, not if overdone
Smart paintwork -YES _ like grey with black trim best of all.
Comfortable accommodation - YES
A nice sounding engine -YES
Character - YES YES
Good lines - low profile, nice shaped bow
So what have we seen that fits the bill?
Albion Mills - a 47ft(?) tug that moors at Cowroast. I think it has a Gardner engine (chug chug). Grey and black, lovely lines. Living space a bit confined I suppose
The Old Bovine, belonging to our friends Ray and Leon - looks traddy but isn't. Immaculate paintwork. Smart and cosy within.
Saul, a tug style boat built I think by WE Davies. We moored next to her in September. Black and grey, chug chug engine, lovely lines, spacious accommodation (if you don’t mind a double bed squeezed under the big (enough to be a patio) foredeck.
Farnworth - a Liverpool short boat I think. Wide beam. Gaily, but smartly painted. Moored at Rickmansworth. Has had a very 20th century conversion to a liveboard so wouldn't delight a taditionalist. If wanted to live aboard but not move much it would do me.
Sadly, we don't have photos of all of them. If we see them next year I'll rectify that.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Carpathia sails again
Sunday, December 02, 2007
The wind howls like a banshee ghost but inside we are warm as toast
Monday, November 26, 2007
A lesson in boat handling
Visiting an old lady
While the stars of the show at the dockyard are obviously the Victory and the Mary Rose, Warrior is every bit as impressive, although I admit that the sense of history you get aboard the Victory is un-matchable.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Best eat - dead heat
Pork spare ribs at the Anglers Retreat Marsworth - a veritable mountain of the meatiest ribs you ever saw (they must have a good butcher) often with a spicy tang. A stack of serviettes and a big bowl of lemon water comes with it and you need 'em. Accompanied of course by the Angler's regular local brew - Sidepocket for a Toad, from Tring Brewery.
Bavette beef steaks with tarragon butter and real chips at the Fox, Hanwell. Washed down with Herbie award winning best pint - Timothy Taylors Landlord.
Real British pub grub at its finest.
Our next award category is Most Coveted Boat Seen - stay tuned
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Nominations for Best Pub Meal
Real food - actually prepared on the premises
Fresh produce - especially vegetables where appropriate
Served hot - its surprising how often food is served just warm, a sign of microwaving sometimes
Flavour of course
A fair price
We're not after gastronomy here, just real good food. One more thing, we're talking only of pubs on or very near the canal, and of meals we have eaten this year.
So Herbie's shortlist for 2007 is:
1. Any selection from the Thai restaurant at the Cowroast Inn, at Cowroast - brilliant service, real tasty food and good portions
2. Pies and Sunday roasts at the Anglers Retreat, Marsworth - real home cooking and usually with at least seven different vegetables and proper gravy
3. Steak with tarragon butter at the Fox, Hanwell - just about perfect. An unusual cut of steak I can't recall the name of.
4. Stilton Cheeseburgers at The Paper Mill, Apsley - real home made stuff, meaty and powerful
Not haute quisine is it? After a day's boating you want feeding up with nourishing and tasty food. Believe me all the above are very good indeed.
A special mention goes to the Viaduct at Hanwell, not included because they are 10 minutes walk from the canal, but their Bigos - a Polish hunter's stew - is delicious.
They all deserve to win in their own way, but only one gets the prize. Watch this space while I have a think and consult the crew.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Leaves leaves and more leaves
Lucky for once
As it happens, they gave me two right handed and one left handed without me noticing. When I came to fit them on the boat, that's just what I needed. I can't get them all in in a nice straight line so they have to be at right angles to each other. The connecting leads have very little slack, so had the batteries been the other way round things would have been very hard. Anyway they weren't and it wasn't. Job's a good 'un.
Then to add to the good luck, just as I was unloading the old batteries into a wheel barrow, not relishing the long push back to the car, Steve from the boatyard came by in his little tractor and trailer and said "I'll get rid of them for you if you want" Nice guy Steve.
Friday, November 16, 2007
More power to Herbie's elbow
Yesterday I bought three new domestic power batteries, so today I'm going to replace the old ones which are knackered. These days I never do anything technical without seeking advice on internet forums, so I researched batteries. You can buy carbon fibre ones, gel batteries etc etc and prices for a typical capacity vary from £60 odd to £200 plus per battery. Interestingly the advice from trusted sources is that unless you can ALWAYS recharge batteries to 100% soon after use, the dear ones will not last much longer than the cheap ones, so long as you keep the cheap ones pretty well recharged and never let them fall below 50% when discharging. With my trusty Fluke multimeter I can monitor that easily so I got cheap ones. Well, when I say cheap, £210 for three 110amp hr batteries.
So today we're off out in the freezing cold to fit them. Let's hope I don't drop them in the cut as we carry them across Lady Elgar next door!
