Sunday, November 30, 2014

Huffing and puffing.

Blimey, what a weekend.  Despite out car being bashed in a bit (see previous post), we have done rather more driving in it this weekend than we planned.

Saturday morning was spent packing up and winterising Herbie and I have at last worked out a good sequence for clearing the plumbing of water for the winter. 

  • First turn of the main water tank stopcock and switch off the pump, then open all taps to let out any pressurised water. 
  • Then(in our case) drain the Morco gas water heater from it’s little drain plug
  • Then disconnect and remove the water pump –easy with modern plastic plumbing fittings, but needs a tray slid under the pump to catch the spillage.  Drain the pump and stow it somewhere more frost proof.
  • Then close all the taps except the shower, then remove the shower head and blow into the shower hose for ages until either all the water in the system is pushed out of the open union where the pump was or you get dizzy and pass out from all that blowing (You need an accomplice with a jug to catch the water– thanks Kath).  It’s surprising how much water you get out, we had to empty the jug several times and I was pretty light headed by the finish.
  • Then open all the taps again just in case.

I think I also blew some water out of the calorifier, not emptying it but at least leaving some expansion room.

Of course one of two things will now happen

a) we will have a mild winter with no deep frosts, or

b) we will decide to go back to the boat for a few days before the winter really arrives and have to do it all again when we leave. 

Never mind, piece of mind is a good thing.

Having done all the other jobs like capping off the chimney etc. we made the two hour dash for home to get ready for a friends birthday do where like a lot of the other guests we were expected to do a short (one song) musical turn.  Having had little time for practice we opted  for our old standby Boots of Spanish Leather which we can generally remember.

Sometime around Saturday evening I realised I didn’t have my wallet, and when we got back home shortly before midnight we searched the house and couldn’t find it.  Well you might guess where I had left it – on flippin’ board Herbie.  So today I had to drive the four hour round trip to Crick and back to retrieve it.  I need it for Tuesday to show my driving licence to the courtesy car hire people.  Anyway it had my debit cards and bus pass and all that stuff.

I am now knackered, but shall press on with preparations for the Annual Herbie Awards which are now absolutely IMMINENT.  Stay tuned folks.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Good day Bad day- we discover a gas trick and then have a crash.

We're spending a few days on Herbie in the marina, jut to get away from it all and before we leave to prepare her for the winter cold. This morning there was a knock on the roof and it was Trevor Whitling, our BSS examiner, back to test the gas after we had someone try to find and fix the leak which caused us to fail recently. Actually no particular leak could be found but all the fittings had been tightened up. Trevor fitted his electronic manometer to the test point, we filled the system with gas and then turned off at the bottle. The idea then is that the pressure should hold steady for five minutes. It didn't.

The problem is that the pressure drop was outside the allowed tolerance, but still very small. How the hell were we supposed to find where it might be leaking? Then Trevor had an idea. The boat had been warm and cosy when he arrived, but in going in and out to the gas locker he had left the front door open and the temperature had dropped quickly. We closed the door for a few minutes then tried again. The pressure held for six minutes and we passed! So the tiny pressure drop had been caused by the gas cooling and contracting in the pipework. Hooray, Herbie is now certificated safe for the next four years.

I would recommend Trevor to anyone who wants a survey or a BSS. He is likeable, very experienced, diligent and reasonable. Living as he does in Crick, he does a lot of pre purchase survey work at Braunston, ABNB and Whilton.

So that was our start to the day, so far, so good.

This afternoon we drove over to Milton Keynes to visit Kath's sister, then on to IKEA to get a few bits and bobs. We always seem to end up spending far more there than we planned. Not on furniture but on bits of this and that. Ooh look that's nice and only three quid. Ooh look that's useful and only four quid. By the time e get to the till it's "how the hell did we spend sixty quid?"

Anyway we set off in the murk back towards Crick and half way back on a roundabout on the A5 we had a coming together with a Stagcoach bus. I was a bit confused about which exit I needed on the roundabout, and making a dash for the required exit at the last minute we and the bus crossed paths. Nobody hurt, and the damage is resticted to a crumpled rear wheel arch on our car. I don't think the bus got more than a scratch. I'll phone our insurers in the morning. I suppose I ought to have the wheel checked for alignment too as it might have taken some of the blow. Even though we have no-claims protection I bet my premium goes up next year.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The London visitor mooring nobody visits

Yesterday we did a CRT volunteer event at Uxbridge Rd visitor moorings in Southall.  If you’ve been that way, you’ll recognise it.




This is a problem site because although there is good towpath (only recently resurfaced)  and piling suitable for tying to, and it is handy for shops and pubs, the local population is fond of feeding the swans and geese here and this is the result:


The path is slimy with bird poo and not everyone is happy to walk amongst these large birds.  I dare say it is not healthy to do so either.  I counted 52 swans not including all the geese and whatnot.

This bin is mostly full of empty bags which were presumably used to bring along bird food, often rice apparently.


Here are the signs telling people not to do it!  However we were told that many people drive out here with their kids purposely to feed the birds. 


Consequently it is the visitor mooring that no-one moors at.

