Monday, January 28, 2013

Lewis does it again - walks from Oxford to Uxbridge in seconds

Not for the first time has Kevin Whately broken the world distance walking record. Tonight Inspector Lewis and his lady friend walked along an Oxford Street, over a bridge, jumped over a fence and landed on the GU towpath in Uxbridge. This time I think it was opposite the dolphin pub unless I am very much mistaken.

I'm guessing they must be using film studios locally, of which there are a couple. Not that I mind, it gives Kath and me a lot of pleasure spotting the discrepancies, and it's only that we happen to know that bit of canal so well.

As well as the Dolphin smoking area with wooden railings shown in the reflection, we recognised the windows of the boat behind the one on fire.

Friday, January 25, 2013

A tortoise and a blackbird walked into a bar . . . + a first look at new mooring proposals

. . .and met up with two Herbies for a curry and a couple of drinks. Nice to see you Simon and Carrie.

I can recommend the Watermans Arms in Brentford, a nice little pub which you can find if you walk along the high street in the direction of Kew Bridge.

Anyway, on to the main business of the day. I got an email from CRT with consultation documents regarding new visitor mooring policies in the Southern Region. Maybe you did too, but in case you didn't, let me summarise. Bear in mind I've only had a quick skim through, so I don't guarantee I've understood it all.

The idea is to give boaters a greater chance of getting in on visitor moorings at popular stopping places. They list a fair number of these on the Southern GU, the Oxford and the Leicester line as far as Foxton. The details are quite specific in each case, giving details of particular stretches between bridge numbers etc.

What they are proposing is that at the most popular spots, eg town centre moorings like Banbury or at Marsworth or Thrupp, they will restrict mooring to two days. This might not seem a lot, but they will also maintain seven or fourteen day moorings a short walk away. So at Banbury for example, the moorings opposite the Castle Quay shops would be two days, and then back by the park it would be fourteen days. The whole of Banbury would be designated as an "Area" and no boat would be able to stay in the area for more than fourteen days in any month.

The papers give details of the notices which would go up in any area, using Thrupp as an example. There would be signs with diagrams showing the exact positions of the two day and fourteen day moorings. Then the papers give example letters which would be given to boaters on the day they arrive, making clear the policy. Then a letter you would get on the last day of your permitted stay, then a letter you would get if you overstayed.

Volunteer mooring monitors would record which boats were there each day and deliver the appropriate letters. Overstayers would be charged £25 per day, billed to their licence account, payable within 28 days. I suppose if you didn't pay up after being chased up and all that might follow, you wouldn't get next year's licence until you had paid.

Now who will be made happy by this policy, and who will not?

I think people on the move will be happy. People like me, who are generally on a journey and rarely stay anywhere beyond a couple of days. If the policy works, we will have a better chance of finding a free spot at popular places.

Continuous cruisers who tend to stay somewhat longer will have to moor a bit further away, but not too far.

Continuous moorers, who make a habit of overstaying won't like it at all I suppose, but they don't abide by the rules now so it may make no difference. In reality though, this policy only seems to relate to a relatively small number of popular hot spots, so those who want to stay around semi permanently will no doubt need to move out of one of the designated areas.

The consultation papers invited detailed comments on each of the proposed hotspots, so it'll be interesting to see what people say.

What do I think? Well I think it's as fair a policy as I could think up. The devil may be in the detail. Of course it'll all depend on how well it is policed.

The document didn't cover London. Maybe they have a separate one I haven't seen. I can safely say that that one will be pretty contentious.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Cabin fever

I haven't been in a cabin, more's the pity, but I do confess to a bit of cabin fever. This weather has confined us to home somewhat. Hence no blog posts lately. We phoned up Crick to ask if conditions were ok to come and spend a few days on the boat and they politely put us off. Apparently the marina surroundings are nearly a foot deep in snow.

But today we got ourselves out and actually spent a little time afloat, albeit not on Herbie.

We popped over to the Wey navigation at Addlestone to visit Kathryn aboard NB Leo No2 after she invited us to come and look at her mobile broadband setup. She's using a T Mobile mobile hotspot device giving internet access to up to 5 devices on board. She's also using an antenna to collect a better 3G signal for the device. It works well I must say. Between us we were running 3 iPads at the same time with quite respectable browsing speeds. We'll definitely get ourselves a similar set up for Herbie.