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Egrets, I've see a few but then again too few to mention
The walk took an even more eventful turn just a bit later when I struggled past a bankside barbed wire fence and slid unceremoniously into the river. But like I said, the Blackwater has no depth and although a I got a wet foot, my knees never got wet :-)
Sunday, November 11, 2007
After some debate, a Best Pub Winner
And the Herbie award goes to . . . (opens gold envelope, smiles) .. The Angler's Retreat. Because they do food all day every day, which the Fox does not, and they have a nicer garden, and the surroundings are the more interesting. having said that the Fox gets a Highly Commended.
However, the Fox get's its own back as the pub which served the best pint - Timothy Taylors Landlord - a good pint anywhere, but served to perfection in the Fox.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
I use an oil drain can with a hole in the side. But one small enough to get into the space would only hold 6 litres so as it filled I had periodically to somehow stem the flow, without a tap remember, and decant the drain can into a larger receptacle. About 6 times including a bit of flushing.
Actually I was quite pleased in the end that only about two or three pints spilt over into the bilge - easily mopped up with a sawn off plastic milk bottle.
Refilling was straighforward enough, helped by a bleed tap on top of the "radiator" to let off trapped air. Whether I have still got any air locks. I probably won't find out till we next cruise for half an hour.
Cost: nearly 30 quid's worth of antifreeze - supposed to last 5 years.
I just got a quote for three new domestic batteries - £69 each. That's the cheapest I can find. It appears that the rising cost of lead has pushed them up. You could get them for about £55 a few months back.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Herbie Awards - now some major categories
To be a best pub, it would have to have the following attributes
Good location on or near the canal
Good real ale, well kept and served
Good food reasonably priced
Comfortable and preferably interesting interior
it would also help if it had a nice garden or patio.
We have quite a few nominations in this category which are arranged here north to south
- The Nag's Head at Great Linford - just across the park from the visitor moorings. A decent pint and very reasonable food.
- The Globe at Old Linslade - canalside with good moorings right outside the pub door, nice (but pricey) food, a cosy bar, and decent beer. They brought our lunch out to the boat!
- The Anglers Retreat - near the canal at our award winning best mooring spot, really good home cooked food and superb beer, and a garden. Not the most inspiring interior decor I suppose. Chatty locals
- The Paper Mill at Apsley - a modern Fullers Pub in a converted paper mill. Canalside, lots of comfortable seating inside and out. Friendly efficient staff. Very tasty food asnd perfectly kept beer. Perhaps not a good place to chat to locals as it is so big.
- The Black Horse at Greenford - canalside Fullers pub. Similar food to the paper Mill, a good garden, comfy areas inside, well kept beer friendly staff and locals - and a Thursday night quiz.
- The Fox at Hanwell - hidden from the canal but only 50 yards from excellent moorings. Wonderful beer and very good food. Friendly locals, but one or two nutters! A traditional feel although in a single open plan bar.
Well, those are they. All fine pubs, but which one takes the prize? Results when I have consulted the crew.The best pint? Aaah, we've done some very serious research on this. There were many fine examples including all the Fullers beers at the Paper Mill and the Black Horse, but there were two which stand head and shoulders over the rest. The Timothy Taylors Landlord at the Fox, and the Tring Sidepocket at the Angler's Retreat. What a tough decision. We'll sleep on it.
I have to say the worst pint was the non existant one at the Fishery - Hemel Hempstead. Three hand pumps, all empty and the staff seemed surprised we cared. We caught a train back to the Paper Mill.
Getting ready for winter
I must also book High Line Yachting's wet dock at Cowley Peachey so we can get Herbie in there for a week and strip and repaint the roof. I was pleasantly surprised to find out their rates were cheaper than I imagined. About £160 for a week. Not bad considering its a nice heated secure indoor dock and you have 24hr access. There's quite a lot to plan in advance though. Book hire tools, choose and buy paint and consumables, get some safety gloves and goggles, get the loan of a transformer for the 110v power tools, try to fit in the when friends can help :-). It might have to be after Christmas.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Herbie Awards first results
Very few boats were on the move. We had no trouble getting an overnight mooring at Paddington and there were a few spaces at Little Venice too and plenty at Kensal Green. However a lot of the other visitor moorings further east are now given over to booked winter moorings.
On the way into Paddington basin the alternator charge light came on and half the gauges switched off. Aargh!! I feared an alternator fault as the fan belt was intact. Luckily Mike whatisname, the boat engineer from Uxbridge was moored nearby so I asked him to come and take a look. His diagnosis was a short within one of the domestic batteries as they are now on their last legs. "Probably blown the voltage regulator but you'll get home alright. Get some new batteries asap."
Well things weren't quite so bad because when I started the engine again everything seemed to be working and the charge light went out. It might have been a dodgy earth on the alternator - was the other idea. A bit of wire waggling may have done it. We got home on Sunday without further incident.
Anyway I'm getting new batteries real soon and putting a better crimp on the earth cable. We live and learn!
Monday, October 22, 2007
Some you win, some you lose
Now I just need a new plug. It looks like a brass screw will do it if I can get the right size. Looking on the web I find I could buy a new plug , but they're nearly nine quid! Outrageous for a tiny brass screw with a big head and a tiny plastic washer.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Superbrain fails to rescue quiz team
Sadly, the quiz master had neglected to include any astrophysics questions, and I am sorry to report that Robin's knowledge of the works of Brittney Spears and the cast of Emmerdale was less than adequate. We came 4th out of 5 teams.