Yesterday we spend a few hours there interviewing passers by and local residents about how they regard the canal frontage.  Here is our leader Dick talking to a local.


The gentleman in the picture thought the area was safe enough to moor, but with all the mess, who would want to.  There were reports of yoofs loitering under the bridge in the evenings and we found an empty vodka bottle and loads of beer cans there. Apparently the police occasionally pay visits and people have been arrested for dealing in the past.

Such a pity that as useful mooring spot like this is spoilt.  It’s not far from the centre of Southall which has loads of interesting ethnic shops and the locals seem very friendly, as does the Hamborough tavern by the bridge (although it has no real ale).  With all the pressure on London moorings, it would be good if this spot could get sorted out.  Dick is on the case and has a meeting about it next week.  If it was down to me, I think I would consider moving the mooring signs back down the bank away from the bridge and installing some rings there.  It wouldn’t solve the problem of the birds but it might make it a more attractive spot for an overnight stop.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Here is the news for April 1891–canal worker killed by steam shovel.

I was doing a bit of family genealogy today using the absolutely wonderful village history site of Badsey, the village where I was brung up in Worcestershire.  During my researches I came across this little item referring to a young man whose remains lie only yards from those of my granny and grandad.  In fact I could even be a distant relative of this Richard Knight, because there are Knights in our family in the first half of the 19th century.  Anyway I thought you might be interested because it relates to a canal incident of sorts.  Here is the text


A steam navvy is another name for a mechanical shovel or digger, and in those days they were driven by steam and pictures show them having a large boiler at the back end. Click this link to see loads of excellent pictures of steam navvies working

It’s clear from the text that the employing company accepted no responsibility for this poor chaps death  “the men being supposed to look after themselves”.  It’s also interesting that a young man from the Vale of Evesham should have been working up on the Manchester Ship Canal.  Clearly the canals weren’t only dug by the Irish.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Gabions on the South Oxford


Chugging up the S Oxford recently we had to manoeuvre past these fine fellows mucking about in the water.  You can see how deep the canal isn’t in these parts. The man in the water is only up to his ankles. I presume they are widening the towpath where the bank has been eroded away.  Anyway, they are using a technique I hadn’t seen on the canal bank before, which is installing gabions, i.e. cages of rocks.

I hadn’t realised before that gabions were built on site. They had big flat sheets of the wire mesh and were cutting and bending it to make the cages which were then interlinked using helical thingys a bit like spiral notebook binding.  Once made up and places in the water they shovelled the rocks in and capped them off with more wire.  The finished thing looked like this.


If you look closely you can see the spiral binders.

What happens next I’m not sure.  Might they try to turf over the top?  Or perhaps plant other waterside vegetation that will grow through the rocks.  If anyone else has passed by since we were there ( I see my photo is dated 10 October), I would be interested to know.

I had a quick read up on gabions on Wikipedia and it reckons they might last about 50 years before the wire rusts through.  Maybe by then they will be consolidated by mud and vegetation.


PS I notice that it’ll soon be time for the Annual Herbie Awards, you’d better pop down to Sketchleys with that tuxedo.

Friday, November 07, 2014


It’s Jacob’s 17th birthday soon.  He used to look up to me, now I look up to him.  Not long after we bought Herbie he looked like this (performing his cabin boy duties)


Now look at him!!


Where did that time go?

I’m having another period where my book is free, from Sunday 9th Nov until the 13th which is all they allow.  Some people have I think had problems with putting it on an ipad.  This is how you do it.  Use the ipad’s browser to go to Amazon and find the book, just search for Herbie Neil as author.  Grab your free copy and it will ask you where you want to download to, then say Ipad (or iphone I suppose) or Android if that’s what you have.  If you have the free kindle reader on your tablet then that’s where it will arrive.  If by some miracle you haven’t heard about my book, follow the link on the top right of this blog page.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Visit Napton–if you’re spared

Like a lot of boaters, we’ve passed through Napton on the Hill quite a few times without actually visiting the village.  Most of us think of it like this, (a picture I took in April 2011), in fact if you look at Sue's No Problem blog today she has taken a picture from nearly the same spot.


I have to admit that when it comes to Napton we mainly think of the Folly pub by the canal. Last week though we actually strolled up to the village centre so Kath could catch a bus, and what a pleasant surprise it was.  There are some lovely old houses, a nice village green area and a good little village store which also doubles as a coffee bar.  If you are of a religious bent you might also take advantage of the quaint Napton Christadelphian Meeting Room, which has meetings on Sunday but apparently only as long as God is happy about it, or I suppose if you’re spared.


I didn’t know anything about Christadelphians but a quick scan of Wikipedia tells me that there are only sixty thousand of them on the planet.  Now Napton has a population of just under a thousand, which is roughly 0.000014% of the world’s population.  Let’s assume that they get about 10 people at the meeting. That’s 0.0016% of the Christadelphians.  If I have my sums right that means if you live in Napton you are a roughly a thousand times more likely than average to be a Christadelphian!!!  Aren’t stats wonderful?

Anyway, do pop up to the village next time you pass.  You won’t be disappointed.  It’s lovely.