Sunday, August 28, 2011

Beware the future

This is about canals, but not yet.

First what is this place?


A car park?  A van showroom?  No a Campsite.  At least it purports to be.  It is the Folkestone site of the Camping and Caravanning Club.

For over 20 years we have been members of this august institution, but I’m feeling less and less a part of it because it has become over run with people who don’t want to touch grass.  This camp site is one of the very few that doesn’t permit caravans, but even then it is becoming overwhelmed with motor homes.  In deference to them the club has put in all those hard standings you see in the picture.    How do you hammer a tent peg into that lot?

How long before some bright spark suggests that they concrete over the whole lot to save people getting their feet wet walking to the operating theatre clean toilets?   Maybe then they could think of putting a roof over it to keep out the rain.  The monthly glossy club magazine devotes about four times a many pages to reviews of tow cars as it does to tents.

There is one advantage.  After about 8 pm it’s lovely and quiet because the others are all inside watching telly or DVDs. So we can sit outside and watch the sunset in peace. No ball games or frisbees though – not allowed.

We like to consider ourselves to be superior beings because we have tents.  Quite a few tents actually, a two person, a three person, a four person,  - and another two person I had forgotten.  Well they are cheap and we like them.  This year we camped for the Cambridge Beer Festival in one of the two person tents, the sort you have to crawl into.  Last summer a week in Shropshire in our very unfashionable 4 man tent made of good old cotton canvass.

I have to confess though that we also have something which is not really a tent but a sort of shed on wheels.  This to us is as a luxurious as we ever want to get and we even feel guilty about having gone this far.  Meet our trusty 15 year old Dandy folding camper modelled by Grace on her first ever camping trip last week.


Note that we are on the grass.  The “Holiday Site Manager” (they used to be called Wardens), offered us a hard standing.  I nearly spat, but he was quite a nice man.

“What has all this to do with canals?” you ask.  Well it’s the creeping luxurification and sterilisation of what is essentially an outdoor pursuit.  If you read the boating mags now you’d think boating was all about luxury kitchens and wet rooms, underfloor wine stores and electrical gadgets.   Its hardly likely to attract people who appreciate wildlife and industrial archaeology and just messing about on the water.  This will inexorably lead to people demanding more gentrification and sanitisation of the canalscape.. Already there are people complaining about trees along the towpath.  It’s the thin end of the wedge.

PS should you see Herbie out and about around Braunston this week, shout “Hello Rick /Marilyn” for they will be in charge while we rest at home.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

More on rain

Re yesterday’s post, Rick points out that reservoirs might receive a lot of their supply from feeders over a wideish catchment area.  I suspect he is right, although another thing puzzles me, and that is that most canal reservoirs are on high ground i.e near canal summits, so they are at a natural disadvantage in catching rain from feeders.  The more I think about it, the more I realise I don’t know anything.  Maybe I should read up on it.

Last night as I had finished posting we were in a big thunderstorm.  Water was spilling over the gutters and the rain was really hammering on the roof.  With all the thunder and lightning I thought I had better switch off the computer, but I had a quick look at the met office site before so doing.  According to them we were in a sunny interval.  Well they can’t be right all of the time.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Water water, but not everywhere

It’s not often I want it to rain over the holiday period, but we could do with a lot right now.  Herbie is in danger of being isolated in a few weeks time unless the reservoirs that feed the canals around the Leicester arm get some serious topping up.  We had planned a trip down to Oxford in September but that too looks under threat as things stand.

We are getting messages from BW talking about what their hydrologist is telling them.  I used to have a friend who was a hydrologist, and his job sounded great.  Each week he would beetle off to Thetford Forest, where he would live in a hut for a few days and take regular trips round the forest in a Land Rover collecting little bottles of water from the trees and the forest floor.  They were trying to establish how much of the rain that fell over the area actually made it to the ground and then into watercourses.  I suppose a lot of it got absorbed by the leaves, a lot of it just evaporated, then much of the rest of it got drank by the tree roots.  I don’t think a lot of it got into streams and rivers.

Last week I got to thinking about how much rain we might need to rescue my canal trip plans, and did a few simple sums.  I suspect these are grossly over simplified but it gives some idea.

Take a theoretical ten mile length of canal with a dozen single boat width locks and assume that it is fed by a reservoir a quarter of a mile square.  How many boats would be able to pass through on the proceeds of one inch of rain?  Have a guess now then let’s do the sums.

