Thursday, February 28, 2008

Final prep for the big day

Tomorrow we take Herbie on the one hour trip up to Cowley Peachey to wait outside the wet dock until Saturday at 9am when we can take her inside and set to work on the roof. I think we have everything ready including cake and soup etc to keep us going, but no doubt we will have forgotten something. We might need more paintbrushes because at times there could be four of us at work. I've been pondering a way to keep out of each other's way at such times. We will be doing the roof with roller, the wooden handstrip along the roof edge with brushes and the gunwales with roller and brush. My idea at present is to do it like this:-

The roof painter starts at one end of the boat walking backwards as he paints. The handrail painter(s) give him a start then follow along behind. They will need to stand ashore or on the gunwales. Finally the gunwale painter will follow when everyone else is clear. That way no one stands or leans on someone else's wet paint. We're hoping that once we get going, it will just be a couple of hours a day to put a coat of paint on, although I might put in a bit extra doing other bits like the coloured bands at the stern. I think the dock is narrow enough to be spanned by our gangplank so I'll be able to sit on that to paint the stern. Who knows we might even have a go at a squiggle on the bow flashes.

All this assumes we are successful on day one, getting all the old paint and rust off the roof. Hopefully I'll be able to post some pics and a progress report on Saturday night.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Will they won't they

My paint for the boat roof is supposed to arrive at Uxbridge Boat Centre today. I ordered it yonks ago but I don't think it would be here yet had I not chased them. A pity as generally it is a very good place to buy your boaty stuff and the people are nice there. If the paint doesn't arrive in time we're stuffed, as we go in to the wet dock on Saturday morning.

I know its only a bit of scraping and painting but I'm very apprehensive about it because it costs a lot of money( over £400)when you add up the dock hire, tool hire, paint, and consumables. If we don't get it right and rust comes through in six months it would all be wasted. Never mind, I have my secret weapon, Rick, to help.

I'll try and do a stage by stage photographic record for the blog. Stay tuned.

Paint now in at UBC. Phew!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fictitious names

We occasionally see boats purporting to come from places where there is no navigable waterway such as (I'm making this up now) Calibar - Stow on the Wold, and we assume the reference is to the owner's home. Last year we met up with Robin and Laura who keep their boat Miss Matty at our boatyard and thought nothing of the place "Cranford" written below. Nor did we know who Miss Matty was. My knowledge of English literature is pretty limited so that it was only when the Cranford TV series appeared recently that I put two and two together.

I wonder how many other boats carry fictitious place names. As a collector of trivia I'll keep a count from now on.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Connected at last

I've finally managed to connect to the blog at a wifi hotspot with my little palm top. This post comes to you coutesy of McDonalds in Bracknell!

Now I need to crack how to do it in Wetherspoons and we're all set to keep you posted when we're cruising this spring and summer.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

B****y technology

You'd think someone (me) who worked in IT for more than ten years would be able to persuade a computer to do what I wanted, but the truth is far from it. The last few days have been an almighty techno struggle with only minor successes.

One of our targets at the weekend was to update the blog while away from home using wifi connection. We figure now that Wetherspoons and McDonalds both offer free wifi internet access, we should never be far from a place to do the updates when we're cruising. How nice it would be to publish fresh news and pics as we travel rather than retrospectively after we get home. So on Saturday we went to Wetherspoons in Uxbridge armed with our laptop and also my Dell Axim palmtop - both wifi enabled.

After ordering a pint (well you can't just sit there) we opened up the laptop and swtiched on. Three wifi networks were detected, two being strong signals and one weaker. The weaker one of course was the free Wetherspoons one, the others being encrypted. The laptop seemed strangely reluctant to latch on to the proper network, but after an age the log on page appeared. At that precise moment the battery died. It makes you want to weep doesn't it.

So I tried the palmtop. Same thing, the other two networks were interfering and the Wetherspoon signal was not strong enough. Brainwave - its a big pub, let's try sitting in another part. So we move seats to nearer the door and hey presto we get a good signal. Up comes the log on page. type in ID "sponsored" Password "Service" as instructed in the Wetherspoons leaflet and click the logon button. Except the logon button was misplaced on the tiny screen and there was nowhere to click. I tried for ages then gave up.

You'd think that a major wifi network - The Cloud, which provides the Wetherspoons and the McDonalds hotspots would make their log on page useable by mobile devices, but apparently not.

I shall not give up even if I have to go to the pub twenty more times. I'll just have to make the sacrifice. Or perhaps I'll have to go on the McDonalds diet.

On the up side, I did manage to get the little video to work on the previous blog entry, even if it did take me about two hours before I succeeded. The things I do for you, dear reader.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A warm weekend in the ice

When we arrived at our moorings on Friday for a weekend aboard Herbie, we bumped into our boating neighbour Lydia. Now, we have a standing joke with her that every time we take Herbie out we get terrible weather. Well this time I knew it was going to be fine and dry all weekend so I smiled and looked smug and said "This time it's going to be perfect for boating." Little did I know . . .

Saturday moring dawned bright and fair and after a leisurely breakfast we slipped our moorings and set off down the canal towards the winding hole. Two minutes later we came to the ice. - all over the canal. The ice was only about 5mm thick so we pushed on making a horrendous cracking and crunching noise as we went. I suspect that Herbie now has no blacking left on the waterline. Never mind she has to be reblacked this year anyway.

We pressed on through it for the mile or so down to the turn and then back up to where we started with me at the front breaking the ice with a pole and Kath at the tiller. At that point we decide not to head on out to the main canal in case the ice got worse, because we knew it was going to be colder still that night. So although the weather was beautiful, the conditions certainly weren't perfect for boating as I had said the previous day.

