Sunday, March 30, 2008

Spring on the Thames

The clocks have gone forward and today there was a real feeling of spring in the air. After taking Peter back to the station following a weekend visit home, we popped over to Thames Valley Park in Reading to enjoy the sunshine. A skylark was singing above the water meadows and a grebe was busy catching roach in the river. TVP is really the start of the UK's silicon valley with the UK HQs of Microsoft and Oracle on its edge, yet twenty minutes stroll down the river you come to the timeless Sonning bridge and lock. Anyone cruising the Thames should definately stop to visit Sonning.

A couple of narrowboats were moored up above the lock, but only plastic boats and canoes were actually moving. I'm afraid to admit that I have taught ten year old Jacob that people paddling canoes are called canoodlers. One day he'll pay me back I'm sure.

Just a couple of minutes walk from Sonning Lock is the village churchyard through which you can get to the famous Bull Inn (which by the way now has a wifi hotspot. )The churchyard is full of interesting old graves and well worth a visit if only to see the resting place of the unlucky Stuart Carnegie Knox whose gravestone carries an unfortunately phrased inscription. I confess I can't stifle a wry smile each time I see it.

In case you're wondering why we aren't out on Herbie, well, we've been busy with lots of family stuff, but next weekend we are off for a short cruise. Stay tuned folks.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

New publication not a best seller

I've been writing a user manual for Herbie, for use by family and friends who may be left in charge of the boat from time to time. It's just amazing the amount of stuff you have to remember. Not just the boaty stuff like starting and stopping the engine and greasing the stern tube, but also how to empty the toilet, how to switch on the hot water, how to find stop cocks etc. This leads to an exciting set of photographs such as this
and this

and this

Gripping stuff, you'll agree.

Writing down all the things you have to do makes you

a) realise how much you've learned and that running a boat is like looking after a car and a house at the same time

b) paranoid

Monday, March 24, 2008

White Easter and dreams of a better summer

Herbie waits patiently for our next trip while we attend to family matters. Probably just as well we didn't venture out over Easter as the weather was so bad. The original plan had been to tootle down to the Fox at Hanwell where they were to have a beer festival. Instead, we hired a van and drove up to Cambridge to help our son Peter with a house move.

We had appalling weather all the way up, - sleet, blizzards, strong winds, and bright sunshine in half hour rotation. Then after a day carrying boxes up and down garden paths we slept on Peter's floor, albeit on an airbed, and awoke on Sunday to see two inches of snow outside. Thankfully it soon thawed away and we completed the moving exercise with a mammoth van load to the local waste disposal site.

Peter has chosen his new place with great care, equidistant (about 8 minutes walk ) between The Carlton Arms and the Castle, probably the two best real ale pubs in Cambridge and both do good food and a have good atmosphere.

As to our plans for future cruises, we have a few ideas for this spring and summer, not necessarily in this order.

1. Through London, stopping at Paddington or Camden and Limehouse basin then up the Lee navigation and up the Stort to Bishop's Stortford. About 5 days each way plus one more if we also detour up to Hertford.

2. Down to Brentford and up the Thames to branch off down the river Wey to Godalming. Again about 5 days each way.

3. Up to Rickmansworth for the Canal Festival in late May and then probably on up the Grand Union as far as we have time for. Given time we could actually go up to Braunston, then back down the Oxford canal and the Thames and pick off the Wey as we pass.

Plus anything else that takes our fancy really. One thing we do want to do is to resist the temptation to move every day. Mooring up for a few days at a nice spot is just as good as cruising.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Herbie immortalised

Rick's sister Julie has painted this brilliant watercolour of Herbie. It has caused minor ructions because we can't agree whether to hang it at home or on the boat. Ah well, some problems are nice to have! I don't think Julie is looking for commissions but I'm sure she'd get them if she were.

The colours on the front flashes have gone since this was painted but it makes it very tempting to reinstate them.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Safe Bankside

A bit of good news today. Our son Richard's boat "Bankside"

passed its Boat Safety Scheme inspection so he certified as safe for four more years. We went up to help prepare the boat a few weeks back and one thing we did was change the gas pipe, so I'm glad it has been tested for leaks and passed.