We’ll forget about extra feeder streams, water lost by evaporation and all that, so this won’t be spot on but it might give us a rough idea.

As a boat passes through the area it will take with it the volume of water used by the deepest lock in the passage.  Lets say 8 ft deep .  So that’s  about 70ft x 7ft x 8ft = 3920 cu ft.

The reservoir at 1320 feet x 1320 feet (quarter of a mile each way) has a surface area of 1742400 sq ft (phew!).  Multiply by 1/12 to give us the volume added by an inch of rain falling on its surface.  That gives us  145200 cu ft.  Divide that by the lock capacity of 3920 and we get 37.  That’s 37 boats that can now pass through.  Not many on a canal like the Oxford.  Barely a day’s worth.

Of course rain falls on the canal too.  10 miles x say 30ft wide gives us 10x 5280x30 = 158400 sq ft of surface.  x 1/12 for an inch of rain gives us 132000 cu ft added.  Divide by 3920 = 33.6 lockfulls, so another 33 boats.

So altogether an inch of rain would allow the passage of 70 boats.

Put another way, if we only get an inch of rain in a fortnight over the area, that would only provide for 5 boats a day!  And that assumes every lock is set ready for the boat, or a one up one down policy strictly enforced.
Don’t quote me on any of this because this is very rough and ready and takes no account of possible feeder streams into the reservoir or canal, evaporation, back pumping and all that.  But it does show that the odd shower of rain won’t do much to help.

Am I anywhere near right?

PS after my disaster last week I am writing this in Windows Live Writer before posting.  It does have an undo button.  Thanks Skippy for the tip.  Now let’s see if it will post to the blog.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An unpost

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!  I spent over half an hour composing a post for you about water supply for the canal, and doing some sums to work out how many/ few extra boat passages could be permitted in a given area if we had an inch of rain.  Very interesting it was, then I pressed some unknown button and lost the lot.  Blogger seems to have no undo button.

I will do it for you again but I'm just off out of the door for a few days taking Grace on her first ever camping holiday, (wish us luck) and we're already late, so it'll have to wait until we get back.

Now where did I put the buckets and spades.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

DiY come-uppance

Not long ago I did a post boasting about how easy it was to repack the stern gland and said that I would probably find that some supposedly simple job next time would turn out to be really difficult.  Well I didn't have to wait long folks.

I decided to install new heater (glow) plugs in the engine as it was beginning to take a long time on the button before the engine would start.  These look pretty much like a spark plug in your car.  I bought a new set on special offer from Calcutt and set aside half an hour to put them in.  I mean how hard could it be?  Just take off the wires, unscrew the old plugs with a spanner, screw in the new ones, replace the wires and job's a goodun.

Four hours it took me!  Four hours, and I nearly gave up a couple of times.  Admittedly the old plugs were in tight and took a bit of force, but that wasn't the problem.  It was the sheer inaccessibility of the flippin things.

I suppose when they build the engines it's easy.  They just screw in the plugs and then later add all the injector pipes, then bolt on the alternator and connect up the throttle cable etc.  All on their nice work bench no doubt.  The trouble is that all that extra stuff blocks off any access to the heater plugs.

The last plug was the worst -right up the alternator end of the block.  There it is, that shiny thing just underneath the curving bit of injector pipe.  This one took over an hour.  There is nowhere to get a spanner on the nut and turn it by more than five degrees.  It took me ten attempts to get this photo, because only at a very narrow angle can you see the plug..  And of course this is down in the engine bay where only a midget can operate in comfort.  Using a socket set and an extension (thanks Rick) I was able to just turn the socket by inserting the extension bar at an angle into the square hole at the end of the socket.  So the extension bar wasn't really engaged and kept slipping out but could just turn the plug a millimeter at a time.

Worse still was the little nut that holds the wire onto the tip of the plug.  There was nowhere to get two fingers at the plug to start the nut.  The handles of my long nose pliers were to bulky to get past all the bits of pipe.

I went off to try and cadge a bit of blu-tak from a boater nearby to see if I could stick the nut to the end of a pencil and somehow work the nut on.  He didn't have any, but his pliers were more slender than mine and in the end allowed me by some miracle to screw on the nut.

There was another way of course.  I could have removed the alternator and the injector pipes, but who knows what a mess I would have got into.

Next day it rained so I thought I'd do a nice easy indoor job.  Replace the radio aerial.  The old one had got rusted up at its base and not earthing properly to the inside of the boat roof.  Radio reception had got very poor.

