Friday, October 31, 2014

Gas gas gas–steam steam steam.

Herbie has an ickle tiny gas leak somewhere.  Not much but enough to fail the BSS which was carried out by Trevor Whitling yesterday.  Nevertheless I was reasonably pleased for two reasons. One, that he confirmed that all the electrics,  fuel lines, safety equipment and gas appliances and heating and ventilation were of a good safe standard, and two, that the one fault he did find i.e. the drop in gas pressure under test, was something that only an expert with the proper equipment will be able to find, so I am absolved from having to attempt it personally. (Hooray)  He has given us the name of a good Gas Safe registered man locally and will liaise with him after the man has found and fixed the leak to pop back to confirm the readings and sign us off.  That’s the benefit to us of using Trevor as he lives in Crick.  So another quick dip into Herbie’s so called sinking fund and we should be done for another four years.  Despite the fact that Trevor had to fail us, he carried out a much better inspection than we have had previously and explains well what he is looking for and I would recommend him unreservedly.  Nice bloke too.

We had to shoot off home immediately after the inspection because today we had an appointment on the Watercress Line steam railway in Hampshire.  Readers may recall me mourning the sad death of our very good friend Pete last year.  Pete was a keen volunteer in the railway carriage works at the line and today we remembered that by taking a trip on the line and at Ropley where he worked, his son Matt rode the footplate of the working locomotive Lord Nelson and shovelled the remainder of Pete’s ashes into the fire box as we prepared to pull away from the station.  Pete would have been tickled pink at the thought.

If you like steam trains, the Watercress line is a good one to visit as you can get up close and personal to some fine working locomotives and there is lots to see at the workshops.  The ride from Alresford to Alton and back is attractive too.




Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Colonic Irrigation saves the day!!

Jim at Calcutt Boats fixed our diesel leaks yesterday and now we have a shiny new lift pump. It amazes me how a piece of automotive machinery like that only costs 23 quid. I bet if it were a part for a modern car it would be several times the price.

What Jim failed to do though was to find the source of the water leaking into the engine bay bilge. He spent a long time spreadeagled across the engine and peering round the back of the calorifier but to no avail. I was a bit despondent when we finished and it being late in the day we moored up just above Calcutt top lock. Overnight I worried at the problem, fearful that if it were say a coolant leak which suddenly got worse we could suffer a breakdown in the middle of nowhere. Well this morning I decided that it need another look at and as we were still only yards from Calcutt Boats, I reported back and asked for further investigation.

Jim, still smiling and ever patient, returned to the task and spent another goodness knows how long squeezed between a running engine and the side of the boat. He tightened a couple of hose clips without much hope as it all seemed dry round there. Then he leaned over and gave the calorifier's pressure release valve a knock with a spanner and shouted "aaargh" as a jet of hot water shot up his bum which happened to be poised over the valve's overflow pipe end. Then it all became clear and explained why the swim inner wall near that point had had streaks of wet like condensation on it. The PRV had been sticking open a bit and spitting water onto the wall and dripping into the bilges. A new PRV (£12) was drawn from the stores and fitted. There was now a lot of water in the bilge as the calrofier had emptied itself in the process of removing the old valve. Jim brought out Calcutt's trusty mega bilge hoover and we were soon dry.

By now it was nearly noon and we needed to get as close to Crick as possible before dark because we have to be there for the BSS inspection on Thursday.

Kath had the car at Calcutt having rescued it from Cropredy yesterday, so she now had to run it back to Crick then get two buses back to Braunston to join me when I managed to get Herbie there. Kath shot off to Crick while I took Herbie down to Wigrams Turn and then left towards Braunston. Our good fortune continued in remarkable fashion as when I drew Herbie under Butcher's Bridge in Braunston two hours later, Kath was just walking down the path from the bus. Pefect timing. Braunston locks were kind to us and we reached Norton junction comfortably before dark which is where we are now. With some trepidation I lifted the deck board to peer in the engine bay fearing I might see a few more pints of water in the bilge and another load of spilled diesel under the engine, but I'm very happy to say there was practically none. Hooray!

Cause for a celebratory pint or two in the New Inn tonight don't you think?

Jim worked for us an hour and a half yesterday and probably over two hours this morning much of which was trying to find the source of leaks. We had a new lift pump and a new pressure relief valve. Total cost just over £150. I don't think that's a lot.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Where we are and why.

Here we sit at Calcutt while the redoubtable Jim stops bits of our engine from leaking diesel and hopefully finds the source of the water collecting on the floor around the calorifier.