Another strange thing we did was address the issue of the batteries requiring to be covered, by placing a rubber bath mat over them. In practice the batteries were safe anyway, being tucked under a steel deck with not much headroom. The risk is that any metal object such as a spanner which fell on the batteries and shorted across the terminals would start a fire. Anyway the inspector appears to have approved of our novel solution.

Today we hope to return some of the surplus paint that we ordered for Herbie's roof painting last week. Two 2.5 litre tins costing over £35 each didn't get opened. I think the chandlery will give us a credit note rather than cash, but that's OK, there are always loads of things to buy from there.
Money in, money out. We also today will pay for our next year's mooring and our annual BW licence. Over £2000 all told. Ouch.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Herbie returns home in style

Well, we left the wet dock early this morning with Herbie looking a lot smarter than when she went in.
AfterSix coats of paint on the roof, three on the gunwales (on top of the old paint), four on the handrails, and new paint on the bow, the stern and the tiller swan neck. Not bad for a week's work.
When they raised the door from the water we had to wait half an hour for the door to stop dripping mucky water so that the boat could get out without getting the roof dirty. It'll get dirty one day, but not today!

Kath drove the car back to our moorings while I brought Herbie back which gave Kath the opportunity to photograph our approach down the Slough arm from the bridge by the boatyard.

We still have more to do, there's always something to do on a boat, but were looking forward to enjoying our cruising this year without major jobs hanging over us.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Clearing up

The last full day in the wet dock. We did very little painting today, just a few touch up spots and a second coat on the swan neck that connects the rudder to the tiller.

It took us the rest of the day to clear up the rubbish and sort out the paint and brushes etc. At the same time I had a good sort out of the lockers on the rear deck and got rid of much of the accumulated empty jars and cans , rags, etc. Also from now on I think we'll keep less clag on the roof.

Our rear button fender had practically disintegrated with old age but I noticed a better one lying in the yard outside and persuaded Mark at the dock to sell it to me cheaply.

At 9am tomorrow we take Herbie back outdoors and home to our moorings at Iver. We still have a couple of small paint jobs to do in the coming weeks, and of course the cabin sides have never been redone, but Herbie looks a lot smarter now even than when we bought her. Was it worth all the aches and pains, stress, worry, dust and grime, exhaustion and money? Yes of course, but I wouldn't want to do it too often.

Tomorrow I'll try to get a picture of her as she looks on the canal.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Looking good

Day six of the roof painting and we have the final top coats done. Here are the first pics of the boat with the masking tape off.

Yesterday's top coat on the roof was still wet when we arrived this morning so we had to have the heaters most of the day to get it dried through before I could do the final coat. Rick and Marilyn had left for home by then but not before we had had a celebratory all day breakfast at the tea room at Cowley Lock.

Their contribution to the job has been huge and we can't thank them enough. All we can offer is a moment of glory by having their photo on the blog.

I hope marilyn hasn't got her hand in the wet paint there!
Tomorrow we just have to touch up a few little paint details and clear up the mess while the paint has a final drying before we exit the dock on Saturday morning.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Seeing the true colours

Today we put on the first of the top coats of paint, so now we can see the final colour scheme. The red gloss on the handrails looks great but is slow drying and sticky which made it hard to paint the roof without incident. We almost managed it but we have a couple of small paint repairs to do tomorrow. The top coat for the roof is Blakes deck paint which we hope will be hard wearing. It went on really smoothly and was not as dark as we feared, in fact we like to colour now we see it. Mid grey they call it.

