Saturday, February 24, 2018

Too many ideas! Plus fidgety birds.

I used to think I was indecisive but now I’m not so sure. Alf and Oakie have each pointed out different, more weatherproof materials which I could use to make a new roof box, and that sent me off browsing Mr Berners Lee’s interweb looking for more ideas.  Now instead of having a couple of things to choose from, I have lots.  Woe is me.  The problem is that in accordance with Sod’s Law, not one of them is without some sort of downside - cost, available sizes, ability to take paint, weight  -the list goes on.  I really must learn to accept that the perfect solution probably doesn’t exist and just get on with it.  Or I could just buy one ready made.  Those on sale look decent enough, but would they get under low bridges? What about delivery? etc.

Changing the subject to an off topic one, as the birds in my garden pay increasingly regular visits to the bird feeders, presumably for fuel to stop the little dears freezing to death, I’ve been wasting many hours at the back bedroom window, camera in hand to get some photos of the little darlings.  Here’s a nuthatch that came yesterday.


The photos are not as crisp as they ought to be because I’m shooting through a closed window (I’m not dedicated enough to leave it open in this weather!) and hand holding the camera with a long lens and the birds are thirty odd feet away.  I have got a wireless remote shutter release, so I could get better pictures by setting up the camera in the garden and click from the warm bedroom but I left the gubbins on board Herbie. Doh!  My success rate of shutter clicks to acceptable images is about twenty five to one. The flippin’ birds just wont sit still, or if they do, they’re looking the other way or sitting behind a twig.

Should you wish to see other birdie pictures (and who knows what else in future) I have taken / may take I’ve opened an Instagram account. (Ooh there’s posh).  I’m so inept at social media that I’m not sure if I’m called ncherbie or Herbie Neil but one or both names should get to me.  There’s a nice one of a blue tit to start off and I’m working on capturing a coal tit and a long tailed tit.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Rotten luck.

And so back another day to a week ago Wednesday when I drove out to Cropredy to collect anchor, chains and life jackets from Herbie in case disaster should befall us on Nb Bankside on the Friday.  Not that I’m a pessimist or anything!  Anyhow, upon arrival I noticed that the canvas cover over Herbie’s roof box had come loose along one side and was flapping in the breeze.  It hooks on via bungees over big black dome head screws stuck into the side of the box.  On closer inspection I saw that the screws had pulled right out so there must have been some strong winds.  On even closer inspection and poking with a screwdriver I discovered that the plywood had gone completely rotten, so no wonder the screws had fallen out.

“You can’t get the wood these days” is a common cry amongst DiYers, and I remember thinking at the time I built the box that the quality of the plywood I was able to obtain was pretty rubbish.  I had sealed the edges with umpteen coats of varnish but time and weather eventually has done it’s work and now I have to make a new box.  Still the last one, being built in 2011 has given nearly seven years service so I suppose that’s not too bad.  Here it is when I had just finished making it.

“Why have one at all?” I hear you cry.  Well apart from the fact that it stores the anchor, the TV aerial (and has brackets to support the aerial mast), the camping chairs, a luggage trolley and various other bits and pieces, nicely out of the way, it has also become a sort of emblem of the boat.  I recall Bones telling me that she recognised Herbie going past Thrupp when she was out walking the dog and could only see the roof.

So I’m going to have to make another, but this time I’d like to make it stronger and more weatherproof.  I could either splash out on some nice marine ply, or it occurs to me that I could make it out of treated decking and then for the decoration attach pre painted panels on the sides (an idea I used last year on the cratch front).  I think I’ll keep the dimensions the same, so that the old cover will still fit.  I haven’t yet had a chance to get a good luck at the old box, but I may be able to reuse the underfloor slats and even the floor itself - recycle and save the planet and all that. I remember at the time I made the old one being particularly pleased with myself at setting the corner right angles by marking four equal spaces along the long side and three on the short side, then pulling the loosely screwed box into shape until a string 5 measures long formed the diagonal  (maths people know that 3,4,5, triangles have a right angle thanks to Pythagoras).  Watch this space when I embark on the construction.

Apologies to those of a sensitive disposition offended by my spelling of Gunwharf Quay (not key – duh!) in the last post.  Kath spotted the error.