We're on our way back to Crick following our short stay at Cropredy marina while we popped home breaking our sojourn up the Oxford canal. As you know, the last couple of days have been windy which is not ideal for crossing the South Oxford summit, but we managed it unscathed. This time we had Jacob and his girlfriend (yes he is growing up) Faith as crew. In order to give them a treat you understand, we have eaten out each night. Is it just me or are pub meal portions getting bigger. Three nights in a row I have been unable to finish my meal! I come from a generation where an empty plate at the end of a meal was essential, otherwise you would be accused of waste. The biggest meal of all was the chicken and ham pie with cheesy mash and veg at teh Wharf at Fenny Compton. It was really delicious, but the pie in particular was humungous, aboutsix inchs square and and inch and a half thick.

Napton locks are closed for quite a while from next week for new gates on a few locks and a mega repair to the lock approach side on lock 10. Already a small army of men and machines are assembling in readiness and brand new gates are lying on the lock sides ready for fitting. They're having an open day a week into the work where anyone can coma along and see the work from inside the empty lock. Well worth a visit of you are in the area.

Providing Jim gets finished this afternoon we will be heading back via Braunston to get to Crick in time for our BSS inspection on Thursday. Trevor Whitling is doing it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

BSS time

Yes the old anno domini has caught up with Herbie again and we’re due for the four yearly Safety Inspection.  Reading through the latest edition of the BSS manual I don’t think we have too much to worry about, but you never know what a keen inspector might find.  Time to spend a bit of money on the old gal.  Never mind, Herbie’s “sinking fund” has a bit put by for such things.  The fund is due for a bit of use in any case because now the fuel lift pump is leaking.  That’s a simple enough job and even a new pump is only £22 or so.  We also seem to be collecting water in the engine bay bilges (not the oily bit) and it took me ages to realise that it wasn’t coming from the stern gland, but from somewhere in the calorifier plumbing.  The calorifier isn’t the easiest thing to get to, being in a corner of the engine bay. I really can’t be bothered with contortionist acts these days, I’ll get a man to fix it.

Six people have paid good money (99p each or the dollar or euro equivalent) for my book this month!!  I feel quite buoyed up.  I also got another good reader review (thanks Chris) which is worth more to me than any meagre royalties.  I’ve at last got round to doing a page about the book which you can see from the blog.  See the link under pages on the right hand side of the blog screen.  In it you will find a synopsis (otherwise know as publisher’s blurb), an unexpurgated copy of all the reviews the book has received and a little bit about how I came to write the book.  Plus of course a link for anyone wishing to get a copy.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

How CRT does health checks

Well I went for my CRT volunteer medical exam the other day and I was impressed. The tests are carried out by a hired in contractor, Working on Wellbeing Ltd. and I suppose are the sort of health MoT you might have to pay quite a bit for on the open market.

I suppose that these are the standard tests that all CRT manual staff undergo. Here's what they do.

Mine was at Adelaide dock in Southall. It wasn't hard to find the man when I arrived, the specially equipped test van was in the yard.

After the usual form filling and questions about the last time I saw a doctor and any serious known conditions etc. we set to work on the tests. First of course was to weigh and measure. No surprise to find I need to lose weight (either that or gain height)!

Next pulse and blood pressure which found me to be OK ish. Had I remembered to take my prescribed beta blocker that morning and not had a stressful journey in I would probably have been quite good.

Next a blood sample for cholesterol and blood sugars. This goes into a little hand held machine that prints out a result in seconds. My results were in the DESIRABLE category. Not often I get called desirable!

After that the computer calculated my cardiovascular risk which put me as moderate. Apparently if I were in a queue of 100 similarly aged men waiting for their heart attack I would be 85th, so that' s not so bad.

Then came the fun bits. First the lung function where you play blowing through what looks like the cardboard tube from a loo roll. A machine measures your lung capacity and what force you can exhale at. After crunching the numbers it tells me that I have the lungs of a man two years younger than me. Sorry mate, I thought they were mine.

Then into a booth for the hearing tests. Listening for beeps at a range of volumes and frequencies. A bit of a joke because someone just outside the van was operating some heavy machinery making all kinds of whirring noises. However, the results when I saw them were a close match to those I got when I had tests at our local audiometry clinic a few years ago. I have high frequency loss in one ear. If you want to whisper sweet nothings to me, then you'd better do it on my right hand side. Because of that, the computer automatically printed out a letter which I could take to my GP if I wanted. The letter showed the frequency graphs. No need for me 'cos I already had that looked at.