In my working days I designed many a questionnaire and I know how hard it is to construct one which allows the respondent to get across their point of view. So BW, I forgive you. Nevertheless it is a bit frustrating. For a start I am asked to choose one of a number of cruising areas on which to comment, and of course a boundary between two cuts right through the middle of where we cruise. So we get to comment on half of our journeys in an area we only use half of.
Questions such as what is your typical crew number are impossible to answer. We have anything between two and five. How many locks do you do in a typical day - well none if we go to Paddington, or perhaps twenty odd if we go from Bulbourne to Aylesbury. How many miles in a day? Depends how many locks doesn't it. I just dreamt up some averages.
I chose to comment on the greater London area which is where we have most to grumble about. The other option for us would have been the Grand Union north of Watford which to my mind is pretty good as far as we reach and unknown beyond that.
In general I am not one of the folks who perpetually gripe about BW. They have a huge task and much of the network is very well maintained. So what were my grumbles.
- Too many boats moored bankside between Cowley and Rickmansworth. You have to cruise for miles at very slow speed. It wouldn't be so bad if less of them were illegally moored!
- No dredging or weed clearance in the Slough arm
- Proliferation of submerged plastic bags between Bulls Bridge and Hanwell. About one every yard I reckon..
- Infrequent clearance of floating rubbish below Hanwell- especially at Osterley where it all gathers like a huge log jam and bars entrance to the lock.
- Poor provision of recycling facilities.
- Overstayers on key moorings eg Camden
However on the positive side I was able to indicate (through tick boxes) that other facilities such as sanitary stations, boatyards, water points etc were sufficient, although not regularly enough cleared / maintained and that the BW waterside staff were unfailingly polite pleasant and helpful, if a little slow. Towpaths were generally good as was the condition of the banks (Slough arm excluded).
Well, I've done my bit, and I may even get lucky in the draw for a free years licence.
Don't hold your breath.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
The Herbie Awards
Best overnight mooring spot
Most scenically attractive days cruise
Best pub meal
Most coveted boat seen
Best shop near the canal
Best guest crew member
Most scary moment
Worst canal lock
Worst day's cruise
Quite a challenge. My mind is already buzzing with nominations. Its all too much to cope with in one go so I've decided to do it bit by bit between now and Christmas. That way, the blog will be a regular series of glittering occasions (or possibly not).
Just to get us started, the nominations for Best Overnight Mooring Spot are:
- Alongside the reservoir near the foot of the Marsworth flight - sheltered, lots of bird life, near a favourite pub, mind blowing views over the reservoirs at sunset.
- Great Linford, alongside the park - good views over the park, undisturbed, good pub within sight
- Paddington basin - secure, ideal spot as a base for enjoying the capital
- Fenny Stratford - dunno why, I just like it! Didn't even take a photo! Handy for shops, good fishing.
I'll announce the winner after consultation with crew members (who may also like to make nominations in other categories).
Monday, October 08, 2007
Geoff and Laura the new owners will be living aboard and are reportedly getting ready to spruce her up. A good wash will make a world of difference. I'm also pleased that they will be taking her out for a spin soon. Not only good for the boat but also for us, since it will mean that we can moor Herbie against the bank for a couple if weeks and get on with rubbing down and painting the gunwales. Weather permitting of course.
Lady Elgar's original owner Trevor Pavitt has written a book about his exploits with her and his old cruising blog can still be seen here
New owner Geoff also has a blog which you can see here. His photos even give glimpses of Herbie moored against Lady Elgar. There too are pictures of Emblem, the lovely sea going boat he is leaving behind at Chatham.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
Which also reminds me of my favourite album title. Way back in the 70's at the height of Simon and Garfunkel's fame, a west country folkie called Trevor Crozier issued an album called Trouble over Bridgewater. Now don't you wish you'd thought of that!
Friday, October 05, 2007
Monday, October 01, 2007
What we also have is a stack of cherry logs from a trunk which I save from the woodchip machine when the local council were felling surplus trees by the roadside. According to Ray's rhyme "cherry logs across the dogs smell like flowers in bloom". I can hardly wait.
What we really look out for is Ash.
Ash logs, all smooth and grey,
Burn them green or old
Buy up all that come your way.
They're worth their weight in gold.
*If ever I get on Desert Island Discs, I want Ray Mears for my one luxury item.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
Splash and grab
Herbie goes to town
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Monday, September 10, 2007
Slough Canal Festival
At last, a warm sunny weekend at a festival. No rain, no mud, no hassle - lovely. What a change to be able to sit out in the dark without feeling chilly.
Friday, September 07, 2007
Will she won't she
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Flying the flag for the Slough Arm
Hopefully the best bit will be getting to know some other local boaters to extend our network of friends on the water. I think they expect about 30 boats to be there and there is a boaters' BBQ on Saturday night.
The only possible spanner in the works is that our daughter Claire is expecting her new baby next Monday, so if it's early our plans might be interrupted!