Although we have the wet dock for another two days, the last paint will go on tomorrow so it all has a good chance to dry off thoroughly before we venture out into the open at the weekend. maybe tomorrow night I'll be able to post a photo showing Herbie with the masking tape and newspaper removed. Exciting.
Meanwhile the other excitement of the day was that we all went to our local pub quiz this evening and we won! £37 plus a voucher for a gallon of beer. Life is hard but good sometimes.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Walking the plank

Well, lying on the plank actually. Today we decided to have a go at painting the flashes at the stern of the boat which meant doing it from a plank precariously placed over the water. Rick showed no fear and did the painting to two thirds of the way across and I did the other third. He being left handed and me being right handed worked out well.
The ladies got another coat of paint on the gunwales and we all did a bit of pink undercoating (ready for the red paint tomorrow). Lastly of course we got another undercoat on the roof and in the well deck, this time without Rick putting his foot in the wet paint.

Tomorrow we do the first top coats so we will see for the first time how the colours work out.

Monday, March 03, 2008

sticky tape paper and paint

Today we finally got past the big rubdown jobs and from now on it's paint paint paint. We had to use the wall heaters for a bit today because the weather is turning quite cold. We're trying to be sparing with the use of the heaters because we've been warned that the electricity bill will be huge if we use them a lot.

It took ages to put masking tape all along the top edge of the boat sides to allow for a thin band of paint to sit below the handrail edge. Herbie looked very strange all taped and newspapered up.

I did more on the well deck today. Since we started it has gone from this

to this

You might just notice Rick's footprint in the wet paint! Ah well.

The ladies got on with one of the gunwales painted today You can see the before and after by comparing this photo with the first one in this post.

Kath also demonstrated her skills on some twiddly bits. She gets a much finer finish than I do.

We still have another three days hard work and then a final day to dry out and clear up. Stay with us.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

A mother's day treat for the ladies

Mothering Sunday today, so as a special treat Kath was allowed to lie on a concrete floor and rub down rust spots on the gunwales. Meanwhile our other mother on the team, Marilyn had the pleasure of continuing with srippind and sanding the wooden handrails. Lucky ladies.

The men got on with similarly thrilling tasks of sanding and filling, and by early afternoon we had finished most of the prep. Now came the mammoth clean up. We had made a ton of dust and shavings and we couldn't start painting until it was gone. I can tell you it was a non trivial task! We swept, vacuumed, and finally washed down the boat with white spirit. By now we had the feeling that we had broken the back of the whole job and from now on we could mostly paint rather than prepare. Another coat of primer went on the roof and it now looks quite good. Four more coats to go.

Tomorrow we plan to wash down the boat a bit, then get on with painting, including the first coat on the wood and the gunwales and of course the roof. We can also start on some fancy bits if we have time. I hope to put some triumphant photos here tomorrow. Don't miss it.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

day one of roof painting - hard but successful

Friday night was the strongest wind we have ever endured whilst on Herbie. All night long we were banged against the canal bank as we tried to get some sleep. By morning it was a little better and after breakfast we steered Herbie into the waiting door of the wet dock. The roofpaintfest had begun. There was a lot of surface rust to get off the roof

After taking all the clag off the roof the first job was to start up the hired scabbler to rip off all the old paint. So we plugged it in, press the button, and nothing happened! After a few frantic tests of the socket, the supply, the lead etc we decided it was the scabbler itself at fault. Disaster, because we were relying on it to get the paint off. Phone calls were made to the nearest branch of the tool hire company and luckily they had a working replacement for us. It took ages to find the depot, but eventually I returned with the beast.

Using a scabbler is pretty scary, but it don't half work. It took only about an hour to strip the roof of rust and paint. Then another couple of hours to do the little bits the scabbler couldn't reach - me with a sander and Rick with a wire brush on an angle grinder. However by tea time we had a roof stripped to the bare steel

Meanwhile Kath had been spot derusting the gunwales and Marilyn had steadily been stripping the wooden handrails with a heat gun. After tea we washed down the roof with white spirit and then Rick and I put on the first coat of primer, probably the quickest and easiest job of the day. We did half each and it was noticeable. Rick was putting on a thicker layer than I was. I'm not sure who was right. Probably somewhere between the two. Anyway we did it and finished day one with a roof derusted and covered in a protective layer of primer.

Tomorrow, another coat on the roof, more stripping and painting of the wooden handrails, and a bit more scabbling in the well deck. Lets hope we get a good night's sleep first. We need it.