Eye tests next. Not like you get at spec savers because here they are only interested in what you can see with your glasses on. I had to peer into a machine and read tiny writing. Far vision, near vision and the standard Ishihara colour blindness test. All acceptable for me. With my glasses off I'm as blind as a bat.

At the end you get a full printed report with all the detailed facts and figures and explanations of what they mean. Eleven pages in all. A copy is sent to CRT. The man said he could see no reason why they shouldn't take advantage of my body, if you see what I mean.

It took about an hour all told. Is this OTT for a volunteer? Maybe not. If they are using old codgers like me to climb about on boats and locks then I guess they ought to check us out. Anyway, personally I was more than happy to have the kind of checkup I might normally have to pay for. Another perk of being a volunteer.

Now I await the call for an actual bot moving duty, probably at first alongside regular CRT staff. I think they are going to use us to help with putting work boats in place for the upcoming winter stoppage work.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Another volunteer hurdle to jump

Congrats and many thanks to Chris who sent a link to my Cropredy rubbish post to CRT ands got a response saying they would do something about it.  Why didn’t I think of that instead of just complaining to you readers?

After my RYA helmsman training and the Health and Safety and life saving stuff, I thought I had jumped through all the hoops in becoming a CRT volunteer boat mover, but no, it goes on.  Tomorrow morning I have to attend Adelaide dock for a medical examination which is to last about an hour! Blimey, I wish I could get that long with my GP. What could be next I wonder?  A battery of psychometric tests? An outward bound course?  An audition?  Will they want to see my O level certificates? I’ll let you know.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A load of old rubbish in Cropredy


Here we are tonight ( I wrote this on Friday but the signal was too bad to post then, so ignore date so) in Cropredy opposite the canoodling club. Note the lone canoodler in the photo. We ha a good trip up from Aynho in about as nice weather as could be expected at this time of year. Tomorrow we do the short hop to Cropredy Marina, Herbie's temporary home for two weeks while we nip home. It'll be nice to have a little taster of what it's like there.

After arriving here and sorting ourselves out, I took a little stroll to take a couple of photos for the blog and the first place I visited was the CRT service yard just over(or under, depending which way you look at it) the bridge. The water tap was leaking copiously as usual, but at least it's one where you get really good pressure. The over at the refuse bay I saw this.

Overflowing bins, no surprise there and a full sized domestic cooker with eye level grill. I would wager a reasonable amount that that didn't come of a boat. In fact I would wager a similar amount that half of the rubbish there didn't come off boats either. This yard has very easy access from the road, and just across the bridge is a small campsite. Hmmm. As to the good folk of the village, I'm not sure where their nearest council tip is. Maybe someone thought this was more convenient.

Walking back over the bridge I spotted this sign which must have been there for many years on the side of the old wharf building which now houses the canoodlers. I had never spotted it before.

Does anyone know what it used to say?


Thursday, October 09, 2014

High society on the Oxford

Blimey it all happens down here on the South Oxford. Being so rural, you'd think you could get lonely, but far from it. Ever since we got to Banbury we've had good company.

We got to Aynho on Tuesday just before Oakie and Maffi arrived tooting and waving as they pulled in on their respective boats. Poor Oakie had got problems on Nb Stronghold, his alternator had packed up. I went over to take a look. Very interesting to get a good look at Stronghold, as the steelwork of his boat was built by the same person who built Herbie. Surprisingly, they are quite different in all sorts of ways. I expect Oakie prefers his, and naturally we prefer ours. Luckily for him there is a man at Aynho who could fix his alternator on Wednesday morning.

The three of us (me, Kath and Oakie) put on our best bibs abd tuckers and retired to the Great Western Arms for dinner, only to be joined by Maffi and Mollie, then three other boaters of his acquaintance, so we all ate round a big round table and swapped boating tales most of the evening. The food and service is always good at the GWA if it is a little pricier than most canal pubs.

Then on Wednesday a real treat. We moved on down to Lower Heyford where we found Maffi (again) and Bones and then a little later Simon and Ann (aka the Moomins) on Nb Melaleuca (not long off the Thames) for our planned evening meal. Bones roasted a juicy leg of lamb with garlic and anchovies tucked inside and we did a melange of roasted veg and we all gathered on the Moomins' boat for what turned out to be a real feast. Bones (who claims to be no cook but you could have fooled me) also cooked a yummy apple oaty crumble.