There is a little cover plate in the saloon ceiling to give access to the underneath of the aerial.  Just whip that off, unscrew the old aerial, screw on the new one, reconnect the cable and Bob's your uncle.  How long did it take?  Four hours again.  The problem this time was getting at the cable to reconnect the new aerial.  I had to remove the lighting board behind which are all the cables, and to do that I had to remove a lot of other hardwood trim.  These all fit together like a jigsaw and I had to remove several seemingly unrelated pieces in order to get he lighting board down.   I had a huge pile of brass screws in a little pot by the time I had it all to bits.  Herbie hides its cables very neatly, but behind the trim is a jungle.

Anyway it's done now and the radio is a lot better.

I am pleased to say that other jobs went a lot more sweetly.  I replaced the fuel filter which had been leaking (split rubber seals), and even managed to bleed the fuel system without too much drama.  Then I wired up my starter battery to the Smartgauge so I could get a more accurate reading on its voltage.  It turns out that the analogue voltmeter on the instrument panel is worse than useless and miles out in its readings.  Don't trust 'em folks.

Then just for fun at the end I put another bit of packing in the stern gland. Just to get my confidence back.  It was easy.

Now I have only another twelve jobs on my to do list.  Deep joy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Huge explosions near the canal

If you like fireworks, see if you can get along to Stanford Hall near Lutterworth next August.  They put on a firework competition each year and it's only a fifteen minute drive from our moorings at Crick so this year we went along.  You would have been able to hear the displays from much of the canal between Crick and Welford and possibly see it too from some places.

Four professional fireworks companies each put on a display, set to music of their choice.  The first three displays are in competition and the fourth is just for the organising company to show off.  The audience of umpteen thousand people votes by text at the end of the displays.

Interestingly the winner collected 70% of the votes, but amongst our group of  5, we had votes for all three, so it shows they were all very good.  I suspect the winners got the votes for their timing to the music, which was amazingly good.

I took lots of pictures but my timing wasn't so hot. These pictures are about the best of the bunch.

Having returned from our camping holiday, I'm planning to go out to Herbie tomorrow for a few days DiY. I've got a long list of small jobs.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Too shallow for boating next week

While all you boaters are scraping the bottom next week, we'll be in even shallower waters.  Here.

Mmm you say, that does look fairly shallow.  Where is it?  The tent is a bit of a giveaway, yes we're camping. To get a better ideal follow Kath over this style just to the right of the ford - mind the sheep

on up this steep path (this is also the way to the shops believe it or not!)

and after quite a walk you can look back down at the campsite we'll be staying at

Yes, but where is it?  Well if we look to our right from where the above picture is taken we see this

Pretty but still not very helpful.  Lets look from the same spot, but back over our shoulder

Still don't know?

It's Shropshire, the Stretton Hills.  Is it any wonder we keep going back every year.  And I have only shown you a tiny part of it.

We'll be stopping off at Herbie on the way to watch a huge firework display.  Should I get any decent photos I'll show you when we get back.

Have a nice week.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

The answer to water shortages

"Allo Alf, flippin' 'ot ain't it.  Pint? I see waterways is puttin' restrictions on locking up the Leicester Arm then.  Runnin' out of water apparently."

"Allo Bert.  Yeah make mine a pint of best.   They 'aven't got a bloody clue 'ave they.  It's the same down the Oxford.  I just writ to 'im about it."

"Writ to who?"

"'im at waterways of course.  Not a bloody clue they aven't got, when the answers starin' 'em in the face"

"Wass that then?"

Well, it's easy 'ennit.  There's a couple of fings what they could be doin'.   First they could get some bloody dredgers out there and dig the canals a bit deeper.  Dig the bottom away from the top like, so they'll be deeper.  Then, and this is my big idea I writ to 'im about,  - they could make some new rules about all them people out on 'oliday cruises."

New rules?"

"Yeah, it's dead simple.  What you gotta do is this.  You knows 'ow a boat takes a lock full of water with it when it goes through?"

"Er,   yeah"

"Big waste of water that.  Well if you makes a rule that all these 'oliday boats has to do a ring instead of an out and back, they'll bring the water all round wiv 'em won't they.  So you won't lose any 'cos it'll all get back where it started.  Simple."

"You can't argue wiv that.  Brilliant.  I'll 'ave another and a packet of crisps, ta"