Friday, December 28, 2007

Hire boats

Reader Ann mentions in her comment to my recent Taking Stock post, that as an annual holiday hire boater she feels she may be sneered at by true boaters who despise hire boats. Well Ann, it certainly ain't true here.

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

Following his award of best Guest Crew Member - see a couple of posts back-, my old pal Rick has delivered his acceptance speech, which was so moving that felt that I reproduce it in full below.

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.
(Sob Sob)

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 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 end of the year approaches and I look at how we're doing, dear reader. You and me that is.

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.


A Merry Christmas to both my readers. Stay tuned.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Honoured guest

Its time for one of the most prestigious of the Herbie Awards, the Best Guest Crew Member.

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

Poor old Herbie sits unused and unvisited lately. We've been too busy with getting ready for Christmas and the weather hasn't been good for boating with all the ice on the water. Narrowboats will push through thin ice, but often at the expense of the blacking at the water line.

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

Time for another Herbie Award for 2007. Best shop near the canal, i.e. within a couple of minutes stroll. What makes an award winner here? Well, chain stores won't win it that's for sure. I'm looking for shops with a bit of character, with great personal service, and that you can't find just anywhere. Shops that sell the things others don't bother with. The contenders for this year are:

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

Its time to decide upon and announce the Herbie Award for the Most Coveted Boat seen this year. A hard one this.
What do we covet in a nice boat?

Lots of home comforts like microwaves and dishwashers? - NO
Poshness?- 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.
And the winner is . . . Saul (in spite of the faux rivets!). If it were for sale, and I could afford it, that's the boat for me.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Carpathia sails again

No, not the RMS Carpathia that rescued 705 survivors from the Titanic, but this very unusual narrowboat built by John White. She has been hanging around our boatyard for some time , and at the weekend we met her new owner and he showed us over the boat.

Obviously the raised cabin / wheelhouse is the novel feature. It has two single "dinettes" that convert into bunks, and of course a steering wheel and control panel so the steerer can keep warm and dry in all weathers. It also has a conventional tiller on the rear deck. Down below it is er, cosy. A small sitting area, a normalish galley and bathroom and a fixed double bed at the front. No front doors. Considering her length at 42 feet (I think), she makes good use of space. She has no heating stove but radiators warmed by an Eberspacher diesel heater.

She has taken a while to sell, because I would think most narrowboaters prefer something more conventional. Her new owner will be living aboard and continuously cruising. He admitted to us that he has never been through a canal lock!! Quite how he will manage solo I can't imagine. The learning curve is going to be pretty steep to say the least. Well, I wish him luck.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The wind howls like a banshee ghost but inside we are warm as toast

Just back from a pleasant break aboard Herbie, although we went nowhere. Didn't even untie her from the mooring. The first two days we each had a medical appointment nearby and the last two days the weather was spectacularly awful. On Sunday there was the customary fishing match on the opposite bank and the poor anglers were battling with heavy downpours and tremendous gusts of wind. Their umbrellas were up and down like yo-yos. Give them their due though, they stuck it out until the final whistle.

Herbie keeps lovely and warm with the wood stove on, especially when, for the winter, we install the secondary double glazing made by Roy, her previous owner. Each window has a close fitting interior frame "glazed" with strong transparent plastic. They are made so precisely that each is a push fit into its window, and held in place by little retaining tabs. The biggest benefit is the virtual elimination of condensation along with the inevitable reduction in heat loss.