Friday, July 27, 2012

Seizing the day

Several days of guaranteed no rain, so I went out to Herbie to get a bit of touch up painting done.  Carpe Diem (or as Rick calls it “fish of the day”). Over Tuesday to Thursday I managed to rub down and repaint the long wooden handrails and strip and repaint the front of the cratch.  No time for fancy diamonds just yet, but just a plain colour.  The cratch wood had parted from the paint and had begun to show cracks and splits, so I had to sand back to good wood then fill cracks, then prime, then undercoat etc etc.  So I needed three warm days.  It was so hot during the day that I suspect the paint was hardening at twice the normal rate. 

I got another vital job done too.  The deck board upon which we stand to steer had begun to disintegrate.  I had visions of suddenly disappearing as through a stage trap door one of these days.  Whilst I could make my own – even I can cut a rectangle – 18mm  hexagrip, the stuff it is made of, only comes in 8ft by 4ft sheets at nearly £100.  Instead I strolled up to see the chap at Straight & Narrow, the boat fitters conveniently located by our marina entrance.  He made me a board for £35 including removing the sound insulation and the brass warning labels from the old board and fitting them to the new.  And I only had to wait an hour or so.

I could have dome with another few days really, there are so many little jobs to do, but tomorrow we’re off camping in them thar hills.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Saved by tent pegs

Somewhere in Warwick or Leamington is the bridge that demolished the top of our Morco chimney.  It’ all Rick’s fault, even though he wasn’t on board and it was me who steered Herbie into the bridge arch.  He was in front, under the bridge steering Chertsey, and he was having big problems avoiding a couple of (I am afraid to say) incompetent boaters coming the other way.  They were all over the place, no doubt panicking at the sight of Chertsey’s huge prow looming at them.  I was so busy trying not to run into Chertsey, which had come to a sudden halt, that I got on the wrong side of the bridge hole and wedged us under the side of the arch.

Alright, it wasn’t Rick’s fault it was the daft nerks on the other side of the bridge.

Stupidly I didn’t take a photo of the damage, but here is a picture of the chimney in the good old days before the demolition.  That time it just got under the bridge.  Can anyone guess the bridge? (on a very different part of the system)
outwell upweel march 016 (1024x768)

Anyway, back to the story.  It was like a slow motion disaster.  I could see we were going to crush the chimney, but with the boat hard against the wall I had no steering, and so there was a scraping, and a screeching and a crunching as the chimney vents bent and squashed.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing and if it happened again I would stop the boat, push the tiller over to bring the back out a give a quick burst of forward gear.  The boat wouldn’t have gone forward because the front would be in the wall, but the chimney, which is near the rear of the boat might have escaped.

There was however a good outcome due to my life long love affair with camping.  When we first got Herbie I equipped her with a set of tools and for some reason I can’t fathom, I included a handful of tent pegs and some guy ropes.  Don’t ask me why, I just did.  I suppose I thought they must come in useful for something some day.  Well six years later, that day came.

The fins on the chimney top were buckled and squashed flat and a delightful shade of brick dust pink.  It looked very much like a terminal event for the poor chimney. The fins  are rivetted through from top to bottom with spacers in between.  I cut through the “rivets” and got the whole top to pieces.  A hammer and a flat concrete surface proved adequate to knock the fin rings back to something near their original shape.  The rivets were now useless but the spacers were intact.  All I needed was some long screws or bolts to replace the rivets and rebuild the chimney top.  I don’t know if you carry screws or bolts three inches long and 5mm wide, but I don’t.  Then came the brainwave. Tentpegs!  At last, a use for them.  I hammered their ends into a simple right angle and dropped them through the rivet holes in the reassembled top and hey presto.

IMG_1671 (1024x683)

Not elegant I admit, but the weight of the pegs seems enough to hold everything in place and it doesn’t rattle or wobble.  Come to think of it, when I come to make a more permanent fix, I’ll keep the idea of removable drop through fixers so i can quickly remove the top should we meet another very low bridge.  Maybe screws and wing nuts underneath.

I knew those tent pegs would have their day.