Nevertheless we had a nice weekend on the boat and despite the icy conditions the boat was cosy and warm. Sunday was indeed much icier as you can see from this picture taken from Herbie. Someone further down the canal was attempting to get out without much success. We went for a walk in the sun and met a boater braver than us just ploughing through the stuff and making quite a racket. Here he is (on this blog's first ever video!!!!!).

Monday, February 11, 2008


I just noticed todays date and it reminds me three things

a) Its just two years since we took ownership of Herbie

b) its just over two years since I started this blog

c) my library books are overdue

Jolly Boating Weather

We had to go to Windsor today for Kath to have a hospital appointment, so as the weather was beautiful we took a stroll along the Thames afterwards. The swans were having a field day as lots of walkers were feeding them. This narrowboat was the only one we saw moving, and although the water surface looks calm, the current (and the boat), was shifting at quite a pace. Here he is lining up for Eton Bridge

hence the witty reference to the school song in today's title. Sometimes I'm too clever for my own good.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Tool Hire

Further preparations for painting Herbie's roof. The big first job will be to strip off all the old paint and rust and get back to bare metal. The great guru of boat painting Phil Speight, recommends using a scabbler, so I have tracked down one at Brandon Tool Hire half a mile from home. I think the attachment top right is the one we'll be using. It looks a fearsome beast. Luckily as we are starting on a Saturday morning I can get one at weekend rates, about £24 plus vat. Pick it up Friday and take it back Monday. Suits me fine. "Shall we book it now?" I asked the bloke on the phone. "Best not" he said, "we'll only probably lose it. Just give us a ring the week before". Don't they have a system for recording future bookings?

Blimey, it worked

See post below

Thursday, February 07, 2008

mobile blogging

This is scary stuff! This blog entry is being emailed in from my
handheld pc via a wifi link to the web. If it works then it will make
it possible to update the blog when we are away on Herbie. Only when
we can get a wifi hotspot though.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A day out

Today we popped out to check Herbie was still afloat (she was) and then on to Uxbridge to sort out paint supplies for the forthcoming Herbieroofpaintfest. In the end we had to order what we needed because it wasn't in stock. We decided on a matt grey deck paint, non textured because it'll be easier to clean. Just the primer undercoat and top coat paint for just the roof will come to over £150, then we have the £160 for the wet dock hire and goodness knows what for the hire of a scabbler to rip the old paint off plus abrasive paper, rollers, brushes, etc etc. Heigh ho.

As we were passing Cowley we decided to have a spot of lunch at the tea room alongside Cowley lock.. Transport cafe food really, but very good. On arriving we noticed the sign saying "Open every day except Tuesday". Heigh Ho again. Daughter Claire and baby Grace came along for the ride and we managed Grace's first ever visit to a pub, the Swan and Bottle, for lunch. I think she enjoyed it.

Monday, February 04, 2008

When is a goose not a goose?

Today I went for a stroll along our local river Blackwater and spotted a small group of these Egyptian Geese which I believe are technically ducks. According to the RSPB website there are about 1000 of these birds in the UK in winter, mostly in East Anglia. What seven of them were doing in Sandhurst is anybody's guess.

Further downstream a couple of proper ducks - mallards- were having a scrap.

The Blackwater is a fascinating little river. Much of the water in it comes from treatment works rather than direct from the rain and so it seems to be less prone to flooding than most. The water quality must be good because it is full of fish, although there are few monsters.
Here at Sandhurst it meanders through lush grazing meadows before reaching the dozens of gravel pits that specimen hunting anglers flock to at Yateley. The mild winter this year has failed to kill off the abundant weed in the river, so next year we should have abundant insect life I guess. The meadows are already well known for butterflies, damsel flies and wild flowers.

I'm afraid Herbie would have no chance of navigating the Blackwater because it's only a couple of feet deep for most of its length and very narrow and overgrown. I'm happy just to walk and fish there.

Sunday, February 03, 2008


We've been up to Huntingdon to help son Richard to get his boat ready for its forthcoming safety inspection. I always like working on his boat because the low cruiser stern makes it really easy to do stuff in the engine compartment. The safety book says battery terminals must have an insulating cover so that conducting objects like spanners couldn't fall on them and start a fire. Although Richards batteries are safely tucked beneath the side of the deck, a fussy inspector might still expect a proper cover for them. I had planned to make a plywood lid, but there wasn't room to secure one properly. Thinking caps on, what could we dream up?

To allow our minds to subconsciously work on the problem, we turned to another job. The hose from the gas bottle to the boat showed a date of 1999 and would surely be failed by the inspector, so we bought a replacement and fitted it. Getting it gas tight is always a problem and a splash of soapy water showed bubbles of gas escaping even when the joints were spannered up tight. Eventually we made a better job of it by using some rubber washers which we had to trim to size with scissors. It looks gas tight now but we won't know for sure until the inspector puts his manometer on the system to see if the pressure holds steady.

Back to the battery cover. Well, rubber solved the gas problem, and it solved the battery problem. "What about a rubber car mat?" I suggested. Kath went off in search of one at the shops. Well she couldn't find a suitable cheap one, but she returned triumphantly with an alternative - a rubber bath mat. It can lay over all three batteries taped down at the ends, with the sides left open to let hydrogen gasses to escape when the battery is charged. Lets hope the inspector accepts it.

Everything else on the boat looks as though it conforms to requirements, but time will tell.

The fuse box on the boat has ten fuses but no labels and as all the wires were the same colour, we thought it would be fun to remove each fuse one by one and note which electrical item switched off. This we did and now Richard has a little chart on the cupboard wall to guide him in an emergency.

All in all a useful days work, capped by a nice evening when we all went over to Cambridge to meet up with our other son Peter and shared a Chinese meal.