Saturday, May 30, 2015

Taking the plunge and not taking the plunge

You will be aware, dear reader, that as a boat blogger it is from time to time compulsory to talk about toilets so, accordingly, I have an announcement to make.  

We've finally decided to join the elite band of boaters with a composting loo.  Having looked at them for a couple of years and carefully listened to the remarks of others who have used them, we've decided to take the plunge and today I ordered one - an Airhead.

There was a bit of a discount being offered at the Crick show which is I suppose what made us do it this week (these things are not cheap!), but perhaps the clincher was a visit to inspect Adam and Adrian's Airhead loo on Briar Rose.  It fits in well where the old loo was and it does really seem to be genuinely odourless.  So once ours arrives and is fitted it'll be goodbye to chemical bottles and cassettes.  I won't miss them - especially the emptying bit.

Having mentioned toilets, I suppose I ought to honour tradition and go on to talk about batteries next, but ours are doing so well at the moment that I don't have anything to say!

Another boat we didn't buy.

As to not taking the plunge, we did actually look over another tempting boat at the Crick show.  (Don't tell Herbie.) A nice tug, ECHO being sold through ABNB with a whopping gert four cylinder Gardner. If you follow the link, you'll get the brochure.  Remember though that internal photos of boats are generally flattering.  Tugs have such good lines and this one had a decent fit out, plus a good shell and at a fair price too. The sort of boat you would love to cruise along on.  The chug of the mighty engine and the gentle swirl of the big prop behind the long curving swim, Kath sitting in a deck chair on the big foredeck, gently sipping a gin and tonic.  Aaaah.  Perfect

So why didn't we go for it? (Apart from the fact that we would have to fork out a fair bit of wonga).  Because, like most tugs, there is alas a down side. It was severely lacking in the sleeping department.  Just a cross bed in the boatman's cabin.  On Herbie we can fairly easily sleep four or occasionally five people, and the fixed double is always ready to collapse on to when bedtime comes.  In fact, although Echo was eight feet longer than Herbie it actually had no more useable internal space.  I'm sure some innovative person could work out some folding or slide out bed under the tug foredeck, but the space looked pretty tight.  A very nice boat  indeed for two people.  You really ought to buy it and give me a ride.

PS I notice from ABNB's web site that Phyllis May II is up for sale.  That's Terry and Monica Darlington's (of Narrow Dog fame) boat. The brochure says "Advancing years force a very reluctant sale."   Aaah.  I wish them well.

Friday, May 29, 2015

A late Crick show post (inc why you don't need a bow thruster.)

You should feel sorry for us old Bloggers.  Now Google have upped their security sign on, we can't publish via Windows Live Writer any more. Boo.  Anyway on with the show.  Here's a post I wrote on Tuesday but could post until I found out what the matter was.

We awoke aboard Herbie in thie morning morning to the familiar roar of the bow thruster as the first of the shiny new show boats from Crick made its escape from the marina.  Aah, good. A morning’s entertainment for us as we packed up ready to leave home.  While we were breakfasting in the sun on our grassy knoll picnic table we had a good view of the fun.   The entrance requires a ninety degree turn in a very short length, otherwise you hit the opposite bank. Watching boats attempt the entrance or exit is a regular pastime of us Herbies as getting out of the marina is a tightish squeeze even for us 50 footers sometimes, so you can imagine what a challenge it is for seventy footers.  The strange thing is, that on balance, those with bow thrusters don’t seem to do any better than those without.  Quite the reverse sometimes.  There’s no substitute for a bit of skill.

If it is hard for a single boat, imagine how hard it is for one seventy footer towing another.  Once we heard historic boat Nuffield and her butty Raymond approaching we know it would be interesting.  Here they are in the marina (sorry for the poor quality, it was taken with my phone)

And now making the exit turn. . .

Wow, they made it look dead easy. Not a scratch or a bump and straight round in one go.  Well done lads.

The next boat out was a seventy foot show boat with, of course, a bow thruster. He took about three times as long and had to back up at least once. 