All in all we've had a splendidly sociable time, but now we need to get back home a bit earlier than planned as we have some family business to attend to. It's a long way back to Crick, but Kath had a better idea. After a quick couple of phone calls we've arranged to leave Herbie in Cropredy marina for a couple of weeks. This means we only have to retrace our steps for a day and a half rather than for four and a half days. As Crick and Cropredy are both owned by the same company we have permission to moor at either without further charge as long as there is room. In a couple of weeks time we'll pick up Herbie and wend our way back to Crick. Simples.

It turns out that nothing is that simple though. We were planning to get back as far as Banbury today, but the wind this morning has been so scary in places, that we've decided to hunker down half way at Aynho and start a bit earlier tomorrow when the gales have blown over. I'm certain that had we been less experience boaters we would have had a few coming togethers with moored boats this morning when the wind was sideways on. Stopping the boat at lock landings we had to hang on to the ropes with all our strength to stop Herbie from blowing across to the far bank.

We should get back to Cropredy by tomorrow afternoon anyway.


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Banbury not cross

Oh yeah oh yeah. Banbury town cryer is not a newspaper, it's a real bloke who woke us up on Sunday morning .


I should think that the good people of Banbury town council are pleased with how this year's canal day went. The towpaths and surroundings were packed and the stall holders selling food and crafts must have been very busy. The Welsh Cheese boat opposite us reportedly sold out. We dined splendidly on jerk chicken and my favourite curry goat, and in the evening ate probably the best French Brie I have ever enjoyed spread on fresh sourdough bread and washed down with a nice bottle of merlot. All, except the wine, bought from the market traders

We had a jolly time with Herbie looking good with her bunting flying. We seemed to spend a long time chatting to visitors like Maffi ( and Mollie), Bones, and Oakie popping their heads through the side hatch.


Across the canal CRT sported a working boat displaying the astonishing pile of supermarket trolleys and bikes they hauled out of the canal on Friday. Just as well they did because the canal itself was busy with canoes and trip boats threading the narrow lane between the moored boats.



On Friday night the boaters were treated to a bash in Tooleys dry dock with food and drink and a brilliant little show which included a lady playing O Sole Mio on the saw, a nostalgic tale of bath night for boating families in the old days, and another lady playing English bagpipes. What's not to like? If you want to see some very good photos of the day rather than the poor ones I grabbed with my phone, take a look at Captain Ahab's report which incidentally has a photo of a handsome chap aboard nbHerbie.

We stayed put on Monday to avoid the steady rain. Friend Christine who I often bump into at towpath ranger meetings came round for tea and cake Andre spent last night entertaining Maffi ( and Mollie of course) for dinner. It was not his fault that our wine cellar is now looking depleted. Kath led us astray in that direction. Our gourmet dinner was prepared earlier by our regular chef Lloyd Grossman, who was having a night off but kindly left us a jar of tomato and chilli sauce to pour on our chicken and pasta.

Of course both Maffi and I are both famous authors, so we spent a happy hour discussing the finer points of John Steinbeck and RL Delderfield both of whom are nearly as good as us. After that we worked on some chords for a song Maffi is writing. I could post the words here but I fear that a couple of them might not get through your ISP's profanity trap. Very good though. All in all a splendid evening.

Later in the week we have plans to share a meal at Great Heywood with Bones and the Moomins. My cup runneth over.



Friday, October 03, 2014

A near miss at Cropredy

We very nearly got caught on the lock cill just above Cropredy yesterday. Kath was at the tiller and I was busy chatting to some people at the bottom gates. I didn't notice that the current in the lock had drawn Herbie backwards and suddenly she was stuck. Luckily we reacted in time and dropped the gate paddles. No harm done, but a good reminder to stay vigilant.

Cropredy marina which was a muddy hole in the ground when we last passed here, is now looking quite smart and virtually full. So much for all the folk who said there was no call for it. We're supposed to be able to use it as we moor at Crick, the partner marina. It looks like a nice option.

Herbie's cabin sides are looking shiny after a wash and polish. Cooh it's flippin' hard graft! However, got to look respectable for the crowds at Banbury canal day on Sunday. We'll have the bunting out. Should you be at the scene, do give us a shout, we're open for tea and cake.

Last night after noshing one of the Brazenose Arms rather classy burgers (highly recommended), we repaired to the Red Lion for their Thursday quiz. Quite a good one as it turned out. We came equal second, which we thought was good as the team that beat us had five members to our two.

Today is the last day to get my book Jobs For The Boys by Herbie Neil free from Amazon /Kindle. It looks like we're on target for 200 giveaways this week. Hurry while stocks last, and if you do read it and like it, please send in a review. If you don't like it, my name's J K Rowling.