PS Richard on Indigo dream is calling for crew for a fanastic narrowboat trip next weekend.  If I were you I would jump at it. Extreme narrowboating it may be, but Indigo Dream (and Richard) are as safe as houses.

We'd be there for sure if we weren't off camping.  Now where did I put those tent pegs?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A flavour of the Warwickshire ring

Total distance is 161 miles, 1 furlong and 217 locks. There are at least 7 moveable bridges of which 2 are usually left open; 34 small aqueducts or underbridges; 12 tunnels and 2 major aqueducts.
This is made up of 125 miles, 5½ furlongs of narrow canals; 35 miles, 3½ furlongs of broad canals; 159 narrow locks; 58 broad locks.
So goes Canalplan’s summary of our recent trip, which is a sort of augmented version of the Warwickshire ring.  Basically a cruise calling in at Warwick, Stratford upon Avon, Birmingham, Tamworth, Coventry and Rugby to the non boater.  Or a cruise passing through Braunston, Wigram’s Turn, Lapworth, Bancroft basin, Gas Street, Salford junction, Fazeley, and Hawkesbury to the canal person.
Whatever, it’s a good mix of canals and scenery, and I’ve picked out a few pictures to show some of the sights  - all from the first half really.
Early morning after we had winded near Braunston after the rally
IMG_1560 (1024x683)
Me not looking where I’m going steering Chertsey somewhere between Braunston and Wigram’s turn.
IMG_1566 (1024x745)
The smallest of the three Stratford canal aqueducts
IMG_1623 (1024x683)
A bit of bad parking near Stratford
P1060320 (1024x768)
Edgbaston on the Worcs and Birmingham
IMG_1646 (1024x683)
A peaceful night in Birmingham city centre
 P1060332 (1024x561)
Next morning, only 200 yards away this wonderful wild flower verge on a housing estate!
P1060339 (1024x562)
Believe it or not, in a lock on the Farmer’s Bridge flight
P1060362 (1024x768)
What’s not to like?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Shakin’ All Over

I’m pickin’ up bad vibrations*

They’re giving me excitations

In other words:

Quivers down my  backbone,*

I got the shakes down my knee bone

Yeah tremors in my thigh bone

Shakin’ all over

In other words,

Herbie’s engine mounts need a bit of attention. 

I don’t mind a bit of engine diy but engine alignment and possible replacement of mounts is I reckon a job best done by someone with experience.  So our next trip out will be to a boatyard where they can sort out the problem. Probably Calcutt as they have installed a few hundred BMC engines and they have any spares needed on site.  When I can work out a date to get there I’ll give ‘em a call.

Herbie also has a little bit of paint touching up to do – on the handrails, the bow, and the recently scarred side hatch cover.  All I need is some warm dry weather.

Then she needs blacking. And we fancy revamping the bathroom and making some changes to the galley.  Then the floor is looking a bit worn.

I feel a raid on the Sinking Fund coming on.

Meanwhile our annual Shropshire camping holiday looms large.  All in all I reckon our next longish cruise will be in September when we had thought about making an assault on the north side of the Shroppie to visit a friend in Chester.

*(with apologies to Brian Wilson and Johnny Kidd)

PS the tunnel light is now mended.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Nightmare underground on our last day.

I don’t like Braunston tunnel at the best of times, but yesterday took the biscuit.    A bit of a nightmare really.  About eighty yards in, our tunnel light decided to expire.  Poor Rick was at the tiller and he could see nothing. And I mean nothing. I rushed up the front to waggle the wires in case it was a bad connection.  Kath grabbed an LED torch and sat in the cratch trying to make its pathetic light give Rick something to see.  We put all the cabin lights on which give a bit of a glow around the boat, but not enough to help really. 

And so we soldiered on for the remaining mile and a bit in the near pitch dark with Rick trying desperately not to scrape us along the tunnel wall.  Although a brave effort, he was not entirely successful in this respect and Herbie’s side hatch cover now bears the scars. My efforts at repairing the light met were no more successful..

