Saturday, October 30, 2021

Green boating?

Well COP26 is upon us and I'm wondering how to be more green, or more especially how to go boating in a greener fashion.  After I've typed in my thoughts (which I haven't had yet) I'd be grateful if anyone else can chip in to help.

Thought No 1: is this a serious problem?  Of course it is. On a scale of 1 to 10 I'd put it at 11.  Extremely serious - not particularly for me 'cos I won't live to see the worst of it  but my kids and grandchildren face a pretty bleak future if we don't do something now.  I have no time for climate change sceptics. If they can't see what's staring them in the face then I won't waste my time arguing with them.

Thought No 2:  I have to own up that a narrowboat like ours is off to a bad start in being green.  An older inefficient internal combustion engine  burning red diesel for hours a day is not good.  Neither is a heating stove burning fossil fuels or an Eberspacher diesel heater.  Of course if I'm not moving the boat or using the heating it's OK but that rather defeats the object of having a boat.  Also, every time I travel from home to the boat, that's another hour and three quarters car driving.

Thought No 3.  There are more positive attributes.  Boaters tend to be more frugal with water.  Our boat has a composting toilet which uses no water and no chemicals.  We have solar panels to make electricity, albeit mostly in the summer.  And if we do run the engine to move the boat, we make hot water and electricity at the same time so it makes good use of what fuel we do burn.

So what's to be done?  How can a boater reduce his /her carbon footprint?

Well of course there's all the personal stuff which applies whether you're on a boat or not.  Eat less red meat and dairy, wear extra clothes in winter, reduce use of plastics, etc.  At home we've dropped the thermostat a couple of notches, tried to cut down on packaged foods and consumables, avoided food products flown in by plane or grown in hot houses, cut down on car use, experimented with non dairy alternatives like oat milk (ok but not as nice - I hear good things about almond milk so we're trying that next).  Etc etc.

But what about the boat specific stuff?

Well I suppose the first thing is to see if we can run the engine less.  That means two things - travelling less far and minimising our use of battery electricity.  It's true that these days we don't cover the distances that we used to and are often quite happy to stay in one spot for a couple of days.  I guess we might /should do more of that.  In the winter though, we don't get a lot from the solar panels, so the engine has to run to keep the batteries up.  And if the engine is running for battery charging you might as well be moving.  Hmmm.  How about in cold weather not using the fridge?  We could keep stuff cold in a cool box in the well deck.  The fridge is the main eater of battery power so that would be a good saving I reckon.  Of course if we didn't eat meat or dairy we probably wouldn't need a fridge anyway.

In the past I've put a clip-on ammeter onto the charging lead from the alternator and it seemed to me that it showed that the charging current didn't improve much with increased engine speed, so there's a tip - if you do run the engine just for charging, run it gently -that will burn less diesel.

I always go on about making sure firewood for the stove should be properly dried, and that does make a difference to how much wood you burn for a given amount of heat.  Less wood =less CO2.

LED lights inside the boat? Got'em.  They use about a tenth of what a neon strip uses.

Now I'm running out of ideas.  Short of selling the boat or keeping an expensive boat and not using it much, I can't think of much else.  I'm sure there are ideas out there.  Let's pool them and go green together if we can.  Over to you.

PS I forgot to mention one thing.  It can be quite hard to know what to do for the best and how much difference certain actions make in reducing your carbon footprint.  One book that is really helpful in that respect is How Bad Are Bananas by Mike Berners-Lee (brother of the more famous Tim). It's packed with the facts and figures you need to know and very readable to boot.  Highly recommended.  BTW bananas are not bad. Unless you are diabetic.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Off topic ramblings

 I have nothing Herbievourous to tell you today so purists might wish not to read on.  For those who are left, here is some irrelevant news.

Twice in the last week we have been visited by grandchildren who within hours of seeing us tested positive for Covid.  I mentioned Grace in my previous post.  Now it's the turn of her big brother Jacob. He came to stay the night at our house so as not to mix with Grace.  He had been routinely tested at work and got an email next morning to say he was positive, so he's gone back home with Grace.  Mercifully Kath and I seem OK so far.

Someone out there might know of Stanley Accrington ( a popular entertainer and master of puns and anagrams m'lud).  I wrote to him four years ago asking for the words of a song which included the immortal words "Why must I be a dyslexic in vole?" Another line had something about a tin leg running down his spine. This week, out of the blue, he emailed back. How's that for a quick reply?! Cunningly he invited be to buy his DVD with 180 of his songs on it, warning me not to listen to them all at once.  I succumbed.  I have thoughts of sitting through them as a sponsored marathon listen for a dyslexic charity.  Apparently Stanley had to stop singing that particular song in public due to objections that is was unkind to dyslexic folk.  Draw your own conclusions.