In other news I read with dismay that the Gibson guitar company is on the verge of bankruptcy.  Yes Gibson!! What is the world coming to? Despite being a life long sufferer from GAS (Guitar Acquisition Syndrome)  I have never owned a Gibson, but it was always nice to know that they were there.  As a callow youth I well recall standing at the feet- he was on the stage and I was leaning on it- of Peter Green , awestruck by what he could do with a Gibson Les Paul.  I did the same thing a couple of weeks later with Eric Clapton who played the same model.  That was in the days when you didn’t have to pay a weeks wages to see a famous musician and you could get up close.  Now the music charts are full of nice young guys and gals singing ballady stuff and the days of the guitar gods are fading.  This week a journalist wrote that what Gibson needs is a new guitar hero.  Well I stand ready for the call.  Hello Gibson?  Hello?  I’m here.  I’m younger than Mick Jagger.  Hello?

Monday, February 19, 2018

Stuff you might not (want to) know about ships

Ooh, before I forget, I must tell you what I forgot to mention last time.  On our trip up the Ouse we got a hello from the resident seal that swims up and down (mostly) between Hermitage and St Ives.  I expect he/she has a name, but I don’t know it so I was only able to shout ‘hello, um, seal’ as he/she swam past the boat and stared at us.  Anyway, there it is.  Worth a mention.

Now then, that was Friday.  On Thursday I went on a couple of other boats, the first being HMS Victory where because at this time of year they have no guided tours, I was able to make up all sorts of unlikely tales to tell Grace as we went round the ship.  Actually I’ve been shown round so many times in the past that I can practically remember the script. Square wooden mess plates being the origin of the phrase “a square meal”, the men having to make their own cat o’ nine tails before being flogged, Captain Hardy having a hatch built in the upper deck outside his cabin so he could stand up without banging his head as he was so tall etc etc.  Walking round the ship looking at all the cannons, rifles, pistols, and cutlasses that fill every spare corner, you realise she was built for one thing only –to fight like crazy.  She’s currently undergoing a multi million pound restoration and I fear that by the time they have finished there might not be much of the original ship left.  I think a lot of the decking is already not original and now they intend to replace the hull planking.

The modern Royal Navy has some interesting differences quite apart from the obvious advances in technology.  We took one of the harbour tours that take you round the bits of the dockyard you wouldn’t otherwise see and our guide showered us with stats, (ooh I love stats), about the ships tied up there. Sadly the new carrier was away annoying the Spanish as it visited Gibraltar so we’ll have to save that for another day. There are a couple of type 45 destroyers there at the moment and it occurred to me that most of the money (our money!) spent on these ships has gone into defending themselves from attack.  Maybe it would have been simpler and cheaper not to have the ship in the first place then nobody would attack it.  You and I own six of these ships.   Of course these days they get used for all sorts of stuff Lord Nelson might have scoffed at, providing humanitarian assistance after natural disasters and the like.  He might have approved of the anti piracy role I suppose, but I think he might have been a bit peeved that we can no longer swan around ruling the waves and bashing the French and Spanish like we used to.  So now the ships seemed designed primarily to defend themselves and the rest of the fleet.

Apparently the weird angles of the hull, the decks and the various turrets are all about confusing enemy radar such that they can’t make out the profile of the ship.  Then they have this big ball on the top that they say can simultaneously track a thousand objects the size of a cricket ball travelling at three times the speed of sound and prioritise which are most likely to hit the ship and somehow shoot them down.  Don’t ask me how. I wonder if they’ve ever proved it. Then on the bow they have this gun that can fire streams of big shells to hit targets so far away that they can’t see them, with pinpoint accuracy.  To loud cheers from a number of the passengers on the tour boat our guide suggested that it could be used to knock out Southampton’s football stadium from it’s current mooring at Portsmouth.  If Pompey residents love to hate anything, it’s Southampton.

Round the back of the harbour is where the cross channel ferries come in and the banana boats (‘Day O’ I hear you cry.).  Here’s another good stat, some of these ships bring in 28 million bananas at a time.  You’ve almost certainly eaten one of them. And I know you’ll be thrilled to know that the largest number of bananas ever carried on a ship at one time is 43,635,280.  Not a lot of people know that.