T Mobile have a unique (I think) policy, in that if you exceed the data limit on your tariff they allow you to continue to access the Internet for email and simple browsing without further charge. They just stop you from doing stuff like YouTube and downloading music and other high demand things. That suits me fine. I do do the odd bit of you tubing and music over the web at home, but I reckon I can live without it when we're on the boat. In essence it means we can work on a cheap tariff while away.

Having said that, as I'm writing this Kath is watching a video of Prince Harry on her iPad, so she might prove me wrong.

Speaking of iPads, this is my first ever iPad produced blog post. I hope after all this typing that it doesn't get lost in the publication process.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Techno grappling for Boaters - how to set up an iPad for cruising.

Yes I am still alive, albeit barely sane, but I’ve been too busy to post anything.

It all started when our daughter Claire bought a (hardly) used iPad from a friend and gave it to Kath for Christmas. There’s a blessing in disguise. Kath loves her web browsing and her on line embroidery classes and her on line genealogy, but she would never claim to be a tecchie, so muggins gets the job of sorting out all the bits that don’t work.  In particular I have to get her iPad ship shape for cruising.  We can’t go cruising until everything is set up to work, or Kath will get cabin fever.

In the old days, I was a bit of an IT whizz kid.  I worked in IT for over ten years.  What I didn’t know about MSDOS wasn’t worth knowing.  At Lotus 123 I was the master. Relational databases and query languages held no fears for me and I could even do a bit of hardware fixing. But now, like car engines, it’s all changed so much, myold knowledge and expertise isn’t worth the space it takes up in my brain.  I thought the idea of iPads was supposed to be that they are simple and intuitive.  All I can say is I hope we never get Parkinsons disease ‘cos it seems that a mere flick of the finger can send the gubbins off into unknown areas from which there is little chance of escape.

Our main aim for iPad boat cruising of course is to get set up for 3G connectivity and get email going.  Luckily Kath’s iPad has a sim card port.  Well that’s solved that you may say.  Unless you have looked at 3G tariffs lately.  The man in the 3 store was very nice.  Too nice.  All we wanted was one answer, not twenty seven. Should we get a contract with a free MiFi gubbins (more of that in a minute), should we get a PAYG 12 months x1Gb or 4x 3 months, or etc etc.

This MiFi idea is good.  A single gubbins connects to the 3g network and then sets up a mini wifi hotspot that any of your laptops, iPads, smartphones can share. I looked it up on Canal World Forums and a number of boaters seem to be using them successfully.  So K and I can browse on separate devices at the same time using one 3g connection which can be put where we can get the best signal.  We don’t have to sit near the window or whatever to keep the signal.  We’ll get one of them when we can work our way through the tariff maze.  If you live on a boat full time, the choice is simpler, but if you are using it for a few weeks here and a few days there, you need to be more careful about not paying for data when you don’t need it.

Anyway back to the wretched lovely iPad. We have worked out how to install Kath’s Genealogy app which takes her data from our PC programme. If Herbie looks to be sitting low in the water, it’s because Kath has all her ancestors with her. We have worked out how to download and store all her podcasts from the National Archives weekly talks. We have even worked out how to download and store all her embroidery PDFs. This might not seem a great feat, but nothing on an iPad tells you what to do.  There are precious few menus and help screens and you just have to wander about through the maze poking and prodding at the screen until you find something that looks like it might be the thing to do.  Then if you get it a bit wrong  you can never remember how you got to that screen so you can go back and try again.  I love it.

Setting up the email was the best bit.  The setup path was surprisingly clear and simple. Apart from the fact that it didn’t work.  It would be OK if we were using Gmail or Hotmail, but we like to keep our proper POP/IMAP/SMTP mail on Virgin Media cos that’s our ISP at home and we only want one email system thank you very much.  Going to the Virgin Media help pages was a waste of time because they specifically state that they can’t be bothered to mess about with people who have iPads, well words to that effect anyway.  Eventually, after midnight last night, I found a page from some kind soul who had worked out the problem for himself and posted a solution.  I can’t explain it all now but suffice to say that it involves totally ignoring all the advice from Apple and Virgin Media and entering the mail server by a back door route via Microsoft Exchange!  Don’t ask me how it works.  It just does. Clever guy.  Our inbox now has a thousand, well  twenty, emails entitled Test, Another test, Test 3, Maybe It’ll Work This Time,  etc.