As to the Crick show itself, it was quite a good ‘un.  It hardly rained at all, and loads of people turned out to be relieved of their money.  One chap we know actually put a deposit on a new Aintree boat, so he’ll be seventy odd thousand out of pocket.  It is rumoured that one of the best boats had cost its owner £200,000, and that’s a narrow boat, not a barge or a wide beamer.  That must be close to a record I should think.  I spent a little less, but now I am the proud owner of a water filter refill cartridge and a bottle of Marine 16 diesel treatment so I’m very excited.  Kath bought some sausages too, so now we’re even more excited.

What else did we do? Umm, we dallied more than occasionally in the beer / entertainment tent, liking the wonderful Herron brothers most of all, and the lady who played brilliant saxophone for Hazel O’Connor. Adam and Adrian came round for tea on the grassy knoll, as did John and Jan, the Halfies.  Oh and I had a little private lesson from Phil Speight on how to manipulate the paintbrush when painting traditional rose petals.  

What’s not to like?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

An unexpected canal and an impromptu trip to the seaside.

Would you Adam and Eve it? I can’t seem to keep away from canals even when I try.

On Monday I drove our Grandson Jacob up to just North of Preston to look at a college course he’s interested in.  It being a long way, I booked us into the nearest B&B Hotel near the college and I didn’t bother to read up on the place much, just checking the reviews on the booking site.  Well when we arrived and found our room, we pulled back the curtains and this is what we saw!


I hadn’t even realised there would be a canal there, let alone right outside our window.  It is of course the Lancaster canal that not many of us get to.  It looks nice enough although we didn’t explore it further. 

On Tuesday morning we had a couple of hours to spare so we drove the half hour journey into Blackpool to have a butchers.  I’ve never ever been there.  Now having looked at it, I can confirm that it has just about as much good taste and high culture as I expected.  To be fair, if you stand on the front looking out to sea, it looks pretty good. 


The actual sea wall and promenade look well kept and smart.   The tide was in and the sea was too rough to get onto the beach, and a man in a Landrover was progressing up the front chaining off any points of access to the beach.

blackpoo 2l

Turn and face the other way and you get all the stuff you expect from Blackpool.

blackpoo 3

I’m glad I’ve been but I don’t feel the urge to return.  We did of course buy a few sticks of rock.  Well you have to, don’t you.

The college, Myerscough,  was very nice.  If Jacob enrolls on the course then maybe we’ll get to know the area better.  Maybe we could even get Herbie up there.

According to CanalPlan that would be 209 miles from Crick and take 99 hours and 14 minutes.  “This is made up of 126 miles, 5¾ furlongs of narrow canals; 75 miles, 1¼ furlongs of broad canals; 7 miles, 3¼ furlongs of tidal rivers; 83 narrow locks; 31 broad locks.” and “There are at least 15 moveable bridges of which 3 are usually left open; 69 small aqueducts or underbridges and 7 tunnels (Crick Tunnel (1528 yards long), Braunston Tunnel (2042 yards long),Newbold Tunnel (250 yards long) Harecastle Tunnel (2919 yards long) Barnton Tunnel (572 yards long), Saltersford Tunnel (424 yards long)  and Preston Brook Tunnel (1239 yards long)”

Oooh  er. At our average five and a half hours a day and one day off a week that would take us about six weeks for the return trip.  Not very good for collecting him to come home at the end of term then.

Aaah, if only it were that simple.  I just read up on the Ribble Link (the tidal bit) “There are only a limited number of crossings each year and it is essential to book well in advance, especially if you want to get a crossing on a good day.” and “The first crossing of the Ribble will almost certainly stress the engine, drive chain and some accessories more than ever before and that is when any incipient weaknesses will be discovered.”

Hmmm, I’m thinking we might take Jacob by car if he goes to Myerscough.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Spick Crick


show 1

Over here at Crick

It’s looking very spick*

(Forgive my journalistic trick)

The grass is cut, the tents are up

New boats arriving fast and thick


They’ve moved our cars into a field

Where Shetland ponies used to eat

Now they’re gone I wonder where

I think I might avoid the meat.


*No-one ever says something is looking span  do they?