Grace and I hopped off the tour boat at Gunwharf key so I could take her up the Spinnaker tower, which is a lot less scary than I imagined. Kath and Jacob, who were with us, chickened out.  That was their loss as the views are spectacular. Grace has no fear of heights and happily strode onto the glass floor of the viewing deck oblivious to the 300 foot drop below her feet.

Here are a couple of views from the top. First looking North, up the harbour.  There’s the destroyer in the middle with its pyramidal radar tower.


The looking west over Haslar / Gosport

IMG_20180215_150111 (1)

and finally over my favourite bit of Portsmouth, Spice Island, Camber Dock and along towards Southsea.  The modern white building in the middle is where Ben Ainsley and co built their Americas Cup racing boat.  I can’t say I like it there in the middle of all that historic stuff.

colour chart

Next time we’ll go back another day to Wednesday when I reveal a visit to Herbie and find a big job to do.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

A push up the Ouse.

“Where have you been? “ you may ask.  No posts for ages.  Well I’ve been busy enough – too busy sometimes, but no boaty stuff  so nothing that belongs on a boat blog.  Then just like buses coming all at once,  I did boaty things on three consecutive days this week.  I’ll do one post for each in reverse order of how they happened.

First after waiting some weeks for Strong Stream conditions on the Ouse to subside, we got the go ahead to move our Richard’s boat Bankside back from Hermitage marina where it has been repainted, to his home mooring at Hartford marina at Huntingdon.  The boat had been up at Hermitage since September, while the painters failed to get on with the job.  Having seen the rather ramshackle appearance of the little marina and experienced all the delays, I was a tad worried that they might not have done a good job, but it looks like I was wrong in that.  The finished job looks smart and the attention to detail is a lot better than I had expected.  It’s all done in International 2 pack paint over a two pack rust preventing undercoat.  The new hull blacking looks very good too.  Apparently the hull which hadn’t been blacked for far too long was in good nick.  Richard doesn’t deserve to be so lucky! I don’t think Bankside looked this good when she was new.

Anyhow, not wishing to arrive at the other end after dark, we set off soon after I arrived, dropping down Hermitage lock onto the tidal section which looked benign enough.  Time was pretty tight as we expected the trip to take five hours or more and it was already approaching noon. There was a bit of a current against us but not too bad.


Bankside looking a hundred times smarter than when she last came through Brownshill Staunch

Then when we reached Brownhill Staunch I remembered the trouble with this river – these locks take ages to operate because of the timers on the guillotine gates.  The gate opens a crack and then you have to wait for anything up to five minutes before you can lift the gate further, which in itself is a frustratingly slow procedure.  A watched clock goes even slower and the count down display seemed to creep along.

IMG_20180216_144300Browshill has guillotines at both ends and is infuriatingly slow.  Time was looking tighter as we left the staunch and noticed the current against us getting stronger, and as the river narrowed through Holywell and approached St Ives the flow was getting really strong, I would think about four mph (I don’t think we should use knots on inland waters).  Our speed against the bank had slowed to hardly one mph.  After a brief debate we decided to crank up the old BMC diesel to higher revs, a bit scary because it has hardly been run in the last ten years.  I was glad I had brought along Herbie’s anchor in case the engine conked out and I was watching the temperature gauge like a hawk.  It wasn’t long before we realised that the engine actually sounded happier at higher revs and our speed picked up nicely although we were still running late when we got to St Ives Lock.  I feared we would be backing through the maze of moored boats and floating cabins in Richard’s home marina in the dark.

As it turned out I needn’t have worried because once through St Ives lock the current was a lot slacker and we were soon pushing towards the beautiful old town bridge – always a treat.


Well to cut a long story short we got moored up about fifteen minutes before sunset and all was well.  Bankside now rests back at her home jetty in Hartford marina waiting for my next visit when I have accepted Richard’s challenge to sign write her with her new name which, mysteriously, is Egnabod, apparently a random word one of Richard’s teacher’s came up with when he was at school.  Richard denies it has anything to do with the fact that it is also an anagram of Bondage!

In my next post I’ll tell you about another interesting boat trip on the previous day and show you some photos I took from an alarming height.