Meanwhile Kath is besotted with her iPad  She sat in bed the other night using it to watch a missed episode of Pointless.  What more can I say!

Thursday, January 03, 2013

The Greatest Thames Boating Disaster

Little did I realise when we were aboard Indigo Dream on the pageant rehearsal last year that we passed the spot were the Thames’s most tragic accident had occurred some 120 years earlier.  My two photos here were taken as we edged along the north bank at Barking – well out beyond the Thames barrier – and some 11 miles from London Bridge.

pageant etc 129_edited-1


Browsing in the London Metropolitan Archives today while Kath was ancestor chasing, I came across the story of the SS Princess Alice, a pleasure paddle steamer that collided with the 900 ton displacement SS Bywell Castle which was running out of London on the ebbing tide, very close to where I took those pictures, but on the other bank.  It happened in September 1878.  It was dark and as the boats approached from either side of the bend just up river from Barking Creek they could each only see the navigation lights on the other boat.

SS Princess Alice was carrying over 700 people returning from a pleasant outing to Gravesend.  On her deck the band was playing and couples were dancing.  It seems that she headed out towards the Barking bank and then seeing the Bywell Castle, swerved back in towards the south bank.  As I understand it, the skipper of the Bywell Castle, who was aiming to pass behind the other ship passing port to port saw the change in direction too late and his boat, much bigger and stouter than the other ploughed at and angle into the Princess Alice just forward of the starboard paddle wheel.  The Princess Alice broke in two and sank almost immediately.

Few of the revellers could swim and in a matter of minutes and before any rescue could be arranged over 650 passengers and crew were drowned .  To make the matters worse the water was thick with recently discharged raw sewage from the Beckton Sewage works outlet opposite.  It is thought this contributed to many of the deaths.  A subsequent Board of Trade Inquiry and an inquest both placed blame on the skipper of the Princess Alice, (who perished in the disaster) although mistakes were clearly made on both sides. 

The Bywell Castle skipper claimed he was following the Rules of the Road, which many had learned via this little poem.


The Rule of the Road

When all three lights I see ahead,
I turn to Starboard and show my Red:
Green to Green, Red to Red,
Perfect Safety -- Go Ahead.

But if to Starboard Red appear,
It is my duty to keep clear --
To act as judgment says is proper:
To Port or Starboard, Back or Stop her.

And if upon my Port is seen
A Steamer's Starboard light of Green,
I hold my course and watch to see
That Green to Port keeps Clear of me.

Both in safety and in doubt
Always keep a good look out.
In Danger, with no room to turn,
Ease her, Stop her, Go Astern.


For some reason his final order of Full Speed Astern was not followed in the Bywell Castle engine room.  So with engines at idle and the tide and momentum behind them they ploughed through the flimsy sides of the Princess Alice unhindered. 

A large proportion of the dead were women and children.  120 of the victims were buried in a mass grave at Woolwich Old Cemetery, Plumstead.

A very sad story but one I thought worth sharing.  Maybe you already knew about it.  You can find out more on Wikipedia.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Its a National captain, but not as we know it.

Us boaters tend to like old engines.  Well a lot of us do.  One favourite is the National engine, but we don’t see any like this in a boat.


I don’t think Sarah could squeeze it in to Chertsey.

This is one of a pair of National gas engines which used to pump sewage and surface drainage water from Cambridge to the sewage farm at Milton a couple of miles away.  The old pumping station is now  the Cambridge Museum of Technology which we visited at the weekend when they were having a steaming day.  These of course are not steam engines, they ran on town gas, but were amazingly smooth and quiet.  Looking closely we see the operator has stood a coin on the top of the running engine. Bang in the middle of the photo.


Sadly we missed the running of the original beautiful big steam engines that the Nationals replaced although they were still warm as we passed them.  Several other steam engines were running though, all fed by the central boiler


Interestingly they still have (not working) the old “Destructor” boilers that used to burn domestic waste to generate the steam.  People think that waste to energy plants are a new thing, but they were at it a hundred or more years ago.

A very good museum, right along side the Cam.  Well worth a visit, but best of course on one of their steaming days.  Grace didn’t come with us, but playing with my new Photoshop elements I could pretend she had.

Grace machine_edited-1

Who says the camera doesn’t lie!