Lights from the other end  were approaching and in time we passed three ( I think) other boats, each one exactly at the places where the tunnel does its infamous wiggle.  They could just about see us because by then Kath lit up our old candle powered carriage lamp and I had put an oil lamp on the foredeck.  Thinking about that now,  that constitutes a naked light, which you are specifically warned against in tunnels.  Ooh er.  I promise not to do it again.

Once out into the day light  I dismantled the spotlight and set about the wiring with a voltmeter only to show that the volts were there but the bulb wouldn’t light although the element was visibly intact.   Later we discovered that a tiny spot welded connection inside the bulb fitting had broken loose.  No repair possible without a new bulb , which was a bit of a problem because we still had Crick tunnel to negotiate after lunch. Compared with Braunston though that was a piece of cake, being nice and straight, so you can see the other end, and a mere 1500 yards long.  Kath developed a handy technique of waving the torch from side to side creating a sort of arc of light on the tunnel ceiling to at least give an idea of how central the boat was.

Earlier in the day we had a rather better time when we happened to catch up with the Halfies  (looking at their blog today i see that they had wondered why we had disappeared in the tunnel)  coming up the Braunston flight, so we had a chance for a quick tour of Jubilee.  Whoever fitted her out did a very nice job I have to say.

Another biscuit was taken that morning – for the worst bit of towpath I have ever tried to walk along half way up Braunston locks.  All the recent rains had left deep puddles and even deeper soft mud right across the path.  There was nothing for it but to squelch through.  With hindsight i should have climbed back on the boat and ridden past the quagmire.

Quite an eventful end to our cruise all in all.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Of weather and perfume.

Well we can’t complain that we’ve had no weather can we?  When we were coming up Atherstone locks the other day, queueing for each one, it went a bit like this:

10 am Black skies and a stiff breeze.  Everyone with their rainwear hoods up and backs to the wind.

10.15 am Blue skies, raincoats coming off.

10.25 am Hot sun burning my back through my jumper, so I took that off

10.35 am Black clouds return with a heavy drizzle

and so it went all day.  People were dressing and undressing faster than the cast at a Mikron show.  Fortunately most people saw the funny side of it.  Below the waist, the answer of course is to wear shorts.  Skin seems to be more versatile than any man mad fabric.

If I remember anything from this trip, apart from the weather, it’ll be the olfactory delights.  It has been an unusually scented affair. The frequent wafts of honeysuckle perfume down the canal into Stratford, the scent of lime tree flowers here and there, a surprising stretch of heavy old fashion rose scent from bushes down in Coventry, and of course the odd whiff of paint solvent from car body shops that seem to inhabit canal banks in the urban fringes.  Sadly we fail to catch the perfume of the miles and miles of meadowsweet that line the North Oxford where we are now.  I suppose you need to stick your nose up close to get that.

We dropped off Jacob In Coventry yesterday to get the train home so Kath and I are enjoying our last couple of days on our own before we get back to base.  Our little trip out to Stratford has turned into a tour of a version of the Warwickshire ring with appendages.  By tonight we should be in Braunston, then Crick tomorrow and home to open all the junk mail and attack the lawn- probably needs a scythe by now.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Where’s Noah when you need him?

They say it’s the wettest June /July since records began.  Well I reckon records began in Genesis chapter 7 and then it only rained for forty days and forty nights.  Maybe I should be trading in Herbie for an Ark. Just to prove sod’s law, the only day it hasn’t rained lately was yesterday – the day we did half our locks in the shelter  “underground” coming down the Farmer’s Bridge flight.

P1060363 (1024x768)

13 locks in 65 minutes – I love this flight and with our secret weapon Jacob, we made light work of it.

P1060360 (1024x756)

The Aston flight which came next was going great too until we came to the penultimate pound which some oiks had emptied.  It took the BW (or should I say Cart now?) man over two hours to get enough water down to float us through.  had I been clever I should have thought to take some pictures of the empty pound to show you, but in my usual dumb fashion I wasted the waiting time taking pictures of some of the wonderful brickwork hereabouts.

P1060371 (1024x768)

Such exquisite geometry don’t you think?

Still we got to Curdworth by early afternoon.  This is one trip where the norm of 3mph and four or five locks an hour is way out.  I think Canalplan predicts about 9 hours for his trip with default settings  and it only takes about 5 in reality.