Yes the Crick show is once again almost upon us and we’ll be there ‘cos as Crick moorers we get free tickets.  Our traditional offer of tea and cake aboard Herbie is still open to anyone accosting us on site.  We’d love to see you.

show 2

One of the first new boats to arrive is this wide beamer waiting to be dropped lowered into the water.  I suspect that we’ll see a few more of these big ‘uns. The punters seem to like them even if we don’t care for them all that much.  I probably won’t buy a new boat this year as I don’t have a spare £100+k knocking about, but I might splash out on a new tiller pin as we seem to have lost ours. All of the regular moored boats at the show end of the marina have been squeezed into spare spaces down our end and in the other separate pool at the other end.  We don’t mind, the staff here although frantically busy, try hard to keep us all happy.

The marina has acquired a new propeller this week.  Here it is on the hill.


This area is fast becoming wind farm alley. No wonder we always get blown sideways trying to get Herbie into her slot, although yesterday when we arrived back I did a near perfect reverse into our space with an audience!!

Must go now, I have to apply my culinary skills to preparing a birthday dinner for Kath in consolation for the fact that she is once again as old as me.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Scary Sailing Weekend part 2

This evening Herbie rests by the towpath moorings just South of Weedon.


Behind the hedge is, I think, a sewage works, but fortunately the wind is blowing in the right direction so you will be relieved to learn that all is sweet smelling. I've just spend the last couple of hours giving the starboard side a much needed wash and polish. The other side will have to wait until I can get at it. While I was working, a pleasant German fellow on a bike stopped to ask if I knew of a campsite nearby which luckily for him I did. He casually mentioned he was cycling from Munich to Alaska via Glasgow and Iceland. Blimey! After Alaska he was going to tootle down the west coast of the USA to finish off the trip. Double Blimey!!

Anyway, enough of today. I promised to tell about part two of our scary sailing weekend, so here goes.

Anybody who has gone sailing knows it can be easy to get into trouble - to bite off more than you can chew. On Monday morning we learned why it is not a good idea to sail to Horsey Mere when the wind is blowing from the South West.

The wind was not too bad. Even Kath, who is understandably cautious about risking it in strong winds, opted to come with us. On one of our half decker boats we opted not even to put a reef in the sail. So off we went up towards the mighty Hickling Broad where we have had many a white knuckle moment in the past. The wind direction was perfect and we reached and crossed the broad without having to put in a single tacking manoeuvre. In fact we got there so fast that in shouted conversations between boats we decided we had time to get to Horsey for lunch. Horsey Mere is the extreme North West corner of the Broads and only half a mile or so from the North sea coast. Getting there was pretty easy. Half way back from Hickling, we turned left and snaked up the long narrow reed fringed cut which takes you to the mere - the legendary home of huge pike. On the way up there Kath, who was in the other boat from me, spotted a bittern in flight, something I have never seen, and she got a couple of close views of Marsh Harriers. All was going rather well and we had a leisurely picnic by the National Trust Windmill.

We were feeling quite confident when we set off back across the mere and we were a bit dismissive of two sailing boats tied up at the entrance of the cut who shouted that their engine had broken down and they were awaiting rescue. "Why don't they just sail out?" we said. We soon found out why.

It turned out that the wind direction was precisely parallel to the direction of the cut. Now normally that wouldn't matter because you could tack back and forth and make progress, albeit very slowly. The problem was that the cut was narrow, in fact ony about four feet wider than the length of our boat. To tack you need to work up a bit of speed to turn the boat at each end of the tack, but in four feet you just can't do that. To make matter worse the tide was beginning to run against us. After a number of abortive attempts to tack, we opted for plan B. I jumped ashore with a rope and hauled us along for a hundred yards, then we ran out of walkable bank. The pathway gave way to a marshy forest of reeds. Back in the boat we tried plan C - paddling along, but the wind on the mast and the increasing tide meant that we ended up going backwards. In desperation we resorted to Plan D - grabbing hold of the reeds and hauling our selves along with our bare hands. This was really exhausting, these boats are pretty heavy, and in one period of about twenty minutes we had only moved forward a few feet and as soon as we let go of the reeds we drifted back to where we started. My hands hurt, I had strained my back and it was now taking all our effort just to hang on to the reeds just to stop ourselves going backwards with the tide. We had the best part of a mile to go to open water. We were stranded in an enormous reed bed with the wind and tide against us and totally knackered.