My friend Steve, a keen amateur naturalist saw a great white egret at a local lake last week - there are only 35 in Britain so he was chuffed.  Little egrets have become much more common of course. and occasionally visit our canals.  In France they have a lot of egrets although as you all know, Edith Piaf famously claimed so have seen none.

I can't understand what is going on with my novels.  I put them up for free on Kindle the other day, expecting a few dozen to be taken as usual. (Over the last six months actual paid sales at a quid or so have been zero.) This time, after three free days it's up to 1700 and counting! That's never happened before.  Of course how many takers actually read the books is another matter, but it's puzzling.  As Harry Worth used to say "I don't know why but there it is" . I thought maybe there were not many free ones out this week on Kindle, but I checked and there are tens of thousands of them.  Apparently my second book "A Good Hiding" is ranked number 3972 in the best free seller lists and number 51 in General Humourous Fiction.  Result!  The other one is ranked 10,044. Booker prize judges please note.

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Seizing opportunities to get knotted

 If you read my previous post you will know that I had a go at doing eye splices at the end of a bit of rope.  Rope work, as anyone who has tried it will tell you, is strangely therapeutic.  With me it all started when I was a young whippersnapper making my own fishing rods.  This required doing a lot of whipping to secure the rings that the line goes through onto the rods.

Nowadays a quick look at youtube will reveal any number of people showing you how to do knots and spices and various types of whipping.  I found that they all look helpful until you try to do it, then somehow it doesn't seem so simple in reality.  However I have found one youtuber that has the knack of clarity, probably because he is slow and long winded and tells you everything at least twice.  Now in normal circumstances such a person might be construed as a bit tedious, but in this case it's a real blessing because you get time to absorb the information properly.  Sadly I didn't find his video until after I'd done my eye splices, so I'm going to do some more now and get them right this time.

So if you fancy a go at splicing something like this:

or putting a really neat end to your ropes like this:

or doing something fancy like this:

The chap I would recommend is  youtuber Johnny Debt.  

Have a go, I bet you enjoy it.

Here are the links to the three I've shown above (there are several more)

Eye splice:

Sailmakers whipping:

Ring splice:

As I said, he is charmingly long winded which for my money is exactly what you want. If you are a complete beginner then start with the sailmakers whipping which is easy and very satisfying.

In other news:

Kath and I are awaiting results of a PCR test after having had a visit last weekend from our Grace who later that day tested positive for Covid  and is rather poorly but not dangerously so.  We have no symptoms so I suspect we're in the clear.

In yet more news, if there is anyone out there who has inexplicably failed to have read either of my blockbuster novels Jobs for the Boys and A Good Hiding, they are completely free on Kindle from 8 -12 October. I re read them myself recently as if after all this time they were written by someone else and they made me chuckle. Not a totally unbiased opinion I admit. Or for traditionalists they are still cheap (as cheap as Amazon allows) as paperbacks.  Search for on Amazon for Herbie Neil.

Or should you ever bump into us on the cut, I'll happily give you a paperback copy.  Got to get rid of them somehow:-) 

VIRUS UPDATE: Our PCR tests came back negative, so that, if you get my meaning, is a positive result :-)

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Uptight alright

 Bob, who moors a couple of boats along from us, passed on a trick he'd learned from another boater -reportedly an elderly lady single hander.

Picture this.  You bring your boat in alongside some sheet piling and want to quickly tie up.  Maybe there are passing boats which are pulling your boat around as they pass.  Time is of the essence. What you need to so is to tie off one end of the boat very quickly, then run up to the other end to secure that. Well here's the trick.

Today I made up a rope like this.

Just a short length with a loop on each end.  Don't look too closely at my splicing, I'm not sure it's quite right, but it is strong.

One end drops over the dolly at the back of the boat, the other end goes through your piling clip or chain which has been dropped through the piling beam, then back over the dolly. This should be quicker than having to tie off with a knot at the dolly.  Then you nip up to the front of the boat and tie off there in the normal way pulling the boat forward  so as to tighten the short rope at the rear.

I'm not sure what is the ideal length of rope, at six feet mine will give a reach of three feet  from dolly to clip.   I think that'll be about right in most places.

Well I haven't tried it yet of course but that's the theory.  Bob says it works for him.

I'd be interested to hear if anyone else has tried this.