Today, out in the open air of the run up to Fazeley it rained much of the way.  It’s not a bad little canal though, admittedly not a destination in its own right but nice enough.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Do bears . . . ?

It’s not every day I do a blog with pictures of a gentlemen’s toilet, but today I’ll make an exception as I thought you might enjoy these pictures I took with my phone camera last night.

loo1  loo2  loo3

I thought it was brilliant.

The loo is in the Prince of Wales pub, just a minute’s walk from our mooring here at Cambrian Wharf in Brum.  A gem of a pub.  Despite the striking loo decor, it’s a proper pub with a proper pub atmosphere and half a dozen really well kept ales including a mild (Jim note).

We love Brum centre.  Very civilised and attractive and so much more chilled out than London.  In Victoria square they have big screens up for everyone to watch Andy Murray this afternoon.  (actually they’re there for the Olympics mainly, but they’ve been showing Wimbledon all week.)

We’re on the move again tomorrow morning after three days R&R.  We have some hard locking to do, starting with the plunge down the Farmer’s Bridge flight then out through Aston and under spaghetti junction.  hard graft, but we have a master plan for survival.  Home goes our last week’s crew (the somewhat languid and cerebral Peter) and off the sub’s bench comes 14 year old Jacob, our grandson. Fully fit and full of vim and vigour.

If you don’t know what Vim is, its quite like Ajax.

If you don’t know what Ajax is, you need to be older.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Herbie at the epicentre

IMG_1660 (683x1024)
Here we are at what is arguably the epicentre of England’s canal system.  Cambrian wharf, just a spit from Old Turn Junction in the centre of Brum. Today we’re told to expect mega rain, but last night was fine and warm and we made the most of our mooring spot (despite a forgivable scattering of goose pooh.)
IMG_1653 (1024x683)

It seems that this is a particularly auspicious spot for we are told it is the place where the Canal and River Trust will be officially launched on Monday morning.  Some of the signs (note, not signage!) already bear the new logo.

As I write, a TV crew is filming a working boat ascending the top lock just across from us.  What they won’t tell you on telly is that they backed into the lock first so that they can film it coming up.
We seem to be good at being in the right place at the right time.  Last weekend we were in Stratford and a huge crowd gathered just outside Herbie. 

P1060282 (1024x768)

I was beginning to wonder what we had done to deserve such attention, when a bloke chasing a cocacola bus ran past carrying a flaming torch and then everbody went away.

Good luck to those boaters on Eastern and Midland Rivers today and tomorrow.  If I were you I would tie up somewhere safe.  The towpaths might be ankle deep in mud, but at least on a canal we are unlikely to be washed away.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Herbie in the sky with diamonds*

She flies through the air with the greatest of ease

That daring young Kath of the famous Herbies

P1060297 (1024x768)

Coming back up from Stratford today, we had to cross the Edstone Aqueduct.  Kath volunteered to risk her life at the tiller while I ran down the steps to the road to take the picture.

Rather like the more famous Pontyskylight, this aqueduct runs in an iron trough with no guard on the non towpath side so you can fall off and die if you want to.  However the towpath side is more interesting in that the walkway runs at trough bed level, so the walker sees the boat from water level.  The long haired oik taking a picture is our Peter.

P1060305 (1024x768)

Good innit?

The climb out of Stratford is a bit of a haul and of course it was raining, but were we downhearted?

Naah.  Some of these locks have heavy gates but the setting is mostly green and lush.  I like the views back down the Wilmcote flight.

P1060287 (1024x768)

The other bit of fun is the bridge obstacle course.  The bridges here are only a couple of inches wider than the boat and some prankster has set them all at an odd angle to the waterway, so getting through one without a bump is a cause for celebration.  I confess we gently nudged a good few.

Here’s one of the few we actually got right.

P1060291 (1024x768)

P1060292 (1024x768)

Tonight we rest at the delightfully named Preston Bagot. Loads more locks tomorrow.  We’ll either get fit or expire.  Stay tuned to find out which.

* on the roof box