Rick and Kath and Frank in the other boat had just managed to get out but we were beaten. Then, the cavalry arrived. Up from behind came the man from our boatyard in a big motor boat with two other sailing boats in tow - the ones we had scoffed at earlier. Totally exhausted, we accepted the offer of a lift and we joined the train of towed boats. Even being towed it took quite a while to reach the end of the cut, confirming that we could never have escaped without help. Had the wind been ten degrees different in direction we would have been OK, but things were exactly and precisely wrong for us.

Next time we visit Horsey we'll check wind and tide first.

Having got back to the boatyard and packed up the boat we got back in the car and headed of to Cambridge to pick up our Peter and then on to Crick for a spot of canal boating aboard Herbie - mercifully without sails and on water without tides. Luxury.



Thursday, May 14, 2015

Scary sailing weekend part 1

Lots to tell you. Funny how the more I have to tell, the less time I have to tell it. We're aboard Herbie at the moment, sheltering from the rain at Grafton Regis on the GU, but I'll start with last weekend - our annual Norfolk Broads sailing bash.

We arrived at the boatyard at Martham on Saturday morning with the wind blowing a real hooley. Surely we weren't going to risk life and limb in these conditions were we? According to the met office the wind was 25mph gusting to 30 odd. That's force six on the Beaufort scale "strong breeze - large branches sway - sea conditions Rough"

Mercifully I was spared the ignomony of chickening out as the man from the boatyard said it was too windy to let the sailing boats out. They offered us a motor cruiser for the day instead so that's what we did. Ten of us on board the nice old wooden Judith V, a well worn old barque with a centre cockpit and a nice old BMC 2.2 engine which seemed amazingly powerful on such a light boat.


The picture above shows us waiting to go through Potter Heigham bridge, which is so low and narrow that most of the big plastic cruisers on the Broads can't get through it. I have written about it in previous years. When we have to get the sailing boats through we have to drop the mast and paddle them through, which if the tide is running the wrong way is knackering to say the least. Here we are doing it in 2012.

Maybe you can tell from the two photos that the cruiser is a very tight fit under that bridge arch. I was wondering if we would fit the bridge hole at all! Hired motor boats have to be taken through the bridge by a pilot, so one of the men from the boatyard met us there. It's not the sort of place you would want to get stuck, believe you me. The pilot took every scrap of stuff off the boat roof and steered us out to the middle of the river. The wind was blasting up the river raising sizeable waves and there was a tide running. Warning us to crouch down, he wound up the engine revs to full whack and pointed us at the tiny bridge hole. We shot through at what seemed like twenty miles per hour although I suppose it was less. We didn't have more than an inch or two to spare. It was all very exhilarating, but I was glad it was his responsibility and not mine!

We dropped the pilot off and continued on down river and chose to tootle up the winding river Ant, which we never have time to do when we are sailing. Then back later to shoot the bridge once more in an equally scary fashion.

On Sunday the wind had dropped to the point where is was just safe to sail and we had another day I won't forget in a hurry, but I'll save that to tell you about next time.



Friday, May 01, 2015

Refurbed box looking smart again.

Nearly finished the old roof box refurb.


The painting was a bit of a nightmare if I’m honest.  I had to do a fair bit of touching up with a fine brush here and there.  The surface of the wood isn’t so smooth as it was when new, what with the ravages of time and the weather, so it wasn’t so easy to stop leaks at the edge of the masking tape.

I might give it a coat of varnish on top as I have a tin of the Craftmaster stuff to hand.  The inside and edges already have lots of coats of varnish since new, but that hasn’t stop the wood discolouring as you can see.  Then I need to reinstall the bungee hooks for the cover and the ironmongery(aluminiummongery to be truthful) that holds  the TV aerial mast and repair a small split in the seam of the cover, oh and paint the triangular end pieces that hold the roof up.  Blimey, I haven’t really nearly finished have I?